Turntable & Record Player Guide
Record Players & Turntables 101
Types of Record Players
Record Player & Turntable Buying Tips:
• 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
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.
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.
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.
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:
• 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