How to Start, Build & Preserve a Vinyl Collection

Your record collection provides the soundtrack to your life, and if you take good care, it will last forever. If you have some vinyl already, maybe you want to expand on it to complete a discography for some of your favorite artists. Hunting for rare, first pressings with original artwork can be a thrill. If you are just starting out, the world is your vinyl oyster. Reflect on what songs make you dance, sing, scream and tear-up. Start there and your collection will tell your unique story.

Although vinyl might seem delicate, it holds up. 60-year-old records are still playable on modern equipment, if they were properly stored and cared for. A few simple tips will help to preserve your collection for the ages.

Part of the world’s largest record collection, owned by Zero Freitas.

Part of the world’s largest record collection, owned by Zero Freitas. From The GuardianPhotograph: Sebastian Liste/Noor/eyevine

Find Your Record Shop

Online or in real life, finding the right record store for you can make the experience more than just a shopping exercise. Recommendations from staff or other shoppers at local record stores and information at your fingertips via a web search opens up all the possibilities of knowledge, community and, ultimately, a great vinyl collection.

You might find that you need multiple outlets that each serve a specific purpose. Record stores like Delmark Records founder Bob Koester’s Blues & Jazz Mart or electronic music shop Gramaphone Records (both in Chicago) specialize in specific genres and go deep. Amoeba Records, in LA, SF and Berkeley, lays claim to “the world’s largest independent records store.”

Their extensive inventory of new and used vinyl covers every genre, from brand new releases to rare gems. Think about what you need out of your vinyl shopping experience and there will be a shop to fit the bill.

Support Local Record Stores

There’s nothing quite like a tried-and-true record shop: front door covered in band stickers, a cacophony of posters on the walls, a staffer talking about the show they went to the night before. Carve out plenty of time to flip through hundreds of new and used records. Keep your mind and ears open. What you came in for may not be what you walk out with. 

The recent vinyl renaissance has fueled independent record stores. Seek out shops like Grimey’s in Nashville, Rough Trade in London, Reckless Records Chicago and make a point to pick up records on your travels. 

Lou’s Records in Encinitas, CA opened in 1980 and has been championing vinyl for more than 40 years. They’ve also hosted some epic in-store performances. Lou’s reports that a Jack Johnson event in the early 2000s came to an end after 3,500 people filled the parking lot and spilled into the streets… and had to be shut down by the sheriff due to safety issues.   

A 30 minute drive due south from Lou’s will take you to Vinyl Junkies in San Diego, another great record store. From there, stop in at the Wrensilva showroom and give your vinyl a spin on one of our consoles to experience the Wrensilva signature sound. 

Local record store Lou’s Records in Encinitas, CA with large vinyl collection

Local record store Lou’s Records in Encinitas, CA with large vinyl collection

Online Vinyl Retailers

The hunt for a specific record can be challenging. Luckily the internet has removed all boundaries and made shopping a global experience. Many record stores sell records directly from their websites. We suggest a follow on Instagram for details on the latest vinyl drops. Some stores post rare records to sell via DM.  

After nearly 20 years, legendary Tower Records returned online in 2020, with their familiar yellow and red facade reimagined as a website header. For more than 40 years, Tower was a beloved independently owned chain where you could bump into Elton John or Dave Grohl digging in the bins next to you. Expansion and digital/streaming music took their toll and Tower closed in 2006. Colin Hanks documents the must-watch story in All Things Must Pass.  Now online and boasting 350,000 titles, Tower’s legacy is back, albeit without the physical locations.

Record Store Day, an annual event to "celebrate the culture of the independently owned record store,” is a great way to support, while adding exclusive vinyl to your collection. Twice a year, special “Record Store Day” titles are released through shops in the collective. 

For shopping and comparing your options, Discogs is the place. It’s the largest online music database where you can buy, sell and discover vinyl that you didn’t even know existed. 

Inside Amoeba Records Hollywood, CA

Amoeba Records Hollywood, courtesy of Amoeba Records

Starting or Building Your Vinyl Collection 

If you’re ready to get serious about building your vinyl collection, use these core tenets to guide you: your music taste and preferences, must-haves, and diversity. Of course your collection will speak to what you like. A well rounded collection will also weave in those classic records that stand the test of time. Albums like The Beach Boys Pet Sounds and Fleetwood Mac Rumours are record collection tent poles, alongside more contemporary, but just as influential, Radiohead Kid A and Public Enemy It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.

Vinyl record collection in front of Wrensilva M1 record console

Vinyl record collection in front of Wrensilva M1 record console

Identify Your Music Preferences

Your music preference doesn’t have to be just one lane. In fact, it’s more fun when it spans a music highway that has as many lanes as there are genres. If you’re drawn to riot grrrl bands like Bikini Kill, learn about their influences like Joan Jett, The Slits, and Kim Deal, and add those records into your vinyl collection mix. 

Music cues in a TV show or film might spark an interest in a genre you hadn’t considered. Eddie Munson shredding to Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” in the Upside Down on Stranger Things brought out the metalhead in unsuspecting viewers.
If your desert island disc list starts and ends with Prince, think about his Mick Jagger swagger, James Brown dance moves, Sly Stone funk and Todd Rundgren pop versatility. It’s all in the music. Let your favorite records take you on a journey of discovery. 

Joan Jett Bad Reputation album cover

Joan Jett Bad Reputation album cover

Must-Have Albums for Every Collection

Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time is a great list to reference for must-haves. It’s nearly impossible to narrow down to just a handful, but we tried, and included a couple that Rolling Stone forgot. Here are 10 that the team at Wrensilva always has in the deck pocket:

Aretha Franklin Lady Soul

David Bowie Hunky Dory  

Willie Nelson Red Headed Stranger

John Coltrane A Love Supreme

Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique

Joni Mitchell Blue

De La Soul Three Feet High and Rising

Robert Johnson King of the Delta Blues Singers

Pixies Surfer Rosa*

Tom Waits Rain Dogs

Tom Waits Rain Dogs album cover

Tom Waits Rain Dogs album cover

Building a Diverse Collection

Your music sweet spot might be hip-hop, metal or electronic, but don’t short change your collection by leaving out some of the greats from other genres. Check out classic 50s crooners, outlaw country, jazz, and South Bay punk. The artists that you follow very likely have these in their own collections.

Frank Sintra The Wee Small Hours

Willie Nelson Red Headed Stranger

John Coltrane Giant Steps

Black Flag Damaged

Black Flag Damaged album cover

Black Flag Damaged album cover

A soundtrack is like a mixtape from your favorite movie. You might have a new perspective on a song after seeing it set to picture in a film. The opening scene of Trainspotting with Ewan McGregor running through the streets of Glasgow to Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life,”  the non-stop NYC disco of “Saturday Night Fever” – make you want to run home and drop the needle on the record. Relive the movie magic while also discovering new artists.

Preserving and Maintaining Your Vinyl Records 

If you treat your records right, you’ll be able to pass them down for generations. Knowing how to properly handle, clean and store vinyl is an important part of owning it. 

Proper Handling and Cleaning Techniques

There are many effective ways to clean records, but there is one way to handle them… and that’s to NOT really handle them. Hold just the edges and touch only the center label. Oil from your fingers can gum up the vinyl grooves and attract dust that is difficult to remove. 

This is how you hold a record

This is how you hold a record

The Spin Clean Record Washer is not only a simple and relatively mistake-proof way to clean vinyl, it also looks cool. The kit comes with just about everything you need.

Anti-static brush, cloth wipes and spray are everyday type modes of cleaning. Pop the record on your turntable and give it a spin with the brush to remove surface dust.

Don’t forget about the album cover. A plastic outer sleeve protects the cover and will help to keep the corners from bending and fraying.

Record Storage Solutions

The only way to store your records is upright. The alternative (stacked horizontally) can cause irreparable damage. Pressure from the weight of the vinyl can cause warping and the smallest spec of dirt can create pitting, which in turn can cause your record to skip.

The average LP is 12.5” tall x 12.5” wide, and the weight can add up quick, so choose your storage to allow for ample support and room to expand.

Records nicely stored on a bookshelf

Photo by David Tsay Courtesy of Rustic Modern House Tour

There’s something nostalgic about using a wood crate for vinyl storage. Maybe it’s that memory of college dorm room decor and discovering the Violent Femmes for the first time. The wood crate is the workhorse of record storage. It’s utilitarian, goes anywhere and does the job well.

Wrensilva The Standard console with record storage for 135 albums

Wrensilva The Standard console with record storage for 135 albums

Stereo consoles also provide a great solution for vinyl storage. All Wrensilva models feature an on-deck pocket and closed storage below the turntable, for 135 to 175 albums. Whatever you choose, if you store your records vertically, in a cool and dry location, they will be happy.  

Preventing and Addressing Vinyl Damage

The best way to ensure that your vinyl stays safe from harm is to adhere to proper cleaning and handling. Nothing can fix a deep scratch, but some minor damage can be remedied.

Look at your record under strong light. You’ll be able to see fingerprints, dirt and scratches. If you do notice a scratch, it’s not necessarily the end for your record. The stylus of your turntable may very well power right through. Pops and crackles are part of the charm of vinyl records. Give it a good clean and often times that solves everything. 

Heat and direct sunlight are records’ kryptonite. Warping can happen quickly if you leave records in a hot car, or it can happen over time if a record is stored improperly. A badly warped record is not playable. The best route is to find a vinyl flattening service and let the pros work their magic.  

A protective inner and outer sleeve is one of the most simple and effective ways to protect vinyl from dust and scratches.

Turntable Maintenance

Records are all produced to deliver the highest quality sound possible. To get the most out of your listening, make sure your components are maintained properly.

Keep your stylus clean, and if you hit 1,000 worth of play time, Discogs suggests that  it’s time for a replacement. When your console is not in use, put the stylus guard back on the cartridge and keep the lid closed to prevent dust build up. We also recommend periodically using a stylus cleaner to remove any dust buildup on the stylus itself. 

To keep your turntable clean, remove dust with a slightly moistened anti-static microfiber cloth. Never use a dry cloth as it will create static electricity, which attracts more dust.

The Modern HiFi Record Console

With so much time and care invested in assembling your record collection, you’ll want a HiFi record console that can deliver the best listening experience. 

The sound emanating from your record is a series of vibrations that travel from the stylus through the speakers and to your ear drums. Without vibration, there is no music… but those same vibrations can also adversely affect the sound. When the Beastie Boys “let the beat drrrrop,” you want your turntable to remain steadfast. Wrensilva engineers designed a multi-layer record player vibration isolation system for our consoles - a floating turntable that takes the hit on the vibrations and pumps out rich sound.    

Your speakers are the voicebox of your record collection. You want them to be able to present the music as the full sonic masterpiece that the artist recorded. Wrensilva woofers, tweeters, cabinet and electronic crossover all work together to unlock a sweet spot of warm, balanced sound with a big stereo soundstage and imaging that allow you to hear the location of the instruments. It’s like a live show happening in front of you. And with multiple listening modes, including Sonos integration, you can listen to vinyl in any room in your house.

Read more about the Wrensilva Sound here