Known initially as a gramophone, record players and turntables have been the most enduring music source in home audio for over a century. Today, turntables vary in price and complexity, beginning with entry-level portable units and ending with pinnacle components with custom-machined and specialized materials that can defy physics, friction, and even gravity.
Direct Drive or Belt Drive?
Primary concerns for most serious listeners include clock-like speed, vibration control, and materials. The platter is driven directly from the motor or by a belt and separate motor. Both turntables have pros and cons, but belt drives tend to be favoured by audiophiles for lower noise and superior vibration control. On the other hand, DJs love direct-drive turntables because of the sturdier frame and faster start-up.
Some modern turntables include USB ports, so you connect the turntable directly to a computer, DAC, amplifier, or speakers, which converts analogue vinyl recordings to digital. While some question this wisdom from a sound quality perspective, an argument can be made for simplicity, convenience, and price.
Getting Ready To Begin
Not all turntables will play right out of the box, so you will need to check a few things before starting. The audio signal from a turntable is tiny and needs to be amplified. Many modern amplifiers do not include a phono amplifier, phono pre-amp, or phono stage, so it's essential to have this in your system. It connects your turntable and amplifier before the signal is amplified in the final stage to the speakers. A tonearm, cartridge, and stylus are also required but may be included depending on the manufacturer and options available.