If you’re a vinyl DJ, your records are your livelihood. Unlike digital tracks that can incur no wear and are easy to copy and backup, vinyl records are a pretty fragile medium. Every tiny scratch or piece of dust, not to mention the record being warped, will affect the sound. All of this means that you need to take special care looking after your vinyl.
Your records’ biggest enemies are irreversible damage like physical wear and warping. Those are closely followed by dust and dirt, which affect playback. Physical wear includes scratches, damage inflicted by playing a dusty record, or playing the record with a worn-out stylus. A warped record is one that’s no longer flat, which leads to sound distortions and needle jumping. Here’s how to prevent both types of damage to your records and make sure they sound their best.
No, Mousse T., please don’t store them like that! Just don’t.
- Store them upright. Stacking records may lead to warping. Make sure you store them upright to minimize the chance of that happening.
- No heat. Keep your records away from sunshine and heaters. Heat makes vinyl softer, which in turn leads to warping.
- Avoid touching the grooves if you don’t need to. The grease from your fingers helps dust and dirt accumulate on the grooves. There’s no avoiding touching them when DJing, but at least try not touch them e.g. when putting a record on the turntable. Hold it by its edges instead.
- Clean them regularly. Ideally, you should be wiping off any dust from the record before each playback. In any case, make sure to thoroughly clean your records with a brush and cleaning liquid whenever you see a buildup of dust and grease.
- Put them back in the sleeves right after playing. The less a record is exposed to dust and the risk of your buddies spilling coke on it, the better.
- Clean your needles. Your turntables’ needles accumulate dirt over time, which affects playback quality. Make sure you clean them regularly with a special brush and stylus cleaning liquid.
- Replace worn-out needles. A worn-out stylus will permanently damage your records. Make sure you replace your needles when it’s time.
- Transport the records safely. Get a sturdy record case and use that to carry your records around. When traveling by plane, make sure you take your records with you as carry-on luggage. The last thing you want to happen is your precious records being thrown and kicked around when being loaded on and off the plane.
Your Vinyl Care and Transportation Kit
Get these items (and use them!), and your records will say a big “thank you.”
- A dust pad and record cleaning fluid. Here’s a nice kit from Stanton. By the way, some sources say that regular lighter fluid works just as well.
- Stylus cleaning brush and liquid. Here’s another Stanton kit for stylus cleaning.
- A sturdy record case. I have this Odyssey one and it’s awesome.
Take Care of Your Records, and They’ll Take Care of You
Remember that after your hearing, music is your biggest DJ asset. And, being a physical medium, vinyl requires 10x more care and attention than MP3s sitting on your thumb drive. Take care of your records and they won’t let you down.
How do you store vinyl? Do you clean your records regularly? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below.