You have most likely stumbled upon this post browsing the web for information about vinyl and the art of collecting it.
And I’m sure like myself you have most definitely sifted through many forums and articles written by older people that are pretty patronising and difficult to follow. Well, this post is going to be the total opposite, I’m going to be explaining the whole hobby, the facts and of course my own opinions/ tips and tricks along the way.
Strap yourself in, this is going to be a long journey…
So let’s start off with the most basic of basics, the records themselves!
Vinyl records are made out of polyvinyl chloride pellets or PVC for short
And are made in three standard sizes 7”,10” and 12”.
The 7” is made to hold one track on either side so is typically used for single tracks. The 10” are less common nowadays, however, are often used for EP’s and typically hold about 2-3 tracks on either side and
12” are the ones you are probably most familiar with, these are used for full-length albums(sometimes known as LP’s) and longer EP’s.
The parts of a record are pretty simple, here’s a diagram and I’ll talk you through it from the inside out.
Centre hole: This hole is there so the record can be placed on the centre spindle. This holds the record in place and keeps it secure.
Label: Here you will find all sorts of information, for example, the tracklisting, the speed and the place of pressing.
Dead wax: Dead wax is used to inscribe dead wax marking, these are used to check a records authenticity, pressing number etc. This information is useful for identifying editions of records and making sure they are legitimate. A lot of this information will be in numbers and the authenticity can often be checked by unique symbols or signatures. The wax around the outer area of the record is known as a groove guard, this just protects the grooves from any oil for hands when it’s being handled.
Breaks: These are just the part of the vinyl where there is no audio, this is to signpost the start and end of a song.
Tracks: This is where the music is, I’m not going to go into how the music gets there because although it’s interesting it doesn’t really matter if you are only planning to collect records casually. However, if you’re interested here is a link to a really good article that explains it: How is music stored on vinyl
As I mentioned earlier records come in three different sizes they can also come in any colour/ pattern imaginable!
This is where the real fun comes into collecting for some people (me included) you can get all different variants including, picture disks, transparent and multicoloured.A few of my personal favourite out of the ordinary records include:
My four 7” Green Day American idiot picture disks
My signed copy of Creepers Eternity in your arms, pressed on purple marble vinyl.
My 7” copy of King Nuns single Tulip pressed on bright yellow transparent vinyl.
These awesome records are achieved by pressing coloured PVC pellets as suppose to the standard black.
You have probably also heard the terms ‘heavyweight’ and ‘standard’ thrown about regarding the weight of records,
This classification all depends on the weight of the polyvinyl chloride pellets. most standard weight 12″ records are made with between 120-160 grams and heavyweight typically 180-200 grams. The heavier the record the less likely it is to warp(lose its shape) however it doesn’t necessarily make it sound better.
So now you know everything about the records themselves let’s get into how we play them, this is a little more complicated but I’ll try to make it as easy as possible.
To play a record you need four things…
A turntable, preamp, amplifier and a pair of speakers. This may sound like a lot however you can get that down to only two things If you buy the right stuff.
The turntable itself has many individual parts here are the basics that you can expect on all turntables, certain ones will feature extras like pitch adjusters and pop up lights.
The platter- this is where the record sits when playing.
Needle/stylus– this is the part that reads the grooves.
Cartridge- this holds the needle and is connected to the headshell.
Headshell- attached to the tonearm this is what holds the cartridge.
The tonearm- this is the part that holds the needle and head-shell and moves across during play.
Speed selector– this may vary from turntable to turntable but some have two speeds 33 and 45 rpm as well as some having 78. This just means how many times the record spins per minute.
Dust cover– this is a plastic cover that you can place over the top of the turntable avoid dust getting in and interfering with the record.
Counterweight– This does what it says on the tin, it balances out the weight of the tonearm, this makes sure that the needle is tracking at the right force.
I mentioned earlier about needing what’s known as a preamp in your set up, however, while you can choose to add an external one to your set up many turntables come with them built in and if you read the product description you will be able to find that out and later on I will be sharing with you my turntable picks.
The same goes for your speakers, what’s known as active speakers include an amplifier which means that there is no need for an external one. So with a turntable with a built-in preamp and a set of active speakers you can cut your set up from four pieces to two, a lot easier for beginners.
So what turntable do you get?
I would highly recommend against Crosley cruiser or similar suitcase style all in one turntable. I really get the appeal of them, they do look really cute however what they have in visual appeal they lack in quality. They will damage your records over time and will give you really shitty sound quality. The record community can be quite pushy when it comes to urging people not to buy these turntables and why I 100% understand why you would want to buy one I do seriously advise you avoid against it. I appreciate they are also affordable however if you saved a little bit more money you could get yourself something half decent that will not wreck your expensive records.The Audio Technica lp60 is only a small amount above a Crosley and you will need a pair of speakers to go with it, however, it’s a brilliant turntable that you guarantee won’t ruin your records and will give you pretty good sound quality.It also comes in multiple colours so you can still get that vibrant look while not sacrificing quality.
If you have a slightly larger budget then I would highly recommend the Audio Technica LP120, this is my current turntable and is one that can be upgraded and adapted over the years. It comes in at about £250 however, it’s build quality is exceptional and is definitely a great step up from your first turntable.
When it comes to speakers you can pick up a pretty good quality pair for about £70 upwards, I am a huge fan of the Steljes NS1 that come in at £99 for a pair.
So now you can play your records, but how do you care for them…
While records may feel durable they are actually very fragile and can damage easily, you have to be careful when handling them as grease and oil from your hands can get into the grooves and cause them damage over time. Simply hold records around the outer dead wax when removing from the sleeve.
Dust is a big enemy when it comes vinyl and can be something that can mess with even the most advanced record collector. To prevent this I recommend using your dustcover at all times and also picking up an antistatic brush and some cleaning solution and if you notice your records getting a bit dusty then give them a quick clean and you will be all good. This cleaning kit from AM gives you everything you need to keep your collection dust free.Click the image below to pick it up
The way you store your records is also important, you need to store them in a cool dry area out of direct sunlight, this helps to avoid warping. Storing them upright is also a great way to avoid any damage, myself and many others use the Ikea Kallax shelves as they are the perfect size to store 12″ records, they are also a great option as you can choose how many cubes you want and they are super affordable. You can choose whether you want 1, 2, 4, 6 or 8 cubes. I would say that each cube can hold about 35+ records.
If travelling with or transporting your records then a storage case is useful as it keeps them upright and safe, you can pick these up for around £30 and is worth buying if you are planning to transport your record regularly.
Despite it not being a product for your records this is a product about records. ‘Long Live Vinyl’ Magazine is a monthly release that contains all sorts of fun vinyl related articles and content, I have been lucky enough to have been sent a few copies over the last couple of months and I have to say that I really enjoy them, It’s a great way to delve deeper into the hobby if you wish to. You can pick it up at all good newsagents as well as HMV stores.
Another great resource for record collectors is the app/website ‘Discogs’. This allows you to check the worth of a record and build up a digital version of your collection giving you an average value of your collection. It also has its own marketplace where you can purchase not only vinyl but any and every way possible including reel to reel and cassette. This app also helps you to categorise your records making them really easy to order if you want your collection to be a certain way, I personally have mine by release date. I really recommend this as a resource as it also helps you avoid being overcharged/scammed elsewhere, it gives you the true value of a record, I always use it before purchasing a record second hand online to make sure I’m paying a fair price.
Where to buy and how to build a collection…
Sometimes people within the record community feel that purchasing records from mainstream shops such as HMV and Amazon is somehow a dreadful thing to do, however, I do purchase from them regularly as a lot of the time it is much cheaper than buying from an indie store.
HMV have their members club where if you purchase vinyl you get double points which can go towards money cant buy rewards such as signed merchandise and priority entry to events.
Independent stores are great and I feel it’s really important to support them, there is a really great handful down in Brighton and London is packed full of them. I purchase from indie stores whenever I can, however, it’s not always possible and I don’t feel that it’s right that within the community elitists have built up the idea that if you buy from a mainstream store that you are somehow any less of a vinyl fan because that really isn’t the case.
There are plenty of vinyl subscription services that can really help to expand your collection and open you up to new artists and genres. Vinyl Subscription services aren’t for everybody, some people like to have control over what they purchase and prefer to buy things that they are familiar with and that is perfectly fine. However, If you are more experimental with your tastes then these can be a great way to have a bit of fun and you never know what you might find.
There are many of these services out there and they all offer slightly different services, so I’m just going to talk you through a few of the most well-known ones.
If you have had the fortune of landing on this blog before then you will be aware of the fact that I am a massive fan of the flying vinyl subscription box.
What they do– Flying vinyl sends you five 7″ singles a month that are all exclusively pressed for the box. Quality is not compromised with these guys and I have discovered loads of great acts I probably wouldn’t have come across otherwise.
The price- This is £20 a month including Free UK postage and can be cancelled at any time which is also a nice feature to have as you aren’t stuck in a contract like system that some other brands use.
Why I love it-I personally feel like this is the best one out there for me as I find it really exciting that they are pressing exclusively, they also have loads of other exciting things going on like their podcast, I highly recommend giving that a listen if you are on the fence of subscribing because it will give you an idea of the music they send out and the interviews make for great listening.
This is the subscription services you are probably most aware of, there are hundreds of unboxing videos online showing what these guys do.
What do they do: This service sends you three records a month for $39 dollars, each box is personally curated based on your Spotify listening habits, as well as your discogs account (I’ll talk more about discogs later) it also has a little questionnaire that you still out stating the artists that you do and down want in your box as well as how adventurous you want to be with your choices. It also allows you to pick a vibe for your box for example #SingleAf or #FrostedTips.It will then be sent to you with a handwritten note from your curator with their reasons for choices.
Price- $39 monthly $20 international shipping
Why I love it- The pricing is really reasonable, you are getting three 12′ albums for that price, I think that it is slightly risky, however, a lot of fun and that is what collecting records is all about.
Worth knowing- There have been negative reviews of the service, however, I believe that I can’t judge anything until I try it, I contacted them in the new year and they are sending me my own box out for review so if you want to know what I think of that then be sure to check back over the next month. However, many people absolutely love this service and I feel that it’s a really cool brand with a really cool idea behind it and I’m excited to find out for myself.
What do they do– To keep it short and sweet, they basically send you are 10 track mixtape every month pressed on coloured vinyl with exclusive artwork and deluxe packaging as well as other goodies.
Price- $27-$39 depending on where you are in the world.
Why I love it- I haven’t personally tried this service, however, I have read really great things about it and I’m a huge fan of the idea that you get exposed to ao many new tracks and artists each month. Thier packaging also looks really great which is always a nice bonus.
That wraps up my ultimate guide to vinyl, I hope that you enjoyed it and maybe even learnt something. A lot of work went into putting this together so I would really appreciate that if you have made it this far and enjoyed it that you share it and let me know if you found this useful . You can follow me on instagram for all my vinyl snaps at @lucy_mccourt_blog and on twitter for all my updates at @lucy_mccourt