Vinyl is “in” again. Once seemingly completely superseded by the digital recordings, in recent years the vinyl records and thus the turntables have conquered the market again. It is by no means the sheer nostalgia that drives more and more consumers. It is not an open secret today that the vinyl records often surpass the other sound carriers in terms of sound quality. A truly sensual musical experience, in which every breath of the passionate singer and every bow stroke are perceptible, can be achieved today almost only thanks to a record.
No wonder that the range of turntables or turntables, as they are often called, is constantly growing. Our product comparison portal and buying guide introduce you to the sonorous world of turntables, provides information on the latest models and designs and offers its help in choosing a record player that fits perfectly with yours.
Top 10 Record Players
What is a turntable?
A record player is an electric player for vinyl records, although some models are also suitable for playing older shellac records. Using a pickup, the turntables produce an analog electrical signal that is amplified by an amplifier and converted into an acoustic signal via speakers, headphones or other audio output devices. To produce an acoustic signal, a record must be placed and the needle placed in its groove. Virtually all models require a power connection, battery-powered devices, however, represent a fringe group. A record player or a turntable is today also like a turntable designated. The term comes from English and is synonymous with the German word “record player”.
Who invented the turntable?
Until the 1980s, the record players were the most widely used devices for playing recorded music recordings. Later, the turntables were first partially replaced by the tape recorders and then by the CD and MP3 players. The triumph of turntables begins in the 1950s, although the predecessor devices have reached the market at the end of the 19th century.
After much experimentation, the talented inventor was able to perfect the idea of Thomas Alva Edison (1847 – 1931), namely the recording of sound with a clay roller. Instead of a roller, a much more practical hard rubber and later shellac disc was used. The records Berliners were also in contrast to the rolls Edison reusable and reproducible. The principle was basically the same – first, by scanning a specially shaped groove through a needle to produce an electromagnetic signal that could be converted into an acoustic one.
The first marketable records were made of shellac, a resinous substance, actually the excretions of a Schildlaus species. These discs with a diameter of about 30 cm could offer an average of up to 6 – 8 min on both sides. Since the 1940s, the shellac plates have been increasingly replaced by the cheaper discs made of plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This material is referred to as vinyl for short, so the modern vinyl records are actually PVC sheets. While the shellac records, as well as the first vinyls, turned at 78 rpm, the velocities of 33 1/3 and 45 rpm could be established in the later vinyl records.
How is a turntable set up and how does it work?
In the section on the history of a record player has already been discussed on the principle of operation of this device. When making a record, a spiral groove is pressed on it. This is scanned by a needle made of diamond, sapphire or steel, with different vibrations depending on the shape of the groove. The pickup of the turntable transforms these mechanical motion patterns into electromagnetic impulses. These signals are further converted into acoustic signals, ie into the sound. Thus, the recorded music or any other recording can be played and listened to.
Each turntable consists of the following elements:
- The electric motor that drives either a belt or directly the axis of the turntable. Therefore, one speaks of a turntable with a direct or belt drive. we introduce you to both variants and explain below, which is the difference for the consumer.
- Rotatable turntable, which is often made of aluminum with a rubberized, non-slip overlay. A record is placed on the turntable, the motor causes this element to rotate so that the groove can be scanned.
- The third core element of every record player is the tonearm with a needle. A system of a stylus and an electromagnetic transducer is packaged in housing and serves as a pickup.
- Control panel. This item is different for each model Under the controls of a turntable next to the on and off button, a switch to change the rotational speed and a start button to find the fully automatic turntables.
- Speaker. Not all models have built-in speakers, but today every record player is equipped with a socket for connecting external speakers.
- Cover. Most modern turntables have a cover made of transparent plastic. This element is used to protect sensitive technology. The plates can be played both with the cover open and closed.
Advantages and disadvantages of a turntable
In this section, we inform our readers about the plus and minus points of a record player and have in particular the comparison to digital music playback devices in view.
How to classify turntables?
The market surprises with an extremely wide selection of turntables so that orientation is not always easy. To simplify your search for the right device, we would first like to divide all the record players into four groups – some of which overlap – and then inform you about the features and functions selected to help our readers find the right device in several steps respectively.
The turntables can be subdivided as follows:
- Turntables in DJ quality. In this group, of course also presented in detail, you will find high-quality turntables with direct drive, with the pitch control function as well as a curved and therefore particularly handy tonearm. These features are mainly important for DJs and have no effect on the playback quality.
- Record player for home use. In this group, you can find all turntables that do not have the above functions. These are belt-driven turntables, some with fully automatic mode, with a straight or curved tonearm. These turntables are designed primarily for listening to music at home.
But another classification is possible:
- Turntable with a USB interface, an SD slot or a Bluetooth interface. These turntables have clearly arrived in the 21st century. Thanks to the ability to connect to any electronic device, the recordings can be digitized.
- Record player without USB connection or a comparable interface. These devices are as it were self-contained and designed exclusively for playing music or other sound recordings.
What features are a turntable equipped with today?
In this section, we will only discuss some selected features and explain their relevance to the consumer.
- Director belt drive we have already mentioned above that the turntables with the direct drive are mainly in demand by DJs. There are two important reasons for this: on the one hand, the turntable is ready to go within a few seconds, and on the other, the direct drive allows the popular scratching. The belt drive, when the engine drives a leather belt and this passes the torque to the turntable, ensures more smooth running and is highly appreciated by the music lovers.
- USB interface or other connection for electronic devices. The importance of this feature has already been discussed above. For anyone who wants to digitize their music collection, this feature is crucial.
- Integrated speakers. Such record players, who have this feature, are not only compact but also mobile and are allowed to provide music enjoyment wherever there is a power connection. Although the built-in speakers are also suitable for stereo quality playback, the sound often leaves something to be desired. Almost all high-end turntables are only equipped with RCA jacks for stereo quality playback. It can be connected to any speakers.
- A number of playback speeds. Almost all record players from the selection are equipped with at least two-speed levels – 33 1/3 and 45 rpm. Some also allow 78 rpm, with these models may even older vinyl and shellac plates are applied.
- Fully automatic mode. Not a few manufacturers advertise with fully automatic operation of the turntable. In practice, when the start button is pressed, the pickup is placed at the beginning of the groove, as if by magic, and automatically returns to its original position after the disc has been played. With some turntables, it is even no problem to play the record from the desired position, as is possible, for example, with a CD.
- Semi-automatic mode. In this case, by pressing a button, the tonearm can be placed on the plate or reversed. This feature adds precision and protects the delicate needle and groove.
- Auto stop function. This feature, always included in a fully automatic mode, but also separately installed on some models, makes it easier to operate: The turntable stops after playing, the tonearm is automatically raised. If this function is missing, the turntable must be switched off manually or the needle must “hang” in the special endless groove of the plate.
- Adaptable contact force. The contact force strongly forces the needle of the pickup into the groove. If the contact force is too low, the needle may temporarily leave the groove, resulting in distortions during playback. If the needle is pressed too hard into the groove, among other things, the record can be damaged. Therefore, turntables with a weighted tonearm are generally preferable.
- Anti-skating. This feature, which features premium-class turntables, helps the needle stay exactly in the center of the groove. Thus, both the needle and the record are spared. In addition, this feature ensures optimal sound quality. Before the first use, the anti-skating must usually be set manually based on the respective instructions for use.
- Preamp with an integrated equalizer. This element is important for the connection of external speakers and ensures the best possible sound quality. If this feature is on board, you save money by the way, because a high-quality preamplifier (preamp) costs from 30, – EUR upwards.
Guide – in seven steps to the desired turntable
Are you looking for a model that will completely convince you and make your record collection sound good? Answer seven simple questions to help you make a well-informed purchase decision:
- What do you need a turntable for? Do you want to play as a DJ or do you just want to play your old and new records again and again? In the latter case, you can dispense with such features as direct drive and pitch control in favor of more ease of use and a lower price.
- Are you all just listening to the records, or are you planning to turn your collection into digital form? If digitization is relevant to you, then you are looking specifically for a turntable with a USB interface or other connectivity to a PC, laptop or smartphone.
- Which plates are in your collection? If you are one of the proud owners of old shellac and the first vinyl records, make sure your new turntable has a speed of 78 rpm, among other things. The two other playback speeds of 33 1/3 and 45 rpm are now standard.
- Should your turntable be as compact as possible? The record players with built-in speakers provide reasonable sound quality and are due to a weight of 2 to 2.5 kg handy and mobile. The upper-class record players usually do not have their own speakers.
- Do you appreciate high ease of use? In this case, turntables with a fully automatic mode are the right choice for you. Such turntables are controlled via the start button, so you do not have to search for the beginning of the record groove or worry about turning off the turntable after playback.
- Would you like to start listening to your records as soon as possible and also save money? Then your device should have a built-in preamplifier. If this is not the case, you have to buy the preamp separately to switch this element between the turntable and the actual amplifier. That goes into the money, but of course, gives you more flexibility in choosing a preamp that best suits your needs.
- Do you dream of a nostalgic music experience? Then the turntables in retro design. Often, these turntables are designed in a sympathetic suitcase look and can nonetheless score points with their high-quality features. In contrast, the record players in high quality are characterized by a restrained, timeless design.