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Build your own hipster stereo

But beware of the thrift-store falcon

Audiophile tube amplifier
  • Audiophile tube amplifier

Dear Hipster:

Since it’s becoming pretty mainstream these days, I want to start spinning vinyl at home, but I don’t know where to begin. I don’t necessarily trust the guys at Fry’s because I think they’re trying to sell me stuff, so what should I do about a stereo? Also, I don’t think I can justify spending $20 every time I want to hear something. Where do I begin my record collecting?

— Glenn

It has become exponentially harder in the past five years to score reliable, vintage electronics on Craigslist. Nevertheless, it is not impossible, and part of the hipster experience is assembling a functional stereo by spending your weekends combing through garage-sale junk and racing to meet randos in the Vons parking lot before some other hipster swoops in like a thrift-store falcon, carries off your would-be hi-fi equipment, and rends it asunder to feed the metaphorical chicks of its budding hipster coolness. If you’re patient, you can find your basics (viz. receiver, turntable, and speakers) in good, working condition for less than the cost of a single high-end loudspeaker. DO opt for floor speakers over bookshelf size, but DON’T fret if you can’t find appropriately vintage valve technology for your amp. DO buy decent stuff, but DON’T break the bank if you don’t have to — the marginal gains are just too small for anyone but the rich and the nerdy.

As for buying LPs, start with anything you loved as a teenager that you still love today, and you will continue to love as a grouchy old fart who complains incessantly about the deleterious state of pop music in the 2050s and beyond. Save your LP budget for the greatest music in your life, and don’t be ashamed to use a 3.5mm-to-RCA adapter when you play everything else on Pandora and Spotify through that sweet new stereo.

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