Vinyl records have been around for a long time. They were replaced by cassette tapes, which were, in turn, replaced by CD, which have been usurped by digital downloads. But there is a resurgence in the music industry and like many things, what is old is new again. Vinyl records are regaining popularity.
Whether you are just starting to collect, or you are old enough to have a vinyl collection of your own, turntables are essential to the enjoyment of your music. After all, what good is a record if you have nothing to play it on?
Things to Think About
You don’t need to be a professional DJ or a sound engineer to buy a good turntable, but it does help if you have a basic understanding of the parts of a turntable. Ultimately, all you want to do is put the needle on the record and enjoy the music that comes out. It is important though to understand that precision in a turntable is crucial. The average groove is narrower than a human hair, so the more precise the turntable, the better your sound quality will be.
Here’s a list of parts of a turntable:
- Base (AKA: Plinth) – It’s the bottom of the turntable that supports everything else. Bases usually have feet attached for stability, and can be made from different materials.
- Patter – This is the part that rotates. It’s what you put the record on top of when you want to play it, and is powered by a motor. The platter’s speed can be adjusted and they have a soft mat to protect the record.
- Tonearm – This is the arm that moves across the record. When you lift it and put the needle down, the tone arm will help maintain a consistent sound quality. Sometimes there is a cueing device that lifts the arm itself and places it on the record.
- Cartridge & Stylus – The stylus is normally referred to as a needle and a cartridge is the housing for the needle. The stylus is the part that makes contact with the record, so you should invest in a good quality cartridge. Small upgrades can make a huge difference.
Sweet Spot of Cost
Turntables can range in price from under $100 to well over $1000. If you’re new to turntables, then you probably don’t want to just ump in and spend a lot of money on a high-end unit. At the same time, you don’t want to buy a cheap unit that will sound terrible, and possibly turn you off from the sound of vinyl.
Generally, the sweet spot for a new turntable for beginners is between $300 and $500. This means that the quality is better than the most basic entry level units, but doesn’t burn a hole the size of an LP in your pocket.
Many of the units in this range will also allow upgrades, which means that you can buy a better cartridge for your unit, as well as new belts or a new stylus. These upgrades will help you get even better performance.
1. Music Hall MMF 5.1
One of the better turntables in the sweet spot of price is the Music Hall MMF-5.1 Audiophile Turntable. It’s a basic, entry-level turntable that makes a great introduction to people who are either just developing an interest in vinyl, or looking for an economical unit to buy.
What makes the Music Hall MMF so great?
- Its belt drive motor is quiet and vibration free. This allows full enjoyment of your music collection without additional noise due to the vibration. It also means that you won’t hear the noise from the motor during quiet moments in the music.
- The tone arm is no longer a unipivot arm, and is easier to maintain.
- The unit comes with an Ortofon OM5 E cartridge, which is an improvement from the previous cartridge included with the unit.
- Manual change drive belt to select between 33 1/3 rpm and 45 rpm.
- The base is made of stiff particle board, and the platter is made of a medium density fiber board.
- A felt mat for the platter and a dust cover are also included in this model.
2. Rega RP1
Another highly rated turntable for under $1000 is the Rega – RP1 Turntable w/Performance Pack – White. It has an sound quality that is generally excellent, as well as being easy to set up and use. Its solid build makes it a solid addition to your home entertainment system. Some of its features include:
- Elys 2 moving magnet cartridge.
- Clear and dynamic sound
- Stronger brace between the base of the arm and the bearing.
The world of vinyl and turntables is growing once again, and many people are rediscovering the sound of a record over digital music. Choosing a solid turntable in the price range you want is essential to your enjoyment of this retro-style of entertainment.