Turntable Buying Guide – Everything You Need To Know

If you’re looking for a new turntable, there are many factors to think about. What kind of turntable should you get? What features are most important? Where can you save money? Which brands are reputable? We’ve put together an easy-to-read guide, so we’ll answer all of these questions in this Turntable Buying Guide.

The turntable is a piece of machinery that plays music that is recorded on vinyl records. Turntables are one of the oldest pieces of sound equipment that is still in use today. While there are many turntables, they all have the same components – a platter, a tonearm, a cartridge, a needle, and a power supply.

Types of Turntables

There are two basic types of turntables: direct drive and belt drive. Direct drives have the platter shaft directly connected to the motor. Belt drives use a small belt to drive the platter. As such, both types have different speeds and isolation from vibrations.

Platter Types

Platters are the main component that converts types of vinyl into audio signals. There are many different types of platters, each having its advantages and disadvantages depending upon your specific requirements.

What to look for in a Turntable

When you’re looking to buy a new turntable, several factors will affect your choice. The most important factors to consider are price, features, and sound quality. Several other factors, such as build quality and usability, but they’re not as important if the main issues listed above aren’t considered first.

Price

There are four different price points for turntables: low-end, mid-range, high-end, and super high-end (also known as an audiophile). At the low end is where you’ll find the most variety, with an extensive range of features and sound quality.

This is where you’ll find the high-end products that will get you started, such as Technics’ iconic SL-1200 series turntables. Mid-range is a mostly standard group of turntables with a decent balance of features and decent sound quality. These products are good for those who want to upgrade their components without breaking the bank.

Brands to look for

It’s important to consider the brand of the turntable when making a purchase. Three main companies produce turntables: Pioneer, Rega, and Marantz. While these companies make the best products available on the market, many other manufacturers produce quality turntables at affordable prices.

Buying a Turntable Online and Offline

Buying a turntable online can be a fantastic way to save money. Many online retailers offer huge discounts on their turntables, which can be up to 60% off MSRP. While online retailers may not offer free shipping, you can still save money by buying online. Shopping for a turntable offline would require extensive research. Many different websites sell turntables, and the process of finding the best product for your specific needs is very time-consuming.

Types of Turntables

Turntables can be divided into four main categories that affect the type of turntables available: direct drive, belt drive, semi-automatic and manual.

Direct Drive

Direct drive turntables are the most common type of turntable available. They directly connect the platter and motor shaft, which allows for very accurate and quick speeds. The platter is connected directly to the motor, so there is no belt to wear out – just a direct connection that eliminates vibration from being transmitted to your music.

Best Models

The best direct-drive turntables are NAD L Series, SL-1200MK2, Yamaha FS-R1, and Pro-Ject Debut Carbon.

Belt Drives

Belt-driven turntables have a belt connected to the motor. This turntable type is typically more affordable than a direct drive product because there is no direct connection between the platter and motor shaft.

Set your Budget

If you’re on a tight budget but still want to listen to vinyl records, we recommend looking into semi-automatic turntables.

Best Semi-Automatic Turntable

If you’re looking for an affordable, good-quality semi-automatic turntable, then we recommend the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon.

Manual Turntables

Manual turntables are the least common type of product on the market today. This is because they can be difficult to use and set up properly.

Pre-Amps

If you want to connect the turntable to your amplifier, then pre-amps are what you need. There are two types of pre-amps: phono pre-amplifiers and power amplifiers. Phono pre-amps have a phono output connected to a receiver or digital input on an amplifier. Power amplifiers have a line-level output but do not require any additional amplifier equipment to power the turntable.

Tonearms

The pickup on your tonearm is what plays the record. There are two main types of pickups: vertical and horizontal. Vertical pickups allow for tracking within the grooves of a record, while horizontal pickups can produce a much more accurate sound because they are more focused on the groove as a whole. The best tonearms are considered to be “tube-based”. This means that instead of using an RCA connector, they use an XLR connector that requires additional equipment to connect it to your receiver or turntable.

Plinths

The plinth of your turntable is the base that holds everything together. There are two main types of plinths: acrylic and wood. Acrylic plinths are a cheaper alternative to wood and can be used for both direct drive and belt-driven turntables.

Turntable Mats

Any turntable mat you buy will need to be placed on a flat surface because it can help keep vibrations from being transferred into the record player itself. This prevents “record skips” due to potential vibrations. A good quality mat should be able to withstand up to 50 pounds of force without distorting.

Stylus Placement

You will place the stylus on the record to ensure that there are no scratches, and it has a slight “click” that will help you hear when you’ve reached the end of a track. There are two main types of the stylus: Moving Iron and Moving Coil.

Cartridges

The cartridge is installed on your tonearm. Cartridges come in two main sizes: standard and elliptical. Most turntables will require standard cartridges, but many audiophiles now consider them inferior to elliptical ones.

If you’re looking for a high-quality audio system, then we recommend the Audio Technica AT-LP1240-USB Direct Drive Turntable System.

Turntable Size

There are two main types of turntable sizes: mid-sized and full-sized. Full-sized turntables will generally have more adjustments to make when you’re setting up your system, but they will often be of much better quality than their mid-size counterparts.

Spindle Size

There are two main sizes for spindle size: 33 and 45 RPM. A 33 RPM record will run at half the speed of a 45 RPM record, so that means it takes less time to get through a song. Most modern turntables can play both sizes.

Speed Control Knob

The speed control knob is used to adjust the speed of your records. The easiest way to get a perfect speed is to match it with a CD player first and then adjust accordingly. If you’re listening on a computer, it’s best to match the speed with 128 kbps MP3s, which is considered standard quality today.

Anti-Skating Knob

The anti-skating knob adjusts the force applied by the record to the stylus. This helps you eliminate any warping, which will help improve your sound quality.

Rob is a musician and audiophile at heart. He plays 5 instruments. Besides music, Rob enjoys a good whiskey and the outdoors.
Robert S. Thompson
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