Culture

Vinyl LP Demand Fuels Quest for Perfect Record Player

There was a time long, long ago, when analog ruled the music industry. Those days may be gone, but they have not been forgotten.

Nielsen Music reported Jan. 6 that more people used on-demand audio and video streaming to listen to their tunes of choice in 2015. On-demand audio posted a growth rate of 83 percent. Video streaming skyrocketed 102 percent. Justin Bieber’s album Purpose set an all-time record for total audio on-demand streams when it was streamed more than 100 million times the week of its release.

It’s hard to beat sales increased like those, and the lowest of music technology didn’t come close. But vinyl, which was the only choice for decades, is not only coming back, it has been experiencing a resurgence for years.

The Nielsen Music Report showed sales of LPs hit a new record in 2015 — close to 12 million units. It was not a fluke. This has been going on for a decade. Every year for the past 10, vinyl sales have gone up.

Who’s buying?

A study from MusicWatch Inc., a company that provides marketing research for the music and entertainment industries, shows it’s not Baby Boomers surfing a nostalgic tide back to stacks of hot wax that’s responsible for this boom in vinyl record sales.

It’s their children, the millennials, who are snatching up vinyl records.

The MusicWatch study showed vinyl record purchases by people over the age of 50 accounted for only 13 percent of sales in 2015. Most of the vinyl records sold in 2015 went home with people who were under the age of 35.

How many of them have turntables?

Without a turntable, a vinyl record is nothing more than a licorice pizza.

The majority of people who buy vinyl records are not collectors, any more than the millennials who made their fathers’ cheap beer fashionable again bought the brew to look at it. They wanted to drink the beer. And now they want to play the records. They want the music, which means they are going to have to invest in new, old, technology.

New record collectors could spend thousands of dollars on the turntable they’ll need to play the music and thousands more on a sound system.

The Clearaudio Ovation with Clarify Tonearm goes for $5,000 to close to $6,500. Its design includes “a sandwich of aluminum and panzerholz bulletproof wood, and 100,000 tiny metal balls eliminate any possibility of harmful resonances.”

If that seems like more than is needed to play the Beatles’ Abbey Road LP, there is the $3,200 Classic-1 Turntable, with a walnut case. A less-expensive alternative is the $400 Floating Record Vertical Turntable, which was the result of a Kickstarter fundraising drive.

Could this vinyl fad be too expensive for the neophyte who just wants to experiment?

Rest assured, there are much, much less expensive choices. Remember, this is, at its heart, low-tech space.

Audio Rumble lists several turntables, priced at around $100, that are nothing to be ashamed of. Some have their own sound systems. Some are portable, and some even include cassette tape players.

See next page for their recommendations. 

  1. Audio Technica AT-LP60: The Audio Rumble review maintains the turntable will deliver “exactly what you are looking for in a turntable: excellent audio quality. Most reviewers were blown away by this simple 8.4-pound machine. They did not expect much, and certainly did not identify themselves as audiophiles, but were still amazed by its sound output.”
  2. Boynton BT-17DJ 3-Speed: “This turntable is the gift that keeps on giving,” according to Audio Rumble. Priced at less than $80 dollars, the Boytone BT-17DJ also has a built-in AM/FM radio with a digital display and a — hold on to your hats, nostalgia fans — a cassette tape player.
  3. Studebaker SB6052: This is a wooden turntable with an AM-FM radio. For the real nostalgia buff, it also has a cassette player. The Audio Rumble review concludes: “If you are looking for a trip down memory lane, this beauty should be on top of your list.”
  4. Electrohome Archer Vinyl Record Player: There was a time when every kid on the block had their own “portable” record player. They might have been a little heavy for the average tyke, but the record players had handles and covers that latched, so they were officially, portable. The Electrohome Archer is a flash back to that time. However, with built-in speakers, USB for MP3s & AUX Input for smartphones, tablets, & MP3 players, it is very much connected to the 21st century.
  5. Pyle Home PVNTT6UMR with USB-to-PC Connection: There was a time when record players and phonographs were more than devices on which vinyl albums could be played; they were pieces of furniture. This Pyle Home record player harkens back to those days with its wooden design.

Audio Rumble’s best advice for new vinyl record enthusiasts, whether they are willing to invest thousands or only drop a few twenties, is “you do not have to spend more than a hundred dollars for a functioning record player. The rest is a matter of opinion.”