The Big Vinyl Comeback
Audio recordings have come a long way over the last 150 years. Thomas Edison is often credited with the first recording, it is his voice reciting part of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in 1877 on an early prototype of the phonograph. Along the way, audio has been available in multiple formats with the goal always being to make it higher quality, more accessible and easier to use. Vinyl records were the format champions for decades, then in the last 30-40 years we’ve seen the quick transitions from cassettes to CDs to iPods/MP3 players and now smart phones. The question is, does having unlimited access to every song, all the time, start to desensitize us to the powerful experience music can provide and are we sacrificing quality for convenience?
“You hear music when you’re in the coffee shop, in the car, in the gym, just walking down the street sometimes, we hear it everywhere,” says Scott Hagen, CEO of Victrola. “In every store we go into we hear it, and we’re consuming more music than ever before, but not in the same way. The ability to stop and sit and listen to an album from beginning to end, that’s something that always has been and always will be relevant.”
2020 marked the first year in more than a generation that physical vinyl records surpassed CD sales. 2021 saw an even bigger jump with sales up 94% and showing no sign of slowing down. So who are buying all these records? You may initially expect it to be boomers feeling nostalgic and wanting to get away from streaming services, but in actuality, the demographic making the majority of purchases are GenZ and Millennials. According to Pitchfork staff writer Mark Hogan, Gen Z is to thank for the boom in vinyl sales. He said, “Folks are often surprised that a lot of it is driven by younger people who don’t have any experience at all with physical music consumption.”
Vinyl gives a more intimate connection to the music. Physically going to a record store to purchase an album, holding and examining the cover art, and listening to the songs in their intended order creates a deeper listening experience. You can’t just skip a song, you have to take a moment and enjoy it for what it is. The signature warm sound, slight crackle, and high quality sound can get any music enthusiast hooked.
Where to begin?
If you’re new to vinyl and you start doing research about how to create an effective setup, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Do I need a phono preamp? What about the amplifier? Do I have to invest in an expensive receiver? Are my speakers active or passive? Should I get a belt drive or direct drive turntable?
Due to this confusion, we’re seeing more and more of our clients requesting our advice and help on how to create vinyl experience in their home. For this article we’re focusing on a system that gives the maximum amount of flexibility, ease of use, and functionality. Every home and room is different, so your solution or our recommendation may vary.
Turntable: Denon DP-400 Stereo Turntable
Key Features: Plays 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM Records, Auto Speed Sensor, Auto-Lift & Return Tone Arm, Built-In Phone Equalizer, Weighted Platter
Speakers: KEF Q150
Price: $599 (PAIR)
Key Features: Uni-Q driver array Small footprint (12’’ x 7’’ x 11), Max output of 108dB, Amp Requirement of 10W-100W, 51Hz - 28kHz
Amplifier: SONOS Amp
Key Features: 125 watts per channel at 8 ohms, stereo or dual mono sound, built in EQ, touch controls or app control
The basic configuration for this system is the turntable is connected to the SONOS amp via an RCA cable, then the speakers are connected to the amp. Not too complicated, right? We’re talking 3 components here that come together to create a system that is easy to use and serves dual purposes. Why dual purpose? You can of course play the records through the speaker, but the SONOS amp can also play all of your favoriting music via your streaming apps as well. Switching between playing records, and putting on your favorite Spotify playlist is just the click of button in the SONOS app. Plus if you have other SONOS devices in your home, you can put the record on, then join speakers in other rooms. Pair it with a SONOS move and you could be sitting outside enjoying the sound of vinyl. Pretty cool right?
First, you will need to setup your turntable using the included detailed instructions. This must be done with meticulous detail as the parts are delicate and must be handled with care and precision.
First you will mount the turntable on the center spindle and carefully connect the belt to the roller
After the turntable is mounted, you will mount and adjust the counterweight to the manufacture specifications
After mounting the counterweight, it must be adjusted to 2 grams of pressure via the stylus pressure adjustment ring
Once adjusted, mount the head shell and cartridge (the needle) and ensure it is properly locked
Once the above steps are completed, the counterweight must be calibrated with the anti-skating dial to ensure the stylus follows the grooves in the record properly
Once your turn table is calibrated, you’ll follow the appropriate steps of connecting the power cables and RCA inputs for the amp (don’t plug anything into the amp just yet)
Next, you’ll unbox the SONOS Amp and connect it to power. Download the SONOS app and the device will pop up on the screen for setup. Follow the in app instructions. If you don’t have a SONOS account, you’ll need to create one. Be sure you know your WiFi password as well.
Connect the Amp to power
Connect to the Amp in the SONOS app
Select your WiFi network OR connect it to your existing SONOS system
Complete choose the “Stereo” functionality in the app
Wait for the firmware upgrade to complete the connect the speaker (L&R) to their appropriate terminals
When connecting the speakers, be sure to connect the appropriate cable colors to their corresponding colors (red/black).
Now that your turntable and amp are setup and connected to your speakers, you’re ready to put on your favorite album and enjoy your new setup!
A setup like this is roughly $2000 installed. If you’re interested in having your own vinyl setup, let us know and we can come up with a design for you. This system was installed in a ~150 square foot home office, if you have a larger room we may recommend larger speakers or a different configuration entirely.
*Artist: Nicholas Kriefall - www.nickkriefallpaintings.com