Last month, I wrote about a subject that is near and dear to my heart: record collection organization. It’s something that drives me crazy when I hang out with people who have huge collections in their house; if I can’t tell how your collection is organized, and easily look through it, I am not impressed or even intrigued by your record collection. You could have 15,000 records, but if you don’t have any discernible organization, it might as well be none.
But there’s another part of collection management that I am passionate about: where people store their ballooning collections. My vinyl collection, like I imagine with most people’s, started in a series of crates on the floor. When those crates started taking up a significant portion of my living room, I realized I needed to get vertical. Like many before me, I went with the best shelf commercially and widely available for storing records: the Ikea Kallax (formerly the Expedit).
I know some of you are probably saying “but wait, the insanely expensive wooden cube structure that I purchased is the best” or “my carpenter brother-in-law built me custom shelves in my listening den” or “I don’t like Ikea,” but I think you all know, deep down in the darkest recesses of your heart, that you’re profoundly wrong. The Kallax is the best shelf for storing vinyl records, and not just because its dimensions are big enough for vinyl record storage. The Kallax is best because:
Seriously, this can’t be underscored enough. You can fit around 50-60 records in each cube in a Kallax, which means a 2X2 model can hold 200 records. That 2X2 model runs for $50, or 25 cents per record it holds. Expand that out to the 5X5 Kallax--the biggest one available--and you can hold 1250 records. At $199, that’s only 16 cents a record it can hold. Compared to every other option, there isn’t a single vertical storage method that even comes close. The Target knock-offs of the Kallax are maybe comparable, but they’re made out of recycled cardboard boxes. Which brings us to:
The problem with every other commercially available bookcase option I’ve seen, is that they are all flimsy. Despite some reports by people who have dramatically overfilled their Kallaxes, once you build your Kallax and tighten those last bolts with an Allen wrench against those tiny wooden rods, those things will stay strong. My trusty 4X2 has made it through 4 moves, and still holds 250 records on its bows. The Kallax is a solidly constructed bookcase in a way no modular bookcase out of a box really is. That’s an undersold part of the Kallax that gets lost when new storage options start trying to sell you on why you need that instead of the Kallax: they won’t tip over--unless you try to tip them over--and they hold up.
This is where the Kallax wins over every trendy, or expensive, option you can find out there: it flat out can hold more records. The assumed recommended space is about 50-60 records a cube, but the net is flush with stories of people fitting up to 80 or 90 records in a cube, depending on jacket and record size.
We’d all be lying to ourselves if we pretended at least a big part of why the Kallax is the most prevalent vinyl record storage option in the free world is the aesthetics of the shelf itself. It makes your records look Instagram worthy with literally no work on your end, except for building it.
This cannot be stated enough: the Kallax is the only shelf that’s as cheap as it is--it’s available to rich people and to broke ass college kids alike--and as good as it is. The Kallax rules.
Andrew Winistorfer is VMP’s Classics & Country Director, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need In Your Collection and The Best Record Stores In The United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 20 VMP releases, and co-produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Philadelphia International Records, The Story of Quincy Jones, The Story of Impulse and the VMP Classics release of Nat Turner Rebellion's Laugh to Keep From Crying, and executive produced the VMP Anthology The Story of Vanguard. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
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