What To Look For When Buying A Turntable

A lot of folks getting into analog music for the first time just go to garage sales to try and dig up an old turntable. The reasoning here is that is records are old, so why not play them on an equally old turntable? You might save some money that way, and you might not. But if you want to get all of the goodness that’s stored on those vinyl records, you need something advanced and new. The fact is that the newest turntables are the best.

Think of it like this; the old twisty roads of Cambria California are still the best roads to drive a fast car on. But the best car to drive on those roads is not James Dean’s 1955 Porsche 550 Spider. There’s a reason his mechanic named it the “Little Bastard.” No, the best car to get the most out of the best roads in the world is a Fiat 124 Spider or an Alfa Romeo Giulia. If you want to get the most out of your favourite records – whether they are new or old – is with the latest, finest turntable.

The first thing to consider is how do you intend to use your turntable. Are you going to listen to your records in the comfort of your home, or are you going to be using the system for public presentations? If you’re going to be playing vinyl records for an audience, that narrows down your options quite a bit. If you’re just playing music for yourself at home, you still want quality- but if you snap up some old dusty garage sale record player, you’re only hurting yourself. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume you’re going to invest in a quality device that leverages all the advantages of modern machining and technology.

Here we’ll talk about the advantages and disadvantages of belt drive turntables and direct drive turntables. As we are Newmarket’s local turntable shop, you can contact us with any questions that you may have, or ask us in the comments below!

Belt Drive Turntables VS Direct Drive Turntables

If you’re one of the millions of people who have discovered the richness of analog audio and want to invest in a turntable to play your favourite classic tunes on or Daft Punk, you’re in luck, because there are now more ways to get into vinyl at Toronto’s local turntable shop than ever. Despite the fact that record players are an older technology, they have been the subject of some very potent refinements in recent years. Improvements in materials science and manufacturing techniques have made the newest record players better than ever. That means there’s even more to consider when you’re looking to invest in a turntable, whether it’s your first, or even if you’re a veteran vinyl lover.

A McIntosh Belt Drive Turntable

Today’s best turntables come in two forms, belt drives turntables and direct drives models. With the direct drive models, the platter is connected directly to the motor. The belt drive models run a rubber band around a camshaft and the band is used to turn the platter indirectly. The advantage of the direct drive turntable is to enable it to get up to speed faster. That’s an important advantage for a disk jockey who is entertaining a crowd and doesn’t have the luxury of sitting through long moments of silence. Generally though, most audiophiles would agree the quality of audio is higher from belt drive turntables, and many of the high-end turntables are belt drive models.

With a belt drive turntable, you can sometimes get a bit of super slow audio in the first few moments of play. Most records have a bit of silence preceding the beginning of the audio, so it’s not a big deal for casual home listening. But in a professional setting, that lag is not ideal. The nice thing about belt drive turntables is that they tend to be easier to work on. If the belt wears out, it can be easily replaced. Or if something goes wrong with the motor, it’s usually easier to fix, replace, or work on because it is typically mounted off to the side where it’s easier to access. So if you have a tight budget and your turntable is only for personal use at home, a belt drive is a good option.

Also, if you happen to want to record your audio and dice it into digital playlists, that lag at the start provided by belt drive turntables can make it easier to edit in good transitions.

However, if sharp transitions are important to you, then you really need a direct drive model. It’s worth noting that the time it takes a belt drive to get up to speed is always less time than the time it takes for the cueing mechanism to drop the needle into the record. So, if you’re not manually moving the needles to the grooves to save time, then you really don’t need to go to the extra expense to get a direct drive turntable.

How to Avoid “Rattle and Hum”

It’s not U2’s best album, and it’s bad for your audio output. You can avoid rattle and hum by not placing your pre-amp phono directly on top of anything that has an amplifier inside of it. Most of the time, these components have a transformer inside them that emits an energetic field that will be picked up by the phono unit and translates that “hum” into your audio output.

Some have transformers built right into the unit, which means it’s going to hum. If that’s the case, you either need a new turntable, or you need to use an external amp.

Finally, avoid placing your MC or MM amp cartridge- or your external amplifier for that matter- near any power cables as these also put out an emp signal which can be translated into rattle and hum, and that’s not what you desire.

That concludes our beginner’s series on how to choose a turntable. Have any questions? Please ask away in the comments below, or read up on our next article, How to Choose the Best Phono Pre-Amp

Leave a Comment