How to Start Building a Vinyl Collection

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The growth of music streaming has changed the world for music-lovers. Google Music and Spotify and iTunes are indispensable and fantastic tools for discovering new music, stretching your horizons, and getting access to the world of recorded music at low cost. But for a few reasons — including the difference between digital sound and sound that’s made literally by carefully-marked vibrations, the differences in the experience of the music, and the ability to focus on an album as a single piece of work — vinyl is a whole different way of enjoying your music.

Building up a vinyl collection can be incredibly rewarding, a great way of experiencing and enjoying the music you love, and moving from casual consumption to really letting specific works become part of your life. If you’re considering adding a vinyl collection to the way you enjoy music, here are a few things to think about.

  1. Start with the hunt
    If you’re wondering about what kinds of records to start buying, the rule of thumb is to trust the classics. Some of the most ground-breaking records in the history of music can be found in record stores and online, and prices can be amazing, with some classics available for as little as $1. Look up the lists online, and start checking off one record after another. If you have any particular favorites, that would be a great place to get going, but consider thinking about the classics of other eras — Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Dark Side of the Moon, Black Moses — and discovering why they made such an impact when they came out, because the vinyl sound was a big part of that.
  2. Invest in hardware
    This is easily one the most basic question any vinyl newbie faces. The answer depends on what you’re looking to get out of your vinyl collection. If you’re just starting out, and if it’s the whole look and feel of vinyl that fascinates you, you’re better off getting a turntable that’s inexpensive, just to try it out. If you’re an audiophile, then a ‘professional’ turntable is the way to go. And the sound you get from a good turntable depends on the amplifier you buy; digital amps are great but there are some vintage valve-based amps which can really add to the organic richness of the sound.
  3. Store Vinyl Carefully!
    Storing your vinyl records in a cool, dry place is ideally the best way to go about it; and always, always store your records vertically, one beside the other. Placing them one above the other may seem to be space-saving, but this poses the very real risk of warping your vinyl. Vinyl that is substantially warped is practically impossible to play – and stacking the record one above the other isn’t the only way they get warped. Too much exposure to direct sunlight can also have a similar effect.

If you’re still on the wall about getting into vinyl collection, you might be able to find a listening party near you, where groups get together to listen to a whole album, quietly, together; really focusing on the sound and the craft that has been put into the production of the music, and the relationship between the sound and the format. Give it a try, and if you like it, go ahead and enjoy building a vinyl collection!

Check out the list we’ve compiled of some of San Francisco’s best record stores and start building your vinyl collection today!

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.

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