How To Pick A Turntable: A Comprehensive Guide For Beginners

Are you ready to dive into the world of vinyl and experience the warm, rich sound that only a turntable can offer?

Choosing the right turntable can be overwhelming, with so many options and opinions out there. But fear not, we’re here to guide you through the process.

From understanding the components of a turntable to considering your space and budget, we’ll help you pick the perfect player for your needs.

So sit back, relax, and let’s explore the wonderful world of turntables together.

How To Pick A Turntable

When it comes to picking a turntable, there are a few key factors to consider.

First and foremost, think about your budget. Turntables can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, so it’s important to determine how much you’re willing to spend before diving in.

Next, consider the space where you’ll be using your turntable. Do you have a dedicated listening room or will it be in a multi-purpose space? This will impact the size and style of turntable you choose.

Another important factor is the type of music you’ll be playing. If you’re into bass-heavy genres like hip-hop or electronic music, you’ll want a turntable with good low-end response. If you prefer acoustic or classical music, you’ll want a turntable that can accurately reproduce the nuances of those recordings.

When it comes to the technical aspects of a turntable, there are a few key components to consider. The platter and motor are responsible for spinning the record at a consistent speed, while the tonearm and cartridge work together to read the grooves and produce sound. Look for a turntable with good isolation and minimal vibration to ensure the best possible sound quality.

It’s also worth considering whether you want a manual or automatic turntable. Manual turntables require more hands-on operation, but can offer more control over the playback process. Automatic turntables, on the other hand, offer more convenience and ease of use.

Finally, don’t forget about maintenance and upkeep. Turntables require regular cleaning and upkeep to ensure they continue to function properly and produce high-quality sound. Make sure you’re prepared to invest time and effort into maintaining your turntable before making a purchase.

Understanding The Components Of A Turntable

To truly understand how to pick a turntable, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the different components that make up a turntable.

The platter and motor are the foundation of any turntable. The platter is the circular surface where the record sits, and the motor is responsible for spinning the platter at a consistent speed. Look for a turntable with a heavy, high-quality platter and a reliable motor to ensure smooth and consistent playback.

The tonearm and cartridge work together to read the grooves of the record and produce sound. The tonearm is the long arm that holds the cartridge, which contains the stylus or needle that makes contact with the record. The cartridge can have a significant impact on sound quality, so it’s worth investing in a high-quality cartridge if you’re serious about getting the best possible sound from your turntable.

The stylus or needle is perhaps the most important component of a turntable. It makes contact with the grooves of the record and picks up vibrations that are then converted into sound. There are different shapes of styluses, including conical and elliptical, each with its own pros and cons. A conical stylus is more common and cheaper, but an elliptical stylus can offer more accurate playback with less distortion.

Finally, consider whether you want a built-in preamp or if you’ll need to purchase one separately. A preamp is necessary to convert the phono signal produced by a turntable into a line-level signal that can be used by other audio equipment. Some turntables come with built-in preamps, while others require an external preamp.

By understanding these key components of a turntable, you’ll be better equipped to choose a high-quality turntable that will provide years of enjoyment and great sound quality.

Consider Your Space And Budget

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a turntable is your budget. Turntables can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, so it’s important to determine how much you’re willing to spend before making a purchase. Keep in mind that a higher price tag doesn’t always guarantee better sound quality, so it’s important to do your research and read reviews from other users before making a decision.

Another important factor to consider is the space where you’ll be using your turntable. Do you have a dedicated listening room or will it be in a multi-purpose space? This will impact the size and style of turntable you choose. For example, if you have limited space, you may want to consider a compact turntable that can be easily stored when not in use.

When setting your budget, it’s also important to consider any additional accessories or components you may need. For example, if your current audio setup doesn’t have a phono preamp, you’ll need to budget for one of those as well.

Belt Drive Vs. Direct Drive

One of the biggest debates in the world of turntables is whether to go with a belt drive or a direct drive system. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, making it important to consider your specific needs and preferences before making a decision.

Belt drive turntables are known for their high-quality sound and consistent playback. The platter sits on a bearing and is driven by a pulley-style belt made of rubber. This configuration minimizes motor noise and vibration, resulting in a cleaner, more accurate sound. Belt drive turntables are also a popular choice among audiophiles due to their ability to track the information etched into the groove of a record more easily.

Direct drive turntables, on the other hand, offer higher torque and faster start-up speeds. They are often preferred by DJs because they allow for manual rewinding of vinyl and make it easier to align beats from two decks. Direct drive turntables also have variable pitch control, which helps match up beats for non-stop dancing. However, the platter is attached directly to the motor, which can lead to vibrations being transmitted to the cartridge and resulting in distortion.

When deciding between belt drive and direct drive, it’s important to consider your intended use for the turntable. If you’re an audiophile looking for high-quality sound reproduction, a belt drive turntable may be the way to go. If you’re a DJ or plan on using your turntable for live performances, a direct drive system may be more appropriate.

Ultimately, both belt drive and direct drive turntables have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s up to you to determine which factors are most important for your specific needs and make an informed decision based on those factors.

Manual Vs. Automatic

One of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make when choosing a turntable is whether to go with a manual or automatic model. Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to consider your personal preferences and needs before making a decision.

Manual turntables require the user to physically place the record on the platter and manually lower the tonearm onto the record to start playing. When the record is over, you’ll need to lift the tonearm back into its resting position and turn off the turntable. While this may seem like a lot of work, many vinyl enthusiasts appreciate the deliberate and hands-on approach that manual turntables offer. With a manual turntable, you have more control over the playback process and can ensure that your stylus is properly aligned with the record groove.

Automatic turntables, on the other hand, have a mechanism that automatically places the record on the platter and lowers the tonearm onto the record. When the record is over, the tonearm will automatically lift and return to its resting position, and in some cases, the turntable will even turn off automatically. This can be a convenient option for those who want a more hands-off approach to playing records.

While automatic turntables may offer more convenience, many audiophiles believe that manual turntables offer better sound quality. This is because manual turntables have simpler designs with fewer moving parts that can interfere with tracking and cause distortion. Additionally, manual turntables are generally easier to maintain and repair since there are fewer internal mechanisms that can break down over time.

Ultimately, whether you choose a manual or automatic turntable will depend on your personal preferences and needs. If you value control and precision in your vinyl listening experience, a manual turntable may be the better choice for you. However, if you prioritize convenience and ease of use, an automatic turntable may be a better fit.

Cartridge And Stylus Options

One of the most important components of a turntable is the cartridge and stylus. The cartridge is the housing that holds the stylus, which is the needle that makes contact with the record grooves. The shape and construction of the stylus can greatly impact the sound quality and accuracy of your turntable.

There are two main shapes of styli: conical and elliptical. Conical styli have a wider contact radius and are less accurate than elliptical styli, which have a smaller contact radius and can extract more musical information, especially high frequencies. The shape of the stylus affects how it makes contact with the record groove, so it’s important to choose the right one for your music preferences.

The cantilever, which transfers vibrational energy from the stylus tip to the magnet, also plays a role in sound quality. It should be as stiff and light as possible, and can be made from materials like aluminum alloy, carbon, boron, or copper alloys.

Trackability is another important spec to consider when choosing a cartridge and stylus. It measures how well the stylus can track a modulated record groove without distorting the signal. The higher the trackability spec, measured in micrometers (μm), the better.

There are two main types of generator for cartridges: moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC). MM cartridges are most common and affordable, while MC cartridges tend to be lower output and require a preamp with a special MC setting. MC cartridges are generally more expensive but offer higher sound quality.

When choosing a cartridge, it’s important to consider whether it’s standard mount or P-mount. Standard mount cartridges are secured to the tonearm by 2 vertical screws spaced 1/2″ apart and feature four small posts for connecting the tonearm leads. P-mount cartridges have four slender pins that plug directly into tonearms specifically made for use with P-mount cartridges.

Finally, consider the shank construction and form factor of your stylus. Nude styli are shaped from whole diamonds and are more accurate but more expensive than bonded styli, which have their diamond tips “bonded” to metal shanks before finishing. Rectangular & square shanks nude styli cost even more than round shank nude styli to make but offer precise alignment with record grooves.

Additional Features To Look For

In addition to the factors mentioned above, there are a few additional features to look for when choosing a turntable.

First, consider whether the turntable has a built-in phono preamp. This component amplifies the signal from the cartridge and prepares it for playback through your speakers. Some turntables have this built-in, while others require an external preamp to be purchased separately.

Another feature to consider is the ability to adjust the speed of the turntable. Different sized records play at different speeds, so having the ability to adjust the RPMs can ensure that your entire record collection can be played on your turntable.

A counterweight is also an important feature to look for. This helps balance the tonearm and ensure accurate tracking of the record grooves.

Anti-skate control is another feature that can improve sound quality by preventing the stylus from skipping or jumping across the record.

Finally, consider whether the turntable has a removable headshell/cartridge. This allows for easy replacement or upgrading of these components in the future.

Overall, when choosing a turntable, it’s important to consider your budget, space limitations, music preferences, technical components, and additional features. By taking all of these factors into account, you can make an informed decision and choose a turntable that will provide years of high-quality sound and enjoyment.