A gleaming collection of plastic-coated history mashing together with the passions of today; the curious smell of a dusty, old closet and memory clouds your mind. As you run your hand over the old record collection, you are transported back to a moment of intense emotion – the kind that only music can provide.
Like lost shrines to music, record stores are the teleportation sites for enthusiastic fans. San Diego houses such gems, found only by those with a true passion for music. But why would anyone want to travel to all corners of the county to find a cramped store covered in stickers and posters, sandwiched between a smoke shop and a restaurant – especially when you can download a song while waiting in line at Starbucks?
Here are the top 5 reasons why you should head to a throwback record shop for your next musical inspiration.
Reason No. 5 – Better Sound Quality
It is somewhat of an urban legend proven true by scholars of music that vinyl records have superior sound quality to their digital music counterparts. The belief is that when a song is transferred to a digital music format, the song is measurably changed in order for the computer to understand it, which may ultimately change the quality of the music produced.
So, the music you hear does not have all of the beauty and fullness that you may get from hearing it live or recorded on vinyl. The pits and
grooves of a record take the sound, in its original form, and set into the vinyl itself, making the record one with the music it contains.
In a similar fashion, when listening to a record, the connection that you form with the music becomes one with you. This could be the driving passion that inspired Access Records Owner, Mark Onstad. From 2001, this Pacific Beach music monument stands strong as one of the last few underground hip-hop stores left in San Diego County.
Onstad suggests that people who are truly interested in the world of underground hip-hop, who want a real world connection to this music scene, should visit his store. He asserts the belief that vinyl records, "give you a better quality of sound, as well as the pleasure of the packaging."
Reason No. 4 – Packaging
Packaging, a tangible affair. As you may look around at Access Music, you can hardly help but feel a connection to music in a way that digital downloading cannot touch.
As Onstad believes, a certain pleasure is derived from the possession of a CD or record. Like a souvenir from your favorite vacation, a record may stand as a reminder of significant times in one's life. Can digital music on an iPod compare?
Not according to Graham, owner of Record City in Hillcrest. "In buying digitally, you miss the joy of the packaging and lyrics, and the warmth of the music," he says." Some people enjoy things that are tangible. You can never truly own a downloaded song," he says.
It is easy to see by the last 13 years Record City has been in business, he enjoys catering to those with a true passion for substantive music. This store has the benefit of being located in an area known for celebrating local culture and having one of the highest concentration of record stores still in operation. With as many record stores thriving in this area, it may be hard to believe that there are enough products to go around.
Reason No. 3 – Variety and Availability
It is true that some bands, which have been around since records were the rule, not the exception, still release on vinyl out of tradition. More shocking, however, is the number of newer bands that are beginning to release LPs as part of their collection options.
These tunes can be easily integrated with your digital music; in fact, many new records offer a free download with purchase of their vinyl release. The availability and usability of records is gaining in momentum and moving out of the cornerstones of fascination from true music enthusiasts.
When asked about the availability for new releases in this format, Onstad from Access says, "Honestly, it varies in genres and how in depth you want to go with your project." Conversely, Graham at Record City believes that the availability is growing, in general. He went on to say that the true joy of shopping in a record store comes from the wide range of choice in titles. Emphatically, he adds that buying records produces great benefit to shoppers because of "the variety and availability in stores that you haven't thought about in 10 years."
If you visit Record City, you will know exactly what he means – walls lined with records of every genre cause you to chuckle or gasp with remembrance, or groan in amazement of what you never even considered to think you would find.
Reason No. 2 – Historical Familiarity
Whether you have brand new turntables or remember an old record player in the basement that you would escape to on hot summer days, you can't help but be reminded of some role that a record had played in the formation of yourself today. This is more common in the older group, being the bulk of Record City's customers.
"Specifically, older people have more of an allegiance to this format. Young people usually are the types wanting to hear newer, readily available music," he says.
Reason No. 1 – True Love
"Buying digitally means that you aren't truly passionate about your artists. Yes, it may be easier, but iTunes is not love ... If you collect different formats, you show what kind of fan you are," says Graham.
Onstad seemed to agree that shopping locally, at a record store, shows your true appreciation for musicians. It also provides great personal benefit in the organic, traditional interaction you receive from others "sharing their knowledge out of a love of music."
"There is a great amount of convenience with digital downloads, like being able to get something new as you sit in the airport, but you miss out on the true passion that you get with vinyl," says Rakaa, member of hip-hop group Dilated Peoples.
Rakaa seemed disappointed that San Diego record stores, in general, were on the decline and that "even DJs are no longer supporting this medium." Which is why it is so important to keep this passion alive. It is vital to pass on the love of this musical medium to the younger generation, so when the "older crowd" is no longer able to enjoy these memories, they can be passed on.
Discover more San Diego music stores and record shops for that next oldie but a goodie.
A North County classic, Spin Records, lies in the heart of Carlsbad Village. With records and CDs filling almost every available corner of this store, there is something for every musical interest.
Nearby in Encinitas is another favorite, Lou's Records. Lou's is a true pioneer for the cross between vinyl and digital music mediums, offering the former at its location and the latter online at Lousrecords.com, along with reviews and event listings.
Serving East County residents and visitors for nearly 35 years, Blue Meannie Records is known for its vast collection of classic and modern rock music. It also serves the online community with sales through its MySpace page.
For Central County residents, a relatively new jewel has surfaced with Thrift Trader. It offers sales and trade for its collection of vintage and used records, as well as second-hand clothes and accessories.
But if you want a real value in rare oddities on vinyl, Kobey's Swap Meet at the Sports Arena is a resource well known by music lovers. Every Friday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. you can stalk the vendor tables and score some amazing finds.
Discover more San Diego music stores and record shops, and follow our Shopping blog for more tips.