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Buying the Right Record Player for You

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Buying the Right Record Player for You

If you're past a certain age, you might harbor nostalgic memories of the slight hiss and pop created by the needle of a record player as you enjoyed your favorite LP or 45 rpm records. For those too young to have ever owned a record player, it might be hard to understand why anyone would want anything other than the convenience of an iTunes account.

But vinyl records never went away. For many music purists, the sound of an analog recording on vinyl captures the full spectrum of sound in a way that digital, compressed MP3 music never can. If you want to enjoy music the way you did in decades past, buying a record player and a stack of vinyl albums is a sure way to aural entertainment.

How Does a Turntable Work?

If you are buying a turntable, it helps to know the main parts and functions of the device. A basic turntable has five parts:

  • Plinth or base: This is the body of the unit, often shaped like a box.
  • Platter or turntable: This sits on top of the base and is the spinning disk that holds the record.
  • Motor: Housed inside the plinth, the motor drives the platter.
  • Tone arm: The tone arm holds the cartridge and needle and in many turntables, automatically swings over and positions the needle on the record.
  • Cartridge: The cartridge houses the needle, or stylus, which is usually made of diamond. The needle rides in the grooves of the album as it spins, picking up vibrations that are converted to sound. Needles eventually wear down and need to be replaced.

There are two basic types of record players:

  • Direct-drive: In these devices, the motor connects directly to the platter. Usually less expensive, direct-drive turntables are quite sturdy and are preferred by disc jockeys who want to spin and manipulate records by hand.
  • Belt-driven: In these turntables, a belt connects the motor to the platter. High-end turntables are usually belt-driven, as isolating the motor from the platter helps prevent vibrations that could affect sound quality.

Do You Just Want to Listen to Records?

If you’re looking for a basic, low-cost, high-quality turntable to enjoy your LP and 45 rpm albums, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60 should fit the bill. Its tone arm automatically lifts up and positions the needle on your album and once the record is finished, lifts up and moves back to a resting position. Belt-drive gives clean sound without hissing or pops. The built-in switchable phono preamp means you can hook the turntable to your computer’s speakers, home stereo system or plug your headphones directly into the unit. It comes with a dual magnet phono cartridge with a replaceable stylus. In minutes, you can have your music system set up and be enjoying the sound of those old Ramones or Cheap Trick albums you’ve had in your closet for years.

Do You Want Built-In Speakers?

If you want a record player with its own speakers, perfect for life in a dorm or small apartment or taking along to a friend’s house, then consider the Pyle PVTT2U Retro Turntable. Not only is it styled like a retro briefcase from the 1950s, it also has built-in speakers for music on the go and a rechargeable battery for wireless sound. Plus, the USB port allows you to hook the record player to your computer and convert your vinyl albums to MP3 format. Belt-drive gives clear, crisp sound, and you can choose between 33, 45 or 78 rpm for playing any format record. It includes a ceramic cartridge and needle.

Do You Want to Play it All?

If you have a wide variety of music formats, but not a whole lot of room for several music players, an all-in-one unit can save you room and provide convenient listening of all your music. The Pyle Home PTCDS2UI contains not only a turntable with settings for 33, 45 and 78 rpm records; it also has an AM/FM radio, CD player, cassette player and a dock for your iPod. What's more, the beautiful retro-styled wood case that looks like a record player from the early 1900s makes for an item that is not only useful, but also a decorative addition to the home. It includes a remote control for the CD and iPod players and comes with a ceramic cartridge for the turntable.

Do You DJ?

If you DJ professionally or for fun, you need a turntable that gives you great sound, precise control and sturdy construction. The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB delivers on all three accounts with a direct-drive turntable that will spin your 33, 45 or 78 rpm records at your next big event. The pitch-adjustment feature lets you play with the sound, as does the reverse play option. A USB output connects to your computer, letting you digitize your vinyl music if desired. The professional motor maintains accurate speed, and the pitch is tightly controlled, giving you the best sound even from your older records. The unit comes with a professional cartridge and head shell that plug directly into the tone arm. Adjustable, anti-vibration feet keep the record player steady on the table, and your record spinning smoothly.

Whether you are a recent convert to vinyl or have a stack of records in the closet you haven’t played in years, a turntable will provide enjoyable listening to music that sounds natural and full, the way it was intended to be. Get ready to enjoy the Supremes, Led Zeppelin, The Human League or any other favorites as they spin on your record player.

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