High Fidelity: 5 reasons we love our record player

January 22 2015 | Guest post by J.M. Ellison
Crosley shelf record player with speakers
Crosley shelf record player with speakers

We didn't want anything fancy. All we wanted was a pair of computer speakers we could use to play music during parties. That's why I rolled my eyes when my roommate's dad showed up with a record player. “What on earth are are we going to do with that?” I wondered.

I was wrong. So wrong.

Our record player is my favorite part of our apartment — and we even have in-unit laundry, so that's really saying something. Here are the top five reasons we love it:

1. The warmth of vinyl, man:

When the needle dropped and the first chords of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust thundered out of our speakers, I turned to my roommate and said, “Damn it, I just became one of those people.”

Those people, the audiophiles and obnoxious music snobs, are completely right: vinyl sounds better — especially when you've got a high quality pair of speakers. Trust me, you don't really want to buy a record player with built-in speakers. Okay, I'll forgive you if it looks a steampunk contraption or a rockabilly jukebox. But, really, find a turntable, a receiver, speakers and some wire and put it together yourself. Find a music snob, or someone over 50 to help you. It's worth it. After years of playing mp3s through my crummy computer speakers, I feel like I'm finally listening to music again.

2. Feeling fancy:

Vinyl sounds better than digital, but that's only a part of the pleasure of records. I love flipping through our collection, looking at the album covers, choosing the perfect record, sliding it out of its case, carefully placing it on the turntable, and watching the needle drop. For me, it's a complete aesthetic experience. Putting a record on makes cleaning the house fun and eating dinner feel fancy.

Records by Colour
Thanks to Allison for uploading this photo of her vinyl collection arranged by color to our Flickr pool.

3. Buying music is fun again:

In the era of free, legal streaming, I buy very little music. Having a record player has given me a reason to buy albums again. A record provides an experience that I can't stream online, which makes me more excited to support my favorite artists.

4. Expand your musical tastes:

Our record collection doesn't reflect my usual tastes: instead it's Joan Jett, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald, even the Beach Boys. Most of our collection was given to my roommate by her father or found at thrift stores. In fact, at our local thrift store, records are only a dollar and flipping through them is always an adventure. Used records are sometimes scratched, but it's easy to check for damage. I don't recommend buying expensive used records until you know what you're looking at, but dollar records have never disappointed me. The pleasure of finding new, unexpected music is totally worth a few bucks.

5. The pleasure of obsession:

When my roommate and I first started using our record player, we wondered how long the novelty would last. We didn't need to worry. Record collecting is a hobby that provides a million ways to geek out…

There's no wrong way to enjoy vinyl. Girl, put your records on. You're going to love it.

What are your favorite things about rocking a record player?

  1. Ah, the vinyl bug! I've suffered from it all my life. Personally I blame my father. I remember watching him handle his records with such care, cleaning each side so carefully before placing it on the turntable. I remember the day that he finally allowed me to put one on, it was one of the best moments of my childhood. I couldn't believe that he had trusted me to handle something that he didn't let anybody else touch. I don't know if he ever knew how excited I was about it (although looking back I suspect that he did).

    When I left for university my father let me pick one record to take with me. I chose 'Song to a Seagull' bu Joni Mitchell and it became one of my prized possessions. I quickly developed a vinyl habit even though I didn't have a turntable to play them on, spending happy hours in thrift shops and flea markets. I bought them and put them away, occasionally getting them out to just look at them. It became a bit of a ritual to take one out and clean it whenever I was feeling home sick because it reminded me so much of my father.

    When we bought our first house 2 years ago we had a little money left over after everything was completed. So I treated us to a brand new turntable, amp and speakers. It was the best £1000 I ever spent. I got home and put 'Song to a Seagull' on for the first time since I had left home. It was that moment that made me feel like our new house really was our home. Since then our record collection has swelled and taken over more shelves than I care to admit. I use our turntable almost every day and when I clean the records it still makes me think of my father.

  2. I can't agree more!!! We got a player last year as a wedding present and we have loved building our record collection. Some of the most random purchases have turned out to be our favorites. Trust me – nothing puts you into the holiday spirit more than hearing the Julie Andrews Christmas Collection! Dat voice, though….

  3. My favorite thing about having a record player is that it forces me to listen to an album all the way through–something I basically never do with shuffle and playlists and only owning singles!

  4. *sigh* I'm 45, I grew up with vinyl, & I'm SO over it. I used to have a vast vinyl collection. I was really really into it. My mom was too. It was a big thing in the '70s & '80s. Annnnnnd I'm done.

    I'm happy for CDs or, better still, digital files that aren't furniture the way ye olde staxx of wax were. And I'm glad I don't have to worry about vinyl getting direct sun, or always having fresh needles for the turntable. I loves me some vintage stuff & I'm a historical reenactor playing in the 16th & 18th centuries, so I know from old, but I was pretty happy to finally transition out from under a big pile of vinyl to digital tunes.

    The only thing I do miss are genuine albums. Gatefold 3-4 disk albums with a crazy connected story between all the songs & gorgeous artwork. Nobody's going to make a later-day "Tales from Topographic Oceans" for download!

  5. I'm 46, & never got rid of my vinyl. Because I also never got rid of my cassettes…or my CD's…and now I'm p*ssed that I have also had to download everything I already PAID for, more than once, just to listen to it when I workout or am in a car (although, I still have a cassette player in 'my' old car, LOL!)…I feel like, where does it end??? Anyhow, I have 3 turntables, incl. this snazzy little number which has round speakers, & is a late 60's relic. (Mine's electric blue, though):
    http://www.pinterest.com/pin/8655424258203550/

    • Yes! I am a little older than the average reader so I grew up with vinyl also. I too have kept a lot of vinyl and have always regretted letting go of some records post-college. There have been so many media changes in the last 50 years (45's, 33's, reel to reel, casette, 8 track, CDs, Ipod, Mp3's, etc.) I am also tired of paying for the same music over and over. I refuse to buy digital downloads that just don't sound as good. Besides, when you came of age listing to an album, you get used to that order of songs and want to hear it that way. There is also something very special about an album you have played so much that it develops static & pops. A friend calls that "love fuzz" on the record. I even enjoy it on second-hand records, because I know it is the expression of someone else's love for the music.

  6. We play vinyl everyday, it really does have such a higher sound quality! We play CDs in the car and maybe once every 6 – 12 months we will get the dancier CD's out.
    My favourite albums on vinyl are very eclectic. I reconmend people check out some Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Snow for old-school blues/funkiness/yodeling.
    I know they have this reputation for being fragile… but honestly most of our CD's that are over a couple of months old are unplayable due to scratches. We've got records from the 50's that play perfectly, i cant imagine any used CD being playable in 60 years from now.

  7. I have a small vinyl collection mostly thrifted, and I REALLY REALLY want to get a player and some speakers, but I don't know where to start or how much to spend!

    • I would suggest that you go to a good hi-fi store and ask their advice. If you are in the UK then I would recommend Richer Sounds http://www.richersounds.com/ They give very good advice depending on what budget you're working to and what musical tastes you have and will set the system up in store for you to listen to how it would sound. For example, you can save some money on an amp and spend more on speakers if you mainly listen to rock, but if you listen to a lot of jazz then the best amp you can afford is essential for sound quality. I'm sure that there will be similar places to Richer Sounds in the US and around the world.

  8. This post is perfect! Just last weekend I got an old console stereo with a record player. It had an Elvis record in it already (who knows how long it has been there!) and it played beautifully. I was kind of surprised by how warm and nice the sound was. I don't even like Elvis, but I listened to the whole record. Now I'm really mad that I got rid of all my i'm-a-weird-teen-so-i-collect-records records. But now I get to go thrifting for them all over again!

  9. Yay! We LOVE our little record player. It's a Crosley portable, so the sound is nothing amazing, and I can't really tell the difference (between vinyl and anything else) anyhow. That is, aside from the lovely hisses and pops at the beginning.
    I got into my parents folk collection when I was in high school in the late 90's. It was much harder to find a record player then, but my grandmother lent me her portable one until I actually found a little stereo that had 2 tape decks, held 3 CDs and had a turntable on top! I was in heaven!
    My favorite thing about having a record player is accessibility to music. You can find great music you love really cheap. It's inexpensive to branch out into new territories. But the best part about owning a record player, is there is some REALLY WEIRD SHIZZY out there! And it's often not more than a buck! I just thrifted a record from 1977- "This is your… Princess Adventure- A souvenir "Live" recording of your entire princess cruise!"

  10. So we randomly "inherited" a turn table, receiver, and speakers. All great quality. And a huge record collection of meh quality. But it's been amazing how much fun it's been scouring thrift stores and out-of-the-way antique stores to locate LPs. I live in a "hip" sort of town, so folks are still releasing new stuff on them, too!

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