Collecting vinyl records, and keeping them perfect

Records rule. A great disk can transform your day from the moment you begin selection.

Reviewing the cover art, triggering memories of earlier listenings, the tactile pleasure of drawing it from the sleeve and placing it on the platter. Carefully, contemplatively, setting the needle gently into the groove and hearing the music swell.

There are records, there are records and then there are records. The pronunciation of each is the same, but the differences are audible the instant they’re played.

Yardbirds - Shapes of Things
Yardbirds – Shapes of Things

Lindsay says: “You might buy a used record for a buck, a new rerelease for $29, or a audiophile rerelease version, where they’ve taken the record and split it into 2 disks, done it at 45 rpm, in a super-premium fashion, where you get the absolute best possible vinyl version of that album, period.

So, one way, you spend a dollar, another way you spend $29, and the other way, you spend $100. 

They’re not all available that way. You can’t go out and pick up the entire catalogue of an artist in that ultra-premium format. Usually, the most popular two or three of of an artist’s albums will be given the audiophile treatment.

We don’t carry every record in that super-premium version, but if it exists, we can bring it in.”

Slide the record gently out so the rim lands on your palm
Gently slide the record out so the rim lands on your palm

What’s an RPM, and why are there three speeds, 78, 33 1/3, and 45?

The reason that there are multiple speeds “revolutions per minute” in vinyl records is a question of history. The very first gramophone disks were 78 rpm, and made of shellac. The original 78’s were fragile, easily breaking if dropped, and had a maximum duration of 5 minutes, making them unsuitable for many compositions.

By the 40’s the technology had become very popular, but the short duration of the disks not so much, leading to a tonearms race by record manufacturers. Colombia Records launched the 33 1/3rpm in 1948, followed quickly by RCA with the 45rpm in 1949. Both featured vinyl, which was a much better medium on many fronts than the original shellac.

Initially, each format had proprietary players, which had only one speed. The big hole in many 45’s are artifacts of this era, you couldn’t put a 33 1/3 record on a 45 turntable, or vice versa. 45’s were originally 7”, allowing for one song per side, and were sold as “singles”. This quickly became the portable music format for teens on the go, with special record cases for taking records along. 33 1/3 became the format of the long-playing disk with 20 minute per side possible.

Eventually, record players came with all speeds available, and the 45’s were supplemented with an insert. This allows playing 45’s on multi-speed turntables with a small spindle.

Thanks to the invention of vinyl, records are no longer as fragile as they were originally, and feature sound quality superior to shellac.

Vinyl records still require some careful thought in use and storage however. Here are some tips to keep yours in top condition.

Fingers on the label with the same thumb on the rim,other hand cradling the opposite rim
Fingers on the label with thumb on rim, other hand cradling the opposite rim

Care and storage

  • Always put each record into its protective sleeve before storing
  • Sleeve selectionhere is an excellent and detailed analysis of record sleeves. Some basic tips meanwhile:
  • Care in using poly inner sleeves
    • Never put the records in them while still damp after being cleaned, or the vinyl could bond with the plastic
  • Paper sleeves
    • Some collectors prefer rice paper over regular, the additional cost is slight if you buy them by the 100 lot
  • Protect your records from heat
    • Keep your records stored away from the heating vents
    • Don’t leave records in the back seat of your car
    • Don’t leave records in front of windows
  • Never pinch the records too tightly together in storage Store them upright, tightly enough together that they don’t lean to the side, with enough space that they don’t crush together
  • Clean records with a brush before playing, every time
  • Clean the needle periodically, and only with a proper tool designed for this purpose
  • Replace the needle every couple of years
  • No jumping up and down near the turntable while playback is happening. This includes The Pogo. Neither the vibration nor the beer would be helpful here
  • Extreme humidity will compromise the integrity of the packaging (glue paper)
  • Play one record at a time only
    • If you have one of those old console turntables that allows the stacking of records, don’t use that function, as it may damage the grooves of all records used.

Why play records and why collect them? Cool rare vinyl with groovy cover art, sumptuous recordings, and quality pressings of songs that may not be available in any other way; the warmth of analogue audio if that matters to you; maybe even the sense of reverence that comes of surrendering to the ritual of vinyl handling; the sense, when placing the needle to the disk gently by hand, that you have helped give voice to that music.

Records are cool, and they transfer that cool to the hottest of platters.

Come to Liptons to check out the vinyl, but more important, come to purchase the perfect platter play on. Liptons sells a nice selection of good entry-level turntables that will respect your vinyl, and some of the finest quality turntables available today, for your perfect collectibles. We also sell a selection of brushes and tools to help keep your vinyl collection in top condition.

130 Davis Drive, Newmarket, 905-898-7133

Top view, record cradled between thumbs and fingers NO MEAT TOUCHING VINYL
Top view, record cradled between thumbs and fingers & NO SKIN ON VINYL

Some useful links:

Do Cheap Turntables Destroy Your Vinyl Records? Definitive Test This is an excellent YouTube video showing the degradation of vinyl played on a cheap turntable.

The history of the 45rpm record, from History’s Dumpster

Secrets of a high quality vinyl collector

How to build and preserve a vinyl collection

Beginners guide to collecting vinyl

The history of 78 RPM recordings

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