The following piece was originally envisioned as a sidebar of my “Back in Black” article in the PDI. In essence, it seeks to provide a simple and practical guide to music lovers who wish to kick start their analog music adventure. Due to space limitations, it was not published.
Seriously considering getting into vinyls? Read this and spare yourself from unnecessary detours that might prove costly monetarily and otherwise.
1. Audition, audition, audition.
This is the equivalent of practice, practice, practice if you want to be good at sports and music. Nope, we don’t mean buy the first audio set-up you can chance upon and then buy again until you get the hang of buying the right hardware. Quite the opposite. Rather, immerse yourself in the vinyl experience. Go to the Nov Hi Fi Show at Dusit Thani. Sign up with Wired State. Visit the stores selling analog hardware and software. There is The Grey Market in White Plains and Salcedo, The Analog Source in San Juan and Satchmi in Megamall as well as select Astroplus outlets, Watts HiFi and Bebop Records in Makati Square, Vinylhead Wreckords and HyperAudio near Cash and Carry, Stereofiles in Timog and Vinyl Dump in Cubao. Sample their wares. Listen and then listen some more. Ask questions. Take down notes. In a word, learn.
2. Know yourself.
There is some element of introspection in this hobby. After sampling various set-ups and analog audio systems, you need to confer carefully with the ultimate decision maker – yourself. What is it that you want? Would you want an entry-level turntable or a vintage turntable? Do you prefer a brand-new set-up altogether or would you like a mix of the new and the vintage? Are you the type who gets a kick from upgrading every couple of years or would you rather have one that you can pass on to your kids later? Only you can answer that critical question after you’ve done enough of item 1 above.
3. Know your budget.
Depending on the outcome of undertaking items 1 and 2 above, you can get an entry-level turntable for Php 6,000, a vintage turntable for Php 23,000 or a brand new turntable for Php 17,000. You can opt for a complete brand new set-up for Php 50,000 or a vintage set-up for Php 30,000. You could compare the experience to buying a new smart phone or a new tablet. There are many combinations and permutations out there depending on your budget and your preference.
4. Prepare a tracking list.
When it comes to buying vinyl records, you can either do a Grateful Dead or a DMB where the set list changes every night depending on the vibes and energy of both the crowd and the band or you might wish to do a U2 or an Eagles where there is a pre-determined set list every single night. Given that a used near mint record sells for Php 500 while a virgin vinyl fetches a price of Php 1,200 and up, better go for doing a U2 or an Eagles set list when it comes to buying vinyl albums unless you have lots of disposable income to buy on impulse which we don’t recommend, in any case. Hence, the need to know who you are and what it is that you want to get on vinyl. So a good rule of thumb would be to hold off the thought of purchasing vinyl records left and right. Sample the music. Listen to the radio. Check out the CD. Surf the net. Read the reviews. Ask around. Then buy. Music may be life but even hard-core audiophiles would tell you music is not all that there is to life. There’s bills to pay, tuition fees to plan for, emergencies to prepare for and mortgages to amortize.
5. Enjoy the ride.
The thrill of this hobby, as we wrote separately, lies in the journey rather than the destination. It’s in the crate digging and in stumbling upon that elusive title that you’ve been looking for all your life. It’s in comparing notes and getting tips from fellow vinyl hobbyists. It’s in learning from those who have been into this hobby for years and passing on what you learn to newbies. It’s in making friends and rebuilding your record collection. So don’t be in a hurry to get to the finish line as there is ultimately none. “Hinay, hinay basta kanunay” is a Visayan saying that would serve aspiring vinyl hobbyists in good stead.