Record Players In The 21st Century?
First of all, “record player” is so last decade. It is called a turntable, and they aren’t “records”, they are vinyl. That is what all the hip kids call it. Beleive it or not vinyl is selling like hot cakes. In a world where the music industry seems to be suffering because downloads and streaming seem to be taking over, vinyl sales have been reported to account for as much as 26% of all music sales last year. That’s a lot, and it is growing. The 430 million dollars of vinyl sales in 2016 represents the highest it has been since 1985. This is interesting because that is right about the time that CD’s were just starting to catch on. I remember buying “Dire Straights- Brothers In Arms” on CD. Do you remember the awkwardly long and unnecessary box they used to come in? But I digress. The point is, Vinyl is a thing and all the cool kids are doing it. The really cool thing is, if you are old like me and you can remember the first CD, chances are you already have a solid collection of vinyl. So let’s chat record pla … er… Turntables. We will show you what to avoid, what features are nice to have, and what we found for not a lot of money.
A Few Turntable Basics
There are a few things to know about records before diving in. The way they work (basically) is there is a groove cut into the vinyl that the stylus (needle) rides in. The stylus vibrates and creates an electrical impulse that gets sent to the rest of the system to be amplified so we can hear it. You can even put your ear really close to a playing record and hear tiny little music. Anyway, the reason we mention this is if the turntable is cheap, or not adjusted properly, it will actually do damage to the record. Here is tip number one. Don’t buy one of those department store record players no matter how much you want one that looks like the front of a car or an old-fashioned stereo. Walk right by. Also, because of the way the signal works and a bunch of electronics nerdery that I won’t bore you with, not every record player can be plugged straight into just any home stereo. Let’s show you what to look for even on a budget.
Key Features For The Entry Level Turntable
Adjustable Tone Arm
Remember the part about a cheap turntable ruining your records? A lot of them don’t have tone arms that give you the proper weight on the stylus. If it is too light, even by half of a gram, it will skip. If it is too heavy, it will sound bad and ruin your records.
This is important if you have a more modern system and you want to add a turntable. If your stereo does not have an input that says “phono” you will need a preamp. Fortunately, there are some really nice entry level turntables that include these.
What Turntable We Like and Why
We have the Fluance RT80. It is available on Amazon for 199.00 with free shipping. I shopped and tried multiple turntables with the key features mentioned above. These included the U-turn Orbit, and the Project Essential 2. Neither of these turntables had all the features I was looking for, nor were they as well priced.
The Fluance RT80
For 200 bucks to my door, this thing is amazing. First of all, it is beautiful. The high polish piano black finish and the overall fit and feel is very high quality for the price point. The setup was easy, taking about 10 minutes. This included a bit of assembly and balancing the extremely nice tone arm. The connection to my existing system was easy with the pre-amp switch on the back and well-labeled connections. The two features I was surprised to see on such a low-priced turntable was auto-cue, and auto-stop. The other units in this price point didn’t have these. The sound is great. There is no other way to put it. Comparing to turntables that cost twice as much, I am really happy with it.
Vinyl Is Here to Stay
Jump in! For not a lot of investment, it will open a whole new way of listening and shopping for music. I am sure there is a small locally owned record store near you. Order this turntable, run down to that local record shop and get lost in it. Rediscover old music you have forgotten and discover new music you have never heard. Buy one record every time that is a new sound or genre. Usually, for 5-10 dollars, you will be able to open a whole new world. Even if you don’t have that local record store (always my first choice) you can buy records at many stores now. Try it. you can thank me later.