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Vinyl is dead. Turntable sales drop. Long live vinyl.


Long live The King.

I love headlines like this, they always grab people’s attention. And in all seriousness, I felt this worthy of a punchy title.

Internet prognosticators are reporting that turntable sales dropped five per cent in 2017 over 2016 based on numbers reportedly being supplied by industry watchdog GfK. Does this mean vinyl lovers – new, old, or steadfast through the decades – are all re-upped for ‘tables? Or is it merely a blip on an otherwise healthy spreadsheet of growth over the last several years? Or does it mean that more black-disc lovers are turning to the used market, or the web for their ‘tables?

Or is it just that sales that are reported and tracked by some of these companies whose job it is to keep an eye on this sort of this thing aren’t looking at the big picture in an accurate manner? I mean if you’re going to look at vinyl sales for example, the market for used LPs is staggeringly large, but none of these companies seem to tout numbers which tracks those sales (and in all honesty, it would be nearly impossible to do).

The world’s largest turntable manufactures don’t seem to think that the future holds decline, just the opposite as giants like Pro-Ject spin up new factories, and introduce new decks like the Debut III S. Rega reportedly is shipping as many as 4,000 turntables per month, but I guess the question remains “are these number sustainable?


The brand new Pro-Ject Debut III S.

Heinz Lichtenegger, the President of Pro-Ject Audio, and CEO of Audiotuning had this to say when I contacted him regarding this news (edited for spelling, and grammar):

“We think the numbers are inaccurate because the model being used is an imprecise model, as it only tracks the main retailers who report, but not the niches.

Analog sales are happening in a lot of channels such as audiophile dealers, record stores, and also online – so our info is a little bit different.

Yes, while the traditional trade has seen a dip in sales, we see a huge move to the Internet and to many new brands which are everywhere popping up, selling more or less variation of the same factories who supply Teac, AudioTechnica, Onkyio, etc. These are turntables you can only buy online, they are mostly plastic, with terrible cartridges. So what we’re seeing is a huge move from traditional €400 models to €200 and less models.

Also all the DJ variants which nobody needs at home (who needs scratching, stroboscope, quick start or detachable head shell?) have been largely increasing due to romantic association with the Technics SL 1210.

So business is up, but not in the good way, because we feel all this stuff creates a disappointed customer, who will think, “Analog does not sound better then my MP3.” So in the end there seems to be a larger harm to that beautiful flower of analog we have grown up now for so many years.

I hope there will be lot of people who stand up and tell people what is crap, and what a good quality turntable experience is: Manual operation, good cartridge, good stiff arm, no plastic whatsoever.

I swear, Pro-ject will fight for our idea of what makes a great analog experience. That’s for sure.”

So, is the analog-return juggernaut slowing? I guess time will tell, that or at least an ability to more holistically track sales that takes into account used marketplaces, online sales, and a better metric for discerning who is buying exactly what could prevail. Because in all honesty, I don’t feel that those buying cheap, plastic – basically throwaway – turntables are really contributing to anything in the analog revival. Rather, they are contributing to the landfill because that’s where 95 per cent of these disposable ‘tables end up after a few months, and they’ve fallen apart. I think it’s a shame that the same music value system that brought us the MP3 (and it’s disdain for fidelity) are also now capitalizing on the new found appreciation for true fidelity in vinyl listening, and flooding the market with the equivalent of a $30 MP3 player. But hey, that’s just my two cents.

–Rafe Arnott



About Rafe Arnott (352 Articles)
Editor and Creative Director for Part-Time Audiophile & The Occasional Magazine.

17 Comments on Vinyl is dead. Turntable sales drop. Long live vinyl.

  1. “who needs scratching, stroboscope, quick start or detachable head shell?” Aside from the first, many audiophiles who play 78s or mono records like these features. Seems like a Technics bash to me. I looked into the Project tables and bought a new 1200GR. Maybe people do care about this, since they lost a potential sale.

  2. I bought a new turntable in 2017 …..

  3. KIRK THOMSEN // February 28, 2018 at 4:53 AM // Reply

    While $25/180g vinyl may seem pricey, when inflation is factored in, LP’s are reasonable. More so when you figure the fidelity is so much better on average. I still live old vinyl.

  4. At $25 plus on average for a new vinyl release, I don’t see how this vinyl run, LPs and turntables, has lasted this long. Even for me, a lifelong vinyl lover who was vinyl before vinyl was cool, or cool again, I can’t afford to keep up anymore and only buy LPs to support bands/artists when I see them live in concert if they so happen to have vinyl for sale at the merch. table. Analog man in a digital world.

    • It’s the “wild west” out there partner 🙂
      I personally like to buy older European pressings of albums (transferred from tape) that I love and don’t own on vinyl, or just to have another copy of my favorites but manufactured inin anoth country using their own fabrication process vs. made the US with usually the highest number pressed from a single plate. That’s when I’ll spend up to $25 delivered to FL for a used record rated at Near Mint or VG++ (of course they don’t ALL arrive in perfect condition). I do this a handful of times a year to satisfy my “fix” for new material and add to my 750+ album collection. As for the newer and reissued vinly being produced, it’s all from a digital process of some kind and IMO not worth invesing in when you can just stream for free from Spotify and get about the same sound.

    • Great point, as an OG vinyl person that came back out of nostalgia triggered by the revival – one of the things that are only coming back to me now is how much damn space the things take! 😀 – I mean, I love them but as Kendrick Lamar would say.. DAMN!

      I am simple running out of space so I am at a point where always debate whether to get that extra record or go digital.. no more picking up lots of stuff just because…


  5. Record sales is a better barometer. Many of the titles I want are backordered.

  6. I very much concur with David, it just depends on the source material first, then of course your audio system from cartridge to speakers, and tonearm, pre-amp, amplifier in the middle. Some LP’s (especially ones produced and pressed in the 60’s and 70’s) sound truly amazing, while others sound like crap. The new heavy vinyl is a huge marketing opportunity for the labels who have reissued them and they mostly sound way worse than the original pressings from yesteryear. Same thing with digital files…some CD’s sound wonderful and others awful, same with streaming digital (Spotify) some great and a lot not so good. I personally was one of the last to jump onto the CD train back in the 80’s as it was so bright and crisp sounding, and I didn’t want to buy in. Now I own several hundred CD’s and they now live in a box, where as I resurrected my LP’s about 8 years ago when I purchased a 1960 Dynaco ST-70 tube amplifier. I recently upgraded my phono cartridge to a low output moving coil, invested in a good phono pre-amp, and a new a ne new pair of Zu Audio speakers. WowW the majority of my old records sound AMAZING and yet so many still sound like crap. It all begins with a good recording/music production. Cheers all…

  7. While the sky is not falling…I am Glad I sold my three decades of collecting collection and setup two years ago. I kept all my Classic Records, Mosiac Sets, and about a hundred impossible to find LPs. With the $75K I went full digital and when the vinyl phase cools down, I’ll get back into it on the cheap.

  8. Steve McCown // February 27, 2018 at 2:04 PM // Reply

    The Records are making a come back ! The new 180 gram records are sounding so good! Most people need to up date there cartridge mainly & check there needles out from time to time. If a record is taken care of ‘ it sounds way better than cd’s or mp3 formats . The Records have true lows & high’s & w/ the right cartrage such as Stanton products you can’t lose !

  9. Chris Langston // February 27, 2018 at 2:00 PM // Reply

    I think vinyl is awesome the covers and to be able to it the needle in the groove ya know !😀

  10. I can tell everyone that, while I do not need a stroboscope, scratching or detachable headshell, my Technics 1210 beats every other TT I have ever had (incl. a venerable Thorens). And, it does not need a belt that always slips, needs yearly replacement and never rotates rock solid…

  11. Steven I Bennett // February 27, 2018 at 1:44 PM // Reply

    well I have to disagree with this article completely and the reason being is here in Houston the half price bookstore which normally sells vinyl for very very cheap prices has all of a sudden jacked up the prices of their vinyl in the store to Heights I’ve never seen before I’m talkin vinyl above $20 or more and in some instances 40 50 and $60 depending on the artist so where are they getting this information from is beyond me with vinyl is not dead it’s alive and well and living in and being charged outrageous prices

  12. Well I am 52 and I have owned 4 turntables in my life so its not like you keep buying them, though I did buy a new ClearAudio Performance DC this year, I would say I have a lot of hi-res digital and vinyl and CD’s and it depends on the recording and how it was mastered I have some LPs that sound stellar, likewise awesome FLAC & DSD and some albums like Bowies’ Blackstar that you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the LP and the Hi Res files. Just enjoy the music, vinyl isn’t dead, but I think we consume music in so many ways its more difficult to follow the trends.

  13. 33 years young and already buying albums on vinyl for 100 USD each. Somehow the ‘virus’ and this catching headline found me.

  14. Danny Hoffman // February 27, 2018 at 6:33 AM // Reply

    Ah yes, all those people who buy a cheap turntable and cartridge with a cheap built in phono preamp, and then play back vinyl sourced from a digital master and tell us how much better their “vinyls” sound than digital.

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