There is something about the sound of analog that warms the hearts of audio lovers. Technically, we know that analog often has limited dynamic range and higher signal to noise as compared to digital audio but those claims are often just numbers on spec sheet. People who know music know that analog sounds more alive – more warm, more engaging. You can listen past the clicks, pops and scratches and get closer to the music.
Analog master tape is still used in many recording studios for its warmth. This format of recording has its drawbacks but lack of dynamic range and lots of noise aren't really the issue at the professional audio level. Cost of the tape, aligning the tape machine and overall cost of the "work flow" (as they say it in-studio) all make analog master tape an often difficult and always expensive option to digital recording options at the professional level.
For the home audio lover (also known as an audiophile) analog lives on and in many ways thrives. Turntables today are still a viable source. Vinyl might not sell in huge volumes new but there are catalog companies or online record stores who sell new, high end pressings of classic rock, jazz and classical records including: Music Direct, Elusive Disc and Jerry Raskin's Needle Doctor. While other record stores are going of business trying to sell dying digital formats like the Compact Disc – some used records stores still keep the tradition alive by selling used vinyl. Places like The Record Collector in Los Angeles, Amoeba Records in San Francisco and The Princeton Record Exchange in New Jersey all come to mind. Even big box retailer, Best Buy, sells vinyl as shown in this story.
Beyond the sound of analog, there is just something more tangible about an LP record. Its larger than a Compact Disc. Its got artwork that you can hold in your hand and explore while opening the package. The discs demand that you physically care for them. The process of playing vinyl means that you have to deal with song lists including figuring out what "side" a song you want to hear is on. Unlike Apple-style downloads, vinyl makes you listen to a record in the cadence that the artist and producer intended. There is no shuffle on a record player as there is on an iPod, iPad or iPhone.
People who are merging the past with the future – some of today's turntables come with analog to digital converters inside thus they export a digital signal (yes, I said a digital signal) into your AV receiver, digital to analog converter (DAC) or more likely – right into your computer. This allows the end user to digitally archive their analog audio in a digital format. Does that defeat the purpose of analog playback? That's up to you but its definitely how some youngsters are doing it today.