Beware of Still Sealed!

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Records still in their original, unopened, packaging can be a great find.  In fact, they often command a hefty premium over their opened brothers and sisters.  The basic concept is that a still sealed album must be in mint condition by virtue of it never having been opened.  This isn’t always the case.

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Above is a picture of a still sealed album I picked up at a recent record show.  In my rush to pick, I neglected to perform one very basic test on it prior to purchase.  Instead, I realized I may have a problem when I got home.  You see, certain shrink wrap that was used to seal some albums actually shrunk over time.  As it tightens around the record two things happen.  First, the sleeve begins to change shape and develop “rolls.”  When you rub your hand over it, it will feel like there are small waves (you can actually see one of the waves in the picture, below).

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Secondly, the pressure from the shrinking plastic causes the vinyl inside to warp.  Depending on how old the disc is, the warp could make the album unplayable (though, you could used one of the flattening methods I discuss in an earlier post, but that will likely cause some minor damage in its own right).

So, how do you know?  Well, your fingers are the best judge.  When you feel the sleeve, if it’s anything but perfectly flat, you may have a problem.  I run my hands over the sleeve to feel if there are any waves that would indicated it’s under pressure.  I will also look for any portion of the plastic that is tugging at the sleeve.  You can tell because you will see the strain in the plastic as it’s trying to pull the cardboard along with it.  The best way to tell, though, is to rub the sealed album between your thumb and forefinger.  If the plastic moves very freely and doesn’t feel too snug to the album, you’re probably ok.  If it doesn’t move with ease and offers some resistance, the shrink has likely shrunk and odds are you have a damaged record.

There are also issues with new sealed vinyl, even if they no longer use the same packaging.  In an effort to attract more buyers, labels have increasingly used novel packaging to catch your eye.  While some of it is relatively innocuous, some of it can certainly damage your vinyl.  Hard inserts (plastic cards, cd’s, etc.) can jostle around when the vinyl is moved and could scratch or warp the disc.  If you buy a new record and there’s an issue, return it.  You shouldn’t suffer because of poor packaging.

Happy digging!

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Can You Fix Scratches On A Record?

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No.  No you cannot.  You should not even attempt to.  I’ll be going over some of the old method of “fixing,” scratches below but if you’re an audiophile purist you know that none of these actually work though they may make an album “more playable.”  Understand that each of these methods is destructive and may make things worse.  If you have a record that has scratches that make it unplayable, throw it out and buy another copy.

That said, here are the methods:

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1. Needle Method (see: http://www.wikihow.com/Fix-a-Scratch-on-a-Vinyl-Record)

Essentially, you use a cone attached to a sewing needle to determine where the scratch is located on the album.  Using the needle, you apply light force and follow the groove back and forth over the scratch.  You will angle the needle either toward or away from the label depending on whether the skip is backward or forward.

Using this method, you are altering the groove depth that was set at mastering.  It takes a steady hand and one slip could cause another scratch or make the existing one worse.  Further, the angling of the needle could cause you to break through the grooves and create a loop on your record.  Certainly in the best case, you are really reducing the skip, but also adding noise to your album.

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2. Sandpaper Method (see: http://www.instructables.com/id/Bring-Ruined-Records-Back-to-Life/)

Using a very fine wet & dry sandpaper (1500-2000 grit) you soak your album and sand paper and then lightly sand parallel to the grooves where the scratch is.  Once done you can buff the LP to get the sheen back.

I have a specific issue in this method as the idea of sanding and buffing seems extremely sneaky if that album were to be offered for sale as if it weren’t altered.  Again, because you are sanding the album, you are changing the groove depth and therefore affecting the sound quality.

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3. Ice Cube Method

You’re to take an ice cube and lightly rub it over the scratch, parallel to the grooves.  Hypothetically, as the ice cube melts it takes the shape of the grooves and bends the scratch so that it doesn’t skip.

Again, you’re altering the LP and therefore are changing the sound quality. Further, water alone is too heavy to find it’s way to the bottom of a groove so you may, at best, be just bending the very top if you’re doing anything at all.  Also, this only works if your ice cube remains in the same groove.  If it moves down one groove, you could be negatively altering every other groove within the width of the cube.

If your Ice Cube is Straight Outta Compton, he will likely be pissed that you’re rubbing a record on him.

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4. Quarter Method

This involves taping a quarter to the headshell to increase its weight.  You then manually move your platter back and forth over the scratch.

You are an idiot if you do this as you will damage your record and your needle.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, you should be able to live with small, light scratches.  If your album is scratched to the point it is unlistenable, then make a vinyl bowl out of it or something.  It’s important to note that collectible records with scratches may still hold some value and may still be sought after, if only as a placeholder until you find a better copy.  It’s not worth your time or effort to “fix” scratches using any of these methods.  You may be doing more damage to the album and your needle.

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Does A Record’s Weight Matter?

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I guess the real question is “why are some records heavier than others?”

Records are pressed at a weight between 80 grams and 200 grams.  At the lightest end of the spectrum are the Dynaflex discs that were introduced into the market by RCA in 1969 and were pressed until the late 1970s.

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On the other end are the “audiophile” weighted records pressed by numerous companies, but certainly associated with Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MOFI).   Typically, an audiophile pressing is between 180g and 200g.

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So, what’s the difference?

Well, it comes down to damping the record.  Essentially, you want to reduce the vibration of the disc during playback by ensuring it is in full and total contact with a mat (the damping process).

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Lighter albums tend to lift off of the mat during playback and thus vibrate which creates noise.  Heavier records use their natural weight to stay in full contact with the mat and thusly reduce background noise.  This is why, technically, heavier records will have a better sound quality.  There is also the argument that groove depth is better on a thicker album but this would be false.  Depth is decided at mastering and a 120g record will have the same groove depth as a 180g record.

So, does this mean you have to buy heavy records?

Simple: nope.  You can ensure the damping process is happening by using some additional gear.  These pieces are mostly referred to as record clamps.  The main focus of a clamp is to hold the record to the mat, either through natural weight (push) or  force (pull).

To accomplish this there are 3 ways to clamp a record:

  1. Centre Weight (Spindle Clamp) – Essentially a 8-15oz weight that fits onto the spindle and pushes the record onto the mat to reduce vibration;
  2. Periphery Clamp – attaches the mat and platter to the periphery of the record which pulls the record down onto the mat to reduce vibration;
  3. Combination of 1 & 2 – This ensures the whole records is in contact with the mat.

I tend to use a Centre Weight as they’re generally easier to find than a Periphery Clamp.

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If you go that route, make sure you don’t buy one that’s too heavy as it could cause lighter weight records to warp off of the mat and actually increase the vibration and background noise.

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Toronto Record Stores – Where to Buy

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Looking for a place to dig?  Here’s a list of stores in Toronto (Leave a comment if I’m mising any):

Kops Records

Easily my favourite store.  The newer Bloor store is fantastic and has some great prices on collectible records.  The Queen store sells new and used vinyl as well as a massive selection of 45s.

229 Queen Street West & 592 Bloor Street West

 

Sonic Boom

Sonic just moved to this location and I haven’t been to the new space yet, but I always liked Sonic Boom.  Hearing the slapping sound made by the plastic surrounding the cd’s is oddly comforting.  They have new and used vinyl here and a very large selection.

215 Spadina Avenue

 

Rotate This

A staple in the West Queen West strip, Rotate carries an awesome amount of new and used vinyl.  Added bonus: They sell concert tickets.

801 Queen St W

 

Sunrise Records

Mostly focus on new records, but have a decent selection of used.  The used is mostly standard stuff you can find anywhere, but the do have some gems.  Unfortunately, they’re closing both Downtown locations in mid-November.

336 Yonge Street & 784 Yonge Street

 

Play De Record

Big selection of hip hop, electronic, reggae, blues, soul and a small selection of rock.  Great store to flip through if you’re a dj and they carry a ton of gear.  I buy my cartridges there.

357 Yonge Street

 

Good Music

A small store in the Black Market vintage clothing store.  They carry new and used albums, but because of the space limitations it’s not a huge amount of stock.

256A Queen Street West

 

Vortex Records

I’ve been to Vortex a few times and haven’t found anything I’d want to buy.  It’s always full and people tell me what great stuff they’ve grabbed from there.  Alas, not I.  A friend told me it’s really “you have to be there at the right time,” type of place so I’m going to keep trying.

2309 Yonge Street

 

Circus Music & Books

This is a cool East-end spot.  They always have a good selection of albums with a lot of collectible stuff.

866 Danforth Avenue

 

Discovery Used & Collectors Records

1140 Queen Street East

 

She Said Boom!

I’ve always liked this place.  It’s all used vinyl and they have a great selection of stuff.  The prices are decent too.

393 Roncesvalles Ave & 372 College Street

 

In The Groove

Not a bad spot, they carry a good selection of used stuff.  I stop buy anytime I’m down that way.

1174 Queen Street East

 

Around Again

Good selection, especially for Jazz-heads.  My only complaint is that they have very odd hours.

18 Baldwin Street

 

West Camera Ltd.

Cool new spot on Queen.  Very good selection of used vinyl.  They carry a lot of collectible albums.  The prices are average but the selection is worth it.

516 Queen Street West

 

Cosmos

Awesome selection of Blues, Jazz and Soul.  They carry a ton of rare albums and all of it is in pristine condition.  The prices are on the higher side, but you’re getting a NM record almost every time.

607 Queen Street West & 652 Queen Street West

 

Ransack The Future

Good vintage store in the West end (Brockton Village) with a strong focus on vinyl.  Selection is what you’d expect at  a a vintage store and the prices are a bit on the high end for what you’re buying but they’re willing to haggle.  There is absolutely no organization to the records.

1207 Bloor Street West

 

Mike’s Music

This used to be a Sunrise location and now focuses on antiques and used records.  The selection is pretty good and they have a lot to go through.

105 Danforth Avenue

 

June Records

Good store with a big selection of new and used vinyl.  Prices are decent.

662 College Street

 

Beach Sound Records

Awesome selection of stuff (and if you can’t find it ask – he may have it in the back) but the prices are a bit high.  Also has the strangest way of pricing things, using a system of $5 is equal to 1 DOT.  So, if a record is 5 DOTS, then it’s $25.

898 Kingston Road

 

Pandemonium

Great selection of stuff in this Junction spot.  They carry a lot of collectible stuff and the prices are good.

2920 Dundas Street W

 

Ric’s Collectibles

1006 Queen Street E

 

Paradise Bound

Average spot in Kensington Market.  Prices are good but the selection could be better.

270 Augusta Avenue

 

Neurotica Records

Great spot in the West Queen West area.  The prices are good, but the place is small so the selection isn’t huge.

642 Queen Street West

 

Grasshopper Records

Decent spot by the Ossington Strip.  Good selection and the prices aren’t bad.

1167 Dundas Street West

 

Last Gen

Really small spot on College that sells comics, video games and records.  Selection is small but the prices are good.

193 College Street

 

Soundscapes

Good spot on College that focuses on new vinyl.

572 College Street

 

Zoinks Music & Books

1019 Bloor Street West

 

Ric’s Recollections

257A Lakeshore Road East

Am I missing any?  Let me know in the comments section

 

Tiny Record Shop

804 Queen Street East

Here’s a handy map:

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A new record, or has vinyl reached it’s final resting place?

Interesting blog on resurgence of vinyl

The Sound Blog

With vinyl sales continuing to increase, Alex Wilson considers the science, both good and bad, behind this trend.

That’s been a lot of talk lately about vinyl. A bit of research leads to the discovery that this is exactly the same thing that used to be called an “LP” or “record”. This might have something to do with the fact that vinyl sales are higher than they have been for 15 years.[1]

Sales by formats [1] Tony Myers recently wrote on The Guardian about introducing his children to vinyl, painting the format as a relic of a forgotten age, where listeners engaged with their music in very direct, active and above all, tangible manner.[2] I have a few issues with the title, “How I Taught My Son To Love Vinyl”, although if things continue as they are, my generation’s equivalent will likely be “How I Taught My Son To Listen…

View original post 822 more words

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