What Do You Want Out of a Record Player?
Since vinyl made its comeback, many electronics companies have scrambled to take advantage of the market. As a result there are so many turntable options out there, it’s hard to know what’s good and what’s not.
Below I offer a few simple facts about these record players, that I think the beginner should understand before they make a purchase.
If you just have a passing interest, and just want to spin the records in the back of the closet again, and don’t expect an audiophile experience, this list of affordable turntables will be a big help.
The Most Important Thing to Know…
The first rule to remember: The cheaper the price is, the cheaper the sound quality will be. That’s not to say there aren’t some very good lower priced turntables out there, there are.
For a decent audiophile experience, you should expect to pay at least $399.00. For something adequate, and not at all bad, something in the 100 dollar range can be more than acceptable.
I would stay away from anything under 100 dollars, unless you can find something on the secondary market used. You could really make out like a bandit buying newer stuff used, or vintage stuff frankly dirt cheap.
What’s Wrong With the Cheaper Turntables?
The main issue is poor quality needles. Some of the cheaper stuff can have crummy ceramic needles that need to be replaced every few months. I wouldn’t spin the most worn Herb Alpert records on those record players. Those cheaper needles can damage the vinyl, and reproduce a tinny and even in some cases grainy sound.
By the way, I love Herb Alpert, but you sure do see a lot of well used vinyl of his in the thrift store record bins.
Plug and Play For the Easiest No Fuss Start Up?
Most receivers these days have begun to install the phono jacks back into the mix. You can usually use the auxiliary jack on earlier models though if you get a turntable with a phono amp built-in.
Unless you don’t mind the extra cost of a phono amp on the higher end audiophile turntables, I suggest you strongly consider one with the phono amp built-in. Here is one I recommend.
Personally I would stick with brands like Sony, Pioneer, and Audio Technica for the bargain priced turntables. I would stay away from the Crosley brand, unless you really are not a stickler for the best sound possible for the price.
One Question I get a Lot:
“Do these record players have built-in speakers, do I need a receiver?”
Understand, even if the record player has a built-in phono amp, you will need to plug into a stereo receiver of some kind. As mentioned, most receivers have the ability of receiving your record player either via a phono jack, or the AUX, Tape, DVD, or CD jacks.
You CAN NOT plug directly into a set of speakers. Though some of the cheaper units do have their own built-in speakers, those are not going to be high fidelity at all.
You will need some sort of receiver/stereo system to actually plug the record player into.
Audiophile Sound Quality?
Everything is about personal tastes of course. You need to know what it is exactly you need out of the player. When considering sound quality, there are plenty of reasonably priced turntables out there that will give something a step up from the Sony or Pioneer turntables.
Please understand though, I personally believe Sony and Pioneer are much better sound wise than you’d think for the price. In fact, the Pioneer Turntable I used as my first table had sound quality nearly as good as the so-called audiophile Pro-Ject Debut turntable I use today.
If you are a true audiophile, brands like Pro-Ject, U Turn, and Technics offer very good options for less than 400 dollars. I simply can not speak badly about the Sony and Pioneer options that cost hundreds of dollars or less.
You just need to know what you actually expect from the record player.
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*Photos are from the author*