It was about fifteen, sixteen odd years ago that I fell into the "vinyl" trap. Sure, growing up mom and pop had records, mostly of the classical Deutsche Gramophone variety; my ten years older brother had vastly greater selections diving into classic rock, some jazz and avant garde pop, but even he probably never made it past 500 or so albums. When I abandoned my Viennese homeland for the 2nd time in the early days of this century, September 2000, to be specific, I arrived on these fine shores with twenty odd albums in toe. Once I had been bitten by the analog bug, things changed and quite dramatically.
My first "real" high-end turntable was the Transrotor Fat Bob, which was quickly followed by Brinkmann's La Grange, a deck I ended up owning for the better part of eight or so years, which in turn became the Balance that's now been in my stable for the past four years. Throw in a pair of vintage Thorens 124s, built up by OMA and Tonmechanik Berlin respectively, a Technics 1200G of the new variety and you quickly realize that yes, I'm an analog freak. Commensurate with my growing hardware collection was of course the stratospheric, nay, exponential growth of my cherished, valued and loved vinyl collection. Those twenty odd records from sixteen years ago have no grown to about 5000, give or take. Rock / Pop and Jazz make up about eighty percent evenly split; the rest is mostly classical with another couple hundred albums devoted to soundtracks, classical Indian music and home sourced Serbian, ex-Yugoslav folk / rock music.
What can I say; I just love music. My habits have become such that I acquire a fair share of used records from eBay and Discogs, supplemented by offerings from two of my crack dealers, the affable Mr. Record, aka Robert Pincus, and Bob Donnelly, both of whom I simply couldn't do without. The wealth of knowledge they have for the genres I'm most interested in, is simply not to be believed—it really is no wonder that each friendly get together most always results in a new DK stash arriving at my house. To boot, Chad Kassem's Acoustic Sounds outfit who by now undoubtedly installed the infamous red phone next to Nate Lennox' desk (such is the frequency of my viral, virtual visits), as well as the always kind, always available Roger Swiatek at Music Direct, supply probably ninety percent of the rest of my new purchases.
Ultimately, audio gear reviewers need music to do their job—without the help, advice and friendship these fine lads have offered me throughout the years, my job would be that much more difficult if not downright impossible to do. Cheers to all of you! Alas, what's a man to do with all these records? A quick sample through the rolodex of vinyl buds reveals that most do what I do: get a couple of Ikea Kallax shelves and thus rack'em, stack'em for future use. The challenge of course is that unless you have done your due diligence and have kept all your records (from the very first one!) neatly alphabetized and sorted by genre, you end up with an epic, Cinemascope, Technicolor mess in Stereophonic sound no less. I sure have. Case in point, chez K's semimonthly music parties, where I invite folks for some music, spirits and laughs, have become an exercise in futility. Says one friend, "Hey, do you have so-and-so?" Answer: "Ummmm, yeah, sure, just don't know where, feel free to look for it". True story. Happens every time. Maximum frustration ensues. Many an evening have I spent pondering a "fix": Just as quickly as the thought of a fix comes to mind—involving a complete tear down and rebuild of said collection—it vanishes about as rapidly, perhaps even more so, into the ether of my mind. Who can blame me? Taking down 5000+ records individually, alphabetizing them, and sorting them by genre is quite the daunting task. The mess. The insanity! The perseverance required! Please do not sign me up.
Then, following the last such music session at chez K, two seemingly independent events occurred. First, longtime friend and local audio King, Jeff Tyo, became conclusively frustrated with the shear mess my collection had become. "Danny, I can't find shit here. This is nuts. You need help. I will help you." Immediately, my cunning, highly evolved, superior Serbian instinct jumped into high gear. "Say what?", I replied. "Well, I tell you what: I will donate 5 hours of my time to you and help you sort your records, one by one. I have a neat system that will clear this mess up sooner than you think." Leave it to a truly enlightened friend to scientifically, systematically, bring order, peace and harmony to my troubled collector life.
The second event was a far less personal at first. Weeks prior, I had been reading about Koeppel Design, a San Francisco based vinyl accessories designer. As it turns out, Kate Koeppel was keen on designing minimal, super high quality record collecting accessories, all locally produced in small batches that would quite literally stand the test of time. Kate views vinyl as a social "tool", leveraging the history of music to bring friends together, listen to music cover to cover and bring back the ca. 50s "lifestyle" of socializing with friends and vinyl. "Sounds like a mental fit", I said.
Quite succinctly, I was sold. I became struck by the instantly apparent premium quality finishes, the modern, contemporary design and the fact that it was all made locally in San Francisco. "Hmmmmm", I pondered the not inconsiderable cost—hey, premium quality asks for premium prices; I look at this as a one time, lifetime, investment into my record collection; thus, order would have to be brought first—only then I felt it would make sense to make the plunge into Kate's superbly exclusive, laser cut, laser etched designs. Funny then, that Jeff offered his help to bring peace and order not long after. Sure enough, Jeff's genius system proved right for the task: within a few hours, about a third of the collection had been sorted; my self-imposed goal of bringing about full order to the collection was in fact met early. By Friday that week, all of my albums had been alphabetized and sorted by genre: rock / pop, jazz, classical, soundtracks and world. That same Friday evening, I emailed Koeppel Designs and placed an order for three sets of A-Z alphabet dividers (for each of my rock / pop, classical and jazz genres) and a set of six genre dividers. A few exchanges with Kate and my email order confirmation was promptly generated.
By week's end the following week, my dividers arrived. Yes, there are less expensive solutions out there. Yes, there are downright ugly, cheap solutions out there too. However, given the choice between quantity and quality, I always side on the side of quality. In the case of these Koeppel Design dividers, you really get what you pay for: record dividers built to the highest standards and latest wood machining, laser cutting and etching tools. Given the investment these dividers are supposed to highlight, I look at this as the right value add, dollars and mostly my senses. My collection now in perfect order, setting up the dividers was a literal snap. Not half an hour later, I marveled at my newly discovered, neatly organized record collection. The pictures don't do it justice. Whereas searching for an album before was pure madness, doing the same today takes less than a minute, sometimes much less. Ted Curson's The Trio is about four seconds away from being located. A side effect of this newly found order is a level of peace and harmony. Best of all, newly purchased vinyl no longer ends up stashed somewhere, someplace—it now neatly fits in just the right spot for it. Pure genius. Those infamous music sessions at chez K are now functional—care to listen to the XX? Schubert's Trout Concerto? The Beach Boys? Merely a quick dash away. Side effects? Too many to list. First, I have discovered that I own albums I never even knew I had—go figure. Second, I now find myself listening to far more music, far more regularly which before seemed at times prohibitively difficult and tiresome to locate. The days of spending an hour sorting through six bins for that elusive Glen Campbell album is officially over. Third, it's now easier to manage and further enhance the collection because I can quickly check what I already have. Case in point, I don't really need a fourth copy of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's first album. In fact, I'll probably trade three and keep the hot stamper.
To Kate and her team, a job extremely well done. To everyone else, if you have even a modest sized collection, adding Koeppel Design dividers will bring about an even greater level of enjoyment to that collection. Sounds like a win to me. Most highly recommended, A+++++
PS: the only thing I'd possibly ask for is for team Koeppel to do the same for my CD collection. Smaller in size, it too is an unrecognizable mess. Oh, wait a second. They already do! Genius, here we come. Part deux…
Koeppel Design Record Dividers
Retail: $326 for the A-Z dividers
San Francisco, CA