Vinyl Turntable Buying Guide

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Vinyl Turntable Buying Guide

In the last five years or so, while mankind has been moving forward with the digitisation of music, there has also been a steady rise in the number of people looking for turntables that can play vinyl records. Vinyl turntables, turntables, record players, or gramophones, irrespective of what a person calls them, these devices are capable of delivering a distinct sound quality that is appreciated by a number of music aficionados.

If a person wants to buy a turntable, they can search through old record shops, thrift shops, and pawn shops, and the option to go through online platforms, like eBay, also exists. Although record players are capable of reproducing high-quality sound, a buyer should take certain aspects into account before buying one. For instance, a person should be aware of how technology in this realm has evolved, become familiarised with components that go into a turntable’s construction, find out which options are available in today’s marketplace, and which to choose, as well as establishing what else may be required to integrate a turntable into an existing sound system.

Changes in Technology

Thomas Alva Edison invented the phonograph, also referred to as the gramophone, in 1877. Although his invention was capable of recording and reproducing sounds, his phonograph cylinders were improved by Bell's Volta Laboratory in the 1880s. By the early 19th century, cylinders were completely replaced by Berliner's double-sided, flat, gramophone records. Further changes have since been made to the record player, and these include modifications to its drive system, stylus, needle, sound, equalisation, and amplification systems.

No significant changes, barring the capability of modern players ripping music into digital formats through the use of USB transfer, have been made since the 1970s, although there have been improvements. Sound produced by good modern day turntables is more consistent, and technological changes, like adding carbon filter arms, works in elongating the life of records. Some modern day turntables also come with inbuilt radio reception units, such as AM/FM radio, cassette players, and CD players.

Choices for Buying Turntables

When buying a first turntable, a person ought to understand the differences between the choices on offer, which include identifying variable speeds, choosing between belt and direct drives, as well as suspended and solid turntables.

Variable Speeds

This is one of the first aspects that needs a buyer's attention because it can have a big impact on the records that a record player can play. Records come in three speeds, which include 33 rpm, 45 rpm, and 78 rpm. While most players come with the ability to play 33 rpm and 45 rpm records, some can play all three formats. Although records in the 78 rpm format are not common now, if a person is playing an old collection of vinyl records, this is something that needs to be considered. Otherwise, getting a player that plays at least 33 rpm and 45 rpm records is suggested.

Drives

Two distinct alternatives exist in this realm, which include belt and direct drives. Motors in belt-driven turntables are isolated from the unit's platter using bearings, and belts are used to connect the motor to the platter. When the motor it isolated, so are the unit's vibrations. This, it is felt, is a good idea, and using a belt is looked upon as aiding this. In case of direct drive alternatives, the motor and the platter are connected directly.

DJs are known to favour using direct drive turntables, owing to their quick spin ups and, in addition, they do not have to worry about belts falling off or wearing out. If DJing is not the intended use, buying a belt drive player is recommended because they are good at producing accurate sounds and tend to cost less than their direct drive counterparts. However, this does not go to say that belt drive turntables always deliver high-quality sound, or that direct drive alternatives cannot.

When it comes to high-end turntables, a majority of them use belt drive technology; and in such models, the belt can last anywhere from five to 10 years.

Solid or Suspended

Another option that buyers are presented with is choosing between solid and suspended alternatives. Solid turntables are simpler alternatives, wherein the motor, the tonearm, and the platter are all supported by a solid plinth. With suspended alternatives, the tonearm and the platter are isolated from the motor and the vibration's energy through the use of some kind of suspension that is used in supporting the player. While solid turntables are simpler to set up, they end up requiring added equipment for best results; and when it comes to suspended tables, while setting some up can be straightforward, some others may require some serious knowhow.

What to Buy?

Given the variety of options on offer, establishing just what a person is looking for in terms of features becomes important, which can help simplify the decision-making process. For example, there are turntables that are designed to integrate with existing home audio systems, and there are those that come with inbuilt speakers. While the sound quality, in all likelihood, may be better with the former, the latter's portability makes it an interesting alternative.

Old vs. New

While some experts suggest buying used turntables, as they can be more reliable, some others are of the opinion that buying a new one is the way to go. This is because it can actually be more economical than buying a used one in the long run, given the costs one may have to bear in replacing worn out needles and styluses. This, however, does not mean that new alternatives are always better, and one ought to realise that expecting great quality sound through cheap turntables is a little far-fetched. On the other hand, some turntables made in the '70s and '80s, especially those that have been maintained well, can be quite effective even today.

Wood or Plastic?

A person can find turntables made using wood, and the benefit of using wood is that it works as a good shock absorber. Music coming out of a well-designed wooden turntable is richer and warmer because wood is a naturally acoustic substance. While plastic in different forms is an alternative, is lighter, and makes for good portability, turntables made using plastic generally do not perform as well as their wooden alternatives.

Other Factors

Staying away from turntables that rely on rubber or plastic parts is suggested. Not all used or new turntables come with cartridges, which requires a buyer's attention, as buying a cartridge can be an additional expense. If a buyer intends to use an amplifier with the turntable, the amplifier should come with a phono-preamp or phono-stage to make it compatible.

Preamps

If a turntable does not come with an inbuilt preamp, and many do, a standalone preamp can be purchased and can connect the turntable to the stereo receiver through it. If the turntable comes with an inbuilt preamp, it can be connected to a stereo receiver directly. Using a preamp with a turntable that comes with an inbuilt preamp is an option that is offered by certain models, which is done through the use of a simple switch.

Speaker Connectivity

Wire jacks for speakers come in different forms, and common types include RCA and bare-wire. If a person owns a sound system and is looking for a turntable to go with it, ensuring that the new player's output jacks or wire ends match those of the sound system is important. While buying adapters is an option, they can be quite difficult to find in some instances. Connecting a turntable to a television is also possible if it comes matching input and output ports and the television's speakers would then be used. Some turntables, as previously mentioned, come with inbuilt speakers.

Buying Vinyl Records

An old, well-kept vinyl record can sound just as good as a new one. While buying used records does involve spending some time in the process, it can result in some great deals, although ensuring that these records are not damaged or scratched is highly recommended. Buying graded vinyl records is an option, and while mint records are safe bets, buying those graded VG+ can be a little tricky. Buying new records, however, should present no such problems. Also, if given an option, looking for 180 gram records over 120 gram records is suggested.

Buying Vinyl Turntables on eBay

eBay is home to a number of good quality turntables, new as well as used. When it comes to used turntables, buyers have the option to look for turntables that come with working cartridges. Buyers can also find turntables that come with user manuals, and if such is not the case with a shortlisted alternative, they can try to find the manual in question online. The turntables on offer through eBay come in both belt drive and direct drive alternatives, and they can also be found in accordance to varied speed settings.

DJs looking for DJ decks and turntables have the option to search through offerings by brands like Technics, Numark, Pioneer, Stanton, Gemini, and Panasonic; and if they are looking for a turntable for home, options include offerings by names like Pro-Ject, ION, Rega, Goldring, Linn, and Thoren.

When shopping through eBay, a buyer should take into account that this platform allows multiple sellers to sell their wares, and since not everyone is known to price their products in the same manner, conducting extensive searches is suggested.

Conclusion

The use of vinyl records and turntables did dwindle for a while, although they were never really wiped out. This resurgence in turntables, in a time when most of the music listened to is in the digital format, is not without reason, and can primarily be attributed to the richer and fuller sound that they are capable of producing. Sitting down and listening to an entire vinyl record is something that finds favour with many in this day and age, and the fact that a number of record labels now offer online download codes with their vinyl records is a definite plus.

Learning how to distinguish between different kinds of turntables on offer is suggested, and its intended use should help to narrow in on suitable alternatives. What a person should buy also includes deciding whether to look at new or used turntables, how it connects with other audio systems, as well as choosing between different drive alternatives and variable speeds. With these aspects taken care of, a consumer can surely look forward to an enriching turntable experience.

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