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December 30 2016
Written By Arohi Chakraborty - December 30 2016
Few things are more joyous than watching the needle drop on a record and hear music play. Turntables are engineering marvels. Musical instruments in fact – both beautiful and fascinating. Being the original source of musical playback, they are a cultural icon.
A turntable reads the music etched in a record’s grooves and reproduces it electrically in order that it may be amplified and played. It’s old technology in many ways, one that has constantly improved to remain amongst the playback systems with greatest fidelity.
Improvement in material science, engineering and electronics has taken the potential of record playback to extraordinary levels.
What is most gratifying however is that these improvements have benefitted turntables at every price point, providing extraordinary fidelity at modest prices. A fidelity that is immediately apparent to ears used to hearing low grade compromised digital playback.
There is of course the indescribable quality to analog playback that makes it truly engaging and enjoyable. A feeling that that usually ends the analog vs digital debate five minutes into a record.
The essential elements of a high quality turntable
The Tone Arm: It holds the cartridge and the stylus that reads the grooves on a record. When calibrated correctly, it allows the stylus to move across the record with minimal friction or resonance to reproduce sound without distortion. A good tone arm allows for the adjustment of tracking weight as well as anti- skating force.
The Cartridge: The cartridge holds the stylus that reads the music in the record grooves. It converts vibrations into electrical signals that are then amplified. A modern cartridge usually holds a diamond tipped stylus to ensure greater accuracy and longer life.
The Motor-Platter Assembly: This comprises a motor that drives a platter through a flexible belt that isolates it from any vibrations from the motor. Both the platter and the motor spin on high quality bearings, thereby minimising friction. This also allows the use of smaller motors that produce lower vibrations and magnetic interference.
The Plinth: The tone arm and the motor-platter assembly are mounted onto a platform that is designed to further dampen residual vibration or resonance.
In modern turntables, a great emphasis is placed on using sonically neutral materials to ensure avoid distortion and coloration. Also it is often possible to upgrade the various elements to create a path to greater fidelity.