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Things To Consider When Buying A Turntable

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In this post I’ll talk briefly on things to consider when buying a turntable. You want to think through these issues before running out and making a purchase. I was sort of shocked the other day when I read an article that said almost 50% of the people buying vinyl records today do not even own a turntable. Some new collectors enjoy the feeling of owning and holding a physical product in their hands as opposed to a digital download but, not having a means to listen to the actual product left me baffled.

I suppose one reason is that they have not got around to buying a turntable yet or just haven’t settled in on a particular product yet but, 50% sounds like a high figure to me and I’m not sure I understand why.

In this post I want to list some things to consider in your search for a turntable since to a beginner this can be a bit daunting. I’m not going to delve into any particular turntable model reviews in this post, just lay out some groundwork for things to consider before you buy. I’ll review some equipment in a future post.

 

Expense or How Much Is This Going To Cost Me?Things To Consider When Buying A Turntable

I suppose the first factor to consider would be money. How much do you have and how much are you willing to invest. As in most other purchases the old adage of “you get what you pay for” holds true in buying a turntable.

 

The turntable is the most important component of a system as far as protecting your records is concerned. A cheap turntable with basic tone arm and cartridge can damage your records so you definitely do not want to “cheap out” when it comes to your turntable. The amplifier is not as important as the turntable so you can get by on a temporary basis with an inexpensive amplifier.

 

Speakers are important as far as sound quality goes but you can get by with a lesser sound quality for a while until you can afford your dream system. And you can also use headphones until you are able to get speakers.Things To Consider When Buying A Turntable

 

But, amplifiers and speakers will not ruin your vinyl records so figure on a good percentage of your stereo budget should be invested in your turntable. I’ve seen some articles about turntables where the writer will recommend 50%-60% of your system cost on the turntable but that figure is really relative to how much your budget is.

 

A $200 budget would only allow $100 for a turntable so that is not enough. If your budget for a stereo is only $200 then wait and save more money. I would figure a minimum of around $200-$300 for a decent turntable that
will not damage your records. Note, I used the word “decent’ which is not necessarily ideal. But, more on that when I post some system reviews.

 

As a quick side note, you can get by without an amplifier if you want to go with powered speakers. This means that the amplifier is in each speaker. There are a couple drawbacks to this one being the cost of the speaker will be substantially higher but if space is an issue that’s a decent trade off. I’m old school and always have been when buying equipment. I prefer individual components as opposed to the “all-in-one” products thinking of something breaks down I can replace just the part that broke and not the whole system. But that’s just me and that is not an issue for everyone.

 

 

What Do You Want?-Will It Fit?Things To Consider When Buying A Turntable

Actually this item should probably be placed above expense or budget in order of importance. Perhaps you only need a turntable and plan to use strictly headphones to listen with. How much room you have will also determine what direction to go. Are you going to be confined to a small bedroom, live in a small apartment or do you have a good size room you can dedicate to your “music room”?

 

I grew up in the 60s and was out on my own by 1969. Back then it seemed everyone had a stereo system in their living room. It was sort of a status symbol. I remember huge speakers it the corners of the living room of all of my friends homes or apartments. Some speakers were perhaps three feet tall and 18 inches wide. Some even bigger! We went hog wild with our stereos back then.

 

You also need to consider record storage. If you have very many records at all you already know they can take up quite a bit of space. So considering your space and wants is a big factor. You may only have room for a turntable, receiver and some bookshelf speakers and that is fine as there are tons of options. In THIS post I go over a few and in a later post I will show you more.

 

 

 

Should I Buy New Or Used?Things To Consider When Buying A Turntable

If you are budget minded you can also consider purchasing a used system. You can pick up used equipment at thrift stores reasonable but condition would be an issue. Personally if I was on a tight budget I would consider purchasing a new turntable since that it the most critical component. You can usually find used amplifiers/receivers that are workable in thrift stores that will suffice. Buying speakers from a thrift store would be a bit of a crap shoot but you can find something to get you by.

 

The only way I’d buy a used turntable would be from a friend or at least someone local where you can actually go to their house and check it out in person. But then again if you are so inclined you can pick up anything from a thrift store and make repairs/replace parts on your own but most turntables I have run across in a thrift store I would avoid like the plaguef.

 

If you do buy a used turntable from a thrift or specialty shop I would recommend replacing the cartridge. Attempting to use a worn out/damages cartridge and stylus will damage your records.

 

Craigslist or eBay are another option for buying used components but, your mileage may vary as far as finding something decent.

 

 

 

How Technical Are You?-Can I Hook This All Up?Things To Consider When Buying A Turntable

There are a few technical issues to consider as well. Are you technically inclined? Hooking up a turntable, amp, speakers and adjusting your tone arm properly need to be considered. In a future post I plan on outlining some basic hookup instructions so check back for those or you can always google “how to” or find some YouTube video instructions.

 

Automatic, Semi-Automatic or Manual Turntable?  Fully automatic will do everything at the push of a button. The record starts to spin, then the tonearm moves into place, plays the record, returns the tonearm and shuts off the turntable when the record completes. The only problem with this option is that it adds more parts and more noise to the process. With a semi automatic turntable you will set the tonearm onto the record using the cuing lever and once the record completes the tonearm will return to it’s resting place on it’s own. With a manual turntable you lift the tonearm onto the record to begin the playback and when finished you must also lift the tonearm off the record and return it to it’s resting place yourself. Pure audiophiles prefer manual operation. So, if you fall asleep when the record is playing the stylus will stay on the spinning record until you wake up and shut it off. Here is a short video showing a fully automatic turntable in operation.

Belt drive or direct drive? There are pros and cons to both but mostly it will be a cost factor. Some audiophile purists will say belt drive to reduce noise and vibration and others will say direct drive for consistent speed.

 

 

Summary

So as you can see, there are several things to think about before investing in a turntable and stereo system. If you are not yet a vinyl collector you may want to read a previous post here that covers starting a record collection.

As I stated earlier I will go over some specific turntables in a future post so we’ll get a little more technical at that time.

I would appreciate your comments and thoughts on this post if you have any questions or suggestions.

 

Craig

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Craig

19 Comments

  1. I hadn’t realized before that my cheap turntable might be ruining my records. I have been wanting to upgrade for the speakers and amps, but it makes sense to make the turntable the focus. Thanks for the info!

    • Thanks for your comment James. Yes the turntable is the first source of the sound coming from the vinyl so it is critical to be the best you can afford. There is quite a price range and the really high end turntable can cost over $2000. Those would be for the serious audiophile. The real cheap ones can be an issue though. For example the $60 dollar Crosley portable players do not have a way to adjust the weight the Stylus (needle) bears on the record and they also come with a sapphire needle and not a diamond needle.There is also no way to adjust the tracking which can be critical, If you have a rather inexpensive turntable the least you should do is make sure you have a quality diamond needle. That would help a lot until you can upgrade. I am working on some turntable reviews currently and an putting them in non technical language for the average person to understand. Many of the reviews I read and so technical the average collector struggles to understand them. If you want there is a place to subscribe to this blog for new posts I publish if you want to read some reviews when I publish them. Take care and thanks for stopping by.

    • I forgot to mention in my other reply the fact that if you have an inferior turntable that outputs a bad quality sound there is no use to upgrade your amp or speakers. If the source is bad you will not improve it with better speakers, etc

  2. Hi Craig,
    Your article takes me down memory lane. The turntables were the in thing.
    Is it possible to get a new turn table these days? I wouldn’t mind getting one. I have been thinking that they went out of production ages ago.
    Thank you for sharing this info.

    • Hello Lewa, So glad you stopped by and thank you for the comment. Yes, I remember when turntables and systems we a real big thing. Almost a status symbol. When vinyl records gave way to CDs record production dropped off to almost nil. And of course turntable production slowed down as well. But with vinyl resurgence and the era of party DJs turntable production is now back full swing. There is a multitude of turntables available in every price range. Like everything else though a person gets what he pays for so buyer beware. If you go too cheap you can damage your vinyl. I’m working on some turntable reviews so if you want to be notified as they publish scroll up top and to the right is a place to subscribe. Cheers and thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  3. I am actually one of those people you describe in your article! I own vinyl records, but no turntable to call my own. I am not technically inclined, so I will take your advice and avoid something too complex. As a college student, I live in a fairly small space, so I think that I will get a small one.

    I do have a question though. When choosing between turntables, what is your favorite one? I am new to buying them, so I have no idea what to expect.

    Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

    • Hi Alex and thanks for stopping by. Sadly my favorite turntable is no longer available I had a Dual 1219 for years and it finally bit the dust. I am currently using a Cybernet 150 which was made in the 80s. there are a multitude of good turntables available today. Dual is still a good brand (German made) as well as a host of others. I am in the process of writing some reviews which I want to write them in a non-technical way that the casual collector can understand so if you want to be notified when I publish anything new you can subscribe above and you’ll get an email when a new posts appears. I don’t know how soon you are looking to buy but I don’t think you can go wrong with the Audio-Technia AT-LP-120 for around $275. I’d recommend the automatic instead of the manual. If you are in no rush just watch my blog as I will also make suggestions on amps and speakers and attempt to help collectors put together a system that fits their budget and space requirements. I want to focus this blog on the more casual vinyl enthusiast and not the pure audiophiles so I’m attempting a non-technical easy to understand approach. Thanks for your comment and write again if you have further questions. Cheers, Craig

  4. Thank you, this helped me so much. I now know what I need is for his money goes and what I should be getting this far as the turntable and speakers go.
    I’m old school and I have an affinity to 33 1/3.
    I appreciate you doing the research required to put this information on paper

    • Thank you for your comment Sylvia and I am so glad you found my post helpful. I will be reviewing some turntables shortly along with speakers and amplifiers so stop by again read those if you are looking to buy some equipment. Or if you have any particular questions feel free to ask. Thank You, Craig

  5. Thanks so much Craig,

    Especially for helping me to see how I can budget on buying complete system. You have made it clear to me what is more important, as you said that we need to budget on buying Turntable that is of high quality. I think $200 to $300 is not a small money though, but as you rightly said, buying quality is the best.

    Since speakers and Amplifiers are not that too important, I think I will focus more on getting a quality Turntable which will not damage my Vinyl record.

    I post was helpful reading. But my question is, where do you recommend that I buy this Turntable from? can you recommend any place where I can get the best price?

    • You can spend money to get a decent turntable first then find a used amp cheap and use headphones until you can afford good speakers and amp. I would not get a turntable any cheaper as it will be trouble. Best to save your money and get a good turntable.

    • I just wrote a review on my recommended turntable. It is on the website now and you can get it on Amazon. current price is $299. You should be able to see the review on my website now

  6. I didn’t know so much went into considering your first turntable. I am happy I learned about all of this. Now, I really want to talk to my dad about my grandpa’s old vinyl records.

  7. Hello there Craig,
    A great article. You certainly have everything organized and in an easy-to-follow way – thanks for that. I am also a baby of the vinyl-music-era. Just reading your article took me back to that time and I so regret not having held on to my parent’s collection. I guess I was just scared about the advance of technology and then wondering if I would ever be able to use them again and yes, the cost of the upkeep (back then). I tell you, as they say, hindsight is 50/50. Thanks for sharing, Craig.
    Michelle

  8. Hello Craig,
    Great article. It is so important to have a ‘plan’ of sort when we go about a purchase. The actual item, the storage needs, the budge, the basics. You have done well in pointing out these things. Thnaks for sharing and get the thoughts in order!
    Michelle

    • Thanks for stopping by Michelle, a good plan to figure out and budget your purchases is very helpful for sure.

  9. Dear Craig,

    Thanks for this great post. Thanks for sharing this great information “If you do buy a used turntable from a thrift or specialty shop I would recommend replacing the cartridge. Attempting to use a worn out/damages cartridge and stylus will damage your records.” this is very important and thanks a lot you shared it.

    Your Friend,
    Paul

    • Yes it is very important. If you find a turntable in a thrift store it is probably a sure thing that the stylus (needle) will need to be replaced.

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