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Collector Interview: David B.

Posted on November 14 2017

David Berthy is a writer/designer who now works in the tech industry. David lives in Denver, CO and has two daughters. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.  David explains, "The real magic of records is how they serve as accessible artifacts of experience, both those in the past and those being formed in the present". We couldn't agree more with David's philosophy about vinyl. Read on to learn a little bit more about what David likes to collect, his love of vintage equipment, and how he shares music with his young daughters.

David uses a 26 panel set of horizontal A-Z record dividers and an LP Block.

Size of collection:
About 1500 records (I think).

Current favorite albums: 
Roberto Carlos, Roberto Carlos (1968)
Fleetwood Mac, Tusk (1979)
Neneh Cherry, Homebrew (1992)

Favorite or biggest music genre in your collection:
Soul/ R&B

Best party album:
Getz/ Gilberto (1963) for cocktail parties and dinner parties. I know this one is well known, but I feel like I never stop uncovering the intricacies of this record. Joao Gilberto is a sorcerer who does the most with the least.

Best album to listen to alone:
Dylan's Gospel (fairly recent Light in the Attic reissue of gospel covers of Dylan songs recorded in the seventies).

Last record you purchased:
Otis Redding, Otis Blue. I had a banged up copy for years and recently splurged on a 45rpm Kevin Gray remaster.

Album you're in search of:
Aretha Franklin, Aretha Now (1968). I have long been looking for a mint vintage copy.

Give us a breakdown of your collection: how much is used vs how much is new?
It's probably about 70/30 in favor of vintage. I'm picky about record quality. I prefer pristine vintage records but will but new reissues/ remasters when I can't find them.

How long have you been collecting records? How did you get into it?
I started collecting in the mid-nineties, in Seattle, when I was in college. I was inspired by a friend who had a vintage system, but the impetus was largely financial. Everyone was getting rid of their records at that time, and I could regularly go to garage sales or Goodwill and get fifteen records for fifteen dollars. It was a lot better than getting one cd. During this time, I also got very into indie rock and purchased a lot of new records from bands I followed.

I moved to Chicago around 2004 and got very into the record store culture of the city, especially at Dusty Groove. Dusty Groove introduced me in a more immersive way to soul music, Brazilian, hip-hop and more obscure, out recordings that I would have never found otherwise. I built a lot of my collection from their bins and credit their excellent taste with shaping me as a collector.

Where do you hunt for vinyl?  
My favorite record stores here in Colorado are Recollect Records in Denver and Absolute Vinyl in Boulder. The first time I went to Absolute Vinyl, the gentleman working there greeted me by saying, "Welcome home." I loved that.

How do you organize your collection?
For years, I was a genre organizer. I had a loose system that only I (barely) understood, and it wasn't perfect. The beautiful design of the Koeppel record dividers inspired me to try something new. I now sort my records alphabetically (last name, band name, no articles). It was a big undertaking, but it is a joy being able to find whatever I'm looking for and the new system lends itself to utilizing more of a collection. It's also much easier for others (guests, my wife) to find things. I have three turntables set up in my house. I keep most of my records and have a listening room in the basemen. This system is arguably the best sounding, but in truth I mostly listen in our main living area or in my bedroom. I play records every morning and every night on these systems during the week and whenever I'm home and inside on weekends.

Anything extra you want to share about your collection, set up, turntable, your equipment, listening room, plans for the future, etc?
I love vintage equipment, but will mix and match with modern components to achieve the best sound. My favorite turntables are a Vinyl Nirvana VN-150 I recently purchased from Dave at Vinyl Nirvana and a Dual 701 I got a few years ago from Bill at Fixmydual. Both Bill and Dave lovingly restore old turntables so that you get the classic form of a vintage deck with great sound and none of the mechanical issues that can vex something you pick up from Craigslist. They use real wood and put a lot of love and passion into what they do.

I also love headphones. When I lived in a small apartment and worked in shared spaces, headphones were my main form of listening. I use various amps and dacs from Schiit Audio and have headphones from Audeze (LCD 2.2), Denon (AH-D2000), Fostex (TH-X00), and Sennheiser (HD-650). I like headphones late at night and when I need to focus on a work project. My stands are mostly “omega-style” wood stands I found on Ebay + one of the original Sieveking Sound stands that originated this great design. 

In the past, I’ve tried going with digital systems to save some of the hassle and expense associated with records, but it never takes. Some lps definitely do sound better than digital, but to me it’s less about aural superiority and more about records and turntables as design elements. To borrow designer Ilse Crawford’s concept, records and the equipment I play them on are an essential ingredient to constructing my personal frame for living. When I play records, I remember the conversations I had with the people who introduced me to them, the joys and sorrows I was encountering when I played them with the greatest frequency, and the stores where I bought them. The real magic of records is how they serve as accessible artifacts of experience, both those in the past and those being formed in the present. In the future (if I’m lucky) I'm sure I will put on the records I play most often now and instantly be connected to memories of the spontaneous, uninhibited dancing of my daughters. Of course this is a feature of music in general, but without the physical object, the connection just isn't the same for me.


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