How to get started with vinyl this Record Store Day

Record subscription service Wax & Stamp give us their best tips

We featured Wax & Stamp in our roundup of the best subscription boxes on the web. Now they’re back to give you all their best tips on getting started with vinyl this Record Store Day.

So you’re thinking of picking up a turntable? Great news. The vinyl market has been growing exponentially since its resurgence at around the start of this decade. With so many brilliant artists both new and old supporting the medium with brand new releases and previously unavailable reissues, now is as good a time as any to find out why experiencing vinyl can be such a rewarding hobby.

Wander into your local record store however, and the prices can be slightly off-putting. Prices start at around the £15 mark if you’re lucky, and can go up to about £30. As such, those new to the format may worry that vinyl is too expensive for them – especially when you consider the necessary equipment on top of it. Fear not, though, because there’s absolutely no reason to. Buying a turntable doesn’t have to be a headache, and you can enjoy records at a low expense. Here’s how:

Consider the space you have available

If you’re going to be listening to records casually, think about the space you’re going to be in and consider how often you’re going to be playing them. There’s absolutely no point forking out a wad of cash for a set-up that’s too cramped for your space, and paying out for equipment that’s going to engulf your room with iffy sound. In the most barebone of cases, to get going with vinyl you’re going to need the following:

An amplifier
A pair of speakers
A turntable

As far as turntables go, consider the entry-level products from Pro-Ject, including the Essential II and the Elemental Phono USB. The Essential is a brilliant turntable, not only for its elegance and ease of use, but also for its plug-n-play functionality like the Elemental (which can fit into the smallest of spaces and will let you download your records directly to your computer). Let’s explore a bit more about what plug-n-play means later.

Images: Pro-Ject Audio

When looking at speakers and amplifiers, the conversation can be never ending – but it doesn’t have to be. While heading to your local dealer and hearing a range of products in person is massively preferable if you’re serious about all this, the most essential piece of advice we can give you is to check the wattage.

This needs to marry up across the board – the wattage of your amplifier needs to marry up to your speakers and your turntable. For example, if you go with the Essential II, you’ve got a very low wattage requirement of 5,0 watts. If you have a pair of speakers that are 20 watts a pair, then you’ll want an amplifier (or amp) that’s got a wattage of at least 30 watts per channel. This is more than enough to fill an average sized living room or bedroom with glorious sound.

Keep it simple

Researching a hi-fi set-up on Google can quickly lead you down a rabbit hole of endless opinions and hearsay, with everyone on the internet throwing up an opinion on everything from the cartridge to the pre-amp to the ohms. Sounds like gibberish, right? It doesn’t have to be. Many of the entry-level turntables, such as the Pro-Jects above, come with a decent cartridge (the small part at the end of the arm with the needle on it) out of the box – the Essential II comes with an Ortofon cartridge for example, which is widely regarded as one of the best brands. Most importantly, these turntables – as well as the slightly higher-end brand of Rega – often come with a pre-amp already installed, meaning you can plug them directly into a power socket and your amplifier and then you’re good to go.

Think about the future

Investing in a hi-fi set-up is exciting, but it can be daunting as new equipment comes out so often. With a turntable like the trusty Rega RP1, or even the NAD C 556 (which is essentially the same, but ironically comes with a Rega-branded cartridge), not only are you guaranteeing the best out-of-box sound, but you’re future-proofing yourself too. These are belt-driven turntables, meaning your records will be played with great speed and stability (improving the quality of the sound) and you’ve got an endless amount of possibilities when it comes to upgrading, too. Fancy a new cartridge to eek out those finer details? That’s easy to do. Want to replace the belt with a quieter version? Not a problem. There are a bunch of different accessories available for all of these turntables, meaning you can learn and improve as you go.

Left: Rega. Right: NAD Electronics

You’re good to go

That’s it! Getting started with vinyl doesn’t have to be hard or expensive, and before you know it you’ll be able to start expanding on your own record collection. Consider also your local second hand market for great speakers and amplifiers – anything by Cambridge Audio, Marantz or Denon can found relatively cheaply used, and professional vintage stockists such as Pie & Hi-Fi will often provide great entry-level packages with kit that’s been fully tested and comes with everything you need.

Then of course there’s us: Wax & Stamp, a vinyl subscription service delivering new records to your door every month – hand-picked by us and the best guest selectors. All for an £26 a month, and you can use discount code GADGETTE to get 10% off. Happy listening!

Disclosure: this post was written and supplied by Wax & Stamp but is not a paid advertisement. 

Main Image © iStock/Riccardo67