So you’ve decided that vinyl records are for you.
Great, but if you want to have the best listening experience possible, you can’t just buy any old turntable and expect it to deliver quality results. You need to invest in gear that’s going to help maximize the enjoyment of your music (and that goes for preamps and speakers too, not just the turntable). After all, you’re going to pay a lot more for a record than for a digital download.
Here are some tips on how to find a quality turntable to play your vinyl records on.
Look at the Price
Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s good. But if you know what you’re looking for, you’re almost always going to get a better piece of equipment for more money rather than less. Be prepared to spend more if you’re looking to get more enjoyment out of your records.
Here’s a basic breakdown of price range and the quality of turntable you can expect to get:
- $500 or less: you can get a basic, decent quality turntable for $500 or less. You’ll have the choice between an automatic and manual player, though purists prefer manual. If your speakers do not have a turntable input, you’re going to have to consider alternative solutions, such as a USB turntable, or one with a built-in phono preamp.
- $500 to $1,000: it’s safe to say you will get a better turntable in the $500 to $1,000 range than you would for less, as they typically have better construction and quality parts.
- $1,000 or more: the best quality turntables cost $1,000 or more, and offer the best sound quality. Basically, they reduce vibrations to eliminate unwelcome resonance.
Look at the Specs
A record player’s specs don’t necessarily have anything to do with its overall sound quality. But they can still provide a worthwhile reference point for what to look for.
Here are a few items to watch for, and what they mean:
- Speed variation: for optimal sound, you want your record to turn at a consistent speed. Wow and flutter or speed variation tells you how accurate your record player is. The lower the number, the better the record player. In an ideal world, it would be less than 0.25%.
- S/N ratio: also known as signal-to-noise ratio, this spec tells you how much background noise you can expect on any given turntable. You would think that the lower the number, the better, but it’s actually the opposite. You want the music to overpower noise. So 65dB or above would be a good number to look for.
- Playback speeds: this refers to the rotation speed for the record. In most cases, the spec will be 33-1/3 and 45 RPM. But if you’re looking to play 78 RPM records, new turntables typically can’t handle that speed, so you’ll need to look for a different player.
Look at the Reviews
Finally, there are plenty of people out there that have done their homework and have experimented enough to know what’s good and what isn’t. Whether it’s blog posts or reviews on Amazon, you can find plenty of information on what to look for in a turntable.