You’re probably a great music lover if you know what record player is. Or if you’ve just got attracted to that phonograph-like thing your grandfather has, and wanted to buy one for yourself, we’ll guide you how to choose the best record player available in the market.
Best Record Player and Turntable:
A record player comprises of a turntable, a stylus, and an amplifier or a loudspeaker. The quality and performance of these elements separate the best equipments from the ordinary ones. A good record player must be capable of running all types of music files, modern or old, smoothly and consistently.
On this website, we’ll not only share some of the best record players, but will give you the real insight of these sound producing mechanisms. As a music enthusiast, you will love to read how record players went through changes and became what they are today.
5 Best Record Player Reviews
|Top Picks||Our Rating||Speed||Price||Our reviews|
|Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional||4.9/5||33-1/3, 45, and 78 rpm speed||Read review|
|Electrohome Signature Vinyl Record Player (EANOS700)||4.8/5||33 1/3, 45 and 78||Read review|
|Audio-Technica AT-LP60-USB Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Stereo||4.7/5||33 1/3, 45 RPM||Read review|
|Audio Technica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Stereo Turntable System||4.6/5||2 speed turntable - 33 1/3 and 45 RPM||Read review|
|Crosley CR8005A-TU Cruiser Portable (Budget)||4.4/5||3 speeds: 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM||Read review|
Advantages of Using a Record Player
Demand for vinyl has been moving up year by year with staggering pace. Since 2009, the sales of vinyl records have increased by 260%. That’s a clear advantage within itself. But the question is, why is there such a dramatic increase in demand for the past few years?
Let’s look at some of the advantages of using a record player to find out why people have gone crazy about vinyl records, especially in the era of iPod, smartphones and MP3 players
Listening to the music is one thing and holding it is an entirely out-of-the-world kind of thing. Physical records have beautiful artwork adding value to the physical music library. For music enthusiast, seeing a record with the needle moving smoothly on it, the feeling is beyond description. Needless to mention about the unique sound, that adds up to the satisfaction of the listener.
#2. Physical copies can be preserved.
MP3 players may have an advantage that you don’t have to carry a physical record on the go, they do have a limitation of software malfunction, driver lapse, or an unfortunate virus attack. Then, you have to go all the way back to the starting point and create a whole new library. With physical copies in your music library, you don’t have to deal with such trouble. Some record players offer vinyl-to-MP3 conversion and recording, allowing you to recreate your virtual library with utmost ease.
#3. Audio quality.
There’s no doubt that the sound coming out directly from the physical record is natural, clearer and far better than compressed MP3 files. Ordinary listener cannot identify the difference, but a music lover can. But that’s not too hard to determine, if you can run a record on the turntable then listen to the same music on MP3 player. Sound quality is probably the main reason why vinyl records have been sold more than ever before.
#4. It describes your love for music.
If you’re a true fan of old music, you would rather prefer vinyl over MP3 player in order to get the real sound quality. Moreover, there must be some way to express your love for music and the best way to do that is by showing your friends a library filled with great tracks in LPs.
#5. It creates ambience.
Share the great moments with your loved ones in a room filled with timeless sound. With the best record player in your room, you can create a great ambient atmosphere and share your memories with your friends and family members.
#6. Adds style.
Another benefit of vinyl records and record players is their stylish looks. There is a huge variety of record players ranging from classic wooden style to Hi-tech style. Talking about fashionable vinyl records, they come in storage containers with images of your favorite artists or other artwork. That’s fair enough to make you trendy and stylish.
#7. Warranty and Replacement.
Another advantage of buying record players is, most of them are available with warranties. You can also replace and upgrade some parts of your record player for better sound quality.
Types of Record Players
Record players have been modified and changed a several times ever since they were created, and majority of those transitions deal with turntable operations. Initially, there was an idler-wheel drive that had the rubber wheel.
Then belt drive was introduced as its replacement. Belt-driven turntables produced better sound because of the elastic belt with anti-vibration properties. These mechanisms were replaced by direct drive in which turntables became the part of the motor. This design was modified later with digital controls.
Before moving on to the types, it would be better to understand the mechanism of record player.
How Record Player Works
Turntable and cartridge are the basic components of record players. Alternatively, they may have any other device to hold the needle and the turntable.
- Turntable: it is used to turn the record
- Needle: it is used to read the groves of the record and convert them into sound.
- Sound system: the sound coming out of the record player may be produced via traditional analogue system or digital system. However, there is no significant difference in the reading mechanism of both the systems, except for some players in which laser is used instead of the needle.
The major difference between the types of record player is based on the operation of turntable.
#1. Idler-Wheel Turntables.
A popular mechanism for phonographs in the era of 70’s and 80’s, Idler-Wheel turntables had a rubber wheel attached to a synchronous motor. The wheel can be turned faster or slower by altering the motor.
However, this mechanism had some serious issues, such as:
- The sound quality was affected by the vibration of the motor.
- Rubber wheel wears out with time.
#2. Belt-Driven Turntables.
In this mechanism, elastomeric rope was used instead of the rubber wheel, in order to turn the record. Belt-driven design was more popular than previous mechanism, because of the two main reasons:
- The construction cost was cheaper
- As the elastic belt absorbed much of the motor’s vibration, the sound quality was much better
#3. Direct Drive Turntables.
In Direct Drive mechanism, there was no need of wheels or belts. The motor controls the turntable directly. So, the revolution in motor causes the record to turn. This was more simplistic design for turning the record, involving a flawless motor system to maintain smooth, precise and continuous speed of the record.
#4. Digital Systems.
These are latest systems that are lightweight and portable. Some digital record players are built into other systems, such as computers and laptops. Major features of digital record players include:
- Volume or speed control
- Digital readouts
Digital record players and modern turntables differ in terms of design, operations, compatibility, sound production and quality. Mostly, digital turntables have been used by professionals and DJs. They offer better control and sound mixing as well.
How to Choose The Best Record Player?
Vinyl is arguably the best sound format, even though several different media formats have been introduced for decades. So, what best feature should you look for while choosing a record player?
This buying guide provide all the answers circling the kinds of vinyl records, latest technologies used and the different styles of record players, and of course, record player maintenance tips.
#1. The types of records you will play.
According to experts and manufacturers, majority of records available in the market belong to one of these types; 33 1/3s, 45s and 78s, based on the size and grooves of the records. These types are actually identified by the revolutions covered in one minute (RPM).
#2. Technological advancement.
There hasn’t been to many changes in the appearance and construction since 1970s. However, there have been some major changes that transformed an ordinary record player into something really exciting.
- Motor manufacturing: Experts of the best record player brands say, there has been noticeable improvement in manufacturing of motor. A well-refined motor plays an integral part in delivering high-quality and consistent sound.
- Carbon fiber: Among other modern technologies, carbon fiber arm is considered to be an effective part advancement, because it doesn’t cause scratches and damages to your records.
- USB Connectivity: Manufacturers agree to the fact that USB connectivity has been the best improvement in vinyl record players. This feature enables the record player to convert vinyl to MP3 files so that you can preserve them. The sound preserved in MP3 has the same quality as in vinyl record.
- Other Features: Some record players also offer CD players, AM/FM radio and cassette deck.
#3. Different styles of record players.
Record players also differ in style and capabilities. Here are few things to determine which style fits your criteria of best record player:
- Some record player models have built-in speakers and amplifier, while others only work as a device to convert grooves into sound. Such models need add-ins, like stereo systems and powered speakers to produce sound.
- Some record players are meant to connect to your home stereo, MP3 player, tablet or smartphone.
- Record players also differ in terms of weight and size. Some models are lightweight, run on battery as well as AC output and that’s why they’re portable.
- Construction material is also very important, and wood is considered to be the best exterior for record players. According to experts, wood is naturally acoustic, absorbs shock better than other materials, and helps produce richer and warmer sound. Then there are other materials, such as leather and plastic, but they’re not as good as wood.
#4. Maintaining Your Player
Although, latest record players are almost maintenance-free, yet few things should be replaced periodically.
- Needle replacement and maintenance: Some record players have needle, while some of them have stylus. Here are three things to remember:
- Needle or stylus should be replaced or upgraded from time to time, in order to protect the records from scratches or damages.
- Keep the needle clean with the help of soft brush.
- Mostly, record players have diamond needle that offers a playing time of up to 10,000 hours before wearing out.
- Belt replacement: Some record players have rubber belt which may wear out or get stretched. You can replace the rubber belt with a new one by yourself.
- Record care: For complete record player maintenance, experts recommend that you should keep a care kit and check the equipment at least once in a week.
Things to consider when buying the best record player
When it comes to music-listening experience, record players are right there at the top. Is that all what you need for a classic experience? To play your favorite vinyl record, you need to have the best vinyl record player suitable for it. Why?
Vinyl records vary in terms of size, and your record player should play all varieties of records in your library. So, these are the things to look for while buying the best record player.
Not every turntable is equipped with built-in speakers. So, it is important to check this aspect when you buy a vinyl record player. Otherwise, you have to purchase a set of speakers that can go with your record player and cables for connectivity.
Luckily, majority of modern record players are available with built in speakers, and there is a whole lot of difference in terms of sound quality. Better keep this thing in mind while choosing a record player.
#2. Multiple Speeds.
As mentioned above, vinyl records vary by size due to which they require different turning speeds (RPM). You can find three sizes in the market; 78 rpm, 33 1/3 rpm and 45 rpm. Similarly, your record player should be able to operate at these three speeds.
Latest record players offer all three speeds, except for some cheap ones offering two speeds. So, you should better check the speed feature before buying a particular player.
#3. Auxiliary Output
Before buying a vinyl record player, it is also important to consider how you are going to use it. Will you be using it with home stereo? Will you be listening to the music with headphones on? Are you going to use a record player with your computer?
Modern-day record players offer audio jacks to connect them to external devices, such as MP3 players, stereo system or powered speakers. They’re also compatible with Mac and Windows OS, so that you can connect them directly via USB port, without having to install special drivers.
However, some record players with built-in speakers may not give you an option of USB port. So, you need to see the connectivity options as well.
#4. Vinyl-to-MP3 Conversion
One of the most talked about features of vinyl turntables, has been their ability to play CDs and MP3 files. Multipurpose record players are meant to convert vinyl format into MP3 format. They also give you options to record entire vinyl albums into MP3. So, even if you’re a true fan of vinyl, you can create a variety of formats for your music collection.
You should choose a record player on the basis of your preferences, type of records, and its compatibility with other output sources. If you record player can convert a music file into other format, consider it as a big PLUS.
Six Features that Make the Best Record Player
Key Ingredients to the Best Turntable
Not all music turntables might be equally good and there are some major distinguishing factors that you should know about. Here are six major factors that make the best turntable.
- Drive Type: There are two basic types of drives i.e. Belt Drive and Direct Drive. Back in the old days, belt drives were more commonly used. The mechanism involved a motor that could be placed at some distance from the platter and it rotated the platter through a belt. The major advantage was that it reduced vibrations and the overall sound quality was great. However, the size of these turntables was understandably bigger than direct drive players.
With direct drive players, the basic aim was to reduce the volume of the player. Therefore, the belt was left out of the equation and the motor directly rotates the platter. However, the vibrations from the motor create more resonance so the sound quality gets disturbed.
- Plinth: It is the base of the turntable that holds and supports the entire structure of the machine. There can be low quality plinths made out of cheaper materials. It can cost you as low as just $60. However, if you want a sturdy player, you may well have to pay around $300 or more. These plinths are made out of quality wood and metal. If you can afford, put rubber padding on the outside of the base to suppress vibrations. Since durability is a key factor and transportation is normally not required, we suggest you go for a heavy and firm base.
- Tone arm: This is a critical element of your player. The tone arm is the device which stays on top of the disc and actually plays the music. It has got a needle popularly known as the Stylus. The tip of the needle stays in contact with the disc to extract the electrical signals from the disc which are then further processed and converted to sound.
You will find a variety of tone arms and the material is the key here. Some high quality tone arms are made of Carbon. They can be a little expensive but they last longer than the usual ones. The operation of the tone arms can be Fully Automatic, Semi-Automatic and Manual.
- Platter: This is the part that actually rotates and where you place the disc. Platters are crucial because their weight should be consistent. It will allow the motor to run at a consistent speed so that the output remains consistent as well. Generally, good quality platters are heavier because there are lesser vibrations then.
- Cartridge: These are very important and probably the more expensive part of a turntable. They come separately as well as the makers install them by their own. In case you don’t know how it works, you are better off buying the built in ones. Brinkman Audio Bardo is one such example. Although it is quite expensive, it’s sort of an innovation because not too many makers integrate a built in cartridge.
Oracle Delphi Mk. Turntables can cost around $500 and they too have a built in cartridge. Other comparable devices can cost you half of it but they may not be of the best quality. This is one area where you have to be careful. A lot of brands include cartridges just to increase the cost of the product. However, the quality of the cartridges may not be the best.
- Top Brands: Super OEM turntables are manufactured by a company in United States they are further remodeled by popular firms such as Spiral, American Audio etc. Therefore, record players from both these companies are comparable because they essentially arrive from the same place. So whether you buy form American Audio or Spiral, you won’t have to worry about product quality.
Although, there is a wide range of music players around, record players have their own significance. They’re still popular among music enthusiasts and vintage-music lovers. Record players offer unmatched sound quality and that’s why they’re being used by DJs all over the world. There are plenty of things to ensure you get the best record player in the market, and here’s a summary of them:
- Choose a record player with multiple speeds, so that you can run all types of records on it.
- Check connectivity options, such as stereo system, speakers and other media devices.
- Choose a multipurpose player, so that you can listen to other music formats as well. A multipurpose record player is perfect for homes where everyone can enjoy the music in his own way.
- USB connectivity is a major advancement in record players, so don’t forget to ensure your record player has this feature.
- Lastly, you’re making a long term investment in record player. Apart from price assessment, comparison and making the right decision, keep your gadget well-maintained and updated.
For more information on record player history : Wikipedia is a great resource too!
Questions you Should Ask before Buying a Record Player
Record players have something about them. They take us back in the time when we had no iPods and MP3 players. For those who have held a record player before, it isn’t that easy to shift to the more advanced and smaller music players. There is just no match to the analog output of this amazing device regardless of how big its size may be.
To keep record players in the game, several efforts have been made. They are now made compatible with digital speakers just to make sure that they are still in use. They can be wireless or cabled and as you know the size can be huge at times as well.
But that’s not all you need to know about record players. There are some serious technical aspects that you should consider if you are willing to buy a record player. To help you with it, we have for you some of the most commonly asked questions from record player enthusiasts.
Where to start from?
Like any other item, the first thing you need to consider before buying a turn table record player is your budget. Normally, they start from $100 and can go as higher as better quality you can afford. If you are a starter with turntables, we suggest you stick around $100 to $120 range.
What parts will I find in the Product?
Here is the list of parts of a record player. There can be a few additional accessories but that just depends on whether you want them or not.
- A wooden or metal base known as the plinth. It supports all the other components of the player.
- Platter is the platform where you place the record.
- Motor is attached beneath the platter obviously for rotating it.
- Stylus normally known as the needle is held by the cartridge which fits into the tone arm.
What are Direct and Belt Drives?
Direct drives players are the ones where the motor is directly attached to the platform. Belt drives are those which have a rotors attached to the platter which is connected to a motor through a belt. In direct drives, the vibration of the motor can add to the noise. Hence sound quality may not be as good as belt drives. This is one reason people prefer belt drives are more preferred.
What are pre amps?
The output of the turn tables is analog i.e. it is based on vibrations. Hence, the origin al signal can be quite low and difficult to listen to in a normal arena. This is why, you would need a circuit to boost up the signal and increase the intensity. For this, you will require a pre amplifier for this. In some turn tables, pre amps are built in but they can add to noise levels. Therefore, you can go for a standalone pre amp to get better sound quality out of your player. It also depends on the type of receiver that you have.
Why is there a significant difference in costs of turn tables?
One of the main reasons is the cartridge. However, not all turn tables are sold with cartridges. The quality of motors and platters are the main contributors to the cost of a turn table. The heavier the platter, more consistent its output will be and better the sound quality. Normally, enthusiasts are better to identify the quality of the components just by listening to the sound.
What are automatic turntables?
There are mainly three categories when it comes to the operation of turn tables i.e. fully automatic, semi-automatic and manual turntables. With fully automatic turn tables, al l you need to do is press the button. The player will lift and place the needle on the disc. They can automatically turn off as well. In semi automatic players, they can perform some of the tasks automatically.
However, with a manual player, you have to do everything by yourself. As much as laborious it may seem, it gives you the actual feel of record players back in the old days.
Why people prefer manual players?
Manual players have lesser installations of gears and rotary mechanisms unlike the automatic ones. Hence, there is lesser vibration and resonance. This is one reason that there is lesser maintenance cost and manual players last longer therefore.
Is it Difficult to Assemble the Turn Table?
It mainly depends on whether you purchase a new model or a used one. When you buy a new model, you will get a handbook describing the assembly of the player in details. Hence, it becomes a lot easier to install your product. With used turn tables, it may not be an option for you. IN case you want to transport your player, always disassemble the tone arm and the platter. Or else, you can damage your player quite badly.
What is Essential and Debut Carbon?
Essential players are good quality players at relatively lower prices. They are considered as entry level players and are ideal for starters.
Debut carbon players are high quality players with carbon tone arms. The life span of the tone arms is therefore longer. Also, the resonance due to the motor is relatively lower because of better isolation. They can be three times the price of essential ones but there is an obvious difference of quality between the two.
Can I Connect my player to a computer?
If you want to create digital copies of the sound tracks, you can connect your player to a computer. For that, your player must have a USB port. You can download the drivers for you player from the internet and online tutorials can also help you in this regards.
Is there Bluetooth Connectivity option in Turn tables?
In many of the modern turn tables, there is a blue tooth option also available that lets you connect your player to any of the audio devices in your home. It is a great option if you want a sound surround system because mobility of the product doesn’t remain an issue anymore. However, you will have to take care of the Bluetooth range which can vary according to the turn table specs.
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