What I’m about to recommend here might sound strange from a blog that advocates the importance of sound quality, but stick with me here folks; there’s method to my madness.
It’s true, I do advocate the importance of high-quality sound when listening to your music, but first of all – and above that – I believe music should be an experience. Being a complete experience, is, after all, one of the factors that make vinyl records such an enjoyable way to appreciate music. From the artwork to dropping the needle, to the process of flipping from side A to side B – playing records is truly an immersive event. With this in mind, I’m actually going to recommend you go out and buy, not one, but two record players.
Why on Earth would I need two?
Because I believe in the benefits of vinyl from both an audible and an aesthetic viewpoint, it is highly beneficial to have two different playback systems: 1) a high-quality turntable that sounds great, and 2) a secondary, cheaper record player that you can use for ‘well loved’ or damaged records.
That’s right, I’m actually going to recommend you buy one of those cheap, compact, all-in-one record players that quite frankly an audiophile would snub and scoff at – crazy huh? But there are, in fact, both audiophile and aesthetic advantages to this, which I will list below.
1. Nostalgic retro style
If you were there for the good old days of vinyl – or even if you weren’t – listeners of all ages will enjoy the retro style of a compact all-in-one record player like the Steepletone SRP025. This 1960’s style record player easily switches from 33.3 to 45 RPM and is the record player I own as my secondary listening station. You’ll be able to while away the hours listening to old singles and albums with amazing vintage appeal. Placed in your dining room, it can also make for a curious atmosphere enhancer. Your guests will love the unusual and quirky touch of listening to vinyl while you entertain, and it will certainly act as a talking point.
In fact, I’ve witnessed portable record players used to great effect in second hand shops and vintage style tea rooms; in both locations the crackly vinyl added tremendously to the shops atmosphere. Alternatively, for extra credit from your other-half, try putting on some atmospheric Jazz while cooking them breakfast in bed – works for me anyhow ;).
2. Playing damaged Records
Now for the audiophile incentive. Scratches happen, it’s a fact of life, and lots of us have damaged or ‘well loved’ records in our collection. The problem is, playing damaged records can cause harm to your precious and often expensive stylus. Owning a secondary, cheaper record player will allow you to continue enjoying those well-worn records without risking damage to your primary high-fidelity setup.
Think about it like this: a replacement stylus on your high-end setup can set you back significantly, while a fresh stylus on your Steepletone will only set you back by around £6 or $10.
3. Enjoy more music at an affordable price
Having a secondary, cheaper record player will open up a new world of music to you. You’ll be able to pick up bargain-bin or jumble sale records, that let’s face it, can be a mixed bag when it comes to their condition. More often than not, the more damaged the record is, the cheaper it becomes. But as we’ve already established, you don’t want to be playing those scratched up little blighters on your expensive turntable. By owning a second record player for the purpose of playing records of questionable quality, you’ll be able to explore new music or just pick up a bargain. There can even be a certain charm to battered, crackly sounding records that will add atmosphere to your home – if you’re into that kind of thing. For example, I own a ‘well loved’ copy of a Louis Armstrong record from the 1950’s which just oozes character on a Steepletone. In fact, the lo-fi sound of the setup itself only accentuates this. So if nostalgia is your kind of thing, you’ll enjoy being transported back to a bygone era.
4. They’re compact & portable
Finally, a compact, all-in-one setup is by its very nature, portable. So, if you just can’t get enough of those warm vinyl tones, you’ll enjoy the freedom that comes with being able to easily transport your player to other rooms within your home. Fancy listening to some records in your office while you work? Cool, simply fold-away and go.
To encapsulate what I’m trying to get across in this article – the technicalities of sound and high-fidelity should not be a barrier to entry when it comes to enjoying music. I absolutely love it when a great album, recorded and mastered well comes together on a great sounding hi-fi. But at the same time it can be easy to get pernickety and forget that music is about more than just technical specifications.
Music should primarily be about art, expression, and memorable experiences. I’m not advocating the use of a cheaper turntable as your primary source for vinyl listening, and I wouldn’t recommend regularly playing your best records on one if you want them to age well. However, I do feel that having such a devices can enhanced your experience of music and give you greater flexibility. Also, if you can protect your expensive high-quality separate turntable investment in the process – all the better.