Record players buyers’ guide
Welcome to Crowdstorm – and welcome (back) to the joys of vinyl! If, like us, you thought your days of record collecting were over only to be lured back in by those sexy black slabs of goodness, fear not: we’ll update you on what’s been going on in the world of turntables while you’ve been away.
The resurgence in vinyl has been remarkable and proves people still love to own a ‘thing’, even if more of our listening is done digitally nowadays. But there’s nothing better than slipping that old Pop Will Eat Itself 12” out of its sleeve and cranking up the volume on your vintage record player…
But enough reminiscing. If that vintage deck has seen better days, or if you’re totally new to the world of vinyl, where do you start with comparing record players? Well right here of course – let us walk you through the basics.
How much do turntables cost?
If you're feeling extravagant (or you're a football player) you can pay over £1,000 for a record player. Alternatively, you can get a brilliant deck for less than £500 - or even pay less than £100 for a basic name brand model from the likes of Sony or Audio Technica. At around £200-250, you're spoilt for choice.
Turntable motor type
One of your first turntable decisions will be to choose whether you want a belt drive, or direct drive record player.
Generally, like-for-like, belt-drive turntables are considered to be the best option. They have a small independent motor that drives a rubber belt to spin the turntable, therefore creating less noise and vibration than a direct drive model that uses the player’s integral motor.
But it’s never that easy, is it? Direct drive record players tend to start-up faster and be more sturdier and more reliable over time, while manufacturers such as Technics have proved over the years they can make direct drive turntables that compete with the world’s best.
Stand-alone vs separates record players
A stand-alone player will tend to have volume control and speakers built in, meaning you can simply plug and play. You’ll tend to find these at the novelty or cheaper end of the market, but depending on your needs they can certainly do the job.
Seperates plug into an amplifier and, together with your speakers, make up you’re a home entertainment system. You’ll find cheap record player separates too, but the real audiophile will be happy to pay upward of £500 for the turntable alone.
Feeling at home with vinyl speeds
Different records play at different speeds, or ‘revolutions per minute’ (RPMs). The old standards are 45RPM for a 7” or 12” single, and 33RPM for an LP (or long player/album). However it is not uncommon to find singles that play at 33RPM – while you’ll also find older records that play at 78RPM.
While the vast majority of vinyl will play at 33 or 45, if you are thinking about delving into our musical heritage (78s were phased out in the 1950s) you’ll probably want to ensure your record player covers all three speeds.
Record player cartridges (needles)
This is something you’ll unlikely have to worry about, as your record player is likely to come with one – but the cartridge is the unit (that slots onto the end of the arm) that holds the needle used to play your vinyl. There are two types, depending on your player: headshell and direct mount.
Simply put, the more you spend the better your cartridge will be – and this will effect everything from sound quality to tracking (how much force the arm puts on the vinyl). Budding DJs will want to look for DJ specific cartridges, while the true vinyl junkie will opt for moving coil cartridges over moving magnet. While back in crazy money land, you can even get laser turntables, reducing the chance of scratches to zero. But you're looking at thousands of pounds for those...
What will you be plugging your record player into?
This is a really important consideration. In brief, a record player needs a ‘phono preamp’ to be able to play through an amplifier. The good news is that in the vast majority of cases either your record player will have one built in (so you’ll be able to plug them into an AUX port on your stereo), or the amp – especially older ones – will (it’ll have a PHONO port).
Otherwise you’ll have to pick one up, but don’t worry – you can find cheap ones for under £20. And remember a preamp is also useful if you’re wanting to plug a record player directly into your computer and the turntable itself doesn’t have a pre-amp built in. You’ll also find USB turntables now, perfect for plugging directly into a computer to turn your vinyl digital.
What else to look out for
Here are some other phrases you may run into as you compare the best deals on record players:
- Tone arms: You'll find both straight and s-shaped tone arms (the rod with the cartridge/needle on the end) out there. Opinions are mixed, with the general consensus being straight arms hold in a groove better; but consequentially wear records faster.
- Manual or automatic: Don’t worry, you haven’t warped into the used car section! Manual turntables require you to place/lower the needle onto the vinyl yourself and then remove it at the end of the record, but you’ll also find semi and full automatic record players (especially retro models) that operate the arm themselves with the touch of a button. You’ll also find semi-automatic models, which do at least remove the arm once the side is finished.
- Pitch control: One for the DJs, this allows you to deviate from the standard speeds of 33 and 45 to help beat matching, create some crazy sound effects, or simply to crank up the party.
- Anti-skating: This technology helps keep the needle in the groove while your record is playing, rather than skating over the top and causing all kinds of trouble to your ears (and your vinyl).
- Slip mat: These are only required by DJs for scratching or beat-matching, but it doesn’t stop most people who have a record player buying one. If you’re not buying to be the disco king, simply choose by design – but avoid velvet (hold dust) or rubber slip mats.
- Stability: This can be absolutely key, especially if you intend to jump around the room you’re playing your records in! The more feet the better, while you’ll also find models that are sprung for extra support.
I’ve found my ideal record player. What do I do next?
So you’ve found that retro Crosley record player at a fantastic price on Crowdstorm – what do you do next? That’s the easy part! Simply click the big button on the deal you want to be taken directly to the website of your chosen trusted high street or online retailer.
From there you’ll go through a normal transaction with them. Remember, Crowdstorm makes its money from advertising (so from the retailer), not you, and we have no part in the transaction – we’re simply here to help you compare the best record players from all the leading manufacturers.