Collector Interview: Kenneth S.

Posted on March 15 2017

Kenneth S. is a collector dedicated to music and the highest of quality listening experience possible. In his own words, "listening to the finest details the artist had in mind, is what high fidelity is all about." Here is someone who has done his research, with over 25 years of experience under his belt, and has evolved his collection from an entry level to high end. Read on if you'd like to take a peek inside Ken’s collection and the advice he offers to new collectors as well!

[Note: Kenneth uses our custom genre dividers, our genre dividers and our engraved A-Z dividers to stay organized]

I am Ken S, a 59 year old retired COO/CFO from the Apparel business after spending 39 years in fashion, but my passion for the last thirty years has been “chasing the signal.” This is when you try to achieve the closest sound possible to live music, in your own home system. It is however, an ever changing and never ending process. That is half the fun. My plan is to play as much golf and music as I can on a regular basis, and not worry about the grind of a day to day business. Aside from the hardware side of audio, the software is where most of the time and money must be spent. To me, finding those vinyl gems that are surely out there, and listening to the finest details the artist had in mind, is what high fidelity is all about. Some of my best albums are almost 50 years old and they are still there to be played, enjoyed and organized (of course)… COO side.
Size of your collection:
I enjoy a mix of 4500 to 5000 records plus whatever it is in CDS, probably 1000. 
Current top 3 albums:
This really boils down to what are the three go to records that you have when your friends come over to listen, and you want them to hear what Analog and Vinyl is really all about. Mine are:

Hugh Masekela,  HOPE, Analogue Productions 45RPM double album.  Amazing sound quality AND music, love side 2 and side 4, 2004 released and still available at Acoustic Sounds.

Beck, Sea of Change, Mobile Fidelity 33 1/3RPM double album Original Master Recording.  HUGE soundstage and dynamic sound plus just great music.  Re-issue done in 2009

Pink Floyd, DSOTM, Japan pressing PRO-USE 33 1/3RPM.  Absolutely one of the best pressings of this classic record, may surpass the Mobile Fidelity UHQR.  Hard to find but worth it. Recorded in 1973.

Favorite or biggest music genre in your collection:
By far and away I am a rock & roll/pop guy but I like all kinds of music.  I have to be in the mood for Jazz and/or Classical but do appreciate the various genres and expertise of the artists. I love great vocalists such as Ricki Lee Jones, Marc Cohn, Norah Jones or Janis Ian to name a few.   

Best party album:
I always like to play records that everyone should know but unfortunately many do not.  The Cowboy Junkies and Zero 7 are perfect examples.  These are great easy listening records that will undoubtedly raise the question, “Who is this?” from your guests. 
Zero 7 – When it Falls, 2004
Cowboy Junkies – Trinity Sessions OR/AND Trinity Revisited

Best album to listen to alone:
Santana Abraxas – New Mobile Fidelity Box Set Direct to Disk.  Phenomenal recording, maybe one of the best of all time.  New release and already out of print.  CRANK IT UP!!

Last record you purchased:
The two new Analogue Productions re-issues of Jeff Beck, Blow by Blow AND Wired in 45 RPM.  Both excellent sounding records and better than what we grew up with.  

Album you're in search of:
Lou Reed – Walk on the Wild Side, 45RPM 12” Supersound single.  It is a 12” single with just Walk on the Wild side in 45 RPM.  I hear it is incredible.  I have never seen it come up, if you have one… : )

Give us a breakdown of your collection: how much is used vs how much is new?
Currently I would guess 75 percent used and 25 percent new, but this is a bit of a trick question as I have roughly 900 records in the collection still sealed with some that date back to the 70’s.  Is a sealed record from 1982 new or used?

How long have you been collecting records? How did you get into it?
I bought my first records in 1970 and collected till the late 80’s and went to CD’s for a while.  I missed the real sound of Analog, so I went back to records in about 2000.  No turning back now.  Fortunately it keeps getting better and better…

Where do you hunt for vinyl?
I am a constant ebay browser and shopper at Acoustic Sounds.  I have found Acoustic Sounds to have the best site to Navigate, by far the best packing and shipping, as well as the diversified selection over Music Direct and Elusive Disc
I have found that there is very little to find in the record stores anymore, and it is typically too handled.  It is really important to know what you are looking for and then inevitably it can be found online.

How do you organize your collection? Where do you listen to vinyl?
I like to be organized by genre alphabetically.  I have most space dedicated to Rock A-Z.  I have Jazz separated from the Rock, and use 6 dividers for the Jazz A-Z because I only have about 500 Jazz records. There is a section exclusive for TEST PRESSINGS with about 400 mostly sealed, an AUDIOPHILE section of unique great sounding hi fidelity records (about 300), and a section for SEALED duplicates that I have elsewhere in the collection that holds roughly 400 records .  Lastly, I have a small grouping of original Classical records from the 60’s from RCA (Shaded Dogs), and Mercury Living Presence.  I have some re-issues for comparison to the originals.

Any thoughts you'd like to share about your method of record organization, how you store your collection or use your record dividers?
I like records organized on a wall so they are easy to see.  It is also too much for my old back to lean over a crate to see what is on the floor.  The dividers only make it easier to find what you are looking for and they are aesthetically pleasing.  I do believe that when you have the records under one letter will reduce the wear and tear on the collection from daily use too. 

[Note: Kenneth uses our custom genre dividers, our genre dividers and our engraved A-Z dividers to stay organized]

Anything extra you want to share about your collection, set up, turntable, your equipment, listening room, plans for the future, etc?
Anyone just getting started in building a record collection should keep a few points in the back of your mind.  Always wait for the best quality record you can find, and don’t accept products from the internet that are not as advertised.  Get to know the record LABELS that sound better and are geared to audiophiles and look for first pressings.  There are many labels that are junk and un-listenable.  Japanese, UK and German pressings of the past are typically of better sound quality and more enjoyable to listen to.  Analogue Productions and Mobile Fidelity are putting out re-issues today that are of stunning quality.  Experiment and have fun!  Today the HIFI equipment can reproduce more sound imaging and detail than ever before.  The standard is set to stratospheric heights and cost is no concern in many systems.  Always, build the system to within your means and budget and upgrade over time.  My system has evolved from an entry level to high end over 25 years, and I always stretched to within my means.  The great part of this hobby is that it can seem like you are spending a fortune on equipment, but keep in mind that when you amortize that investment over 20+ years of pleasure, it’s not that much… Plans for the future, more listening!!

To see more home collections, check out our full series of collector interviews.