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What was once the forbidden fruit of middle aged balding men has been reclaimed by the youth. Like baggy granddad sweaters or socks and sandals, vinyl is again an official fad (even though it never actually went away, just took a short hiatus). Records never stopped being made and never stopped being bought. In this new era, music consumption has reached an apex. Streaming is ubiquitous in today’s society, and anyone can release a track online and gain an audience. With issues of royalties and dodgy contracts running rampant in today’s music industry, vinyl has come back to fill the void between creator and consumer.
I have wanted to collect records ever since I saw my first White Stripes LP. I bought it before I had a record player and it sat in my closet for three years until I saved up enough to buy one. Explaining my love for PVC frisbees with grooves is difficult. It’s the mystique. How does it play? Why does it sound better? I never did get the answers, I was too busy looking for my next Death Grips record.
Vinyl is digging through the hip hop section after a long day. It’s finding out that Modest Mouse is reissuing their first LP. It’s your first colour record and your hundredth. It’s spinning your favorite song on a Tuesday and your sad jam on a Sunday evening. It’s late night spins and sleep-ins. Record collecting is the way you as a consumer and a fan show your appreciation of album and artist. In return, you get the highest audio quality and an experience you can share—nothing compares to a few drinks at a listening party for the new Parquet Courts record.
Vinyl is a social listening experience. In an age of solitary electronics and noise cancelling headphones, it’s nice to share every once in awhile. With vinyl’s steady increase in popularity, and artist’s newfound eagerness to press albums, now is the time to enter the vinyl world. Don’t worry though, we’ve got your back. Here are the major keys of starting a record collection.
Turntables—Don’t Ever Play Yourself
First things first, you need a turntable. This is the biggest barrier between you and success. Studylink doesn’t want you to win, going into record collecting with $6.50 isn’t going to cut it. However a common mistake is thinking you need to start with a $2000 deck and speakers the size of a small car. I recommend the middle of the spectrum; here are a few suggestions:
Audio Technica AT LP 120 USB: $690–$750
This turntable is an all around champ at this price point. I would know, it was my first. It can be used as a DJ turntable, and comes with a built in preamp that lets it plug in and play into any stereo with standard red and white RCA cables. You can’t go wrong with this one.
Pro-ject Debut Carbon: $680–$700
Around the same price as the Audio Technica, but with some omitted features. This turntable is more for those interested in aesthetics. Want to impress a certain someone in your life with your keen eye for interior design? This is the turntable for you. Want to take artsy Instagram pics to make you seem cultured? Again, the turntable for you. With a colour to suit the décor of every student-flat, it’s the artist’s choice.
Grandmother’s old turntable: Free
Feeling lucky? Attics and garages are fantastic hiding spots for turntables. If beloved granny doesn’t, bets are she’ll know someone who has one they are looking to get rid of. Plus, you never call anymore. She misses you. Go humour her and have some tea. You might come out with a sick vintage deck. The only side note is repairs can be costly, if it’s in several dust-covered pieces it might be worth reconsidering.
Speakers and Preamps: New Noise
So you got the deck, congratulations. Next up are the speakers and preamp. Turntables run differently to your average audio plug in, they need a phono input. Why? Because modern styli and phono cartridges give a very low level output signal of the order of a few millivolts which the circuitry amplifies and equalizes… basically, because it just does.
If you started with an Audio Technica or a turntable with a built in preamp, you get to skip this step and plug straight into any stereo. However do not despair if you have a turntable without a preamp, most 80s and 90s era receivers came with this input as standard. Trade Me is your friend in this regard, ask sellers if it has a phono input on the back and snag a deal. If you have an absolute beast of a stereo that you must absolutely use, there are options for you too. You can purchase an external preamp. These do all the work, cost about $150, and allow you to plug your turntable into the stereo of choice.
The Records: Dream House
You made it. Your turntable is turning and your receiver is receiving. Time to buy some wax. With the perks of modern technology, vinyl shopping can be done from the comfort of your bedroom. Amazon, eBay, and to a lesser extent Trade Me, make it easy to find and buy the records you want at a good price. Now that’s all fine and dandy, but record collecting is all about community. It’s time to get out of the house and hit the pavement. Wellington has some fantastic record stores! I worked at Real Groovy Records in Auckland and if I’ve learned anything it’s that great record stores are few and far between, so cherish the ones you find. In Wellington there are three main spots:
Looking for classics? This is where you are going to find them. Just save a few hours to do some major digging, and score a second-hand gem.
Rough Peel Music
The spiritual successor to Real Groovy Wellington, here is where you’re going to find your punk, hip hop, and new indie releases. They have Death Grips too, so that’s a ten in my book.
Death Ray Records
Both? Both is good. Check their Facebook page for some of the up and coming restocks and beef up that collection. Plus the store is aesthetic heaven.
Record Care and Storage: Dance Yrself Clean
There’s no point having records if you don’t look after them (duh). Here’s a few tips to keep them spinning:
- Buy a record brush. Dust sucks, you’re going to need it. Brush before and after playing for the best results.
- Record Sleeves. $20 for 100+ sleeves is a small price to pay for protected records.
- Store records upright, never stack them. Warped records don’t play too well, keep them straight. When your collection starts getting hefty it might be wise to invest in some shelves!
- Heat warps records, keep your turntable and collection somewhere out of direct sunlight. Also make sure it’s on a flat surface.
Finally, have fun with it. A record at the end of a long week is such a great pick-me-up. Buy your favourites, show them off, and happy listening! Soon you too will be buying Beastwars records instead of beers. See you all next Record Store Day.