Here are the essential things you should know before start collecting vinyl records.
Why You Should Buy Vinyl at the First Place
First thing’s first. Have a clear objective of having vinyl record player collection. There are two ways to explain this question:
- You’re a die-hard music lover and you can do anything for vinyl records
- Perhaps, you got attracted by the aesthetics of vinyl or the turntable mechanism. You may not have that much interest in music but you adore the construction and wanted to collect as many records as possible.
Or you may have both the attributes, although physical features of vinyl are more appealing. And why not, because vinyl looks more attractive than ordinary CD players. When you purchase them, you’re showing the world, “It’s not an ordinary office supply or a software, it’s serious music!”
Your love for albums and your sentiments are better reflected with vinyl records:
- The quality and feel of the records
- Unlike pressing a button in your iPod, you take out the record from its sleeves and place it carefully on the turntable.
- May be for a little while, the whole act gets your 100% attention.
The entire experience is different and much better than what you get from MP3 players.
Is it Wise to Buy Vinyl Record?
Well, there are plenty of reasons why vinyl are better investments, compared to CDs or MP3s
Vinyl material can be cleaned and maintained. If it is well-maintained, it can last for decades. The records come in a proper casing that has its own value. Imagine you own a limited edition of a great album people would die for. On the contrary, CDs and MP3 songs don’t have that much value.
CDs don’t give the same impression and inspiration as vinyl records. The reason is, they’re so common people wouldn’t even care if you have a limited edition of something really great.
You Can Sell Them
Can you resell your MP3 songs? Not practically! Can you resell your Vinyl records? Off course!
That’s the best advantage vinyl has over that intangible music; it gives a return on investment. How much? It totally depends upon the life, quality of sound, popularity of the album and your own enthusiasm to sell. But you can’t sell just any vinyl record. Make sure that the copy remains in good condition. In fact, titles, design and construction also have their worth.
It’s not recommended that you build a collection just to grab some money, yet it’s always good to know that you can raise some funds when you had to.
What does the term “Analog” refer to?
The world has gone digital many years ago, yet there are some analog mechanisms connecting us to our past, and vinyl is one of them. Analog refers to the phenomenon of continuous signal with varying parts. These varying parts represent another time-varying quantity.
Talking about sound recording, sound waves apply pressure on the signal’s instantaneous voltage due to which there is a continuous variations in it. Vinyl also has this feature and that’s why it’s analog.
Why Vinyl is Analog?
Vinyl records have grooves. These grooves are like a sketch of soundwaves. It’s a single unbroken line with uncountable variations in it, running in a continuous circle from the end to the middle of the record. The purpose of turntable is to read those lines and decode them into the sound which you finally listen.
How Vinyl is Not Digital?
Digital signals are entirely different from analog signals. They’re discrete, not continuous. It means, there is a precise interval in between sound batches (or samples) sent to the sound source.
As mentioned earlier, sound is continuous. So, a digital system breaks it into smallest possible piece of information we know as “Bits”. Remember the binary code? Everything breaks into either 1 or 2 directives (0 or 1). So, by means of 0 and 1, you can break or decode anything into just two elements.
It’s hard to imagine, but if you know how to plot points on the graph, you’d have some kind of idea. However, the end result of both, digital or analog is same. When the sound from digital or analog source is amplified and comes out of the speakers, it’s hard to differentiate which form it is, because the sound waves will remain continuous for your ears.
In fact, there’s no way to determine the source, because you are not listening to analog fluctuations or binary codes. Vinyl produces voltage fluctuations and these variations travel continuously, without breaking.
Is it True that Analog or Vinyl Sound Better than Digital?
It’s a debatable topic and it does get heated up when music lovers with different taste talk over it. However, there are so many factors to consider, just to explain which of the two may be better for you. Some major factors include:
- Turntable quality
- Quality of the amplifier
- Quality of the speakers
Then, you also need to consider the quality of vinyl record, a digital file or CDs. By listening each of them on a home stereo system, you cannot determine which one’s generating better sound unless they have scratches, defects or dust.
Studies have revealed that an ordinary human ear cannot differentiate between the two sources. So, if someone prefers vinyl over digital albums, he’s doing it because of his own experiences.
Why People Listen to Vinyl and Find it Better?
There are some noteworthy aspects of analog recording and the records beyond familiar sounds of pops and crackles produced by vinyl. “Warmth” will be the first word you’ll listen when analog enthusiast explains analog sound.
In reality, this sound is an indication of analog’s limitation compared to digital recording system. It tends to produce certain noises at the low end of the records while capturing sound. Here, “low end” means those points on the record where there is much less detail, at times, gaps in data. These small gaps result in abstraction which seems pleasing to ears.
On the other hand, digital recording is far more precise and accurate, and has a broader dynamic range as compared to analog system. This consistency and accuracy tends to give cold, clinical and inhuman impression to human ears. This is the basic reason why audiophiles tend to favor analog recordings.
Which Type of Turntable Should You Choose?
It depends whether you’re an audiophile or someone who just love to have vinyl records. It’s obvious, you’ll be willing to spend a lot just to listen to quality music. Or, if you want to buy an inexpensive yet good-looking turntable, you can have one cheap, but the sound quality may not be as good.
Should You Go For Vintage Turntables or Should You Choose the New Ones?
It’s recommended that you should find a new turntable instead of the vintage version. Old tools will definitely have wears and tears. They may need expensive fixing, which can be avoided with new turntables.
You can save some more money if you buy a turntable with built-in pre-amp. In this way, you don’t have to buy or build a stereo system.
Some Good Options of Turntables for You
Here are some options for you, depending upon your preferences:
You can have a portable turntable, such as Crossley, or any similar product. These turntables are easy-to-handle, occupy less space, have built-in speakers, and you can carry and play them anywhere. You may want to compromise on sound quality though.
Crossley turntables are well acclaimed by immature or irregular listeners. They have sophisticated suitcase-like design that makes them more attractive. More importantly, they’re cheap, available in the range of $70 – $100.
Or perhaps you’re more concerned about something really solid in a limited budget. You can go for durable turntables from Audio Technica. The brand is known for its basic turntables that can be connected to the home stereo systems. Some models also offer built-in amplifier, as well as USB connectivity.
They’re slightly expensive compared to Crossley models, but they offer superior sound quality. Price range for Audio Technica models range between $90 and $300.
For serious music enthusiasts who don’t want to compromise over sound-quality, there are some great turntables available in the market. For example, this Linn Sondek LP12 model is a combination of style and finance when it comes to sound reproduction.
The wooden deck, high torque motor, moving coil cartridge, and everything other component makes it one great sound producing machine. You can have these models at over $2000.
Why are There Direct Drive Turntables and Belt-Driven Turntables?
In fact there are three kinds of turntables; idler-wheel drive is another mechanism that has a wheel attached to the motor. The record is placed and rotated on the wheel.
In belt-driven turntables, the turntable is separated from the motor. The motor drives the platter by means of rubber belt.
In direct-drive mechanism, instead of rotating, the platter spins with the power of motor integrated to it. DJ’s prefer direct drive turntables, because they can manually turn the records according to their liking.
Which Turntable is the Best for Listening Vinyl Records?
Audiophiles and sophisticated listeners prefer belt-driven turntables (although the mechanism is older than direct drive version). The reason is, belt-driven turntables are considered to produce less vibration and outside noise.
Should You Choose a Fancy Stereo System along With Speakers?
Yes! If you care so much about sound. Speakers make a remarkable difference in sound quality. Built-in speakers are not that capable, because of the size and other mechanisms attached with the turntable. Good speakers can enhance sound while bad speakers can even make good recordings bad.
If you’re an audiophile, there’s no limit of choice for speakers. Stereo speakers start from as low as $150 and go in excess of thousands of dollars. Have a look at these book-shelf speakers from Mordaunt-Short. They are quite inexpensive, available at under $100.
Is it Important to Get “Pre-Amp”?
It depends whether your turntable has a built-in pre-amp, or you need a separate device. They convert the output from the turntable into line level signals, which when used by speakers, turn into sound waves. You can identify a pre-amp in your turntable if it has an input slot marked as “phono”. Or if your turntable has USB connectivity, it’ll definitely have built-in pre-amp.
For external pre-amp you also need to buy RCA cables in order to connect your turntable to the receiver.
Is Stereo Receiver Really Necessary?
For standalone turntable, stereo receiver or amplifier is really important. A stereo receiver processes the signals coming from the turntable or pre-amp and transfer them to the speakers. It gives you volume and audio control option as well.
You can find good receivers from online stores, such as Amazon, or other auction sites.
How to Setup a Stereo?
If there’s a built-in pre-amp in your turntable, setting up stereo will be much easier. Simply connect everything using stereo wires and appropriate RCA cables.
If your turntable doesn’t have a built-in pre-amp, the connection will be complicated. You have to ground the system to make sure electric signals flow properly; otherwise, there you have to bear the constant low-pitched humming noise. Refer to this simple guide to ground your stereo receiver.
Is Tone Arm Necessary for All Turntables?
Off course, tonearm is the part that’s responsible for holding the needle and transfer the vibrations through the wires inside it, into the magnetic cartridge. The tone arm also controls the movement of the needle and directs it to extract vibrations from the grooves of the vinyl record.
It is important to control the pressure on the needle, because it affects sound quality. Inappropriate pressure on the needle can damage both, the needle and the record. Tonearm quality depends upon the overall construction of the turntable. The more expensive they are, the better will be the tonearm.
Important Things to Remember About Cartridges and Needle.
Needle or stylus and cartridge are important elements of any turntable. Needle collects vibrations off the grooves while cartridge collects these vibrations and turn them into electric signals, followed by sending them to the amplification unit.
Modern-day turntables have both, the needle and cartridge installed. Needle hangs at the moving end of the tone arm while the cartridge rests at the fixed end of it. Needle wears out with time and needs replacement. Make sure to replace regularly (after 10,000 rotations approximately) or it’ll damage your vinyl records.
Should You Care About RPM?
RPM means revolutions per minute. It indicates towards the spins per minute of the platter. Vinyl records usually have one of three standard speeds; 45 rpm, 33-1/3 rpm and 78 rpm.
78 rpm records hare almost obsolete, so it’s unlikely you’ll deal with them unless you find a record from 50s or 60s. Here’s more about the speed:
- Full-size records come with 12-inch size and mostly offer 33-1/3 speed.
- Maxi-singles and EPs also have 12-inch size, but they have a speed of 45 rpm.
- 7-inch singles and some 10-inch singles usually offer the speed of 45 rpm
In order to run the records at the right speed, you need to switch and adjust the speed of your turntable.
Why Are There So Many Sizes and RPMs?
Size and rpm depends upon the amount of music contained in vinyl record. A 7-inch record contains less music compared to full-size record, and it’s cheaper too.
There’s still a limit to store music on vinyl; otherwise, the sound quality will be deteriorated. The more music on the vinyl, the narrower the grooves will be. If the grooves become too narrow, it will be difficult to extract vibrations off the surface, and record will produce more crackles and skips.
This is the reason why a full-length album that can be stored in a CD, takes up to two vinyl records 12-inch. A 12-inch record can store up to 22 minutes of quality sound, and 7-inch singles contain songs with extended length beyond 5 minutes.
It is a limitation, but it’s also an advantage of vinyl. You can put less music for greater quality.
What’s the Best Place to buy Vinyl?
You can buy vinyl records from any record store. Then there’s a better place called Amazon where you can find a wide variety of vinyl records at fairly reasonable prices. Your intended record will be shipped and delivered at your door step.
Other options for vinyl stores include Insound, GEMM, Amoeba and Turntable Lab etc. Then you can buy old records from used bins available in some record stores. Buying records cheap from garage sales is another way to build vinyl collection quickly.
Should You Really Care About the Color of Vinyl Record?
These days, colored vinyl have been used to press albums and singles, although many music-lovers don’t like this idea. A combination of carbon black and plastic is used to press black vinyl, making them more durable. However, there’s no difference of sound quality between black or colored vinyl.
But if you really look forward to decorate your music library, colored versions are more suitable. As they’re produced in limited quantity, colored vinyl will make your library look more appealing for music lovers.
Does Thickness Matters?
Thickens does count, considering it makes vinyl record heavier and makes it more durable. Many new albums, especially the ones from independent labels, are durable and have better sound. You can run the records on mediocre stereo system, still they’ll deliver better sound.
You must have seen records with stickers saying “180 grams”. Well, it’s not the standard, but it’s good to have those heavy pieces. The reason for thickness is, vinyl degrades a little bit with every play-time. So, thicker vinyl will take more time to degrade.
Are New Vinyl Versions of Old Records Better?
Be careful about new copies of old vinyl albums. Most of the time, the master is created from recent CDs, as original analog master offers no access to the record label. So, you will not experience the same warmth of the old version as the copy was made from a lower quality CD. If you’re not so sure about the source of vinyl, you can search it online.
Things to Keep In Mind While Buying Old Records?
First thing you should consider is, old albums you’re looking for might not be released in the same format, or they might have been released in a limited quantity. Second proposition holds more weight, because in the last decade of previous century saw less vinyl records and more CDs.
It’s quite difficult to find vinyl pressing of popular albums from the 90s. If you get lucky, you may have to buy them on higher price.
How to Store Vinyl Collection?
- Store your albums in a dry, cool place.
- The vinyl records should be placed vertically, because stacking them horizontally over one another will warp the records.
- Once warped, vinyl records cannot be fixed.
Do You Know about Warped Record?
Warped record means bent or melted record. If you play a mild warped record, it’ll sound weird. But if it’s badly warped, you cannot play it again. Warping may occur on the record if it is exposed to sunlight for a long time.
How to Clean the Vinyl Record and Why?
There are quite a few record cleaning techniques and none of them can be termed as “standard”. The easiest way to clean vinyl record is by means of record brush. You can also buy record-cleaning kit from a nearby record store. Use the liquid (cleaning solution) carefully and use brush gently on vinyl surface.
The reason for cleaning is, grooves of vinyl attract dust and dirt while playing. As dirt and debris settle inside the groove, the more time it takes the harder it becomes to remove. Dirt and dust cause slips and skips and affect the sound quality.
How to Clean the Record Player and Why?
You can use the same record-cleaning kit to clean your record player or turntable. Pay attention to the platter and the needle. Don’t press or push the needle too hard to bend it.
Record players can catch dust and dirt while playing the record. It’s due to the vibration and the magnetic field that catches dirt and dust from the surrounding. This is why it is recommended to clean the record players before and after playing vinyl record.