After a long day at school, a boy enters his room, throws down his backpack and thumbs through his record collection. He chooses his favorite, “Houses of the Holy” by Led Zeppelin, and carefully sets it on the shiny red record player that he bought because it reminded him of a cherry-red Corvette.
No, this isn’t a scene from the ’50s. This is senior Jake Sands, a record-player aficionado. Record players are back and a must-have for teens everywhere.
Most players resemble turntables in colorful patterned briefcases and range from $50-600.
In 2013, companies like Crosley Radio and Pyle Audio revamped their selections of jukeboxes, radios and record players to include MP3, Bluetooth and iPod docks.
Sands, who listens to his player almost daily while doing homework, said he was drawn to record players because some artists, like Jimi Hendrix or The Smiths, offer recordings of their live performances only on vinyl.
Freshman Gabi Alvarado, also a fan of classic rock bands such as The Beatles, Carole King and The Doors, bought her Pyle Retro Style Turntable at Best Buy for about $60. Alvarado said she chose this player for both its ability to connect to her laptop and the relatively inexpensive price.
“I wanted to know more about how music evolved and how people used to access it,” Alvarado said. “I learned that the record player (used to be) a huge part of music.”
Senior Aidan Galati received her Crosley Collegiate from her parents for her 15th birthday and, like Sands and Alvarado, has amassed 30-40 records from friends and record stores. Galati visits Urban Outfitters (1703 Arden Way), which sells records from $10-50, and the Tower Records website for her vinyl needs.
Sands regularly shops at Cherry Records (925 Lincoln Way, Auburn), which often has dollar record sales, and Esoteric Records (1139 Fulton Ave.), which sells records for $5-10.
Alvarado prefers the used vinyl section in the back of Dimple Books (2499 Arden Way), which sells singles for $1-10 and box sets with five records for $8. While the used vinyls are slightly scratched, Alvarado said they’re still good quality and that the imperfections add to their charm.
“(The records) are so old,” Alvarado said, “like something from a different place, a different century, a different time. I love just listening while knowing that many people before me have listened to this very same record and felt different things. Nothing compares.”
Alvarado’s second source of records is her father’s stash, mostly comprised of Led Zeppelin, in their basement.
Galati said she enjoys classic bands like Pink Floyd, along with more modern bands like Vampire Weekend and B.o.B.
“A lot of modern indie artists get their albums put on vinyl for those hipsters out there that want to listen to their music on turntables,” Galati said.
In the ’50s, it was every teen’s nightmare to scratch or drop one of these precious records. Today is no different. Sands said he was kicking himself for days after he ruined his “American Beauty” soundtrack.
“I was messing around, and I dropped my record on a corner, (which) ended up chipping it,” Sands said. Sands protects his records by keeping them in their original plastic.
Galati said that along with being careful with her records, it’s also important to clean records with a dry cloth before playing them.
“(Dust) can make the sound fuzzy, ruin the record or gunk up the needle on the player,” Galati said.
While everyone else rushes to join this craze, sophomore Nico Burns is hopping off the bandwagon. Burns was inspired to get a record player because his dad and other friends really enjoyed theirs. At first, Burns said he often listened to his Crosley Keepsake player, which has a headphones port, but he soon grew tired of it.
“It’s so much easier to play music from my laptop with just one click than to get up and put on a record,” Burns said.
Now Burns uses his player only a few times a month.
Sands said he prefers his record player because the sound quality is better than his laptop speakers, and Galati and Alvarado agree.
“(The music) feels and sounds more authentic,” Galati said.
Alvarado said she connected speakers to her player to enhance her vinyls’ rich music.
“The sound of vinyl adds a certain depth to the songs and instruments,” Alvarado said.
But history teacher Daniel Neukom disagrees. Neukom says he hears little difference between music from record players and music from his vast collection of CDs.
Neukom first became interested in record players when he was in high school in the ’60s. He said he was amazed when he heard that young people were taking an interest in record players again because he remembers how frustrating maintaining his Thorens turntable was.
“We had to clean (the records) every time we used them,” Neukom said. “First, I would scrub it with record washer fluid. Then I would spin it slowly on the player and wipe it with a velvet brush to pick up all the dust.”
In addition, in the ’60s, records weren’t always printed completely flat. The bumpy records damaged the needle, so Neukom also said he would have to take records back to the store a couple times before he got a good copy.
Neukom said it was easy to accidentally bump into records and scratch them.
“It was fun to remember who had made the scratches and where we had been and how it had happened,” Neukom said.
And he said he fondly remembers meeting up with friends at Tower Records once a week, looking at the beautiful album art and reading the information on artists.
Neukom said that current record players are lower quality than the ones in his heyday. He spent $800 on his recordplayer and bought a Shure V-15 type IV (improved) cartridge, which was a coveted needle that didn’t wear out vinyls as much.
Although all good things must come to an end, Sands said he doesn’t see this trend fading away any time soon.
“Vinyl sales are up,” Sands said. “Vinyl will always be popular with music buffs.”
Alvarado said she expects that as more rock legends pass away, young people might take an interest in their music and record players.
“The people who do it just to be cool will stop soon, but there’s always going to be people who genuinely enjoy listening to records,” Galati said.
Who knows? Maybe the Walkman and cassette tapes will make a comeback next!
—By Sonja Hansen