Choosing a turntable and what level to start at.
Why do we listen to vinyl still?
There is something magical about listening to a record that’s different to listening to a digital file. It seems to sound warm, open, detailed, dynamic, spacious, deep, 3 dimensional, smooth and inviting with the perception that you are in the same space. It’s typically not harsh, excessively bright, fatiguing, overly compressed and lifeless. I think the goal when listening to music is to feel something and to be taken away to another place. The desire to be immersed and lost in the detail of a recording is an appealing reason to own a record player.
What are important features to consider?
Using a car analogy some people are happy to buy a basic car and as long as it reliably gets them from A to B they’re fine. Other people love to drive and appreciate high performance and enjoy the experience, every time they get in the car. Those people will also upgrade and modify their car to enhance the performance to suit they way they like it. It’s very common in audio to customise a system to suit your needs. It’s very enjoyable process too.
The biggest considerations are what level you want to start at, take it too and what speaker system it’s going to be played through. Knowing this information will guide you to the level of turntable you should start with. Like any product each respectable turntable brand will have a range products with varying features, qualities and prices to suit everyone.
The features breakdown
A turntable simply works by using a needle to extract information from a record, which sends that information to and phono amplifier and reproduces it through the speakers. How well it does that is the difference between models.
You start by placing a record on the plater and then selecting a speed of 33 or 45 rpm. When you turn the motor on it makes the platter spin and is ready to drop the needle into the groove. The part the needle is attached to is called the stylus. The stylus is connected to the cartridge, which is attached to the tone arm. The sound travels though the tone arm, via a cable to the phono stage.
As you can see there are a lot of components that play a part in the sound so it’s the combination of these products and their design that creates the overall “quality”.
Set up and system requirements
Other factors that influence the sound are how well the turntable is correctly setup, vibration management and the phono amplifier it’s coupled with.
When setting up a turntable the first thing to look at is making sure the counter weight on the end of the tone arm is set correctly to the preferred tracking force. This information is in the manual but if you hear distortion its possibly to heavy.
The next thing to make sure is the cartridge is aligned correctly by using a protractor. If this is done properly you will hear a balanced left and right image from the speakers. If the alignment is out you will hear it more on one side and less on the other plus distortion and noise.
Making sure your turntable is isolated from surfaces as much as possible reduces unwanted vibrations that will affect the performance and sound quality. The better the turntable the better it naturally handles vibrations.
Although all turntables will work out of the box for those that want to have customise the sound here is a list of parts you can change to improve your sound. The slip mat, the belt, the cartridge, stylus, the power supply, the audio cables, the plater, isolation platforms and the phono preamp are all upgradable.
Must have Accessories
- Record Brush
- Stylus Brush
- Cleaning kit
If you have just been frightened or overwhelmed by the variables don’t worry it can be as simple as you want it to be to enjoy music. I believe these possibilities should be embraced and seen as an exciting journey into a world of great sound.
Once you have your system set up the new fun begins finding the records you want. More and more people are inheriting collections and bands are rereleasing older recordings. New bands are releasing their music on vinyl for the first time, which is great. Don’t forget Sydney Hifi Mona Vale is here to guide you through the journey.