How To Buy A Turntable: A Comprehensive Guide For Beginners

Are you ready to dive into the world of vinyl records and experience music in a whole new way?

A turntable is the perfect tool to bring your vinyl collection to life. But with so many options out there, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.

Fear not, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about buying a turntable, from rumble ratings to built-in phono stages and speakers.

Whether you’re a casual listener or an audiophile, we’ll help you find the perfect turntable for your needs and budget. So sit back, relax, and let’s get started on your journey to vinyl nirvana.

How To Buy A Turntable

When it comes to buying a turntable, there are a few key factors to consider. First and foremost, you’ll want to think about your budget. Turntables can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, so it’s important to know what you’re willing to spend.

Next, consider the rumble rating of the turntable. This measures how well the turntable handles vibrations, and a higher rating is generally better. Look for a rumble rating in the -40 or -50 range at minimum. Keep in mind that higher numbers are actually worse, so a -80 rating is better than a -20 rating.

Another important consideration is whether the turntable has a built-in phono stage. This is necessary for connecting your turntable to your stereo system, and some turntables come with one built in while others require an external preamp or amplifier with a phono stage. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you buy.

Finally, think about your speakers. You want to be able to fully immerse yourself in the sound of your vinyl records, so it’s important to invest in quality speakers. Look for speakers that are at least in the £100-£500 range for decent quality.

Understanding The Basics Of Turntables

Before diving into the world of turntables, it’s important to understand the basic components and how they work together. The plinth, or base, is where the turntable sits and provides stability. The tonearm is responsible for holding the cartridge and stylus, which read the grooves on the record. The cartridge contains a magnet that converts the vibrations from the stylus into an electrical signal, which is then sent to the phono stage. The platter is where the record sits and spins, and the controls allow you to adjust things like speed and power.

When it comes to choosing a turntable, there are a few key features to look for. A counterweight is essential for balancing the tonearm and ensuring accurate tracking of the record. A removable headshell or cartridge allows for easy replacement or upgrading of these components. Anti-skate control helps prevent the stylus from skipping or jumping out of the groove.

Another important factor to consider is signal to noise ratio, which measures how much background noise you’ll hear when playing your record. Look for a higher ratio for clearer audio.

Consider Your Budget

One of the most important factors to consider when buying a turntable is your budget. Turntables can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, so it’s important to know what you’re willing to spend before you start shopping.

When setting your budget, keep in mind that you’ll likely need to purchase additional equipment beyond just the turntable itself. This may include a phono preamp, amplifier, and speakers. These items can add up quickly, so make sure to budget accordingly.

While it’s tempting to go for the cheapest option available, keep in mind that you get what you pay for. Spending a little more on a higher quality turntable can make a big difference in the sound quality of your vinyl records. However, there are ways to save money without sacrificing too much quality. For example, consider purchasing a used turntable or looking for sales and discounts.

Ultimately, the key is to find a balance between your budget and the quality of equipment you want. Don’t be afraid to do your research and shop around to find the best value for your money.

Belt-Drive Or Direct-Drive?

One of the most debated topics in the turntable world is whether to go for a belt-drive or direct-drive model. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to consider your needs before making a decision.

Belt-drive turntables are known for their superior sound quality, as the belt absorbs motor noise and vibration. This makes them ideal for home listening and audiophiles who want the best possible sound. However, they can be prone to pitch variance, and the belt will eventually need to be replaced. Belt-drive turntables also have less torque than direct-drive models, which means they take longer to get up to speed.

On the other hand, direct-drive turntables are more durable and ideal for DJs or those who want to use their turntable for scratching or other live performances. They have a higher torque, which means they can reach full speed quickly and maintain it even under heavy use. However, direct-drive turntables may transmit motor noise to the stylus, which can affect sound quality.

Ultimately, it comes down to your personal preferences and how you plan to use your turntable. If you prioritize sound quality and home listening, a belt-drive turntable is likely the best choice. If you plan on using your turntable for live performances or scratching, a direct-drive model is likely the better option. Consider your needs and budget carefully before making a decision.

The Importance Of Cartridges And Stylus

When it comes to turntables, the cartridges and stylus are arguably the most important components. The cartridge is responsible for holding the stylus, which is the needle that makes direct contact with the record and relays the sound through your entire setup. The stylus reads the modulations on the groove of the record and transmits this information via an electrical current which is then amplified through your record player set up and out through your speakers as sound.

Choosing a new turntable cartridge or stylus is an important part of keeping your record player in good condition. Over time, the stylus tip will wear down, causing poor sound performance. If you notice distortion, fuzziness, noise, channel imbalance, spitting, sibilance, skipping, or bouncing in your audio, it’s likely time to replace the stylus.

It’s important to note that some cartridges do not allow for the removal of a stylus, so it may be necessary to replace the entire cartridge. When it comes to replacing turntable styluses, audible signals indicate that it is time. To avoid permanently damaging your vinyl collection, it’s crucial to use a new stylus on a regular basis.

The shape of the stylus also has a significant impact on audio performance and reproduction. Linear shapes such as Shibata and elliptical shapes are common and can affect how easily the stylus tip picks up on a record’s sound.

Upgrading your cartridge or stylus can also significantly improve sound quality. The phono cartridge is actually one of the most upgradeable hi-fi components, but be careful not to overspend. You can buy a very good phono cartridge for around $100 or $250 or go all out and spend close to $1,000.

Built-In Phono Stages And Speakers

One option to consider when buying a turntable is whether it has a built-in phono stage and speakers. These all-in-one turntables are a great choice for those who want a simple and streamlined setup. With a built-in phono stage, you won’t have to worry about purchasing an external preamp or amplifier. And with built-in speakers, you won’t have to worry about finding the right set of speakers to match your turntable.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that all-in-one turntables may not provide the same level of sound quality as separate components. If you’re looking for the highest quality sound possible, you may want to consider purchasing a separate turntable, phono preamp, and speakers. This will allow you to customize your setup and get the best possible sound.

That being said, all-in-one turntables with built-in phono stages and speakers are a great option for those who are just starting out or who have limited space. They provide a simple and convenient way to listen to your vinyl records without having to worry about purchasing multiple components. Just make sure to do your research and choose a turntable with high-quality components for the best possible sound.

Rumble Ratings And Vibration Control

When it comes to turntables, one important factor to consider is the rumble rating. This measures how well the turntable handles vibrations, which can greatly impact the sound quality. A higher rumble rating is generally better, with a minimum rating of -40 or -50 being ideal. However, it’s important to note that higher numbers are actually worse. For example, a turntable with a -80 rating is better than one with a -20 rating.

To control vibrations and minimize rumble, there are several tools and techniques you can use. One option is to invest in a turntable mat or platform designed to absorb vibrations. The Auralex is a popular choice among audiophiles for its quality and affordability. Another option is to use a foam floor mat placed under the turntable, which can be an inexpensive solution.

Additionally, it’s important to consider the placement of your turntable and speakers. Avoid placing them near sources of vibration, such as subwoofers or air conditioning units. You can also experiment with different positioning and isolation techniques, such as using sub-sonic filters or placing the turntable on an isolated shelf.

Overall, when shopping for a turntable, pay attention to the rumble rating and consider investing in tools and techniques to control vibrations and improve sound quality.