Between saving up for your $1,000 Holy Grail records and trying to track down that last rare Joy Division EP to fill out your post-punk catalogue, you may have come to the realization that collecting records ain’t cheap. How do you stretch your budget? You don’t want to skimp on buying actual records, and you definitely don’t want to cheap out on speakers or amps.
Aside from buying crappy bootlegs from Germany, the easiest way to cut corners without hearing the fuzzy side-effects pour out of your bookshelf speakers is to buy good, cheap accessories and use them as frequently as possible.
Here’s the recipe: ¼ isopropyl alcohol, ¾ distilled water, a drop or two of dish soap. Spray down your grungy vinyl and let sit, then blot that sucker dry with your microfiber cloth. Blot-drying ensures that none of the precious grooves are scratched, and microfiber won’t leave lint behind.
This is one of the cheapest and best ways to give your record a rudimentary cleaning without resorting to $200 spin cleaning systems. The difference in audio quality is night and day.
You wouldn’t expect it, but a bottle of Gorilla Glue is one of the most effective tools to deep-clean your old records. Simply cover the record in a generous layer, let it dry, and peel it off. The glue will settle in the grooves and lift the decades old dust and grime, leaving you with a refreshingly new level of clarity on even the most beat-up record.
Don’t shell out $700 for a convoluted vacuum-spin-liquid-cleaning system. You can get just as good results with a bottle of wood glue, plus the added satisfaction of peeling a layer of crackles and ticks from your favorite old LP.
All the gunk on your records eventually collects onto your turntable’s stylus, which leads to fuzzy sounding playback, no matter how new or pristine your vinyl is. While you could spend an extra few dollars on cleaning fluids and limited-use brushes, you could also save a bunch of money by buying a Magic Eraser instead.
Don’t rub your needle with the Eraser, no matter what—you’ll ruin your needle. Instead, place the Magic Eraser on your slipmat and lower the needle onto it with the cueing lever, then bring it back up. This removes the debris from your needle and will provide a smooth sound without an unnecessary investment in elaborate cleaning accessories.
Turntables are delicate machines that can pick up even the smallest tics of interference. Vibrations in the floor, static on the record, even components inside the turntable itself can be heard through the needle. Aside from buying an expensive turntable or suspending your kit from the ceiling with an elaborate series of pulleys, the best way to isolate interference is to invest in a good, cheap, solid marble tile.
Just place the tile underneath your turntable and place some earthquake putty or something similar to hold it in place, and you’ll get noticeably clearer results from your turntable, with cleaner basslines and zero feedback.
If you want to further isolate your turntable from the natural vibrations running through the floors of most homes and apartments, find a set of isolation feet. These little rubber domes fit underneath the feet of your turntable and place another layer of protection between your needle and wax, and the resonance of your room.
Like most things audiophile, isolation feet can scale in price dramatically while only offering diminishing returns. An entry level set of feet will only run you around $23 and will accomplish everything you need them to do. This, in tandem with a marble tile, offers solid isolation without a huge and unnecessary markup.
One of the most satisfying parts of building a robust record collection is curating your prized records and finding a way to display them. Most people opt for album frames, but the pressure of the frame can warp your record. Similarly, it’s a major hassle to pull the record out of its frame every time you want to listen to it.
Picture ledges are an awesome, cheap alternative to the cumbersome album frame. Originally designed for photographs and framed art, the standard picture ledge can fit a nice row of your most prized records while offering easy access (the LPs are sitting right there!) and without applying any pressure to the delicate wax.
Considering picture ledges can be found for around $15 at most furniture or hardware stores, they’re a great investment to both store and display your records without shelling out extra money for a heavy frame.
Don’t steal milk crates. They’ve changed the dimensions in recent years so your LPs won’t fit inside them. Instead, spend a few dollars to get a sturdy, indestructible, and stackable record container that has some serious history and street cred behind it.
Lots of companies now manufacture milk crates that fit standard 12” records. While paying for a milk crate may seem odd, the fact that it’ll probably outlast your record collection means that it’s great value for money.
One of the simplest cheapest ways to avoid having that annoying static crinkle when you pull your record out of the sleeve is to invest in a cork slipmat. Not only does the cork minimize static, it also helps isolate vibrations from the turntable, resulting in smoother sounding playback.
You can find cork slipmats at most record stores and on Etsy. To save extra money, consider buying a sheet of cork and DIYing your own slipmat.
This one’s mostly for those who buy used records. The best way to make sure your vinyl stays pristine after giving it a wood glue/microfiber work-over is to invest in some brand new inner sleeves—paper or plastic work, and as long as they’re new, they won’t leave little fibers all over your wax.
The best way to get cheap sleeves is to ask at your local record store. Most stores purchase them in bulk and can sell a smaller amount to you for cheaper.
While they aren’t the cheapest, the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab inner sleeves are recommended by the US Library of Congress and are considered the best available. While high-end equipment in record collecting usually costs an arm and a leg, the MoFi sleeves will give you audiophile cred for only $20.
If you’ve got slightly warped vinyl or a huge, bassy subwoofer, then a record clamp might be a good investment for you. Record clamps sit on top of the record during playback and help push it down, which both smooths out minor warps and negates any unwanted wobble between the record and the turntable platter. As a bonus, any bass from your booming subwoofer won’t affect playback with a record clamp in use.
Some record clamps retail for over $1,000. That’s quite a lot for a simple piece of metal. For the cheapskate route, you can either DIY your own out of metal washers, or buy one from eBay for around $20. They’re not the cheapest accessory, but they offer genuine sonic improvements that may be worth the added cost.
A quick disclaimer: not all turntables require record clamps! Some higher-end turntables actually can’t operate with the added weight. Always make sure your turntable is compatible before you try using a record clamp.