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Vinyl Home Listening: Things To Look For When You Buy A Turntable

Misbits Record Shop - Turntable

Yeah, we know, not everybody buys records to carry them around and spin them in front of techno hungry crowds. Some of us buy vinyl for their home listening pleasures: sitting comfortably in your favourite armchair, sipping from a cold beer and just enjoying the analog pops & clicks from your favourite band album.

So, what turntable is right for you? What turntable will best suit your listening needs? As right now you can choose from tens of turntables, we decided to help you decide what is the best pick-up you can buy and install in your living room.

1. The looks

You know you’ll spend a lot of valuable time with your record player so why not enjoy every minute of it? Nowadays you can choose from some really good looking turntables, from an ultra minimal design to some badass futuristic ones. The price is the only limit 😀

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2. Preamp / No preamp

Depending on your home audio setup, you’ll need a phono preamp. That’s because the turntables produce a PHONO output signal. You can buy record players with built-in preamp or you’ll have to buy it separately, regardless if you have an amplifier, some active speakers or you just use your computer. Or, if you inherited your father’s amplifier that most likely has PHONO inputs, you can plug your preamp-less turntable directly.

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3. Belt Drive vs. Direct Drive

Some turntables feature an independent motor that drives the platter via a rubber belt, some have the motor integrated into the platter. As you want a better sound quality (less noise, less vibrations) and you don’t intend to DJ with your turntable, we suggest you go for the Belt Drive technology 😉

4. Turntable Features

Again, keep in mind that you’ll use it to enjoy your music at home. So you won’t need a pitch control but you’ll definitely need 33 / 45 rpm capable turntable, an anti-skating adjustment and some tonearm adjustments to accomodate a range of cartridges.

5. Cartridge / stylus

Depending on how much money you want to spend on your audiophile vice, the cartridge (the tiny box with a needle / stylus) that touches the vinyl surface in order to produce sounds) quality will vary: from a non replaceable shitty one on super entry level turntables to some impressive stuff in higher end models. The more money you have, the better sound quality you’ll get from your purchase 😀

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6. USB Port

If you intend to digitalise your record collection (store it in mp3 format to your computer), look for a turntable with an USB port

7. Upgradeability

As your you’ll get more pretentious over time regarding your home listening habits, it’s wise to buy a turntable that supports replacing the cartridges, at least

Now you’re all set, go buy yourself a cool turntable, lock yourself inside the house and spend some quality time with your records 😉

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Phono Cartridge Alignment – part 1

INTRODUCTION

Why not have a turntable next to your CD Player in your set up?

The sound of records can be enlightening, records are authentic, and records can be fun.

Compared to the modern digital formats, the analogue LP record, with its signal engraved in a vinyl disc, may look poor at first glance.

However, do never forget that it is still the only medium (apart from the reel to reel tape recorder) that can contain the most complete and most structured signal providing great dynamics, having the widest frequency band attainable, and having the most refined detail over the entire audio spectrum and far beyond, which no other format can deliver.

The analog LP is not restricted to 16 bits and a limited frequency band, but has 700 bits – so to speak – and the minute upper harmonics which digital formats are missing. The simple reason is that the original LP is analogous in nature.

Or, to be more precise: analogous to nature.

LEVELING THE TURNTABLE

leveling-the-turntable-2 leveling-the-turntable

It is of the utmost importance to adjust the turntable with arm and phono cartridge correctly. Place the turntable on a strong cabinet, in an audio rack or on a special construction that is bolted to the stone wall of the listening room. These supports should be level.

See to it that the turntable is perfectly level also. This is essential to minimize wow and flutter.

It is also a prerogative for the proper functioning of the phono cartridge and the arm. Only if the turntable is level the down force and bias (side thrust) can be adjusted correctly.

VERTICAL TRACKING ANGLE

INITIAL ADJUSTMENT

initial-adjustment

Check whether the arm and the head shell are parallel to the record. Most manufacturers of cartridges take care to mount the tip and cantilever in such a way that a Vertical Tracking Angle of round and about 20 degrees is achieved when the arm is parallel to the record. The standard today is 20º. Vintage cartridges from the nineteen sixties for instance have a tracking angle of 15º.

The final VTA adjustment will be done later after you have adjusted the azimuth and down force and bias have been precisely set.

AZIMUTH ADJUSTMENT

azimuth-adjustment

Now check the cartridge seen from the front. It should be perpendicular to the record. This is easily checked using a small mirror (as Thorens used to supply with their turntables). A precise way of measuring the azimuth is by using a test record and a voltmeter. But this can only be done after the correct down force and bias have been adjusted.

AZIMUTH REPLACEMENT STYLUS

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If you have bought a replacement needle, check if the tip is really well mounted. Check the cantilever from the front with a magnifying glass. The cantilever should be perpendicular to the cartridge body. The tip should be in line with the cantilever. It is a good practice to take the small art director’s magnifying glass with you to the shop and insist that you check before you pay. A needle tip which is out of line can not read the stereo groove. If you buy on-line from a renown seller like Elex Atelier in the USA for example, there is of course no need to worry. But going directly to a shop, checking can do no harm. Just to be sure.