Record Store Day, the annual party of and for fans of vinyl, seems to become a bigger event in the Netherlands with around a hundred participating stores and more than five hundred unique releases. In addition, LP sales continue to rise consistently: in a music landscape dominated by streaming, the turnover in 2017 increased by a quarter, accounting for thirty percent of the total Dutch edition of physical music media. The market for vinyl is alive!
For those who want to work with the ‘black gold’ but do not know where to start, we go back to the basics and we have some things you need know in a row. If you want to know what to look for when choosing a nice turntable, we would like to refer you to the final buying tips.
Turntables: the parts
A needle, a tone arm and an engine that lets your record turn around: probably you know in the basics what a record player consists of. Nevertheless, it is good to put the various parts in a row, because in a good record player they – and especially their mutual cooperation – get a lot of attention to get the best out of your record. A record player, turntable or pick-up is in fact a sensitive creature, so the right care for each part is important.
In principle, a turntable can be reduced to a turntable powered by an electric motor, the motor itself and a tone arm containing an element, all of which are mounted on the chassis (or base) of the turntable. In addition, there is of course wiring and accessories, such as a dust cover and a puck to keep the plate stable. The plate puck presses the plate firmly against the platform due to its heavy weight; the better contact between plate and plateau prevents resonances and creates less unwanted movements.
An important part of that list that we want to explain here is the element and the choice that you have. It has the perhaps greatest influence on the reproduction quality.
Turntables: the element
The element of the turntable reads the information from the record (the grooves in the vinyl) and converts the vibrations into a signal that goes to an amplifier is sent, which makes music with the loudspeakers. These vibrations occur because a magnet and a coil (or coil) are set in motion with respect to each other. The needle that makes that possible moves with firm speeds and can be exposed to enormous forces. It is therefore important that very fine mechanics are used, which can accurately move that work.
By far the most common elements are MM and MC. These abbreviations indicate the technique used: MM for Moving Magnet and MC for Moving Coil . Choice between the two is mostly made on the basis of price, quality and the match with the turntable, as well as the tone arm and the complete hi-fi set.
Turntables: the connection
Besides the basic elements as described above there are quite a few variants on the market, and moreover there is still a whole world of tuning, tuning and tweaking behind the turntable. Fortunately, there is already a lot on the market for loafers in the category plug & play, of which more later. So you do not have to put the average entry-level turntable together, you can get started with it. But to actually get music from your records, you still need some more. A set of speakers, for example …
Apart from modern active speakers, speakers with amplifiers built in, you also need a stereo amplifier or receiver to convert the analogue signal from the turntable into music. It must also have a phono input to amplify the weak signal of the turntable.
There are basically three ways to connect a turntable to an amplifier. The first is directly on your amplifier or receiver, if it is equipped with such a phono input and thus a built-in pre-amplifier (so pay attention!). Option two is from the built-in pre-amp in the record player itself, an integrated preamplifier that contains a large part of the modern turntables. If your amplifier does not have a phono input, then the amp of the turntable can offer a solution. The third and last possibility is via an interim solution: a separate pre-amplifier. Nice if you do not allow turntable and amplifier option one and two.
Turntables: how it works
How it all works? We can go into that very comprehensively, but a short and clear insight into the technique and the operation of a turntable may be better left to a film. Because how does a traditional record player really work? The people behind the YouTube channel Science Channel have put a nice video on this, using the famous Linn Sondek LP12. In two minutes you know a lot more.
A turntable is, as said before, a sensitive device, belonging to the most critical audio components. This not only means that you have to be careful with it, but also that more than a number of things affect the view. Think of choice of materials, the acoustics of the room and of course the rest of your audio system, but also the right placement.
First of all, ensure a flat surface, preferably at a safe height. Placing a record player in the vicinity of a loudspeaker that builds up a lot of pressure (for example a large floor stand or a subwoofer) should be avoided, given the acoustic disturbances. Acoustic feedback is a problem irrespective of the type of transducer, so finally avoid placement in a corner, niche or bay window.
Finally: Buying Tips
Then some smart buying tips for the purchase of a record player, set out in this top 5 by Eric de Boer . Because even though those trendy Crosley cases are very funny, you can go for the real work better. That does not have to cost a fortune.