Introduction to Turntables:
The first version of the turntable - the Phonautograph was created by Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville in France back in 1857. Turntables are engineering marvels. Musical instruments in fact – both beautiful and fascinating. Being the original source of musical playback, they are a cultural icon.
The Phonautograph (1857)
The 21st century has witnessed an unexpected and significant resurgence of vinyl records. In an era dominated by digital streaming and portable music devices, vinyl has made a remarkable comeback.
This revival can be attributed to various factors. Firstly, vinyl offers a distinct listening experience, characterized by warm tones and a raw authenticity that digital formats struggle to replicate. Secondly, vinyl records have become highly sought-after collector's items, with limited editions and special releases creating a sense of exclusivity and value. Vinyl appeals to younger generations seeking a tangible connection to music, as they embrace the ritual of flipping records and admiring album artwork.
The Revolver Club has been at the forefront of the vinyl revival in India. From records to hi-fi, we have fostered a community of music lovers and record collectors from all across the country. Young vinylheads frequent our Mumbai and Bandra stores and #ExperienceVinyl locations nationwide, attending and curating weekly listening sessions.
Turntables can either be Manual or Automatic
|Operation||Requires manual cueing and playback||Automated cueing and playback|
|Start/Stop||Manually controlled||Automatic start and stop functionality|
|Tonearm||Manual tonearm balancing and setup||Automated tonearm balancing and setup|
|Return Mechanism||No automated return mechanism||Automatic tonearm return to rest position|
|Convenience||Requires user involvement for playback||Minimal user involvement|
|Price||Typically more expensive||Generally priced lower|
|Maintenance||Requires less maintenance due to Simpler design and fewer components||Requires more maintenance due to more complex design and additional parts|
|Customization||More options for upgrades and tweaks||Limited customization options|
Our Turntable Picks
- Best Overall Value Turntable: Audio Technica AT-LP120X
- Best Beginner Turntable: Audio Technica AT-LP60X
- Best Premium Value Turntable: Technics SL1200-MK7
- Best Ultra Premium Turntable: Technics SL1200G
- Best Belt Drive Premium Turntable: Rega P3
- Best Automatic Turntable: Denon DP-300F
- Best Premium Plug & Play: Technics SL1500C
The Revolver Club Turntable Recommendations and Comparison Table:
|Turntable||Price||Drive Type||Operation||In-Built Phono||Speed Control||Removable Headshell||S-Shaped Tonearm||Dust Cover||Conclusion|
|Audio Technica AT-LP120X||₹55,000||Direct||Manual||No||33 / 45 / 78||Yes||Yes||Yes||Best Overall Value Turntable|
|Audio Technica AT-LP60X||₹25,360||Belt||Automatic||Yes||33 and 45||No||No||Yes||Best Beginner Turntable|
|Technics SL1200 MK7||₹1,43,000||Direct||Manual||No||33 / 45 / 78||Yes||Yes||Yes||Best Premium Value Turntable|
|Technics SL1200G||₹4,15,000||Direct||Manual||No||33 / 45 / 78||Yes||Yes||Yes||Best Ultra Premium Turntable|
|Rega P3||₹99,000||Belt||Manual||No||33 / 45 / 78||No||No||Yes||Best Belt Drive PremiumTurntable|
|Denon DP-300F||₹41,000||Belt||Automatic||Yes||33 and 45||Yes||No||Yes||Best Automatic Turntable|
|Technics SL1500C||₹1,43,000||Direct||Manual||Yes||33 / 45 / 78||Yes||Yes||Yes||Best Premium Plug & Play|
Anatomy of a Turntable
- The Cartridge: The cartridge holds the stylus (needle). The cartridge’s job is to convert the movement of the stylus into an electrical signal. You don’t have to shop for one, unless it breaks or you want an upgrade.
- The Headshell: The cartridge is mounted onto the headshell which is attached to the end of a turntable or record player's tonearm
- Pitch Control: It varies the speed of the platter by adjusting the voltage sent to the motor. Allows the user to fine-tune the speed.
- The Tonearm: It is a crucial link between the record and your speakers. It holds the cartridge at the tip and allows the stylus to ride in the grooves of the record.
- Cueing Device: It lifts and lowers the stylus from the record. It can be automatic or manual.and allows you to simply engage a switch that lifts the tonearm from its rest automatically.
- Counterbalance Weight: It is a rotating tonearm counterweight with which you can independently adjust the tracking force of your stylus. Precise tracking force is important for the quality of sound and to prevent damage to your records as well as the stylus.
- Platter: It is the spinning part of the turntable on which you place your records. You will need a good “mat” on top of the platter to stop your record from slipping.
- The Motor: The motor is responsible for spinning the platter. It comes in two configurations - belt drive or direct drive. We will dive into these further into the guide.
- The Plinth: It is the base of the turntable. While it’s mainly for aesthetics, it holds all the important electrical components that make the turntable work.
- Start Button: Starts the engines and gets the turntable ready to groove.
- Speed Selector: Changes the speed of the platter between 33 RPM or 45 RPM. RPM stands for Revolutions Per Minute.
Types of Turntables:
1. Belt Drive:
The motor that rotates the platter in Belt driving turntables is off-center and connected to the platter by a driving belt.
The platter is rotated by the motor, which converts electrical energy into kinetic energy.
To limit noise generated by the motor's moving elements, the motor is positioned away from the platter and the stylus. Belt drive turntables are quieter than direct drive turntables. The elastic rubber belt that connects the separated motor functions works as an additional shock absorber, preventing motor vibrations, allowing for greater sound quality.
The Belt Drive is chosen by vinyl fans who value sound quality above performance.
2. Direct Drive:
The motor in a direct drive is directly connected to the platter on which the vinyl record is held.
Direct drive turntables have a short start-up time, which is one of its main advantages. The motor can start and stop quickly.
As a result, they are great for DJs who need to bring the next song in the queue online exactly when it is required. It also allows for scratching and back spinning because of the direct connection Direct drive turntables also have more torque and a more stable speed than belt drive turntables. This means that there is less distortion when the record begins to play.
Direct drive turntables are often more expensive than belt drive turntables because of their complicated construction and additional features such as variable pitch control and electronic brakes.
3. Idler Wheel:
An idler drive links the motor shaft to the turntable platter via a wheel with a rubber tire. They were once extremely common, but then replaced by belt drive, which was said to be more quiet.
Technical Specifications of a Turntable:
The number of revolutions per minute (RPM) that the turntable can produce: 33-1/3, 45, or 78 RPM. You will require the speeds that correspond to the records in your collection. The majority of turntables will run at 33-1/3 and 45 RPM. Some turntables are capable of operating at all three speeds.
Wow & Flutter:
Wow describes slow pitch fluctuations. Flutter is a term used to denote rapid changes in pitch. This is expressed as a percentage, with lower figures signifying higher performance.
Signal to Noise Ratio:
The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) compares the strength of a desired signal to the strength of background noise. The signal-to-noise ratio is defined as the signal power divided by the noise power. SNR is measured in decibels.
Tracking Force is the weight at which the needle sits on the record. To provide the best sound and avoid record breakage, the stylus must make contact with the record at the proper weight.
Setting up your Turntable
Choose a stable and vibration-free surface: Place your turntable on a strong, level platform away from speakers or other vibration sources. This helps to reduce unwanted resonance while also ensuring accurate playback. Place a spirit level on your turntable's platter and adjust the feet or levelling screws until the bubble is centred. This gives perfect alignment and eliminates tracking and playback errors.
Tracking Force & Anti Skate:
Tracking force and anti-skate settings may differ depending on the turntable model. For recommended values, consult the manual or the manufacturer's guidelines.
Set the tracking force using the counterweight at the back of the tonearm.
This ensures that the stylus applies the right pressure to the record for accurate playback while preventing any damage. The anti-skate mechanism counteracts the record groove's inward push on the tonearm. Adjust it to the appropriate settings to avoid the stylus skipping or excessive wear on one side of the groove.
Balancing the Tonearm:
Move the tonearm sideways to a position over the record platter and hold it approximately level.
Continue holding the tonearm and release the tonearm lifter, if present, so that the tonearm is capable of moving down to the surface of the platter.
Hold the tonearm level and loosen your hold so that you can feel if it is going to move up or down if released. If it feels like it will move up or down if released, hold the tonearm with one hand while slowly turning the counterweight with the other hand until it feels like the tonearm will stay level when released.
The counterweight may need to be turned clockwise or counterclockwise. Carefully release the tonearm but do not let it fall to the platter. If it stays level, it is balanced.
If it does not stay level, hold the tonearm with one hand and turn the counterweight slightly with your other hand until the tonearm stays level - parallel to the record platter and with the stylus above the surface. Move the tonearm back to the rest.
The first question to ask yourself is, are you looking at getting to vinyl/records full time or are you simply testing the waters. If you know this is going to be a lifelong obsession then we suggest looking at a more 'serious' turntable like the Pro-Ject Debut Essential or Technics SL1200. If you are looking to test the waters then we suggest looking at something more affordable like the Audio Technica LP60 or Denon DP29F - in addition to being reliable and providing great value for money they are also very simple to use and set up.
Yes and No. All turntables require something called a phono stage or pre-amplifier. Enthusiast grade turntables like the Audio Technica LP60 or Denon DP29F have a built in phono stage/pre-amplifier which means they can plug in directly into your system at home. As you move up the turntable food chain like for example the Rega Planar 1 require a dedicated phono stage. Some amplifiers will have a phono input as an option. In these cases the turntable plugs in via that input. For cases where your're amplifier does not have a built in phono or pre-amplifier you will have to purcahse a stand alone phono stage. A typical symptom seen when trying to figure out if you need a phono stage or not is very low output volume from the amplifier.
Generally speaking most needles/styli have an average life of between 600 - 1000 hours. This depends on a variety of factors but is majorly affected by the quality of the records you are playing. Newer, pristine records cause less wear on the stylus than say an older, well played record with scuffs and scratches.
Mass, rigidity, the materials used, the stability of the motor, and isolation are just a few key concepts that play significant roles in the overall performance of the turntable. For starters, mass is usually important because the more massive the turntable, the less like it is to allow external vibration and resonance to get back to the record. The phono cartridge acts very similar to a microphone. That's why when you tap on the base of a turntable, you can hear it through the speakers.
The materials used in the construction of the turntable are also elemental. Picture this: you pick up a hunk of metal and you knock on it a few times. There is a little decay (resonance) each time you hit it. Then you grab a slab of granite and rap on it. It's pretty acoustically dead, no? Now you should be able to grasp how the material of the platter and plinth are critical. For the plinth, MDF (multi-density fiber) , wood, rock, and acrylic are a few choice materials.
For the platter, acrylic, aluminum, glass, and MDF are common. Of course, if the record is not spinning at a consistent speed, it's going to sound like crap. This is why the turntable's motor is important. It needs to handle the incoming AC power in a fashion that prohibits variation in the speed of the motor pulley (for belt-drive turntables).
Home theatre involves a lot of noise (bomb explosions, gunfire, action sequences, etc.) with multiple references and hence unclear standards for judgement. As a result, the home theatre format is less demanding on the fidelity of speakers than the stereo format.