If you great up in the 60s, 70s, 80s or even earlier, then vinyl records were a part of your childhood. The introduction of CDs meant that the 90s were all about that technology, seen as new and superior at the time. But in recent years, vinyl has seen several revivals and seems to be going strong. In fact, even though many people listen to music electronically nowadays, with mobile phones taking over from personal MP3 players as the music player of choice, vinyl factories have experienced a boom in trade. It seems more and more artists are releasing their music on vinyl, while more consumers are happy to buy and play records, both used and new. What is it that makes vinyl records as popular as ever and how can you enjoy this trend in your own home?
Audiophiles have long claimed that vinyl records offer a “warmer” sound than CDs and digital music. Vinyl records, with their imperfections, occasional dirt and record player needle issues are seen as a more “authentic” way of playing music. This is without getting into more advanced issues such as the loss that occurs when you encode music digitally, such as when creating MP3 files. This search for a warm, more authentic sound is what originally kept many audiophiles attached to their record collections. Nowadays, nostalgia-seeking hipsters are also interested in this sound, as well as the added bonus of holding on to childhood memories, when records and record players were the only, or most common way to listen to music.
Of course, the first boom in trade for vinyl records since the invention of CDs came as a result of the electronic music scene and the hip hop scene. DJs wanted to work in a medium where they could beat-match, scratch and beat-mix, which required having complete control over each track. This was impossible to do with CDs for many years, but records can be physically manipulated, played backwards, stopped, etc. with relative ease. As a result, most dance artists released their tracks on vinyl to appeal to DJs and get their tunes played in clubs. When the dance scene exploded in the 90s, this meant a huge surge in record sales all over the world. This scene is still going strong today, even though CD mixing decks and various software mixing solutions abound. It seems that many DJs and, indeed, many club-goers, still prefer both the sound and the look and feed of vinyl records. Even though there is much to be said for not having to carry big, heavy bags of records, DJs are still happy enough to do so and club-goers appreciate the results. In fact, many still view DJing off records as the only “real” form of DJing.
Of course, since that original 90s record sales boom, other artists have embraced vinyl, both because of the fact that DJs use playing off vinyl as a badge of honour and the fact that vinyl records allow for larger, more impressive artwork that makes each record a collectors’ item. With digital music being so readily available, it pays to make physical records something fans will covet – adding posters, large booklets, elaborate packaging and anything else that would appeal to artistic fans.
Luckily, there are plenty of vinyl records available to buy, both new and old. There are many used record stores all over the world, offering many classics, often at very cheap prices. Of course, if you’re looking to start buying vinyl records to add to your music collection, you’ll want them to sound good too. The whole point of listening to music on records, rather than as digital files is that warm sound it offers. It’s worth doing your research and setting yourself up with good quality sound equipment, so that you can enjoy the full range of sound vinyl records offer. A good quality sound system makes all the difference between an enjoyable experience and a mediocre one.
The first thing you’ll need is a record player, of course. Or, if you would like to DJ off vinyl, probably two. You’ll then need to invest in other equipment such as a pre-amp, an amplifier, speakers, etc. If you’re looking for a good source of information about how to construct a good quality sound system, check out http://www.vinylvintage.net/ for some ideas.
Then you’ll need to start your record collection. A good idea if you like older music is to check charity and thrift stores in your area. Many record collections are given directly to thrift stores, and unlike specialist music stores, thrift stores don’t usually concern themselves with the real value of each individual records. In this way, you can often get your hands on some rare finds for a fraction of the price. Used record stores are often better at pricing things according to their actual value, but are still a good place to hunt for good finds.