Why WSJ Writer Neil Shah’s Career is Over

Back in 2015 Wall Steet Journal correspondent Neil Shah wrote a curious piece called “The Biggest Music Comeback of 2014: Vinyl Records”. Curious because while the headline heralds that “the biggest music comeback of 2014” was the resurgence of vinyl records, the story itself threw a mud caked wet blanket over the entire experience, one created by Mr. Shah’s cynical and highly selective use of the information he obtained by talking to people in the industry.

While all of the people in the industry that I know were then and are now highly optimistic about vinyl’s future, Mr. Shah used only negative quotes—and from people I know feel otherwise about vinyl’s future.

Shah wrote in that story that the vinyl business was “on its last legs” at a time when we all knew the precise opposite was the truth.

Shah described TPC, a huge, worldwide petro chemical conglomerate that I recently visited near Bangkok as “a three-man shop in Long Beach, California.” Why? Because it fit into his phony narrative—one he invented and “proved” via his highly selective, thoroughly dishonest use of quotes from people I know who are high on vinyl’s future. Very dishonest reporting.

Shah quotes History of Recorded Sound’s Len Horowitz, who related to Shah how a cutting lathe broke down and it took “weeks to come back online”. Shah calls the lathe a “sensitive piece of electronics.” Not really.

Lathes are the “brick shit houses” of the record producing chain. How often does a lathe break? Not often. Is there a lathe shortage? No. Do lathes often break down? No. Does the cutter head require maintenance and careful attention? Yes.

Shah wrote in that article “there has yet to be a big move by entrepreneurs to inject capital and confidence into this largely artisanal industry. Investors aren’t interested in sinking serious cash into an industry that represents 2% of total music sales.”

On what basis does Shah make such an assertion? On the basis of ignorance and/or not asking the right people the right questions. At the very time he wrote that, GZ Media was investing in new presses, NuBuilt in Germany was investing in new presses, Viryl Technologies in Canada was investing in new presses, and the son of a worker at the Swedish Toolex company that built the Alpha, the last modern record press in the 1980s was gearing up to build new versions using the original blueprints that he’d gotten from the original designer.

And of course new pressing plants were being planned using both old refurbished and these new aforementioned presses. At the time of Shah’s first piece I gave him the benefit of the doubt: he didn’t know any better and hadn’t spoken to me!

How egotistical and how foolish of me to have wasted time speaking with Shah about his most recent hoax of a story called “Why Vinyl’s Boom Is Over” (subscription required) in which he did to me what he did to the people quoted in the original story! Why did I stupidly think he’d change his phony tune? I keep asking myself that question.

Shah charges that “the quality of new vinyl often stinks” (italics mine). Is that true? NO! It sometimes is poor but “often”? Sorry, no. And contrary to Shah’s assertion his false statement is “not an open secret”.

Shah falsely asserts that “around 80% or more, several experts estimate—start from digital files, even lower-quality CDs.” Aside from that not being an actual sentence, it’s an outright fabrication. While probably a high percentage of new recordings released on vinyl are digitally sourced the vast majority are cut using high resolution audio, usually 96/24 files not CDs. In fact, a recent meeting of mastering engineers in Los Angeles confirmed that the vast majority of what they cut is from high resolution sources, not from CD. Shah found one instance of that, reported it, and decided that was the norm. It's not.

When I (stupidly) spoke to Shah I explained to him why such records could sound better than the original files (depending upon turntable and of course D/A quality in studio versus at home) and certainly better than CDs made from the same files.

I told Shah that recording engineer Roy Halee told me the vinyl of Paul Simon’s Stranger to Stranger, which he recorded using Pro-Tools at 192/24 bit resolution that was also used to produce the LP, sound far better than the CD. Halee was kind of amused that I even asked the question.

I told him that the new digital remix of Sargeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on vinyl cut from hi-rez sounded better to me than the file itself and I explained why that might be.

None of that made it to the story nor did Shah bother to quote one of the world’s leading mastering engineers whose name I will not use without permission, after he wasted more than an hour of that individual’s valuable time.

Shah quotes me: “They’re re-issuing [old albums] and not using the original tapes” to save time and money, says Michael Fremer, editor of AnalogPlanet.com and one of America’s leading audio authorities. “They have the tapes. They could take them out and have it done right—by a good engineer. They don’t.”

Did I really say it categorically like that? I doubt it. Might I have said “sometimes” or even “often” but I don’t think I said it as quoted but as quoted it plays into Shah’s phony scenario.

Shah’s link to his next assertion is grade school quality: “As more consumers discover this disconnect, vinyl sales are starting to slow. In the first half of 2015, sales of vinyl records jumped 38% compared to the same period the prior year, to 5.6 million units, Nielsen Music data show. A year later, growth slowed to 12%. This year, sales rose a modest 2%”.

Nielsen’s data is a JOKE. A total JOKE ‘five million units”? Shah quotes Rainbo’s Steve Sheldon who told him (maybe) “It’s flattening out…getting close to plateauing”. Rainbo alone pressed well more than 5 million records last year. URP pressed more than 11 million. Add QRP, RTI and the others and in America alone well more than 20 MILLION records were pressed last year and not by labels desiring to fill sagging shelves! Nielsen/Soundscan’s numbers are a JOKE.

What’s more with new pressing plants up and running, of course Rainbo sees business getting close to plateauing. In his first piece,Shah used the “clogged pipeline” to declare vinyl on its “last legs”. Now he’s using the unclogged pipeline to declare the vinyl boom “over”.

The chart accompanying Shah’s piece shows January to June sales, which of course is post-Christmas rush when most retail sales occur. But these are Nielsen/Soundscan numbers, which by definition are fantasy numbers. What’s more, Shah’s assertion as to why sales were up only 2% in the first half of 2017 compared to the previous year are based on his fantasies not on facts. He does not prove causality but blames it on prices and poor quality.

He leaves out that in 2017 there was no monster Adele or Taylor Swift album or a reissue like Dark Side of the Moon—all of which would have been better swept up in Nielsen’s hole-filled sales nets.

Shah has published two absurd vinyl articles, one more dishonest and/or clueless than the other. He’s over. And if he’s not, I’ll still write that he is. And why not? He wrote that Vinyl’s boom is “over” and I promise you it is not.

P.S.: Shah expressed an interest in visiting me so he could hear quality vinyl playback. Guess what? That's not going to happen.

azmoon's picture

..represents the accuracy of other Wall Street Journal articles? It makes you wonder what his agenda is? Maybe he has an investment in file downloading or something! What an azz.....

Zardoz's picture

of articles in the WSJ, I think you are 100% correct. They are as bad as Consumer Reports when it comes to accuracy. I don't have any idea what their agenda is, but that they have one is obvious if you read them over time.

cundare's picture

I was a Contributing Editor for several Tier One computer magazines during the 1990s & 2000s -- often a million copies of my byline on newsstands around the world. So I consider myself qualified to answer your question with a resounding "yes!" Anybody who gets their tech-media news from the WSJ is misinformed indeed. And Shaw is hardly the only tech fake-news source at The Journal. Mossberg's "middle column" likewise routinely got new media wrong, wrong, wrong. We should never forget, even during these days of anti-literate Twitter ascendancy, that sweet prose does not always indicate rational content.

Thank Gaia for Mike Fremer and Art Dudley.

Lazer's picture

Agree, that we should thank Gaia for Mikey and Art.

Michael Fremer's picture
Yes I went after him when he failed to mention sound quality of the original Apple Express (I think that's what it was called, can't remember but D/A remote thingie). Mossberg's response was "who gives a shit about sound?"
avanti1960's picture

very nicely done.

BillHart's picture

Mike- I think you are being a bit harsh with respect to Mr. Shah. I spoke to him shortly after that first article about vinyl manufacture appeared and he was kind and somewhat earnest. I also had the impression he had very little in the way of background as an audiophile. I'm not condoning shoddy research or writing, and perhaps it is fair to call him out, but look at the source. Would you read Stereophile for stock market insights? It's too bad he didn't quote the better sources offered to him-- my take is that most of what's written for mainstream consumption is intended to fit pre-conceived notions of the audience. So, if the theme is- the whole uptick in vinyl is just a fad that doesn't merit serious attention- it's easy to dismiss as yet another indulgence by millennials seeking "honest" products, and being mislead into believing that an antediluvian technology is "better." Here, you are preaching to the choir. Why not a letter to the Editor at the WSJ? (which has, in the past, quoted you, has it not?)
I'm reminded of the days when newspapers actually ran columns on stereo gear. Surely you remember Hans Fantel? They didn't get it right even when they had the resources and this was the stuff of everyday life for mainstream readers. Maybe you should invite him over and blow his mind.
bill hart

thorenssme's picture

...if Shah doesn't have background, then why declare some BS?

Michael Fremer's picture
Your comment is appropriate after his first story, which is why I cut him slack and spoke to him for the second story. Second is like the first: conclusion comes first...then fits facts as best as he can. Phony!
thorenssme's picture

Shah is an asshat, and the WSJ editorial/journalism standards are in the toilet anyway.

xtcfan80's picture

Back in the 1980s when I was working in a record store, late one night a well-dressed man in his 30s came in the store for a look and listen. We were playing some Bob Marley on the store system. After purchasing some mainstream pap LP, the guy mentioned that he read in the WSJ that Marley was a radical who advocated the overthrow of the goverment. I held my tongue for maybe 30 seconds and responded. "Really sir, Bob Marley was for people living together peacefully and loving each other, nothing to be afraid of" I went on to offer "The WSJ is not exactly a respected source of information on anything to do with artistic endeavors" The more things change....

MBishop's picture

Mr. Shah clearly doesn't know what he doesn't know and therefore shouldn't have been making such declarations in print.

volvic's picture

What worries me is that these false narratives start becoming reality in people's minds and start becoming self fulfilling prophecies. Sadly, there is no shortage of irresponsible journalists.

Michael Fremer's picture
A Dealerscope writer keyed off of Shah's piece to declare in his that "The vinyl 'fad' is over".
volvic's picture

I for one am going to my nearest record shop today, heck even Barnes and Noble and buying one or two records. I lived through the CD era with my turntables and this disinformation shall also pass.

IR Shane's picture

When that "Boom is Over" article I wrote the rolling response directly to Shah, and then to the Editors. This is what happens when the narratives are decided ahead of time and then the data presented to fit that prearranged story:

Vinyl is the same as it always was. Yes, some of it stinks, and this WSJ article outlines some of those issues and some horror stories. But what’s not mentioned here at all for any sort of balance are the labels working their asses off and doing it right and yes, mastering 100% analog where there is an analog master source to work from.

As the owner/operator of record reissue company that strives for releasing only “best ever” quality reissues I was disappointed in this article but also inspired to respond.

This article provides some very useful insights and yet is very one-sided and even shortsighted regarding the realities of the vinyl market.

My label Intervention Records, Music Matters Jazz, Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, Analogue Productions, ORG and others spend the time and money to master from analog sources. It takes far longer to get projects off the ground and it is far more costly but we do it because we not only care but because we’re OBSESSIVE about quality! I attend every single mastering session myself and even travel to NYC to master when required as some labels don’t allow their master tapes out of NYC.

Yes, we are specialty brands, but we are not hard to find for consumers in stores or online. And any of us could have provided a useful counterpoint to this author’s main thesis that reissue vinyl sucks and isn’t being done right if only he’d reached out. Music on Vinyl didn’t respond but we would have because we’re proud of what we do!

I recently turned down a reissue project I wanted very very badly to do from and artist I absolutely love because the only source was a production CD. I would rather cancel a title than use a source that won’t produce a definitive “best ever” sonic experience, and so would the other reissue labels I mentioned above.

While it’s certainly true that vinyl is being made from digitally sourced recordings, that does not always mean “CD quality” files were used or that there weren’t separate files made for the vinyl and download files. Beck’s Grammy-winning “Morning Phase” is a great example as the LP came with info that clearly enumerated the differences between the high-res 24-bit files used for vinyl and high-res downloads vs. the compressed tracks for mobile apps.

How does a consumer protect him or herself from lousy reissues? Know the label you’re buying from and insist on buying reissue vinyl only from labels that are transparent about the sources they use and how their records are made!

Stickers on our LPs provide all the information we can fit, and Intervention’s website has product detail pages for every release that go into great detail about the sources used for mastering for every record reissue we produce and more. Our customers know exactly how the records are made, who does the mastering, who presses the vinyl and who prints the jackets. There is no reason the specialty vinyl market, big label or small, shouldn’t provide this level of transparency so our customers can buy in confidence.

Variation in quality is a reality in virtually all produced goods. The fact that there is crummy food served in gas stations and fast food chains doesn’t negate the viability of artisanal restaurants, and so it is with vinyl. In all cases the lesser products make the purveyors of quality stand out even more and shine ever more brightly.

texanalog's picture

"Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you" - Stealers Wheel

NYT on the left, WSJ on the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with fake news.

Grant M's picture

that's why i'm a customer.

starman1573's picture

Fake news can really hurt if you know the truth and understand the facts. WSJ is Fake News Period...

abelb1's picture

Let him visit and hear a great vinyl system. Many people have a severe bias against vinyl but I find it hard to believe they could continue to hold such positions after actually having heard one.

Lemon Curry's picture

Don't hold back, now!

Mark Evans's picture

I read the WSJ article that also discussed Gillian Welch's journey to reissue her record, The Harrow and the Harvest, I immediately bought the LP at Reckless Records. The very next week the WSJ wrote about Gillian's partner, David Rawlings' new vinyl album to be released soon. Today, the WSJ has an article on "Undiscovered Acts Show that Pop and Rock Talents Run Deep". I find the Wednesday WSJ a good source for music reviews.

Michael Fremer's picture
I agree. Good music and film coverage from some talented reviewers and correspondents.
pmoyjr's picture

When I read the article, I was disappointed with the author's thesis and quite surprised to see you quoted. I figured there was a disconnect between what you told him and what he reported, and I awaited your comments on Analog Planet. Thank you for clarifying the matter. I hope you will address Mr. Shah's journalistic deceit by submitting your views directly to the WSJ. There are many of us who own, play, and continue to buy vinyl records who also read the WSJ and normally find it reliable. Regrettably, not all of this population sample follows you on Analog Planet.

azmoon's picture

..appear to be a good synopsis of today's world and mindset. And illustrates why we are in such a troubling mess.

recordhead's picture

I can't argue about sales numbers. I don't have that info. If they do bottom out, maybe the days of $9 used Art Garfunkel records will end soon. Some LP's are digital files. I'm okay with that as long as they sound good. As a lifelong buyer of LP's, quality control on many new releases is beyond bad. Black vinyl looks washed out is spots, fingerprints, scratches, warps. My $1 Woolworth cutouts never looked this bad.

Ortofan's picture
OldschoolE's picture

It’s Eric…breath Michael. Perhaps addressing this journalist guy direct would be a prudent move, but could also be a waste of time, the decision is yours of course.
On the other hand, that Shah guy basically wrote his opinion (I'm not defending any unfair or nasty tactics of course). Yes, he tried to make his opinion a fact and that is one of the problems we have in today’s journalism in anything.
Any person who is able to think simply has to look around themselves and watch the records flying off shelves, out of bins and every other way to see the truth. Hell, all one has to do is visit a record store or record fair or something once to see the real facts. I’d like to see if people like Mr. Shah can explain to me how come I see so many people even outside the “hobby” enjoying their vinyl records, getting on YouTube to share their collections with everyone, why so many people show up at record fairs and at shops on RSD, why I am increasingly running into and indeed being stopped by people wanting to ask questions about vinyl records and wanting to know how to start a collection or what turntable to get, etc.
The only people who are going to buy into Mr. Shah's opinion are those who like everything spoon-fed to them and don't have enough upstairs to create a spark. His writings will get no place with folks who can still think or have open eyes.

jon9091's picture

I knew Shah's article smelled funny the minute I read it. It goes against all the other info that's out there.
One guy, going against the grain. He knows that the vinyl revolution is exploding, so he wants to bring a big story to his Editor. Unfortunately, it was fabricated....cut and paste. Mr. Fremer, if he used your quotes out of context, I would make them print a retraction. Shah should just stick to the exciting world of cell phone news in the future.

HalSF's picture

Starting 7 or 8 years ago....

There is no vinyl boom, it's a fad.


It's a passing fad of surprising longevity, but it's still a dumb fad.


The passing fad is proving so popular that it's driving a global expansion in vinyl pressing capacity.


Something something hipsters.


Meanwhile, however, the struggle to meet the demand created by the passing fad is creating quality control problems and production delays as retooling lags.

Finally, the present day....

Poor quality control, delays, and digital sourcing are killing the fad, which we can now acknowledge has in fact been a vinyl boom now that it's fading due to negative factors caused by sustained excessive popularity.

rosiemax's picture

Why bring down expensive ,could be ,high class magazine,by resorting to name calling,and profanity?

Michael Fremer's picture
He wasted a lot of my time and then picked through what I told him, toook it out of context and published nonsense. At this point in America it's clear that civility doesn't work so well.
Glotz's picture

If a jag like wbh is going to troll, the gloves on this lying moron are off!

Fight fairly... get treated fairly.

Civility is earned by mutual respect.

Universo do Vinil's picture

In Brazil, the official media speaks a lot of bullshit about vinyl. I also do not understand the reasons for these absurdities (sorry my English)

Anton D's picture

Saying this as an avid vinyl lover...

Why do Shah and the WSJ want to venture into our tiny little backwater of the economy and make trouble?

Hell, vinyl plus all of high end audio is dwarfed by Barbie doll collecting.

Even Disney pins kick our ass.

We affect the global economy less that one Pixar sequel.

Leave vinyl alone, Mr Shah.

We are such a backwater that we can't even attract decent trolls.

Fellow vinyl lovers, keep your spirits high. This Shah guy affects us naught. Although, it but might be nice if he could drive down the price of new records.

Anton D's picture

That was "global economy," not "goal line economy. "

Michael Fremer's picture
fickst it four ewe!
cdlp4578's picture

The only real sin here is calling 30% growth a "fad". That would be like calling the iPhone a "fad" six years ago. People aren't throwing their smartphones away and going phone-free, they just aren't getting their first smartphone anymore since they already have one and they don't replace them at the rate they used to. But the "fad" isn't "over" because it wasn't a "fad" to begin with. Same is true of vinyl records. It's not like people bought turntables three years ago and then put them out with the trash after the "fad" was over, it's just that they aren't getting their first turntable anymore and therefore don't have the urge to buy their first dozen LP's.

It was pretty cool when millennials who weren't used to physical media discovered the joy of LP's. But basic math and logic would tell you that once the discovery is made, it can't be made again. So you had two-decades worth of people discovering vinyl all at once, and now you can only get a year's worth to make that discovery every year. The first article from Shah might have been news for investors, the second article was pointless as basic math would have told you what 4 years later would look like. But pointless articles are most of what passes for news content these days.

Anton D's picture

Nicely done!

Netvvork's picture

I almost exclusively buy older used vinyl because the 180g RE are a 50/50 for me in terms of quality. Non-fill being the biggest issue by far. None of my new vinyl is in the runnings for my top 5 best sounding records.

Robin Landseadel's picture

I see that the WSJ still claims Neil Shaw as one of theirs, so it appears that he's still on their payroll.

Two of Fresno's speciality LP shops closed for good a few months ago. That leaves two shops that feature LPs as a main line, à la the Towers and Wherehouses of old.

get reel's picture

People, who honestly cares about this article and guys like Mr. Shah??

He is just another one of those people( including Mr. Computer Audiophile Chris Connaker )out there that simply hate the vinyl resurgent. To them it's going backward in time and technology regardless of sound quality, because they never had a true transcendent sound experience in their lives like we all had.

Michael, why don't you want to invite him to your place??
Show him the true numbers in vinyl sales and than give him a music experience that will make his heart stop. Show him the difference between digital and analog sources, convert him and make him a believer.

Good night and good rhythm

39goose's picture

That Kansas Hillbilly you are referring to is the hardest working perfectionist you have evidently never met. AND, he is a Coonass from Lafayette, LoUiSiAna.

Jack Gilvey's picture
Jack Gilvey's picture
Jack Gilvey's picture

"I told him that the new digital remix of Sargeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on vinyl cut from hi-rez sounded better to me than the file itself and I explained why that might be."

So are we getting a review?

Trevor_Bartram's picture

I'm biased, I endured U.K. vinyl from 1970 to 1985, mainly rock music, and it was not a good experience. When digital came along it was a big relief. My equipment was mid-fi at best but one listen to The Pros And Cons of Hitch Hiking on LP vs CD made me a digital believer. I still bought $5 LPs when I couldn't justify $15 CDs. Now the tables have turned and (used) CDs are the less expensive format. I hope the new adopters are having a better vinyl experience than I had, prices are certainly higher so the quality should be better! I hope they havn't been caught in a fad that fades, although I have similar concerns about the craft beer and cinemas and they seem to be hanging in there, so there's hope.

OldschoolE's picture

Hmm, that's odd. Here in the states UK vinyl from the early 70s and even through to today is highly desired because of it's beeter quality. The vinyl pressed in the states from the early 70s through was usually questionable. That said if one knew their labels, one could get good pressings of certain records at least.
I always buy used records now days due to the fact that I can not afford a new record in the states as they start around $30. I also do not trust even the "high-rez" files being pressed on vinyl, partly because I do not fully understand that concept. Perhaps, Mickey will educate me on that sometime when I ask him. (I would like to be brought up to speed on that).
I thank the universe for the used market, plus the fact that most of the music I listen to has not been reissued anyway, so is only available used.
I do have records from the 70s that sound fantastic and of course, some that are just ok and I have a vintage system (considered junk by most audiophiles, but really isn't and a modern system which is considered "an entry level reference system work in progress" and my records sound great on both.I believe a big factor after recording is set up and cleanliness in the case of vinyl.
The CD market is very inexpensive in the states too and I do buy some CDs on occasion, but not ones of older records that were originally analog with maybe one exception.

cdlp4578's picture

When "Thriller" and "Born In The USA" were mega-smash hits, CBS in the US had a hard time meeting demand and subcontracted a lot of pressing work. I'd imagine the subcontractors (and even CBS) overused stampers for most contemporary titles then just because they were trying to avoid backorders. I can't imagine it being any different in the UK.

I saw the same thing with UMe vinyl pressings in 2015 - there seemed to be an awful lot of rush jobs from Czech. Now that the market has normalized their pressing plant can actually meet current demand with good quality.

Same thing happened when CD's initially boomed around 87-88. I returned about half a dozen faulty CD's then but I think I've had one bad CD in the last 25 years. Of course, the loudness wars soured me on digital so my CD buying is barely more than two a year now. I'd be a proponent of DSD but I'm too old and curmudgeonly to bother with more than one storage medium anymore, so I'm not budging off LP's.

I think right now we're in a second golden age as far as vinyl pressing quality goes. But I think we have a shortage of good mastering engineers so while the physical records are very good the sound quality in aggregate is not at the same level. The better masterers are doing great audiophile reissue work but they don't do the mastering on contemporary titles so you may not be getting that same level of quality mastering for, say, the new Cheap Trick or Dan Auerbach albums (I have neither, I'm just throwing out recent releases as an example) as you will for a reissue campaign.

Hergest's picture

Either you had very bad luck or I had very good luck over those years as i too was a listener to records in the UK starting around 1976 with a brief hiatus around the mid 80s when I dabbled in cds and then moved to cassettes as i started travelling. In all my years of buying records I returned 2, Wings Greatest at Christmas 1978 as the whole of the first batch of pressings was defective and a repress of John Martyn's Solid Air around 1982 as the label on one side was halfway across the record. Otherwise I never had any issues with all of my bog standard records.

My brief flirtation with cds was like many other people of the time when they first came out. I bought a midfi Technics cd player to complement my midfi Technics turntable and receiver set up and as no record shops sold cds at the time I had a choice of 3 or 4 rock albums from the hifi shop selling the cd players. I bought Hotel California. Yes it was easy to play and re arrange song order and yes, it was noticeably louder than the record but it was no better, in fact even on a midfi system and at a time I didn't really care for great sonics i could tell it was flat and lacking in dimensionality compared to the record. I kept on buying cds for a while as they were available now in record stores and the price slowly came down and I will admit to being suckered in by the 'perfect sound forever' catchphrase but apart from the extra loudness and convenience they never sounded any better. I also remember the first time I put a slight scratch on a cd and it would skip and refuse to go over that skip which rendered the whole thing useless. With a record I can lift the needle over a bad scratch and continue with the album, with the cd it became junk which is incredibly frustrating to get a 3rd of the way through an album and hit that brick wall of repetition.
Fast forward to now and I'm fortunate to have a superb analogue chain comprising an SME turntable and Phasemation cartridges and phono stage with excellent amplification and speakers to match and those bog standard UK pressings right up to the mid 90s when quality did indeed suffer sound superb. Far better than anything I buy pressed by an 'audiophile' label. I have a decent if not top of the range sacd/cd player in a Yamaha CDS-2000 and those early cds sound absolutely awful with no life, no reality, no soundstage and not even louder than records these days with a properly matched phono stage and cartridge. New cds are slightly better than they were especially as I don't buy artists of the genres likely to indulge in the loudness wars nonsense.
As regards your mentioning of Virgin, I have some absolutely superb pressings, bog standard mass produced ones of Mike Oldfield, XTC, Tangerine Dream, Yellow Dog, The Skids and plenty more. Rather than think I had to suffer through those years I probably now look back on those days as halcyon regarding the quality of both the recordings and pressings.

Trevor_Bartram's picture

You may have had luck because of where you where located. Looking back, it was mainly the time and energy of travelling ten miles to the Virgin record store on successive Saturdays then having to develop a relationship with the checkout person to have them keep your returns. It created a lot of stress. Today, I assume it's different with most new vinyl being mail order.

Steelhead's picture

Well stated and in line with my own experience. I was late to cd and did not buy a player until the early 90's when I saw the Led Zep boxset. Loved the ease and enthralled with the no pops, clicks and thought it was great until the initial honeymoon wore off. After extended listening it seemed the majority of my compact discs seemed to be somewhat flat and distant. Glad I stayed with vinyl. I ended up giving away early Jethro Tull cds as after comparing with the vinyl it was evident I would continue to be buying albums.

I am not anti-digital and have roughly comparable quality cd and vinyl. Esoteric X03SE for digital and SOTA Cosmos MKIV for vinyl. SACD can be sublime and Patricia Barber on SACD has me seeing no need to spin the black. However, overall for the best fidelity and experience, pull out the album.

Enjoyed your post. Happy Listening.

Michael Fremer's picture
Was very good IMO. I bought and own lots of it...80's so-so...
Daniel Emerson's picture

In a way, if the vinyl revival was a passing fad, that'd be a positive for me. If the hipsters suddenly found something new and ditched their brand-new, virtually unplayed LPs to the second-hand market, I'd be in like Flynn! And, shortly afterwards, flat broke.

I buy mostly second-hand, which means more vinyl than polycarbonate, as the albums I find in the LP bins tend to be more interesting and varied.

But, as far as the Shah article is concerned, there is always a competition to be the first to declare a fad "so over", that a TV show has "jumped the shark" or that a band has "sold out". Then, if you accidentally happen to be correct, you can go around wagging your finger and saying "I told you so; you should listen to me more". Standard attention-seeking behaviour.

Trevor_Bartram's picture

I remember returning the most egregious LPs a half dozen times, it was usually a Virgin release but some others too. If I bought from my local record store sometimes they would hold onto my returns until I decided which of a half dozen was the best. Virgin never got the hint, quality never improved. This took a lot of time and energy. Today I recommend returning faulty vinyl and sending a nastygram to the record company for every return, maybe they will get the hint.

Glotz's picture

Ignorant on so many levels of music reproduction...

Ignorant of what people make and spend their income on...

and ignorant of every other political rant you rambled on about.

You don't spend money on this stuff, so quit your whining.
You don't care about anyone's cash spent either.
AND you certainly don't care about the environment...

You phony just like Shaw.

Dorian Workman's picture

I honestly can't tell if your spelling and grammar is intentionally ironic or if you just have terrible spelling and grammar.

TerryNYC's picture

Michael, Although I greatly prefer digital-done-right I also appreciate good phono playback and as I've said to you before -- more good music is always welcome. That said the WSJ article contains one unarguable error. Lathes are the Pyramids of the vinyl era. They were not prone to audioophile-fashions but engineered to work hard & well indefinitely. In my youth I had the opportunity to use both Neumann & Scully lathes (yes, I am pre-digital), and I assure you that with moderate regular maintenance these will long outlast me. As for the rest, there is something to be said for a 16 million units versus 3 billion units argument. However, the vinyl niche is large enough to prosper for a long time, perhaps as long even as those lathes. You are in Asia! Enjoy. Perhaps you'll have a chance to hear a Blue Dragon. TB PS You should invite him over. He may not alter his forecast but he will understand why there are some hardcore enthusiasts.

cpp's picture

If this guys career is over as you say, then why is he still writing articles for the WSJ. His latest dated August 13, 2017 08:13 am ET
titled "What Happened to the Negative Music Review"

jon9091's picture

Dude, it was a sarcastic title in rebuttal of The whole "vinyl is over" BS stories that Shah has been spewing out.
Neither one is going anywhere, although I'd put my money on vinyl being around a lot longer than Shah.

cpp's picture

I support vinyl and have a considerable collection of LP's. Not sarcastic at all. Just Mike made a comment about the guys career being over, I said why is he still writing article if his career is over.. I guess you didn't read the guys article Dude about NO negative reviews. Its a hoot and full of BS as well..

isaacrivera's picture
isaacrivera's picture
isaacrivera's picture
AJW's picture

Then what will Jimmy Fallon hold up when he introduces a musical guest and what will Tom Port do to earn a living?

Roy Martin's picture

..."hot stamper" CDs?

Yeah, me neither.

Rudy's picture

Jeez. I guess that $800 I spent on a "super white hot stamper" of a dirt common $3 Fleetwood Mac "Rumours" LP wasn't well spent, was it? ;)

Rudy's picture

35 years later, WSJ hasn't changed. Sticking their reporters' noses into topics they know little about. Back in the mid 80s, I used to laughingly read their articles on the music industry, the then-new CD format, changes in the computer industry, etc., all tainted by the reporters' lack of knowledge about the topic and often drawing their own ill-formed conclusions. Maybe it amuses the boardroom set to read this drivel (so they, too, can be "experts" once they put the paper down).

The WSJ talking up vinyl would be like Mikey explaining the differences between synthetic engine oils. Yet I think even if he were given an unfamiliar topic, I highly doubt he would stoop to the level of twisting facts around to fit his own agenda.

wayneshelor's picture

I have taken pictures, at several locations, on several occasions, and would encourage others to watch how Barnes & Nobles treats vinyl. The workers (who don't know any better) stack scores-to-hundreds of LPs on their side on top of each other to move them from receiving to the floor. I have taken pictures of this awful practice at three Tampa Bay area locations, and even shared the pictures, twice, with someone respected, here. Sending emails and a snail mail letter to the folks at Barnes & Noble got ... no response. Speaking with two store managers just got a curt dismissal. Twice. I prefer (for means of expediency, professionalism and lower cost, by far) on-line shopping. I still buy scores of magazines and the occasional book from B%N. But never, ever vinyl.