Updated version of one of the best turntables ever made. Includes USB port and software for converting vinyl to digital.
Expensive, but well worth the cost for advanced users and disc jockeys.
Comes with an ATN91 stylus cartridge for clean sound reproduction. Includes a dust cover. If you’re as serious about sound quality as you are about finding a bargain, this is your sweet spot.
Some RT80s have problems with tonearm balancing. The built-in preamp leaves a lot to be desired.
Can be connected to wireless devices, including headphones and speakers. Gain select switch offers three gain levels. Tonearm moves itself when finished with record.
For the entry-level price, some owners say the sound is also entry-level and not as good as other choices.
It has got a special S-shaped, auto-lift tonearm. It plays at multiple speeds and includes a built-in preamp.
It uses a belt-driven platter, which may be a turn-off to those who prefer direct-drive turntables.
Believe it or not, music on LP is back with a vengeance, as a new generation of listeners has fallen in love with the ritual and warm sounds that only vinyl can bring. And if you’re ready to see what all the fuss is about, you’ll need a good turntable.
While our tastes may be retro, modern turntables are anything but. New turntable models practically perfect the art of bringing out the best in vinyl, and add new, convenient features, like Bluetooth connectivity, built-in preamps, and even USB compatibility for making digital audio files from your favorite records.
Here’s everything you need to know to pick out the perfect turntable: The classic features that have been perfect since the beginning, the new innovations that change everything, and the models that stand above all the rest.
Before you buy a turntable, make sure you have the right gear to connect it to, namely, an amplifier and speakers. If your turntable doesn’t include a built-in preamp, you’ll need to make sure your amplifier has an input marked “phono,” or you’ll need to buy a standalone preamp. Once you’ve got that set up, you’re ready to start shopping!
The base of the turntable is called a plinth. Modern plinths are noticeably dense or heavy in order to dampen as much external vibration as possible.
Sitting atop the plinth is, among other things, the device's padded platter. The platter holds the record and rotates via the motor. There are two different ways this can happen. Belt-driven systems use an elastic band, which can reduce vibrations. Direct-drive systems are often more expensive, but they don’t wear out and are more consistent. Many audiophiles swear that belt-driven turntables sound better while direct-drive models are more durable; the debate isn’t likely to end any time soon.
Situated beside the platter is the tonearm. The tonearm guides the stylus and cartridge (see below) as they trace the record’s grooves. An unbalanced tonearm could drag the stylus across the record’s surface and damage it. For this reason, some high-end turntables include adjustable counterbalance weights that help prevent the stylus from skidding and scratching.
The stylus, also known as the needle, emits a slight vibration while following subtle nuances in the record’s sound grooves. The cartridge picks up this vibration and amplifies it. Electric impulses feed into a powerful preamp before reaching the main audio speakers.
Some turntables — especially those with cables marked “phono” — come with factory-installed preamps. Others require a separate preamp purchase.
Finding a turntable with the features you want is key. We’ll discuss two big feature options here: digital recording, and portability.
Using a USB cable and some software, you can save vinyl tracks as digital files to a computer via a turntable with a digital recording option.
Trade magazines and professional reviewers routinely give high marks to USB-equipped turntables for their ability to preserve vintage analog-recorded music. Critics warn that manufacturers who make USB-equipped machines may cut corners in other areas, reducing overall audio quality.
As you shop turntables, you’ll likely notice there are two main categories to choose from: models that are designed to integrate with an existing stereo system, and models that are built as standalone, portable units.
If you’re thinking of getting a portable turntable, consider the unique benefits:
You can take it with you easily.
They often include built-in speakers for easy listening.
Standalone units often include built-in Bluetooth or CD players.
Just don’t forget that there are some compromises, like:
Our bottom line: If you’re a casual listener or you need a turntable you can easily take anywhere, buy a portable model. If you’re buying a turntable for the sound quality, get one that integrates with your existing stereo.
Shopping for a new turntable can be tricky. To the untrained eye, little visible difference exists between a $100 entry-level model and a $2,500 audiophile's dream. To make a long story short, the extra money you'd pay for a high-end turntable goes toward craftsmanship and performance.
But what if you're deliberating between several turntables in the same price range? In such a case, it helps to read the manufacturer’s spec sheet. For example:
Q. I’m thinking of buying a turntable. Is any special maintenance required?
A. Dust and dirt can harm both your stylus and your records. Carefully remove unwanted particles from the needle with a stylus brush made of carbon fiber and a dab of cleaning solution. Dust your vinyl with the same type of brush, and gently wipe the records with a mixture of distilled water (never tap water!) and record-cleaning solution. Always store vinyl records vertically in a protective paper or plastic sleeve.
Q. My friend said I need to buy a separate preamp in order to play my turntable. Is this true?
A. That depends on what kind of turntable you have. Some turntables include a preamp; others don't. If you find a turntable that you like that doesn’t include a built-in preamp, you can always buy a preamp separately.
Q. In an age of advanced digital technology, why should I get a turntable?
A. While it’s true that digital music is more consistent and readily available, the reality is that most streaming services compress audio to conserve bandwidth — so in most cases, the sound quality you’re getting isn’t as good as it could be. Vinyl records offer uncompromising, uncompressed sound and use analog hardware to reproduce it, so while records often have the occasional click or pop, the sound quality in most cases is superior.
Perhaps most important of all: When you buy records, you own the music, so you can sell, trade, or give away your LPs as you see fit. If you stream or download music, you’re really just renting it. Many vinyl enthusiasts prefer the warm sound of records and enjoy listening without any monthly fees from streaming services.
A die-hard enthusiast would tell you that investing in a turntable and listening to a favourite album from the 1960s is not just about audio quality. It's also about hearing the songs the way the original artists intended them to sound.
Q. Where can I buy vinyl records?
A. Vinyl is all the rage right now, and you're likely to find it at a record store near you. Other major online retailers also carry them.
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