CDs, cassettes and digital downloads have all come and gone but records have managed to stay relevant in households around the world for over a century. Although many probably thought record players couldn’t compete with music streaming services, they couldn’t be more wrong. Music streaming services make songs and artists more accessible, but record players offer something that is inimitable. The tangibility and sound quality of records are attracting a whole new generation of collectors.
Emile Berliner’s “gramophone” first hit the consumer market in 1897. The records it used were originally made out of rubber until after several years the material changed to vinyl. It was quite popular upon its first release but its golden years wouldn’t come for another few decades. The invention of the radio stole the spotlight from the gramophone for a few years but its popularity didn’t diminish. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, record players were a staple of American households after the technology and sound quality improved.
Today, record players have once again made a comeback, with many youngsters discovering them through pop culture. Records are sold at big-box retail stores and shops dedicated to selling records are popping up everywhere. However, the record players used by Gen Z today have a modern twist: Many of them include a USB port to connect to laptops or else feature Bluetooth connectivity so that they can wirelessly connect to phones and stream music through the speakers.
Although record players and record collecting may seem very fun, a lot of maintenance is needed to make sure the records last and continue to play music. Here are a few tips and tricks to make sure your records are spinning for a long time.
1. Record Storage
The way you store your records greatly impacts their sound quality. Everything from the direction it rests to the temperature of the room is essential. Cambridge Audio recommends vinyl enthusiasts store their records in a clean and dry place, far from extreme temperatures. They also recommend not to stack records on top of each other. Instead, have them rest vertically on a bookshelf or ledge. If stored improperly, the weight and pressure of the other records could lead to warping. Records become warped when they are bent out of shape and can no longer be played. Record collectors should purchase either a crate or some sort of holder to store records.
2. Handling Records
Handling a vinyl record is very similar to handling CDs, something millennials and Gen Z are familiar with. Records require delicacy when being held and placed onto the turntable. Always try to hold it by the edges or the label in the center. Holding the playing surface may lead to unnecessary dust, dirt and oils from your fingers getting into the grooves, which may make it hard to play. The record can also get scratched from your fingernails, which will ruin the record completely. Although this may be hard to do at times, especially when taking the record out of the sleeve, it is important to ensure the longevity of the record.
3. Cleaning Your Records
Dirt and grime can easily coat your records if you do not clean them properly and often. They can easily wear out and may even stop playing. Discogs suggests the first step in your record cleaning routine should be removing all dust using a vinyl record brush. After this, make sure to inspect your record under a light for any scratches or damage.
Once you identify the areas that may need cleaning, spray a vinyl cleaning solution over them. Make sure not to spray the liquid over the label in the center of the record. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe away the liquid in circular motions and completely avoid the center label. Dry the record with a different cloth before you store it. Make sure not to leave any new fingerprints on the record while cleaning it. Although all these cleaning procedures and products may seem expensive and complicated, it is much better than buying new vinyl records every few months.
4. Record sleeves for storage
When you purchase a vinyl record, chances are it already comes with a paper sleeve. These sleeves most likely will scratch the vinyl when you slide it in and out. The probability of the paper sleeves ripping is also a big concern. The safest option is to purchase poly sleeves that are much more durable than their paper counterparts. They prevent dust and grime from settling on the record and it will be much easier to store. Although this may seem expensive, one can easily purchase a pack of 100 sleeves online for $20.
Starting your record collection is very easy to do. It may require a bit of upkeep but it is definitely worth the expense and time. Before buying a turntable and records make sure to watch videos or read articles online about which products to buy. Record collecting is a great hobby to get into and will undoubtedly leave you appreciating your favorite musical artists even more.