There’s something about watching a piece of plastic spinning around under a needle that’s ironically refreshing. The sentimental value a vinyl record holds, in my opinion, cannot be duplicated, and any digital music file just isn’t the same as the slightly scratchy, but beautifully raw sound of a vinyl.

If you’re new to the vinyl game, which may not be surprising considering the onslaught of sudden vinyl collectors during this hipster era, there are a couple things you need to know when buying vinyl, especially if it’s vintage. There’s generally two different sized vinyl that you’ll come across—12” and 7” (although there are numerous other sizes as well). The size itself doesn’t matter much; as any proper record player will have a dial to adjust the speed in order to play the vinyl properly, so don’t be intimidated by the different sizes. Secondly, there are two different types of vinyl records. A stereo record is the most common type, and is what you’d find selling new at, for example, an Urban Outfitters. A mono record, which should be very coveted if ever found, produces a much rawer sound with more depth, and can be extremely hard to come by. Needless to say, you’ll have to dig through used record stores to try and find one, and with a bit of luck, you just may! Most importantly, when shopping used records, always ask to try them out in the store if it looks questionable in order to avoid purchasing a scratched record that’s going to end up tearing your eardrums apart. Moving on to some of my favourite record stores in Toronto thus far.

1.     Sonic Boom – You’ve probably already heard of it, or seen its sign next to Honest Ed’s, but Sonic Boom offers an extensive selection, and is one of the larger recorimagesd stores in Toronto. Offering not only new and used vinyl, but CDs and other musical knick knacks, the store provides a nice atmosphere to shop around in and find cool little treasures.

2.     June Records – June is especially great for if you’re looking for those rare underground records, new or used. Into that cult classic genre? Or that genre that only your uncle’s hip, bass-guitar-playing girlfriend has heard of? Head on over to College Street in Little Italy.

3.     Kops Records – The grandfather of record stores in Toronto, Kops has two locations: Queen and Bloor. If you’re not one of those “too mainstream for me” type of people, and you don’t get embarrassed if more than five people know of your favourite band, Queen’s probably more fitted for you. If you’re the opposite of what I just said, Bloor’s got all of those underground rarities that only you and your 80s Sonic Youth band tees will understand.

4.     LP’s LPs – Even if you’re visiting just for the clever name, it’s still a good reason to visit. The store specializes in an array of psychedelic and experimental records, so put on that tie-dyed shirt you wore at a family barbecue in the early 2000s and check this place out if you’re into synths…especially if you’re into synths (go keytars!)

5.     Grasshopper Records – Although the variety Grasshopper offers may seem daunting at first, the store actually carries many unique genres best suited for the teenager who hasn’t found himself yet as well as the guy who’s over the hill and still trying to bridge the gap between 60s funk and today’s hip-hop. Owner Derek Madison hasdefinitely come a long way from setting up crate shops in Kensington Market, to his very own record shop on Dundas.

6.     Rotate ThRotate_Header_6201is – Another one of Toronto’s original and leading record stores, it makes for a great stop for those just delving into the vinyl scene. With an extensive record collection, it can be overwhelming to the newcomers, but offers a large palette to try and choose from as well. They also highlight the fact that they are huge supporters of independent artists—which most local record stores are anyway—but I’m just giving you another reason to visit.

Obviously, I haven’t even grazed half the vinyl and record shops around the city, and I’m sure I’m missing some fantastic ones (such as Pandemonium, Cosmos Records and Vortex Records), but if you’ve been wanting to start your vinyl collection and don’t know where to start past the limited selection at Urban Outfitters, and trust me, you deserve better than the meek collection there, then give some of the mentioned places a chance and support some local businesses!


By: Julia Ho