Real Groovy's Christ Hart. Photo / Chris Gorman

Vinyl Starter Kit: An Expert's Guide To Collecting Records

Managing director of Real Groovy, Chris Hart, takes us through our vinyl paces

A vinyl collection is an investment... if you’re buying the earliest possible pressings by reputable artists, they’re almost certain to increase in value. Those are the ones sought out by fans and collectors: they tend to be mastered from earlier generation tapes and engineered and cut by professionals who took the process to an art form.

There are plenty of vintage turntables out there... but a good one isn’t going to be any cheaper than an equivalent-sounding new one.

You can get a good little full system... for around $1000, and if you have a home theatre system to hook it up to, you can get an amazing sounding turntable for the same.

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When it comes to speakers our advice is to... get the best turntable/cartridge combination, then amp and speakers. It’s better to upgrade those as you need – if you start with a good front-end, you’re protecting your greatest investment, your records, and a good turntable combo will extract the information most faithfully from the grooves. Larger speakers – or small ones with a subwoofer - can fill the room with sound without having to be turned up too loud. That way you won’t get aural fatigue, and you’ll enjoy the music more.

Old records that haven't been played in a long time can benefit from a wash. Photo / Richard Robinson

The layout of your room is important because... you want to avoid reflection. Carpets, drapes and soft furnishings will improve the sound hugely. If you have a glass-topped coffee table between you and the speakers, put a tablecloth on it so the treble doesn’t get interference. If your seating has a flat wall behind it, try moving forward or back, to avoid slap-back of the bass. Make sure the speakers are in the corners, on the narrow side of the room, but just out from the wall.

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Don’t try to put a record on after the fifth margarita... and don’t touch the playing surface. There’s been a whole generation of DJs who have treated records as disposable, slapping them on to the turntables. That’s fine for dance music but terrible if you’re listening to anything that has quiet passages – you’ll get pops and clicks and surface noise, and dust will stick to your fingerprints. A carbon fibre dust brush is only a few dollars, and plastic sleeves will keep the cover from wearing.

If you put a secondhand record in its cover and leave it unplayed for 20 years... the surface will turn into a little biology experiment. It does no harm to the vinyl, but the mycellae end up caking around the stylus and the music distorts. The records need to be washed.

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It’s hard to tell the quality of a record unless you can play it... a lot of records from the 1950s and 1960s were pressed on hard vinyl compounds, and even styrene, and sometimes they can look unplayable, but still sound great – the early Beatles and Stones records are a case in point. Others may have been pressed on poor-quality vinyl and didn’t sound good from the get-go.

A consistently top-rated turntable is the... Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit, $949, and the straight Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, $729.

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