Hundreds of audiophiles flocked to the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus on Saturday for the annual WMPG Record Sale, combing through carton after carton of music for the perfect find.

“This is a vinyl junkies’ gathering,” said Jim Rand, station manager at WMPG, who helped organize the first sale 24 years ago. “It’s like a community party.”

Around noon, rough sales numbers mirrored a national trend: Vinyl records were selling twice as fast as CDs, said organizers at the Sullivan Recreation and Fitness Complex.

Midyear numbers from the Recording Industry Association of America indicate that vinyl is poised to outsell CDs (in dollar value, not numbers of units sold) in 2019 for the first time since 1986.

Compact disc sales have plummeted with the rise of streaming music – paid streaming subscriptions are now about 62 percent of industry revenues – but statistics indicate that vinyl is also on the rise.

Why are people coming back to vinyl? At the WMPG sale, music fans all had their own reasons.

“I love the sound of vinyl,” said Dale Robin Goodman, development director at WMPG. “It’s kind of the musical home for my ear.”

But Goodman, who bought her first record decades ago at 5 years old, wasn’t sure why the latest generation is suddenly picking up the habit.

Autumn Greene, a sophomore at USM who’s training as a disc jockey with WMPG, jumped in to explain. For people like her who didn’t grow up with records, a physical repository for music is a novelty.

“It’s both something new and something old,” she said.

She went on, her eyes shining with excitement: “You can do all sorts of things to it that you can’t do on your phone. Slow it down. Speed it up. Play it backward.”

Greene wasn’t the only young person to find enchantment in the grooves of a spinning plate.

Around the gymnasium, families with small children sifted through stacks of records. At one table, a young boy with a tousled mop of sandy hair dropped album after album of classic jazz – Coltrane, Parker – into a bag.

“I just love that people his age are still buying records,” said Katrinka Pellecchia, a Lee, New Hampshire-based vendor who sold the wares in question.

Though not a self-professed expert, Pellecchia said people often find that vinyl records feel warmer and convey more of the original music – “like the musicians are in the room with you,” she said.

But the true audio qualities of vinyl may be difficult to pin down, said Dennis Johnson, a radio station owner who was shopping for decades-old record equipment on Saturday.

The extra musical information that vinyl records carry isn’t necessarily perceptible to the human ear, said Johnson, an engineer who founded four stations across New York state and New England.

Still, vinyl lovers profess to hear the difference. And in an era where music lives in the cloud, there’s a physical pleasure to holding it in your fingers.

“How much of it is nostalgia and how much of it is fact? I don’t know,” Johnson said. “The difference, I think, is in the mind.”

Comments are not available on this story.