Turntable Parts Buying Guide

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Turntable Parts Buying Guide

A turntable, also known as a record player, phonograph, or gramophone, is a great way to listen to music. Turntables are capable of producing extremely high sound quality by playing vinyl records. Music enthusiasts often prefer vinyl since it is an analogue recording, which is the original sound. No conversion is necessary, and no information or sound is lost when a vinyl record is played back. Digital recordings on the other hand, can distort the original sound by trying to playback the digital equivalent of the original sound.

There are two main types of turntables; belt-drive and direct-drive. There are also numerous parts of a turntable one should familiarise themselves with. Buyers should be aware of the different options available to them, as well as how each different part may affect the overall performance of their turntable. The five main parts are the plinth, also known as the base, the tone-arm, the cartridge, the motor, and the platter. The types and parts of a turntable a buyer should consider all depends on the price a buyer is willing to pay and quality the buyer requires.

Types of Turntables

Belt-drive and direct-drive turntables are the two main types of turntables. Direct-drive turntables have a motor that is connected directly to the platter. On a belt-drive turntable, the motor is separated from the platter and belt is used to connect the two parts. The majority of turntables are belt-driven, although prospective buyers may find that a direct-drive turntable better suits their needs.

Belt-Driven Turntables

Belt-drive turntables are the more popular type of turntable among music enthusiasts. The reason being that by separating the motor from the platter, this helps mitigate the vibrations that are emitted from the motor. These vibrations can affect playback and sound quality. Belt drive turntables attempt to put more distance between the vibration causing motor and the vinyl record itself, thereby reducing interference with the playback. This should not be interpreted to mean that belt-drive turntables always delivers outstanding sound quality and direct-drive turntables typically won't. In fact, improvements in technology have allowed direct-drive turntables to achieve excellent sound quality and the quality of the parts that comprise a belt-drive turntable dictates the quality of sound it is capable of producing.

Direct-Driven Turntables

Direct-drive turntables have traditionally been the favourite choice of DJs. Since the motor is connected directly to the platter, they offer quicker spin-up than belt-drive turntables. This allows DJs to queue up records more quickly. In addition, since DJs are frequently heavy users of their turntables and tend to need a more durable product, they frequently favour direct-drive turntables. Generally, the belt on a belt-drive turntable wears quickly, and is simply not durable enough for the applications of a DJ such as scratching and mixing.

Turntable Parts

A turntable's quality of sound is simply the sum of all of it's parts. A turntable may need replacement parts constituting routine maintenance, such as a new belt to replace a worn one. A listener may also want to upgrade individual parts of their turntable to improve sound quality or bring one part of the turntable up to the quality of the other parts.

Plinth

The plinth is simply the base of the turntable. Although it is fairly straightforward in terms of function, there are a variety of designs available to buyers. The main thing to consider when buying a plinth is weight. Typically, turntables are not intended to be portable listening devices, however DJs may put more of an emphasis on portability than a home listener. In addition, some listeners may want to move their turntable around their home. Plinths range in weight from extremely light to extremely heavy. There are different aesthetic features individual buyers may prefer or disfavour. The main purpose of the plinth is to provide a steady base for the rest of the turntable so once a buyer ascertains that the plinth can serve that function, they should determine which look and weight best suits their needs.

Tone-Arm

The tone-arm is probably the most familiar turntable part to buyers. It is the arm that the listener drops onto the record that begins the playback. While familiar to buyers, it is actually one of the more complex and delicate parts of a turntable. The main features of the tone-arm are a cueing device, which stabilises the tone arm when lifting or lowering it onto the record by providing a smooth, fluid movement and eliminating any lateral movement. Tone-arms can be both automatic and manual.

Counterweight

There is also typically a counterweight at the end of the tone-arm. The purpose of the counterweight is to ensure the right amount of pressure or downward force is applied to the vinyl record so that it plays properly. Vinyl records may vary in terms of the amount of force that needs to be applied to them for optimal playback. Most turntables have a gauge on the counterweight that allows a listener to estimate fairly well the amount of tracking force that needs to be applied. However, music enthusiasts who desire a precise calculation should buy an external measuring device known as a tracking force gauge that provides accurate digital readings.

Other Parts

Two other important parts of the tone-arm are the head-shell and the anti-skate control. The headshell is where the phono-cartridge is housed. The phono-cartridge is simply the technical term for the square block at the end of the tone-arm where the needle most people associate with turntables can be found. These can be either removable or permanently affixed to the tone-arm. The anti-skate control prevents the phono-cartridge from "skating", or moving across the surface of the record improperly, by locking it into place.

Cartridge

The cartridge is what generates the sound from the record. There are generally two types of cartridges; a moving coil and a moving magnet. They both emit sound by producing electricity which moves through the pre-amp to the amp and finally is heard as sound emitting from the speakers. Moving magnet cartridges tend to be cheaper and more widely available but is generally thought to produce inferior sound quality. Newer turntables now offer the ability to switch between cartridges depending on what the listener prefers.

Motor

The motor will spin the platter thereby rotating the vinyl record against the cartridge to produce sound. Motors come in two forms, alternating current and direct current. Alternating current motors are more reliable but they are usually heavier and larger. Direct current motors are weaker and more likely to fail. Keep in mind that this only applies to belt-drive turntables. Direct-drive turntables are always direct current driven. When used with direct-drive turntables, direct current motors are extremely reliable.

Platters

The platter can be made of steel, aluminium, glass, wood, or acrylic. The platter is where the record sits while it rotates. It typically includes a mat to avoid direct contact between the record and the platter surface. These mats can be made of many materials but commonly are made of felt, cork, or rubber. The platter spins at a speed that matches the speed which the record was recorded it. This number is typically on the record itself and can be adjusted by using either gauges on the turntable or by moving the belt to smaller or larger pulleys.

How to Buy on eBay

eBay offers a wide range of turntables and turntable parts at competitive prices. The best way to shop for turntables and turntable parts on eBay, is to begin by narrowing a search down by category. A buyer can click on any category that pertains to purchasing turntable parts. This will narrow the search to only electronics so no extraneous items appear in the product list. Once in the a specific category, a buyer can search generally for "turntable" or if they are looking for a specific part, by typing in the name of the specific part they are seeking. eBay has such a wide selection of parts and base turntable models, that buyers can browse through many different options and find the right turntable, part, or blend of parts to fit their needs. Whether the buyer is looking to refurbish an old turntable, purchase a new one, or customise an existing one, all of the options available on eBay should be considered.

Conclusion

Turntables are one of the earliest forms of audio playback devices. Since vinyl records are analogue recordings, they are still capable of producing some of the best sound quality available on the market today. Turntables are favoured by music enthusiasts as well as DJs. They have many different parts which are available for individual purchase making them fully customizable and a fun do-it-yourself project for individuals who would like to refurbish an older model. There are basic types that are extremely user-friendly and affordable for those buyers looking to break into the vinyl world as well as models with extremely advanced features for use by sound engineers and other music professionals. Buyers should carefully consider how they intend to use their turntables as this directs the search towards the perfect turntable and its respective parts. Regardless of what the buyer's intended use is, eBay has a large selection of turntables, parts and accessories to meet the needs of any turntable shopper.

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