How to choose a turntable? This question is hard to answer even for experienced analog sound lovers. Vinyl players are very complex units and there are too many important criteria to consider.
However, in recent times, they have become much more affordable, and more and more people now want to have a vinyl player at home. Its warm and natural sound can’t be compared to the sound of the habitual CD player.
In order to choose the best turntable for your needs, you have to ensure that it meets all your requirements.
A high-quality turntable must have a considerable weight. As a rule, units that weigh less than 15 pounds aren’t designed for audiophiles. However, some manufacturers now make tonearms of carbon which is quite light material so such turntables can maintain high quality while being lightweight.
If the turntable’s pressure and anti-skating force can be adjusted, that says about its high quality.
Cartridge And Needle
There are two main types of cartridges: with MM and MC heads. Most audiophiles prefer cartridges with MC heads because of softer and more detailed sound transmission. At the same time, most such heads, unfortunately, don’t support needle replacement which means that you will have to replace the entire cartridge.
A turntable should have replaceable needle and cartridge. Moreover, it will be better to replace the cartridge right after the turntable purchase: most vinyl players come with budget cartridges.
You should also make sure that the replaceable components of your model of turntable are available on the market.
In terms of drive, the turntables can be divided into two types: direct and belt drive. The direct-drive turntable works especially great for scratching, being suitable for DJs. Music lovers, on the other hand, often give preference to a belt drive: in most cases, it provides a more uniform disc rotation.
A good turntable base must be resistant to vibrations and resonance. This usually depends on the weight: the heavier the base is, the better it dampens vibrations. You should also pay attention to the base material.
MDF And Fiberboard
The optimal balance between heavy weight, attractive appearance, and price. Such bases are widely used in models of different price ranges – from relatively cheap to more expensive ones.
It’s a cheap material that can be easily shaped and colored in different ways providing a wide range of designs. However, plastic bases have low vibration resistance due to their light weight. Such bases are found only in cheap turntables.
It’s a type of plastic that works better at dampening vibrations. Just like plastic, acrylic can have different color designs and even can be transparent. Acrylic base costs more than plastic ones, but cheaper than many other bases. However, such bases are used even in the manufacturing of expensive turntables.
It’s durable and heavy, but expensive. For this reason, metal bases are used only in high-end turntables.
Such a base is reliable and looks unusual, but lightweight and expensive. In order to damp vibrations well, such bases are made thick which increases their price.
It’s a very strong and heavy material with excellent resistance to vibrations. Due to their extremely high cost, granite bases are used only in some premium models of turntables.
The tonearm can be automatic or manual. Most of the high-quality turntables have a manual operation (Jensen JTA-230, etc.). This means that the tonearm must be lowered onto the record and removed from it by hand. The manual tonearm vibrates less, and, accordingly, don’t distort the sound.
If you are afraid to accidentally scratch your expensive vinyl record, or simply don’t feel like dealing with manual operation, then it will better to buy a model with an automatic operation (Fluance RT81, Audio-Technica AT-LP5, etc.). When you are not using it, it would be better to buy a vinyl record storage box with easy access to protect vinyl records.
The needle can be spherical or elliptical. Spherical needles are the cheapest ones, but they provide a risk of scratching the record. With an elliptical needle, the record is less likely to be scratched. The sound will be less distorted as well, but such needles are expensive.