The clean, crisp sound of vinyl has been music to the ears of many for years.
It’s a sound that many say only takes a backseat to live music.
“The whole purpose of opening up a shop was that we love music, and we realize that the best music is live music,” Harry of Harry’s Hi-Fi said. “What we’ve always tried to have in our store is equipment that reproduced music as close as you could possibly come to live.”
Harry and his wife, Pat, have been running stereo stores since the 1970s. Even during a time when vinyl had a close scrape with death.
“When MP3 became the most popular form of music, it was a completely different thing. It was actually a throwback, it’s not an accurate way to reproduce music. It was the opposite of what our intentions were,” Harry said, adding that there was even a time when he believed vinyl was knocking on death’s door.
“The dead time for vinyl was the mid-90s to the mid-2000s,” T + A Vinyl & Fashion co-owner Tim Weisgarber said. “So around 2000, no one was buying records.”
Then came a gradual resurgence, until one day records were completely revived.
“And then we started to see it climb and climb,” Harry said. “And old guys like me are going, ‘what the hell is this’?!”
Whether it’s the accurate sound or the nostalgia factor, Harry believes there are several reasons vinyl popularity has spun out of control. He also says some are the right reasons, and others are the wrong reasons.
“The right reasons are its still the most accurate way to reproduce music, digital has never been as accurate as vinyl has been. It’s become popular because of that, as well as people have this tactile thing where they want to feel and touch and own something,” he said.
“Then it sort of stream rolled, the hipsters helped make it popular because it was cool, and largely, I would say the majority of sales of vinyl and turntables is a result of the fact that it’s cool.”
With that spike in popularity, came a major spike in prices, with new records averaging around the $30 mark. But some are going for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
“It’s the complete opposite, everyone is valuing a 10 cent record today at 10 dollars,” Weisgarber said. “It’s not hard to find a rare Bowie or Velvet Underground seven-inch for $10,000.”
With the popularity, there are several factors contributing to the sky-high prices, including where the record was pressed, the rarity of the album and the artist.
“Tom Petty and especially David Bowie, all of a sudden people realize ‘oh man, these guys were great, and they passed away and we’re never going to see them again’, and then people just want to buy all the records up,” Harry said.
The steep prices haven’t slowed down vinyl collectors like Joe Hadesbeck, who has over 5,000 records in his basement.
Whether it’s the album art, the story, or the posters and photos inside, he says there are many small details that can make an album unique.
“Led Zeppelin’s ‘In Through the Out Door’ album cover, there’s six different versions of it,” Hadesbeck said. “And some guys, like me, will go and find all six different versions.”
He also says the price can be reflective of how many original copies were issued.
“An original mono Beatles from the 60s sounds better, most of the time, than a re-issue of a mono Beatles from now,” Hadesbeck said.
Hadesbeck says that while the prices of many new records has gone up, you can still find good used records within the $5 to $10 range.