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Crate diggers rejoice: The wax comeback

by John Preer

Remember way back when? This question is the driving force behind the recent trend of vintage items.

This retrospective movement has gone from dusty clothing and discontinued candy to ‘90s cartoons and restored automobiles. People seem to have an involuntary need to reminisce about the “good old days.”

Music can be a powerful trigger for memories, but sometimes it’s not the music that triggers the memory.

Sometimes the medium we listen to the music on is the trigger. Over the years the physical form we choose to store and listen to music has changed drastically. Perhaps the most timeless of these mediums is the wax vinyl record.

Most vinyl records come in one of two formats, the 12-inch 33 rpm and the 7-inch 45 rpm. The “rpm,” revolutions per minute, refer to the speed at which the record should be spun in order to play.

The vinyl record has been in rotation since the late 1800s and has withstood the test of time better than some of its successors. The way vinyl records work is rather ingenious.

The actual disc is nothing more than a piece of pressed wax. The actual music is stored on the small grooves in the vinyl’s surface. Because the music is stored this manner any damage to the surface of the record will have adverse effects on the quality of the music.

Vinyl enthusiasts are often called “crate diggers” in reference to how many people choose to store the records.

Whether by design or not, milk and produce crates are perfectly sized to store the relatively large and cumbersome records. The size of vinyl records is perhaps one of the biggest reasons for its fall in popularity.

Any sizeable record collection demands a decent amount of space and a strong back. The older vinyl records were made of a thicker quality wax and as a result weigh more than the average 120 gram record.

When it comes to digging for the perfect addition to your collection, a few factors should be taken into consideration. The most important tip is to inspect records before you purchase. There is no greater disappointment than getting home after spending good money on a vinyl and discovering it is badly scratched. Depending on where you go to buy your records some stores will let you listen to the record before you purchase it.

Do your research before buying. Just because a record is old doesn’t mean it is extremely valuable. Many records were mass produced so there is bound to be a duplicate somewhere. If you find yourself lost in a sea of vinyl with no idea as to what kind of music to expect from these dusty cardboard sleeves, don’t panic. This is by no means an infallible tip, but amazing album artwork is usually a decent indicator of the quality of music.

Any inspiring crate digger should invest in a few things before starting their collection. First and foremost, you need a record player. Some record players will only play one format or the other; however, there are record players that will play the 12 and 7-inch formats as well as CDs and cassette tapes.

A microfiber cloth and record cleaner are must have items. Rubbing alcohol works just as well and may be easier to find. Remember, a clean record is a happy record.

Lastly, put some thought into where you decide to store your records. Heat, moisture and light can all affect the quality and shelf life of your records. The wax used for vinyl records is very pliable and if not stored properly can warp drastically. There are machines that you can purchase to de-warp records, but they can be a little pricy. There are some more economic methods to remove any warps like applying pressure and heat to the record in order to reshape it.

The last tip for the would-be crate digger is to search long and often. Any good digger will tell you that the best records are rarely found easily. The good stuff usually requires a little more work. Keep in mind that this can be a time-consuming hobby.

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