What to look for in an ideal turntable for beginners?
Aim for buying a turntable that not only produces quality sound but can also produce quality volume. Clear and organic music is great to listen to, but can quickly become tedious if you have to be in a certain proximity of your turntable to hear your favorite artists. Therefore, as a beginner, you’ll want to purchase a turntable with a well-made stylus (diamond and stainless steel are great) – this will produce the excellent quality of sound you want – and for volume, you’ll want to look for models which provide RCA output (for speakers) or have phono preamp. A great example of these two qualifiers is the Denon DP 300-F.
The look of your turntable is only a quarter of a bigger picture, so don’t just aim for that vintage look or sleek modern vibe. Additionally, aim for a range of value versus price. If you’re going to make an expensive purchase, guarantee that it has the extras you need for your house and setup.
Features to consider before buying your first turntable
It’s not only the little touches which make a difference, it’s also the major qualifiers which should already be there. For beginners, many of these qualifiers aren’t really self-explanatory, such as: “What is a phono preamp?”. Here we explore some of these features and the reasons you should include them in the parameters of your search.
A vinyl record contains a very tiny groove which runs from the outer edge to the center of the disk, and in this groove are the imprints of ridges which can’t be seen by the human eye. When it comes to the rotation speed and your stylus hitting all these grooves, your RPM (revolutions per minute) has to be just so. Otherwise you risk damaging your vinyl or making it skip.
There are three types of vinyl record:
- 7-inch: played at 45 RPM.
- 12-inch: played at 33 RPM.
- 10-inch (fairly uncommon/older vinyl): played at 78 RPM.
What you need to know is that nearly every record you see at the store will be 12-inch, and so when buying a turntable, you’ll want to find one which supports 33 RPM and maybe even goes up to 45.
Simply, a turntable produces a phono output signal. With a preamp included, your turntable can transfer that audile phono output into a ‘line level signal’ and therefore can work with other audio equipment including computers, speakers, and stereo systems around the house.
Whatever type of turntable you buy can actually end up being very important. A manual turntable requires you to put the record on, move the tonearm, place the stylus, and sometimes even flip a switch to get the record spinning. On the other hand, an automatic turntable (such as the Audio Techinca AT-LP60) will do things like extend the tonearm and place the stylus right where it needs to go.
Additionally, most models are direct-drive or belt-drive. All the examples listed are belt-drive styles and so the plate spines the record using a tight belt within the turntable. The better the belt, the longer it will last and the more accurately your record rotation will be. Cheaper models have the downside of belts wearing down more quickly.
Stylus and platter
The stylus is also called the needle, and is responsible for the accuracy and detail of sound reproduction while your record is rotating. Put simply, the better your stylus (its materials and positioning and weight) the clearer and more organic your sound will be.
Adding to this, the platter (spinning plate that the record sits on) will not only rotate your record, but will also help dampen vibration depending on its weight. The heavier the platter, the less vibration you will have, and vibration can cause your vinyl to scratch or skip.
The arm which swings across the record and then raises or lowers to bring the stylus in contact with the disk. What is most important about this is the weight and accuracy of your tonearm, and its something you’ll want to check reviews or ask the manufacturer about. Too much weight and your tonearm will dig the needle into your record, too little weight and the needle won’t catch all the grooves in your record. A great example of the type and weight of tonearm you want is Fluance RT81.
Sometimes it’s the extras that make or break. For turntables certain must-have extras are: headphone capability, Bluetooth, RCA outputs (for connecting speakers) etcetera. Some not-so-obvious extras are:
- Adjustable counterweights, in order to make the tonearm press down on the record more or less.
- Adjustable pitch control.
- A diamond-tipped stylus, for truly the purest sound.