Over the course of the last few decades, we’ve seen a revolution in digital music. Nowadays, the music we listen to is, more likely than not, transmitted in the form of millions of zeros and ones. Many of us don’t even bother with owning music anymore – we simply subscribe to a service that allows us to stream it on demand.
Perhaps surprisingly, this period has also seen a boom in one of the most iconic forms of analogue media – the vinyl record. Collecting classic items has become a passion for many. But if you’re going to take up this hobby, then you’ll want to protect your investment – and that means taking care of the records themselves.
Vinyl records work via the grooves carved into their surfaces. The bumps on the surface of the media cause the needle to move, which is what creates the audio. When you touch the surface of the record, you leave deposits of oil and dust in those groves, which will interfere with the needle, and worsen the quality of the audio. You’ll get pops and crackles.
There’s an easy solution, here. Hold the record by the edges, keeping it in place with a little bit of pressure. As you gain experience, you’ll get better at this. You don’t need to touch the grooves at all, unless you’re scratching (which, obviously, is not good for the disc).
If you’re shopping for second-hand vinyl, then you should inspect the discs to ensure that they have not been mistreated.
Even if your handling and storage are immaculate, you might still need to deal with the debris that accumulates in those grooves. After all, they’re coming into contact with tiny particles inside the sleeves, and while they’re in motion on the platter. Use a special brush to remove dust and debris before you press play. You might also invest in specially formulated cleaning fluids, which can help you out.
If you store your records in a big stack, then the bottom ones will become compressed over time. Don’t do this; instead, store them upright and sideways. Don’t leave them at an angle – they will sag over time. If you’re taking vinyl seriously, and your records are high-value, then you might invest in specialised vinyl storage that does the job perfectly.
Vinyl is sensitive to changes in both temperature and humidity. The plastic will melt – just a little bit – if it gets too hot. Unfortunately, small changes in shape can lead to an audible loss of quality. This goes especially if you want the vinyl to hold its value over the coming years. It’s vital, therefore, that your records aren’t stored in a location that receives direct sunlight.