Record players (or turntables) have been making a comeback in recent years. In addition to digital and CD releases, many artists are releasing vinyl copies of their music to appeal to this market. Why get a record player? Many say the sound quality is better; the description “warm” is used a lot. It’s also a cool conversation piece. When shopping around, here’s what to consider:
Manual, semi-automatic, or automatic
Old record players used to all be manual, when means you put the needle on and off the record to play and to stop playing it. Now, however, you have more choices. A semi-automatic record player means you put the needle on, but when the record is done, the needle lifts off by itself. On an automatic system, everything is done by the player itself. The advantage of an automatic system is you don’t have to worry about scratching the record with a shaky hand. Most mid-range, high-end turntables are manual, however.
Also known as a phono stage, this part allows for record playback. That means it compresses the music’s signal and preps the proper amplification so you can hear the music both loudly and softly. If you don’t have one, you’ll either get silence or feedback when you try to turn up your turntable’s volume. Now, most turntables come with a built-in phono preamp, but not all of them do. Just check to make sure when you’re shopping.
Record players have the ability to turn at certain speeds, and should match the record. All can can play 33-⅓ and 45 RPM records, but a lot of modern players no longer play 78’s. If you have these older, larger 10-inch records, you’ll probably have to get an extra part (a specialized cartridge or stylus) that lets the record play 78 RPM records.
One disadvantage of record players is that you can’t listen to the music on the go. To address that problem, many players now include a built-in USB port that lets you transfer tunes to your computer, where you can convert them to mp3s. This is especially cool if your record collection has old or rare entries, and there is no digital format in existence. Some users believe the transfer results in inferior sound, however, so bear that in mind. Many new records today also come with a download card, so you can get a digital copy for your iPod.
Interested in getting a record player? Here are three of the best choices:
The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB
A good, affordable choice for those just getting into vinyl, this record player actually does play 78 records, as well as 33-⅓ and 45’s. There’s also a built-in phono preamp and USB output. It’s easy to use, too, but has some more advanced features for those more experienced with turntables.
The Lenco L-85
Another great turntable for beginner’s, this Lenco offers cool color options along with essentials like a built-in phono stage and USB output. It comes at a really good price, too, so it’s a great gift for a young person curious about vinyl.
Interested in something really affordable and portable? This 6-pound 1byone turntable doesn’t skimp on features despite the price – it can play 33, 45, and 78 records, and Bluetooth capabilities, so you can play your digital music on it, too. The front-facing speakers and tonearm give you really great sound.
Looking for a new pair of headphones to use with your new record player? Here are some of the best.