Keep playing those old records
IT’S now 2015 and you still have your old record collection. What do you do?
Well, for one, if the records are still in good condition, you might consider cleaning them and giving them a go on the turntable, if you still have one.
Cleaning, here, means having them professionally cleaned at a hifi shop that has one of those vinyl cleaning machines that will suck out the dust from the grooves.
If you no longer have a turntable, you can get one from any hifi shop for less than RM2,000.
According to Sujesh Pavithran, a hifi enthusiast who runs the audiofi.net website, while sales of turntables are not as brisk as they were in the 1980s, they are steady enough to keep the stalwarts of the industry in business.
First-timers or those on a tight budget might consider models from Rega Research, Pro-Ject Audio Systems, Audio-Technica and Denon.
Cheah Mun Kit, owner of the Cool Record Shop in Sea Park, Petaling Jaya, says that while some music fans have kept their old vinyl collections or their father’s records, others switched to CD when the shiny discs came along.
“When I first heard it, I thought it was very good … fantastic! But, as I listened to it more, it sounded very metallic to me. I didn’t like that, so I went back to the sound of the vinyl.
“Some people changed completely to CD, and when they were influenced by vinyl enthusiasts to listen again to vinyl, they found that they didn’t know vinyl could get this type of sound. With better equipment and the technology that comes in and better speakers, they are now finding that the sound is much better and they want to go back to vinyl,” explains Cheah.
It’s not just the older and middle-aged generations that have been keeping vinyl alive.
According to Sujesh, enthusiasts from different age groups have played a role here. “Younger music fans are discovering the joys of vinyl, while older ones who switched to digital in the 1990s are possibly rueing giving up their vinyl collections, and are now getting back into the groove. Why? Because properly set up, it sounds great. Various flea markets where used vinyl is sold keep the interest going.
“There are titles on vinyl not available on CD. And, of course, vinyl is more physically involving. There is also the pride of ownership of a tangible format, compared with streamers and downloads,” says Sujesh.
Cheah believes that vinyl has perked the interest of the younger generation as they are curious about it and some may even think it’s fashionable and cool to own and play vinyl.
In fact, he says he had two youngsters, no older than 20, walk into his shop, wanting to buy records after purchasing a turntable for about RM800. They just wanted to listen to their father’s and grandfather’s records.
“When you download songs, you don’t get to hold the album in your hands. With vinyl, the sleeve is big and you look at the artwork and read the sleeve notes. It’s cool for the younger ones, who are not so bothered about the sound.
“For the older ones and the middle-aged vinyl collectors, they find that they like the sound more. They are looking for old vinyls, originals, not reissues,” says Cheah.
Just as some are going back to the old format, others are also looking for convenience as not all senior citizens want to get up every 20 minutes or so to turn the record over.
This group is looking for a convenient way to listen to the music found on their old records.
Cheah says that some do it by finding a digital copy of the old songs and storing them on an MP3 player or a media system or even their computer.
Others find a way to convert their records to digital format.
Sujesh informs that while LPs and even cassettes can be converted to digital format, it is a tedious process.
“The best method is through software like Audacity, Pure Vinyl or Vinyl Studio, but you need some accessories for a successful transfer. You’ll also need an analogue-to-digital converter with a USB output, and a computer. If you have a CD recorder, it will be easier but time-consuming,” he adds.
Cheah admits that the quality of the music is affected when a vinyl is converted to digital. So, if you just want to hear the old songs and don’t really bother about a degradation in quality, then converting your vinyl to digital format is the way to go.
“Whether you should convert it yourself, ask someone to do it, get a machine to do it or get it done professionally depends on the quantity of vinyl you want to convert. If it’s just a few vinyl records, just get the kids or your friends to convert it to digital for you. If you have a huge collection and want to do the convertion, you can come and see me. You can give me the LPs after I do the conversion,” jokes Cheah.
While there has been some rumblings about cassettes making a comeback, both Cheah and Sujesh say it is just a gimmick, just as anything retro is seen as cool now.
You may be able to find cassette players sold in shops and online, but chances are these are cheap units from China.
“Everyone acknowledges that the future is high-resolution downloads and streamers and computer audio, where the ‘software’ takes minimal space. Still, you can expect CDs and vinyl to be around for a few more years. Forecasts are just that … tomorrow, something else could knock streamers and computer audio into oblivion,” says Sujesh.
For now, vinyl remains. You can find new and old LPs in hifi and music shops in the cities as well as in online stores and auction sites.
No doubt, some may think vinyl is tedious because you have to take care of the records otherwise they may warp or get mouldy. You also have to know how to get them cleaned properly by professionals.
But, once the cleaning is done and if the record is in mint condition, nothing beats the sound quality, say avid enthusiasts.
“When you clean it properly, it’s really silent, no crackles … and then you really enjoy it,” whispers Cheah in reverence.
And, vinyl lives on.