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You’ve got the records. Now what are you going to play them on? And preferably, it’ll be something that works with the records you’re buying — not in terms of technology, but… put it this way, if you decide only to purchase new reissues of classic albums, 180 gram vinyl, heavyweight sleeves, the whole nine yards, you don’t want to then turn around and buy a $50 turntable, which will wind up grinding through the grooves and ripping the sound to shreds.
Contrarily, if you go for quantity over quality and do most of your shopping in the dollar bin, there’s no point in laying out the next few months’ mortgage on a super-snazzy audiophile deck.
Shop around. Read the online reviews — and not just one the one-and five-star ones. Pay attention to the ones that fall in-between, because they are often the most accurate ones.
Think about what you actually want from the turntable. At the risk of oversimplifying matters, there are effectively two types of turntables — fully manual ones, in which everything from placing the needle on the record (and removing it at the end), to changing the speed at which the platter revolves, is done by hand; or automatic ones, which can do a lot of that for you.
For example, if you will be switching between playing singles and LPs, 45s and 33s, on a regular basis, you should probably choose an automatic deck, one that allows you to make that change at the flick of a switch (or the push of a button). The alternative is to be repositioning the belt that drives the platter in the first place, a procedure that often involves having to take the platter off and fiddle around with what is basically an elastic band with visions of grandeur. It’s not difficult (or, at least, it shouldn’t be), but it can be a pain. And it devours valuable listening time.
Do you want to press a button and watch the arm position itself exactly over the edge of the record; or, if you’re sick of a song, raise itself and return to rest? You want an automatic player. Do you want a turntable that will sync with Bluetooth? One that will allow you to record direct to mp3? Those are both available options today.
In truth, there’s a lot more that can go wrong with an automatic player than with a manual, simply because of all these extra bells and whistles. But in terms of convenience, there’s a lot to be said for them, as well.
The other thing to consider is, how much it costs to keep your turntable in optimum condition for playing your records. And we’ll be looking at that next time in this column.
To be continued...
If not a beginner and want a deeper dive into turntables: If a SOTA turntable's look doesn't turn your head, its sound will