By Lindsay Chong


Before buying music off iTunes we had CDs. Earlier still, cassette tapes. Rewind a good 30 years, and it was the era of the vinyl.

Back in the day, vinyl was the only medium through which one could own music by their favourite artiste. Vinyl enjoyed its heyday from the 50’s to the 70’s, before cassettes and CDs came into existence.

Unlike the digital recordings on CDs, vinyl records are analogue records, whereas digital recordings are merely pieces of an analogue recording put together. Therefore, by definition, digital recordings do not contain complete sound waves. This means that the sound vinyl records produce is clearer, sharper, and fuller.

Hear Records owner, Nick Tan, 42, compares the differences in digital and analogue recordings to watching a movie. “Let’s say if you’re watching a movie like Lord of the Rings, would you rather watch it on your iPad, or in an IMAX theatre?” he says. “That’s what listening to a vinyl record is like. Listening to the digital version seems to me like an injustice to the music.”

And boy, is he right. If you’ve ever had the immense pleasure of experiencing a live version of “Hotel California” by the Eagles played on vinyl, and listening to the same song played from a computer, you’d wholeheartedly agree. When the vinyl plays, the music doesn’t just enter your ears – it enters your soul. Played from the computer it’s enjoyable, but played on the vinyl it’s immersive.

It’s unsurprising then that vinyl stores are beginning to pick up around Singapore. At least 3 different stores have emerged in the past year: Hear Records at Burlington Square, Retrophonic Records at Chinatown Plaza and Vinylicious Records at Parklane Mall.

Even though vinyl records conjure up the image of a rusty old gramophone our grandfathers used to own, don’t be fooled into thinking that vinyl is for the old and obsolete. Current major artistes like Lady Gaga and Adele are releasing their brand new albums on vinyl, while others have started with re-issuing old albums. Last year, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories was Hear Records’ highest selling record.

Such artistes releasing on vinyl is probably a driving factor in its popularity gaining speed amongst youths. Mr Tan shares that his youngest customer to date is merely 15 years old.

As there is always the option of new material, one should never feel stuck with the Led Zeppelins and the Pink Floyds, things from the 70s and 80s. These new releases are especially appealing to those who have not lived through the vinyl era. For them, it’s a completely new way of experiencing music.

To 19-year-old Nathaniel Tan, however, vinyl is no novelty, having grown up listening to them almost his entire life.

Together with his father, they own a collection of over 250 vinyl records, most of which are old-school Rock n Roll music from bands like The Beatles, Queen and Pink Floyd.

The collection began when Nathaniel’s father bought his first record, The Beatles’ Abbey Road, at a store when he was younger. Then, records were easy to come by when local vinyl stores were in abundance. Now, as these records are harder to find, both father and son either buy them second hand from other collectors or ship them in from overseas.

In the future, Nathaniel hopes to expand on his father’s growing collection, but definitely not sell any of it for profit. “Music was a big part of both his life and mine,” he says. “Therefore the vinyl holds some sentimental value.”

Maintaining a collection that vast obviously takes a bit of effort. In this age of convenience, having to care for a substantially sized record could be off-putting. “Nowadays people download music and, with any luck, buy CDs. There is no physical sense of ownership,” says Mr Tan. “You could have 3,000 songs from your favourite singer, and not own a single one of his albums.” Because of the effort it takes to maintain vinyl, he explains, these records evoke a stronger sense of physical ownership.

Although naysayers might complain that no matter the medium, the music is the same, and technical differences should be left to the audiophiles, many would disagree. Better sound quality creates greater appreciation of music, and vinyl is unarguably leaps and bounds more pleasurable to the ears than a mere internet download.

Hear Records also sells turntables from the brand Music Hall, their prices ranging from S$390 for the USB-1 model to more than S$3,000 for the MMF 9.1 model.