The Dead Weather

45s, 33s, CDs, MP3s, internet “radio”, streaming, Spotify et al... You can now “consume” music any way you want. But what goes around comes around, it seems. Vinyl is returning in a big way. Although downloads have edged ahead of any physical format, many audiophiles are now returning to vinyl.

The latest 2015 reports from the Recording Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.) had L.P. sales up 43% on 2014. U.S. CD sales were down 28%. The trend is similar in the U.K. At supermarket giant Tesco, the nation's biggest, they've started to re-stock vinyl. Incredible, when you think about the battle for a megastore's aisle space.

“Selling vinyl this summer was a real success with all our stock selling out and this really proved to us just how popular the vinyl album format is again with music fans", says Tesco music buyer Michael Mulligan. “Vinyl is definitely coming back with demand growing stronger year by year and we think there will be a big demand in the U.K. this Christmas as music fans look for trendy gifting options.”

Vinyl has a broad demographic. It's certainly not just for DJs. You can buy Coldplay's new album A Head Full of Dreams on vinyl in Tesco in the U.K. And a deluxe version from the band's own online store. Notably, the album is not on Spotify (and nor is Adele). The biggest U.K vinyl sellers for 2015 are Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (a colored-vinyl 2xLP remix set + CD sold out within a month), a deluxe reissue of The Stone Roses' eponymous debut, those bumper Led Zeppelin reissues and even Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. One of Tesco's biggest successes of 2015 for vinyl has been Iron Maiden's 3xLP version of The Book of Souls.

Iron Maiden

Yes, the average dad's superstore shopping list these days could be groceries, bathroom cleaning products, pet food, diapers... and some classic metal on vinyl! Maybe Guns N' Roses selling Chinese Democracy exclusively via Walmart wasn't such a crazy idea after all?

And with the likes of Jack White's Nashville-based Third Man Records specializing in vinyl (roll-up for your Dead Weather slipmat!), the Record Store Day phenomena, New Jersey plant Independent Record Pressing and indie label Fat Possum even opening a new vinyl pressing plant, it's on the rise.

The Dead Weather

The only problem seems to be meeting demand. And major labels re-cashing in on music lovers who have perhaps neglected (or even binned) their old vinyl.

Decks Appeal

Gibson is world-renowned for its guitars and basses, of course, but its Pro Audio lines have everything for the vinyl audiophile and DJs too. A hi-fi separates system – like an electric guitar rig - can be as simple or complicated as you like (or can afford).

But whether you're new to vinyl or simply looking to upgrade old kit, Gibson Pro Audio can help you.

Stanton turntables go from strength to strength. Billboard.com awarded the Stanton T.52 Editor's Choice 2015 award for turntables for beginners. “The Stanton is the sturdiest, best-sounding model we tested.” At $149, it's a bargain, too.

The Stanton T.92 USB direct-drive turntable is the perfect choice for seamlessly co-ordinating your vinyl and digital music, especially if you also DJ. TheVinylFactory.com praises its “high quality components” concluding it's a “flexible turntable for not too much money.”

Stanton-T_92

For home hi-fi, you'll need a good amplifier, of course. There's plenty from Onkyo of Japan. Whathifi.com really rate the Onkyo A-9030: “What makes the A-9030 different from the norm is its sound quality – this lively and engaging amp is simply bursting with energy.” At under $200, it's another steal.

ONKYO-A3090

For speakers, Cerwin-Vega offer a huge range from home hi-fi to powered stage speakers. C-V are renowned for big bass and they've refined their range for home hi-fi aesthetes, too. Just be careful not to buy C-V stage speakers for your apartment – you may just destroy the building.

If you want keep the noise to yourself, get some good headphones. Headphones.com rate KRK Systems 8400s for “delivering superb tonal accuracy and robust musical performance at great prices.”

Art for Art's Sake

What I think has driven the vinyl revival is something beyond the superior sound that it offers over digital. A vinyl record is an object , something you feel you own. iPods and phones are great for music on the go, but with vinyl – especially reissues – you increasingly get lavish gatefold sleeves, colored vinyl, lyric sheets, memorabilia, even books.

Led-Zeppelin-II-Deluxe-reissue

Vinyl is still a long way behind digital, but it's the fastest growing format. It's the little CD, which was predicted to kill off vinyl, which is now badly ailing.

What do you think? Did you keep all your old vinyl? Are you buying more again? Are you investing in upgrading old hi-fi or buying from scratch? Please add your comments...