Seriously, how good are records? The resurgence of the humble vinyl album continues unabated with appeal across all age demographics.
And there are many reasons why, since the late noughties, records have once again become the format of choice for audio enthusiasts. Records are tangible canvasses where album artwork can be pawed over, scrutinised, and enjoyed. And, of course, there’s the sound. The unmistakable – and unparalleled – warmth that comes from playing records is the reason many vinyl lovers would only ever associate the word stream with geographic terminology. But aside from the records themselves, the first step in anyone’s vinyl journey begins with the turntable.
Well, an amp and speakers are in the mix too, but we’re here to talk turntables. The two most popular styles of turntables in Australia are belt-drive and direct-drive. A belt-drive turntable uses a rubber belt attached to a motor to drive the revolving platter. The advantage here is the belt will reduce vibrations, dampening any unwanted noise that will affect the playback experience. This is the predominant reason belt-drive turntables are favoured by vinyl enthusiasts. The platter on direct-drive turntables is, as the name suggests, directly attached to the motor, dispensing with the need for a belt. A fast start-up time, the ability to spin a record backwards, and a higher degree of overall control make them a popular choice with DJs. So, which one is better? It’s an age-old argument with advantages and disadvantages in both camps, and a preference for one or the other will always be subjective. If possible, try them both out before you buy to better decide which one’s for you. Personally, we’re in the belt-drive camp.
How much should I pay?
Today, you can pay anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars for a turntable. High-end turntables are generally out of reach for most of us and we can only look on at Harry Bosch’s incredible set-up in Bosch with envy. But if you opt for a dirt-cheap turntable, you’re not going to reap what is so unique about vinyl: the total listening experience. Our advice is to aim somewhere in between. Collecting vinyl can be an expensive – and indeed addictive – hobby, so it’s worth investing in a turntable that will not only do the format justice but also ensure you get maximum enjoyment in the process.
What’s the deal with USB functionality on a turntable?
This feature is good for anyone who wants to capture their prized vinyl collection as a digital file. Plug the USB connection directly into a computer, download the requisite software, hit record, and away you go.
There’s one thing you need to know before you jump into the rewarding world of vinyl and turntables: if you want the best performance possible from your kit, there’s some maintenance involved. With a turntable, dust is the enemy. Records create static electricity and therefore attract dust, and this can greatly affect the playback audio. Try to wipe down the turntable with a microfibre cloth at least twice a week to keep the dust at bay. The other essential area to focus on is the stylus; ideally, this should be cleaned after every use with a purpose-designed brush. However, a stylus is a delicate piece of kit, so care is needed here; don’t go after it with heavy hands. Gently brush from the back forwards. Keep to these simple routines and aside from replacing components through wear and tear, you shouldn’t have any issues.