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Old 01-28-2016, 05:37 AM
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Default The real hipster music begins here: Talking about vinyl LPs

So, hello. As I've recounted on my blog, my parents dumped a milk crate of my old records on me a couple of months ago, and rather than let them continue to sit and gather dust I decided to buy a record player so I could enjoy them. In the process, I discovered that listening to vinyl has become very trendy lately. I seriously would not have seen that coming 20 years ago, when I was taking home unwanted records by very good acts by the armful for a couple dollars apiece.

Anyway, now that I have a good record player and headphones for the first time in my life and have discovered the value of cleaning the discs and the stylus, I'm really enjoying listening to music this way! I'm also curious about the surprising amount of vinyl newly available on the market. How can I tell what's good and what's trash?

For reference, I just bought the Axiom Verge soundtrack and it sounds stunning. But I also received a new pressing of Led Zeppelin IV for Christmas along with the turntable, and it is pure garbage. Terrible sound quality, skips and pops straight out of the sleeve, and even the cover art's print quality looks like someone scanned the CD case and blew it up to LP size (reading about it online, this is also speculated to be how they mastered the LP's audio as well, rather than going back to the source tapes).

Obviously if I'm going to be buying more LPs and dabbling in new issues as well as secondhand records, I'd like to find more Axiom Verges and avoid the Led Zeppelin IVs, if you see what I mean. Any pointers? Advice? I'd prefer to avoid reading music blogs and reviews, because they tend to be insufferable... and I say this as someone whose writing about video games continues to be characterized as "pretentious."

Also, any recommendations from RDU Triangle people on where to find crazy cheap used LPs? I know need to head back to the state flea market by the stadium... I took a trip there last year while my mother was in town, and the three-booth wide used record stand was what reminded her to go hunting for my old albums in the first place.
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Old 01-28-2016, 06:00 AM
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I've been considering it, but the rising demand kind of scares me off. I was browsing Amoeba in Berkeley and pretty much any band with a smidgeon of cachet had zero used LPs and nothing but $25 new pressings. I'd say your best bet is thrift stores or music shops away from college epicenters, if you have the carrying capacity.
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Old 01-28-2016, 06:08 AM
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I have a decent sized collection. Need a new turntable.

Shit, whenever I go to LA I check out amoeba and walk out empty handed everytime. 200 dollars for Mad Season's album? Fuck that.

It's not a cheap hobby, comes down to a money vs. time value proposition. For me, hunting for bargains never really felt worth the time and effort, especially not now that everyone is on the boat and pressings can vary in quality anyway.

I'm still in the middle of gathering all my favorite cds in vinyl, which has been one of the easier parts of building it out because its a lot of not in demand stuff (no one's searching high and low for a vinyl of Sam's Town). Or just really old pressings that I stumbled upon (got pretty much every genesis album from Lamb onward in a friend's attic). But there's some really expensive and rare stuff I want, mainly a lot of smashing pumpkins stuff (that machina remaster can't come soon enough).

Keeping up with new bands is where I spend the most money, things usually stay around the 18-20 dollar range.

Quote:
I'd say your best bet is thrift stores or music shops away from college epicenters, if you have the carrying capacity.
^

I got a pretty great place in long island I go to, but I seem to walk out with more cds than vinyls lately...

btw, some limited vinyl releases (which are catching on in a big way) command the same stupid market patterns that your typical collectible does, be wary.

Quote:
Obviously if I'm going to be buying more LPs and dabbling in new issues as well as secondhand records, I'd like to find more Axiom Verges and avoid the Led Zeppelin IVs, if you see what I mean. Any pointers? Advice? I'd prefer to avoid reading music blogs and reviews, because they tend to be insufferable... and I say this as someone whose writing about video games continues to be characterized as "pretentious."
there doesn't seem to be an equivalent to like, blu-ray digest where they go over if its a good pressing or what not. Best bet is to just google an album you're interested in and see if people are talking about if its shit quality on a forum like you are about led zep 4.
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Old 01-28-2016, 06:20 AM
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Oh wait there is a site I forgot about that i usually get updates on from my email.

http://modern-vinyl.com/category/reviews/ modern-vinyl covers a lot of recent more quirky things. Their reviews have game and film osts on them and stuff.

an example of a good, thorough review from them
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Old 01-28-2016, 06:21 AM
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Well, I live in a college epicenter, but there's still definitely some quality to be found for cheap in used record bins. It's more that you just have to hope they aren't some band that's been "picked up" by the pitchfork faring scene, but I can easily get about any used jazz or soul record for just a few dollars at most. Actually, my best bet for for cheap vinyl is not a music specific store (i think they market themselves as a trade post for games/movies/music/whatever) so idk, peak into those every once in a while. Obviously thrift stores will be a decent bet. And check garage sale listings too. Usually some cheap and decent picks for old popular stuff.

I tend to spend way too much anyway and just get specific stuff from discogs and all that though so ignore me if you please.
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Old 01-28-2016, 07:23 AM
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Thankfully Pitchfork hates the hell out of the music I listen to, so no concerns there.
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Old 01-28-2016, 07:27 AM
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My favorite thing about Vinyl records is the fact that one of our FORUM HEROES Little Sampson bought a ton of them back in the day, and they all came with a set number of digital downloads for the purchase and he was just tossing codes at me left and right.
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Old 01-28-2016, 07:33 AM
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I have two vinyl records.

- Off the Wall
- Do the Bartman
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Old 01-28-2016, 08:31 AM
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The simplest advice I'd give to someone getting into collecting LPs is to opt for a copy from the country of origin whenever possible. There's always numerous exceptions, but that's the safest bet one can make consistently.

So that would mean go to Discogs for the non-domestic stuff. Also remember that Europe has a different grading system than we do. The main difference is that they have EX condition which bumps VG+ down. An American VG+ LP can be pretty great, but in Europe that's a bit of a beater.

Reissues can be a bit of a bother these days. There's no guarantee they haven't been cut from digital either. There's a lot of mediocre stuff feeding the "vinyl craze" for people who don't care. I wouldn't get anything made currently without explicit provenance and/or enthuisastic recommendations.

By far the best place I've found for getting the lowdown on the best pressing of a particular LP is the Steve Hoffman forums. There are plenty of kooks, but I've learned a hell of a lot about music there. The host is a really good mastering engineer and has given a ton of great advice. You can just use Google to find whatever album you want to look up there.

http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/forums/music-corner.2/

Oh, and a good trick when you're digging and want to size an LP up quickly. Look for spindle wear. You can tell how many times an LP has been carelessly played by looking for marks where a previous owner was feeling for the hole instead of looking. It gives you a bit of an idea of how they treated their records.
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Old 01-28-2016, 09:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Parish View Post
So, hello. As I've recounted on my blog, my parents dumped a milk crate of my old records on me a couple of months ago, and rather than let them continue to sit and gather dust I decided to buy a record player so I could enjoy them. In the process, I discovered that listening to vinyl has become very trendy lately. I seriously would not have seen that coming 20 years ago, when I was taking home unwanted records by very good acts by the armful for a couple dollars apiece.
A family friend owns a record shop in Denver and he basically weathered the CD storm and is now doing extremely well. In fact, he recently came to visit and told me that tapes are now undergoing a similar rise in popularity. They don't even sound good and they break extremely easily, but they are now the new new trendy thing. In comparison the popularity of vinyl is super reasonable.

A few of my friends have been collecting vinyl for decades and have huge awesome collections. I've considered starting myself, but so far:

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Originally Posted by madhair60 View Post
I have two vinyl records.

- Let it Bleed
- the Blues Brothers Soundtrack
Also my record player doesn't work anymore. I'm probably going to stick to MP3s and go to friends houses for better sounding stuff.
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  #11  
Old 01-28-2016, 09:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick View Post
In fact, he recently came to visit and told me that tapes are now undergoing a similar rise in popularity. They don't even sound good and they break extremely easily, but they are now the new new trendy thing.
Uggghhhh. Is Guardians of the Galaxy the origin of this? At least it's a distraction from vinyl.
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Old 01-28-2016, 09:33 AM
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I think it's just 90's nostalgia. He bought a huge collection for next to nothing and has been making a killing on them. He's pretty happy about it even though he doesn't understand it at all.
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Old 01-28-2016, 09:57 AM
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Where is the thread for talking about collecting the real hipster music delivery device: the 8-track?
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Old 01-28-2016, 10:05 AM
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Edison-style wax cylinders or GTFO.

Seriously, though, any renewed interest in tapes seems like the worst kind of misguided nostalgia. I hated cassettes growing up but couldn't afford a CD player. They were poverty music. There are albums that I had to listen to on warped, badly treated secondhand cassettes for years, and even now I hear the distortions and decay in my mind when I listen to those albums on clean, remastered CDs. The mixtape thing was fun, but as soon as I gained the ability to burn music to CDs I dropped tapes like a bad habit.

The Steve Hoffman forum link is pretty rad, though. Thank you!
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Old 01-28-2016, 10:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taosterman View Post
Uggghhhh. Is Guardians of the Galaxy the origin of this?
No. Tapes are cheap and plentiful and records are still expensive to manufacture (especially now that major labels are getting back in the game and clogging up the limited number of record plants' pressing schedules). If you're a small band or artist who wants a physical recording to sell, a tape is the cheapest and easiest option, and the equipment required to use them is still available in thrift stores all over.
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Old 01-28-2016, 10:36 AM
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Is tape really cheaper than a CD-R? Decent cassettes sell for 50 cents to a dollar... CD-Rs are about a penny apiece.
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Old 01-28-2016, 10:39 AM
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No, but, for whatever reason, CDs have never been "cool." The era of analog media seems to correlate directly with the golden ages of the major modern music canons, so one can't easily deny that, like with LPs, nostalgia is a major factor. That period in the late 90s up to the mid 2000s where analog was over but CDs were still common seems like the fucking dark ages now.

This quote from Brian Eno may or may not be relevant here:

Quote:
Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit — all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.
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Old 01-28-2016, 10:44 AM
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CD-Rs always look cheap and are difficult to personalize. the best you can do is a flimsy jewel case or if you're really enterprising go through the hassle of lightscribe (is that even still around?)

cassettes you can put art on the case, in the tape case itself, buy colored ones (you can with cds too, of course) and get the equipment to record to it a lot easier. Plus there is a novelty to them, I'd be more willing to check out a band's demo if it were a cassette than a CD-r, and if you're a band trying to get out there, novelty is one of your best tools.
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Old 01-28-2016, 10:52 AM
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It may also be worth noting that, at the bottom rung, the appeal of an unknown act is mostly a community-oriented intimacy. Friends seeing each others' bands in each others' basements and living rooms and so on. A kitschy, small-batch, hand-assembled object like a cassette holds a lot more appeal than the innately sterile CD. Also, perhaps due to the long tailed influence of punk and garage values, or maybe due to the general feelings that drive individuals towards those obscure minor leagues in the first place, the pursuit of the highest fidelity or recording quality is often seen as pretentious and goofy.
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Old 01-28-2016, 11:10 AM
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People self-publishing from their bedroom use CD-R, low budget labels use cassettes.

and I've seen some nice packaging for CD-R with loads of personality (even it if was mostly because of some hand drawn inserts and such).
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Old 01-28-2016, 11:25 AM
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I love that my characterization of cassettes as "poverty music" has eroded. Now the medium I coveted when I could only afford cassettes is for cheap-ass losers. Truly, time makes fools of us all.
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Old 01-28-2016, 11:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Parish View Post
I love that my characterization of cassettes as "poverty music" has eroded. Now the medium I coveted when I could only afford cassettes is for cheap-ass losers. Truly, time makes fools of us all.
Haha, well, in a way you're still right. From what I understand about your own personal taste, tape is definitely not an ideal medium. If I were going to listen to Rush or Yes I wouldn't choose a cassette. I can ponder but can't offer personal anecdotes as to why people are buying like- Smiths tapes or whatever (other than "it's cool," I guess). It has almost nothing to do with quality and everything to do with "shifting social and personal values within national and local subcultures," or something.
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Old 01-28-2016, 11:46 AM
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That's all really fascinating. And I have to admit there's something appealingly DIY and personal about making a mixtape - having to listen to each song in its entirety, make the song breaks manually, figure out how much music can fit on a single side.
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Old 01-28-2016, 12:22 PM
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So what started as a single album (the Mother vinyl from the Kickstarter campaign) has grown to about a dozen with a few more on order; mainly game/movie soundtracks and some limited releases from artists I follow on Bandcamp.

I never owned LPs before (tapes were the thing when I was young) but I wanted a means to play them so now I've got an entry level turntable (not a Crosley thankfully) and I know enough to at least play them and move the arm to the different tracks.

Can anyone point me to some good resources for advice on care of vinyl and turntables? I tried a bit of searching and got overwhelmed. I've got a few questions I figured I'd ask (remember I'm a LP newcomer) that may be obvious in retrospect.

Any tips for storage methods? Right now I've just got them leaned against the table with the turntable on it. I'd like a case or something, but I guess the "milk crate" is the traditional way of storing LP?

How important are paper sleeves? Some of the albums I've purchased have the vinyl inside a paper sleeve in addition to the outer jacket. Others are just sit inside the jacket itself. I've seen seen varying information on the need for these and what type is 'best'.

Any guidance on cleaning both the vinyl and turntable? I can already tell I'm picking up some dust despite my best efforts to keep it off the records and turntable. I've seen suggestions on just using a clean microfiber cloth to gently wipe the records, or investing in a purpose built brush/cleaning solution. Then there's the 'disc washer' I see mentioned. Any tips on cleaning the stylus?

How big of a difference does the turntable mat make? Mine came with a felt one to place over the aluminum 'table' which seems nice but then I see advice that it should be replaced with cork or some other material to reduce static. I even saw one on Amazon made with deer hide.

I'm certainly willing to spend a bit extra to keep my vinyl in good shape and playing well, but I'm also not looking to drop huge amounts of money.
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Old 01-28-2016, 01:08 PM
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A few thoughts on some of that stuff:

Inner sleeves are good. I'm a little scared of records with no inner sleeve. You definitely want something. The best are the cool rice paper ones, but you can probably just get a pack of some cheap ones and be alright.

Always keep your records vertical. Never pile them on top of each other.

The super legit way to keep everything in top shape is to buy plastic outer sleeves put the empty LP jacket in front and the inserts and the record in the inner sleeve behind it. If you store the LP in the jacket you may eventually make out the shape of the record on a darker cover. I never went that far, but that's best practices.

I would recommend not using any inner sleeves with liner notes or cool art for LP storage and put the record in a plain sleeve. Just treat the original sleeve like an insert. It'll hold up way better.

You'll want a dry carbon fiber brush to wipe your records before a play. I use the Hunt EDA, but that Audioquest one is cheaper and probably good enough.

You'll also want something to get the dust off your stylus between sides. There's a lot of tiny brushes out there. I use the Onzow Zerodust for convenience, but it's a little expensive. It's a little rubbery bubble you can just dip your stylus into.

Wet cleaning is something you'll want to look into. There's a ton of options. The best are enormously expensive vaccuuming machines. There's cheaper ways if you want to work harder. Just read as much as you can and follow your heart.

Turntable mats go as deep as you could ever spend or want. I'd stick with your felt mat and take care of cleaning and sleeves for now.
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Old 01-28-2016, 01:25 PM
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The one thing I have to add is that you should avoid plastic inner sleeves. Certain kinds of plastic have a chemical reaction with vinyl and will degrade your records over time. Paper is ideal!
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Old 01-28-2016, 02:00 PM
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I have like 50 LPs and 45s of old bollywood hits that my dad brought over in the 70s. its super cool to go back over those again.
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Old 01-28-2016, 06:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ghosttaster View Post
This quote from Brian Eno may or may not be relevant here:
The advent of photography didn't stop people from painting pictures.
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Old 01-28-2016, 06:48 PM
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Don't forget to check out Record Store Day in April. Every year there's something really cool for cheap and something crazy expensive to ponder.
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Old 01-28-2016, 07:31 PM
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Thanks for the advice xyzzy and Parish.

I've ordered a set of paper sleeves and something to wipe records with as I found some reasonably priced options for both.

Still doing a bit of reading on stylus cleaning. I see claims you can use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to clean a stylus. That seems crazy but there seems to be a lot of support for it. Ever heard of that method?

The Onzow Zerodust looks nice, but seems like it's an import and pricey as you mentioned.

As a cheaper alternative, any stylus brushes you recommend xyzzy? Wet or dry cleaning methods?
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