The marked resurgence of vinyl culture has not only persisted, but spread beyond “dad-rock boomers” and the novelty inclinations of hipsters. It has woven its way into the mainstream and raked in a ton of cash for the vinyl industry along the way.
Dan Cook, owner and operator of Los Angeles’s Gimme Gimme Records for the past 26 years, told HuffPost why he thinks vinyl continues to stay relevant after so many years.
″The tactile and deliberate act of choosing something to listen to, along with playing and flipping the record, makes things more focused and involved,” Cook said.
Cook also cites the deep historical connection associated with records, and “the fun that comes with searching stores for the records you want and the ones you didn’t know you wanted. ”
Barry Perlman, the owner and operator of Supervinyl in Los Angeles, says listening to vinyl is the closest thing to a real life concert. “You can put on ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and listen to it all the way through, the exact way it was recorded and the exact way the musical artist wanted you to hear it,” Perlman said.
Whatever the case may be, the kind of record player you use is an integral piece of the listening experience when it comes to vinyl. Unlike the digital world of streaming, analog music and the mechanical workings of a turntable play off one another in magical ways to influence and create the sounds, tones, warmth and melodies that come out the other end.
A turntable’s cartridge, for instance, is the critical component responsible for transforming the grooves on a record into sound, and can make all the difference between a tinny, distant-sounding performance and one of complete high fidelity.
If you are looking for a way to immerse yourself in the sardonic sounds of The Smiths or rediscover the crooning lyrics of Roy Orbison’s ”Crying,” these record player recommendations may be just what you need to listen to your records the way the music gods intended.
A solid entry-level choice for those new to vinyl
If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed by the nuanced mechanical workings of record players, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X can be an affordable and easy-to-use option. "It's best to have a turntable that has a high-quality cartridge," said Eric Brendo, owner of Sonic Dude Records
in Los Angeles. The dual magnet cartridge in this Audio-Technica model is the result of 50 years in phono cartridge design. It offers low distortion and improved channel separation to ensure great tonal quality and performance. Using the built-in switchable preamp input and outputs, you can play music through your speakers, home audio system or even computer with ease. Get it from Amazon for $129.
A dynamically designed option that's good for smaller spaces
Michael Kurtz is the co-founder of Record Store Day
, a global gathering of nearly 1,400 independent record stores and a true portrayal of vinyl culture and its deep appreciation for music. Kurtz told HuffPost that "your record player should be appropriate for the room it is in." For smaller areas like a bedroom or the office, the Crosley C3 is Kurtz's turntable of choice. "In my office I have my Crosley C3 turntable hooked up to Andover Spinbase Speaker System
and it sounds great," Kurtz said. Aside from being one of the more affordable options out there, the Crosley C3's unique base and belt driven turntable mechanism provides a stable foundation to reduce any unnecessary vibrations on the platter, lending itself to a clearer sound. Get it from Amazon for $135.48.
An all around industry favorite that offers upgrades
"U-Turn Audio makes a great [turn]table," said Oren Pius, owner of Cosmic Vinyl
in Los Angeles, citing its carefully considered drive, acrylic platter, tonearm and cartridge. Brendo, who personally uses U-Turn Audio turntables himself, agreed. "It's important that the record is read in the best possible way. You want to make sure your turntable has a rigid tonearm that allows the stylus to effectively transmit from the records to your speakers," Brendo said. The particular platter on the Orbit Plus turntable provides consistency in speed and a more detailed playback as well as a precision gimbal tonearm and elliptical diamond stylus for accurate tracking. Get it from Amazon for $329.
A quality mid-level turntable for those wanting an even richer sound
Some may argue that the graduation from hobby-level record collecting to craving an even greater quality of sound is inevitable. For cases like these, Cook suggested "spending a little more and getting either a Music Hall or Pro-ject." Don't let the simplistic appearance of the Music Hall MMF-1.5 fool you. The low-noise 3-speed belt drive and the isolated synchronous motor provide a sound that's sophisticated and refined. This turntable is also built on special vibration damping feet, a key qualification for a good record player, according to Cook. A good turntable should have "lack of extraneous vibrations on the platter. This can be achieved with a solid/heavy weight player or a platter that is suspended in a way that is unaffected by room or motor vibrations," Cook said. Get it from Amazon for $345.
An expert-level performance, even for the vinyl novice
If you've made it to the full-blown audiophile stage, or just have impeccable ears, the Rega Planar 1 (with the help of a quality sound system) can provide you with an immersive and satisfying sound."Rega has been in business for over 50 years and at this price point, The Planar 1 is the best you can get in terms of sound, quality, performance and durability," Perlman said. This model notably includes a tonearm completely unique to Rega that provides ultra-low friction. Additionally, the carbon phono cartridge and nearly imperceptible motor means you can pay attention to the sound and not get distracted by any underlying hum from the turntable's mechanisms. The Planar 1 is meticulously designed, but it also marries newcomer functionality making it ideal for any dedicated music lover. Get it from Amazon for $525.