Skip to content

Jay’s Music Exchange: Facebook Verite on Vinyl

March 8, 2010

Welcome to Jay’s Music Exchange, where yours truly invites musicians (and music-lovers) of all skill and decibel levels to talk about the tools of the trade, dish dirt, swap tunes, and–most important of all–share some of the highs and lows of making and listening to that great soother of savage breasts — music. In this exchange (taken raw and uncut from Facebook), two level-headed (read: relatively non-zealous) vinyl aficionados discuss their reasons for investing in a once-“dead” format, their favorite places to jeopardize their retirement savings,  and the quickest way to get a punch to the jejunum.

Jay St. Orts just traded an old, busted table for a clean, serviced, G/VG Technics SL-5. Two brand new high-end styli, bartered down to nothing with trade….Got this jacket-sized beaut for a song! Pun intended!

Patrick McDowell Nice! Just beware of your vinyl spending. It can get out of hand really quickly. Get to know your local record store merchant, as you’ll be spending many Saturday afternoons flipping through their offerings.

Also, begin thinking about long-term storage solutions, as we’re running out of space. For the first few hundred, I recommend these.

They’re about $20/each and are available at our (and I would guess your) local Target. They come in a couple of other fabric styles and pass the wife’s test for something that doesn’t look hoopty in the living room. They aren’t sturdy enough to pick up while full of vinyl, but get the job done of keeping out dust/dirt/pet hair while still keeping the collection accessible. We’ve got five that are full.

Welcome to the club.

Jay St. Orts This isn’t my first table. I’ve used a Pioneer PL-71 since about 2000; before that, I had an ADC Accutrac 4000 that Dad gave me (with the brushed aluminum mushroom RF sensor for the remote). But, I had a once-nice gimme table that I couldn’t get to work that I traded in. I’ve been a loyal customer to this place, so I got a deal.

My vinyl spending shouldn’t cause any harm; until the last couple years, I only bought used records. Now, I buy used records and new vinyl instead of CDs (when not getting stuff online, which I don’t do too much yet). It’s kind of a one-for-one replacement. Vinyl offers extra value, tho, these days–you often get high-quality vinyl, expanded artwork, and digital download codes. Considering that most new vinyl costs the exacts same as the CD version, I see no reason to get a CD that I have to rip.

Jay St. Orts Trust me, though: I am no vinyl snob. 1) I like manipulating objects, 2) used vinyl is cheap, with many great records never making it to the digital age, and 3) expanded/deluxe artwork + download codes + that warm, vinyl je ne sais quoi = no brainer for me.

Jay St. Orts Target, eh? I consulted with the Goode Lady Wyfe–as I couldn’t remember–and she said ours are these, minus five years of product improvements. These were just sturdy enough for me to stomach them being wrapped in bubble tape and newspaper and being shipped–records nestled inside–from Lex to Lou.

Patrick McDowell Looks like we’re using basically the same thing for storage.

While I love my records, I definitely don’t consider myself a snob either (although I’m always happy to explain to people the superior awesomeness of them compared to digital music). I continue to buy lots of used stuff, especially in the folk/country genres. I think we’ve almost maxed out on 80’s pop/rock. We almost exclusively buy new stuff on vinyl for exactly the same reasons you do. The only down-side is that pressing quality of some new stuff isn’t always the best, which leads to a noisly LP that’s brand new. Also, album cost for many is in the $20 range compared to the $10 range for CDs. But to me, the extra cost is completely worth it.

CDs are dead to me.

Patrick McDowell And I definitely have to agree with you on the whole artwork thing. Carrie and I love to hang out on the weekend and have wine/cocktails and just play records. It, to us, is just more fun to get up and pull records out, put ’em on the platter and take turns playing DJ than just hitting FF on the iPod remote.

I think the tactile experience is what I really like, you get to hold it in your hand, flip the record, just seems like you’re “experiencing” the music a little more, an active participant rather than an observer. Like the cowbell/tambourine player.

More cowbell!

Jay St. Orts Hmm. I wonder if we’re having a different experience when it comes to new vinyl. Here in Loo-iss-berg (as Love Jones lovingly calls it), between Ear X-tacy, Highland Records, and Half-Price, I can usually find new vinyl at 180g for within 15-18 dollars American, (Used records are about the same wherever you go, subject to the same standards.) With new records, unless CDs have come down, I’m paying the same or less as I would have. If not the same or less, then the extra dollar or so premium gets me a purty jacket and , increasingly, download codes for multiple copies of the album. It makes the phrase “value add” mean something outside of stoopit corpserate am-urka.

Jay St. Orts You’ve bought new records that were noisy? That would really piss me off! Some noise is to be expected–hell, it’s what you pay for the low-end warmness you crave–but “noisy-noise” is unacceptable!

Patrick McDowell I guess that’s true, a lot can be had for between $12-$18 for new stuff, but it won’t ALWAYS be 180g. That being said, while not everything is 180g, you don’t see the super-flimsy records that you had with a lot of the 80’s stuff in any of the new releases I’ve seen.

There are times (like the Monsters of Folk album, the Wilco and Whiskeytown re-issues or Sade’s latest) when the price can be closer to $25.

That’s right, I said Sade.

As for the noise issue, as a vinyl fan, you do have to accept a certain amount of extraneous sound, especially the used stuff. I mean, can I even try and estimate the number of doobies that were rolled on my used copy of Animals? But again, that’s part of the appeal. The warmness of sound and general awesomeness of mid-range more than compensates for a couple of snaps/crackles in between tracks.

The new LP issue is more due to quality of production. In the mold-release process there can sometimes be stuff left behind that can diminish the quality of sound. A good record cleaning can help, but this is where having the relationship with the record store is mucho importante. If it’s truly a bad pressing, you can take it back to the store and they’ll replace it.

Much like Toyota’s, these are products that are made on an assembly line and sometimes are not 100% functional.

Patrick McDowell Also, on the new LP issue and running into occasional issues around quality, they just don’t make ’em like they used to. Although, as popularity continues to grow, I would think that production quality will also go up.

Also, I’ve only had these types of issues with the thinner/non 180g stuff that I’ve bought. A good example would be a copy of King of Leon’s “Because of the Times” that I picked up. It was excessively “poppy” and was brand new. A thorough cleaning though reduced it to virtually nothing. At the other end of the spectrum, the Petty Box set that just came out was on 7 180g LPs that were German pressing and sounded crystal clear. I mean, nothing. Zero noise. This speaks to the quality of production issue.

Patrick McDowell I use also a lot.

Jay St. Orts Hey, I like Sade, too!

And I know what you mean about some reissues being pricey. I finally picked up the two Dukes of the Stratosphear LPs…but they weren’t cheap. But, they were also much-sought after for the better part of 10 years, and I missed the go-round of the CD reissues from a couple years ago. Justified? Yeah.

Jay St. Orts Speaking of “flimsy” record pressings? Have any Dynaflex pressings? These were ultra-thin, but very flexible and sturdy. I have a couple, and they are surprisingly hardy.

Patrick McDowell Hmmm, I honestly don’t know. Any examples?

I guess where I net out on the whole vinyl thing is that yes, they do require more love and attention than CDs, but they give you much more love back. CDs are a cold, uncaring mistress and are often treated as such.

I remember in school stacks of CDs on top of the receiver 8 inches high, some of them occasionally used as coasters. If that happened to any of my vinyl, you would be getting a punch right in the jejunum.

Jay St. Orts I’m thinking of records like Lou Reed’s excellent solo debut, particularly, but I have several Dynaflex records. It was a manufacturing process, I assume. It made for some very good, very light records, in my experience. Proof that records don’t have to be 180g pressings to be quality.

Shew. All this chatting is making me thirsty. Let’s wrap this thing up, grab some whisky, and get back to spinning!

* * *

Patrick McDowell is a Manager at Arc Worldwide in Chicago, IL who spends most of his allowance at Second Hand Tunes ( The rest goes for bourbon.

  1. T. D. permalink
    March 9, 2010 10:01 am

    Nice convo, gents!

    So how about some advice. I’ve been using a cheap Sony for the last 5 years or so, and for the last couple I’ve been fixated on getting a higher-end turntable. The one I’ve been striving for is a VPI Aries Scout – pricey but not new-car pricey.

    I read reviews and all that but those aren’t always helpful – I’m not going to spend $5k and most people who review turntables consider anything under $2k in the “budget” category. I’d like to hear what people like me think. Note – I know I’m not good enough to ensure that a 20-30 y.o. high-end turntable is functioning optimally, so rather than spend the same amount on something nicer but also needier, I’m focusing on brand spankin new (or at least within last 5-10 years or so) to reduce the amount of tuning required.

    What do you all think is best in the sub-$2k arena for new or late model?

  2. March 9, 2010 1:16 pm

    How about one under $500? This would be the one I would buy if I were to go out and get a turntable today:

    Or if you wanted to spend a little more (but still under $1k), here are some other options in the Rega line:

    I personally don’t own a Rega, but have heard nothing but good things about them. There’s no need to spend over a grand on a turntable if you’re:

    A) Not Montgomery Burns
    B) Just listening as a music fan and not an obsessed audiophile junkie
    C) The other components you’re integrating the turntable with won’t be able to allow you to appreciate all the subtleties that you would be paying for in a higher-end platter anyway.
    D) Are confident in your masculinity

    Another thing to consider is that the cartridge/stylus you incorporate with the turntable can have an impact on sound quality as well. My suggestion would be to go with a less expensive (but still quality) turntable, but upgrade the cart/stylus at the time of purchase. If you’re buying from a b&m retailer, they may do the install and alignment gratis at the time of purchase (they may do this online as well, depending on where you buy from).

    Technics are always said to be a solid investment, but I personally think some of what you’re paying for is the name.

    Good luck!

  3. March 9, 2010 8:13 pm

    I can’t agree with you more, Patrick. On your reasoning on price point or your suggestion(s) for a good table.

    I would suggest to T.D., though, that you not give up on looking for a quality, older table (craigslist, ebay, divination, whatever works for you). I’ve never spent over $150 for a table, and I’ve had all I’ve ever needed–but, I did make sure my needle/cartridge situation was well sorted, and that makes a difference, as PMcD rightly points out.

    With my Technics acquisition, I jumped on a rare opportunity and bought from a trusty, rusty brick-n-mortar near my house. I jumped after looking, though–I thoroughly researched before I went back and talked ’em down out of another 20 bones.

    Don’t forget, kids–haggling is still alive and well and an art to be learnt!

  4. T. D. permalink
    March 10, 2010 7:14 pm

    Thanks doods! I’d been checking out the Rega’s but had almost been sucked into the theory that you can’t have quality unless you spend too much. J – bad idea to encourage the second-hand route; I’ve found several sites that are dedicated to turntable swapping and browse the other craigslist sites as well, which only means that you’re likely to get a flood of emails asking whether something is worth pursuing. The haggling I got, the eye for quality at the right price I don’t.

    Y’all rule.

  5. March 10, 2010 11:03 pm

    Great Post! Check out my new site, LP Revival. I think you and your readers may find it interesting. We are a VINYL only online record store.

  6. March 10, 2010 11:04 pm

    We are based in KY too…cool!

    • March 12, 2010 8:11 am

      Thanks for telling us about you! I hope we can direct some traffic your way, too. A high tide…does something or other. I hope it includes somebody playing records.

  7. March 15, 2010 12:01 pm

    I never really bought records religiously up until I started buying dubstep a few years ago. I mean, I’d pick something up every once and a while but usually on a lark or because of some rarity (like when Pearl Jam’s “VS” dropped a week early on vinyl way back when). It wasn’t super practical for that time of my life what with the logistics of storage and playback and everything. So I would say my switchover to only buying vinyl was definitely spurred by my collecting dubstep, which is pretty much one of the very few remaining genres (in “dance” music at least) that has stayed true to records and dubplates. Everybody else seems to be fleeing to digital releases which is cool and all but I like to actually HAVE something for my money (other than an MP3). And this affinity for vinyl has certainly transitioned over to everything else (non-dubstep) that I buy, especially, as you all have noted, with the added value of download codes. There really is no reason to buy CDs anymore.

    Oh, and one particularly important reason that Technics 1200s (and all the variants) are so coveted by DJs are their torque and their supreme, tank-like construction…


  1. Area Homebrewer Lives Double-Life! - Home Brew Forums

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: