The Ultimate Guide to Vinyl: Buying a Turntable, Used Records, and More

While vinyl records might have been before your time, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a needle hitting the groove, even in an age where the iPod is already old hat. Newcomers to the scene have a lot to get familiar with when buying a record player, learning about its parts, and knowing how to hunt for used record. Let’s start off with the basics of records 101:

1. What is the best kind of record player?

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon USB

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Belt-Drive Table

Depending on how you’re going to be using your turntable, you basically have one of two options, depending on how you will use your record player:

Belt Drive

This turntable’s platter sits atop a bearing that rotates by an elastic belt connected to a motor on the side. The belt helps to minimize any vibrations or noise from the motor by absorbing the waves.

Ideal for: home listening, people on a budget

The bad: can be slow, rubber belts need replacing after a while, inconsistent pitch and speed (wow and flutter)

Recommended Models:

  • Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB ($250-300)
  • Pro-ject Debut Carbon Turntable ($350-400)
  • Audio Technica AT-LP60 ($100)

Brands to look out for used: Audio Technica, Music Hall, Rega

Direct Drive

The platter of a direct drive turntable is placed directly over the motor instead of off to the side, this allocates more power for a cleaner and consistent sound. This is the preferred table for DJs and musicians, as you can play the record backwards, scratch, and generally

Ideal for: DJs, audiophiles

The bad: can be rumbly, expensive, often come in pairs

Recommended Models:

  • Technics SL-1200 ($400-3,000)
  • Pioneer PLX-1000 ($700)
  • Stanton T62 ($200)

Brands to look out for used: Technics, Numark, Vestax, Stanton, Pioneer

Manual or Automatic: A manual turntable requires you to place the needle on and off the record, an automatic will play and stop automatically.

USB: If you’re looking to move vinyl record onto your computer, some newer tables have this functionality, although they usually have poorer performance than a standard record player.


2a. Record Player Parts and Equipment

the various parts of a vinyl record player

Stylus (the needle), this needs to be upgraded the most, as it can wear out the fastest (every 1,000-2,000 hours)

Cartridge (the piece that holds the needle), a good cartridge is key to great performance. A new cartridge is needed if yours is damaged or you are looking to upgrade.

Pre-amp, unlike the plug and play world we live in now, a record player may need to convert the PHONO (output signal) to LINE (AUX signal) by hooking it up with RCA cables. Basically, it won’t work unless you have a middle man, especially with older tables, as new ones sometimes have a preamp built-in. A DJ mixer can suffice as a preamp as well.

Speakers or Headphones, If you want to start slow, you can go to your local thrift store and pick up some speakers, otherwise, you can pick some good ones up for relatively cheap nowdays. Headphones can be a bit expensive, but if you’ve grown up in the early aughts already, you probably know how good headphones are worth it.

2b.The Record Player Setup

There’s actually a fine science to setting up your record player, receiver, setup and speakers.

1. Keep speakers apart and away from turntable. They should be as far away from one another as they are to you and unable to shake the turntable from bassy vibrations.

2. Keep the speakers away from the wall

3. Raise your speakers (if possible)

4. Make sure your turntable is balanced and not hanging off a ledge

5. Keep vinyl records in plastic sleeves for protection, and upright like books–not in a stack. Make sure it’s not by a heater, window, or any other source where it could warp from temperature.


3. Buying Records: How to Buy a Used Record

  1. Move towards a bright light at the store you’re in
  2. Check out the record’s jacket to see if it’s heavily worn, this could indicate heavy use or damage
  3. Inspect the color and sheen of the record, is it shimmering with the tiny etchings of the grooves or is it grey, flat or dirty? The better it looks, the better it will sound. Sidenote: some records might just be a bit dusty but be near VG+, but some of the dirt can also hide scratches–try spitting on the record and wiping it down with your sleeve in the light to see if there are any marks. Or use some water from a waterbottle if you’re more civilized than that.
  4. Look at the edges of the record for wear, since the needle will hit this point first.
  5. Inspect the scratches–are they deep, cutting into the wax? If you can feel it you can hear it, so make sure to pay attention. Tiny scuffs aren’t too worrysome, you can still get some great playtime out of it even if the former owner decided it was no good. Look for parallel scratches towards the grooves, those are the worst.
  6. The balance test. To make sure the record isn’t warped, bring the record to eye-level make sure everything looks pretty flush. If the far edges are above or below the surface then you may have a warped record.
  7. Heat test. To check the record for heat damage, look for tiny crater-like patterns, that may even look foamy.

Buying a Used Record Online

guide to buying used records online

1. This is mostly on a trust basis since you can’t physically inspect the item. Check the seller’s ratings, past items, and other indicators that you’re not dealing with a cheat.

2.  You can also try firing up Photoshop to make sure it’s the real deal. Drag the seller’s image into your photo editor and adjust the levels to look for defects that the camera’s exposure may be covering. Image > Adjustments > Levels (Command+L is the shortcut). Drag the sliders around underneath the mountain-like picture and get a detailed look at the album. See example on the right:


 4. Terminology

 LP – long play

EP – extended play

Original Pressing/Issue - Vintage Record (not a reissue)

First Pressing/issue – First version of record, the rarest and highest desired

RPM – revolutions (of the record) per minute. Most 12″ albums will be at 33 1/3 speed, while EPs and other smaller records will be at 45 RPM/

180 gram vinyl – a heavier vinyl record that will not wear out as easily as other records, these can sound great on a subpar stereo system as well.

Warping – when a record bends its shape from heat, or another cause and distorts the shape.

Crate Digging – Scouring through record stores to find new or rare music (especially dollar bins)

Jacket – The insert which the record is packaged in, what protects the vinyl

scale of record quality



2014: Daniel Radcliffe’s Billion Movies

It seems that Daniel Radcliffe is NOT one of the child actors who will be delegated to type casting. After finishing up the massively successful Harry Potter series in 2011, the British actor has been busy shooting a plethora of different movies in a wide range of genres. Radcliffe will definitely not be stuck to the fantasy genre after fans see what he has brewed up for a big year in 2014.

Here are the films Daniel Radcliffe will be sharing with the world.

What If

It’s no surprise that with tons of Potter fangirls that Radcliffe has fallen into the role of male interest in a romantic comedy. This film follows the basic tenants of the rom-com which costars Adam Driver from Girls and the new Star Wars movies.


This retelling of the Frankenstein story stars James McAvoy as the titular doctor and Radcliffe as his assistant Igor. There is no trailer for the film yet but there is a lot of hype with such a titillating cast.


There aren’t too many details about this project but it looks to be a winner. Fresh off the success of her sketch comedy show, Amy Schumer has penned a script with Judd Apatow slated to direct some sort of comedy? The film stars Radcliffe, Marisa Tomei, Tilda Swinton, and Brie Larson. Some on set photos were just released today!

So there you have it! Daniel Radcliffe is quite busy breaking away from “The Boy Who Lived”

New SpongeBob SquarePants Trailer Released

spounge bob

It’s hard to believe that SpongeBob has been on the air for 15 years now. The beloved Nickelodeon show has has had 10 seasons, over 200 episodes and one feature film. To commemorate the burger flipping  porifera Nickelodeon is set to release the second film of the Spongebob franchise in 2015.

Here is the trailer, for SpongeBob SquarePants: Sponge Out of Water featuring 3D renderings of our favorite characters including Spongebob, Squidward, Patrick and Sandy.

Spongebob has always been loved by children and adults alike. With  a mixture of absurd comedy and fun animation Spongebob is definitely an inspiration for shows like Adventure Time and  Regular Show.

To celebrate the release of this trailer we will go through

Best SpongeBob Moments

Red Beard Brew Bars Combine Beer & Soap

Red Beard Brew Bars are the latest & greatest thing to hit the showers. Just don’t eat the thing — it’s supposed to keep you clean. Here’s how.

Men probably don’t give much mind to keeping their skin healthy but the Brew Bar is superfood for the outside of your body. Created from essential oils including avocado, coconuts, and oils and one very special ingredient — home brewed beer.

No frilly stuff here, the soap doesn’t come packed with any artificial fragrances or chemicals. It’s like the difference between a crappy domestic and beer and inspired craft beer — there’s actually some creativity going into its production.

If you’ve been reading this blog long enough you’ll know we’re major proponents of the shower beer. ‘Shower beer?’, you ask unto the vacuum of the Internet … Oh, heavens. Just go check out something on Disney or something. Anyway, as we were saying … there’s no better compliment to your shower beer than a handcrafted bar of soap actually made from delicious beer.

Currently Red Beard Brew Bars retail for about $8 a pop. Choose from festive varieties like rosemary mint hefeweizen, peppermint coffee porter, and woodsman india pale ale. You can even join their soap of the month club and get seasonal varieties throughout the year.



‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Cast & ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Sequel at San Diego Comic-Con 2014

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Celebrities including Paul Rudd, Corey Stoll, Chris Hemsworth, and more adorned the San Diego Comic-Con this past week, as Marvel fans gathered in the H Hall to catch a glimpse of what’s to come from the comic book colossus.

As 7,000 fans crowded into the ballroom, they had no idea they’d be able to catch a glimpse of the upcoming Marvel films, “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” along with getting to talk with a panel that included most of the cast from the new flick.

Fans were most excited to see things like Captain America’s shattered shield, new armor for the Hulk, and even a quick glance of the films villain, Ultron, who will be voiced by James Spader.


The Best Cooking Channels on YouTube


With shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown becoming wildly successful cooking has become a bigger at-home hobby than ever before in the United States. With the advent of the internet, virtually anyone can become a decent cook.

A couple days ago the the community of r/cooking on Reddit compiled a list of the best cooking channels on YouTube to help amateurs become Gordon Ramsays themselves! Here are the top choices.

Food Wishes with Chef John

I have been watching Chef John for ages. The first time I ever made homemade pizza I used his California Pizza recipe. The great thing about this channel is Chef John does not show up in the videos and he explains everything in detail but allows viewers to improvise. Here is his popular Buttermilk fried chicken recipe.

Sorted Food

Not my personal favorite when it comes to cooking channels, I hate the “YouTube” banter, but plenty of people really like these brits and their creative recipes. Here is their recipe for Cronuts

Vegan Black Metal Chef

If you are a vegan and into the Norwegian heavy metal this is the channel for you. Honestly, this is more of a novelty cooking account but the recipes are spot on and it’s good for a laugh! Here is his (?) vegan pad thai recipe.


The Hotwives of Orlando is Merely OK

hot wives of orlando

I am a huge fan of the Paul Scheer/Rob Corddry style of parody that risen the past couple of years. Shows like Children’s Hospital, NTSF:SD:SVU, and Burning Love are all exceptional send up of their respective genres. Hulu saw the success of the series and commissioned the original series The Hotwives of Orlando with Paul Scheer serving as producer.

The series was created by the Upright Citizen’s Brigade’s Danielle Schneider who also plays Shauna Maducci the quintessential angry Italian trophy wife. The rest of the cast include Kristin Schaal (Flight of the Concords), Casey Wilson (Happy Endings), Angela Kinsey (The Office), and Tymberlee Hill (Curb Your Enthusiasm) as a bevy of different stereotypes from the Real Housewives franchise the show parodies.

The characters hit all the right notes for parody. The jealous wife, the gold digger, the sassy black woman, the christian, and the alcoholic. But while all the pieces are there a lot of the show falls short of being genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Perhaps the greatest character on the show is the on-the-nose editing and audio staff who nail the awful Bravo style right on the nose. However, the writing for the show fails to build anything from the characters presented in the show. An ill-advised recurring bit where all the girls freak out when asked to “Calm Down” wears thin within the first episode but is continued and said at least once in every single episode.

I understand that the real women on Real Housewives are very one note but parody can extrapolate on these  caricatures already presented.

Don’t get me wrong, the show isn’t awful, I watched the whole thing in one sitting. There are a couple gems that arise throughout the series that truly had me reeling. Perhaps the best part of the show is the inclusion of revered character actor Stephen Tobolowsky as Tawny St. John’s (Wilson) oblivious and affable older husband, Phil. His denial that Tawny is sleeping with her personal trainer produces multiple belly laughs.

Another great moment comes in episode two during Danielle’s “Pimps and Ho’s” party when the girls get prostitution lessons and have a “whore off”. The episode ends on a slightly disturbing note which is when the show really thrives. Continuing with the disturbing, Kristin Schaal’s as Amanda is incredible as the boozy former child star who becomes the punching bag for her sister Crystal played by Angela Kinsey.

I think the concept for this show was great but they should have stuck to the 12-minute format that has worked so well for Children’s Hospital and Burning Love.

All in all, it’s something good to throw on if you are out of shows to marathon and don’t want to think too much.

Best Reactions of Lebron James’ Homecoming

Even if you’re not an avid NBA fan, you’ve probably heard that Lebron James aka King James aka Bron Bron is making a valiant return to his hometown of Akron, Ohio to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. After taking his talents to South Beach to play for the Miami Heat, Lebron earned himself some championship rings, friendships, and a shit-ton of money. He also earned himself a fair amount of haters who are now all kicking themselves for burning jersey’s and forever ostracizing King James.

The Internet was abuzz late last week with (mostly) celebratory tweets, posts, and comments regarding the “return of the King.” Here are some of our favorite reactions:


Lion King Has Returned.gif





Who the Hell is Haywyre?

We’re not entirely sure who Haywyre is but … wow.

What has us so blown away is this remixed version of the classic Michael Jackson cut, Smooth Criminal. Check it out below …

‘Impressive’ doesn’t really cover it, but there you go. As mere bystanders it’s impossible not to note that it takes some serious chops to take on a classic work of pop straight from the MJ catalog — dare we say, for you EDM fans out there, this track might even top the original.

There seems to be a growing opinion out there to label electronic musicians as void of talent — little more than button pressing guys and gals as so wonderfully depicted by that now infamous SNL digital short. Haywyre should easily stop casual detractors of the genre in their tracks.

From the limited amount of info we were able to dig up about Haywyre, the guy hails from both Milwaukee & Minneapolis. That’s about it. A quick scroll through his website will take you to some bad links and we’re not entirely sure how active the artist is. Some of his material is dated back only 3 months ago.

For even more sounds of Haywyre, be sure to scope out his Soundcloud profile. We’ve been bumping his mixed material in the office this morning and we like what we’re hearing — you will too.

Soccer World Cup Beer Glasses

While soccer World Cup fever might be dwindling down here in America, despite the American legend that is Tim Howard, you can still celebrate the season with these amazing beer glasses. That’s right, drink away the memory of those two extra time goals by Belgium while enjoying one of their finest exports, a Belgian beer.

These novelty glasses are modeled after the official World Cup trophy, which just might be as close as Americans get to hoisting the trophy for a long time. But hey, if you’re Belgian, German, French or even a little bit Dutch — you still have potentially plenty of celebrating left in the tank.

On a completely separate note, is it not entirely appropriate for us to declare one calendar day out of the year as ‘National Tim Howard Day’? I mean the guy is just a beast in the box. Crooked Manners was thoroughly impressed with the American squad as a whole this year and can’t wait for the General & friends to take to the pitch in Russia in the next few years.

And thus the long wait begins — but at the very least this trophy can be filled to the brim with delicious beer. Consolation victory.