How to Buy Record Turntables

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How to Buy Record Turntables

Records are analogue sound mediums that are preferred over CDs by some audiophiles who believe that they have a fuller sound. Even in the digital age when it is common to download music from the internet, vinyl records are still popular and some bands and record companies release special vinyl editions. Vinyl records are played on record turntables, which are effectively a circular plate that revolves and supports the record during its playback. Record turntables can be brought as complete sets and then upgraded by purchasing high-quality cartridges, tonearms, or platter mats. As records have been around for decades, it is possible to buy both retro and new record turntables. When buying a record turntable it is necessary to understand its components, how it is operated, and any additional devices that it can use. Record turntables are available from some electronics shops, but online auction sites, such as eBay offer a good selection, especially when it comes to retro record turntables.

Components of Record Turntables

Record turntables have certain core components that are found in all models, both old and new. Variations in the components usually depend on the usage of the record turntable, as it could be either for professional use by a DJ or home use. So, most of the parts can be upgraded or replaced, if necessary. One of the main parts of a record turntable is the plinth, which has the platter and motor attached to it and acts as the base for the record. On the plinth sits the tonearm, which has the cartridge and stylus on one end for tracing the groove in the record.

Plinths for Record Turntables

The plinth can be either suspended or solid. Suspended plinths isolate the platter and tonearm from the motor in order to reduce the vibration and offer a better quality of sound. Solid plinths support the tonearm, the platter, and the motor. Although suspended plinths provide a better listening experience, they are expensive and more difficult to set up.

The plinth can be driven in two ways, either directly or with a belt. Direct drive record turntables are driven directly from the motor under the platter, while belt drive record turntables have rubber belts that spin the platter around and produce less noise. Professional DJs usually prefer direct drive turntables because they offer more freedom to play around with sound effects, but home listeners should be content with belt drive record turntables.

Platter Mats for Record Turntables

The platter mat is the surface between the plinth and the vinyl record. It can be made of aluminium, rubber, acrylic, carbon fibre, fibreglass, PVC, steel laminates, or silicon. The platter mat is designed to reduce both the vibration from the motor that spins the platter and resonance from the record itself. Although these deviations can be microscopic, they can still affect the signal and lower the sound quality. Therefore, a good platter mat should be used. The best platter mats are considered to have an influence on the bass sounds and the overall quality of sound. They enhance the sounds by making them fuller and more natural. After years of use, a platter mat, like all the other parts of the record turntable, may wear out and the records may start slipping.

Tonearms for Record Turntables

The tonearm is a movable part attached to the record turntable. It has a cartridge and a stylus attached to it. These are put on the vinyl record in order to play the music. A good tonearm is important because it can reduce any vibrations that may occur and provide a better quality of sound. Sometimes when people think that they require an upgraded cartridge, they actually need to renew their tonearm because it is considered to have a greater impact on the overall performance of the turntable. For the best results, the cartridge should be paired with a superior tonearm.

Cartridges for Record Turntables

The cartridge is a small component of the record turntable, but it still has a significant influence on the sound quality. It is attached to the tonearm and it holds the stylus, also widely known as the needle. Cartridges can be divided into two, namely moving magnet and moving coil. Both types of cartridge consist of a magnet placed between two coils, but the movable parts vary. In the moving magnet cartridge, the magnet vibrates between the coils, while in the moving coil cartridge, the magnet is fixed and the coils move. Moving coil cartridges are more complex, so are more expensive.

Upgrading the cartridge of a record turntable is worth considering because a good cartridge not only improves the turntable's performance, but also preserves the vinyl records for a longer time. A new cartridge also influences the overall sound quality of the record turntable. The sounds can become brighter, warmer, more mellow, or more neutral depending on the cartridge.

Operating a Record Turntable

Record turntables can be either automatically or manually operated. Each type has its benefits and quite often the operating type also informs the overall quality of sound and performance of the turntable.

Automatic Record Turntables

If the record turntable is fully automatic, the listener only has to push a button and the turntable performs all of the actions to start playing the record. Automatic turntables engage the tonearm, put it into the record's groove, and return it to the armrest once the record has finished playing. Some models also switch off by themselves. Although operating them is convenient, these automatic processes also increase resonance, thus lowering the sound quality.

Semi-Automatic Record Turntables

Semi-automatic record turntables perform some actions automatically and leave others to the listener. The automatic functions could be either turning the turntable off, or lifting and returning the tonearm. This type of record turntable is fairly rare.

Manual Record Turntables

If the record turntable is manual, then listeners have to perform all of the necessary actions that are required in order to start and stop the record. However, there may be levers that simplify lifting the tonearm. Although manual record turntables are slightly more difficult to operate, they are considered to provide a better quality of sound.

Additional Devices for Record Turntables

Many modern hi-fi amplifiers, designed to boost the sound originating from the music source, are not able to handle the output from a record turntable properly. The reason for this is that the turntable transmits a very low signal when compared to the signal from a modern CD player that the hi-fi amplifiers are compatible with. So, record turntables should be connected with amplifiers that come with a phono input. In the case where a phono input is not available, a phono pre-amplifier is required. This device is responsible for enhancing the output received from the turntable and acts as an adaptor to make the signal compatible with the hi-fi amplifier.

Buying Record Turntables on eBay

The easiest way to find record turntables on eBay is to type "record turntable" into the search box on the main page. After you get the initial results, you can further specify your search by selecting some of the related filters that you are then offered. You can also search for a record turntable made by a particular manufacturer if you prefer a specific brand. The drive that the turntable uses is also often used to classify turntables, so you may use the words "belt" or "direct" in your keywords. You can also look for parts of record turntables, such as cartridges or tonearms, if you plan to buy these separately or want to upgrade your existing record turntable.

Ask the seller questions if you want more information about the turntable listed. You may also contact him or her if you want further details about payment methods, delivery, refunds, or exchanges.


Many music lovers prefers vinyl records because of their fuller sound. In order to play these records, a record turntable is required. These can be bought as complete sets and then upgraded. The basic parts of record turntables include the plinth on which all the other parts are placed. The plinth can be driven either directly from the motor or with an attached belt. On top of it rests a surface mat that reduces the vibration from the motor and is responsible for good bass sounds. The tonearm is a movable part that has the cartridge and the stylus at one end and moves them into place to start tracking the groove of the record. The cartridge attached to the tonearm holds the stylus and can be either of the moving magnet or the moving coil type.

Record turntables can be operated in three ways. Manual record turntables require the listener to perform most of the operations to start and stop the record. Automatic record turntables place the stylus on the record and eventually switch off by themselves. Semi-automatic record turntables combine actions from the other two methods. All of these turntable types and parts are available from eBay sellers.

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