When I was a small boy Cassette tapes had become mainstream, but in our house, we still had many Gramophone Discs and a player to play it. So I have had hours of entertainment listening to Illayaraja’s Tamil hit songs and BoneyM songs from the LP records. But in the 1990s the player broke down, the discs scratched and lost, leaving me only with the memory of them. I felt LP records carried in their music a bit of magic, it was fun to pick up the needle and place it gently on the record with care not to hurt it – like a bee drinking honey from the flower we need to take the music from the record.
All this came back to my mind when I read the article on Gramophone in one of March issues of Mint newspaper titled “The house of vinyl” by Shamik Bag. The article talked about how Gramophone is coming back to life as a nostalgic gadget and A.R.Rahman’s upcoming album will be the first LP in 13 years for India’s premier music house (Saregama). Reading this I decided to buy a Gramophone player for myself. Since I wanted to listen to LP records with ease, I went with a modern version of the Turntable (Model TT-29) brought from Europe to India by Saregama against antique versions. I ordered the player online from their website for about Rs.8000 and it got delivered in a few days.
Getting the player and installing was easy, but I couldn’t play it as I had no discs to go with it. I couldn’t find a single Vinyl record from Saregama’s online store, tried in local music stores, Chennai’s Electronic Bazaar (Ritchie Street), Moore Market – no luck. Saw some Vinyl in the new Odyssey store in Express Avenue, but it turned out each of the few records cost Rs.2000 or so (One-Fourth of my player cost). Giving up I called my Uncle, luckily he had few records in his attic which he promptly sent to me (thanking me for vacating some space in his attic). Later I found there are some Vinyl records available in Flipkart.com – I have ordered Vande Mataram for Rs.767.
Now I am happily listening to the music from my new Gramophone – and it does sound just as good as I remembered, I love the hisses and the imperfections.
Update April 2019
I have been receiving queries for this post, which I am summarising and answering below:
Question> Where can I buy Gramophone players in India?
Answer> Nowadays, there are many choices available online from Amazon India and Flipkart. I will suggest you stay away from the fancy, antique-like gramophone players with big Brass horn speakers – they are not practical for listening. If you can afford, go for players from reputed manufacturers like Audio-Technica and Pioneer, but they are expensive and start from Rs.15,000 (USD 220). Otherwise, try brands like Ion. For example, this player, Ion VJB01 cost about Rs.5600 (USD 80). Any players you may choose, ensure it has an audio output (called RCA ports) to connect external speakers or home theatre system.
Question> Where can I buy Vinyl records?
Answer> If you live in Chennai I will suggest the Lilly Pond Market (near the old Moore market, next to Chennai Central Station) for buying used vinyl records (second hand). There are 1 or 2 shops here that sell them, but they are not open all the time. You need to try your luck. Records cost about Rs.300-500 per piece. New records are available on online and Music stores but they are expensive, over Rs.2500 per record. If you live in other cities, you may try the local used markets.
Question> How can I convert my vinyl records to MP3 format to listen from my computer/mobile?
Answer> You can try a device like Ion Audio Max LP USB Digital Conversion Turntable, I have their Cassette to USB (Tape2PC) device and I am quite happy with that.