When you’re hooked on vinyl, it’s easy to rattle off a list of equipment you can’t live without. For starters, there’s your turntable, a definite “must have,” and your speakers probably make the list as well.
But just as guitarists collect effects pedals and cyclists attach GPS units to their handlebars, we vinyl enthusiasts love our accessories. Over time, many accessories start to feel just as important as our turntables and record collections.
Some vinyl “accessories” are actually vinyl essentials
We’re about to explore a variety of vinyl accessories that are sure to heighten your listening experience. However, you'll notice that the phono cartridge and phono stage are absent from our list. In our view, these items aren't vinyl accessories – they're vinyl essentials.
After all, you can’t listen to records without a cartridge, and not all turntables come with one. You also can’t connect most turntables directly to speakers. You've got to convert your turntable's phono signal to an AUX signal first, which is why a phono stage is necessary. A phono cartridge and a phono stage are as essential to your setup as the record itself. You simply can’t listen to your favorite music without them.
With that caveat out of the way, here are six accessories that no vinyl enthusiast should do without.
1. Audio Advice Record Brush
Listening to records should never involve suffering through pops and cracks. That’s just not the way clean vinyl sounds.
So what are you using to clean your records?
You’ve got to use something, and the Audio Advice Record Brush is as fine a choice as any! The brush is made from carbon fibers, so it cleans grime from deep within your record grooves without scratching anything up. Use it periodically to keep getting the best sound from your records.
2. LAST Stylus Cleaner
Your stylus gets dirty, too. A lot of people forget to clean it, which is a fatal mistake if your goal is to achieve the best possible sound.
To prevent dirt and dust build up on the stylus, apply LAST Stylus Cleaner after each record play. The cleaner removes dirt from your stylus and prevents hard deposits from damaging your records. According to LAST, the stylus cleaner never goes bad. The company is still using samples from almost 40 years ago, none of which show signs of spoilage.
We like LAST because it’s safe for any kind of stylus – no abrasive chemicals that will damage your setup!
3. LAST Power Cleaner
Cleaning records with a brush is great, but what about the gunky compounds that bind to vinyl during the manufacturing process? How do you remove those nasty residues and achieve optimal sound from your records?
Applying LAST Power Cleaner is the best way to get them off. It’s not just for new vinyl, though. You can use LAST Power Cleaner on all your old LPs and 78s for a clean playing surface and improved sound.
Anytime you pick up a new record, whether brand new or used, apply this cleaner before setting it on your turntable.
4. Nitty Gritty Record Sleeves
How you store your records matters just as much as how often you play and clean them. That’s why it’s a good idea to store them in professional-grade sleeves. The right sleeves not only prevent scratching – they also keep out dust and other contaminants that could make your records dirty.
Nitty Gritty makes anti-static sleeves that protect your vinyl. They’re made from 20# cotton paper with a polypropylene lining. It’s a far cry from sliding your records into a plain paper sleeve, and that’s a good thing.
5. VPI HW-16.5 Record Cleaner
If you insist on great-sounding records, nothing beats a wet cleaning system!
The HW-16.5 is actually really fun to use. It applies a cleaning fluid and uses a special brush that works deep into the record grooves. Let it run as long as you want – you can even spin it backward for a deeper clean! Then just flip on the vacuum to suck away the grime. In less than a minute, your record is completely dry and clean.
The HW-16.5 is a must-have accessory for any serious used record buyer. VPI has been making it for over 30 years, and that says something.
6. Goldmine Record Album Price Guide
Ok, this one’s not technically a vinyl accessory, but it will definitely help you identify and price great records. The Goldmine Record Album Price Guide lists over 70,000 vinyl LPs from 1948 to today and helps you understand the value of each one.
For example, say you’re sifting through a bin of old records at a garage sale. You come across something that looks interesting, and you think it might be valuable. The Goldmine guide will reveal whether you’re about to score a gem or whether the record isn’t so special after all.
At 688 pages, you probably won’t be sloughing this guide around town. Thankfully, it’s available on iBooks.
You might get by without these accessories, but…
You want clean records, a clean stylus, and a lifetime of optimal sound from your vinyl setup. So why go without top-grade cleaning and storage accessories?
Whether you’re new to vinyl or just need a way to get better sound from your existing equipment, these accessories can help. You’re sure to notice the difference, especially after years of listening to hundreds of records.
Eventually, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them.