spinster Records in downtown Tulsa houses both antique and brand-new records for all generations of vinyl collectors. Photo by Josh New

It might be nostalgia … or the next generation discovering the thrill of setting a stylus on a vinyl disc. Either way, the analog musical medium of long-play records has made a comeback in the state.

While some may see the revival as a fad, many have always jammed out with vinyl.

“I remember the dark days of the mid-’90s, when there were almost no major label vinyl releases, but there was still a bustling underground scene that was powered by vinyl releases,” says Justin Sowers, owner of Guestroom Records in Oklahoma City and Norman, and a firm believer in the nuanced sound quality of vinyl.

Calvin Compton, manager of Starship Records in Tulsa, says there is just something about the records that you don’t get with digital audio, and if you have a decent system for playback, it’s even more enjoyable.

“On a well-sorted system, the first-time experience is ear opening,” he says. “Many people these days are so used to hearing music on earbuds from their cell phones that hearing a full stereo setup may make you feel like you’re hearing your favorite songs for the first time. There is something about the reproduction path of the LP playback that is very natural sounding to the human ear.”

David Grover, owner of Spinster Records in Tulsa and Dallas, agrees.

“It’s a perfect format,” he says. “An album on vinyl has a magic je ne sais quoi that fascinates people.”

Many vinyl fans love the object itself, the engagement it provides, and the act of collecting records. Sowers, Compton and Grover acknowledge the trendy part of collecting but say vinyl has never gone away. None sees the medium dying off.

Spinster Records is a popular destinations during Tulsa’s First Friday Art Crawl. Photo by Josh New

“I’m not the crystal ball expert, but I think records are like books,” Grover says. “Everyone thought books were going to disappear with online, [digital formats] and Kindle … and obviously that didn’t happen.”

Compton adds: “It definitely has it’s trendy aspects, but it has always existed somewhat. Even at the lowest point of production for LPs, there were still people buying them. For those who are passionate about music and the discovery of the history of it … we will always be listeners and collectors.”

The experts also say new, young recruits and music industry support are major reasons why vinyl remains relevant.

“More listeners are discovering the excellent sound quality, collectability and passion in a well-made record,” Sowers says. “Vinyl records are the best and original way to listen to recorded music, and much of the music [people] listen to now on any format was inspired by music that was destined for vinyl. Many recording artists are vinyl devotees, and record and produce their art with vinyl in mind.”

Grover says: “I’m seeing younger people getting into [record collecting] with their parents. So I think it’s going to be a pretty healthy existing format for quite awhile.

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