Over recent years, the vinyl record player has been making a surprising comeback.
In the digital age, where over 85% of music is streamed, many people still relish the experience having a physical record player and an album they can hold and store. Many avid listeners prefer the analog sound of a turntable over digital music files and enjoy collecting vinyl records.
Whether you’re new to vinyl record players or have the budget for professional-quality turntables, you can find a broad selection of turntables at Audio Technica. Here’s our guide about what you need to know while you look for the best turntable to buy.
Types of Turntables Available
Modern turntables come with new features and are a big change compared to the clunky old machines used in the past. These new updates include USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, and better designs.
These turntables are generally easier to use and more cost-effective for music lovers who are new to vinyl records.
The Rega Planar 1 or Pro-Ject Debut Carbon are considered high-end entry-level players and may be out of your budget, but one more affordable option is the AT-LP3. The Audio Technica AT-LP3 has an automatic belt drive, so you only have to press a few buttons for the tonearm to lift, and it will play instantly.
It can play 33-1/3 and 45 RPM records. The RPM indicates the speeds at which the record can spin at. Generally speaking, 45 RPM is quite fast, which makes the sound much better.
Unlike the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, the Audio Technica AT-LP3 comes with a switchable phono preamp, which adjusts the sound to the right frequency when connecting to your external speakers. There is a fully automatic tonearm, lots of detail and generous space for the price, exceptional tones and a built-in phono stage.
If you’re happy with a casual vinyl player with a decent listening experience, the Audio Technica AT-LP60X is a great choice that is easy to set up and use. It’s also one great option for first-time vinyl record player owners.
Like the AT-LP3, it has an automatic belt drive equipped with speeds of 33-1/3 and 45 RPM. It comes with a USB output to integrate with software like Audacity, where it will read your records and convert them to digital audio files.
It includes one RCA output cable and a built-in phono preamp, so users can play their music through a stereo or boom box. The AT-LP3 uses a dual magnet phono cartridge so it can trace the signal better without being distorted.
Good Value Turntables
The AT-LP60XBT is an improvement on the AT-LP60X and comes with Bluetooth connectivity. It is easily one of the best value turntables to buy. The music hangs together well, the timing is spot on, and it strikes a good balance of highs and lows.
It has wireless Bluetooth connectivity making the turntable capable of connecting with your smartphone. Like the many Audio Technica turntables, it has an automatic belt drive. It’s similar to a CD player in that all you need to do is position it on the platter and press start.
If needed, users can change the speeds, and it will read the record from 33-1/3 or 45 RPM. It plays beautiful vinyl dulcet tones and has a clear and crisp sound. It also has an aluminum platter built for durability.
Turntables For Experienced Listeners
For those keen on listening to rich and clear tones, the AT-LP5X is our best recommendation. It has a cardioid polar pattern which reduces the chance of picking up unwanted sounds or feedback from the rear and sides.
Instead of the classic automatic belt drive, this new turntable will play the albums with a fully manual direct drive. This change means that the turntable has a faster start-up speed which makes it easy for music producers to stop and rewind vinyl, so they can align the beats accordingly.
It also comes with a sturdy tripod desk with folding legs so that users can play their records on-the-go.
It has great build quality and very good durability, supports 78 playback, has an USB-out included for recording and offers good value for its price.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Vinyl Record Player
Whether you’re buying an entry-level turntable or something more advanced, make sure to consider the features, build, and other factors.
Most people buy vinyl record players because they want to improve their sound quality and enhance the overall listening experience. The sound will be determined by the build quality, such as the audio components, needle, and other materials used.
If you’re looking for a record player that fills up a large room, then consider getting one with a larger body since they usually have greater power.
It’s important to consider your budget for a new vinyl record player and the type of features you’d like. Unfortunately, record players below 100 dollars are made from low-quality components that won’t last you very long and produce poor quality sound.
Here are some of the best features that you get based on the price range of the record player:
Low price: (Under $400)
- Built-in preamp
- Automatic operation
- Aluminum tonearm and platter
- Some plastic components
- Entry-level cartridge
Mid-price: (Between $400 to $800)
- Medium-quality cartridge
- Acrylic or steel platter
- Carbon fiber tonearm
- Manual operation
- Heavy plinth or base
High-end: ($800 and up)
- High-end cartridge
- The advanced engineering of tonearm assembly, wiring, and plinth
- No built-in preamp
- Trademark materials in bearings, platter, and other part
Bluetooth-in or out
It’s important to recognize whether the record player is Bluetooth-in or Bluetooth-out. A Bluetooth-in works by having the signal travel into the record player so that users can connect their mp3 device or smartphone. This enables them to play their digital music through the record player internal speakers.
In contrast, a Bluetooth-out player allows you to transfer your vinyl records into Bluetooth speakers. This works by having the turntable signal sent out to the external speakers to give your sound a boost.
How important is it for you to move the record player around? Sometimes you’ll want to listen to records in one room before moving into another. Or maybe you like to bring it with you to a friend’s house.
Portable record players have foldable locks and handle to be easily transported using a suitcase. However, don’t confuse the portable player with a wireless record player. A wireless player uses batteries or rechargeable batteries to operate. This can be handy, especially if you want to play music outside, such as at a park.
Manual, Semi-Automatic or Fully Automatic
These features determine how much a user interacts with the turntable from beginning to end of a record.
Manual: Manual operation is best for people who want more control and care more about the quality of sound over convenience. Lift the tonearm and position the needle into the record’s lead groove.
Users must manually move the tonearm to the record and back to the beginning once the record is finished playing. Since there aren’t any additional attachments to limit how it tracks the record, a manual turntable will produce the most high-quality tones.
Since there are fewer internal mechanisms functioning, it won’t need much maintenance. All of the best-performing turntables are fully manual.
Semi-Automatic: You have to manually lift and lower the tonearm on the record. Users must make sure to line up the needle to land at the start of the record groove. However, it’ll move back to the beginning automatically when the music stops playing.
Although there aren’t many semi-automatic turntables these days, the Rega Planar 1 is the best example of one.
Fully-Automatic: Automatic record players have an automatic tonearm that moves directly to the record without needing to touch it. Typically, automatic players utilise a belt drive to spin the platter and produce music.
Automatic turntables are typically the most expensive since they require extra components to automatically shift the mechanisms. However, you won’t have to worry about getting the needle stuck on the outer groove or missing the edge of the record when positioning the tonearm which is best for those new to these vinyl players.
Convert your vinyl records into digital audio files by using a record player with USB connectivity. Some record players require only a USB stick to be plugged into the USB port to convert the vinyl record into a digital one.
Other record players will need you to connect the USB cable into a Windows PC or Mac to specific software that can convert from an analog signal to digital. For example, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X has a USB output that enables direct connection to your computer.
You can then download the Audacity software (compatible with both Mac and PC) to begin converting records into digital files.
Audio Inputs and Outputs
Another factor to consider is how you want to listen to your music. Some records have a headphone jack to plug in headphones and immerse yourself into the music.
If you want to connect your .mp3 to the record player, you can find a turntable with a built-in aux-in function. This enables you to tune into your favorite digital music collection and get the benefits of enhanced sound quality.
For those who want to connect their external speakers or external amplifier to a turntable, you can get one with an aux-out function. This will give your turntable that extra boost in power to fill up a room for best results.
Besides sound quality, many people want a record player collection that fits their interior design. Many retro record players have unique and eye-catching designs. You can also go for wood turntables for a more industrial interior.
If you’re after something with a more modern look, the best option might be to get something with a matte finish.
Belt Drive or Direct Drive
The belt drive or direct drive is the choice of motor that you prefer. With a belt-drive, the belt will spin the platter means it takes a little longer to play at full speed. A belt drive also requires more maintenance.
In contrast, the direct drive has a motor located beneath the platter. Many music producers like a direct drive as their motor because it’s easy to spin in any direction. This motor also gives you better speed control allowing users to switch up the tempo and blend two songs.
If you want to plug your speakers or receiver into your vinyl turntable, you’ll need a phono preamp. It works by boosting the signal to a higher level so that an external audio system can receive it. A phono preamp is required for you to hear music from your speakers or stereo system.
Some are built-in, while others ones aren’t, so you’ll need a separate preamp. A simple way to test whether the turntable has a built-in phono preamp is by plugging in speakers.
If there are no distortions and the volume is high, the turntable has a built-in preamp. For example, the Audio Technica AT-LP3 turntable has a built-in switchable phono preamp. Having a built-in preamp saves you money because you don’t have to buy a separate one to plug into your speakers.
For those that need to purchase an external phono preamp, we recommend getting the moving coil. It has a slow-moving mass to ensure a higher frequency and decreasing the chances of radio frequency interference.
Although it comes at a higher price tag, the sound quality is much better than other moving magnet preamps.
How to Maintain a Vinyl Record Player
A vinyl record player requires regular maintenance to ensure that it continues to sound great and run smoothly for a long time. Failing to perform proper care can lead to parts being worn out and even damaging your vinyl records.
Wipe down your player after every use and do a deep clean once a month.
Remove the Dust
Prevent dust buildup by having a dust cover and brush it every two weeks or after each use with a microfiber dusting cloth. You may also wet the cloth with rubbing alcohol to get rid of dirt and dust. Start by wiping the center of the record and working your way outwards.
Protecting Your Stylus
Like the turntable, the stylus should also be cleaned after each use. Use a soft bristle brush to clean the stylus. Start by wiping the stylus from the back to the front. Avoid wiping it from side to side.
Even if you’re diligent about cleaning and taking care of your turntable, you’ll eventually need to replace the stylus and belt.
A good indicator for potential signs of wear and tear on the stylus is skipping, static, jumping, and hissing sounds. Also, look out for jagged edges or any bent in the material.
After many years and uses, a turntable may stop spinning. Luckily, it’s quite easy to replace the belt in a few minutes. First, turn off the unit and lift the platter. Remove the cover and wipe down the surface clean.
Remember to first read through the instructions found inside of the belt’s packaging and then set the belt into place.
Where to Get a Vinyl Record Player
There are a few options to get your hands on a vinyl record player. You can either buy them at your local record store or online.
Rack85 is a Singapore-based lifestyle electronics store that offers the best premium collection of Audio Technica vinyl record players to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a manual or automatic turntable, this Singapore-based e-commerce store has what you’re looking for in stock.
Turntables make a great addition to your home or a fantastic gift for friends. Check out Rack85 to get yourself a new set of vinyl record players.