Vinyl’s sonic perfection finds new fans in digital age

From USA Today:

SEBASTOPOL, Calif. — If you don’t believe in time machines, step inside the offices of Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. Today it’s Jan. 30, 1979, and Rickie Lee Jones is cutting her debut album’s single, Chuck E’s in Love.

“Just listen to that,” says mastering engineer Shawn Britton as the original analog tape of Jones’ 34-year-old studio session fills the equipment-packed room with the singer’s lush sighs. “It’s what music is really all about.”

What Britton and Mobile Fidelity are all about is taking such pre-digital master tapes and transferring them once again to vinyl, that 12-inch petroleum-based grooved platter that was famously delicate (woe if it got a skip-making scratch), inconvenient (side ends, get up, flip it, sit back down) and bulky (sizable collections ate up rooms).

In this iPod era, watching folks cut new LPs — that’s Long Playing, MP3 peeps — is a bit like visiting a vibrant Model T factory. But Mobile Fidelity’s retro business is brisk these days; Britton can barely keep up with the priceless masters from the likes of Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan that fill his in-box, and the shiny black fruits of his labors sell for between $25 and $50 a pop.

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