Cover Photo: Victrola Record Players / Unsplash

We talk to some of Metro Manila’s most passionate vinyl junkies about their continued obsession and the vinyl revival that’s sweeping the planet

When adventurous diggers manage to locate Toti Dalmacion’s (literally) underground record store ThisisPop!, they are greeted - or rather, forewarned - with its slogan: we buy, sell, trade, and judge you. As founder of independent label Terno Recordings and a resident DJ at the legendary 90s roving rave Consortium, Dalmacion definitely takes his vinyl seriously. But like anyone else in the vinyl industry, whether they run a record store or spin vinyl at professional gigs (or in his case, both) Dalmacion started out as an amateur collector. The ‘Ternoman’ admits, “I wish I knew that collecting vinyl would be non-stop, back-breaking as your collection grows, that you’ll need storage space and that it leaves a big hole in your wallet!”

“I remember using my father’s vinyl as a frisbee,” recalls Bobby Banaag, owner of Plaka Planet. Located just a stone’s throw away from ThisisPop!, Plaka Planet carries a slew of well-preserved vintage vinyl, perfect for the old souled collectors among us. Explaining his fixation with used records, Banaag shares, “most vintage records do not have reissues - digging is half the fun. Finding an album you’ve been yearning for - simply euphoric!” But beyond the thrill of finally finding a direly sought-after record, the reasons for falling in love with the format are endless.

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For Cocoy Puyat, the house-disco-techno-80s DJ who’s graced Manila’s nightlife for over 38 years, collecting vinyl came naturally. Looking back to the beginning of what would be his illustrious career, Puyat recalls “vinyl was my introduction to listening to music as a very young boy.  I also learned the art of DJing using vinyl.” To this date, the veteran Consortium resident DJ (alongside Dalmacion) maintains that the sound quality of vinyl is unmatched. “A clean, well-cared-for and well-mastered record will always sound better than an mp3 file. Some might even say better than a CD at times.”

On the other hand, Dalmacion's infatuation with vinyl has less to do with sound and more to do with nostalgia. “I love records because it’s the medium that I grew up with . . . People often mistake my being a ‘vinyl junkie’ as being an ‘audiophile’ - I am not”, he declares, asserting, “I’m happy with what I can afford and what’s decent enough not to ruin my records”. Certainly, the nostalgic value of vinyl is indisputable. However, that doesn’t explain the vinyl revival, which has tantalised even younger hobbyists who weren’t raised with the analogue format.

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Having grown up in the era of iTunes, Limewire, and Now That’s What I Call Music CDs, the world of vinyl was completely foreign to me throughout my adolescence. When I had expressed a desire to fall into the hobby earlier this year, my parents couldn’t understand why I'd want to collect records when I could just listen to music on Spotify - a medium that’s much more convenient and certainly a lot more affordable. But it was precisely the alienness of this tangible art that I found enthralling.

Gabriel Saulog, who launched the Instagram-based record store Acetate Music in August of 2020, echoes a similar fascination. “The thing that I love most about vinyl would probably be the tangibleness of having the music that you love right in your hands”, he reveals. When you stream music online, he argues, “you’re merely renting the music as if you borrowed a book from the public library. Once your subscription or membership ends, you lose all access to it. Yet with vinyl, it’s completely and forever yours.”

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Tatler Asia
Photo: Austrian National Library / Unsplash
Above Austrovox Record production, 1947 | Photo: Austrian National Library / Unsplash

Apart from allowing you to ‘hold’ the music, the analogue format is also alluring because of the complex yet ingenious artistry that goes into producing it. Praising the craft, Saulog enthuses, “we get to appreciate the full process, with efforts that come from the mixing and mastering engineers who try to make the music sound as best as possible, and from the audio engineers who cut. Without any of them, I think that the music would be flat and dull.” 

See also: Are Vinyl Records Worth The Splurge?

Playing records at home is also much more involved and, therefore, more immersive than simply tapping 'play'. As illogical as it may sound, the so-called inconveniences of playing vinyl - repositioning the needle, flipping the disc, swapping records (not to mention the cleaning and maintenance routinely demanded) - are precisely what makes the experience so ritualistic. “It makes a big difference to actually hold something; the act of placing it on the turntable, playing it, reading the cover and inserts adds to the whole experience,” Banaag argues.

The medium also fosters a more intimate connection with the artist. While shuffles and playlists have become the modern standard of listening to music, records help preserve the artist’s vision. Not only are you more compelled to listen to the album from start to finish in its original order, but you also engage with the other artistic choices that go into producing the album. “Getting into bands through their albums made the experience even more fascinating, given the album covers, the inner sleeves, the concept”, Dalmacion shares, as these elements embody “the personality of the band or the type of sound they have”. Since adopting the vinyl format, I’ve come to appreciate the transitions between each track even more - no spoilers, but if you’re a fan of Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, wait till you hear it on vinyl.

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No matter your age, music preferences, or expertise, the art of collecting and playing vinyl is endlessly rewarding. Curious, but don’t know where to start?

Either by pure coincidence or as a convincing testament to its quality, Puyat, Banaag, Dalmacion and Saulog all recommended the turntables from the classic Japanese brand Technics. For your first record, hunt down Banaag first purchase Unang Kagat by Hotdog for an OPM classic, or dive into the music of English rock group XTC, Dalmacion's favourite band. Otherwise, Puyat's must-haves are infallible choices: Steely Dan, Bill Withers, Aretha Franklin, Chic, Donna Summer, The Beatles, and Chaka Khan to name a few. Happy digging!

See also: Do You Collect Records? Here are 13 of the Most Sought-After Vinyl Albums to Own