As vinyl becomes increasingly popular with each passing year and most record shops having disappeared from the vinyl collector's radar, we are left with fewer options to complete that precious label or artist collection. In just a couple of years, online shopping has become the easiest and most affordable way to purchase records, the only downside being that it slowly takes away the crate digging experience and social interaction one can get in a physical shop and also somewhat demystifies the plastic medium. In the golden age of digital technology where clubs worldwide provide DJs with all the means necessary to deliver a perfectly synced and in-key work-out routine we are looking at the best ways to counter the mp3 inquisition and put the needle back into the groove.
NOTE: This guide is based solely on personal experience and tales from acquaintances, so do not take it as read. Some of you might need the extra-features of some stores, while others might prefer a simpler click-and-buy approach. Whichever the case may be, we would love to hear your thoughts and preferences in the comments section.
Based in the small city of Parchim, Germany, Decks originally started in 2001 as an online techno shop which the occasional acid, tech and hard house releases. It has since grown into a fully featured multi genre vinyl only market which they proudly dub as "Europe's Underground Music Specialist".
The main feature of Decks which sets it apart from its competition is the ability to build an order over time without losing those precious limited releases. This is a more refined approach to the 'save for later' option in that for a whopping 30 days any record that you add to your order is reserved until either you pay, or the curfew expires. Because there were a lot of people who never got to check out their order in the 30 days period, Decks recently introduced a 20 EUR minimum for adding items to the order. In addition to the unique order handling, Decks also features a unique Basket which doubles as a wishlist, eliminating the need for a separate one entirely. Items added to the Basket are kept there indefinitely until they are either added to the order or manually removed. This means that old 'Out of Stock' releases are automatically added once they are available and the systems makes a good job at notifying the user by email by default. But don't be let down about the lack of a wishlist. If you are not happy with the way the Basket behaves, you can add your items to Decks' non-notifiable favourites list called 'Notepad'.
The next high point is for the online experience the website delivers. The sample player, even though it's flash based and prone to glitches, is probably the best one you can find: it looks just like a turntable with spinning platter, label artwork and track/volume controls, it features a +-8% working pitch slider and most audio samples are long and clear, almost as good as Soundcloud snippets. The website is frame-based, which means a clean, easy and smooth navigation experience, with all the essential buttons and menus staying in the same place while browsing through large pages of 100 releases each. Customer involvement is also encouraged by the use of public recommendations and by allowing users to create their own top 10 DJ charts which are then browsable by everyone directly from the store. As a plus, the record covers are available in high resolution, clean and sharp jpg.
As always, every service comes with a price, so even if the record cost is slightly lower than on more popular stores, the payoff is felt in the s&h costs for those outside Germany. The shipping rates are flat though, meaning that no matter if you buy 1 or 20 records, the shipping will be identical. On the other side, the high S&H fees are reflected in the packaging, all records are shipped in a custom sized branded pizza box that feature clever shock absorbent cardboard inserts that almost eliminate the risk of damaged records.
All in all Decks.de is a service best used in conjunction with your vinyl minded friends, so next time you feel like placing an order, give your friends a shout!
- user friendly interface with great user involvement features
- great looking audio player with 8% pitch control
- decent quality samples (around 90%)
- smart Basket that doubles as a Wishlist (items are never auto-removed)
- 30 day reservation period for all Order items
- great packaging
- high shipping and handling fees
- somewhat longer transit times than other stores
- audio player prone to glitches (blame adobe flash)
- can only add a minimum of 20 EUR worth of merchandise to the Order
- short lived cookies (need to re-log every 6 hours)