Choosing a secondhand record deck for beginners

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Choosing a used or vintage record deck takes us to a very subjective set of choices

It is not difficult to find good examples, but it is worth taking on a list of considerations to facilitate the right buy.

Price level is usually the first of the crucial factors, and we need to know what we are aiming for in that respect. But there is no need to buy a substandard sounding one because of low budget, as there are many choices of classic well known decks that sound fantastic at a budget price. However we do need to avoid an example that will not perform well due to it being past its best or in poor condition.

1 Generally speaking 75-180 approx can obtain many of the well known classic budget decks in well looked after/serviced condition

2 The is no limit above that cost for decks that gradually cost more in the market due to further physical quality and reputation factors

3 Do we strictly want the practicallity of the tried and tested budget deck for our needs and no more

4 Do we want something extra with enhanced looks or greater levels of engineering

There are perhaps either 1, no emotive reasons and the fabulously reputable budget deck will suffice it, or 2, the buyer might have a desire to go beyond that stark pragmatic attitude and buy something according not only to its performance but the way it makes the owner feel and how it looks. Appearances can be deceptive though as budget decks can have a form of spartan beauty and elegance of their own. 

Any well manufactured brand name item will have a general hardiness and reliabilty, and record decks in general tend to have remarkable long term service abilty, often over decades. But they are still sensitive and delicate machines which are dependent on them having been used with care. At points they would need to have been serviced though some exceptions do happen.. This care can come in many forms, and quite often the deck does not have 'proof' like a logbook of service events to show how it has been treated. Most people when stating the history will be honest, and generally what they say will be a good guide to a remarkable degree of integrity. We'd have to deal with deviations, mistakes or mishaps appropriately later on and buying has usual risks, but where we are the secondhand buyer we could get nowhere at all without accepting the sellers sentiments. Many items may not have actually done much record playing, may have the box etc that can be good, but items that are perishable still decay such as rubber belts. So this factor is not any be all and end all, as most decks will have had their packaging disposed of. The general question to ask ( unless the seller states already and its fine ) is does it play normally without faults. If the deck is not chipped, scratched, cracked and so on this is one of the basic major signs as they will not tolerate impacts caused by dropping and so on. If the deck in question is quite original and free of such damage, that will increase the chances, original packaging might, but many good items could pass by due to insistence on it.

British american japanese and german record decks are among those prefered by many buyers and the choice is quite bewildering. Many models will be not only suitable, but known classics with glowing reputations and it can be hard to choose among. Often only the subjectivity itself separates we would can define regarding sound quality with our ears, and if say 3 decks all sound good we may hear something different, but strictly where the quality goes there may be none.

When it comes to any decks abilty to deliver quality sound, what is known online is often the best guide, so surfing for opinons usually works.The diferential information we can see concerning the various budget rivals can make it seem that there is gulfs of choice over performance and quality. In fact the best known tried and tested budget decks are all brilliant, so it starts at truly great and with that knowledge it is easier not to make an error.

The mystical side of the many many more expensive decks only confuses everyone, the best budget decks deliver close to the max possible, then improvements only get smaller for every pound spent thereof. Very expensive turntables do sound amazingly good it is true, but the designers struggle for that, its a thin window at the top. It is more likely the pragmatic realities rule most important considerations, and generally a deck will be better according to its original manufactured retail price level at the time hence its build quality it is true, but as a very abstract one! Most decks regardless of price level will indeed sound great as hoped because this deck has proved it to the hi-fi world that it goes most of the way toward what our ears consider excellent sound..

There are lots more reasons that we might go beyond the purely functional of course,  looks, excitement, esoteric factors, we may insist on more than the budget capabilty too. If the intent is to spend over 300 uk pounds on a vintage deck ( just for instance, and thats syill 'budget' level but higher ) there should be obvious engineering signs that link to the machines increased status, although anyone in the market would be wise again, to be following the known formula of looking at known items with a great reputation and so can be sure to be reasonably guided like that.

 

For all true beginners it is a great idea to first explore the potentials of the cheaper budget classics, they truly confound the laws of hi-fi, can be lightweight and flimsy compared to the heavy engineering that goes in on expensive models, can look plain, boring, even cheap ( they sure are ). But if you induct into these wonderful and obtainable classics they areoften considered the very best reference point to all subsequent standards.

Dont be afraid to spend less at first like this, but do ensure the items a good example. For instance a Dual model might be seen for very little money, but is could be an unreliable example. Check for buyers able to vindicate the decks operational integrity, its good condition, and freedom from wear and tear. It is better to pass on one sold very cheaply with no real knowledge of its condition, and listen to a seller with the better one.

Other points to take into account. A record deck will require particular attention to packaging. They will likely require some basic resetting of the arm after transits. Make sure you check the box carefully before signing as the couriers may have dropped it, and place a comment on the sign document if so .. this is from my own experience of receipt of them.

It is always best to be tactful if something goes wrong, a record deck is the more likely item to be disturbed in a delivery, and hence discussion and confidence that packaging will cushion and protect in the event of an accident is vital. But if something goes wrong just to conclude matters and resolve as needed then try again will probably result in simple success 

Good luck, music turntables and records are wonderful pleasures that help the world go around, and the listener is never far away from quite close the best sound possible with a good example of a classic budget turntable. 

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