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Does It Matter Which Record Player I Buy? Your Guide To Choosing The Perfect Turntable

Record player

Paddy |

The choice of a record player matters significantly. The quality of the turntable, stylus, and tonearm can profoundly impact sound reproduction. Investing in a well-built record player ensures better tracking, reduced wear on your vinyl, and an overall enhanced listening experience.

Vinyl records have experienced a resurgence in popularity, and as enthusiasts embark on their analogue journey, the choice of a turntable becomes a critical decision. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore key considerations and address common questions to ensure you make an informed choice when diving into the world of turntables.

Record player at home
Factors such as cartridge quality, tonearm design, drive system and build quality are important things to consider when choosing a record player.

What to Avoid When Buying a Record Player?

Investing in a turntable is not just about acquiring a piece of equipment; it's about preserving and enhancing your vinyl listening experience. To make the right choice, steer clear of the following pitfalls:

1. Built-In Speakers

While convenient, turntables with built-in speakers often compromise on sound quality. They may not deliver the rich, nuanced audio that a dedicated sound system can provide.

2. Automatic Features

Fully automatic turntables that start and stop the playback mechanism with the push of a button might seem appealing, but they often introduce additional mechanical components that can affect sound quality. Manual or semi-automatic turntables are generally preferred by audiophiles.

3. Plastic Components

Turntables with a high proportion of plastic components can suffer from issues like resonance and durability. Look for models with a sturdy construction, preferably with metal components that contribute to better stability.

4. Lack of Adjustable Tracking Force

A crucial aspect of turntable setup is the ability to adjust the tracking force—the downward pressure of the stylus on the record. Turntables without this feature may not offer optimal playback and can potentially damage records over time.

5. Unstable Platter

A crucial aspect of turntable setup is the ability to adjust the tracking force—the downward pressure of the stylus on the record. Turntables without this feature may not offer optimal playback and can potentially damage records over time.

A record playing on a turntable
We would always recommend avoiding 'suitcase' style turntables, which often have built in speakers and poor build quality.

Do Cheap Turntables Ruin Records?

The concern about cheap turntables damaging records is not unfounded. Inexpensive turntables often come with components that prioritise cost savings over quality, potentially leading to issues such as:

1. Heavy Tracking Force

Cheap turntables may have a fixed and heavy tracking force, exerting excessive pressure on the record grooves. Over time, this can wear out the vinyl and diminish sound quality.

2. Poor Anti-Skate Mechanism

An inadequate anti-skate mechanism, or the absence of one altogether, can cause the stylus to exert uneven pressure on one side of the groove, leading to distortion and potential damage.

3. Subpar Cartridges

Low-quality cartridges found in budget turntables may lack the precision needed for accurate tracking, potentially causing wear and tear on records.

To protect your vinyl collection, it's advisable to invest in a mid-range or higher-end turntable with features that prioritise both performance and the longevity of your records.

Wooden record player | There are some beautiful and bizarre record players out there!

What Are the High-End Turntables?

For those seeking the pinnacle of audio quality and craftsmanship, high-end turntables offer a premium listening experience.

Determining the absolute best turntable is subjective and depends on individual preferences, budget considerations, and the desired features. However, some brands consistently receive acclaim for producing top-tier turntables:

1. Rega

Rega turntables are renowned for their minimalist design and exceptional performance. Models like the Rega Planar 3 are celebrated for their precision engineering and high-quality components.

2. VPI Industries

VPI turntables are crafted with meticulous attention to detail. The VPI Prime Signature, for example, is lauded for its outstanding build quality and sonic clarity. 

3. Clearaudio

Clearaudio turntables are known for their innovative designs and precision manufacturing. The Clearaudio Innovation Wood, with its impressive build and advanced technology, exemplifies the brand's commitment to audio excellence.

4. Technics

Technics, a pioneer in turntable technology, continues to produce high-end models like the Technics SL-1200G. Known for its direct-drive system and durability, it remains a favourite among audiophiles.

Vintage record player
A vintage record player can contribute wonderfully to the feel of your music listening space.

Do Old Turntables Sound Better?

The allure of vintage turntables is undeniable, and many audiophiles argue that older models have a distinct sonic character that adds charm to the listening experience. However, the question of whether old turntables sound better is subjective and depends on various factors:

1. Maintenance and Condition

Well-maintained vintage turntables with properly aligned components can indeed offer a unique and pleasing sound. However, if a vintage turntable is not in good condition or lacks proper maintenance, it may not perform optimally.

2. Technological Advancements

Modern turntables benefit from advancements in technology, materials, and manufacturing processes. Newer models often incorporate features that contribute to improved performance, such as better motors, advanced tonearms, and superior cartridges.

3. Availability of Parts

Vintage turntables may face challenges related to the availability of replacement parts. If a crucial component needs replacement, it might be challenging to find the exact part, potentially impacting the turntable's performance.

High end turntable
There are some incredibly high-end turntables out there, like the Helix One, available from our friends at KJ West One.

Do Some Turntables Sound Better Than Others?

Yes, the sound quality of a turntable can vary significantly between models. Several factors contribute to the sonic characteristics of a turntable:

1. Cartridge Quality

The cartridge, which houses the stylus, plays a pivotal role in translating the grooves on the record into an electrical signal. High-quality cartridges produce clearer and more accurate sound.

2. Tonearm Design

The tonearm's design and materials influence its ability to maintain proper tracking and prevent resonance. A well-designed tonearm contributes to precise tracking and improved sound quality.

3. Motor and Drive System

Turntables can have direct-drive or belt-drive systems, each with its sonic characteristics. Additionally, the quality of the motor and the stability of the rotational speed impact overall sound quality.

4. Plinth and Build Quality

The construction of the turntable's plinth, or base, can affect resonance and vibration. High-end turntables often feature heavy, well-damped plinths to minimise interference with the playback.

In Conclusion...

The best turntable is a subjective choice that hinges on personal preferences, budget constraints, and the overall listening experience you seek. Whether you opt for a high-end model, a vintage gem, or a reliable mid-range turntable, the key is to consider factors that align with your needs as a listener.

Happy spinning!

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