An Introduction to Turntables

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So you’ve decided to join the increase number of music enthusiasts returning to vinyl as their choice of musical formats. But where do I start, I hear you say?  How do I access the ‘promised land’ of musical fidelity?

For starters you’re going to need an amplifier, some speakers and a turntable; also known as a record player or simply a deck. The vast majority of hi-fi systems will accommodate a turntable, not just dedicated amplifiers, however we would recommend looking at hi-fi separates for the best sound quality.

When looking to purchase a turntable, you will need to think about a few bits of information. Firstly, what kind of music do you enjoy? Different turntables have different sound signatures and compliment certain types of music more so than others. Next, how often do you think you’ll play records and what is the specification of the rest of your system? If you’re going to be using your turntable as the main source then it is worth spending good money on it; on the other hand if you’re going to be using the turntable only occasionally then it’s maybe worth spending more money on upgrading other aspects of your system.

Before we go any further lets look at the qualities a good turntable needs. One of the most important aspects is achieving the correct platter speed for a stable sound. Next, it needs to be resistant to the transmission of vibrations to the vinyl record and the stylus, including external environmental vibration sources and the turntable’s own motor.

A good quality cartridge is key to extract all the nuances of the music, as is a stiff tonearm that applies the correct amount of pressure to the stylus and runs smoothly.

So what makes a good introductory product?

Well a good place to start would be something like Sony’s PSLX300. It comes complete with all cables hard wired to the unit and a simple set-up procedure. The turntable gives unparalleled usability and includes a user replaceable stylus.

The Pro-Ject Elemental in silver

The Pro-Ject Elemental in silver

Moving up the range you will start to see high end hifi decks, starting with the Pro-ject Elemental and Essential II. These are great turntables; both share the same basic solid Ortofon OM 5E cartridge with replaceable stylus. The most obvious difference is the shape of the deck and the Essential II’s inclusion of a dust lid. However, a more subtle but very important upgrade on the Essential II is the tone arm, which is the same one included with the Debut SE3 (Pro-ject’s next model up). It’s much stiffer, allowing the cartridge to extract more information from the surface of the record and fewer vibrations.

Both of these turntables are great starts on your journey to vinyl nirvana. If you’ve had a turntable in the past, or a system containing more capable units, then you may want to think about higher quality decks.

Pro-ject’s Debut series take the great qualities of the Essential II and improves performance through modification and replacing keys parts. Firstly, it benefits from a thicker plinth, a higher quality motor and motor suspension system. It also features an upgraded cartridge; the SE3 has a Ortofon OM10, whilst the Debut Carbon and Carbon Esprit SB get the excellent 2M Red. The big difference between the three is that the Carbon and Carbon Esprit SB have, as their name suggests, a carbon fibre tone arm (an unheard of feature on a product at this price level). The Carbon Esprit SB builds on this further by replacing the metal platter with an acrylic one. This is designed to run without a mat and grip the record better than the felt mat on the lower ranges, giving an improved tonality. The other key difference is highlighted by the suffix SB; built into the turntable is Pro-ject’s Speedbox controller. This performs two functions; firstly it allows speed adjustment at the touch of a button, and secondly it increase the RPM (revolutions per second) accuracy of the platter.

Richer Sounds stores stock a wide range of turntables, many available to try in store. I would recommend you pop down or give the store a phone call and chat to our friendly colleagues. Our experts are able to talk you through the many wonderful decks we stock. Why not also explore some of the high specification units that are shown on our website? Turntables have seen a big resurgence in popularity in recent times, and we think they’re here to stay!

Author – Jon, Cardiff store