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Record player buying guide
Get your vinyl on with these top record players.
Vinyl records have made a resurgence. Sales are up and new generations are flocking to the old format. Turntables and record players can produce “lossless” sound, meaning music is heard in its purest form.
Compare some of the best record players
|Name||Average price||Speed (RPM)||Cabinet material||USB port||Purchase|
||$200||33 1/3, 45||Aluminum||No||Buy now|
||$200||33 1/3, 45||MDF||No||Buy now|
Music Hall MMF 2.3
||$400||33 1/3, 45||Steel alloy||No||Buy now|
Fluance RT81 High Fidelity
||$210||33 1/3, 45||MDF||No||Buy now|
||$275||33 1/3, 45, 78||Plastic||Yes||Buy now|
Victrola Vintage Bluetooth Turntable
||$40||33 1/3, 45, 78||Portable suitcase||No||Buy now|
Victrola Nostalgic Aviator
||$120||33 1/3, 45, 78||Wood||Yes||Buy now|
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon
||$390||33 1/3, 45||Aluminum||No||Buy now|
How do record players work?
Record players are turntables with built-in preamps and amplifiers. Some newer models also include speakers, allowing you to play your vinyl through one piece of equipment.
Turntables are made up of a flat plate or platter that holds your record and a drive that rotates the record at a certain speed. Resting on the plate is a tonearm, and at the end of the tonearm is a cartridge that is fitted with a stylus. The stylus is placed into the grooves of the record, creating an electrical signal that goes to a pre-amp. From the preamp, the signal goes to a power amp for amplification, which is emitted via speakers or headphones.
Why should I consider a record player?
- Sound quality. Vinyl is a “lossless” format, meaning no sound has been lost when the record is pressed. Many MP3 files, streaming services and radio stations rely on compressing files, which can diminish the quality of the sound. If you want a pure listening experience, vinyl is a sound choice.
- Wide collections. Many songs and artists were only ever released on vinyl. While major big-name acts of yesteryear have been digitally remastered, more obscure performers can be lost to the streaming generation. If you have beloved vinyl from a band no one has ever heard of, a record player might be your only option.
- Aesthetic. Many people appreciate vinyl records and record players for the look, smell and feel. Turntables and record players are often used as display pieces in a room. Large vinyl collections can also take the place of an art installation in the home, with vinyl cover art often worthy of display.
- Appreciating prices. Your vinyl collection may be worth money one day. This is never a guarantee, but vinyl has survived and thrived in the streaming generation. Many people have found their old collections to be more valuable than at the time of purchase, an occurrence that could well repeat itself in the future.
- The lack of portability. In the age of the smartphone, access and portability are key. We’re reliant on having what we want at our fingertips, something vinyl players can’t offer. If you really only listen to music when you’re on the go, a vinyl player might not be the best option for you.
- Cost-effectiveness. Buying a new vinyl record typically costs around $25 when bought through eBay, according to a 2018 report by Forbes. This will never be as cost efficient as signing up to a streaming service, where you can listen to thousands of artists for a fixed monthly rate. If you’re going to be starting a vinyl collection from scratch, be prepared to start slow, or cough up some savings to go big.
How to compare record players
When buying a record player, consider these features to help you choose:
There are three main speed settings for vinyl players. 33 1/3 revolutions per minute is the most common playback speed for 12-inch vinyl — you need it on your turntable or record player. 45 revolutions per minute is the speed for 7-inch records — you need this, too.
78 revolutions per minute is the speed for shellac records and is far more uncommon, as not many 78 records were ever produced. Be sure that the vinyl player you buy can play the records in your collection.
Damping is the process of reducing vibrations. Too much vibration in your record player can impact sound quality.
Many design tricks can incorporate damping technology, including damped cueing, or slowing the lowering of the tonearm. The number of feet on a record player also serves as a form of damping. The more feet on your machine, the more stable it will be and the less it will vibrate.
The cartridge that comes with your turntable or record player is going to be appropriate for that machine. Moving magnet (MM) cartridges are a step up from cheaper ceramic options, and do a good job. If you’ve purchased a high-end vinyl player, you may want to invest in a moving coil (MC) cartridge, but these can be hard to find.
Manual or automatic
This references the way the stylus is placed on the record. Automatic systems will do it for you at the push of a button, whereas manual systems require you to do it yourself. Most high-end record players are actually manual. Placing the stylus on the record is not a hard thing to do.
The larger the platter, the more stable the base for your record. The material of your platter tends to be a matter of preference, but sturdier materials age more gracefully.
Platter mats can help with damping and ensure the undersides of your records don’t get scratched. Some machines have these built in, while others offer them as purchasable accessories. They’re generally considered worthwhile.
There are two types of drive: direct and belt. The type of drive you select is a matter of preference. Direct drives provide greater accuracy of speed, while belt drives are said to cause less sound interference.
Some machines are Bluetooth compatible or have auxiliary inputs that allow you to connect other devices.
Whether you love the sound of vinyl records or you want a great statement piece for any space, a record player could be for you. Whatever your style and budget, there’s a model out there that’s perfectly suited to your needs.
How did we choose these products?
To choose our list of the best record players, we conducted online research to determine some of the most popular models available. We compared features such as size, price and music quality.
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