Welcome to all fans of the Vinyl Music Player and and to everyone who enjoys playing vinyl records.
This is a website dedicated to reviews of vinyl record players and and turntable music players. We also have a dedicated record player store. It is for people who already have a record player and are looking to change or upgrade as well as people new to the pleasure of playing vinyl records and are looking to get into this world.
Buying a Record Player Guide
There are so many qualities that you will get from listening to music through a record and turntable that you don't get from CDs or from MP3s (and don't even start talking about cassettes!).
Record players give a real style to playing music. Instead of just pressing a button on a CD player or an iPod, you actually have to operate the tonearm and stylus and make sure that it gets into the groove properly before you can listen to your song. This simple act of actually operating the vinyl music player is far more inclusive than the other methods and, at the risk of sounding pretentious, it helps you feel the music more than anything else.
Many people come over all nostalgic when they think about playing vinyl records and this is understandable. It brings us back to the days of the 1960s to 1980s when there were no other alternatives (except for the dreaded cassette of course!) and, through our rose tinted spectacles, we can imagine a better, happier world! However, that is not a good reason to spend your money on a vinyl record player. No, you should recognise that instead of being nostalgic and harking back to a golden age, record players are very much now – part of the 21st Century. Notice that when the rest of the world were giving up their vintage record players in favour of CDs, loads of club DJs continued to use vinyl for creating their dance anthems in clubs all over the world. These DJs are very discerning audiophiles and the very fact that they have clung onto using vinyl record players speaks volumes for the quality that is produced by a turntable.
Playing your music on vinyl is itself a pleasurable activity. Collecting a music library slowly or going to a record player store and carefully seeking out lost gems is far more rewarding than clicking a button and downloading another song from iTunes. This has it's place of course, but the very idea of holding a record sleeve in your hand as you sit back and listen to that B-side from your heroes is something that the MP3 just cannot provide. Studying the lyrics and pouring over the record sleeve for hidden messages from the band is lost if you only buy the hits from well-known artists or download your music from dodgy file sharing websites. The artwork on vinyl records is larger and more engaging than on a CD or anything that you can download. You will never feel the same love for your record collection unless you have hunted down each record and lovingly put it together. Collecting records in independent music stores, flea markets, car boot sales or online is great fun and has become a huge hobby for many people. This is how new bands get discovered and developed – far more rewarding that following the "free download of the week" spot on iTunes!
Now, I did say above that there is a place for listening to music on devices other than record players and that place is in the car! (Is the car record player ever going to take off?!) These days, through the development of USB turntables, it is possible to listen to your vinyl records on your record player and to put those records onto a CD or MP3 player for when you are in the car or out jogging. This way, you get the best of all worlds – the romance and quality of a record and turntable combined with the ease and convenience of a portable player. Not quite the same, but who said that anything is perfect?
There are several things that you will need to think about when you are buying a record player.
Are you going to use it for home use or for DJ-ing?
DJs will need to get a record player with direct drive (instead of belt drive), because they need more power. A DJ will also need to have pitch control to manage the records speed more easily. A home user will be fine with an analogue turntable that can connect up to an existing system at home. The lack of direct drive means that the machine is less noisy and you can get s stronger sound in the home.
What sort of records will you be playing?
If you are playing mostly 45s and 33s, then nearly all record players will be able to deal with that. Modern record players are likely to be able to play all speeds, but if you are getting a vintage record player, then just watch out that it doesn't only play 78s. If you like the older styles, but want a high quality modern sound, there are lots of stylish retro record players available.
Do you want to be able to save your records to CD or onto your computer?
If so, you need a USB connection. Again, this is available of lots of modern record players and will add to the value of the turntable music player.
Do you have a preferred brand?
There are lots of excellent record player manufacturers around and we are reviewing many of their products. As a general rule, if you buy a Steepletone record player, a Crosley turntable, a Dansette record player or a Rega turntable, you won't go far wrong.
Are you looking for a used record player?
There are some great products available on websites like eBay for someone buying a record player, but with so many excellent new products available, buying second hand may not be worth the risk if you don't know what you are looking for. If you do buy second hand, pay particular attention to the quality and condition of the stylus needle as a bent needle is sure to scratch your records. If you do decide to buy a used turntable, make sure that you check whether the cartridge and stylus are included in the price. A good quality cartridge and stylus is an essential part of the package that you will need, so don’t get stung by not having these in your purchase.
What else to you need to know when buying a turntable music player?
It is really important that your turntable is made of solid construction. Something thin or rickety simply won’t be good enough, because it will sound cheap and bad.
You need a solid base for your turntable. A strong table and floor is required to avoid the vibrations affecting the record player. If the room gets shaken a lot, think about how you can place the turntable onto something solid. Turntables work best when they are completely flat and it is worth using a spirit level to make sure that the table they are on is straight
The best quality turntables will not feed back any sound and this will be quieter as the sound of the machinery is less and therefore you can concentrate on the music. Like so many other things in life, you get what you pay for, but there are still some great examples of the best record players being available for bargain prices.
Good quality belt drive turntables should last for 5 – 10 years before the belt inside needs to be replaced. Direct drive (DJ style) turntables are slightly more robust and can manage a bit more shaking around. This is why they are suitable for use at discos and on a dance floor
Manual Record Player
The most basic type. They have a manual tonearm which is put in place by the listener and is then lifted away when the record is finished. Be careful not to scratch when you are moving the tonearm. They are the cheapest type of turntable, because they are the most simple, with fewer internal parts. A steady hand is needed, but they have a classic, simple feel to them. These are generally preferred by audiophiles, because of their stripped back, retro feel. They are a great way to combine the record and turntable.
Similar to the manual models in that the listener places the tonearm onto the record wherever they want to start playing, but at the end of the album, the tone arm will automatically lift off and return to it’s holder. This is convenient and helps to protect the stylus. The additional mechanics needed to lift the tonearm off will be reflected in a slighter higher price than a manual record player.
Fully automatic turntable
These move the tone arm into place automatically at the start of playing and then lift it away again at the end of the record. If the user physically moves the tone arm themselves, they run the risk of damaging the motor so this needs to be avoided. The increased complexity and machinery for a fully automatic turntable inevitably means that it has more working parts and needs to be maintained more carefully. This also makes the fully automatic turntable more expensive than a manual turntable.
What are the differences between direct drive turntables and belt drive turntables?
|Direct Drive||Belt Drive|
|Manual Placement of the tone arm onto the record while it is static helps to keep the stylus and the record in good condition for longer||Clumsy listeners can easily scratch a record when placing the tone arm on manually|
|Some direct drive turntables have heavy platters to avoid distortion problems||Modern belt drives have polymer based drives to extend their life and avoid distortion|
|The central placement of some motors can cause vibrations that will affect the audio quality||Heavy platters help to improve the stability of the record player and this leads to quiet, low feedback music|
This is the bottom of the turntable which supports the rest of the components. It will usually have feet attached to ensure stability, which is vital for good playback. The plinth is usually made out of wood, plastic or metal.
This is the rotating part where the record is placed. The heavier the platter is, the better, because vibration can be avoided. There is usually a mat placed between the record and the platter to provide grip and to help with vibration dampening.
This is the arm that swings over the record and connects the needle to the record as it spins. The arm is designed in such a way that the speed and sound it creates from the record is consistent whether the music is playing on the outside of the record or the inside
Cartridge / Stylus
These terms are often confused by people as they mean very similar things. The stylus is the needle at the very end of the tone arm which is the only part of the turntable to make contact with the record. The cartridge is the housing which holds the stylus in place at the end of the tone arm. There is rarely a reason to change the cartridge unless you are making major changes to your record player, but the stylus should be replaced or upgraded more often as it will wear with playing vinyl records regularly.
Should you get a vinyl record player or a USB turntable?
A built in USB port on the turntable has the advantage of allowing you to connect your vinyl music player to a computer and then transfer the music into digital format on the computer. This means that you can store the songs in MP3 format and listen to them on your portable device or easily burn them to a CD for listening in the car.
Many audiophiles are critical of USB turntables, because it is felt that the extra components for the computer connection are put in at the expense of the quality of the rest of the record player. This is why you should pay particular attention to the reviews of each USB turntable. A USB turntable makes good sense if you are looking to digitalize a large, old record collection, but if you want digital music, it may make sense to register with a streaming service like Apple Music or Spotify where you are likely to be able to hear all your old records in digital format. Convenient, but certainly without the charm of playing vinyl records on a turntable music player.
Enjoy your vinyl record player and let us know what you think!
So, hopefully you will see the benefits of a buying a record player and this website will allow you to think about the best one for you. Enjoy browsing our record player reviews and feel free to get in touch with any comments or questions as we would love to hear from you. The contact form can be found in the sidebar of every page.
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