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Sam’s Adventures in Audio – Turntables!

Welcome to the first edition of Sam’s Adventures in Audio. For those of you who have not seen me in the store before, I started working here about 4 months ago. I had been bitten by the audiophile bug long before starting here, but had only ever used headphones. Being a college student, this job has been a chance for me to learn a whole lot about audio equipment, and even some valuable life lessons. Tag along with me as I learn all about the world of HiFi and try not to spend my entire paycheck at our store!

Getting started in vinyl can be scary. It can be overwhelming to figure out all the things you need, but this job helped me figure everything out. Over my first few weeks, I learned how to properly handle a record, drop a needle, set anti-skating weights, and even balance a tonearm. This got me interested in buying a turntable for myself. To do that, I first had to learn about everything that makes a good turntable good. After 3 months of training under some of the most experienced audiophiles I have ever met, here’s what I found:

Reducing Vibrations

One of the biggest harms to sound quality when listening to vinyl is external vibrations shaking the platter. A great turntable will do everything it can to isolate the record and give you as clean of playback as possible. Here are some of the biggest things I learned that good turntables have that tone down those vibrations:

  • A solid, well balanced chassis. Pro-Ject in particular does a great job of using very heavy plynths that are not easily shaken.
  • A dense, high quality platter. I saw that the Rega tables use dense glass platters that are not only heavy but look awesome.
  • Anti-vibration feet. High end turntables like the Pro-Ject Xtension12 use high-powered magnets to lift the whole unit off the ground. Super cool!

Reliable Tonerarm and Motor

A good turntable should last you a long time, and work at the right speeds every single time. A good motor will hold its speed exceptionally well and last many years. A nice tonearm should be able to keep steady and level at all speeds for as long as you need it. Here are some of the things I learned about our floor models:

  • Pro-Ject tables starting at the $400 Debut Carbon use a carbon fiber tonearm that’s not only stylish but works really well.
  • All of our turntables use a high quality belt drive motor, which prevents the motor itself from passing vibrations onto the platter.
  • A motor that starts and stops effectively every time is vital, and I was really impressed by how well all of our turntables did this.

A Great Cartridge and Stylus

What actually makes the sound when playing records is the cartridge and stylus, so naturally it pays to have a good one. Every cartridge has its own unique sound, and will ultimately be the biggest factor in your turntable’s sound. Here are some cartridges I found that are a really good value:

  • The Ortofon 2M Red at $100 might be the best deal in vinyl. It sounds amazing in its own right and even comes bundled on Pro-Ject’s Debut Carbon.
  • If you’re considering an upgrade from your Red, the 2M Blue at $200 surprised me as a big improvement without breaking the bank.
  • Pro-Ject and Rega offer some really stellar cartridge bundles with their higher end turntables, such as the $599 Sumiko Amethyst that you can get with the 6 Perspex SB for only $200 extra.

Want to learn even more about turntables? Come down to the store and check out our selection! We’ve got a ton of used and new models and we’d be happy to help you pick one out. Tune in next week to see what I’m learning about next at Stereoland.