The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Collecting Vinyl, According To An NYC Disc Jockey

As any discophile will tell you, there is something special about listening to the crackle of vinyl poking through your favorite tunes. Vinyl records allow you to physically hold music in your hands, which nowadays is something lost to the swift advancements of technology. While you can easily make a playlist on any music streaming app with the tap of a few buttons, the art of collecting vinyl lives on amidst the digital jungle.

But becoming a collector is more than just buying hundreds of records to collect dust on your shelves. There is a certain level of respect you must pay as you build a sea of sleeves. That is, if you want to preserve your precious finds. Maintaining a vinyl record collection comes with certain cleaning and storing tricks that every beginner should know as they try their hand at the art of curating a collection.

New York City DJ Filemon Rodriguez has had his record collection since the ’80s – think Prince, Styx, and The Beatles among the vinyls that started his now ever-expanding 500+ collection. “It was a good time for music, a good time to start collecting records,” says Rodriguez.

He began his collection while living in California when you paid a penny to belong to a collector’s club at Columbia Records. Any friend of Filemon will know that when you visit his home, you can pick and choose what hits the turntable that evening.

Rodriguez always had a passion for all things vinyls, but gained even more insight when he started working as a DJ for Artists & Fleas at the Chelsea Flea Market in 2021. Here, he filled the market with music and sold vintage clothing and vinyl records. As someone who is well-versed in the realm of vinyls and what it takes to preserve their sound, he has learned the ins and outs of properly maintaining his collection.

How to Store Vinyls:

Anyone can plop a couple spinners on a shelf, but to maintain each record’s playability at top quality, the way you store them greatly affects their condition.

“My advice is always to store them in a very clean, dry place,” says Rodriguez. “You want to avoid extreme temperatures and humidity. The worst thing that can happen to your record is for it to warp. That’s going to lead to an unplayable vinyl. Keep them directly out of sunlight.”

As far as stacking them, always stack them vertically. “They are very heavy. You don’t want them to start weighing on each other,” he says. Rodriguez also recommends taking advantage of some of the storage organizers available that are specifically designed for vinyl records. You can find these anywhere from Etsy to Amazon online.

wireless headphones leaning on books
Rodriguez recommends keeping your vinyl albums in a cool, moisture-free area that’s away from sunlight. Make sure to stack them vertically. (Photo by blocks on Unsplash)

How To Clean Vinyls:

There is not necessarily a “best” way to keep vinyls clean, as long as you are doing so regularly. Online, the range of recommendations may overwhelm the beginner. Here are some common cleaning solutions we found commonly recommended online:

Across our outside research, many sources specifically recommend cleaners designed for vinyl. But did you know you might actually have all the supplies you need at home? Rodriguez says wiping down records with a microfiber cloth with a little bit of rubbing alcohol will do the trick!

Microfiber is soft enough to glide over the grooves of your records without damaging them. The alcohol gets rid of any oils lingering on the vinyl that would affect the quality. Avoid using abrasive scrubbers or anything that might scratch your disc, and therefore ruin the sound it produces. There are also endless options online for vinyl cleaning kits online, but this simple at-home method is just as effective, and more affordable.

As far as how often you should clean them, Rodriguez adds that “it depends on the usage. Of course, if it hasn’t gotten much use, it’s going to collect dust anyways.” He also says it is key to make sure you are cleaning with the direction of the grooves, not against them.

“You want to handle a vinyl on the edges, you never touch the inside,” adds Rodriguez. “You are never touching the black vinyl itself. The oils from your skin are going to affect the grooves, dust will get in there, and it will eventually affect sound quality.”

Woman cleaning a vinyl record album
Using a microfiber cloth with a dab of rubbing alcohol is an easy way to clean and care for your vinyl record albums. (Photo by Popartic on Shutterstock)

Where to Get the Best Record Players:

While you may think a hefty budget is necessary for the best sound quality, that isn’t always true. Rodriguez likes to get all of his audiophile gear from Stereo Lab, a retailer for used vintage audio gear. And don’t feel like you have to shell out the big bucks, either! Just be choosy when it comes to finding quality for a reasonable price.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but I definitely would stay away from the cheaper Urban Outfitters (models) or whatever is $50,” suggests Rodriguez. “If you get a cheap player, it’s going to end up costing you in the end because it is going to ruin your records. You’re better off saving for a better-quality turntable or record player.”

For specific models, check out our Best of the Best lists with the best vinyl audio equipment that is most recommended from online experts:

“I would at least put $300 to $500 aside for a nice turntable with nice speakers,” says Rodriguez. “I like to use analog speakers. Analog speakers are actually made for record playing. So that makes a difference also in the quality of the sound.”

Regardless of what record player or turntable you choose to invest in, Rodriguez says it is imperative that you keep the needle clean. He says you can have your vinyls in tip-top shape, but if the needle is not spick and span, all of that hard work is pointless. The needle is just as important.

How should you clean it? “The needle is very very fragile,” says Rodriguez. He recommends using an air duster like the kind you would use on a keyboard. If you don’t want to purchase one, simply blowing the needle free of dust will suffice. This is especially important if you have a turntable without a cover, making it more susceptible to collecting dust.

A Word of Advice for Beginner Vinyl Collectors:

There is so much more to collecting vinyl than what equipment you have or how large your collection is. There is a whole community of music lovers who appreciate the classic sound and vintage value that surrounds vinyl culture. So, regardless of your budget, immersing yourself in the community can open your eyes to the world of vinyl.

“Because I am very old school, I like to go to places and see and feel,” says Rodriguez. “I like to go meet people out there that are also collectors…To surround yourself with people that you are going to end up being. These people are so interesting anyways, they are always generous with information. Soak it up and take your time with buying your records. It’s always going to be around…let’s hope.”

His biggest piece of advice? “Have fun! There’s nothing better than music. Vinyl is so unique.”


Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article contains affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.

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Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds’ Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia graduated Magna Cum Laude from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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  1. What ever you do, don’t leave them lay in the back of a hot car.
    When I was young I ruined an entire collection of my mothers records doing that.

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