Hmmm… I love vinyl, but this is one of those things I think I’ll always struggle with.
As far as gear goes, after years of limping along with a B&O turntable I rarely listened to, a couple of years ago I decided to get a new deck. Actually bought a Rega. But before I even opened the box, I happened upon a mid-60’s Swiss-made Thorens TD-150 MKI, and I fell in love. (They were both around $600 I think.)
Down the rabbit hole I went, and I eventually upgraded the Thorens’ stock arm to an SME 3009 with a Shure V15 Type III & Jico SAS stylus, and built a walnut plinth, and added a new armboard, and it really became something special. (I have since bought two more old Thorens. It’s nuts. I love them.)
Does it sound better than my digital gear? Some albums, yeah, maybe. Some Blue Note and ECM stuff sound amazing. Some of the MoFi stuff. Really good. But most of my 800 albums? Stuff I’ve had for years, or interesting things I’ve stumbled upon in the used record shops. They sound good, but not better than digital. Some are downright iffy, but I like having them in my library.
For me, though, beyond whether it sounds “better,” it’s about the ritual and focus. The vinyl experience can be like a vintage British motorcycle vs a crotch rocket. Or my Mazda Miata vs a Porsche GT3. A country backroad vs a racetrack. Versions of the same thing, shifting your own gears, satisfying in their own way. But not all necessarily better than driving a reaaaaallly nice, smooth, luxurious Autobahn cruiser. (And for what it’s worth, I probably listen to 80% digital, either streaming Tidal/Qobuz or ripped CDs.)
So, I would say, yeah, go for it. Embrace records. But I don’t know that I’d go into it thinking of rivaling the digital stuff across the board. At some point, maybe. But for mid-level gear like I have? Ahdunno. (I think you have to spend a lot more in vinyl to compete with digital.)
I’d probably argue that I’m not an audiophile. But I love music and I love the gear – and turntables are very cool gear.