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Alexander Hawkins

Some more vinyl questions!

58 posts in this topic

Having a while ago posted asking for some recommendations for an entry-level turntable, I eventually landed on a Project Debut Phono SB - ideal because it also included a phono amp. Anyway, it might not be the most audiophile setup, but I was a bit cash strapped, and I'm chuffed to bits with it!

I wonder if anyone had any general advice about any general issues to do with getting started on vinyl?

For example, if track listings are the same, do you tend to favour buying vinyl over a CD?

And if you buy second hand, are the quality ratings (VG, Good+, this type of thing!) fairly standardised, or is the only safe thing to do to listen to the record before you buy it?

Anyway, like I say, I'm feeling really pleased with myself for taking the plunge and getting started on vinyl. It's not too much of an exaggeration to say that it pretty much opens a whole new world of recordings you didn't know existed (or never thought you'd find even if you did know of them), going into a second-hand store and rifling through the bins!

And thanks again for all the suggestions as to which TTs I might think about buying.

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where do you live? Are there a lot of used vinyl shops?

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My only advice is don't spend a lot of money until you know the market. Check out flea markets, etc. You'd be surprised what you can come across (shut up, Aric!) if you get out there and dig rather than pony up the big bucks for easy access from a "rare record dealer".

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re: rare record dealers

That's why I am trying to find out where this cat is. There are still some good used shops out there.

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Oops! I didn't intend my post as a reaction to yours, shrugs; sorry 'bout that.

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No problem.

Just wish there were more shops like the one near me. Princeton Record Exchange is good too. If you don't mind the stickers they put on the covers.

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Welcome to the world of vinyl!

I'll share some quick thoughts before I leave work. I look forward to this thread because I think there are a lot of people here that will be helpful.

I don't know where you live, but Shrugs is right, there are some good used shops out there. I have two favorites here in DC, and they are total opposites in terms of how they do business. One has cheaper prices, but is less organized (Joe's Record Paradise) while the other (Orpheus Records) charges more but the condition of the LPs is better and they have a great return policy (basically he lets you return anything you aren't satisfied with condition-wise -- I've rarely made returns but he's always complied). Once you find some stores and buy from them enough you will get an idea of how they grade and what you can expect when you buy there.

Like Jazzmoose said, its also good to scout around a bit to get the feel for the market and what you can get for your money. I think the best deals price-wise are still in flea markets, antique malls and garage sales, but they are totally hit or miss and you may go a while before finding a good one. This will leave you in withdrawl until you go back to the record store :D

E-bay can be good, but expect to pay top dollar for anything "collectable," such as early pressing Blue Notes or Prestige. I've bought a lot off E-bay and have generally (but not always) found people to be good followers of the Goldmine grading standards (if you haven't seen a Goldmine Record Guide, go to your bookstore and flip through one to give you an idea of condition ratings, etc). Or maybe someone here has a good link. Start watching some auctions and you'll get an idea.

If you don't have to have original pressings, there are plenty of good re-issues that still will let you appreciate the music in its pre-digitized anolog form. Often these can be picked up fairly cheaply. Blue Notes are a good example of this. I have found "Blue Label" pressings of great albums that sound very good but were a fraction of the price of an early copy (blue label Blue Notes were the re-issues of their back catalog that they put out in the early 70s). While not as good as the original pressings, they are still better than the CDs, particularly the "early" cds. Records from the 70s by Prestige, Riverside, Inner City, and many othes you can still find for fairly cheap. As these are definitely pre-digital, they are well worth having. On E-Bay, type in "Lou Donaldson" and you may get an idea of this. You will see original pressing Blue Notes that go in the hundreds of dollars, and then other "Liberty" or "blue label" ones that go for $15 - $25.

The one group of LPs that I am still unclear about are the OJC re-issue LPs that were remastered by Phil DeLancie and others. I have never been able to get an answer as to whether or not they are digital or analog masters. I asked this question during the last sale at Mosaic (where you would get a $5.00 credit for every Mosaic LP you bought), and got a reply from Michael Cuscuna that he has asked the same question and has never gotten an answer. He suspected that the popular items (Miles, Trane) were digital masters and perhaps the others were analog. The good thing about the LPs from the 70s is that you know they definitely aren't digital.

Anyway, just some thoughts on vinyl. Have fun collecting.

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Red,

I thought I would also reply to your question LP vs CD if the tracks are the same.

I would buy the LP (if I were sure it was non-digital), particularly if it were in nice condition, and especially if it were mono.

First, analog sound really is better than cd sound the vast majority of the time. Since it isn't compressed to fit into the bit capacity limits of the cd format, there is more of a true sound. The horns ring and the drums snap, etc. I also have found that I prefer the mono mixes on a lot of the albums. It just seems to sound more like a real band is playing in front of me when I listen to them. This is particularly true with some ealry stereo mixes where the separation was extreme (such as having all the piano coming out of the left and all the drums out of the right, etc. Try a Columbia steroe of Thelonious Monk and you will hear this). Everyone doesn't feel this way about mono however, so this is clearly a matter of personal taste. A lot of folks love the multi-channel possibilities of surround sound, for example. I prefer just the two speakers in front of me.

See what you like -- at least the research will be fun.

Some other condition thughts that may be helpful:

Scratches are the obvious thing to look for, particularly those you can feel with your fingernail. But also look around the spindle hole. A lot of marks there means the record was probably played a lot and you may get distortion from groove wear. Groove wear can also be seen as a dulling of the grooves or a greyish tint to the record when held in the light. Often I am amazed at how a record can have few scratches but still sound awful because it's been played a lot. Also check for warping. I have bought records that looked great only to get them home, put them on the turntable and see that they are warped enough that the tonearm won't sit still on them.

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I think the much earlier OJC's would almost have to be analog. In fact, most of the Miles and Trane I have bought were done in 1983 and 1984. Why would you assume they are digital? There are the 70's twofers as well. The early green label Prestige sound pretty damn great. That said, I normally only buy the early OJC's. However, I have a few digital lp's like Art Pepper's More For Les and Art Farmer's BIOMY, Strayhorn trib and PhD. These were all bought for such little $$ that I could care less that they are digital. They sould fantastic.

Edited by shrugs

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Most of the vinyl OJCs that I've bought sound great. Farmer's 'PhD', 'Cedar Walton Plays Cedar Walton', the Pat Martinos and the Frank Morgan Contemporarys are all well up to scratch. Be sure to pick up the Gil Melle 'Primitive Modern' and 'Quadrama' pressings too if you see them. Both of these on OJC are highly recommended !

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Make sure too that you check out those nice blue-label Blue Note Reissue Series sets expertly compiled by Mr Cuscuna. Many hours of pleasure over the years from those and still the only way (to the best of my knowledge) to hear Andrew Hill plus strings directed by Kermit Moore on 'One For One'.

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check out the Vinyl Asylum at Audio Asylum. More than you can ever read. With links to many of those links that were posted.

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No bulletin board is an island. There is a wealth of information beyond that FAQ that can be found by doing searches of the Vinyl Asylum.

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Shrugs,

You are correct about the early OJCs sounding great. Didn't mean to suggest they didn't. I have a bunch of them on the green label from the 80s and i like them a lot, particularly the two-fers. I was only referring to the new ones for sale on the website, and I only bring it up because if people are going to bother buying the vinyl it should at least be analog (but since the OJCs can be gotten really cheap, by all means people should pick them up -- I don't mean to sound like an audiophile snob!). Also, I wrote that kind of quickly on my way out of work, so forgive the omissions!

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green label in the 80's?

and why only analog vinyl? If you can the digital lp for $3 or $4 , why spend 2-3x that for the cd?

Edited by shrugs

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Thanks everyone for taking the time to put down those thoughts in so much detail! Shrugs, I'm actually on the wrong side of the water from most here. I don't know if anyone has any suggestions as to stores in the London area?

It's interesting what you say on LP v. CD, ajf - I think at this stage I tend to agree, although I can't tell whether it's just because I feeling pleased with myself! What I guess I really need to do is A/B the same album.

One other question that I forgot to stick down on my original list (!) - what is significant about '180g vinyl'? I think I've seen a few of the BYG/Actuel releases in particular having this sticker on...

Anyway, double cause for celebration today. I'm expecting to go and pick up the LP copy of 'Hootin' and Tootin'' I ordered a few days back!

Thanks again for all the help!

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Speaking of OJC, I noticed that Acoustic Sounds is releasing 180 gm. lp's of the OJC catalog. Has anyone bought one of these? and how do they sound? I'm in the process of converting my Miles Davis to lp's and this sounds like a good route for the OJC stuff.

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Shrugs,

Whoops! The greens aren't from the 80s, you are right. Typo on my end.

I agree the LPs are a better value than spending for the CD. I only brought it up because of the digital/analog difference. They are definitely worth getting for the money.

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I picked up an Ammons/Stitt twofer on Verve the other day that ain't all that bad! Choice Cuts!

Props to any Concord lp's you can find. While they aren't perfect, the price is often nice and you can get into Dave McKenna. :)

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Yes, the Verve two-fers are excellent value. I was listening to the Hawkins-Webster one the other night.

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The Columbia double-LP by these two (with Harry Edison and Clark Terry) is also a very under-rated gem. 30th St Studio acoustics also add to the attraction of this one ! B)

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I get vinyl versions of albums that have not been issued on CD, and the Gemm website is always my source (www.gemm.com). It is rare not to find an album there. You deal directly with the seller, once you have located an LP that you want.

As the website says, "If you can't find it here, fuggeddabout it".

All the stores from which I have purchased have been very honest about the quality of the disk, and I can usually find an LP in at least VG+ condition.

One warning: don't buy a "still sealed" LP. Get the seller to open it and test it, and if they refuse, walk away. I paid $50 for a mono copy of Ahmad Jamal's classic "Chamber Music Of The New Jazz", and when I opened it, it was so noisy that it was only good for landfill. This was an eBay deal, by the way. The seller would not make good on the deal. So I have a very large drinks coaster. :(

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That's an interesting dilemma, I can understand a seller's reluctance to open a legitimately sealed copy of an lp (this would be the only way an lp could be graded as M). I've been burned a couple of times through the years buying sealed items that had problems, one in particular, I bought a copy of Herb Geller's Fire in The West sealed, the pressing had bubbles and was awful. Still I felt the seller had no part in that. Beware of resealed items, can anyone offer any clues on spotting lps that have been resealed?

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Never buy a sealed collectable lp from someone unless they have some type of return guarantee. Best advice is just to return it for a full refund(usually minus shipping). I made the mistake of making a counter offer for an lp that wan't an original but an early enough reissue for me to be happy. The guy blew up and said I was trying to pull a fast one. It was e-bay and he was a power seller and it wasn't worth the hastle. I wrote it off as a loss.

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Don't neglect garage sales, estate sales, etc. There's nothing more satisfying than digging through piles of records and making a great find. Recently hit an estate sale and walked out with 5 operas, 5 other albums of classical, along with a McCoyTyner,

Return to Forever, Weather Report, and an Earth Wind and Fire, for a grand total of $1.00. Wish I'd have heard about it sooner. It was pretty culled by the time I got there.

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