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The powerful music of vinyl records
January 22, 2018
Gabrielle ‘Gabbie’ Smith and Emily Reed had never met until they discovered their shared love of vinyl records. They sat down to discuss vinyl records and decided to put together a guide for new and experienced users of vinyl records. Hopefully, others will be convinced to listen to vinyl records as well!
What inspired you to listen to records? Why do you enjoy listening to records?
Gabbie- In my spare time, I like to wander through antique shops. I am a big fan of anything from the past. So, naturally, I gained a love for vintage record players and vinyls. Although, what really pushed me to listen to records is the sound quality and the raw talent of artists. To me, vinyls have so much more power and soul than music coming from an iPod or iPhone. I also love how records have immortality. If music never dies, then same goes for records. No matter how old or new a record is, there is still so much nostalgia. Listening to records can fill a whole room with crazy amounts of emotion.
However, my love of records didn’t happen overnight. My mom really inspired me to listen to records. When my mom was younger, she collected A LOT of records and never got rid of them. To this day, she still tells me the history behind every record she owns. I enjoy being able to bond with her through vinyl records.
Emily- As a music lover, it was only natural for me to transition into an audiophile. For years, I’ve heard that vinyl records provide the best sound quality because the sound is uncompressed. Now that I’ve heard the difference, I can say that’s accurate!
While listening to records, I feel like I’ve boarded a time machine. With used records, I love hearing the nostalgic crackle of the needle in the groove and imagining what the previous users enjoyed about the music. With both new and used records, I savor all of the sounds I can hear that aren’t on the CD or streaming version of the album.
What’s the best part about listening to records?
Gabbie- The best part about listening to records is that each one tells a different story or feeling. Records have this blissful way of changing my mood. Say I am feeling down, I will play some blues, like Bill Withers or Etta James. I just love how there’s so much power in music itself, and then records amplifies it and spreads the power.
Also, each vinyl is like a storybook written by the artist. The record player is the “grandpa reading out loud to his grandchildren.” In the 30’s through the 40’s (during the swing era) famous composer Glenn Miller had a story to every song arrangement that he composed. Many song of his was inspired by his wife Helen Miller. Although there involved no singing, when listening to his records I can definitely tell there is a story behind the albums.
Emily- When you’re listening to a record with the volume up, it’s an immersive experience. All of the sounds fill your ears, and, for that time, the music is all you can focus on. For someone who is a scatterbrain, being able to concentrate on this one experience is exciting. Yet when the sound is lower, the record is a nice accompaniment to studying. The record centers my mind on my homework, and it becomes just as valuable as my paper and pencil.
Where do you get your records?
Quality Record Pressings.com – I would not recommend using this site to buy your records. Their records are average quality at best (despite the name), and the break between tracks is an eternity! They have an anti-scratch coating overtop, but that coating messes with the clarity of the sound. The recordings feel muddy, and it defeats the purpose of buying vinyl records.
Amazon.com – Amazon is a hit or a miss. With Amazon, there’s always a chance of your record getting damaged in the mail, so buying from them is risky. New remastered records are usually in pristine condition but I’d be wary of buying used records through Amazon since you don’t know how the seller is going to package the record.
Frederick Record Exchange – The most I’ve ever spent on a record here is $10. Yet, it was well worth the price. At this store in Downtown Frederick, you can either trade in records you own or purchase used records. What I’ve found is that the price is determined by the popularity of the record and condition of the sleeve. I bought $10, $6, $4, and $2 records that all have the same excellent sound quality. The $2 record was in the Budget Vinyl section because the case was beat up but that didn’t affect the quality of sound.
The best deal here is the $0.50 45’s. Both the 45’s I’ve bought sound even better than the records and that’s saying something! If you want to expand your collection of 45’s, this is the best place to get them.
Barnes and Noble – All of the records I’ve bought at Barnes and Noble sound unbelievably clear and the sound quality is unmatched; however, they lack the nostalgic quality most records have since they feature little to none of the crackling sound. The biggest advantage of shopping at Barnes and Noble is that they have the best selections of vinyl records released in the last decade. Sadly, they are also the most expensive. (Although if you sign up for a membership, you get a coupon for $5 off a vinyl and $15 off of a record player!)
Vinyl Acres – This is another record store in Downtown, Frederick. However, this store is smaller, more organized, and has an excellent selection of older vinyls. Record prices range from $5 to $40, for a collectible, or a never opened copy. Recently I found some excellent Earth, Wind, and Fire and Chicago vinyls.
What kind of equipment do you have for listening to records? (type of turntable, if you have speakers, etc.)
Gabbie- I have 3 record players, a record cleaner kit, and vinyl fix that helps fix warping of vinyl records. The 3 record players that I own are a Victrola suitcase player, a Crosley suitcase player, and a Columbia suitcase player. The Victrola record player that I own is a Bluetooth Portable Suitcase, with 3-speed Turntable. This shock board player I currently own is in the color, Purple Glitter. This player currently from the brand costs $59.99. The second player I own is a Crosley cruiser deluxe portable turntable in the color tweed. This player unfortunately doesn’t have a shock board, but does come in other colors like black, blue, chalkboard, green, orange, pink, red, and turquoise. The Crosley is more expensive than the Victrola since it costs $89.95. Finally, my first/oldest record player is a red and cream Columbia, 3 speed with tone control, felt turntable, in the model 312. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the exact price I payed for it since I got it along time ago at a antique shop in the middle of Iowa. It was made in the year of 1954/1955.
Emily – I have a Victrola Vintage 3-Speed Bluetooth Suitcase Turntable with Speakers that I found on Amazon for $47. What attracted me to this record player was its durability, chic design, and how portable it is (which is ideal for a college dorm room). It comes with a three speed (33 ⅓, 45, 78 rpm) adjuster, auto stop, a headphone jack, and the capability to play music from your Bluetooth enabled device through the turntable’s speakers.
However, the speakers are the worst part about the turntable. They sound congested and often like you’re in a cardboard box. Some might not be bothered by the average sound quality but to me, it detracts from the experience of listening to records. I’m considering buying external speakers and plugging them into my turntable.
It’s definitely a beginner’s turntable but it’s perfect for figuring out if you want to invest in a high quality turntable. The record comes in an abundance of designs for roughly the same price (give or take $10). It comes in the solid colors of- lavender, black, red, white, aqua turquoise, cobalt blue, brown, and purple glitter. The prints offered are- rainbow tie dye, American flag, UK Flag, galaxy print, camo, pink camo, geo print, red and black plaid, and retro map.
What would you recommend to people who are new to records?
Emily – Since Barnes and Noble has the biggest selection of records released in the past 10 years, go there for your first vinyl purchase. I’d recommend Barnes and Noble over Amazon because at Barnes and Noble, you get the experience of flipping through the records almost as if you’re on a hunt for hidden treasure. To play your first record, ask your friend or relative if they have a record player you can borrow. Or, you could buy a starter record player that’s not too expensive like the one I bought on Amazon.
Beginners should also check out Record Store Day on April 21st for great deals at their local record store!
Gabbie- Start small. Buy two or three records of albums you already know and love so you can focus on the sound quality from the record player and how to use it. Starting with an inexpensive but good quality record player is a great way to get exposed to records. Getting records that you know and love makes you appreciate the improved sound quality more than listening to a random vinyl you might not like.
What kind of music do you like to listen to on vinyl?
Emily – Classic rock is my first love. My favorite record of all time is Abbey Road by The Beatles and a few of my favorite classic rock vinyls which I own are: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly, Who Are You by The Who, and Meddle by Pink Floyd. I also enjoy listening to smooth, melancholy indie folk/alternative rock records because they relax me. For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver and Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens are in constant rotation. In the future, I see myself buying some jazz records because I enjoy listening to jazz to study.
Gabbie- On vinyl, I listen to mostly blues, disco and a little bit of rock n’roll. Saturday Night Fever is a fun disco album to listen to by The Beegees. Also, I enjoy others like Chicago, Jimmy Witherspoon, Louis Armstrong. I personally lean towards blues vinyl records because of the old rustic sound.
Why should others listen to records?
Emily- Others will appreciate the improved sound quality and savoring the nostalgic experience that’s unlike any other. Plus, a neat record player is a fun statement piece in a living room. It’s far better than a laptop playing music!
Gabbie- It is a great way to get cultured on amazing artist from back in the day. Listening to records keeps this exciting part of history alive.
What are some tips to keep records from getting scratched or wrapped?
Gabbie- Lots of people think that vinyls are not fragile in comparison to to CDs. Though in fact, if not more so, vinyls are just as fragile. What prevent the wearing out of vinyls over time is, keeping your records clean, handling them properly, and storing them correctly. This will prevent warping. By gently holding the record with two hands, you can also prevent scratches.
If you have a problem with dirty records you can purchase a cleaning kit from Crossly for $24.95, that’s also available at Barnes and Noble.
For those who are confused about what warping means, it is when your records are bent like a floppy hat. This is bad because your music won’t sound right and warping will change the tone of the music. Though there are many ways to prevent it, it is extremely difficult to fix. There are products on the market for fixing warped vinyls, but they are VERY expensive. I currently own a product called Vinyl Flat Record Flattener from the company Vinyl Flat. This sounds great but it costs $139.95.