High Fidelity: Going Vinyl in Four Steps
There’s no denying the convenience of an iPod. But the digital revolution has come at a cost. In order to maintain manageable file-sizes, most mp3s contain music that’s been considerably compressed from the original recording. To combat the suffering sound quality, many music-lovers are going vinyl.
Records not only sound much better than mp3s and CDs, they look a much cooler too. Bob Dylan recently complained that CDs have “no stature” – and he’s right, they don’t. At least not compared to albums, whose covers often double as legitimate pop art.
Going vinyl can be daunting, however, especially for those of us who are unfamiliar with audiophile jargon – of which there is plenty! (Warning: the record-listening sub-culture attracts more than its share of obsessive purists.) It can also be a confusing process for someone on a budget. But fear not, Loftlife can help:
Go to eBay and get yourself an integrated amplifier. Since records require more amplification than CDs, tapes or mp3s, you’ll need to make sure the one you choose has a phono “stage” or input. This probably means you’re looking for one from the 70s or 80s. They usually run somewhere between $300-400. Don’t worry – these things are built like tanks. A few reliable brands to search for are NAD , the vintage line Scott or Marantz . (Note: your CDs and iPod will sound a whole lot better routed through one of these units as well.)
Next, get your turntable. The easiest way to do this is to hit up the friendly folks at needledoctor.com . They can find you the player that’s right for you and answer any questions you might have about the world of vinyl.
For those looking for true high-fi, the Rega P1 is the most bang for your buck at $400! And so is the Pro-Jekt Debut III at $330. For basic listening, head over to turntable.com and you will find turntables for $80. If you think you might want to try your hand at DJ-ing or scratching, be sure to get one with a dual-drive motor: Numark’s are normally a bargain.
Speakers. Since you now have more space to fill, you may want to trade in your old bookshelf speakers for some floor-standing ones. A great site for speaker reviews and all things technological is Unplugged The bad news is, a good-sounding set of floor speakers can be very expensive. So again, eBay or audiogon.com is probably your best bet, where you can usually score a good pair for under $500. Some quality hi-fi brands to keep an eye out for include Klipsch , Polk , Paradigm , and B&W .
Go out and buy some records! Check the phonebook first – most cities still have a store or two that specialize in vintage vinyl. Garage sales are also a great place to start, just make sure to check the condition of the record itself before making a purchase. Look to spend between $5 and $15 on clean copies of your all your old favorites. If you’re looking for rare albums, try musicstack.com or gemm.com. For newer and reissued records, check musicdirect.com or lightintheattic.com. You’ll be surprised at how many bands still put out their music on vinyl – most musicians even say it’s their preferred format.
Now – you’re ready to rock and roll. Believe us, once you’ll go vinyl, you never go back. Your ears will thank you!
Posted by David Zahl