Whether you’re discovering the warm, analog sound of vinyl for the first time.
You’re a connoisseur, having the best record player or turntable is essential. You’ll need one that is reliable, has all the features that you need, with good sound output and one that won’t damage your vinyl.
There are so many choices today! And trying to compare and decide between the various models, features and prices can be overwhelming. Good news for you, I’m here to make this decision as easy as possible for you!
Before we get into that…
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Let’s look at the difference between a turntable and a record player…
What is a Record Player?
The upside of a record player is that it’s an all-in-one solution for playing vinyl records. It has a built-in amplifier and speakers. In other words, you won’t need any extras to begin listening to records. Because they’re ‘plug and play’ they are portable and easy to move around.
The downside is that there is little room to upgrade the movable parts to improve sound quality. Although, the best record player can produce a more than acceptable sound output and be gentle on your vinyl.
What is a Turntable?
The upside of a turntable is undoubtedly the high quality sound it produces. The best turntable will give you more control over settings. And the added benefit of being able to upgrade parts means a higher sound fidelity for the listener.
The down side is that turntables need a fair amount of assembly meaning they are not easy to move around. They also require extras like phono preamps, speakers and RCA cables. Although some come with built-in phono preamps.
Record Player or Turntable?
By now you’re wondering which to pick; a record player or a turntable…
The choice you make will depend on your needs and what you want to do with your vinyl.
If you want to play those old vinyls you inherited from your granddad, and you’re not too fussed about precision sound, a record player is a great place to start.
On the other hand, if you want to test the waters before you dive head-long into a new hobby. Or your goal is to transition to higher quality sound over time, buying a quality turntable with room to grow is a good move.
What Should You Consider When Looking for the Best Record Player?
What are the most important features and considerations when buying a new record player? Knowing the different features of a record player and why they are important is essential to helping you decide between models. If you don’t know what the features do or why they are important, then how can you compare them?
Speeds are measured in RPM. Most records are either 33 (labeled 33⅓) or 45 RPM. 78 RPM records date back to pre 1950 and are more rare. However, most record players can play at all three of these speeds.
When it comes to record players, size does count. The larger the overall size of the unit, the more power is available.
The size and position of the speakers make for an overall better unit. Naturally, the larger the speakers the more sound. Speakers that positioned to the front are better and give more direct sound than speakers on the sides or the rear. Stereo speakers will also enhance the overall sound quality.
A record player without silly extras like an am/fm radio or a CD player means less movable parts. Having fewer movable parts means less overall vibration and a clearer sound.
What Should You Consider When Looking for the Best Turntable?
As mentioned before, most vinyl records are either 33 or 45 RPM. If you want to play the more rare 78 RPM vinyl records, you should make sure that the turntable can play at this speed.
Essentially, the drive determines how the platter spins. A turntable will be either belt or direct driven. A belt driven turntable has less vibration since the belt acts like a shock absorber. The main advantage of a direct drive turntable is a a more solid build with a platter that’s more skip resistant.
The 3 types of cartridges available are; Fixed, P-mount or Standard (half inch). With fixed cartridges the needle can be replaced when it is worn out, but you can’t upgrade the cartridge itself. P-mounts allow for upgrades but with fewer options. The Standard (half inch) cartridge is the best and most flexible option.
Before the audio signal is transferred to your speakers it must first be amplified. This is one of the functions of a phono preamp. There is a great selection of turntables with built-in phono preamps. A turntable without an internal phono preamp will require that you buy an external one.
If the turntable has a built-in USB interface you can easily plug and play your vinyls through your PC speakers. It also allows you to record your vinyls in digital format. Most turntables come with free software for recording.
Now that you’ve read my tips on choosing the best record player or turntable, learned about the differences and features of both, and browsed through and compared some different models, you’ll be ready to make a buying decision with confidence and end up with the right record player or turntable at the right price that is just perfect – for YOU.
Do you know all the parts of a turntable?
Be sure to check out my mammoth guide to the anatomy of a turntable. It delves into each part of the turntable with tons of detail!