If you’re an avid music fan (we’re not talking about the Justine Bieber type) or a true blue music collector, then you have probably caught the buzz of the vinyl resurgence that started in 2006. You may have your own record collection and a decent sound system for your precious vinyl records by now and have preached or may have praised the high heavens about the invention of vinyl and its sound superiority to CD and downloaded music. There are some serious vinyl junkies out there and then there are casual collectors. Some are too anal about anything vinyl and some are open minded about the scene and the so called rules that surround the scene. With the resurgence of vinyl records, there is a new generation that is discovering and learning about vinyl, turntables and record collecting. These generations are the mp3, streaming and download kids that are learning the true value of records, the art put into album covers and the efforts of the artist that made the songs that are imprinted in the black circle plastic. Although the sales of vinyls have gone up since 2006, it is still a niche market as compared to the sales of CDs and downloadable music.
We all know that every old technology will eventually be replaced by new technology, just like vinyls were replaced by CDs and CDs by mp3s. However, the vinyl world did not die, it just went under the radar when demand for it slowed down. Music piracy and the disposable nature of downloaded music files may have directly contributed to the resurgence. Many people have also said that buying physical records brings a certain high and excitement to the buyer or collector; possessing something tangible, something you can hold, see, feel, smell and keep for a very long time. If you’re a music buff and want to start your own collection, here are some tips that you can use in buying your first record player, buying your records and how to take care of your records. You also have to take note that vinyls today are expensive, especially sealed records and rare vinyls. Records can range from $10-$40 each. You need to make contacts with the best record shops that can give you better deals and friends that have the same passion as you. Once you’re hooked to record collecting, it’s like being addicted to crack – but its black, plastic, and not bad for your health.
1. Purchasing Your First Turntable
Now that you have decided to start listening to vinyl, the first thing you need to think of is purchasing a good turntable and audio system that will fit your budget. Now we know that the expensive stuff will offer the best materials, the best sound and precision, but if you’re a newbie, it’s best to start with something decent within your budget. Anyway, you can always upgrade when the time comes. Talk to people with vast knowledge about equipment or friends that can give tips in buying your first turntable. Do your research so as not to buy blindly and get duped in the process. Consider these things for your first turntable.
The Price Range And Features of Turntables
The primary purpose of the turntable is putting a needle on a record to produce or play music. You get what you pay for, that is a fact. But with vinyl, even a basic setup will give anyone listening pleasure. Every audiophile has started with a basic setup and just upgraded their hardware through the years. The price range of turntables is as follows:
The sub $100 range
There are lots of budget turntables that can accomplish the task of playing a record, but you have to be aware that some low-budget turntables will sacrifice a certain amount of sound quality. The option of upgrades may also be limited within the price range. If you’re planning on upgrading down the road, you may need to buy a new turntable. All-in-one players are within this bracket.
The $300-$500 range
Considered the sweet spot for newbies. The difference in sound between turntables within this price range and the sub $100 hardware are distinct. Turntables within this range will be more durable with better materials. Turntables in this range can also be customized or configured to enhance performance and sound producing capability. The value and performance for these turntables will make a great first turntable.
The $500 and up range
If you have the moolah, then why not. Once you have ventured outside the newbie audiophile world, the sky is the limit. There are many high-end turntables with exotic materials and designs, top notch sound and precision. If you’re going for this price range, it is best to consult the experts and do research on the right setup to get the best audio experience with these high end systems. The price range can also be applied for purchasing seperates and speakers. There are turntables that have built-in pre-amps. If you’re planning to connect your turntable to your existing stereo receiver make sure that it has a built in pre-amp. Other turntables offer a USB port to convert or transfer music to your computer. Some turntables can be either manual or automatic.
There are also sellers that will offer you vintage equipments. It may be promising because of the bragging rights of owning vintage hardware, but it can be more of a hassle than its worth. Maintenance costs and reliability issues will be more expensive than purchasing brand new equipment. In most cases, buying vintage equipment is not suitable for newbies.
2. Buying Your First Records
In most cases, you will be starting with used or pre-owned records. It’s cheaper and the thrill of browsing through crates and finding vinyl gold is endless.
For starters, you need to know the nearest record store within your area or your locality. In most cities and urban areas, there are record stores that sell new and used vinyl. It is always good to physically visit the store to see the selections that may suit your taste. Generally, buying over the counter is better than purchasing online because you will not have to pay for shipping and you inspect the record personally.
You need to look for scratches that break the record’s surface. Most pre-owned or used vinyls will have some surface marks but deep scratches will add real noise and may cause the stylus to jump. Try to avoid dirty vinyls unless you know someone who has a VPI vacuum cleaner. A dirty vinyl will produce lots of noise even if it has no scratches.
Know Where To Buy Online
If you ever have to buy records online, know the trusted sites and online sellers. Ask around who are the best online dealers from friends and collectors. Joining online groups recommended by friends will help you get the best deal and not get duped by hacks. Search for sites with high traffic and good customer feedback.
This is one of the things you need to look out for when buying records. If the jackets are worn out or around the vinyl within the jacket, it may mean mold has formed inside due to incorrect storage. The records may have been stored in damp basements or wet and dark storage places. If the jakcet is damaged, but the vinyl is good and clean, it will most likely cost less as compared to a very good or near mint condition.
Pay Attention To The Grading Of The Record
The sleeve and the condition of the record will be graded by the seller. This information is also useful when buying your records online. The grading process will differ from seller to seller, but it will give you a general idea of its condition and price. Most sellers grade their records to the following scale – mint, near mint, very good and good. Some sellers may put a plus or minus sign to the grades. Generally it is recommended to buy records with the highest grade possible, but still assume that what you are buying is probably a grade lower than what is advertised.
For newbies, pricing can be a real problem because they will not know how they should pay for a specific record. Most record collectors follow this equation in determining if the price is right for a particular record: price= (demand+scarcity+pressing) *condition. Although there are no solid numbers that can be attributed to the equation, but it is mostly how record collectors think of when checking the condition and value of a record. You also need to know how much you are willing to spend on this hobby. Prices of records will vary, so browse and haggle if possible. Try to get the best deal, but prepare to spend more if you want to get a good condition record. Prices will also depend on if it is a vintage record, re-issue or a new press.
You also need to consider the weight of the record. Most records will state a 180g weight. Heavier records are more durable and will not wear out as much as a lighter made vinyl. The pressing year will also determine the price of a record. Say an album was originally made in the 60s with a thick vinyl, accurate dates, the jacket is thicker and the sleeve will show the same time period, then it will command a higher price as compared to re-issues. Earlier pressings hold more value because they sound better, vinyl is thicker and the artwork details are more complete than re-issues which have dropped some artwork to save on expenses. If you’re just starting, buy recent pressings and just work your way backwards once you have upgraded your taste, your system and your collection.
3. Caring For Your Collection
Caring for your record collection and turntable is not rocket science. It’s a no brainer actually, but there are certain things that you need to do in caring for your precious collection. Below are the basics:
Don’t Ever Stack Your Records
Records are made of polyvinyl chloride, which is a soft and malleable material. The weight of stacked records can deform, break, crack or warp the shape of the record which will result to a distorted sound or worse an unplayable record. Store them vertically In a crate or a shelf. Try not to pack them too tightly because this will also have the same effect as stacking them.
Avoid storing records with direct sunlight or a heat source
Vinyl is made of plastic. Direct heat will warp or melt records. A cool, dry place is the most ideal place for storing your records.
Avoid Moisture Whenever Possible
Moisture is another issue that collectors avoid. If the record or the sleeve gets wet, mold will form and it will be worthless. Clean the record and let it air dry. For the sleeve, let it dry. Again a cool, dry place is the best for storage.
Keep The Vinyl Clean
Cleaning your records regularly will prolong their life and will preserve their sound. You have to take note that vinyl easily builds up static electricity and becomes a dust magnet. Brush the record before and after playing it. Properly insert the record in the jacket or cover and store them properly. There are many cleaning products or cleaning methods that you can do in maintaining your record.
Avoid Playing Your Records With A Dull Stylus Or Needle
Stylus or cartridges can last up to 5 years of use, but will eventually wear down. A dull stylus will have an increased surface area that may not fit perfectly into the grooves of the record. This will eventually produce poor sound and damage the grooves of the record. If the grooves are damaged, there is little that you can do about it and the value of the record may go down further. It is also advisable to clean the stylus. Dust and other gunk will collect in the stylus over time. You can remove gunk with your fingers or use a dense stylus brush to deep clean the cartridge. If you see or feel that the stylus is already worn out, replace it with a new one.
Now that you already know the basics, you just have to get out of the couch and on the hunt for the records that will make your first collection. The whole point of this is to enjoy the music and the hobby. It can be addicting, but this is way better than being addicted to drugs, right? Happy vinyl hunting!