Forget Eggs… Have You Seen the Price of Vinyl Lately?

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Overall, despite a very successful launch, there are a few things I wish I would have done differently from the get-go with FutureAudiophile.com.  One of the biggest faux pas was picking a higher-commission source for affiliate sales as opposed to going right to Amazon.com, who pays less affiliate commission per sale, but whom our readers obviously prefer to buy from. Ooops. I should have known better, as I had learned that lesson in back in 2018 but somehow it didn’t stick. It will now. 

The high cost of audiophile vinyl by Jerry Del Colliano
The cost of audiophile releases of classic albums on vinyl can cost 10 times more than a comparable Compact Disc

Fixing the affiliate link project is a lot of work, but our page count is still tolerable, so I’ve been replacing equipment links with Amazon links, which is already paying dividends in the early days of the project. I’m also adding links to the music selections we use in the course of our reviews, be it Compact Discs, streaming, cassette tapes (yes, they sell those again), and vinyl. Many audiophile records are available in some (or all) of these formats, and we want you to hear what we hear in the course of our product evaluations, hence the links.

Here’s why I’m bringing all of this up. In the course of creating product links via Amazon, I’ve seen some pretty eye-opening things.  For one thing, vinyl is always more expensive than CD, and not by a small margin. There’s often quite a big price delta. Not every album is released on vinyl, but many of the ones that are cost many, many times that of the same recording purchased on CD. 

Here Are Some Example of Audiophile CD vs. Vinyl Prices on Amazon.com 

                                                                                           CD             Vinyl

  • Yes: Big Generator                                             $11             $115
  • Pink Floyd: Dark Side of The Moon              $21            $299
  • Steely Dan: Aja                                                   $11             $50
  • Dire Straits: Brothers in Arms                        $14            $40
  • Motorhead: The Very Best of                         $15            $52
  • An Evening with Silk Sonic                              $14            $64    

Not every vinyl record follows the same pattern, as The Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland is $21 on Compact Disc and $20 on vinyl. There are others like that, but nearly all of the examples that I looked into saw vinyl at double (or higher) for the same album when compared to the CD. 

I’ve covered the technical issues with vinyl over and over again. As a 100-year-old technology, it has very limited dynamic range as compared with a Compact Disc and that comparison gets even worse when you pit vinyl against HD formats like 24/192 downloads. Vinyl is high in distortion in comparison with any digital format, too. But we aren’t here to crap on vinyl, as it also has its advantages. Many people already have extensive collections of LPs. There are audiophile hobbyists who don’t care what vinyl cost, as they simply enjoy that format with its analog nature, authentic format from the original release of the album, or just not having to turn anything computer-like on to enjoy their music. And I’m not here to argue with them…

The high cost of audiophile vinyl by Jerry Del Colliano
Compact Discs are easily stored, ripped and are much easier to collect than vinyl today.

For those seeking the best audiophile value in their stereo system, it is hard to build equity into your system, your room design, and overall investment when such a big portion of your audiophile budget goes into your music collection, especially given that you can have digital access to nearly every record ever made at CD (or higher) resolutions for about $15 per month. 

Question: before you spend $299 on a limited anniversary edition of Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl, perhaps should you invest that money into some new acoustical treatments or an upgraded DAC or something else for your audiophile system that returns bigger value? If you’ve got your system where you want in terms of gear and room tuning and you are cool with peeling off three $100 bills for a record, then cool, but somebody had to say something about relative value here. 

The high cost of audiophile vinyl by Jerry Del Colliano
Some people are just more comfortable listening to vinyl versus digital

It is good to see the consumer demand strong for retro-styled audio components (think: NAD C 3050 LE, PSB Passif 50 speakers, or JBL-L100s from the old Maxell print ad) as well as retro-styled audiophile software formats like LPs. With that said, it is also important for many of us who are on a budget for our expensive hobbies like this to get the maximum value, and right now, streaming sure looks like the clubhouse leader in the audiophile world.

How are you collecting music today? Share with us in the comments below.

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Paul Wilson

Despite my 1st choice for music on my system being a physical CD copied to my server, I do still have and play vinyl. I have LPs I bought 40 or more years ago and routinely enjoy them. One option not detailed in this article is used media. There is a robust availability of used LPs and CDs found, surprisingly, in the most unlikely of places. In my experience of having bought both, it is far more likely to find a used CD sounds completely normal. Used LPs don’t always seem to provide an equal level of quality. I’ve had quite a few instances where I bought a used LP, done so of course to help defray cost, and found it to be virtually unplayable. Not even five to seven minutes in my ultrasonic cleaner helped. And not always does the merchant have a turntable so the actual performance of a used LP may be verified. If so, it’s pretty much pot luck. Having been disappointed in a used LPs sound quality far more often than I would have expected, when I do purchase an LP, I now only buy brand new ones. Which means my purchase habits are done so sparingly. Jerry’s article is exactly correct, LPs are expensive but that doesn’t dissuade me from buying them in total, it only means I limit my purchases to something I really want. CDs on the other hand, I’ve bought them only because I liked the cover art on the CD case. And yes, there have been occasions when I hated the content. Been instances when I was pleasantly surprised as well. Either way, from a cost only standpoint, streaming wins hands down. Then again, ours is a hobby where one single, unified musical format is not always the preferred route. Sound type and quality matters a great deal and LPs will always appeal to certain audiophiles. Others who prefer something else may think LPs to be far too expensive and shun their use. Perhaps that makes the hobby more indivuidalistic and enjoyable for all practitioners. I remember the days when an LP could be purchased for about $5.00 or so. It is also true I’ve shelled out $100 or more for an LP on more occasions than I care to admit. Funny thing is, I know, absolutely, 100% I will do so again, probably soon. I’m not so sure why other than to say I just like vinyl and have accepted higher cost as the price to play.

Ivan Halbach

I buy new vinyl of great albums and multiple cd’s every month to evaluate the state of music and artists. Burn it to my server after for quick access and the ability to set up playlists. If the cd attracts my interest, I am liable to purchase it on vinyl for the best listening experience.
In deference to Jerry, with whom I have had discussions before, my system is pretty competent, and digital has never won in direct. level matched comparison, either direct from cd or via the hard drive using an external DAC.
Fortunately, the system is now complete, and all of my funding can go to the acquisition of new music and maintenance.

Jerry Del Colliano

I bought the new Foo Fighters record today

I have a pending article that is titled “Should Future Audiophiles buy New Music When You Can Stream It at CD or Better Resolution for FREE”.

I still do. You do too Ivan and that’s cool but the 22 year old that I just hired FRESH out of engineering school – should he?

Intersting topic.

Andrew Dewhirst

I saw this article on the BBC(https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-norfolk-65324055.amp) today, and with my recent trip to AXPONA and the record sales there I noticed this,

A new vinyl lp in the UK is 40 quid, which is about 49 US dollars.

A new vinyl record in the US is $40.

A new vinyl record in Canada is…40 Canadian dollars or $29 US Dollars.

Dan

The price of vinyl has me focusing on CDs again. Also, my 20+ year old cd player died, and I replaced it with an Onkyo changer. It’s as if I’m hearing my discs for the first time!

Ironically, I collected a lot of vinyl for free or next to nothing when CDs first came out and people couldn’t get rid of their records fast enough. Now the opposite is true.

Jerry Del Colliano

Preach on brotha!

You might find a nice bump in your digital sound from some of these affordable DACs that we’ve been reviewing.

Schiit for like $139. The Grace Audio M900 is under $600 and got a RAVE review.

Dan

I’m actually considering a whole-system upgrade (and incorporating tubes) by adding The Fixer from Transcendent Audio. I just need to get the $500 for it, and someone to solder it for me.

Jerry Del Colliano

Nice.

The Fixer sounds like a component from a new company called Michael Cohen Audio. Former lawyer, I hear… 🙂

Mark Alfson

I still buy CDs. And burn them to an iMac dedicated to music duty. I listen to both sources… usually the CD player when the cd is first purchased. I don’t do vinyl. We also have both Apple Music and Qobuz subscriptions which get good workouts.

But I continue to acquire CDs mostly as a connection to my music purchasing past. If that makes sense.

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