Vinyl Lives!

By PATRICK McGEEHAN
Published: December 6, 2009

At a glance, the far corner of the main floor of J&R Music looks familiar to anybody old enough to have scratched a record by accident. There are cardboard boxes filled with albums by the likes of Miles Davis and the Beach Boys that could be stacked in any musty attic in America.

But this is no music morgue; it is more like a life-support unit for an entertainment medium that has managed to avoid extinction, despite numerous predictions to the contrary. The bins above the boxes hold new records — freshly pressed albums of classic rock as well as vinyl versions of the latest releases from hip-hop icons like 50 Cent and Diddy and new pop stars like Norah Jones and Lady Gaga.

And with the curious resurgence of vinyl, a parallel revival has emerged: The turntable, once thought to have taken up obsolescence with reel-to-reel and eight-track tape players, has been reborn.

J&R Music, at 23 Park Row southeast of City Hall Park, now carries 21 different turntables at prices ranging from $85 to $875. Some are traditional analog record players; others are designed to connect to computers for converting music to digital files.

Rachelle Friedman, the co-owner of J&R, said the store is selling more vinyl and turntables than it has in at least a decade, fueled largely by growing demand from members of the iPod generation.

“It’s all these kids that are really ramping up their vinyl collections,” Ms. Friedman said. “New customers are discovering the quality of the sound. They’re discovering liner notes and graphics.” In many instances, the vinyl album of today is thicker and sounds better than those during vinyl’s heyday in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sales of vinyl albums have been climbing steadily for several years, tromping on the notion that the rebound was just a fad. Through late November, more than 2.1 million vinyl records had been sold in 2009, an increase of more than 35 percent in a year, according to Nielsen Soundscan. That total, though it represents less than 1 percent of all album sales, including CDs and digital downloads, is the highest for vinyl records in any year since Nielsen began tracking them in 1991.

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