Please Be Careful Where You Buy Used Vinyl Records
*If you look carefully at the picture you will notice several scratches on this Johnny Cash Vinyl Record
This blog post comes with a couple of disclaimers.
First, this post isn’t meant to say anything negative about shops and stores that stock used vinyl. There are so many cool shops that dabble in vinyl records and many of my customers come in so happy to have made some amazing finds.
Second, this post is neither for the experienced vinyl collector nor the person who’s just getting started and is just happy to have a copy of Fleetwood Mac Rumours in their records collection.
The point of this post is to help those who are starting their vinyl record collecting in a new direction and beginning to be particular about the condition of their records as well as the condition of their turntable stylus (often called the needle).
For several years now I’ve been upgrading my own vinyl collection as well as my turntable cartridge by replacing/upgrading both. When I started collecting again in 2008, I was just happy to have vintage vinyl to play on my 70s console. As I started to become more serious about my record collection, I started to realize that some of my vinyl records sounded amazing while some had so many skips and pops that it made the experience of playing vinyl less enjoyable. At the same time, I noticed that the sound clarity coming from the turntable in my console was deteriorating. So I started to get serious about my collection and my stereo setup. If that’s where you are, read on.
I love talking to my customers and one common discussion is coming up more and more. They are finding used vinyl records everywhere. Every thrift store, antique store and used clothing store. This typically turns into a discussion about the scratches and condition of the records they are finding. So I thought it was worth a post that covered this subject and I could offer up some advice based on my experiences.
Now one more time I want to stress that I am in no way bashing these stores that are carrying used vinyl that is scratched. These places are trying to make a living just like the rest of us and there are a lot of vinyl collectors who are happy to buy what they are selling.
For those that are in that space of upgrading, I wanted to offer up the following:
The reason we all spend so much money on our vinyl records and stereo systems is because we are chasing what I call a “pure sound experience.” We are trying to experience what it sounded like on the original tapes after our favorite albums were recorded. We absolutely do not want pops, crackles and skips or worse yet a stuck needle playing the same part over and over again. This is not as some say “part of the vinyl experience.” - if it were, the album producer would have added the pops and hissing in the original recordings.
Scratched vinyl causes unnecessary wear on the needle and will require replacement sooner than necessary. The average turntable cartridge should last for many years. Turntable cartridges cost between $25 and go up into the thousands. Just take a look at this Ortofon 2M Black LVB 250 for $999. I clean every vinyl record I own before I spin it as well as clean my stylus. That’s how careful I am.
Playing scratched records all the time causes damage to the needle and a damaged needle causes damage to vinyl records. It’s cyclical - taking care of both protects your investment as well as provides the sounds you are looking for
To sum this article up (if you are just beginning to get serious about collecting vinyl and investing in equipment) buy your used vinyl records from a trusted source and when you are out antiquing and thrift store shopping, take the time to inspect the record carefully before you purchase it.