A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO COLLECTING RECORDS

A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO COLLECTING RECORDS

There is a lot of fear and mystery surrounding how to begin collecting vinyl. With all the confusing jargon, different types of record players, and a sizable price tag, it can be quite daunting. 

What most people don’t know is that starting a record collection does not have to be intimidating. After reading this, you’ll have the full run-down, from buying your first turntable to taking care of your very own records. 

I began collecting records four years ago. Knowing little to nothing about vinyl, it started off rough. This is the case for most beginners, who tend to gravitate towards the aesthetically-pleasing Crosley briefcase players that sound like nails on a chalkboard. 

As I progressed in my vinyl collecting journey, I fell more and more in love with this hobby. On top of the better sound quality, spinning vinyl provided me with a blissful listening experience that only comes with having a physical copy of your favourite albums. 

Before I ramble on and on, here is the ultimate beginner’s guide to record collecting:

Buying Your First Record Player + Equipment

When first starting off with vinyl collecting, figuring out the tech side of it all can seem like a challenge. In reality, collecting vinyl is way more simple and enjoyable than it looks on paper. 

The Turntable

Finding an affordable turntable doesn’t take more than some basic research and a budget in mind. Before you know it, you’ll be diving headfirst into the most satisfying music medium there is! 

This article is designed for music fans who want to invest in a decent record player setup without going full-throttle and getting a super technical sound system on a whim. While you may naturally transform into a vinyl junkie, it’s best not to break the bank right off the jump. 

First off, steer clear of super-cheap, plug-and-play turntables like the Crosley Cruiser. Although they may look great, you are sacrificing sound quality and slowly destroying your vinyl. There are much better all-in-one options that provide Bluetooth capability, like the Audio-Technica ATLP60X that you can find for under $170. 

The next step up is the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 or the U-Turn Orbit that both offer a USB output that plugs directly into your computer and is priced around $200. 

If you’re more of a vintage connoisseur, Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist is a good way to go. There are always tons of working turntables available for under $100. Technics and Realistic are reliable brands to search for. If you’re worried about fixing it up, replacement parts are easy to find!

The Receiver:

You can skip this step if you chose to go with an all-in-one or Bluetooth turntable. Just plug your record player into powered speakers with a built-in input! A fair heads up, the sound integrity won’t be optimal. A receiver setup gives you the option to upgrade your speakers or attach a subwoofer. 

Inexpensive used receivers can be found at Value Village or even your local record store. Of course, our trusty Facebook Marketplace will also do the trick. 

For new alternatives, I recommend this Sony receiver or this Yamaha receiver that works with Alexa for voice control. Goodbye to the days of pressing an on/off button. 

The Speakers:

Again, I’d highly recommend looking on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist for speakers. This is what I did, and I landed on a $50 pair of Sony speakers that are loud enough to wake up the whole student ghetto. 

Buying new is also a viable option that doesn’t have to dent your wallet. Despite their compact size, these bookshelf speakers will fill a room with stereo sound. For even better sound quality, try these

Whatever you choose, don’t forget to buy speaker wires! Find good wire at a good price at pretty much any department store, including Walmart or Home Depot. 

Getting the Collection Started

What makes a stellar record collection? The good thing is that there is no right answer. Buying albums for “clout” ruins the whole point of starting your own collection. 

Buy whatever albums you want. Whatever makes you smile and bop your head. Whatever pulls on your heartstrings. Whatever reminds you of your childhood. Whatever YOU enjoy! 

I started my collection with my diehard essentials. Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap, Death Cab for Cutie’s Transatlanticism, and The Clash’s London Calling were some of the first albums I owned on vinyl— and I still spin them regularly. 

One important thing to note is that new records usually go for between $25-$40. This can add up quickly when you start expanding your collection, so be choosy and pick out albums you truly love. 

Most record stores also have second-hand crates where the records are sold for anywhere between $1-$20. I’ve found countless classic records in these bargain bins. Over half of my collection is made up of old jazz, classic rock, and punk records that I picked up for mere pennies.


Taking Care of Your Vinyl

An important thing to remember is that collecting vinyl is not as easy as taking out an album and placing it on the turntable. Whether you like it or not, the hobby requires some degree of maintenance. The tricky thing with records is that they accumulate dust quite easily, and are prone to wearing and scratches.

It’s a smart idea to buy some add-ons that will help keep your vinyl in tip-top shape. Before we get into the tools you can buy, let’s take a look at the must-know basics of owning and playing records you love. 

Handling vinyl properly

Make sure to hold your records around the edges or on the centre label. If you simply grab the record on the surface, the oils from your fingers can damage it.

Proper vinyl storage

Dedicate a crate or shelf to storing your records. Don’t stack them on top of each other – this causes warping that makes the stylus jump out of the vinyl grooves. Instead, shelve them upright as you would books. Make sure wherever you’re storing them is away from direct sunlight and at around room temperature.

Cleaning tools

There’s a variety of different tools available to help you clean and maintain your vinyl that ranges in a variety of prices. It’s up to you as to what you think you’ll need, but at the very least make sure you have a vinyl or anti-static brush. Your vinyl will accumulate dust and other debris very easily which causes scratches to the record and will make it unplayable

Record sleeves and outer sleeves

A record sleeve is an inner sleeve that protects your vinyl within the album cover. The outer sleeve is the plastic sleeve that protects the album cover. It’s a good idea to have both. There are different types of inner sleeves – when you buy an album it should already come with some sort of inner sleeve.

The same goes for outer sleeves. A new album may or may not already come with them. You can easily buy a pack of inner and outer sleeves at record stores for a few dollars. While you don’t have to have an outer sleeve, it’s a good idea to help protect the artwork on the album from fading and keep it looking fresh. 

Slipmat

This is another accessory that you should have to complete your setup. Some turntables already have one of these included when you buy them, but in case it doesn’t, you’ll want to get one. Slipmats are great for reducing unwanted vibrations and preventing a build-up of static electricity. There are various types of slipmats available, but cork and rubber are the most typical materials. 

Hopefully, reading this made starting your very own record collection far less unnerving. With tons of other resources available online, it should be no time until you’re dropping the needle and spinning your favourite discs. Happy collecting!

HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: TIANA LAM

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