Audio Turntable Buying Guide

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Audio Turntable Buying Guide

The legendary status of the audio turntable amongst music lovers is incomparable to other music playback devices. In our high-tech age, the humble turntable may seem antiquated and inferior, but there are still those who much prefer the realistic and warm sound of recordings made on vinyl to the sometimes perceived cold and artificially sterile sound of digital recordings.

The audio turntable, also known as a record player, presents a special appeal for the sound purist, many of whom argue that, provided the record is in good condition, the sound quality is superior to that of the compact disc, so far as naturalness, subtlety, and the full range of tones are concerned. Also, the warmer sound of vinyl is closer to that of a live recording and therefore more satisfying to many listeners.

High quality audio turntables are highly prized goods not only for the nostalgic music lover but also for many young people who consider them especially hip and who long for the simpler times of their parents and grandparents generations.

Shopping for turntables online at eBay can offer the customer a more comprehensive range of styles than the normally limited stock available in retail shops, thereby expanding consumer choice and increasing price competition.

A History of the Audio Turntable

Ever since the time of the early phonograph, the audio turntable has, to varying degrees, been in constant use. The turntable’s origins can be traced back as far as 1877 when Thomas Edison invented the first phonograph. The sound quality was poor and not initially used for music, but rather, Morse code and other sound wave communications. This technology was later developed into the gramophone of the early 20th century.

It was not until the 1950s, however, after many revised editions and technical advancements throughout the gramophone phase, that the modern turntable came into being. True-to-life sound was achieved through the stylus and vinyl interaction during the course of this decade with unprecedented sound quality with twin speakers. With the newly coined term "high-fidelity" (Hi-Fi), some developers dedicated their lives to the pursuit of this sound in its purest form.

Despite the advancements, the turntable retained the mechanical principle of the phonograph. Although with the development of stereo sound, the horned speaker quickly disappeared. Throughout the following decades, until the explosion of compact disc player sales in the early 1990s, the audio turntable was the number one choice for music lovers as a tool to enjoy their music collection at home. The advent of other media, however, did not instantly relegate the turntable into oblivion. Audio cassette players had already been in existence for many years but did not enjoy the status of the audio turntable; their real advantage being their portability, which let people play and listen to music away from home.

By the early 1990s, however, when compact discs were becoming the standard format for pre-recorded music, imminent decline of the audio turntable was inevitable. Vinyl record production slowed so much that many people imagined it to have stopped altogether. By the turn of the century, only a handful of artists were releasing their music on vinyl. The biggest demand for vinyl records by that time came from professional DJs who needed to manipulate playback via scratching and turntabling (manual record manipulation during playback).

A Guide to the Audio Turntable

The audio turntable has undergone considerable evolution since its primitive beginnings. Onwards from the 1950s, however, there has been little change of format. The turntable still consists of roughly the same shape, size, and mechanical action as the first high fidelity units. Audio turntables are built with two distinct design formats: direct-drive and belt-drive. eBay in fact carries many turntables of both kinds. Below is a basic outline of the main differences between the two.

Direct-Drive Turntables

The direct-drive turntable is a magnetically driven turntable with its motor directly under the rotating platter. It is the turntable of choice for DJs due to its high torque (turning force), making it less affected by external disruptions to speed and tracking. The vibrations of the motor beneath the platter are the obvious drawback although more recent models include vibration-absorbing materials placed between the motor and platter, which overcomes this problem.

The record was traditionally placed on a rubber mat that covers the platter, but modern versions of this turntable instead employ a slip-mat, which is made of a felt-like material and provides further isolation from motor vibration and static. The slip-mat lets DJ hold the vinyl still as the platter spins, enabling them to cue up their music to a precise beat, something that is virtually impossible on a belt-driven turntable. The direct-drive turntable, being a highly durable and commercial-use product, is far more expensive and valuable than their domestic belt-driven counterparts.

Belt-Drive Turntables

The belt-drive turntable is designed for the domestic setting. The platter is rotated by a rubber belt driven by an independent motor. The motor is located off-centre from the platter, and the rubber belt absorbs any noise or vibration from the motor that the stylus could otherwise pick up during playback. There are many variations of the belt-drive turntable, but they are all susceptible to the rubber belt’s loss of elasticity over time, creating speed inconsistencies during playback. Being a domestic product, the belt-drive turntable is ideal for continuous play operation, rather than the turntabling and scratching practices of the professional DJ in a dance club environment.

Commercial and Domestic Turntables

Many domestic portable stereo systems come as all-in-one units comprised of a radio tuner, CD player, and sometimes, a turntable. Earlier models included the long obsolete cassette deck. As many people during the 1990s still had much of their music in record and cassette form, the all-in-one units were developed to facilitate consumer choice when digitally recorded music overtook analogue. These units were mass-produced, highly portable, unattractive, usually made of plastic, and of mediocre quality. By the late 1990s, most manufacturers ceased production of the turntable, as the mass buying public had converted to digital. Today, however, thanks to popular demand, the turntable has returned to many all-in-one units.

By contrast, larger domestic stereo systems with stand-alone turntable, cassette deck, and tuner were designed to sit permanently in one’s lounge and were popular throughout the 1980s. Leading brands, such as Pioneer, Kenwood and Sony, all developed stereos to a very high standard. The turntables on systems like these were built with superior materials to the portable stereo systems developed later. One particular turntable, popular in the 1970s and highly sought after today by many enthusiasts, is the Technics brand turntable. Technics turntables were well known for their precision mechanics and superb playback quality. They were used as both domestic as well as professional turntables and were designed for such use.

When it comes to commercial standard turntables in general, they are in a league of their own. The heavier and sturdier turntables are designed for regular, extended use, and include shock absorption feet to deflect the vibration often associated with the dance floor. They are traditionally a stand-alone unit that connects directly to the mixing desk and amplifier; however, most modern commercial turntables are built into the mixer and amplifier to form one single unit.

Digital Audio Turntables

Digital, USB-enabled turntables are designed specifically for converting analogue vinyl records to digitally formatted compact disc. A customer should be careful when shopping for turntables to convert their LP to CD, as some of these turntables reproduce very poorly. It is a good idea therefore, to spend the extra money if necessary on a quality brand digital turntable that has received good reviews.

How to Buy Audio Turntables on eBay

As you may be aware, shopping for electronics online is fraught with risks associated with buying an unsatisfactory item. Purchasing unused turntables from eBay should never pose a serious problem, yet buying any used electronics online can be risky business as returns are often not accepted.

When searching for turntables on eBay, it is recommended to try several different search requests. Try searching for "record player" as well as "audio turntable". If you know exactly the type of turntable you want, then your task becomes considerably easier. eBay has an extensive range of both new and used turntables of many different makes, models, and conditions. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that "new" may simply mean unused.

A great deal of care must be exercised and thorough checks made before deciding to purchase any item. You should take all reasonable steps possible to have the seller verify the working condition of your designated item. You should check all information supplied by the seller, including their rating and feedback score. If you have questions that are not answered on the seller’s page, you should not hesitate to ask them directly. This is always a recommended course of action if you are unsure about the seller’s item.

Before purchase, always take special note of the finer details involved in the transaction. Pay attention to the seller’s rights and be aware of your own. Learn about your chosen seller’s returns policies, especially in regards to the specific item you plan to buy. Determine your delivery options and factor in all associated costs and risks. Audio turntables are not only weighty but quite fragile and need to be handled carefully. Consider the option of personal pick-up if the item is local.

Conclusion

Many music enthusiasts insist that a quality audio turntable provides the optimum way to listen to high fidelity recorded music, provided the album itself is recorded in stereo. The benefits of digital music in a digital age can never be denied, but playing music on LP vinyl can capture a moment in time and fill the air with a romantic nostalgia not possible to replicate with CD.

For the customer wishing to set themselves up with a high quality stereo system, eBay is the ideal place to begin. eBay also allows the customer to search for related stereo equipment, such as a good set of stereo speakers, which is essential to getting the best results from a high quality turntable. Other components of a full stereo system can also be found on eBay, such as tuners, CD players, and even cassette decks for those left with their favourite music imprisoned on magnetic cassette tape. eBay is all-in-one stop shop to get a great audio turntable and any other necessary equipment for all buyers.

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