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How To Choose Vinyl Records

For the music lovers in your family, go old school with your gift ideas for the holiday season. Despite the popularity of digital music and CDs, vinyl is still a hit with listeners of all ages. Think of what albums your collector may be dreaming of, a lost favorite or a rare gem. For the sake of the season, you might add an extra album, with lots of festive titles for Christmas, Hanukkah, and other holidays like Elvis' Christmas Album for the classic rock lovers, or the campy, fun-loving John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. Whether you are shopping for a long-time listener with an impressive vinyl collection or someone just looking to take the first step into analog music, the revival of vinyl means that there is a huge range of classic albums and new releases to choose from and machines to play them on. You can find records of all genres including rock, indie, hip-hop, and even film soundtracks. Browse the offerings on eBay and start a new yearly tradition among your family.

Why choose vinyl?

For audiophiles, the answer is quite simple. Vinyl records sound better. The quality of a digital music recording like a CD is limited by its bitrate, or the rate at which it records information. The sound on a digital album is a series of snapshots, and the music is often compressed afterwards to reduce the file size.The grooves of a record are continuous and lossless. As long as you have a good turntable, you can hear the recording exactly as it was played . This isn't necessarily true of modern album releases, though. Many new records and remasters are actually pressed from digital master files.Vinyl records are collectible, too. Many records from the time when vinyl ruled are now rare. Original pressings of albums from classic bands like The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd can have real historic value. Collectability isn't limited to classic releases, either. Since digital formats became the main medium for music, record companies have tended to treat vinyl records as special editions, so albums often come with unique artwork and other bonuses.

How do I assess the condition of records?

A vinyl record's condition is of huge importance to collectors, so they often look for graded records. These are rated on a common scale, although there is some subjectivity involved. Mint records are those that are in perfect condition and have been stored very carefully. They will never have been played and the disc and sleeve will display no damage. Some will still be sealed. Near Mint vinyl records will still show no damage to the disc or the sleeve or cover, but may show some signs of having been handled.Very Good and Very Good Plus vinyl records will show wear, although they have still been stored and used carefully. Grooves may be more worn and there may be creasing or scuffs visible on the sleeve. You might also get some crackle while listening, but the sound quality should still be excellent.Good and Good Plus graded records should play all the way through without skipping, but sound quality might be less than it was due to wear on the grooves. The vinyl and the sleeve or cover will have clearly visible defects.Lower grades like Poor or Fair may well not play through every time without skipping, and will display noticeable cosmetic damage like cracks on the vinyl or tears on the sleeve.Vinyl records will sometimes be given a play grade and a visual grade. Play grades refer to how good the sound quality is, while visual grades are down to how good the disc and its cover look.

What do the different formats mean?

LPs measure a foot across and spin at just over 33 rotations per minute. A vinyl LP can hold up to an hour of music on each side, so they are a popular format for albums. In longer albums the grooves have to be cut closer together which can affect sound quality. Many albums were made as double LPs to get around this. These could consist of two vinyl LPs in a single 2-LP box, or one double-sided LP.45s are seven inches across and spin at 45 rotations per minute on your record player. They only have five minutes of playing time per side at most, so they are usually used for singles. If you only want the hits, you could put together a collection of nothing but 45s.78s are a bit different in that they usually aren't actually made from vinyl but rather shellac. This makes them quite fragile. Like 45s, you won't find full albums in this format: running time is limited to about three minutes per side.

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