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A fresh spin on an old form

Vinyl records are enjoying a resurgence in popularity among nostalgic music lovers

the constant listener: Krid Chuenkham, the owner of We Love Turntable and avid vinyl collector. He's been selling records for ten years.

Operating a turntable takes patience and precision. There are several things to consider when handling the decks -- for starters, there is the placing of the needle, or stylus, on the right spot on the record. Then, there is making sure that the surface doesn't get scratched. Regular cleaning is also required to bring out the most optimal sound.

The device might be a hassle to master, but the one-of-a-kind organic sound of a vinyl record makes the whole process well worth it for many music lovers.

The classic music-spinning machine recently came back into style. The vinyl record market went quiet for a while until around five years ago when vintage fashion became popular. People started collecting things, from clothes to records, to remind them of the "good, old days".

Once unwanted vinyl records stored away in dusty, old boxes have inspired a fresh following. People now place their records in prominent places in their homes, playing into a nostalgia for past forms of listening.

THE GOOD, OLD DAYS

After working as an engineer for over two decades, Krid Chuenkham started to think about founding his own company. He didn't know what to do exactly, but he wanted it to be something enjoyable that was financially viable too.

When Krid first encountered a home-theatre surround sound system 20 years ago, he was captured by the high-quality sound. He begun purchasing new speaker sets for screening movies before learning that the best music appreciation experience requires different types of speakers.

Krid was later introduced to turntables and vinyl records. He hasn't been able to go back to listening to music the way he used to on loudspeakers since.

"That's when I realised that's what I wanted to do for a living -- selling vinyl records and turntables," said Krid. "I started selling vinyl records 10 years ago, but I didn't open a proper shop until five years ago."

He named his shop We Love Turntable, offering thousands of vinyl records for sale, as well as turntables. Alongside his four co-owners, he also helps repair old or broken record decks.

Krid, now in his 50s, acted on a new trend he saw emerging among music lovers -- paying extra money for vinyl records, facilitating a sonic experience you just can't get from digital devices.

"My main customers come from older generations," said Krid. "I have a diverse collection of records and turntables. I own a lot of old records that only people from my generation would ever know about. So I attract those types of customers."

TREND REVISITED

Younger generations are now tuning into the unique appeal of vinyl records. Tiny, digital devices may be able to pack in a thousand plus songs, but Krittikorn Sittichai, 36, says these hold limited appeal for him.

sound bites: Annop Kittikul, TV host and former DJ, used to spin records for a radio station. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Krittikorn has long been a fan of old music. He first recalls getting into oldies -- mainly music from the 1950s -- when he was 18 years old. To track down songs from that time, he had to seek out vinyl records. That's how he begun building up his extensive record collection.

Now he's the owner of Bungkum House Records, a shop located in Thong Lor with vinyl records and turntables for sale. After selling vinyl records on the internet for two-and-a-half years, he decided to open his own shop around half a year ago.

"I started selling vinyl records even before it became trendy," he explained. "I have a vast collection. A record can be as cheap as 100 baht or as expensive as 10,000 baht. I attract a lot of younger generations who like the sound of vinyl records. But as time passes by, I can see that people who follow the vintage trend just because it's fashionable have already stopped. But people who truly love vinyl records remain just as loyal to purchasing them."

He says that many people value vinyl records as they do a piece of art, something personal and material that they feel an intimate sense of ownership over.

Digital music, on the other hand, can be heard and felt, but cannot be touched or carefully handled.

"I used to own an iPod with thousands of songs on it, but I couldn't remember any of their names," says Krittikorn. "But with the vinyl records, I can remember every single one of them. I know the song, I know who the singer is and I even know the year it was released. It is an experience that digital listening devices cannot give to listeners.

"I was born at the time when cassette tapes were popular. Then, they died down. After that, CDs came to replace them. Right now, digital formats make it convenient for people to access music at a cheaper price. But if you really look at the market, vinyl records have lived through all those times and they're still around. I believe they will last forever, even among younger generations."

LISTENING THROUGH THE YEARS

One career that demands a talent of handling turntables is DJ-ing. Annop Kittikul, a TV host and former DJ, used to spin records for a radio station for a living.

He worked with vinyl records for several years before the radio industry switched to more digital forms of airing music. Through the years, he's seen the various waves of sonic forms, from the mini disc to the CD to the current dependence on digital files.

"I've lived through all those changes and I can distinguish the different sounds produced by each device," Annop explained. "For me, as a person who works with music every day, I have to say that vinyl records and turntables are the most difficult to work with. I really have to be patient and pay close attention to place the stylus on the right track. Since my show is live, I can't make mistakes while I'm on air. But vinyl records are unpredictable.

"I find it much more convenient to use newer formats but as someone who listens to music every day, I can tell that each form is very different. Listening to a song on vinyl records offers many more dimensions of sound. The digital format is good, but it is quite flat compared to analogue versions," he added.

Annop says that vinyl records are more physically and emotionally resonant with music lovers. They are collector's items that people like to have and show off like rare objects.

"Everything has a good side and bad side," he said. "The convenience of digital formatting makes people change their music listening experience because they don't have to try as hard to track down the tunes they want. I believe that turntables are a bit more difficult, but learning to use them is quite rewarding."

BACK TO BASICS

Since vinyl records are among the original forms of sharing and airing music in the world, they denote a certain sense of nostalgia -- a way of accessing the past.

"I think people, especially from my generation, are yearning for this classic way of listening. Vinyl records not only contain songs from their time but also sweet memories of the good old days. Even after my generation is gone, I know that this form of music appreciation will remain," Krid said.

Krittikorn, one of the younger generation's vinyl appreciators, believes that turntables made a comeback for a reason, and though the trend may have slowed down, it will live for future generations to come.

Nowadays, a basic turntable costs between 5,000 and 10,000 baht. Vinyl records cost anything between 100 baht and 10,000 baht, depending on what model they are and how difficult they are to acquire.

Purchasing an album online can cost 100 baht, meaning vinyl records aren't the most financially accessible. "I believe you get what you give," said Kittikorn. "If you pay 10 baht, you will get the quality and experience of the 10 baht song. But when you pay 10,000 baht to invest in an experience that you can't get from the 10 baht one, I think it is priceless."

rare collectibles: We Love Turntable offers a wide variety of records with different genres. PHOTOS: Pornprom Satrabhaya

fine tunes: We Love Turntable, a Bangkok shop servicing old or broken turntables and selling thousands of vintage records to music lovers. The business was opened around five years ago.

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