The Best Vinyl Record Stores in Toronto
The best vinyl record stores in Toronto are a phenomenon since few visionaries would have predicted that there'd be as many as fifteen stores still selling LPs, EPs and 45rpm records ten years after the millennium, especially back when collectors were shedding their records, and vinyl was selling by the pound.
Nobody would have predicted vinyl's survival years after its effective extinction by the compact disc, never mind its revival among young collectors who've embraced the iPod and the turntable and effectively put the stake through the CD's heart. You'll find CDs in almost all of these stores, but they're rarely given pride of place - a reflection of the verdict music collectors have given vinyl's analog sound over digital. And after all, what's a CD these days except one extra step between you and your mp3?
Whether the vinyl revival abides is an open question right now; what's happened, however, is a re-injection of new, quality, heavy weight LP pressings into the marketplace, and not only hip new titles, but classics and collectible obscurities as well. What few record store owners expected is a surge in demand for classic rock, with a new generation discovering Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and Yes on twelve inch black plastic.
To give some flavour of each shop, I dipped blindly into the bins and wrote down the title of the first disc I pulled out. These are Toronto's best 15 vinyl record stores, as voted by readers of this site.
Toronto’s indie record store archetype (the vinyl copy of the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack on the wall is almost too obvious) carried vinyl long before vinyl’s unexpected comeback, back in the days when used record shops were the clearinghouse for the churn passing through aging hipsters’ and rock critics’ personal collections. The selection is eclectic - lots of jazz and blues, African funk and punk of every era, but it’s also the place to go for the vinyl version of the latest by The Walkmen or The Vaselines. What I Found There - Ultraglide In Black by The Dirt Bombs. More »
Punk’s not dead at this recently relocated Queen St. storefront, where the walls of 45s will remind you that punk was a singles medium first and foremost. The vinyl revival means that discs I haven’t seen since I was 17 are available again in quantity. Youngsters can now relive the thrill of putting down the needle on a copy of "Tommy Gun" by The Clash and enjoy a visceral charge I haven’t felt since before I could vote. What I Found There - Milo Gets Bootlegged by The Descendents. More »
This combination bookstore/record shop has two locations (on College and Roncevalles Village) and would seem to have cornered the market on post-collegiate entertainment. The helpful staff will tell you that the vinyl market has grown in the last few years, while the used CD selection has shrunk – a sign of the times if there ever was one - and that in at least one location the idea of turfing digital discs altogether is a distinct possibility. What I Found There - (1934-1976) by Freddie King. More »
This DJ-oriented shop is, along with the HMV flagship just down the street, all that remains of the once-thriving Yonge Street record strip. Like any decent DJ shop, it’s an intimidating jumble of 12 inches and white-label discs, in ever more narrow categories such as “Battle Breaks” and “Universal Urban Mixes.” So you probably won’t find the latest Beatles repackage here. What I Found There - Old School Classics Vol. 3, including “Flashlight” by Parliament and “Give It To Me” by Rick James. More »
The two Cosmos stores bookend Bathurst Street; the one on the east side came first, and the second followed when the owner discovered that he had far too much stock for one small storefront. The result is that the old school rap and R&B is on the east side, while the rare jazz, blues, Cuban and Brazilian music - a truly impressive selection of the latter - is on the west side. Classic rock – making an unexpected comeback – is for sale in booth, so you need never go without Emerson, Lake & Palmer records again. What I Found There - The Show Must Go On by The Four Tops (Cosmos). Musica Cubana Contemporanea by Irakere (Cosmos West). More »
An institution among Toronto record shops, Vortex’s uptown store is often the short-term home for discs shed by downsizing collectors, with the result that chestnuts end up alongside true obscurities in the floor-level bins. What I Found There - Casual Gods by Jerry Harrison. More »
If most used record shops are the beer store, Planet of Sound is Vintages – the place to find select used discs and high-quality, heavyweight audiophile vinyl reissues of classic jazz and rock titles for sale alongside headphones, hardware, and high-end turntables that you can call sculpture when they’re not playing a record. What I Found There - Excitable Boy by Warren Zevon. More »
Alongside Hits & Misses, Kops is committed to keeping 45s in circulation, with boxes of singles in every genre, stocked next to used and new vinyl. Kops has evolved over the years, from oldies shop to DJ store to collector’s hub without every really changing its focus - a consistency that’s almost baffling considering how much the music industry has changed. What I Found There - King Curtis Plays The Great Memphis Hits. More »
DJ vinyl is the focus at this record store nestled amidst Moog Music’s selection of synths, samplers and recording gear. Unlike Play De Record’s dizzying overstock, Slinky’s record bins feel far more curated, with a lot of used DJ vinyl that bears witness to dance club trends. What I Found There - Another Late Night by Groove Armada. More »
In a Kensington shop that also sells Japanese art, the vinyl sits in low bins made from old wine and port crates - a truly creative touch. In keeping with the vintage theme, the stock feels distilled - a core selection of rock, pop, jazz, blues and reggae vinyl with a few rarities mixed in. What I Found There - Locker Room by Double Exposure. More »
Classical music is the specialty here, catering to a clientele that was never convinced by the digital revolution, and has kept prices high on operas, symphonies, string quartets and chamber music vinyl since the big companies stopped pressing them. It’s the kind of store where the owner proudly pulls out his stash of Mercury Living Stereo LPs, like a cigar store clerk showing off his Cuban Churchills. What I Found There - Verdi’s Messa Da Requiem by Herbert Von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. More »
The vinyl is at the back, behind the books, at this Junction storefront, and classic rock and jazz is the backbone of what’s on offer. You’ll have to do a bit of hunting. There’s more stock than the owner has time to file, but for the true vinyl aficionado, that shouldn’t be much of an inconvenience. What I Found There - Shock Treatment by The Edgar Winter Group. More »