GRANTS PASS — In an era when digital music is effortless to download or stream, Sandon Ritter of Roseburg knows exactly why he drove 70 miles to sort through boxes of LPs: sonic frequencies lower than 80 hertz.
On an MP3 file or other compressed digital music format, arguably imperceptible frequencies are removed to reduce the computer file's size, but Ritter, a disc jockey who spins vinyl regularly at the Knock Knock Lounge in Roseburg, said he can hear the difference on his vintage JBL speakers at home.
"I'm a sound guy," Ritter said.
Ritter and his wife, Sara Boseman, hired a babysitter so they could be among hundreds who flipped through thousands of LPs and 45s Saturday at the 11th annual Grants Pass Record Convention at the Josephine County Fairgrounds. One organizer, Lloyd Davis, estimated that about 140 people had attended just before 1 p.m. Saturday. Total attendees have typically numbered between 200 and 300 in years past.
As the only record convention in Southern Oregon, the event draws record dealers and collectors inside and outside of the state, and plenty of regulars.
"I mark it on my calendar," Bob Letvinchuck of Grants Pass said.
Letvinchuck has attended each of the events for the past 11 years.
"I like to replace my albums that I had a long time ago," Letvinchuck said. "The prices are really fantastic here."
Beyond good buys on vinyl records, the event is a chance for some to relive memories tied to music.
"People do reminisce," Letvinchuck said. "An album can bring back stories."
Although the event attracted dealers from as far as Los Angeles and Tacoma, Wash., some of the 26 dealers at the event were locals simply clearing out their collection. Dave Motter of Grants Pass had about 150 LPs left — about half of what he brought — including The Alan Parsons Project's "I Robot," the debut album by The Cars and Thompson Twins' "Hold Me Now" 12-inch single.
Motter said some of his records were from the 1970s, and others were from a time when he'd go to clubs in the 1980s.
"I just don't play 'em as much as I used to," Motter said, saying he prefers the convenience of modern formats.
Ritter had already spent $140 at the event only part way through methodically looking through stacks of 12-inch records. He was specifically seeking out records by 1980s English rock band The Smiths. Between tables he completed an eBay purchase of their 1983 record "The Queen is Dead."
"I came to shop," Ritter said.
Another record Ritter was excited about was 1930s jazz performer Fats Waller, although he said calling Waller's music "jazz" over-simplifies the musician's talent.
"It's almost like speakeasy music," Ritter said.
As a disc jockey who started collecting records 20 years ago while growing up in the Bay Area, Ritter said records are more tangible, which makes it feel more like "his" music.
"I don't feel the same playing in front of a glowing screen," Ritter said. "There's no effort in that."
The event has been organized annually for the past 11 years by four record dealers and enthusiasts: Lloyd Davis of Ashland, Warren Russell of Medford, Ben Piper of Applegate and Steve Roberts of Gold Hill. Over the past decade, Russell said a mailing list has grown to over 100 people.
"We don't do this because we're interested in making money," Russell said. "It's for the love of the hobby."
—Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.