Hello, everybody! This is Jude from The Revolver Club. In the past five years, I have met a lot of people who wanted to join the #VinylCulture but lacked a reliable guide. So, I decided to launch a YouTube series to answer the questions that have been frequently asked to me over the years. I hope this video answers all your questions.
Where do I begin?
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 setup.
Click Hereto check out our collection of turntables.
Will these turntables work on my existing stereo system/home theater?
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.
Basic parts of a turntable
- Plinth The plinth is the base of the turntable. The plinth's job is to minimize vibrations from the motor and can be made from a variety of materials including MDF, wood etc.
The platter is the circular disk mounted on the plinth. Your records are placed on this. Generally the more expensive the turntable the the heavier the platter. This helps minimize and absorb vibrations which improves overall performance.
The tonearm is the part of the turntable that guides the stylus (also known as the needle) through the grooves on the vinyl.
The cartridge is mounted to the end of the tonearm. The cartridge also includes the stylus or needle.
The stylus tracks the grooves on the record.
There are two types of Cartridges, moving magnet [MM] which are present on the vast majority of turntables and moving coil [MC] cartridges which are usually found on the higher end turntables.
MM cartridges are literally a magnet that’s attached to the cantilever. As the stylus tracks, it causes the whole cantilever to move as well. The MM communicates magnetically with fixed coils inside the cartridge body, the magnetic signals are converted to and electrical signal.
MC work in a way similar to MM however in the case of MC the coils are attached directly to the cantilever.
MM cartridges usually have replaceable styli. MC on the other hand usually do not have replacement styli.
How often should I change my needle?
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.
Usually a weight mounted on the back of the tone-arm that can be adjusted to set the tracking force [pressure that the stylus exerts on the surface of the record].
Properly setting your counterweight is important in order to achieve the best sound quality. Set too heavy and your stylus will be too light and will cause the record to skip. Set too light and your needle will be too heavy and while it will track your vinyl well, it can cause damage to the grooves of the record.
What's the difference between an automatic and a manual turntable?
Fully-automatic turntables like the term suggests are fully automatic. The arms raises and drops by itself. When the album ends the arm will automatically lift and place itself on the the tonearm holder.
Manual turntables like the name suggest are exactly that, fully manual. To operate the turntable you first have to initiate the motor which will cause the platter to spin, after which you place the tonearm on the appropriate part of the record you are going to play. Usually the arm is dropped by pulling a lever attached to the tonearm.
- Why would I choose a manual turntable?
In terms of sound quality, automatic turntables and arms add gears and parts to the equation that add resonance and reduce rigidity, which amounts to degraded sonic performance. We'll discuss those details later on in our conversation.
What's the difference between a "belt drive" and a "direct drive" turntable?
Belt drive turntables have an independent motor that drives the platter — the thing you put the record itself on — with a rubber belt.
Direct drive turntables have a platter that is integral to the motor.
Belt drive turntables can't be used for DJing, but you can use a direct drive turntable for that purpose. Audiophiles prefer belt drive turntables because they produce less outside noise and vibration.
What makes one turntable sound better than another?
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).