Guide to collecting vinyl for the college student

A good record player setup plays a key role in collecting vinyl as a hobby. Although record collecting can be expensive, the hobby can fit a college student budget when done correctly. // Photo by Maya Torres Student Publications

Of the many retro hobbies making a comeback in recent times, collecting vinyl may be one of the least accessible, especially for college students. New vinyl can cost anywhere from $20 to well over $50, and that does not even cover the record player to play it on, which can be a costly investment as well.

While a high quality record player can cost several hundred dollars, it is best to start simple, especially before you are completely sure that you want to continue to pursue vinyl collecting. 

Starter record players can be found at mass retailers, such as Amazon and Target, costing anywhere between $30 and $50. As for the setup, find a shelf or caddy tall enough to hold vinyl records, at least 15 inches, and place your new record player on top of or near the shelf. 

It is also helpful to purchase a small cleaning kit, including a brush and cleaner. These sets are usually inexpensive and can go a long way in preserving both your vinyl and your player.

Once your setup is complete, it is time to find a few records for your collection. Start small. You do not need to own all of your favorite albums right away; that is what makes collecting so fun. It is often a treasure hunt, and when you find a good price for your favorite record, the feeling is unmatched.

Popular record shops around Atlanta, such as Criminal Records, have a lot of new, exclusive offerings, but are on the expensive side with their prices. Wax ‘N’ Facts in Little Five Points and Ella Guru in Decatur are excellent places to start with their vast offerings of used vinyl with excellent prices to match.

Whenever possible, buy secondhand for better deals, but do be sure to briefly check the record for any scratches or other damages before buying. There might be a reason the price is below $5, and unless you are buying the record for display purposes only, there is no use in owning something that does not play correctly. 

Records are known to be fragile, cracking or scratching easily. When handling vinyl, avoid touching the surface of the record whenever possible. It is typically best to handle the record gingerly using the edges of the record. Regardless, smudging is still likely to occur. 

To clean a record before use, spray your record brush with cleaner and place the brush onto the record. Move the needle slightly so that the turntable begins to spin, moving the brush across the record. Do not spray directly onto the record or rotate the brush across the record manually, as doing so may cause damage. When the record is finished playing, carefully move it back into the sleeve to avoid dust settling onto the vinyl.

Once you settle into basic vinyl care, you can move into expanding your collection and personalizing your setup. There is a vast collection of accessories to be found, including “now playing” displays to place the record sleeve while the vinyl plays. Despite the amount of work required to start and maintain a record collection, it can pay off in big ways. While an entire world of music is accessible via the Internet and streaming sites, it can be a mesmerizing experience to hear your favorite songs through a record player. With the gentle hum of the machine, and the crackle of the needle, some comfort songs were just made to be played on vinyl. Trips to antique stores and record shops, while sometimes expensive, can become a weekly scavenger hunt to destress after a busy week. 

Between projects and exams, sliding a disc onto a turntable and gently applying the needle can be a reminder to Tech students to take a break and enjoy the little things in life, even just for a few moments. Happy hunting.