Vinyl records have made a remarkable comeback in the past few years.
There is an
undeniable ďrightnessĒ and warmth to the sound of a well made and played vinyl record,
particularly when compared to compressed digital files (the vast majority of downloaded
material) or disc players of limited quality (the majority of CD players in use). I get
frequent inquiries regarding both new turntables and the repair and alignment of older
equipment. There are some great new products available which bring high fidelity replay
of LPís well within reach of most people. Alternatively, there are good older turntables
out there which are well worth a tune up, and which are capable decent sound with low
record wear. So, basically, this is good news - affordable new and used equipment, lots
of inexpensive used LPís and many new LPís, of both classic and new music.
But there is another side to this story. Vinyl LPís are inherently different from the digital
media which dominate the market (CDís and downloads) in that they are delicate by
nature. They are subject to wear when played improperly and need precision in the
playback equipment to deliver the sound quality of which they are capable. Iíve dealt
with a surprising number of people who have purchased or are considering new very
low cost turntables of low quality, or have come across a poor quality used turntable.
These are best avoided. They will not sound good (in some cases they wonít even
reliably play through a complete record side), and they will excessively wear the LP as it
is played. Even a single play using this type of machine can damage an LP. Given the
irreplaceable nature of older, out of print LPís and the cost of new vinyl, it makes no
sense to use these turntables - it would be far better to download the music. These
machines are essentially novelty devices - aimed at the current trendiness of LPís, but
bringing no sound advantage to the consumer.
In short, LPís can provide great sound. If you have a decent turntable which hasnít been
adjusted for some time, have it evaluated by an experienced person. If necessary,
invest in a new phono cartridge, and have a correct alignment done. If you donít have
an adequate turntable, donít be tempted to play your LPís on a machine which will
damage them - consider a new turntable from a specialty manufacturer such as Pro-Ject or
Rega. Verify that your system is equipped with a
phono input - if not, there are very good outboard units available at reasonable prices.
Finally, pick up a good record brush and stylus cleaner. Now youíre set to enjoy good
Send me your comments and thoughts, I'm always curious to hear from other enthusiasts.