Best record player 2023 • 7 record players Reviews
While the sound industry has become increasingly digital, some audio devices have survived. CD and MP3 players that emerged from the digital era have brought mechanical sound-reproducing equipment on the verge of extinction. And it’s not a big surprise, considering that having everything on your mobile or computer is more practical. However, one device has managed to survive decades of technological advances and, has even developed over that period. We’re naturally talking about record players, the classic audio devices par excellence. They have now gained popularity among collectors, as well as in the electronic music industry. To ensure that you’re buying the best record player, we’ve spent a good amount of time testing each of the items in the product table below making a comparison.
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What is a record player and how does it work?
A record player is an electronic device that plays audio from vinyl records. Record players evolved over time from Thomas Edison’s phonograph.
Modern turntables work almost the same way as their predecessor. However, there is one major difference between the two: Edison’s equipment depended on a large, horn-shaped speaker that amplified the sound waves during playback. It was fully mechanical.
Record players use electromagnetic components to convert the sound vibrations of a rotating disc into electrical signals. These signals are then fed to a preamplifier that is connected to speakers or headphones, therefore making the sound much louder. A turntable is indeed a blend of mechanical and electromagnetic technology.
The stylus of your record player is essential because it is responsible for sending the vibrations to the transducer — called the cartridge — when it is placed on the disc. This is how it converts into an electrical signal. The cartridge contains a piezoelectric crystal inside that generates this signal when the turntable’s arm presses against it.
Not all record player cartridges feature this piezoelectric crystal, as some integrate electric coils and a magnet inside. The arm moves and pushes the magnet from top to bottom, passing through the coil and therefore generating the electrical signal.
What are the types of record players?
We can classify these audio devices in two main categories based on the type of internal motor they use to make the vinyl turn — this is called the drive system. In that regard, the two types available are direct or belt drive.
There is a third type of record playing system that is hardly used and appreciated; it is called the idler-wheel drive system. You can also differentiate models based on whether they’re automated or not and on their design. Some might prefer a vintage record player. Last but not least, we could also divide them into those already preamplified and those that need an external preamplifier.
Direct driven record players
The platter is directly connected to the internal electric motor. These models can start playing a vinyl faster and are less vulnerable to external vibrations. However, they are more exposed to internal vibrations that the motor can transmit to the platter. Direct drive systems are great for mixing live music.
Belt driven record players
The platter is separated from the motor, the latter driving the belt that moves the disc. They are less exposed to internal vibrations. Unfortunately, the belt will wear out and needs to be replaced from time to time. The playback speed is less even.
Advantages and disadvantages of record players
- They offer a very warm and authentic sound
- Vinyls have survived for decades
- You can play or mix live with the right model
- They are aesthetically attractive and durable
- The maintenance or replacement of parts is not too expensive
- A quality cartridge can exceed the frequency response of a CD or MP3
- They suffer from wear and tear over time
- They are large and heavy, since vinyls can measure up to 30 cm in diameter
Shopping Criteria for record players
This aspect will directly impact the sound quality and the durability of your equipment. Nowadays, you can find many record players for less than $100. Be careful with these models because their materials are sometimes of very poor quality. The base should be made from a material that gives stability to the turntable.
The best platters are made of aluminum, while steel tonearms are great. The material will also give specific esthetics to the record player. Remember to examine every single one before discarding any. Some manufacturers such as Audio-Technica, for instance, use very good quality plastics. In addition, this factor influences the weight of the device.
As we mentioned earlier, this criterion is used to classify the different types of record players. It is of the utmost importance, as it determines how your model works. The potential internal or external vibrations that influence sound quality depend directly on the drive system.
You should choose depending on the type of use you’ll make of your turntable. If you want to mix and scratch, the direct drive is your only option. If you go for a belt-drive record player, don’t forget that this belt will need to be replaced from time to time. That being said, this is easy to do and quite affordable.
Stylus or Needle
Having the very best record player won’t be of any use if you have a bad stylus. This part is responsible for capturing the vibrations and sending them to the cartridge, and therefore truly influences the quality of the sound. It is also called “the needle”. The best styli are made from diamond — the hardest and most resistant material — and are the most frequently used today.
Elliptical styli offer the advantage of increasing the fidelity of sound since they are more in contact with the vinyl’s grooves. On the other hand, spherical models provide less fidelity but are much more sensitive. Which one you should is ultimately your decision, but make sure you take good care of it.
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How are record players calibrated?
You cannot simply plug these devices into a socket and hope they work wonders. A turntable needs to be configured to some extent. We’ll give you a basic explanation of how to do this so you can have your record player working to the best of its abilities. First of all, make sure that your device is placed on a completely firm surface; any sort of unevenness could create unwanted vibrations. Adjusted via a wheel on the back of the tonearm, the counterweight is another important element. This wheel has two knobs, one for marking the weight and the other for choosing the pitch. Move the wheel until it is parallel to the platter and then turn the pitch selection knob to the 0 position. You should notice the tonearm floating and will have to adjust the counterweight. Each cartridge indicates the counterweight it requires, and you can also find this information in the user manual. The durability of your stylus depends on it! If your turntable has one, you will then have to adjust the anti-skate lateral weight. In that case, set the dial to 0 until you’ve finished adjusting the counterweight. This will prevent the stylus from moving sideways. Last but not least, set the height via the wheel located at the base of the tonearm. Place the stylus on the vinyl and spin the wheel until that stylus is parallel to the disc.
What type of record player is the best for me?
How you plan on using your turntable will ultimately determine the answer to this question. Each drive system has its own characteristics that can either be advantages or disadvantages. However, there are two main types of people when it comes to record players: those who want to play with the vinyl, and those who don’t. Direct-drive turntables are tailored to DJs who like to mix and spin. Since the motor is directly connected to the platter, it offers a much faster response time and playback speed — almost immediate, in fact. These models are also generally more stable and reliable, and safer. On the other hand, belt drive systems aren’t so practical for spinning. Some audiophiles claim that this type of turntable reproduces the best sound possible. So if you intend on using it at home and enjoy the rituals that go with it, we definitely encourage you to go for a belt-drive record player.
What are the main components of a record player?
The main components of a record player are the turntable, the base, the stylus or needle, the tonearm and the cartridge. The turntable is where you place your acetate disc. Located in the middle, a metal bar holds the vinyl in place as it rotates. It is usually covered in plastic or rubber to avoid damaging the disc. The most sophisticated models use aluminum plates, while the smaller ones are made of steel. The base is made from wood, steel or plastic and is the body of the record player. While it doesn’t feature any technical component, it is essential to reduce or eliminate unwanted vibrations. Remember that vibrations are a record player’s worst enemy. Thestylus is made from diamond, sapphire or ceramics. It is cone-shaped and directly rests on the vinyl. It is also linked to the tonearm by means of a flexible metal strip. The stylus can either be spherical or elliptical and should be changed every 1,000 to 2,500 hours of use. The tonearm holds the stylus and, together with the cartridge, is responsible for reproducing the sound. The tonearm can either be straight or curved. The former is preferred by DJs because it facilitates scratching. The stylus captures vibrations that are then sent through the metal wires of the tonearm to reach the cartridge. The cartridge converts the vibrations produced by the stylus into electrical currents or signals to generate sound. Two main types are available: MM (moving magnet) and MC (moving coil). Most manufacturers prefer MM cartridges because they offer fantastic value for money. However, quality MC cartridges produce a superb sound — albeit at a higher cost.
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