Vinyl has once again become the coolest way to listen to music (except for you crazy hipsters who are into cassette). If you haven’t yet jumped on the bandwagon, you’re probably overwhelmed at the idea of acquiring all the equipment and dealing with snooty record store employees. But vinyl is worth it. Its warmer tones make your songs come alive in ways CDs and digital files just can’t match. Not to mention the process of listening to a record is much more tactile than hitting play on a file you paid 99 cents for. So here’s how to get started in the world of vinyl.
1. ASK YOURSELF HOW SNOBBY YOU WANT TO BE.
There’s a wide range of products and players for first-time purchasers. You’ll need to decide how much you want to spend. Just want to dip your toe in the water? Then get
a $100 Crosley player from Urban Outfitters or Target. If you want to go a little deeper, you’ll need to spend about $100 more for a higher-quality turntable (Pioneer, Technics, Sony, etc.). You can usually find one at your local vinyl store, Best buy or a good online source like Crutchfield.com.
2. CHECK VINTAGE/ANTIQUE STORES AND ETSY.
If you get lucky, you can find players and audio components for less at stores that sell used items. And if you’re really lucky, maybe you’ll find a turntable/speaker combo (think Mad Men), which often have tube amps in the speakers, giving your music warmer sounds. Old is good.
3. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ALL THE OTHER STUFF YOU NEED.
If you bought a stand-alone turntable, you’ll also need a receiver with a built-in amplifier and a set of speakers (or headphones). The minimum is about $100 for a budget amp and at least $75 for a pair of speakers. Above all, remember sound systems are only as good as the worst component. If you want high-end stuff but don’t have the budget, try buying the pieces one at a time. Or used.
4. MAINTAIN YOUR PLAYER AND RECORDS.
You’ll need to replace your turntable’s stylus (the needle) every couple hundred hours. And if you go with a cheaper, all-in-one player, your speakers will probably stop working at some point. Remember, too, that records themselves are a lot more fragile than some of your other media. Be gentle.
Seriously, for all the hype, a lot of music really is helped by the vinyl experience. Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is meant to be heard with hisses and crackling.