Congratulations on getting into vinyl. Sure, you’re a little late to the party, but we’re not about to go all High Fidelity on you. When it comes to record collecting, the more the merrier, but as important as buying and playing your vinyl is properly storying it. Because while records look better than CDs, and while some would argue they sound better, they’re also far, far more delicate.
And so as your record collection grows, it’s important to know how to store, keep and maintain those first editions you’ve sought out. We’ve already explored some ways to step up your listening stations; in the gallery above, we’ll give you suggestions on keeping your records playable.
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Click through the gallery for tips on taking good care of your prized vinyl possessions!
IKEA's got some great storage options for your records, most notably its Kallax line (which replaced the popular Expedit range last year). But if you're cutting corners, skipping steps or just straight up winging it when putting your shelves together, you're going to have a bad time.
Sure, stacking your albums along your apartment baseboards looks great on Pinterest, but let's be realistic — do you really want to risk it? What if something spills? What if a pipe bursts and your place floods? What if somebody trips on Dark Side of the Moon and lands gut first on your stack of Ramones represses?
While it's fine to put a few albums on their side if you're queuing up a playlist for the day, it's generally a terrible habit to get into. Stacking your albums flat and on their side will cause them to slowly warp and, over time, become unplayable. That's because things like jacket and gatefold sizes, not to mention the stickers on the actual records, aren't uniformly sized; an extra millimetre might not seem like much, but stack a few albums on top of one another and the damage can be exponential. Think of it this way: Put a coin on a piece of paper, then stack another on top. Keep that going and eventually the shape's going to change from flat to, uh… not flat.
Of course stacking your albums vertically also comes with a caveat — you need to give your records some breathing room. Wedging your records together to the extent that it's difficult to slide them out is no better than piling them flat. Instead, make sure there's enough room for your records to shift. If you try to pull a record out and another one comes with it, you've packed your shelf too tight.
Sleeves can be a pain. I mean, who has an extra five or ten seconds to get the album out? But they serve a purpose, and you should use them. You'll get the extra time it might take to get an album out of its sleeve back as soon as you realize you don't have to brush the thing off every time you want to play it. You know those "warm crackles" teens talk about online? Yeah, those aren't supposed to be there. As for the shrink wrap that comes on new records, get it off as soon as you can, because it can potentially warp your album over time.
With CDs, DVDs and video games we've trained ourselves not to touch the back of the disc, because we know that's where the data is. Records are no different. When you're ready to put it on your platter, grab the record by the edges whenever possible, especially if you've been crushing chips before the B-side.
By now you've noticed that record collecting can be a bit of work, but all of that's useless if your turntable isn't up to snuff. The main reason purists decry plug-and-play players like Crosley's isn't blind snobbery — unadjustable turntables, not to mention heavy needles and irreplaceable cartridges, can and will damage your albums. And so while getting an analog player to work right can sometimes be a little work, it's worth it not just for the fact your music will sound better, but because it won't slowly trash your albums over time. That said, they do require maintenance every once and a while, so be sure to balance your tonearm whenever you move your setup, and make sure your needle hasn't gone dull. If your turntable has a dust cover, use it.
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Think of your records as a chocolate bar you can listen to. You wouldn't keep your Kit-Kat on a heat source, would you? Of course not. It will melt. And you know what? So will your records. Maybe not as intensely, or dramatically, or… deliciously, but once an album starts to melt, it's done. You can clean dust off an album; you can't repair grooves that aren't there anymore.