Things to consider before buying the Best Turntables for Home
Finding the ideal turntable isn't the easiest thing to do since it’s a pretty complicated device with tons of specs and features. So, for starters, here are the basics about everything you need to know when choosing a turntable.
How Turntables Work
At the heart of every gramophone record lies a mesmerizing analog audio recording, carefully etched into a spiral groove. As the needle gently rests on the arm of the turntable, it's ready to groove (pun intended!). As the record spins, the needle encounters the undulating terrain of the groove, causing it to vibrate with excitement. These tiny vibrations are like musical Morse code, carrying the essence of the recorded sound.
From Vibrations to Electric Symphony
Now, you might wonder, how on earth do those little needle vibrations turn into a musical symphony that we can hear? Well, here's where the magic happens! The vibrations from the needle are cleverly converted into electrical signals. Think of it as translating the secret language of the grooves into something our modern audio devices can understand.
But wait, the party's not over yet! The signals need to go through a preamplifier, where they receive a boost of power and clarity. Just like a conductor leading an orchestra, the preamp makes sure that all the sounds are in harmony and ready to be unleashed.
Turntable vs. Record Player: What Sets Them Apart
Next, let's clear the air on a common misconception: turntables and record players aren't birds of the same feather. While they both dance with vinyl records, they have some distinct moves.
Imagine the turntable as the cool DJ who sets the stage but doesn't handle everything alone. Turntables don't come with built-in amplifiers or speakers. They prefer to pass the spotlight to others, like headphones or external speakers, to bring the music to life. Teamwork makes the dream work, right?
On the other hand, the record player is like a one-man band, combining multiple elements into a harmonious ensemble. It boasts a built-in tonearm, cartridge, and speakers or preamp, all united in a single and convenient package. It's the all-in-one solution for those who like their music setups to sound like a perfectly mixed track.
Exploring the Different Types of Turntables
Are you ready to explore the diverse world of turntables and discover the perfect match for your musical desires? From classic vibes to cutting-edge innovations, there's something for everyone on this vinyl journey!
The Classic Charm: Basic Turntables: Ah, the timeless allure of the basic turntable! If you're all about immersing yourself in the warm embrace of vinyl sound without any fuss, this is the way to go. These vintage darlings let you relive the glory days of vinyl playback, delivering that nostalgic crackle that only vinyl can produce. Simple and straightforward, they're the gateway to rediscovering your music collection in its purest form. All-in-One Wonder: The Monoblock Marvel: Looking for a seamless audio experience that comes ready to rock without the hassle of assembling separate components? Enter the all-in-one turntable! This monoblock marvel combines the preamp, speakers, turntable, and even an FM radio tuner in one sleek package. It's like having your own personal vinyl DJ station, right out of the box! Easy setup, instant gratification, and cost efficiency make these a popular choice. However, keep in mind that the compact size of the audio components might impact the sound quality slightly. Portability Meets Versatility: Portable Record Players: In the age of on-the-go everything, it's no surprise that vinyl has gone mobile too! Meet the portable record players, designed for optimal sound quality and practicality in a compact form. These little gems bring a whole new meaning to "vinyl on the move." With built-in Bluetooth, they wirelessly connect to your favorite speakers or headphones, allowing you to enjoy your vinyl tunes wherever you wander.
While some might argue that portability sacrifices sound quality, fear not, for not all heroes wear capes! There are entry-level models perfect for casual listeners, as well as high-end units boasting features like built-in phono stages and USB ports for digitizing your vinyl collection.
Turntable Drive Systems and System Types
As you embark on your quest for the perfect turntable, it's crucial to understand the key features that can make or break your vinyl listening experience. So, let's dive into the wonderful world of drive systems and system types and unravel the mysteries that lie beneath the spinning platter.
Unraveling the Drive Systems: Direct, Belt, and Idler Wheel
Imagine the drive system as the beating heart of your turntable, dictating its performance and personality. Each type has its own quirks and charms, so let's get acquainted with them:
Direct Drive Delight: The DJ's Favorite: Direct-drive turntables take center stage, with their motor nestled directly under the platter. While this setup may lead to some motor noise creeping into the mix, fear not, for these turntables have a few tricks up their sleeves! Their quick start-up speed makes them a hit among DJs, ready to spin and mix in the blink of an eye. Yet, like any star, they have their flaws; the constant correction of the motor system may cause slight speed imperfections. But hey, when the beats drop, who's counting milliseconds anyway? Belt Drive Brilliance: A Music Purist's Dream: The belt-drive turntable is a true crowd-pleaser, reigning as the most common choice among vinyl enthusiasts. The motor powers the unit by spinning a belt around the outer edge of the platter (or the inner platter for two-piece setups). One enchanting feature is their ability to isolate motor noise from the platter, resulting in consistent speeds that honor the music's pitch exactly as it was recorded. For discerning music purists, this is the harmony they seek! Idler Wheel Wonder: A Vintage Vibe: Ah, the idler wheel turntables—the cherished relics from the 50s to the early 70s. With a rubber wheel rubbing against the platter's inside to set it spinning, these vintage beauties have a unique charm. However, like any classic treasure, they come with a cost: the inherent friction between the rubber wheel and the platter makes them the noisiest of the bunch. But hey, some say it's all part of the vintage magic! Revealing the System Types: Fully Automatic, Semi-Automatic, and Manual
Now that we've explored the drive systems, let's uncover the different system types, each catering to various preferences and needs:
Fully Automatic Fun: The Effortless Elegance: For those who prefer a seamless experience, the fully automatic system is a gift from vinyl heaven! Just a push of a button or a lever sets the speed, and then you're ready to roll. The turntable handles the rest: spinning the platter, moving the tonearm over the record, and lowering it into place. When the record ends, a lift gently raises the tonearm and shuts the turntable down. Effortless elegance at its best! Semi-Automatic Serenade: Perfect for Light Sleepers: This semi-automatic system is like a considerate companion, taking care of the tonearm and shutting down the turntable when the record's groove reaches its end. Ideal for those who might drift off during a listening session, it ensures a smooth and gentle finish to your musical journey. And if you prefer a little more hands-on control, optional tonearm lifts can be added to manual turntables for that semi-automatic touch. Manual Marvel: Embrace the Art of Music: The majority of turntables on the market belong to this category, and they hold a special place in the hearts of true music connoisseurs. With the manual system, you're in full command: selecting the speed, moving the tonearm over the record, and lowering it gently onto the groove. When the music concludes, you raise the tonearm with grace. It's an artful experience that puts you in complete control and emphasizes sound quality above all else. The Ideal Budget
There are three pricing groups when it comes to turntables: entry-level, mid-priced, and premium models. Of course, there are differences between a simple vinyl player and something that costs up to 10 times more. Most manufacturers often offer plug-and-play models, which prioritize user-friendliness. Being made from simple materials, these types are the budget choice. If you have a higher budget, you’ll be able to focus on models that are made with premium-quality materials and have some additional features that other units might not have.
Entry-Level/Budget Models: These units are usually under $300, and a lot of them have advanced features that you won’t find on older turntables. This includes Bluetooth connectivity and USB ports that enable you to record your vinyl tracks on a computer. Mid-Price Models: With prices ranging from $400 to $800, these units allow you to enjoy high-quality audio while offering various helpful features to facilitate user control while being able to expand the user’s capabilities. Premium-Quality Models: These units are the most popular among audiophiles. They are multifunctional while also being capable of playing gramophone records as well as discs. These devices are usually equipped with a USB connector for connecting to a PC or laptop. Vinyl Record Speeds
There are three plate rotation speeds when it comes to turntables.
33 1/3 RPM: This is the most common speed used for playing long-play records. This type of record typically contains full-length albums. 45 RPM: This speed is used for playing singles or 7” records. These types of records contain just one song on each side. 78 RPM: This speed was used on old shellac records, which were common even before the introduction of vinyl records. While 78 RPM records are not common nowadays, antique record collections might still have them. Cartridge Types
The two main types of turntable cartridges are Moving Magnets (MM) and Moving Coils (MC).
Moving Magnet: This features a magnet that is attached to a needle that moves near the coils and induces a voltage in them. This happens whenever it is set in motion when reading a disc. The most popular MM units generate a voltage between 2.5mV and 7.5mV depending on the unit. Moving Coil: In this enchanting arrangement, stationary magnets stand their ground while a coil, attached to the needle, becomes the sound's virtuoso. This captivating setup offers a lower voltage range, typically between 0.1 mV and 2.0 mV. While they may be pricier, they weave a delicate tapestry of sound, cherished by discerning audiophiles for their exquisite performance. Choosing the Right Cartridge
When it comes to selecting the perfect cartridge for your musical journey, understanding the difference between MM and MC is key. The cartridge type plays a vital role in shaping your turntable's acoustic rendering, creating a unique sonic signature.
Here's a crucial note of harmony: MM and MC cartridges require different phono stages in terms of gain and load characteristics. Your system's phono stage should be compatible with the cartridge type you choose. It's like finding the perfect duet partner for a flawless performance!
How To Set Up Your Turntable
For the best-quality music on the record, the turntable must be user-configurable.
Your turntable deserves a stable and level platform to work its magic. Whether it's a flat surface or a dedicated wall mount, ensure it's free from any wobbling or tilting. You can use spirit levels to check its horizontalness, providing a rock-solid foundation for the symphony to come. The counterweight at the end of the tonearm must be adjusted. The recommended downward force is indicated by the cartridge manufacturer and is usually between 1.5 and 2.5g. There are also some counterweights that have labels on them to make the adjustment easier. If the audio is muffled and without energy, there is most probably too much downward force. An aggressive sound without much depth, on the other hand, might mean that there is too little downward force. This can lead to the cartridge slipping and damaging the disc. While you have the option to adjust the height of the tonearm, this is usually set by default so that the tonearm is set parallel to your board. There are some cartridges that are required to be positioned at a very specific angle, depending on the design. Improper grounding, or lack thereof, can lead to unwanted noise and distortion. A phenomenon called “ground loops” happens when the chassis connections of various equipment pieces don’t have the same voltage or ground potential. This is why grounding the player is especially important.