A beginner’s guide to collecting vinyl, from buying your first turntable to looking after your records

A beginner’s guide to collecting vinyl, from buying your first turntable to looking after your records

Words by Riley Barber

Starting a record collection doesn’t have to be intimidating.

Collecting vinyl can seem daunting. There are so many types of record players out there, all with pertaining jargon that means nothing to most casual listeners. You’re also bound to run into some hipster from Brunswick asking if your Beatles albums are original pressings or if you have any Neutral Milk Hotel in your collection.

But starting a vinyl collection doesn’t have to be an intimidating task. The sound quality is genuinely better, and yeah, it’s a little more effort than simply pressing play on your phone, but there’s a certain je nais se quois that just makes putting on a record a fun and exciting listening experience.

But before you start collecting, there are a few basics you need to know.

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Buying your first turntable

There are a tonne of record players out there, ranging from simple and straightforward to incredibly complex. It’s always best to do some research before you buy so you know what to look for. If you’re just a casual listener looking to chuck an album on every once in a while, you don’t have to go for the super technical sound systems, but it’s still a good idea to invest in a decent record player.

Steer clear of cheap players you see in shops that don’t specialise in sound systems – the sound quality won’t be as good and your records will suffer. Going to specialised stores like Vinyl Revival in Fitzroy or Melbourne HiFi in Hawthorne means you can speak to experts who will help you with picking out your first player – both stores also offer package deals with turntables and speakers to make the process easier.

Pro-Ject and Audio-Technica are good brands for quality turntables that won’t break the bank.

Starting your collection

What makes a record collection good? We aren’t here to tell you that unless you’ve got Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, your collection is illegitimate. Buy whatever albums you want. The most amateur thing you could do is waste your money buying an album because someone told you you have to own it in order to be taken seriously. Honestly, just buy the albums you enjoy.

However, if you are looking for recommendations, there are plenty of articles written about this very topic just a Google search away. Or, even better, speak to record store workers. They’ll be able to provide recommendations tailored to the music you like. And don’t worry, they’re not judging your taste in music.

Speaking of record stores, there are loads in Melbourne with a great range to suit any and all music tastes. Whether you’re looking for a store that specialises in your favourite genre or you just want to browse a broad selection while you’re starting out, Melbourne’s vinyl scene has you covered.

One thing to note when you start buying records though is that they are expensive. Most record stores have second-hand bins which are a bit cheaper, but these might not always have what you’re looking for. The average retail price of a first-hand album sits at around $50, which can add up fast when you start expanding your collection.

A good rule of thumb for when you buy an album is to be sure that you enjoy it and can see yourself listening to it more than once or twice, so you know you’re getting your money’s worth. Again, don’t go buying an album just for the sake of it or because you feel like you have to.

Taking care of your collection

Collecting vinyl is not as simple as taking out an album and chucking it on the turntable whenever you feel like it. There’s still some degree of maintenance involved. The tricky thing with records is that they accumulate dust pretty easily, and are prone to warpage and scratches. If your record player is a cheap one, it’s more likely that the needles will scratch your records, which is why it’s a good idea to invest in a good quality brand.

It’s also a good idea to buy some add-ons that will help keep your vinyl in good shape. But before we get into the tools you can buy, let’s look at the basics of owning and playing records that you absolutely need to know first.

Make sure you know how to handle vinyl properly

Always hold your records around the edges. If you simply grab the record on the surface, the oils from your fingers can damage it.

Make sure you know how to store vinyl properly

Dedicate a crate or shelf to storing your records. Don’t stack them on top of each other – this will cause them to warp. Instead, shelve them upright as you would books. Make sure wherever you’re storing them is away from direct sunlight or relatively cool. Heat can also cause records to warp.

Now that we’ve got that covered, here are some things you can buy to help you take care of your collection.

Cleaning tools

There’s a variety of different things available to help you clean and maintain your vinyl, and it can all range in price. It’s up to you as to what you think you’ll need, but at the very LEAST make sure you have a vinyl or anti-static brush. Your vinyl will accumulate dust and other bits of debris very easily, and if you don’t clean it off, it will scratch the record and render it unplayable. You can ask your local record store about other tools and cleaning kits that you might need to take care of your collection.

Record sleeves and outer sleeves

A record sleeve is an inner sleeve that protects your vinyl within the album. The outer sleeve is the plastic sleeve that protects the album cover. It’s a good idea to have both. There are different types of inner sleeves – when you buy an album it should already come with some sort of inner sleeve, although they might not be the best for protecting your vinyl.

The same goes for outer sleeves – a new album may or may not already come with them. You can easily buy a pack of inner and outer sleeves at record stores and speak to someone about quality and sizes. While you don’t have to have an outer sleeve, it’s a good idea to help protect the artwork on the album from fading and keep it looking brand new.

Slip mat

This is another accessory that you should have. Some turntables already have one of these included when you buy them, but in case it doesn’t, you’ll want to go out and get one. Slip mats are good for reducing unwanted vibrations and preventing a build-up of static electricity. There are various types of slip mats available, but a cork and rubber or a felt mat should suffice.

Turntable weight

Unlike the above items, you don’t have to have this one, but it is a handy tool. The turntable weight is good for if you have a warped record. It stabilises the warped record by flattening it. In extreme cases of warpage, a turntable weight can’t help you, but if a record’s only a little bit warped and you still want to play it, you’ll be glad you have this nifty accessory.

Happy collecting!

Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s look back at how the vinyl revival began