In 2015, sales of vinyl records grew for the eighth year in a row, with two million albums sold in the UK, the most since 1994.
Newer artists like Amy Wnehouse and Florence and the Machine are big sellers, while older acts are reissuing their classic albums: the current vinyl top 20 includes entries from Queen, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac.
This “vinyl revival”, as it’s been nicknamed, isn’t just for teenage hipsters and audiophiles either.
The renewed interest has sparked a new wave of affordable turntables, which is great news if you have an attic full of albums that have been gathering dust since the 1980s.
Many also include a USB connection, so you can digitise your favourite records to play on your computer or smartphone.
There’s never been a better time to revisit your old favourites, and with everyone from Sainsbury’s to Urban Outfitters now selling discs, perhaps discover some new ones.
Record players on a budget
If you’re not fussy about perfect sound you can pick up a turntable extremely cheaply. Steepletone do a range of players that start at around £35; they may not satisfy an audiophile, but they sound perfectly fine to our ears, include built-in speakers and can also be plugged into your existing stereo system.
Their classic designs mean they’ll look great in the living room too.
It can cost a small fortune to replace a record collection with files you can play on your phone or MP3 player, and some of those old discs you’ve picked up along the way can be extremely hard to find on the iTunes store or Spotify. USB-enabled turntables mean you can easily record your vinyl onto your computer.
Listen to music in a most modern manner
Though there are cheaper models on the market (DIGITNOW!
do a passable £60 deck), you very much get what you pay for here, as a poor record player will mean a poor recording.
Audio-Technica sell an excellent range of USB-enabled players; we’d recommend the AT-LP60, which is affordable at around £89, offers good sound quality, and easy to assemble and operate.
Unless you’re an audiophile, you're probably not investing in a record player in order to get perfect sound. The appeal is often in the comforting pop and crackle of the vinyl, in hearing the records exactly as they sounded the first time you played them. In which case, why not get a player that looks the part?
Crosley make a genuinely gorgeous range of record players, including “briefcase” style portable players, based on the classic designs of the 60s. The Crosley Cruiser (£89) is beautiful and sounds great.
For the full retro effect Crosley also do a classic “Dansette” design, at around £280.
Any audio expert will tell you that a quality record, played on a high-end system, will give you the best sound you will ever hear. There are even clubs in London and New York (“Classic Album Sundays”) dedicated to sitting in silence, listening to a classic record on the highest-end speakers and turntable available.
Pricewise, the sky really is the limit here, but assuming you’re not about to spend £3,000 on a record player (that will get you a Thoron TD 2035, by the way) you can get a really good turntable for around £300.
The Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB is pretty much the perfect balance between great sound and a relatively affordable price, going for roughly £220. Unlike cheaper players, Technicas last forever, and they’re also the model of choice for many professional DJs. A built in pre-amp and a USB port for connecting to your computer are also included.
You will need an existing stereo system to use the deck, but anyone considering spending £300 on their turntable might also want to start building a really good stereo system to go with it.