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Are you a vinyl listener, or just a vinyl buyer?

Surveys indicate some LP purchases may be just for show

Couple listening to records

If there’s one thing that’s true about Crutchfield, it’s that we’re seriously into audio. We’re so serious, it’s in our motto, which lives right below our logo at the top of this page. Vinyl’s “revival” started about ten years ago. A couple of recent surveys have brought some interesting trends to light.

The enduring appeal (and headache) of vinyl

While we could spend pages and pages discussing the sound of vinyl versus other media formats here, we’re not going to do that. Many of us grew up listening to vinyl and we believe that a properly cared-for record played through the right gear can sound just grand.

But we also recognize that vinyl can be a real pain — it’s somewhat delicate, gets dirty easily, and requires several pieces of precision equipment (needle, cartridge, tonearm, belt, motor, platter, etc.) working together to make it sound right. It also takes up a lot more real estate than every other physical format. These things prompt the question: why are people still buying vinyl? And if so, are they actually listening to it?

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Half of record buyers might not be record listeners

IMC Unlimited, a British market research agency, conducted a survey in March 2016 to determine who is buying new records and how they are listening to their purchases. They found that 48% of people who bought vinyl in the past month claimed they had not played their records yet. And that 7% of respondents didn’t even own a turntable. The age breakdown of vinyl buyers tilted surprisingly young, with nearly half of respondents (49%) aged between 18 and 34.

What does this survey seem to indicate about vinyl buyers in general? For one, they still like to listen through a digital device, whether to their favorite streaming service or downloaded files from a code which often accompanies their new vinyl purchase. They also use their vinyl purchase as a tangible totem of their fandom for an artist. There’s also the nostalgia factor for something they missed the first few times around, as many of these buyers were brought up in the CD era beginning in the early 1990s. And vinyl is inherently more “collectible” than other formats.

Vinyl Play turntable

Limited edition color variants like the one seen here turn some records into instant collector's items.

Could vinyl eclipse digital downloads?

Vinyl sales have been on the increase for the past decade. They’ve really surged in the past two years, driven in part by the ability to preview tracks through streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube.

While the sales of CDs seem to have stabilized after nearly 15 years of precipitous year-over-year decreases, the newest victim of streaming services seems to be download sales. The Entertainment Retailers Associations (ERA) reports that in the UK more money was spent on new vinyl sales than digital album downloads for the last week of November 2016.

For the past few years digital download sales were about even with CD sales in most areas, with vinyl making up less than 10% of the total market, so it remains to be seen if this is indicative of a trend or a blip. However, as consumer music dollars shift toward streaming services, it stands to reason that pricey records could someday compete with less expensive downloads for total dollars spent with far fewer units sold. 

As vinyl production has ramped up, it’s even easier to find records while shopping — not just online, but in unexpected places like bookstores, department stores, and lifestyle retailers targeted toward the younger demographic.

How do you listen?

If you're a vinyl buyer, leave a comment about your preferred method of listening, even if it means your records spend most of their time on the shelf instead of the turntable. Also let us know if you prefer your records used, new, or a mixture of both. And if you are a vinyl aficionado who still plays their records, feel free to share your setup, including turntable, cartridge, preamp, amp/receiver, and speakers.

  • Viktoras from London

    Posted on 2/13/2018

    Hey guys ! Ex Radio / club dj! Got my set up at home Technics 1210, a bit modification made as changed wires inside, went for expensive once protected and it just (unplugged my ears) ! So basically I use mixer and monitors to play records! Still buy them and listen to my little son! Is great to see when my little boy is excited to put new record on turntable and press play button! Love watching him doing that !

  • Christopher from Portland

    Posted on 1/10/2018

    I love my pioneer system which was purchased all second hand. The SX 939 and the PL 550 are pushing great sound through the CS 901's. New vinyl is preferred but old Louis Armstrong sounds just fine.

  • Jonathan from Denver

    Posted on 12/29/2017

    Marantz 6100 paired with a Marantz 2220 receiver and Bose 901 Series IV. For headphones: Sota Comet with Music Hall PA2.2 and a custom Grado build (Turbulent Labs).

  • Tim from Springville

    Posted on 12/7/2017

    Hi,I primarily listen to vinyl. I've been collecting records for many years, I currently have two thousand to twenty five hundred records. I usually only stream if I'm interested in buying something on vinyl. I don't care what anyone says vinyl ( analog) out performs digital in many ways. I buy new and used records and have many cd's as well but only listen to them for background music. Being a true audiophile I must say that I'm interested in hearing the music on quality gear first . The only way to do that is listening to vinyl records?

  • jeff royce from salt lake city

    Posted on 10/14/2017

    Hello! My name is Jeff and I'm 62 years old and I've been listening to and collecting vinyl for at least 55 years, Most of my vinyl is rock and through the years I've ventured into Soul,Disco,Lightjazz,New age and currently I'm hooked on Ambient Space music. I might listen to something like KingsX or Saliva and follow it with Altus or Unusual Cosmic Process. The new digital streaming format or cd is for sure more easy to throw on but I prefer a well conditioned vinyl Lp. I'm using a Nad C368 Hybrid Digital Amp, A Project carbon Turntable with Klipsch Reference RP-260 and a R-10SW subwoofer and the vinyl sounds incredible! One vinyl suggestion wood be Heart/Dog and Betterfly and crank it up!

  • Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/11/2017

    Hi Ruben Neria - Hope your refurbished receiver and speakers sound great, and whenever you're ready to purchase a new turntable, we'll be happy to help out!

  • Brendan wrixon from Allen park mi

    Posted on 7/11/2017

    Im 25 now, started buying records around ten, got my first turntable around 15. It was one of the old kenwoods witg the concrete body. I buy new and used records of varying genres i find interesting, mostly various dance and rock. My current setup is two technics sl1200s with a pioneer 4 channel mixer (so the classic dj setup). With shure white labels into a late 90s onkyo receiver with jbl towers and surround i get good (though not top, i mainly blame the pioneer pre amp). Though a large quantity of my music listening is either in the car or on a bicycle, so obviously i use digital there

  • Tom from Crawford

    Posted on 7/10/2017

    I belong to the era when vinyl records was pretty much all there was. I went through the 4-track/8-track/cassette tape/reel to reel tape/CD trends and still have most of them. I have a couple hundred vinyl albums and some 45s and play the albums fairly regularly. I have duplicated most of the vinyl with CDs where possible, and I do use those most often for convenience. But I still prefer vinyl. As far as the downloads go, I never have liked the idea of spending money for something intangible. I want the physical product with the glitzy covers, pics, and stories to hold in my hot little hands.

  • Bob Morris from Suburban MD

    Posted on 7/9/2017

    I've never quit listening to vinyl. My current system is a Crutchfield scratch-and-dent and closeout paradise of a Music Hall MMF 2.2 turntable that I upgraded with an Ortofon Red cartridge and a cork mat, a Cambridge Audio 551P phone preamp, and a Marantz PM6004 integrated amp driving Polk RTI-A9 speakers (yes, that little amp can drive those monsters without breaking a sweat). I was not expecting great sound from that budget Music Hall turntable (obsolete but still available at a discount), but I've been blown away by how good it sounds now that the Ortofon has broken in, especially with some of the new 180g LPs. It tracks perfectly with little or no inner groove distortion, no audible rumble or motor noise, and stable speed. I'd put it up against turntables costing several times as much, where you very soon get into diminishing returns on price. I like it so much that I'll probably upgrade the Ortofon with the Blue stylus when it comes time for a replacement.

  • brad owensby from Lagrange

    Posted on 7/9/2017

    i have 1500 records i play occasionally. all genres, but predominantly classic rock. pandora streaming for day to day listening. i always use a discwasher and anti-static gun when i spin them and they are cared for in bags unlimited plastic covers. i value the cover art as much if not more than the music. i always took care of my records and the ones from my youth are in the best condition. i play my vinyl on a vestax pro turntable with a sure cartridge, 130 watt onkyo home theater receiver, four yamaha towers, klipsch center and subwoofer, and an extra sub by cambridge audio. to top it off i have an actual drive-in speaker stand with two converted speakers hanging from it that sound pretty good (for rear surround in a 7.2 surround set-up for video).

  • Ruben Neria from El Paso

    Posted on 7/4/2017

    I just found myself reliving the past after taking my Yamaha CR -440 in for service and re-doing the surrounds on my Cerwin Vega D-3's. I'll probably buy a turntable from Crutchfield next since I'm longing to hear that warm depth of my old vinyl collection once again! I still remember !

  • Dominic DeVito from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/3/2017

    Thanks for sharing, Bronson. You're probably among a small minority of folks who managed to avoid CDs, but you're definitely in an even smaller minority who proudly boast of still listening to their 8-tracks!

  • Bronson from TN

    Posted on 6/23/2017

    i been listening to vinyl records all my life im 39 i use a restored fisher kx 200 tube amp have Uturn orbit philips GA 212 turntables some nice KLH 17s and large Advents speakers and listen to cassette tapes and reel 2 reel even listen to 8 tracks i have around 1800 records and bunch of tapes i never got into cds

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/23/2017

    Good luck, David. You'll find no shortage of articles and advice on the web on converting vinyl to CD. Thanks for sharing!

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/23/2017

    Thanks for sharing, Kevin! Enjoy your streaming adventures ahead!

  • David from Tehachapi, Ca

    Posted on 1/20/2017

    I have been collecting records since the 70's and have enjoyed playing them over any other media type. I do use CD's for the car, and following a recent move I have upgraded some of my gear to include Polk Audio speakers and a Teac USB turntable. Although I still use my Marantz SR7000G receiver, I'm hoping to figure out how to burn CD's from some of my collection for listening during travel. That being said I guess I will always be a vinyl player.

  • Ross from Frisco, TX

    Posted on 1/19/2017

    I listen on both a Dual 510 and a new Audio Technical LP-120. My amplifier is an old Akai AA-1050 and my speakers some low end Technics CR-77 that do need replacing, but only cost me $12 for the pair at Goodwill. The biggest pain with modern vinyl? Off center pressings! I'm very sensitive to pitch variations and on about 30% of my newer vinyl purchases I hear the WOW big time and you can see the headshell swinging left to right. Some recent vinyl purchases that left me disappointed after several returns: a-ha cast in steel (side b off center) trainspotting ost on orange vinyl, side 3 off center wild feathers, lonely is a lifetime, both sides off center, side b worse the best setup will never play these records as they deserve to be heard if the quality control at the pressing plants doesn't improve.

  • Kevin from Miami

    Posted on 1/19/2017

    I have had a record collection since I was 7 years old. I have both cd's and vinyl in my current collection. I listen to both. Each has its strengths and I get enjoyment from both mediums. Cd's are simple. Vinyl is a pain. Small changes can have a huge impact on the sound ( recently realized my VPI matt was adding a hum to my records- turntable vibration is the devil in the details). Won't take a side in this war! Just starting to experiment with streaming. Brave new world.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/19/2017

    These are some beautiful systems. Thanks to everyone for sharing and keep 'em coming!

  • JD from Midland, Michigan

    Posted on 1/18/2017

    I have over 300 vinyl records and they all get played! My man cave is a misic lovers paradise! Currently spinning a Crosley C-100 with a LP carbon needle through a vintage Denon reciever and EQ hooked to (6) vintage Polk Audio speakers. I buy and spin!!!

  • Tom Borgford from Edgewood, WA

    Posted on 1/18/2017

    I buy new or used, depending on what I'm looking for. I play vinyl at home, and digital in the car. Gear- Philips GA212 with a Grado Prestige Blue, Marantz 1060 amp & 105B tuner. Pro-Ject phono box, Lil dot tube headphone amp, and Speakerlab 2's with a Speakerlab SW.

  • Scott from Oceanside

    Posted on 1/18/2017

    I still play my old records from the 70s-80s, and buy used or reissued lps. There's not as much good used stuff since vinyl became popular again. I bought lps even when I lived in Korea without my turntable. I have a few unopened collectible lps, the latest being Bowie's Blackstar. I use the same JVC JL A20 turntable, Kenwood KA 5700 amp and Advent 1 speakers that I bought new in 1976

  • Wade from Oceanside

    Posted on 1/18/2017

    I play my records on my 1961 Thorens TD-124 equipped with an Audio Empire 98 tonearm and a Shure M3D cartridge. My preamp is a McIntosh MC-110z tube unit connected to two mc-60 monoblock tube amps. My speakers are Vandersteen 2c signatures and 2w subwoofers

  • Erich B from Hamburg

    Posted on 1/18/2017

    I still play my vinyl from the 60's & 70's but thumb through used & reissued vinyl in the stores when I come across them looking for that one that "got away" in my youth. I use a refurbished Pioneer direct drive turntable through a refurbished Marantz 2245 Receiver. Have fresh (new) Polk Audio speakers for the end effect/ vintage speakers can be a real hit or miss issue.

  • Tyrone Gaither from Washington

    Posted on 1/18/2017

    I was a DJ in Denver in the mid 70's. I have a large vinyl collection from those days, as well as some from the fifties and sixies I collected growning up. I learned from an early age the importants of taking care of my records. I have an old Thorens turntable, a NAD Amp and preamp just for listening to vinyls, everything else, (CDs, streaming, etc.) goes through my Denon AVR. My vinyls are for my listening plesaure only.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/17/2017

    Congrats, Ron!

  • Ron from Millis, MA

    Posted on 1/16/2017

    I just bought a Pioneer PL-512 turntable, in excellent conditiion, with a nice Empire cartridge from the original owner on Craigslist for $50. A new belt and it works like new! It also came with the original box and manuals. I'm running that through a Pioneer TA-7800 tuner, and a Pioneer SA-7800 amp. My brother had them sitting in his attic and gave them to me when he moved to NC a couple of years ago. A good cleaning and a few shots of contact cleaner and they work great. The Speakers are Micro Acoustic 1s in very good condition that I got on eBay for $50. The guy only lived a couple of towns away from me. He wouldn't ship them, so I was the only bidder. All together, I've got about $150 invested in this system, and it sounds great!

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/16/2017

    Awesome, Ken! Thanks for sharing!

  • Ken from Grantham

    Posted on 1/14/2017

    Hello, I play all my vinyl on my refurbished Thorens TD 145, a high school graduation present. I have a Grado Gold cartridge. I have a B&K amp, preamp and phono stage. For speakers I have The Snell D. My vinyl has never sounded so good!

  • James Shaw from Oklahoma City

    Posted on 1/12/2017

    I have several turn tables but the main one is a vintage refurbed Marantz that I recently bought from a used record store. I buy both new and used records and the used records best be in tip top shape or NO buy! I have records I've owned for 40+ yrs and due to extreme caution and care they almost play and sound as good as the day I bought them...the ones I never loaned out that is! When I listen to my vinyl it's a serious issue. I sit down in the living room on the theater style couch which one of the seats a positioned to exact center between two speakers that are about 8 feet apart. I put on a record and listen intently to what ever I feel in the mood for from Deep Purple to Led Zeppelin or from Pink Floyd to Yes. If you want to listen to records with me I have one rule....LISTEN, NO talking! If you want to chat we can do that over AFTER the record is over! My set up is the Marantz turn table with a Philips era Marantz receiver with a pair of vintage H.H.Scott Bostonian IV's "Audiophile Series". "I could use a new cartridge by the way."

  • Walter from Carver

    Posted on 1/10/2017

    I am a vinyl aficionado just look at fb my profile. I run a used vintage vinyl shop.

  • Greg Parker from Nunica

    Posted on 1/3/2017

    U-Turn Audio Orbit turntable with onboard pre-amp, Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, Denon MPA-50 desktop amp, Klipsch ebony RP-150M passive speakers, Audioquest Goldengate RCA cable.


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