For starters, listening to a record is about the experience. When you put your favourite album on your turntable and hear that lovely soft crackling, you are choosing to enjoy a work of art. You aren’t distractedly making your way to work with earbuds in or flicking through a playlist online. An album is meant to be enjoyed from beginning to end as an entire experience. Think of it as a novel rather than a short story, or maybe better as a delicious three-course menu rather than fast food. Sure, it takes more time, but the result will be all the more satisfying.
Even more importantly, vinyl sounds better than MP3s. Yes, really. Vinyl is what’s termed a ‘lossless format’, meaning that none of the sound quality is lost when pressing a record. In comparison, digital audio is compressed, resulting in a recording that has lost important audio details. If you want to listen to a song the way the band intended it to sound, you need the vinyl version. Your smartphone can’t do that.
Where To Begin?
For those looking to dip their feet into the vinyl world without spending too much money, there are plenty of beginner’s record players to try out. These usually start at around $100/€90/£70, ranging in sound quality and convenience. If you want to start out with a turntable that will give you a taste of vinyl without breaking the bank, a Crosley is a good option. Crosley players have good sound quality with moderate prices and cool retro designs. One of their most popular is the Crosley Cruiser, a portable player with a sleek 1930s-50s look, built-in speakers and sound quality more than worthy of the price.
When buying your first records, a good way to start is to find some of your favourite albums that you already own in digital form. You’ll be able to compare the sound quality and experience your music in a way you never have before. Happy shopping!
Maybe you aren’t new to the wonderful world of vinyl. If you’re looking to dust off your old collection with a new setup or are ready to upgrade from your beginner’s status, you need a quality turntable.
Several factors separate a beginner’s record player from a higher quality player. A good quality turntable, for instance, will have a heavier platter (the spinning plate that records sit on) than cheaper models. Good platters are heavier because they reduce interfering vibration, resulting in better audio. In general, the best turntables are able to isolate the vibrations made by your records from outside disturbances, resulting in the cleanest sound.
Another important piece is the tonearm. Like its name suggests, it’s the part of the turntable that swings out like an arm across the record so that the needle can make contact with the disc. It can have a huge impact on the accuracy and consistency with which your records rotate on the turntable, so having a good one is important. Some of the best are made out of super-lightweight carbon-fibre, like the one that comes with the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon – a great turntable with a moderate price.
One of the easiest ways to upgrade your turntable is to invest in a good stylus. The stylus is the needle that makes direct contact with the record, running along the grooves to produce sound. It is responsible for the accuracy and sound quality details.
Something to note: higher-end turntables don’t come with built-in speakers, so you’ll have to invest in those separately – but that’s a whole other topic.
Advanced: When You’re Ready To Splurge
For those who don’t factor price into their search for the best turntable, there are some players that cost as much as cars. However, if you’re willing to invest in a top-notch setup but also know that there are better things to invest in than a piece of machinery, there are plenty of wonderful options.
As already mentioned, the best players are the ones that can completely annihilate external vibration so that the only thing you hear is the sweet sound of your record. The Music Hall MMR-11 is a great example with its quadruple plinth design.
How Do I Take Care Of My Vinyl And Record Player?
If you want your vinyl records to keep their lovely sound, it is very important to clean them. Dust builds quickly and easily, so you should dust off your records with a good brush before and after playing them. A cleaning kit is also essential and should be used periodically to ensure that the dust doesn’t build up in the grooves of your records and damage their sound quality. They should also be stored upright in their protective sleeves and not stacked on top of each other – like books in a bookworm’s carefully organised library.
Cleaning the stylus is also important, as it will pick up dust particles from the records you play. Keeping it clean will keep you from having to buy a new one often, though the stylus should be replaced every five years or so, as they eventually wear out.
It might seem trivial, but where you put your turntable is also an important factor in both sound quality and protecting your setup. The player should be isolated from other vibrations. This is why, for example, it shouldn’t be placed on the floor where your footsteps can cause external vibration. It needs to be on a smooth, level, sturdy surface away from excessive sunlight (which is bad for the records).
How Do I Start My Record Collection?
This is the easy part. Since vinyl has recently come back in style (and never really died out anyway), there are tons of record stores anywhere you happen to be that sell used records. Browsing around yard sales and flea markets is also a great way to hunt down good old classics. When buying used vinyl, always make sure that the record isn’t damaged before buying – look out for scratches or excessive amounts of dust. Record stores usually have players for you to test your picks out on as well.
One of the best things about vinyl coming back is that many of the best musicians recording music today choose to release vinyl versions of their albums. This means you can collect your older favourites as well as new releases. Adele’s latest album 25, for example, is sure to sound even more incredible on a turntable than the version you have on your smartphone. The other good news is that when you buy most vinyl albums nowadays, you also receive a free digital download for your mobile devices.
So go ahead – dive into the world of vinyl and never look back! The only better way to enjoy music is to experience it live.
Article by Gail Wilcoxen
Has the vinyl revival changed your music consumption? How do you most enjoy listening to your favourite sounds right now?