Turntables, or record players as they are more commonly called, were invented in the late 1800s as one of the earliest ways to record and playback sound. The sounds were recorded by scratching, etching, or engraving fine grooves onto a disc. That disc is then rotated by the turntable, and a small needle, or stylus, traces through the grooves causing the turntable to vibrate and reproduce the sounds. Turntables were highly popular for the next century until the invention of the compact disc caused them to become obsolete. However, many people still collect turntables and old records because they are a piece of history and fun to listen to. Most people are also unaware of the outstanding sound quality that a turntable can produce. It is assumed that since the technology is older, that the sound capabilities are also outdated.
The vintage and even the new turntables are still highly sought after today. Not only do they give people a different way to enjoy music, but the vintage ones are also often used as decorations in the home. In the early 1900s the record players were made by hand and with meticulous care. They were not an electronic device produced on an assembly line. They had beautiful wood finishes, and often other embellishments that made them appear like a luxurious piece of furniture rather than a piece of machinery.
History of Turntables
In 1977 Thomas Edison is credited with the invention of the first device that could both record and read sound. Edison announced the completion of the phonograph in a very unique way. That December went to the Scientific American magazine office with a small machine. Without invitation, he began cranking the machine and it said, "Good morning. How do you do? How do you like the phonograph?". Everyone in the office was astounded by the "talking machine".
The original phonographs were rudimentary at best. The sounds that were played back sounded distant as though the speaker were standing at the end of a hallway. The technology began to develop though, and in 1889 the first phonograph parlor opened in San Francisco, America. In the parlors, people could speak into a tube and record their voice, then order the record of it for a nickel. The oldest surviving records are believed to have come from music recordings that were made on June 29, 1888 at The Crystal Palace in London.
Types of Turntables
The turntable replacement parts depends on what type of turntable is being used. There are two types, the belt-driven ones and the direct-drive ones. Direct-drive turntables have a motor that is directly attached to the platter. The belt-driven one’s motor is independant and connects to the platter via a belt. Most believe that the belt-driven turntables produce the best sound because isolating the motor helps reduce the amounts of unwanted vibrations that can disrupt the sound. However, the direct-driven turntables are easier to use because there is no risk for the belt falling off or wearing out. When purchasing parts, it is important to differentiate which device the parts are for because their design may be different.
Turntables consist of six basic parts; the plinth, tone-arm, cartridge, motor, belt, and the platter. However, remember that the belt is only a part of the belt-driven turntables. They are all very easy to identify because turntables are actually very simple machines.
The Turntable Plinth
The plinth is the base that supports the platter and the tone-arm. The vintage turntables usually had wooden plinths but later versions were made with a variety of materials. On a direct-drive turntables the plinth also supports the motor.
The Turntable Motor
The motors of the early turntables and even many new ones are generally not interchangeable between models. Be sure to to check who the maker is and what the model is before purchasing a new motor. Turntables evolved a lot over the years and had many different changes as they developed. Every maker constructed his turntables a little differently and that is why the motors cannot be swapped out.
The Turntable Platter
The platter is what the record sits on as it spins. They are made of steel, aluminium, glass, acrylic, or wood and usually have a matt on top that is made with felt, cork, or rubber. The matt is optional and not required. Platters are spun by the motor at the speed that the record was intended for, usually at 33 1/3 or 45 rpm. Usually the speed is usually adjustable through a switch on a machine. The platter needs to be replaced when it starts to crack or show signs of wear and tear that affect how it spins.
The Turntable Tone-Arm
Tone-arms house the cartridge and place the needle that tracks the music onto the record . They move up and down with no lateral motion and are very delicate. Most tone-arms have a counterweight at the end of them to adjust how hard it presses down on the record. Some of the arms have a gauge on them to help people adjust the amount of downward force used. A cueing device then helps stabilise the arm by ensuring smooth up and down motions with no side to side movements. Again, the tone-arm is something that is pretty specific to the model of the turntable, so do adequate research before purchasing one.
The Turntable Cartridge
The cartridge is the part of the machine that produces the actual sound. The sound is made by the electricity that passes to the phono pre-amp, to the amps, and then to the speakers. There are two types, the moving coil and the moving magnet. The moving magnet cartridges produce electricity from a magnet that is vibrated inside of a coil as the needle bounces off the grooves on the disc. The moving coil cartridges are similar except that it is a coil that moves inside a magnet housing. Moving magnet cartridges are generally more popular because they can produce higher amounts of electricity. However, the moving coil cartridges are considered to produce a higher quality of sound.
The Turntable Belts
Turntable belts are chosen for their width, length, and thickness. They are probably the most commonly replaced item because they wear out, stretch, or get brittle. When figuring out the thickness of an old belt, be sure to measure the part that is the least worn out. Most turntables require a belt that is .05 cm thick.
Where to Look for Turntable Replacement Parts
Anything vintage is somewhat difficult to find. The parts for them may be somewhat easier because the majority of vintage items no longer work and are sold in parts. However, they are still not common items to look for and they are certainly not available at a general shop. On occasion, they may appear at antique shops but to find them, repeatedly visiting the shop to check their stock is necessary. The majority of collectors do their shopping for replacement parts online. This is because websites like eBay have thousands of sellers with vintage products. It is much easier for people to sell vintage items online because they have a wider customer base, this means that is it also easier to find the items online. In addition, new products are always being listed so shoppers can check the site daily and it only takes a few minutes of their time.
Find Turntable Replacement Parts on eBay
Before you spend all your time visiting antique shops around town, spend a few minutes looking through the inventory on the eBay website. This can save you the hassle of trying to locate the parts on your own. Just type in the word of what you are trying to find into the eBay search bar. The website then populates a list of those items for you to look through. For example, enter "Turntable Parts", or if you are looking for something more specific, try something like "Turntable Belt".
You can then begin to browse through the items for sale. As you look, be sure to check the condition of everything and read all the description comments that the seller has. Vintage products do not always work so make sure that the seller accepts returns and and guarantees that the item functions properly.
Turntables are a classic piece of history that are a reminder of how music was originally heard by families since the early 1900s. They can add an antique flare to a room’s decor and provide hours of entertainment that anyone can enjoy. In addition, vintage records can be fun and challenging to collect for anyone. There is a lot to learn about turntables and it can be a challenge figuring out which parts to get in order to make the turntable work again. However, the first step is to learn about the different parts and how they function. Once that is known, shoppers can do the rest of the research and figure out which parts work with their model of turntable. There are a lot of online and printed references that people can look up because the art of collecting turntables is very popular.