An iPod nation it may be, but for a devoted group of DJs, music producers and cool kids, vinyl will always be king. The reason, fans say, is simple: The warm, full tones created by an LP's grooves put sterile digital sound to shame. Plus, there's the thrill of the hunt itself, when a simple flip through the bargain bin can turn up a platter of gold. (Try getting the same kick out of surfing the iTunes store.) Luckily, the District has more than enough record shops to please any vinyl junkie worth her weight in plastic. Here's where to get started:
CAPITAL CITY RECORDS. 1020 U St. NW. 202-518-2444. www.capitalcityrecords.com. Don't be turned off by this shop's dreary concrete exterior: Local DJs know it's one of the best stops in town for house and drum-and-bass sides ($3 to $12), all of which can be sampled on the high-powered two-turntable sound system. If you've got time to dig, surprises are waiting in the hip-hop and 12-inch-single racks (a dance remix of the Stones' "Undercover of the Night" -- who knew?). Bargain bins ($1 or $2) come crammed with '80s R&B; but if even that's too pricey, check out the stacks of 45s, priced at just 10 cents each.
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CROOKED BEAT RECORDS. 2318 18th St. NW. 202-483-2328. www.crookedbeat.com. A welcome addition to the D.C. music landscape, this spanking-new shop throws open its doors this week, angling to attract all manner of vinyl lovers to its well-stocked bins. You'll find lots of rock, plus a superior selection of electronica, country, blues and reggae. Prices run from $1 to $100, but most items fall comfortably in the $5 to $20 range.
DJ HUT. 2010 P St. NW, Second Floor. 202-659-2010. www.djhut.com. An excellent source for discounted new hip-hop, this full-service DJ emporium (offering turntables, mixers and needles in addition to vinyl) has multiple copies of the latest hits, from "Madvillainy," by hip-hop producer Madlib and underground icon MF Doom, to North Carolina rapper Petey Pablo's "Freek-a-Leek," for $4 to $7. The Hut also houses a selection of reggae, break beats, disco and new wave.
JOE'S RECORD PARADISE. 1300 E. Gude Dr., Rockville. 301-315-2235. www.joesrecordparadise.com. Joe's has been in business for nearly 30 years, a tenure reflected in its expertly cultivated collection. With a constant influx of fresh product, its selection -- which favors jazz, rock and soul -- changes quickly. There isn't enough retail space to show off all the store's LPs and 45s, so if you don't see what you're looking for, ask. Most records cost $4 to $8, though Joe's also auctions off pricier platters on eBay: At press time, a Beatles promo-only 45 was up to $1,800.
MAD T MUSIC BOX. 2009 14th St. NW. 202-328-1456. www.madtmusic.com. Hip-hop heads looking for old-school heat hit the small vinyl section in the back of this crowded store, where they can rifle through 12-inch singles from the likes of Run-DMC and KRS-1 ($4.99 to $12). New records from Beenie Man and J-Kwon go for as low as 49 cents, but it's best to avoid the overpriced classic-soul crates, where you'll pay upward of $35 for a scratchy Curtis Mayfield album.
ORPHEUS RECORDS. 3173 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 703-294-6774. www.orpheusrecords.com. With more than 100,000 carefully cleaned and graded records, Orpheus is mecca for serious collectors. The store's incredible stock covers nearly every genre, but its vast blues, jazz and soul holdings are particularly dynamite. Excellence comes at a cost, however: While some items fit comfortably in the $6 range, prices rise sharply from there, and many discs go for $20 or more.
REVOLUTION RECORDS. 4215 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-237-2480. www.revolutionrecords.net. Open for less than a year, this eclectic neighborhood store has only four bins of vinyl, but the selection grows almost weekly. Alongside the usual pop, rock and hip-hop, great folk records from the Limeliters, Rita Coolidge and the Kingston Trio ($2 to $7) have turned up recently. The back of the store houses a turntable listening room, so you can settle in with a stack and try before you buy.
SMASH RECORDS. 3285 1/2 M St. NW. 202-337-6274. www.smashrecords.com. Punks love this shop's array of Dead Kennedys shirts and Doc Martens; everyone else stands to gain from its excellent collection of classic-rock records (obscure Spirit, late Beach Boys, early Byrds). There's also a section dedicated to late '70s and '80s new wave, a wall of (yes) punk 45s and many, many crates of unsorted goodies from yesterday and today. Prices tend to fall in the $5 to $10 range but can run up to $40 for rarer wax. -- Greg Zinman