The beginner’s guide to vinyl records: How to start and care for your record collection

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For those who have begun to get more involved with their musical experience, a common next step is to start your own vinyl record collection. There are steps that are necessary to get your collection experience going. As well as these steps, there are some areas of technical know-how that I will shed some light upon.

The most necessary component of a record collection is a decent sound system to enjoy it on. You will need a record player of course, as well as an amp with either speakers or headphones. For these I recommend either eBay.ca or any local electronic pawn shop such as Beats and Bytes and Digital World (located on Bayside Drive and Landsowne Avenue respectively).

The employees in any of these stores will be very helpful in getting you setup. Be wary of prices and look for wear and tear. Look at the arm on the turntable and make sure the needle is place. Chances are they will be very likely to let you try everything before you buy it, so don’t be afraid to bring an album to test.

Remember when buying an amp, look for a terminal on the back labeled “ground”. This is something that older record players have and are necessary for them to function. You can tell if a record player needs a ground input by looking at the audio cables. There should be red/white stereo cables and the ground cable is the third wire. If there isn’t a third wire, then an amp with a ground terminal is not necessary.

For headphones I recommend checking out Headphonereviews.com, as they have a selection wizard designed specifically to help you narrow down your choices.

As far as actually buying records go, there are some locations in Saint John that offer a wide variety of genres to choose from.

Backstreet Records and Second Spin (located on Germain Street and Westmorland Road respectively), have provided me with friendly service and affordable prices. If buying a used record you are entitled to take it out of its sleeve and examine for scratches and damage. Aside from specialty stores, don’t be afraid to check out the merchandise table at local shows, as some bands will sell their albums in vinyl format as well.

As far as online resources go, my favourites are eBay (be sure to look into the seller’s history), Polyvinylrecords.com and of course bandcamp.com, which doesn’t always offer a vinyl release of some albums, however in some cases will if you’re lucky. Some coloured vinyl can only be purchased with a pre-order so be prepared to commit if you want something special.

One of my rules of thumbs is to never play a record unless it’s sufficiently cleaned; otherwise you run the risk of damaging your needle which is a nuisance to replace. That said you should still replace your needle every year for optimal sound quality.

The best resource for buying needles is eBay.ca as it provides a wide variety of selection. Simply search for the model number on the cartridge. Otherwise you might either be out of luck, have to purchase a new turntable, or go to musical equipment forum and ask around in places such as head-fi.org or vinylfanatics.com.

Proper storage is important to making your records last. Vinyl can warp over time, making it necessary to keep it in an upright position without any pressure on it either than from the sides.

Whatever your reason for beginning your record collection, be prepared for a rewarding and accessible hobby. For some, having the physical media and full album art presents is the focus. Some simply prefer the superior audio quality, which has been described as warmer and more natural sounding than digital format.

Having your collection proudly on display just makes the music feel more substantial and real. Regardless of why, the reward itself is in the process.