How My Record Player Helped Me Feel the Music

But the physicality of picking up a record and placing it on a platter—and the need to get out of my chair to flip it when it hits the run-out groove on side A—has me appreciating each song all the more. Plus, the wonder of seeing a spinning disc with grooves producing harmonic sound never fades. My partner and I even slow-danced to Zooey Deschanel's "The Christmas Song" from A Very She & Him Christmas, which only felt natural surrounded by the warmth of our miniature Christmas tree (and our dog nestled in two thick blankets).

A part of this has to do with the fact that I sort of have to give the turntable my attention. I can't watch my TV when the turntable is in use, since both devices are connected to the same speakers. And my headphones finally come off when work's done and the record's on, which means I'm also away from my desk and more in tune with my surroundings. The music isn't hiding in the background, as it is when I'm streaming digitally. Instead, it's front and center.

There are subtle ironies too. We're living in a time when we have to avoid physical touch with others outside of our quarantine bubble. I can't hug my parents, brother, or sister. But I can flip a record after listening to “Touch” from Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, or after Sinatra wraps up “It Was a Very Good Year.” (It was not.) A turntable in no way replaces the feeling of being very close to my loved ones, but it does, if ever so briefly—records go by really fast!—make me think about something other than the pandemic.

An Addicting Hobby

The last thing I'm going to tell you to do is to buy a turntable and a pair of powered speakers, especially in the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis when millions of Americans are facing eviction at the start of the new year. The equipment I was loaned amount to a total of $1,050. That's without factoring in the cost of records, which often sell for about $20 each.The Klipsch speakers are largely to blame for the high price. The RT80 is $250, which is affordable as far as turntables go, but it's not the turntable audiophiles will recommend if you're chasing music fidelity. But music quality isn't why I've been so enamored by this new hobby. It's that physical experience of using a turntable; the sensation of the soft crackle before a track begins; along with finding, curating, and seeing a stack of records grow in my media console that's made the most dramatic impact.

When I joined a streaming service, I stopped buying albums. Instead, I just add artists to my library faster than I can listen to all their tracks. I can't mentally place the songs on an album in their correct order, let alone remember all the titles, as I once was able to do listening to the same few CDs in my mum's car over and over again. I think that's partly what's prevented me from feeling a deeper connection to the musicians I really like. That's changing now.

We recommend a record player as low as $150 in our Best Turntables guide . After getting one of those, all you need is a set of speakers to plug it into. (Back in the day, record players used to require an external preamp; today's models ship with all the necessary electronics built in.) I'd recommend getting a pair of powered speakers with an RCA connection, like these $100 Edifiers. It's still spendy, but if you share my feeling of disconnection with digital music libraries, and you're craving a new hobby to distract yourself as we await large-scale vaccine deployment, dive into this vinyl world. The first record you spin will have you grinning ear to ear.
Check out WIRED's Best Turntables* guide to see all our top picks.

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