Are you ready to dive into the world of vinyl records?
With the resurgence of this classic music format, it’s no surprise that more and more people are looking to buy turntables. But with all the technical jargon and various models available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll break down the basics of shopping for a turntable and provide expert advice on what to look for.
Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a newcomer to the vinyl scene, we’ll help you find the perfect turntable to enjoy your favorite records.
So sit back, relax, and let’s explore the wonderful world of turntables together.
How To Shop For A Turntable
When shopping for a turntable, there are a few key factors to consider. First and foremost, you’ll want to decide on your budget. Turntables can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, so it’s important to know how much you’re willing to spend.
Next, consider whether you want a manual or automatic turntable. Manual turntables require you to manually lift and place the needle on the record, while automatic turntables have a mechanism that does this for you. Manual turntables tend to be more popular among audiophiles, as they offer greater control over the playback process.
Another important factor is the quality of the turntable’s components. Look for models with high-quality tonearms, cartridges, and platters. These components can greatly affect the sound quality of your records.
It’s also important to consider whether the turntable has a built-in phono stage. This component boosts the signal from your turntable to a level that can be connected to your stereo system. Some turntables come with a built-in phono stage, while others require an external one.
Finally, don’t forget about speakers. While some turntables come with built-in speakers, these are often of lower quality and can detract from the overall listening experience. Consider investing in a separate set of speakers for optimal sound quality.
Understanding The Components Of A Turntable
When shopping for a turntable, it’s important to have a basic understanding of its components. The six major components of a turntable are the plinth, platter, drive, tonearm, cartridge, and preamp.
The plinth is the base of the turntable, and it supports all of the other components. It’s important to choose a sturdy and stable plinth to prevent unwanted vibrations that can affect sound quality.
The platter is the part of the turntable that holds and spins the record. Look for a platter made of high-quality materials like aluminum or acrylic, as this can improve sound quality and reduce unwanted noise.
The drive system is what powers the platter. There are two main types of drive systems: belt-driven and direct-drive. Belt-driven turntables tend to be quieter and offer better sound quality, while direct-drive turntables are more durable and offer better speed stability.
The tonearm is responsible for reading the record while it plays. Look for a tonearm with low mass and high rigidity for optimal performance.
The cartridge is attached to the end of the tonearm and contains a stylus (or needle) that reads the grooves on the record. Look for a cartridge with a high-quality stylus for better sound quality.
Finally, the preamp is responsible for boosting the signal from the turntable to a level that can be connected to your stereo system. Some turntables come with a built-in preamp, while others require an external one.
By understanding these components, you can make an informed decision when shopping for a turntable that meets your needs and budget.
Belt Drive Vs. Direct Drive: Which Is Right For You?
When it comes to choosing between a belt drive and direct drive turntable, there are a few key factors to consider. Belt drive turntables are known for their high-quality sound and consistent playback, making them a popular choice among audiophiles. They also tend to be more affordable than direct drive turntables, making them a great option for those on a budget.
On the other hand, direct drive turntables are known for their durability and long-term play options. They are also easier to use, with no need for a belt to cause the platter to spin. This makes them a popular choice among DJs and those who value ease of use over sound quality.
Ultimately, the decision between belt drive and direct drive comes down to personal preference. If you prioritize sound quality and consistent playback, a belt drive turntable may be the best option for you. However, if you value durability and ease of use, a direct drive turntable may be the better choice.
It’s also important to consider your long-term needs and living situation when making this decision. If you plan on using your turntable frequently and in a noisy environment, a direct drive turntable may be better suited for your needs. However, if you want to make a long-term investment in high-quality sound, a belt drive turntable may be the way to go.
Ultimately, the best way to determine which type of turntable is right for you is to test them out before making a purchase. Listen to both belt drive and direct drive turntables in person, and consider factors such as sound quality, ease of use, and durability before making your decision.
The Importance Of Cartridges And Needles
When it comes to turntables, the cartridges and needles are arguably the most important components. The cartridge is the part of the turntable that holds the needle, or stylus, which makes direct contact with the record and relays the sound through your entire setup. Without a high-quality cartridge, your stylus is likely to produce unreliable, distorted, and noisy sound.
The stylus, or needle tip, rides in the grooves of a vinyl record and transmits the movement of the grooves down the cantilever tube to the magnet and coil assembly. Most styli have diamond tips to make them extra hard and longer lasting. The stylus is held up within the cartridge by a rubber suspension mechanism, which makes it flexible but stops it from wobbling. The more your stylus wobbles as it reads the data etched into the surface of a record, the more noise will get into your signal and lower your sound quality.
When shopping for a turntable, it’s important to consider the type of cartridge you want. Turntable cartridges are mounted on the end of your record player’s tonearm and include a needle (stylus) which reads the modulations on the groove of the record. There are two main types of cartridges: Half-Inch and P-Mount. Half-Inch cartridges are more common and offer greater flexibility in terms of upgrading and customization. P-Mount cartridges are simpler to install and require less adjustment but offer less flexibility.
If you need to replace your cartridge or stylus, it’s important to choose one that is compatible with your turntable tonearm. If your cartridge is in good condition, you may only need to replace the stylus. Look for physical or sonic signs that you need a new stylus, such as distortion, fuzziness, noise, channel imbalance, spitting, sibilance, skipping, or bouncing.
Features To Consider: Pitch Control, Anti-Skate, And More
When shopping for a turntable, there are several features to consider that can greatly affect the sound quality of your records. One such feature is pitch control, which allows you to adjust the speed of the turntable to ensure that your records are playing at the correct speed. This is especially important for DJs and those who are playing music alongside other sources.
Another important feature is anti-skate, which applies a small outward force to the tonearm, counteracting the tendency of the arm to move inward (skate) toward the center of the record as it approaches the end. Anti-skate is needed in order to maintain good channel balance, minimize distortion, and reduce stylus and record wear. Some turntables have an adjustable anti-skate control, while others may handle it internally at a fixed value preset by the manufacturer.
Other features to consider include the quality of the tonearm, cartridge, and platter. Look for high-quality components that will provide better sound quality and longevity. Additionally, consider whether the turntable has a built-in phono stage or requires an external one. A built-in phono stage can simplify your setup but may not offer the same level of sound quality as an external one.
Lastly, consider investing in a separate set of speakers for optimal sound quality. While some turntables come with built-in speakers, these are often of lower quality and can detract from the overall listening experience. By investing in high-quality speakers, you can ensure that you’re getting the most out of your turntable and your vinyl collection.
Budgeting For Your Turntable: What To Expect At Different Price Points
When it comes to budgeting for a turntable, the price range can vary greatly. For those on a tight budget, entry-level turntables can be found for around $100. These turntables may have fewer features and lower quality components, but they are a great way to get started with vinyl listening without breaking the bank.
For those looking for a mid-range turntable with better sound quality and more features, expect to spend between $300-$700. These turntables often have higher quality tonearms, cartridges, and platters, as well as built-in phono stages for easy connectivity.
For audiophiles looking for the highest quality sound and components, high-end turntables can easily exceed $2,000. These turntables often have top-of-the-line tonearms, cartridges, and platters, as well as advanced features like adjustable tracking force and anti-skate mechanisms.
While it may be tempting to opt for a cheaper turntable to save money, it’s important to consider the potential long-term costs of damaging your records with a low-quality turntable. In some cases, it may be worth investing in a slightly used retro model as your entry-level turntable rather than getting a new cheap one.
Recommended Turntables For Different Listening Needs
When it comes to selecting a turntable, there are many different options available depending on your listening needs. Here are some recommended turntables for different situations:
1. Best Budget Turntable: Audio-Technica AT-LP60X – This turntable is a great option for those on a budget, offering high-quality sound and easy setup. It also has a built-in phono stage, making it easy to connect to your stereo system.
2. Best Turntable for Audiophiles: Rega Planar 3 – This manual turntable is a favorite among audiophiles, offering exceptional sound quality and precision. It also has high-quality components such as a lightweight tonearm and a low-vibration motor.
3. Best Turntable for DJs: Technics SL-1200MK7 – This popular turntable is a favorite among DJs for its durability and high torque motor, allowing for precise scratching and mixing.
4. Best All-In-One Turntable: Pro-Ject Juke Box E – This turntable has everything you need in one package, including built-in speakers, a phono stage, and Bluetooth connectivity. It’s a great option for those who want a simple setup without sacrificing sound quality.
5. Best Vintage Turntable: Thorens TD-160 – This classic turntable is highly sought after by collectors for its exceptional sound quality and vintage aesthetic. It’s a great option for those who want to add some nostalgia to their listening experience.
No matter what your listening needs may be, there’s a turntable out there that’s perfect for you. Consider your budget, preferred features, and overall listening goals when selecting the right model for you.