A Beginner's Guide to Vinyl: What to Expect when you're Collecting

Fun fact, the plural of vinyl is still ‘vinyl’. For those of you that might have thought about getting a record player, but aren’t sure how much it would cost or what would be needed for this new hobby, here are some things you should know about vinyl collecting. I’ve had a bit of an obsession for a while now, and I’m here to share my top tips.

 

  1. Why vinyl?

Probably the most common question I get from people is why bother collecting vinyl when you can just go on Spotify? Beside the vintage vibe it gives to your décor and the satisfaction of owning a physical artwork, the sound quality of vinyl is so much better than computers. Compared with music played on your computer or streaming platform, vinyl records are nearly uncompressed. Vinyl is the closest quality you can get to being physically in the recording studio.

 

  1. How do records work?

You might be sold, but you might be thinking that you have no idea how vinyl works. Don’t worry! Nowadays record players are so much more user-friendly than in the 80s. So first you will need a turntable- an LP record player. Try to avoid those with built-in speakers, because the sound quality is often very bad – probably even worse than dodgy YouTube clips. If you are willing to spend a couple hundred dollars on this hobby, you might as well get something decent! If you do not have a pair of speakers, some models of turntable on the market have Bluetooth features (e.g. Audio-Technica AT-Lp60-BT), so you can also hook them up with your Bluetooth headphones. Once you have a turntable, you can attach the record player to your speakers. The sound quality is definitely better with an amplifier but it’s not compulsory. Most beginner turntables have built-in pre-amp, so you can play music directly with the speakers.

 

  1. What records should I buy?

Now you have everything set up but nothing to listen to, you might have a question about what kind of vinyl records you should buy! Of course this is completely up to you, but I would recommend music that has a strong bass or high vocal range. Vinyl record players generally amplify these features. Record players, however, are not very good at pure electronic pop music, so I would recommend avoiding that. Heavy metal and rock music with a stronger bass; singers like Whitney Huston that had an insane vocal range; classical music like Beethoven Symphony No. 5 with mostly musical instruments: these are the recommended beginner’s choices as they are generally better captured with less compressed sound quality. The rule of thumb is that vinyl records are less compressed than others forms, so try to look for something that sounds better in person. Also, due to the fact that the 60s-90s were the golden age of vinyl records, vinyl of 80s or 90s are generally most common among collectors. This means they are easier to find and more affordable, so I would recommend beginners start with them. But again, it is completely up to your personal choice. You can also get Eminem on vinyl – as long as the record company makes it, you can listen to it! There are no rules.

 

  1. Brand new or second hand?

Another really common beginner question is whether you should buy records brand new or second hand. First of all, depending on what you listen to, there are in fact lots of second hand options. For example, if you are looking for an album from Bon Jovi, chances are you are more likely to find one secondhand. But if you are trying to buy, for example, Drake, brand new would definitely be easier! Sometimes record companies do republish existing versions of vinyl – rumour has it that David Bowie’s remastered vinyl are coming out at the end of this year! Another tip is if you stick to older music and always buy your records secondhand, it will save you a lot of money.

 

  1. Where should I buy them in Canberra?

Let’s get a little bit more practical and answer another question: where do you get vinyl records in Canberra?  There are several music record stores and op shops which sell vinyl records. I do have several recommendations You can get a turntable at Landspeed Records at Civic. They also have some cool indie music and alternative rock vinyl – mostly brand new but they do have some secondhand. Another option would be Songland Records – they have an all-brand-new, relatively decent collection. The shop I would most highly recommend is Canberra Vintage & Collectible Centre over at Fyshwick, all secondhand. They have extraordinary collection of music, from vinyl to cassette to CDs. They might have the most vinyl in Canberra – probably over 10,000 records! The pricing is reasonable and most of the vinyl is in mint condition. The last place is the Canberra-only Green Shed. Green Shed Civic has a relatively large collection of vinyl, with everything at the same cheap price of $10. While the treasure hunting takes time, it can definitely be worthwhile – some of the records are actually worth a lot more than $10. However you have to pay attention to their condition, which can vary quite significantly. But don’t be limited – always feel free to explore new places to find some cool vinyl. You might find something you’ve never heard before and totally fall in love!