Tips for Rookie Record Collectors

NYC vinyl experts share what they know

record tips!

Happy Record Store Day Eve.

To celebrate (and because our NYC editor believes a record collection is her key to happiness), we enlisted three local experts — Josh Madell, co-owner of Other Music; Christopher Klassen, Turntable Lab’s marketing director; and Rob Mayson, the systems manager at Academy Records & CDs — for a crash course in vinyl.


What is a good turntable for someone new to the game?
JM: We carry a nice Audio-Technica model ($100) and another with a USB output to make MP3s from your vinyl ($150). Technics makes a good entry-level turntable, too, but depending on your current setup, you might need a preamp as well — or a whole stereo.

CK: Vintage is cool, but I recommend new for first-time buyers to learn how turntables should work properly. Don’t be blinded by style alone and do some research. Spending money on a great turntable will save you loads of hassle in the long run.

RM: Music Hall USB1 is a great entry-level turntable. It’s very reliable, affordable, comes with all the necessary accessories, and can be connected to a computer via USB or hi-fi receiver. Vintage is definitely fun; however, used turntables require more maintenance to keep them in top form.

Anything to be wary of when buying a used record?
JM: Condition. Take it out of the sleeve and look carefully at the surface under good light. Shallow marks are usually nothing, but scratches or pits will cause pops or skips every time you play it.

CK: Thriller, Off the Wall, and White Album are three of the best-selling records of all time. Don’t pay more than $10-$15, if that, for them. They aren’t rare. Um, what else? Bedbugs?!

RM: Look out for warped vinyl, heavy scratches, dirty records, and the smell of mold. These issues can decrease sound quality and can potentially damage your needle.

First three albums to buy?
JM: My daughter is obsessed with Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. My most listened to might be Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime. For some reason, I thought of The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, by Charles Mingus, but I doubt it’s most people’s “most important jazz album ever.”

CK: Oh, jeez. I suppose this is a matter of personal opinion, but 1) Nirvana Unplugged in New York, 2) Notorious B.I.G. Ready to Die, and 3) Daft Punk Discovery.

RM: How about a rock record, a classical record, and a jazz record? That ought to cover three aural experiences.

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Records vs. streaming. Your thoughts? (Editor’s note: All three waxed poetic on this subject. We suggest you visit in person for the full stories.)
JM: Streaming is about convenience, and services like Spotify are a great resource, but it’s a very different experience from listening to a great LP on a real stereo system. The sound is better with vinyl, and so is the overall experience — LPs require you to take a pause in your hectic life to really connect with music.

CK: Streaming has its rightful place, but you can’t beat the sound of vinyl. The importance of having physical copies varies from person to person, but anything I own on vinyl (especially used) has a story to it. It might be the hoarder in me, but most of them are pretty significant in my life.

RM: Sometimes circumstances mean listening to music however possible. However, streaming seems impersonal and promotes shorter attention spans. Playing an LP on a stereo is more of a ritualistic and engaging activity that is more respectful to the art of album creation.

Records can get dusty! How do you recommend cleaning old vinyl?
JM: I use the Disc Washer system; we sell it for $17.99 at Other Music.

CK: If you can afford it, the VPI cleaning machine is the end all be all. However, there are some simple solutions for surface cleaning such as Gruv Glide (my personal favorite) and Groovy Cleaner.

RM: A soft record brush to wipe dust off the playback surface. If washing is necessary, the semi-industrial beast VPI and the manual yet quick Spin Clean Record Washer MKII (inexpensive, washes both sides of an LP simultaneously).

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Any tips for storage?
JM: Don’t pile records on top of each other. Store on shelves or in crates standing upright, not leaning. Alphabetize if you have the stamina.

CK: Never store records too tightly packed. For extra nerd status, put sleeves on each record. To prevent ring wear on the jacket, remove the record and inner sleeve and bundle all into one poly sleeve.

RM: Store upright and away from heat. Keep them in a dry area as moisture leads to mold, which can damage jackets and spread to the vinyl. Direct sunlight causes cover spines and artwork to fade.

What can’t you stop spinning lately?
JM: We have a label (Other Music Recording Co.), and our next release is from Swedish artist Anna von Hausswolff. I can’t stop listening to her forthcoming album, Ceremony, out in July. Here’s a link to the first single if you want to join me.

CK: In the office, we constantly listen to jazz, post punk, disco, and hip-hop with a few other random things. If I could just listen to DJ Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City record from end to end, I would.

RM: Guy Reibel Granulations-Sillages/Franges du Signe, Booker Little Out Front, Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman Musica Poetica Orff-Schulwerk 10, Chrome Red Exposure, and Sand Golem.

Photos: Tuan Tran / Getty Images; David Redfern / Getty Images; Michael Ochs / Getty Images

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