Nostalgia is a new-age drug for Millennials.
From film photography to calligraphy, retro anything is making its glorious comeback in the world. Similarly, the old-school, analogue features of vinyl records come as a sort of respite in today’s fast-paced digital world. It harkens back to a sentimental time where things were simpler and brings back the experience of selecting music rather than opening an app on your phone.
There is just something so comforting about the crackle of a record and the warmer tones of the tunes that make the music really come alive. Putting a record on is the whole music experience: it is active song selection and attentive listening to how artistes curate and convey their message, as opposed to streaming a two-hour playlist of lo-fi beats in the background on your phone.
There are many things to consider when getting started on vinyl. Essentially, one would need three things: an active speaker, a record player and of course, vinyl records. Here, we’ve come up with the complete guide for beginners: from where to get your essentials, some recommended models and how to maintain them for the long run.
What is an active speaker and why you need one
Active speakers are speakers that come with built-in amplifiers. They usually just need a power source to operate, compared to passive speakers which require amplifiers to work.
Compared to CDs and digital players, vinyls are a high-resolution source of music. Hence, you should have as few connections to the speaker as possible to make sure all the digital waves in your vinyl courses straight through the speakers and into your ears. The problem with most good quality record players is that they do not come with built-in speakers, so it is pertinent to get one in order to fully enjoy the vinyl listening experience.
What are some good active speakers
For anyone looking for an affordable entry-level set, the Mackie CR3 is a good starting point. The compact design makes it perfect for small spaces, and it comes with convenient volume control as well. It is complete with high-output drivers, a true studio-monitor waveguide system and an all-wood cabinet enclosure, which, when combined, delivers excellent sound.
Edifier S2000 Pro
If you don’t mind spending a little more for amazing audio clarity, the Edifier S2000 Pro should be on top of your list. It comes with a great deal of power and clarity that even musicians and producers use them as studio monitors. With a reliable Bluetooth system, these speakers are built to connect to a variety of devices such as your television or your home cinema. It also comes with a handy remote control for easy adjustments.
Ruark MR1 Mk2
You honestly don’t need much to convince us when it comes to the Ruark MR1 Mk2. Just look at its beautifully retro wood-and-grey styling. This compact speaker has a decent frequency response of 55 hertz to 20 kilohertz, making it great for smaller rooms. It also comes with a Bluetooth speaker system in case you want to play some tunes from your phone, as well as a 12-month warranty.
What are some good record players?
Audio Technica AT-LP60
The Audio Technica AT-LP60 is an amazing record player for its price. Many budget options thin out the audio and lacks bass, but the AT-LP60, from its bass to its treble is smoothly balanced. The whole setup includes a premounted phono cartridge, a built-in phono preamplifier, a metal platter, and a convenient clear plastic dust cover. It is quite the idiot-proof record player, and its super simple operation makes it great for those who are starting to get into vinyl. At 36 centimetres both length and breadth-wise, the three-kilogram player is a compact set-up suitable for even the smallest of rooms.
Rega Planar 1
The Regna Planar 1 is a sleek black player that looks amazing in contemporary rooms. It comes at a reasonable price and plays back a dynamic, detailed sound with exceptional timing. Its treble sound has a good crispness to it compared to other turntables in the same price point, and its RB110 tonearm brings out a little more depth to the bass. However, it is more suitable for those who play modern pop-tunes as the warm tones that vinyl players usually come with is lost on this device.
Pro-ject Debut Carbon
Those who prefer some customisation can consider getting the Pro-ject Debut Carbon. Entry-level audiophiles can upgrade their listening experience by changing certain parts as they go along, which makes it a flexible option for many. What makes it so great is how quiet it is — rather than the hum of the motor or the quivering vibration of a poorly dampened turntable, this player lets you hear the sound of the record a lot better.
Where to buy a record player
The next step to your vinyl experience is to get a record player. To be completely honest, there are many outlets in Singapore that have stock record players like Takashimaya and Tangs. If you already know what you want, you can get them from online retailers such as Swee Lee, Amazon and Lazada and Shopee. For a little more guidance, head to one of these options below.
Address: 53A Duxton Rd, Singapore 089517
Phone: +65 6220 8489
House of Turntables
115B Commonwealth Drive, Level 2, Singapore 149597
Phone: +65 6884 4390
How to clean and maintain turntables
Other than keeping your turntables dust-free, you really don’t have to maintain it too much. If your record player has a belt-driven deck, you might need to replace the belt once every five years or so.
Where to buy vinyl records
Red Point Record Warehouse
Red Point Record Warehouse is the perfect spot for any vinyl collector to get lost in for hours at a go. It is here where you can find a wide range of second-hand records that span almost every genre: from disco and classical to rock and pop. Shop owner Mr Ong is also known for stocking a plethora of Chinese and Malay records that can be difficult to get elsewhere.
Address: Blk B #06-11, 80 Playfair Rd, Singapore 367998
The Analog Vault
Find yourself at The Analog Vault armed with an impressive array of music genres. From hip hop, to jazz and soul, there’s one for any audiophile here. You can choose to get your vinyl online at their website here, but the brick-and-mortar store at Esplanade is a great spot to head to if you’re looking to physically browse through the full range of products, which includes vinyl records, turntables, compact discs, books, magazines, and other music-related goods.
Address: #02-10, Esplanade Mall, 8 Raffles Avenue, Singapore 039802
Kakis, or close friends in Bahasa Melayu, is exactly what Vinyl Kakis are presenting to the crowd. Here, come for the records and stay for the new bonds with other like-minded strangers over the love of vinyl. Once inside, plough through their collection of 70s and 80s music, complete with an interesting range of Japanese records.
Address: 5 Coleman Street #B1-28 Excelsior Shopping Centre, 179805
Hear Records has been voted as one of the best records stores in the world by Vinyl Factory, making it the destination for audiophiles locally and abroad. Discerning collectors will be particularly intrigued by their curations, complete with a neat second-hand collection and new records monthly from all around the world.
Address: #01-18, Burlington Square, 175B Bencoolen St, 189651
How to clean and maintain records
We cannot stress how important it is to take care of your records. When taking out your vinyl from its sleeve, remember to always touch the sides and never where the grooves are. It may be tempting to drop your vinyl in its sleeve after use (never leave it in the open unused!), but it would ruin the sleeve and subsequently your vinyl as well. As for storage, keep them upright as you would do to books. Stacking them on top of one another adds weight to your records and may cause cracks in the long run. With regards to cleaning your vinyl, materials from t-shirts and rags can scratch your vinyl, so just use a micro-fibre cloth for easy maintenance.
(Header and featured image: Nada Hanifah on Unsplash)
This story first appeared in Lifestyle Asia Singapore.