If you’re a music lover, you’ve probably heard of turntables and the importance of their upkeep. But have you ever heard of a linear tracking turntable?
Unlike conventional pivot tonearms, these models slide over the record in a straight line, offering accurate sound and easy tonearm alignment. While they were once looked down upon in their day, linear tracking turntables are making a comeback with new designs cropping up left and right.
In this article, we’ll dive into what exactly a linear tracking turntable is, how it differs from traditional turntables, and whether it’s worth investing in one for your vinyl collection.
So sit back, relax, and let’s explore the world of linear tracking turntables.
What Is A Linear Tracking Turntable
A linear tracking turntable is a type of turntable that uses a linear tracking tonearm instead of a conventional pivot tonearm. This means that instead of swinging across the record, the tonearm slides over the record in a straight line, following the same path as the cutter used to make the record.
The benefit of this design is that the stylus is always correctly aligned in the groove, resulting in accurate sound and easy tonearm alignment. However, building a low-friction, high-performance linear tracking arm can be difficult and expensive, which is why many mass-market linear tracking turntables have poor quality arms.
Linear tracking turntables were once looked down upon in their day because they solved one problem but introduced others. However, they are making a comeback with new designs incorporating linear tracking technology.
How Does A Linear Tracking Turntable Differ From A Traditional Turntable?
A linear tracking turntable differs from a traditional turntable in its tonearm design. While traditional turntables use a pivoted tonearm that swings across the record, a linear tracking turntable uses a tonearm that slides over the record in a straight line, following the same path as the cutter used to make the record. This allows for more precise tracking of the record and less wear and distortion.
Additionally, linear tracking turntables often use direct-drive motors instead of belt-driven systems, providing more consistent speed and accuracy. However, building a high-quality linear tracking arm can be difficult and expensive, which is why many mass-market linear tracking turntables have poor quality arms.
The Benefits Of Using A Linear Tracking Turntable
Using a linear tracking turntable has several benefits that make it an attractive option for audiophiles and music lovers alike.
Firstly, linear tracking eliminates the side-thrust or skating force that is present in conventional pivot tonearms. This force causes the arm to lean harder against one side of the groove than the other, resulting in tracking errors and distortion. With linear tracking, the stylus sits more comfortably in the grooves, reducing the room for tracking error and minimizing the risk of sound distortion.
Secondly, linear tracking turntables provide accurate sound reproduction. The stylus follows the same path as the cutter used to make the record, resulting in accurate sound and easy tonearm alignment. This means that users can enjoy a more authentic reproduction of sound from their vinyl records.
Lastly, some linear tracking turntables are designed to automatically register whether the record is an LP or a single and set the speed accordingly. This feature eliminates the need for manual speed adjustments and ensures that users can enjoy their vinyl records at the correct speed without any hassle.
The Drawbacks Of Using A Linear Tracking Turntable
Despite the benefits of a linear tracking turntable, there are also some notable drawbacks to consider. One of the major issues is the complexity of the mechanism required to guide the tonearm across the record. Unlike pivot tonearms that rely on the groove to push them along, linear tracking tonearms require a device similar to an autopilot to keep them on course. This mechanism senses any deviations from the charted course and makes small corrective movements to keep the tonearm in line with the groove.
The heavy engineering required to build a low-friction, high-performance linear tracking arm can also lead to higher costs. Mass-market linear tracking turntables often have poor quality arms that are unable to match the sound quality of conventional decks.
Another issue with linear tracking turntables is that they often have limited cartridge choices. Many cheap models use P-mount cartridges, which restricts cartridge choice and limits the ability to adjust tracking force and arm height.
Finally, while linear tracking arms eliminate side-thrust and can be shorter and lighter than pivot arms, they still require some force to move across the LP surface. This force can come from a servo motor or gravity, but it can also introduce friction and other problems that affect sound quality.
Is A Linear Tracking Turntable Worth The Investment?
When it comes to deciding whether or not a linear tracking turntable is worth the investment, there are several factors to consider. While linear tracking turntables do offer the benefit of accurate sound and easy tonearm alignment, they can also be more expensive and difficult to maintain than conventional pivot tonearm turntables.
One of the main advantages of a linear tracking turntable is that the stylus is always correctly aligned in the groove, resulting in accurate sound reproduction. However, this benefit comes at a cost. Building a low-friction, high-performance linear tracking arm can be difficult and expensive, which is why many mass-market linear tracking turntables have poor quality arms.
Another factor to consider when deciding whether or not to invest in a linear tracking turntable is the cost. Linear tracking turntables tend to be more expensive than conventional pivot tonearm turntables due to their complex engineering and design. Additionally, they can be more difficult to maintain and repair, which can add to their overall cost over time.
Despite these drawbacks, there are some high-quality linear tracking turntables available on the market today. For example, the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK is a popular choice among audiophiles due to its direct drive system and high-quality materials. However, it’s important to keep in mind that even with a high-quality linear tracking turntable, there may be some trade-offs in terms of cost and maintenance.
Top Linear Tracking Turntables On The Market
If you’re in the market for a linear tracking turntable, there are a few models that stand out from the rest. One of the most highly regarded linear tracking turntables is the Technics SL-M3. This turntable consistently exceeds people’s expectations when it comes to linear tracking turntables by Technics.
Another great option is the Linear Tube Audio ZOTL10 Reference Turntable. This turntable features a linear tracking arm with a specially designed air bearing for smooth, accurate tracking. The turntable also includes a built-in phono preamp and an adjustable air suspension system for optimal performance.
The Clearaudio Statement TT-1 is another high-end linear tracking turntable that offers exceptional sound quality. It features a precision-machined aluminum platter and a linear tracking tonearm with a magnetic bearing for precise tracking.
For those on a budget, the Pioneer PL-518X is a great option. This vintage turntable features a linear tracking arm and a built-in phono preamp, making it easy to connect to your home stereo system.
Overall, there are many great options on the market for those looking for a high-quality linear tracking turntable. While they may have been looked down upon in the past, advancements in technology and engineering have made these turntables a viable option for audiophiles seeking accurate sound reproduction.