Vinyl records are all the rage. In fact, it was recently reported that US vinyl sales jumped 32% last year – quite surprising for a format that was all but left for dead by the major record labels in the late 1980s as the industry transitioned to CD. Clearly, some music fans still appreciate the warmer, analogue sound created by vinyl.
Here are five tips for those just getting into vinyl.
Make sure your stereo system is equipped to amplify a turntable.
Many modern receivers – particularly those commonly found in home theatres – aren’t compatible with turntables. You need to make sure your system has a phono input, otherwise the audio level from your turntable will be painfully low. If you plug your deck into the CD input, for example, you are bound to be disappointed.
If you don’t have a phono input in your system, you do have other options: buy a turntable with a built-in pre-amp, or purchase a separate pre-amp. These pre-amps can be purchased online or in electronics stores for under $100. There’s a third option: scour the online classified for a nice older receiver. Until the late 1980s, most amps and receivers came with a phono stage.
Buy the best turntable you can afford.
The vinyl hobby is not a cheap one. Look at spending a few hundred dollars to get a half-decent starter record player. Trust me on this one. You want something that is going to sound good, and won’t destroy your records. This Dual is a nice one. Pro-Ject and Rega also make some very good models. You don’t have to spend $1,000 on your first turntable to get a good one.
Make sure your stylus (or needle) is in good shape.
Picked up a decent used turntable? Make sure the stylus is in good shape. As a rule of thumb, always buy a new stylus (and likely a cartridge) when purchasing a used deck. The stylus is the needle, and the cartridge is the piece the needle is connected to. A decent cartridge/stylus will cost you about $100. Look for name brands like Grado or Ortofon (and many others).
There are generally only two types of cartridges – standard mount or p-mount. Standard mount are typically mounted to the tone arm using two tiny screws. P-mount plug directly into the tonearm. If you don’t know what yours is, ask an expert.
Buy the best records you can afford.
Sure, you can find a nice record in good shape at thrift and second-hand shops, but it doesn’t happen very often. Pick yourself up some new vinyl. Even most new releases are getting pressed on wax nowadays. Check out your local record shop. London Drugs also has a nice selection of vinyl. Expect to pay $20 to $30 per LP.
Buy yourself the proper tools to keep your records in good shape.
You will need a good record cleaning brush, cloth and solution. This is a must-have. Records can easily get dusty and dirty, particularly if left out or mishandled. Always hold your records by the edges, and put them back in their sleeves when not being listened to. It’s never a bad idea to give new records a quick clean too. Record cleaning supplies can be purchased from most electronics shops and online. Please do not attempt to clean your vinyl with Windex or other home cleaning products and tap water is a no-no due to the mineral content. Over time, these will destroy your collection. Also, make sure to use a soft, lint-free cloth.
August 12, 2014 is National Vinyl Record Day and London Drugs will have some in-store deals and offers. Stop by to check them out and build your collection.
Disclosure: This Bird’s Day is collaborating with London Drugs on this feature and receive various forms of compensation including monetary or product to complete features. Personal opinions on the products in this post are the author’s and are not influenced.
Frank is a former journalist who now works in media relations. He enjoys collecting and listening to vinyl, playing guitar, BBQing, and home/yard renos.