Turntable & Record Player Guide

The vinyl record revival has put turntables back in the home audio spotlight. This turntable and record player guide will help you fine-tune your options in every style and price range.

Record Players & Turntables 101

The first spin of an old favourite on a new turntable can send shivers down your spine as you rediscover the LPs and 45s you forgot you loved. Along with vinyl reissues of all the classics, the resurgence of vinyl records in today’s music has inspired new types of record players and turntables designed for convenient home listening with or without an audio receiver or sound system. Many come with a modern USB port and editing software, so you can easily covert vintage vinyl to digital format. Portable record players and all-in-one units make perfect sense if you’re new to vinyl or just yearning to replay the sounds of your youth.

Types of Record Players


Record Players

Designed for convenience and portability, record players are self-contained sound entertainment units that play vinyl records and can also feature AM/FM tuners and CD players. Unlike turntables, all-in-one record players come with built-in speakers and amplifier so all you need is a power outlet or batteries to get the party started. Most new models also come with USB outputs which allow you to transfer music from the record player to your computer, and convert your vinyl records to mp3 format. Today’s record players combine nostalgic design with modern electronics so they can be displayed like furniture in any room in your home.


You can usually identify a turntable by its streamlined design intended for the sole task of spinning records. Like record players, turntables feature a platter, tonearm, cartridge and needle, minus the extras like speakers, radios and CD playback. A turntable becomes a basic component of your home audio system, connected to an A/V receiver or amplifier and speakers. Look for a turntable with a built-in, phono preamp if you’re connecting it to a modern mini-system or home theatre device. You’ll need the preamp to boost the signal from your turntable cartridge since most new audio equipment no longer includes a phono input.

DJ Turntables

DJ turntables operate by essentially the same principles as standard turntables but are built with sturdier components for more rugged handling and precision playback at every position (track) on the record. Lower quality turntables may slow down on the outer tracks of the record, and faster on the inner ones. DJ decks will often feature a switch for auto and manual cueing, and a weighted tonearm to decrease skipping and popping. Like most new turntables and record players, DJ turntables feature a USB output for converting vinyl records to computer files, and some are equipped with a dock for direct transfer to your mp3 player or other mobile device.

Record Player & Turntable Buying Tips:

• A less expensive record player is fine for occasional listening to vintage vinyl
• If you’re converting your vinyl record collection, shop for a USB turntable
• The manual cueing feature gives you maximum control of the tonearm
• Automatic cueing is convenient and easier for younger users
• A suitcase-style, portable record player is ideal for students or travelling
• All-in-one record players include built-in radios, CD players and speakers
• Make sure your turntable has a preamp if you’re connecting it to a modern home theatre system

Turntable & Record Player Features

Plinth +

The plinth is the base of the turntable that supports the rest of the unit. Depending on the type and quality of record player, the base can be made of wood, plastic, or metal. Most models are equipped with feet to ensure level seating and stability and contribute heavily to smooth playback of your records.

Platter +

Connected to the motor by a belt, the platter is the rotating component that the record rests on when spinning. As a rule of thumb, the heavier the platter, the better it will be at reducing vibrations and creating smoother sound reproduction. Typically, a fabric or rubber mat is placed on top of the platter to provide a cushion and grip for the record, and help dampen operating noise. The speed of the platter must be set to match the cut of the record (33 1/3, 45, or 78 RPM). The vast majority of record players play at both 33 1/3 and 45 but often a modification is required to play the much older and less common 78s.

Tonearm +

The tonearm swings out over the record and allows the needle to make contact with the vinyl as it spins, creating the sound you hear. Poorly balanced tonearms can cause records to play at inconsistent speeds, front to back. A turntable’s cueing device is the mechanism that lifts and lowers the tonearm, providing smooth initial contact with the record without undue friction as your needle rides across the record’s grooves. A manual tonearm allows you to lower and raise the needle yourself, on any track you choose. Automatic tonearms perform the same task with the push of a button and usually raise the tonearm at the end of the record.

Cartridge +

The cartridge is plugged into to the end of the tonearm and houses the needle, or stylus. Many new turntables offer high quality cartridges and styluses as part of their basic packages. While needles need to be swapped out for new ones every few hundred plays, cartridges don’t need to be replaced unless they are obviously damaged, or you’re making specific upgrades to your turntable. Replacing the needle can be tricky so you may find it easier to just replace the entire cartridge.

USB vs. Non-USB +

Most new record players feature built-in USB ports that allow you to convert your music from vinyl to mp3 format. The converted music files are exact replicas of the records’ real-time playback. If the song skips or pops on the record, it will sound the same on the mp3 though it’s common for USB turntables to come equipped with editing software to eliminate surface noise. USB record players are ideal if you’re planning to convert a vinyl collection or digitize a rare recording. If conversion isn’t a priority and you just want to hear your old records then a non-USB player will work just fine.

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Record Player & Turntable Maintenance Tips:

• Replace your needle regularly for best playback and to prevent record wear
• Use a slip mat to prevent dust from getting into the platter components
• Use a record shammy or brush to keep records and needle, dust-free
• Replace your turntable belt if playback speeds begin to waver
• Protect your needle by handling the tone arm gently and lowering the cartridge cover
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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