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How Can You Buy Vinyl...


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...When it often has a fault?

 

 I have enjoyed buying and playing vinyl for many years but am seriously considering quitting. I'm so sick of buying records only for the sleeve/s to be damaged, or worse, the vinyl itself.


Out of the ~10 records I've bought this year, 6 or 7 have had a moderate problem on arrival. I am a perfectionist but try to ignore minor stuff because it's unrealistic that it's going to be shipped and arrive in perfect condition. So if there's minimal corner damage, or a small crease, I'll let it go, but I still don't like it. As we all know record condition is seriously scrutinized by perspective buyers.

 

Living rurally, almost all my vinyl shopping is done online, which means I'm stuck with it. I got a shipment from JB earlier this year that had several records with faults I couldn't ignore. I contacted them but never got a reply. I didn't bother pursuing, because the records still played. It's annoying though. One of the faults was a significant warp. That may have resolved itself, I'm not sure.

 

Then just now, I opened a 3 LP album. The outer sleeve wasn't perfect but corners were good and no creases, just some minor indent type scratches. I was excited to play it and not have the drama of returning it (it came from a distro and I don't know if/where their hq is) and then it starts spinning and the tonearm is doing a yo-yo impersonation. Noooooo.

 

You pay a fortune for records only to (in my experience) get an inferior product more often than not.

 

So my question (if you bothered reading this far lol) is how do you justify it or do you have better luck than me?

 

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18 minutes ago, Esoterica said:

So my question (if you bothered reading this far lol) is how do you justify it or do you have better luck than me?

 

I just treat it all the way it used to be when records were the only medium for music that was available.

 

Back in those days,

- nothing was sealed,

- records didn't come in plastic sleeves, so most sleeves were a bit scuffed from being flipped around in record store bins,

- record stores would play parts of an album for you to listen to,

- warps were fine as long as the stylus didn't skip.

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Buying vinyl online has, for me over time, been a journey of trial and error.

After some disappointing arrivals I have settled on three maybe four trusted sellers based on price (why does the price for the same album vary by up to twenty dollars?), packaging, and communication. I’m in Vic and these sellers happen to be in Melbourne.

These sellers have never let me down and on the odd occasion accepted a return. Mostly due to the product quality such as warpage. After all because albums are sealed no seller can vouch them 100%.

All these sellers are onshore. I now never buy from overseas because the comeback is just too hard.

Oh I do miss crate digging...

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With very rare exception (eg. a RSD record), my current record purchases are from opshops.  Some turn out to be dud's, but at the price I pay I can't complain (I see the dud's as a donation to charity).  I don't understand how/why the quality control of new record pressings can be so bad, when ultimately it's decades-old proven technology. 

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Interesting responses. Thanks folks.

 

I suppose I have gotten more concerned with condition since getting older. I started buying records in the early 90s and don't remember paying much attention to any of that. It was buy a record, take home and play. There wasn't even any thought of sound quality. But when you're in your teens to early adulthood, worries are far fewer so...
 

I bought most of my records (being into rap at the time) from Central Station Records in Sydney back in the day @aussievintage and iirc, they allowed us to play whatever. I seem to remember liking the look of something and asking to play it. Don't remember being limited, which is one of the reasons we loved going there. That and they stocked underground stuff.

 

So I played all of one of the LPs of the 3 that provoked this thread. I haven't even looked at the other 2 yet. First side had a serious warp, and the second side was much less noticeable. The first side was concaved. Would a convex warp create static points? That's probably not a great description but side 2 sounded ok, except for some scratching or static patches. Being a new record I thought it had to be dust etc. on the needle. Cleaned it (probably improperly) but it was still evident. The record could've picked up some dust from felt mat too (must have actually as there was a little ball of it). Cleaned with carbon felt brush. Still static.

 

Side 1 sounded good I guess. I mean I was out on the verandah for part of it and I kept thinking, "wow, it's dynamic".

 

I buy mainly coloured vinyl, so that may be a factor? Are they more likely to have issues? I know there is doubt over the SQ in general vs. black. I had a warped black vinyl recently too.

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47 minutes ago, markielinhart said:

These sellers have never let me down

Name and fame! I'd like to have more options if I do continue to collect.

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1 hour ago, Esoterica said:

Name and fame! I'd like to have more options if I do continue to collect

OK folks here goes. 
#Dutch Vinyl - sends out a weekly email of s/h arrivals. Most of these are VG+ Great catalogue new and s/h. Mostly well priced.

#Vinyl.com - they stock in house or stock on demand which means a wait sometimes but hey, we’re getting used to that these days.

#The Searchers, used to go to their shop in Fitzroy, nice ppl and a smaller but good catalogue, good pricing and good communication.

#JB HiFi (yes...) huge catalogue, competitive pricing and mail costs.

Have fun!

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I've been ordering in CDs recently as a response to this very issue; at least they arrive in mint condition every time with zero playback issues. The number of warped records arriving just got too annoying.

Its crazy when you look at the price of new records which is in general 2x that of the CD. Why are records so expensive (and getting increasingly so)? I get the additional shipping cost which is fine but I feel like vinyl lovers are being taken for a ride... especially with a format so prone to issues. I love vinyl and have a serious setup to play it so it's such a pity that the cost:quality ratio is so poor.

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9 minutes ago, John0001 said:


Its crazy when you look at the price of new records which is in general 2x that of the CD. Why are records so expensive (and getting increasingly so)? I get the additional shipping cost which is fine but I feel like vinyl lovers are being taken for a ride... especially with a format so prone to issues. I love vinyl and have a serious setup to play it so it's such a pity that the cost:quality ratio is so poor.

Ha - one of the original selling points of CDs was their resistance to damage (plastic box around the artwork, a disk that didn't wear as it was played, every copy exactly the same etc).

 

For me - if it's a recording I genuinely want I will always look for the CD first (with some caveats - the loudness wars etc. made some of them fairly unlistenable when the whole remastering thing started up).  I do have a tendency to look for a vinyl copy of something if it was from the vinyl era, but pretty much anything post-1985 the CD will be superior.

 

Coloured vinyl - I love owning them but the surface noise on most of the coloured stuff I have is crazy (and the better a phono you have the more it gets annoying).  Playing vinyl is almost a reverse experience as you upgrade, the better your cartridge / turntable the more it makes you grate your teeth on a bad / damaged record.

 

I do have a few brand-new records but have stuck to op-shops and 2nd hand dealers for the most part.  I would agree that some of the "new" pressings of things are pretty woeful quality wise.  Vinyl was always like that though - random, easily damaged.  When you get a good one they sound fantastic but half the time I'll sling the CD copy into the player and have the vinyl to examine the artwork 🙂

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12 hours ago, markielinhart said:

OK folks here goes. 
#Dutch Vinyl - sends out a weekly email of s/h arrivals. Most of these are VG+ Great catalogue new and s/h. Mostly well priced.

#Vinyl.com - they stock in house or stock on demand which means a wait sometimes but hey, we’re getting used to that these days.

#The Searchers, used to go to their shop in Fitzroy, nice ppl and a smaller but good catalogue, good pricing and good communication.

#JB HiFi (yes...) huge catalogue, competitive pricing and mail costs.

Have fun!

Think I've browsed all but The Searchers. 

 

I've had too many damaged records from JB recently, so I think if I do buy from them it will only be in store. With the cost of postage it makes the 2.5 hour round trip to my closest store not much difference than paying to send them anyway. Looking through them is part of the fun too.

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58 minutes ago, John0001 said:

I've been ordering in CDs recently as a response to this very issue; at least they arrive in mint condition every time with zero playback issues. The number of warped records arriving just got too annoying.

Its crazy when you look at the price of new records which is in general 2x that of the CD. Why are records so expensive (and getting increasingly so)? I get the additional shipping cost which is fine but I feel like vinyl lovers are being taken for a ride... especially with a format so prone to issues. I love vinyl and have a serious setup to play it so it's such a pity that the cost:quality ratio is so poor.

Ditto John. I believe it's more than just the cost of production etc. Labels are simply cashing in on the hype. In saying that, some labels are more reasonably priced, e.g: Epitaph. Their stuff is usually around $30-35. 
 

I've also been thinking about buying more CDs. Since getting back into audiophilia, I have a very good CD player now (along with amp etc.) and I've enjoyed playing some old favourites on this improved gear. But I'm getting bored of my collection and wanting new tunes, but not sure (besides JB) where is a food place to buy CDs. I've looked on ebay and Amazon, but don't like their search engines, or them as companies tbh.

 

When I first got my ERC-3, I looked for HDCDs to try, but was let down by the scarcity of music I'm interested in on that format. There are a few though, so I might revisit that search.

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here is a range that of stores I use, and on the rare occasion I have returned a damaged product they have been obliging.
 

 I think the expectations for high quality records has definitely increased faster than suppliers ability to pump out good product.  

 

There  are also a lot of very average releases to vinyl that people would simply be better off streaming or buying the CD.  By average I mean both in considering the source material quality and also the pressing itself.  Lots of new cheaper releases play ok but don’t sound anything special.
 

we also almost seem to be demanding  close to 100% fault free playback like that for digital products and streaming.  
 

For me most physical damage to posted records has occurred during transit rather than due to manufacturing faults.

 
list of shops  which I believe accurately grade there second hand and have good returns for new records.

 

Plug seven records in Smith St Fitzroy - physical store, online and discogs presence.  Great mix of old and new jazz releases, a lot of second hand vinyl from Japan.  World music, rock, reggae, soul and R&B etc.

 

northside records- Gertrude St Fitzroy - physical store, online and discogs presence.  Eclectic mix old and new, special releases.  If you live locally Chris Gill drops off records personally (you can beat that)

 

greville records -  prahan physical shop and assume website but haven’t checked. Only buy in store 

 

discrepancy records - online shop and physical shop.  Not the cheapest but comprehensive online store, fast shipping helpful

 

dutchvinyl - melbourne and now Brisbane.  Johnston street Abbotsford.  All new and I think most second vinyl listed in online store.  Good pricing friendly and good shipping.  Returns policy no questions when I returned

 

 

red eye records in Sydney CBD - still with the same horrible website for seems like the dawn of the internet. 😂.  I usually visit physical store when In Sydney 

 

birdland records- CBD Sydney-  Jazz and Blues mostly.  Friendly.  Physical shop and online site and good newsletter

 

basement Discs Melbourne CBD - smallish vinyl collection.  Good newsletter friendly service.

 

 

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3 hours ago, John0001 said:

I've been ordering in CDs recently as a response to this very issue; at least they arrive in mint condition every time with zero playback issues. The number of warped records arriving just got too annoying.

Its crazy when you look at the price of new records which is in general 2x that of the CD. Why are records so expensive (and getting increasingly so)? I get the additional shipping cost which is fine but I feel like vinyl lovers are being taken for a ride... especially with a format so prone to issues. I love vinyl and have a serious setup to play it so it's such a pity that the cost:quality ratio is so poor.

I agree. Have been trying to focus on CDs but I just haven't got them to sound as good as vinyl.

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20 hours ago, Esoterica said:

...When it often has a fault?

 

 I have enjoyed buying and playing vinyl for many years but am seriously considering quitting. I'm so sick of buying records only for the sleeve/s to be damaged, or worse, the vinyl itself.


Out of the ~10 records I've bought this year, 6 or 7 have had a moderate problem on arrival. I am a perfectionist but try to ignore minor stuff because it's unrealistic that it's going to be shipped and arrive in perfect condition. So if there's minimal corner damage, or a small crease, I'll let it go, but I still don't like it. As we all know record condition is seriously scrutinized by perspective buyers.

 

Living rurally, almost all my vinyl shopping is done online, which means I'm stuck with it. I got a shipment from JB earlier this year that had several records with faults I couldn't ignore. I contacted them but never got a reply. I didn't bother pursuing, because the records still played. It's annoying though. One of the faults was a significant warp. That may have resolved itself, I'm not sure.

 

Then just now, I opened a 3 LP album. The outer sleeve wasn't perfect but corners were good and no creases, just some minor indent type scratches. I was excited to play it and not have the drama of returning it (it came from a distro and I don't know if/where their hq is) and then it starts spinning and the tonearm is doing a yo-yo impersonation. Noooooo.

 

You pay a fortune for records only to (in my experience) get an inferior product more often than not.

 

So my question (if you bothered reading this far lol) is how do you justify it or do you have better luck than me?

 

I paid $100 for new Pink Floyd "The Wall"
My wife who had never had records before used the record as a sun shade in the back of the car on a long drive home from where I purchased it.
After excitedly removing the plastic I was dismayed to find both records warped.
So I called the store to ask for a refund when my wife piped up admitting what she did in the back.
The records are still playable but it's like watching a boat on the ocean. So I don't play it much.
Now that's annoying

Oh and I prefer buying 2nd hand because new records today are not the same quality we used to get. Almost all my new stuff has an issue not caused by my wife.

Edited by Peter-E
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I think many people have a bias against CDs but if you marry a good transport (Cambridge CXC, Cyrus CD-t etc etc) to a great DAC you'd be shocked at just how good redbook can sound, in many ways better than streaming. Plus you get a physical item (which is nice) with artwork, although not as big and gorgeous as a record (obviously). And CDs are dirt cheap. OP shops have them for 50c. JBs and other stores have them new at $15-20, eBay is a great source, many $5-10 a pop. Yes I'd prefer a record but considering quality, cost (ridiculous) and reliability... Don't get me wrong I'm a vinyl fanatic but, yeah, vinyl in 2020 is a PITA.

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7 hours ago, Demondes said:

here is a range that of stores I use


I'll add them to my other thread which is focused on record store recommendations 👍

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3 hours ago, John0001 said:

I think many people have a bias against CDs


CDs are only good for their convenience (don't have to worry about flipping and can play in the car) and low cost. To me there is a richness to vinyl that CDs can't really match, but they're inconvenient, are easily damaged and cost a lot more. I love the look of vinyl (especially coloured) and large format artwork too, but I must admit, I don't spend much time admiring it.

 

As for CDs being much cheaper, I've had a bit of a look today and am surprised that they're still quite expensive for new. Over $20, sometimes closer to $30 for new and not bery old titles. I used to buy a lot of the 2 for $20 or similar at JB, but those were always a limited range.

 

One of my preferred stores Beatdisc, have good pricing on CDs and vinyl. Pity that they're not really set up for online shopping. Their CDs are around $20 (new) and most used CDs are half or less. LPs are between $25-50 new.

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While I broadly agree with you that Vinyl is the more tasty sounding format (if the turntable/cart/phono stage/setup is nailed down and the pressing is very good to excellent) the downsides, including dodgy pressings, are numerous. If the price difference was small (say the vinyl was 10-15% higher) I'd buy a lot more, but Vinyl is like wine, there's a lot of mediocre out there for the odd gem. As per your original assertion/question, 'How can you buy vinyl... When it often has a fault' my answer is rarely, for certain releases, and when you feel like taking an expensive punt. 😎

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Here is a photo of a record just arrived from the US. There are 2 exactly the same, and they came is separate mailings, so not likely a travel issue. Take a look at the pressing plant, and you can see that this happens at all levels of so called quality production. My vinyl flat will sort this out.

 

 

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It's ridiculous to have to have a flattening machine though. It's disappointing really, that it's become the norm.

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3 hours ago, Esoterica said:

It's ridiculous to have to have a flattening machine though. It's disappointing really, that it's become the norm.

 

It certainly is, but the sadest part in this case is that it is supposed to be an audiophile pressing from the same plant that does Analogue Production. 

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My take on being into vinyl is that the highs you get are very high and the lows can be oh so low. Not unlike a warped record.....

That’s a big part of it for me though. Hearing that album you thought you knew all over again . 
Also I reckon a well sorted vinyl rig will always outperform a similarly priced digital rig, at least to my ears. Particularly for predigital recordings. 


Regarding stores, I recently got a damaged Lou Reed album from JB’s - it was scratched straight out of the sleeve. They replaced it no questions asked. So +1 for JBs.

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I have generally had great results from Dutch Vinyl and Discrepancy Records in Australia and Elusive Disc in the USA.  
Also +1 for buying secondhand records and cleaning them up with an URCM.  You can pick up some real gems and interesting history. Being in Darwin I use Air Raid Records for this and Ryan and Leanne, the proprietors, are great. 
I have found JB hit and miss. 

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I buy vinyl just because I like it rather than because I think it's the best sound quality. I'm also a massive tightarse so my usual purchase method is checking on my reasonably large amazon wishlist once or twice a day, recording in the notes the lowest price I've seen each record drop down to, and rarely purchasing anything over $30 or less than 50% off the original price.

I enjoy it being more opportunistic this way rather than just going out and grabbing X album that I really want at full retail price. Feels like when I first got into vinyl scrounging at op-shops or used book shops etc. and just taking home anything that caught my attention for a few bucks.

Getting them super cheap takes a lot of the sting out of being delivered a dud, and Amazon (or JB HiFi) returns policies are really solid, at least in the few encounters I've had the past couple years.

Likewise the absolute bargains you can often secure make the highs all that much higher.

The closest physical shop selling vinyl to me now is 2.5hr round trip to Cooma. Little used bookshop where everything is trashed and has a blanket minimum price of $10, with anything even remotely interesting being more like $30+ regardless of condition.. If there were a brick and mortar within reasonable distance I'd visit every now and then but I still usually only dig the bargain bins for country/bluegrass/blues/reggae/dub .. I'll take a hard pass on those $80+ Pink Floyd albums in dubious condition when I can get a brand new one for $30 posted to my door.

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Well...

 

I've watched a couple of videos including Jack White on YouTube today, and his take on the romance of vinyl, might change my mind. Maybe I had it all wrong and the sound quality is one of the least important factors.

 

He is a fascinating guy and has a lot of interesting thoughts on a range of topics, but pertaining to this thread, his knowledge and views on records and music are very worthwhile.

 

In this video, Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) visits Jack's record label Third Man Records. He cuts an album. Direct to vinyl, as was done in the old days. And he sees the process and discusses with Jack, why he set this place up etc.

 

The way White talks about why he loves vinyl, reinvigorates my affection for it. He mentions how an error in the recording is actually a positive, not a negative as is often the case in the digital age.

 

Very cool watch...

 

 

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Watching the quality control they have at Third Man, makes one wonder if they ever send out an average pressing.

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