24 Linn Sondek LP12 aI wonder if part of the appeal of vinyl is that it’s such a cool way to own music. Lots of people still want to own their music rather than rent it, and CDs have become kind of passe. But vinyl records, expensive, inconvenient and fragile as they are, sound great, look terrific and have a cool factor of 11.

I was searching for Uriah Heep’s Salisbury in the large vinyl section of a small music shop recently without success and the woman who ran the place explained that it was just one of the albums waiting in the queue to be pressed. Apparently it’s a pretty long queue; demand for vinyl far outstrips the industry’s ability to deliver, largely because pressing vinyl is slow and labour intensive, and most of the machines doing it have been rescued from under tarps at the back of dark factories in places like the Czech Republic. Mastering equipment, to make the moulds from which records are pressed, is even rarer.

This also makes records expensive, but plenty of people are paying the price. It’s not just the records that are expensive, you can pay anything from $400 to second mortgage for a turntable, and then there’s the not inconsiderable infrastructure to support that turntable.

If you’re figuring on getting into vinyl have a think about what you’ll need apart from a turntable and a record. These things are also great gift ideas for vinyl enthusiasts.

First and foremost, those who own records learn pretty fast that even brand new records need cleaning and second-hand ones need thorough cleaning. At the cheap end you might just jag a second-hand Discwasher brush (a good one dating from the 1970s or 80s prior to the takeover of the manufacturer by RCA) on the internet – I once found a good one in a second-hand bookshop out in the country for $5, a story that makes my vinyl mates cry.

24 Spin CleanFar easier to find, Pro-Ject’s $25 Brush-It does a nice job, but the best solution is a Spin-Clean for $150. This bathes the record in a cleaning solution (extra cleaning fluid is $29). For the totally committed there’s Clearaudio’s Smart Matrix Professional cleaner for a couple of grand, or you can spend eight grand on a Double Matrix Professional Sonic. Check your record shop, it may clean records for you.

Now get a stylus cleaner, around $20 to $30, to keep your stylus dust-free. A small brush with lots of very fine, soft bristles also works. Sweep the dust and glug off the stylus in the direction of travel of the record.

For second-hand records, and especially 78s, get a second headshell with a cartridge exclusively for them, something that can take more knocks than your good one. And if, like me, records send you straight to sleep get a Q-Up to lift the arm at record’s end after you’ve drifted off; $89. An electronic stylus scale is handy for measuring the stylus downforce on the record – that dial at the other end of the tonearm is approximate at best.

24 Clearaudio Revolution Double MatrixI like anti-static mats on the platter because vinyl records load up with static electricity fast and become dust magnets in the process. And a strobe is a must for ensuring your platter is spinning at the correct speed. You can buy a ready-made or find one on the internet for free – just print and cut out. Record clamps are expensive but effective.

Most specialist hi fi shops stock all this stuff or variations of it, otherwise go to www.revolutionturntable.com.au or www.projectaudio.com.au.

Published June 2018

 

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