There has been a huge vinyl revival over the past decade. In fact, record sales have not been this good since the mid-1980s, according to Rolling Stone. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), reports 2020 vinyl sales of $619.6 million, a year-over-year increase of 29.2%. That’s pretty impressive.

Is vinyl’s analog sound better than digital? The debate rages on. Some devoted audiophiles stand by vinyl. Others cultivate an appreciation for the differences, rather than the superiority of the sound. Some cite the sonic quality of iconic albums like Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”

Read on to learn more about the history of vinyl and how you can set up your own record player setup at home.

History of Audio Recordings

We are already well into the second century of audio recordings. In 1888, Thomas Edison developed a wax cylinder capable of audio playback. By 1896, his National Phonograph Company was mass producing them. In 1887, Emile Berliner patented his gramophone. At first, it played wax-coated zinc discs. Later, discs were produced from a rather eclectic combination of soot, shellac, and fur. In 1896, a wind-up spring motor replaced hand-cranking on Berliner’s playback device.

Peter Carl Goldmark and his team at CBS Laboratories get the credit for the first “Long Play” (LP) vinyl record. They dramatically reduced groove width from .01 to .003-inch, while slowing rotation from 78 rpm to 33 1/3 rpm. One of Goldmark’s LPs could hold the contents of six traditional 78s.

The 1980s witnessed a rapid transition from vinyl to cassette. Then, digital compact discs (CDs) arrived. The decades-old market for vinyl records quickly dissipated, seemingly overnight. But in the early 2000s, indie rock’s popularity led to a resurgence in records. Today, you’ll find many new hip hop, electronic, and indie rock releases on vinyl.

Building a Collection

Ready to start a vinyl collection, but not sure where to start? Let Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” spark your imagination.

Half the fun of getting into vinyl is building your collection. You’ll head off to garage sales, thrift shops, and estate sales with a new sense of purpose. While you might not find a Beatles album in the mix, you may come across the acclaimed work of their contemporaries. Your two or three-dollar investment will get you more than classic vinyl sound. It will also include the jacket, replete with gorgeous artwork and period photography. These well-conceived covers often include lyrics and band bios as well.

When you’re looking for your favorite artists of yesteryear, peruse and support your local record shops. Check out the condition of the record and its cover before buying. Always make sure the jacket and the record inside match. Watch for missing records in multi-album sets. Avoid vinyl that’s badly scratched or otherwise damaged.

There’s another advantage to the in-person experience. Record shops are often more than willing to clean your selection for you. But just like in the shops, online selections are also sorted by genre, artist, and more. There’s a massive offering of records on eBay, for example.A turntable with vinyl record sitting on desk next to a stack of records.

Caring for Your Collection

Once you obtain a quality classic record, you’ll want to keep it clean and safely store it.


Decades-old vinyl will often require some serious cleaning. Consider a record washing system like Spin-Clean. It will take on the smudges and gunk that often accumulate over the years. Spin-Clean’s tank-roller system cleans both sides of the record at the same time. Special washer fluid encapsulates dirt so it doesn’t end up baked on the record. Adjustable rollers tackle every record size.

Then, keep your records clean as you play them. Use a carbon fiber brush after each use.


Storage is important because you don’t want to lay a stack of records flat. As the folks at Victrola warn, “The weight can bend or misalign the discs.” Storage can be as simple as repurposing a magazine rack to stack your albums upright. Since your vinyl records are a bit of history, why not store them in a vintage armoire or china cabinet?

A compact low credenza can handle hundreds of albums. A record storage end table is another space-saving idea. Show off your favorites with record ledges, or consider a front-facing storage rack. A wall-mounted record stand can hold dozens of records. Display some of your favorite album covers on a floating record display.

Finally, you may prefer to keep your turntable, cleaning gear, and records in one place. If so, an all-in-one media storage system is the perfect option.


Modern-day record players are a far cry from what your great-grandparents may have used to enjoy those fifties hits by Elvis Presley, The Platters, or Peggy Lee. You’ll find that even a modest investment will get you a decent turntable. Victrola is one of several manufacturers offering players, including those with Bluetooth, for $60-90. If you’re just getting into vinyl, specialty retailers offer starter bundles including player, stand, and album.

It is possible to get a feature-rich turntable for less than $300. At this price point, turntables may include a built-in preamp, built-in speaker, USB, and Bluetooth. The latter makes it easy to kick back and listen to your records on wireless speakers or headphones. It’s simple to plug a turntable with a preamp directly into powered speakers or an A/V receiver.

Finally, companies like Technics and Pro-Ject cater to the most demanding audiophiles. Some of their models can run $500 to $1000 or more. Apartment dwellers may want to save space by investing in a turntable with a built-in speaker. Once you have a turntable, you can play everything from vintage vinyl to new releases.


Calibration can be important. This is often the case if your turntable is pre-owned or fresh out of storage. Gizmodo offers some valuable calibration tips. Key adjustments involve tracking pressure, cartridge alignment, and anti-skating. Professional calibration is an option, particularly if you’ve invested in a more upscale model.

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A turntable with vinyl record in a living room.

Half the fun of getting into vinyl is building your collection. You’ll head off to garage sales, thrift shops, and estate sales with a new sense of purpose. While you might not find a Beatles album in the mix, you may come across the acclaimed work of their contemporaries.

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