There are a few things inherent in vinyl recordings that you just can’t find in CDs. Probably the most obvious is what’s generally referred to as ‘pre-echo’. Due to the mastering process, especially with loud passages, you will generally hear the faint opening strains of a song in the empty portion of the groove immediately before the song starts. While the cutting stylus removes material, it also deforms the groove it creates. Prior to any input, the cutting sylus imparts no vibration to the groove it creates (the lead-in) and that portion of the groove should have nothing but silence. Once the stylus begins to transfer input however, the deformation also causes a slight deformation of the portions of the groove parallel to it. Thus, the ‘silent’ portion of the groove immediately preceding the song ends up containing a very slight, but nearly exact, copy of the portion of the groove parallel to it. Slip on a pair of headphones and you will notice this easily.
By the same token, because of the deformation of the groove by the stylus and the subsequent transfer of this signal to the parallel portion previously cut, all music on the disc, with the exception the last 360° portion of the groove at the end of a song will contain a certain amount of ‘pre-echo’. As far as i know, nobody has tried to duplicate this effect on CD, or other digital formats. And in some respects, the digital reproduction is more pure than vinyl because it is not tainted by the ‘contamination’ inherent in the transfer to vinyl. This is probably why some feel that vinyl is ‘richer’ than CD, but in reality, vinyl is actually ‘muddier’ than CD. The effect is noticable if you listen at a more than superficial level and for those that were raised on vinyl, CDs will never replace this unique experience.The only way to approximate this on CD would be to transfer to CD from vinyl. Although there will be a slight degradation of signal due to the transfer, you will be able to reproduce this effect and won’t wear out your records through constant play.
Another aspect of the mastering process to be considered is that the arm of the cutting sylus moves across the master such that it (and the stylus) is perpendicular to the master at all times. Most turntables have a pivoting arm which only allows the stylus to be truly perpendicular to the disc at one point on each side. The stylus therefore, is ‘cocked’ in the groove almost entirely through the playback and this accelerates wear. As far as i know, Bang & Olufsen and Gerard were the only turntable manufacturers that made ‘tangent’ turntables (although The Nakamichi ‘Dragon’ may also have been one such) and you can probably pick up an old Gerard on an auction site.
As to the warping of vinyl that is referred to above, there are actually 2 factors to consider: 1) in the 70s manufacturers began producing thinner discs, while they didn’t break as easily, they tended to warp. 2) Shrink-wrap. The wrap was so tight, when you slit the wrap, the jacket would pop open. While handy for removing the disc, the pressure wasn’t good for the record. Too, a lot of people left the shrink wrap on their albums to protect the jacket which exacerbated the problem.
Best thing to do would be to transfer to digital medium and save your vinyl for special occasions. Pick up a decent turntable and, if you can find it, a Discwasher® to clean your records before play. Remove any shrink wrap from the jackets and replace with oversized sleeves and store albums on edge out of sunlight and away from heat sources (go to one of the larger musical instrument chain stores and pick up enough LP cases to handle your library).
I had Savoy Brown’s Hellbound Train on vinyl. At the end of the title track, the groove was cut such that the tonearm quickly swung to the very inside edge of the record causing the turntable to pick up the arm with a click followed by absolute silence. I really miss that…