The internet is currently full of articles that proclaim the return of vinyl, or the resurgence of the analogue. But before you file this article away under “hipster nonsense”, hear me out.
Vinyl is cool, not because it is something that’s retro, or vintage; it gives music lovers yet another way of enjoying good songs.
Vinyl discs came out before the modern CD (do you even know what a CD is?). Music from vinyl discs are played using a turntable – a device that turns the disc and runs a needle through the groove and amplifies the sound wave generated from that friction.
When the CD arrived, it triumphed over vinyl in every single way; the designers of the CD made sure it could hold more data than a vinyl disc, that it took up less space, and was far less fragile. Vinyl discs are made out of a brittle material, and can be very easily damaged.
However, people who say that vinyl has a special kind of sound aren’t totally wrong. Because of the limits of this antique form of musical disc, the range of a vinyl is focused on the mid-range instead of bass. So, human voices may sound warmer when you listen to them on vinyl.
With all that said, we’ve put together some important tips that can help you better understand the basics of vinyl and, just maybe, start your own collection.
1 You have to listen to the whole album
Because vinyl is an analogue storage medium, that is, it stores music in physical grooves on the disc’s surface, moving between songs is pretty inconvenient compared to modern forms of listening, such as Spotify. This makes it harder to flick between your favourite songs which encourages you to listen to the entire album from start to finish, as the creator intended.
2 It’s all about the needle
The most important part of the turntable (or as it was known back in the old days, a gramophone) is the needle; this is the part that actually interacts with the disc. That means it has the biggest impact on the sound. Everything else you might need to consider – like the stability of the turntable or the kind of drive that propels the discs – comes second to a good needle.
3 Always keep it old-school
Old, second-hand vinyl records are always the way to go. Not only are they cheaper than modern reissues of the same album, they also have the added benefit of being copies from the analogue masters of that recording. Modern vinyl discs tend to be the same music as that from a CD – a digitised version of the original copy.
4 Pay attention to the speed
Vinyl discs usually come in two speeds; 33 ⅓ rotations per minute (RPM), or 45 RPM. This shows the speed at which you need to play the record for it to sound good.
Most modern turntables come with the option to change the speed of the rotation; however, it is rarer to encounter 45 RPM records because this speed was mainly reserved for the smaller, EP (extended play)- sized discs. Full-sized LP (long play) records will usually have a speed of 33 RPM.
5 Take good care of your records
A vinyl disc is useless if it can’t play music, so the most important thing is to make sure it works! So, when buying a vinyl record, be sure to look out for any scratches or blemishes from improper cleaning, because such a disc is probably going to have poor sound quality.
Unlike CDs, vinyls benefit from a regular clean, especially if they’ve been sitting idle for a while. Additionally, try to store them in a cool, less humid place, with the discs all standing upright.
6 Start collecting
This article has only scratched the surface of the world of vinyl. But hopefully, it has given you a greater appreciation about alternative music. So what are you waiting for? Start your personal collection today!