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If the effortless scheduling of the Vinyl Me, Please Magazine works as it should, this piece should pop up roughly three months after Christmas (although I concede, thanks to the curious flow of time at the top of the year for many of us, it might seem much more or indeed less time since the big day). This piece is for those of you who have come over to vinyl either on the big day or at some point recently. It is both a belated welcome and a nod to see how you’re getting on.
First, and I guess most importantly, I hope that your life with records is going well. You will have done something you only get to do once- the act of placing your own record on your own record player for the first time- and I hope that this felt as good as it should. Most importantly, I hope it still feels good to be doing so. I imagine, you’ve become a bit slicker at the process too in the time since that first attempt and a more confident. I would caution against getting too cocky at the process as a few of you will have discovered that dropping a record can be a fairly grim experience.
As you’ve eased into the business of using vinyl as a day to day format, the chances are you have started to accrue some accessories to make this process as smooth as possible. If you haven’t already, you should really check out some affordable accessories that can make the process easier. You will been keenly aware by now that cleanliness is pretty much everything with records and while everyone has different approaches to achieving this, something that holds entirely true is that it is easier to keep records in a state of cleanliness than it is to let them get filthy and trying to restore them to completely clean.
I’m also fairly convinced that most of you will have noted by now that almost every process and activity in the business of playing records has a tendency to bring people with strong opinions to the fore. Any vinyl related subject will have been discussed at length and that will have revealed that there’s more than one way to do pretty much everything and that people who use that particular process will defend it to the death. Work on the principle that there is more than one way to do most things and that the world is unlikely to end if you chose one over another.
Some things have to be right though. By now, you have almost certainly noted that the effect of almost every variable that can be adjusted on a turntable on its performance. Even the simplest turntables will require a little thought and attention being put into their setup and the jump in performance that can be achieved by doing so is genuinely surprising. The good news is that you can have a look at some information we’ve already written that should provide some useful information about getting the best from your turntable.
This variability that is inherent to vinyl can be stressful and irritating- there’s little to touch the feeling of frustration that making one fractional change and finding things aren’t working properly (or indeed at all) once you have done so. The good news is though that unlike almost any other part of your system, your turntable can be persuaded to give you a little more performance with some carefully applied upgrades and tweaks. These tweaks are things that can be added as funds allow and hopefully squeeze a little more out of your equipment.
For the moment though, I imagine that the priority is buying more records- and rightly so. If you are expanding your collection at a rate of knots, it is worth getting into some good habits early. First up, if you want to keep everything looking smart, you would do well to consider using record sleeves. Keeping dust off your records will make a huge difference to how they sound over the long term and keeping everything looking smart is good for the soul. No less beneficial to your mental wellbeing is organising your records correctly- something that we have some ideas about and even what to do if someone else in your household has a collection in place already. If you don’t have many records at the moment, it might seem overkill to get them into alphabetical order but the earlier you did this, the easier it is to have a system in place and working as your collection grows. If you are feeling very organised indeed, you can get your collection listed on Discogs to prevent buying the same record twice accidentally- although doing so is something of a rite of passage.
Much as I don’t want to interfere with the procurement of records, you should also start thinking about the future too. Unless you decided to kick off your enjoyment of the format with a $15,000 laser turntable, your player will have a stylus at the end of it. As the act of playing a record, physically drags a stylus through a groove, this stylus will eventually wear out and- you’ve guessed it- we have discussed that too. This is something that happens to everyone and it is part and parcel of vinyl playback. The trick is to make sure you have the funds available once the stylus has worn out and make the change before any harm comes to your records. If you want to, you might be able to use that opportunity to use a better stylus profile or even changing the whole cartridge (https://www.vinylmeplease.com/magazine/a-guide-to-changing-your-cartridge/) with another boost in performance as a result.
Ultimately, there are any number of means of spending money on your equipment- but you probably knew that already. Once you have something you are happy with, be careful about lusting after the next big thing- trust me when I say I’ve been there. Even before vinyl staged the recovery we have seen in recent years, there has always been a selection of high end products that will make your eyes pop and even some… almost… affordable turntables can be extraordinary looking devices too. There’s always going to be someone with a shinier turntable, bigger speakers and an annoyingly good condition copy of a record you really, really want but that is how it goes and likely how it will always go. The trick is to love the gear you have and the sound it makes. If you’ve got that bit squared away in the first three months, then you’re golden and I hope that it only gets better from here.
Ed is a UK based journalist and consultant in the HiFi industry. He has an unhealthy obsession with nineties electronica and is skilled at removing plastic toys from speakers.