If you collect records, you probably don’t need more stuff to spend money on. My vinyl wishlist is long enough to consume a year’s salary all on its own. But surely you didn’t get into this hobby to save money.
We see you cruising Discogs on your lunch break, looking for ways to spend your next paycheck before you even get it.
May we suggest that there is great satisfaction in accessorizing. Think of your growing record collection as a sumptuous wardrobe of brightly colored fabrics just begging for complimentary pieces. Fashion metaphor not doing it for you?
Fine, I won’t dress this up anymore than I already have. (See what I did there?)
Here’s a bunch of stuff that every record collector should have.
Before your new collection gets out of hand, you need somewhere to put it. Obviously, there are a lot of cool ways to store your records. Anything big, sturdy, and stable will do as long as you can stand your records upright and keep them neatly filed. But the Kallax from IKEA owns a special place in record collecting culture.
While it may not have been custom designed for LP storage, it sure looks like it was. The Kallax is a simple, square shelving unit divided into 12 x 12 cubes. They come in an extremely wide range of sizes from 2×2 all the way up to 5×5. It all depends on the size of your collection and your ambition.
The cool thing is that you can always add more units and cubes. I have a 5×5 Kallax directly next to a 4×4 for a total of 41 cubes. Comparatively speaking though, this is an affordable, easily assembled, and aesthetically pleasing way to store and showcase your vinyl. These cubes are also great for displaying your little vinyl-geek tchotchkes, rock biogaraphies and, of course, the other accessories on this list.
2. Record Brush
A record brush is the single most important accessory you can buy for your collection. If you plan to dig through dollar bins and scrounge at record shows—and you absolutely should—you will take ownership of some seriously grimy wax.
The great thing about used records is that each one has its own history. The bad thing is that this history may be splattered all over your platter. All the dust, debris, and weed that have collected on your record over the years can degrade the sound, cause skipping, and gunk up your needle.
Even new records can come out of the sleeve flecked with small bits of packaging. Your records will sound better and your needle will last longer if you give each record a quick brush before listening. (Don’t worry. It takes like 5 extra seconds.)
A decent record brush shouldn’t set you back more than $30. Most brushes will come with record cleaning fluid and a smaller bristled brush for cleaning the record brush after each use.
While a decent record brush is mandatory, this item is optional. That said, for serious collectors, it’s totally worth grabbing a Spin-Clean.
A record brush is a good way to conduct routine maintenance, but there is a limit to how deeply it can clean your records. The Spin-Clean, on the other hand, is like a bath for your wax. This is the safest, most effective and most affordable way to give your records that showroom sparkle.
You might be amazed at the wrinkles you can iron out this way, especially on those deep-groove records from the ‘50s and ‘60s. The Spin-Clean gets into the gnarly crevices, minimizing hiss, quieting pops, and even eliminating some skips.
You could spend a few hundred on a space-aged Ultrasonic vinyl cleaner. On the other hand, the Spin-Clean usually retails at about $80.
4. Stylus Cleaner
One more thing while we’re on the topic of keeping things tidy. No matter how well you clean your records, your stylus will pick up dust and dirt. You can usually hear it happening while you’re listening. The sound will start to muddle as that debris dulls the fine point on your needle. You have a few options for cleaning your needle.
Some listeners prefer gel cleaners. Basically, you dip your needle into a solution that pulls the debris away.
Or, once again, you could go the fancy way and get an ultrasonic brush that employs both liquid solution and a “3 Dimension Vibration” process to remove all debris.
I prefer the quickest and most hassle free approach, which is a carbon-fiber brush that gently but manually removes dirt.
5. Slipmat or Turntable Mat
Most record players come with a mat of some kind but it can still be fun (and generally affordable) to upgrade. This thin disc-shaped item rests between your vinyl and the plate on your turntable, soaking up the resonant vibration caused by the needle as it moves through the groove. Depending on your setup, the sonic improvement can range from subtle to face-melting.
But first, a quick note on the difference between a slipmat and a turntable mat. The former is for DJs and its purpose is to allow easy movement and cueing while the record continues to spin. For this reason, most slipmats are made of felt, which enables frictionless sliding.
Turntable mats are more generally for home setups and are meant to refine sonic performance. This is probably what you’re looking for (though a Google search for slipmats and turntable mats will yield pretty much identical results.) If you really wish to parse the differences more deeply, Pro-Ject offers a gearhead-friendly explanation.
Turntable mats come in felt, acrylic, cork, leather, rubber, and probably some futuristic nano-tech materials that I don’t know a thing about. They also come in all sorts of colors and designs. Mine looks like a lunar surface. Yours could feature that iconic yellow smiley face from the ‘70s, a head-on shot of Isaac Hayes looking super pissed off, or an array of mind-bending psychedelic swirls. Options abound.
6. Record Weight Stabilizer
A record weight is completely optional. To be honest, I’m not even totally sure it does anything. I mean, I still bought one, but I’m just not sure. It is, however, increasingly popular among collectors.
This small, weighted object fits snugly on top of your LP while it’s spinning and serves as a stabilizer. By keeping the record flat and level, it helps to minimize the likelihood of skipping, the impact of slight warping, and even some bouncing from movement in your listening room (though there are likely other issues in your setup that need to be addressed if you’re dealing with bouncing.)
I wouldn’t make the record weight the first accessory on my list, but I do use it for warped records and I’m definitely certain that maybe it probably helps. Either way, it looks pretty cool in mid-spin and it doesn’t cost all that much.
7. Shrink-wrap Knife
New records come in shrink wrap. Have you ever tried opening it with your bare hands? Getting a paper cut under your fingernail super sucks. It’s a good idea to keep a small knife close at hand when you’re ready to tear excitedly into a new arrival.
Obviously this knife doesn’t have to be anything specific. Anything will do as long as it’s small, sharp and capable of making small, precise incisions that don’t risk damaging your new LP.
That said, how freakin’ adorable are these tiny meat cleavers?
8. Now Playing Station
The more you listen, the more you’ll realize that you need a good place to display the sleeve of the record you’re currently spinning. I mean, that’s half the point. The artwork should stand alongside the album as it plays, serving as a source of information, a conversation piece, and a reflection of the artist’s intent.
Your now-playing situation doesn’t have to be anything complicated. A crafty friend of mine salvaged a few old pieces of oak and affixed them to the wall above his stereo. I’m not as crafty, so my awesome wife bought me a little light box that says “Now Playing” and includes a slot that holds the corresponding sleeve.
The way you display your current selection is an opportunity to add a bit of style and function to your listening rig.
9. Inner Sleeves
Anybody in the business of collecting used records should have a ready supply of fresh inner sleeves. Bargain bins are crawling with ill-treated gems, and there is no greater form of abuse than jamming a record into its outer cover without an inner sleeve.
Be prepared to insert inners where there are none, and to replace those that are split, moldy, or shredded. You have options here, including simple paper stock slips and anti-static rice paper sleeves.
If you have the budget though, the best option is the anti-static high-grade plastic inner sleeve produced by Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. They cost a bit more, but they also work harder to preserve your investment.
10. Outer Sleeves
Speaking of preserving your investment, value is also determined by the condition of your cover. You should always have a supply of plastic outer sleeves at your ready disposal. Now you don’t have to sleeve everything. For better or worse, there’s nothing you can do to change the value of your Johnny Mathis Greatest Hits compilation.
But you should make a habit of placing outer sleeves on brand new records, on valuable records, and on aging records that already have flaking or damage. Before you slide these precious artifacts into shelves against one another, sleeve them up.
Now that you know what accessories you should have, you might benefit from a few tips on how to build your budding collection. Luckily, we’ve got those too. Check out our look at 10 Tips for Vinyl Beginners. But beware. Vinyl is highly addictive!