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Vinyl records return in a digital world

Monday, November 25, 2013, 14:13 GMT+7
Vinyl records return in a digital world
The covers of some local vinyl records released in the past two years.

While few are willing to produce and release CDs to avoid losses in a digital world, more local singers are taking risks by releasing their music on vinyl records to target audiophiles.

Several music albums have been released on vinyl records recently, including “Toc ngan (Short hair) Acoustic” by My Linh, considered one of Vietnam’s divas.

The most recently released records are three albums titled “Vinh quang Viet Nam” (The Glorious Vietnam), “Mua thu khong tro lai” (The Autumn Won’t Return) and “Ha Noi mua vang nhung con mua” (Hanoi in the Less Rainy Days) by Tre Film Studio and MFC Star Group.

Tre Film Studio said that it is set to release more oldies on vinyl in the future.

Vinyl records and old-fashioned phonographs were first produced in 1889 and experienced their heyday in Vietnam in the 1960s. They were gradually replaced by cassettes and CDs, and then blu-ray audio and digital music. However, in recent years, audiophiles around the world began listening to vinyl again for its richer, more authentic sound. Many love sitting back and unwinding to haunting melodies from record players that summon memories of the old days. Many say they simply love touching the discs and rinsing them for better sound, which is impossible with today’s CDs and DVDs.

Local audiophiles also hunt for old phonographs and enjoy improving and restoring them, or connecting them with modern speaker systems to enhance the sound.

Around ten times as much as a CD, a vinyl record costs at least VND900,000 (US$43) each. A phonograph and a good hi-end sound system may also cost a fortune.

Amidst the economic malaise and rampant music piracy, the release of a vinyl record is considered a highly risky move.

Some singers release their music on vinyl simply to satisfy their personal passion. But others, like the owners of Tre Film Co. and Giao huong xanh Co., take the business very seriously.

According to Phan Van An, vice director of Tre Film Co., his company owns a large number of songs and records featuring local music from its golden age in the 1990s. They decided to release them on vinyl to avoid wasting the treasured resources.

Records released by local pop singers and composers have sold well. Tre Film Co. also reported good sales of its three recently-released albums.

Vinyl enthusiasts launched www.diathan.vn last year to share their passion and information about much-sought-after records, phonographs, and their parts.

A number of coffee shops in HCMC, such as Era coffee shop on District 3’s Tran Quoc Thao street and Nguyet Ca cafe at 413/47A Le Van Si street now draw many clients who come to unwind to Elvis Presley’s or Frank Sinatra’s haunting melodies or country and classic pop hits from records played on old-fashioned record players.

However, the high sales and increasing local interest aren’t enough to guarantee long term success. Vinyl enthusiasts are quite picky and have high expectations for the quality of records and the music recorded on them, especially when they pay large sums for the discs.

The sound quality of records remains a major concern. Most local records are mastered and created in other countries before copying and releasing them in Vietnam to ensure top quality.

“Some local records have technical problems regarding sound quality, such as unequal volume of tracks on the same album. If the quality remains inadequate for the exorbitant prices, it would be really difficult for local records to thrive in the long term after their novelty and appeal fades away,” remarked C.N., who owns almost all the newly released records.

As a result, though records are currently in vogue, producers are hesitant about mass-producing them in large numbers. To be on the safe side, they choose to produce a limited number of such records instead and target a certain demographic of the local market.

Vinyl records have returned to their prime with statistics revealing that a total of 39 million ones were sold around the world in 2011.

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