Listening to music on vinyl is still an amazing audio experience, but usually it requires a quality turntable, stylus and speakers. Without those key elements there's a chance the vinyl won't sound nearly as enjoyable. The quality of the vinyl also factors in since old records can pop and skip.
If you want to counter these potential shortfalls, then the only answer is to find a good record player. Unfortunately, like many things, record players can get expensive really quickly if you’re looking for something with every feature that will provide the best possible sound. For many people, finding the right balance between sound quality and price is the trickiest tightrope to walk.
Getting a good deal on a record player and hunting for the best sound are two different concepts that don't always overlap. You may be able to find a decent quality used record player online, as the mainstream abandoned turntables once CD players took over prior to the internet age. High quality models run from $250 on up, but you can still find new turntables in the $100 range that provide adequate quality for listening pleasure.
One of the problems with buying old used equipment is that you may not get as much lifespan out of it as you expect. All electronic equipment eventually turns to junk unless it's kept in good condition and treated with proper care. Another disadvantage to buying an old turntable is if the manufacturer has gone out of business the equipment will be difficult to service. But if it's a classic model and it still runs in good condition, it may eventually be considered a valuable collector's item.
If your main concern is sound quality, focus more on the speakers. For many people all record players sound the same and can't even be distinguished from digital players. But to the purist audiophile, turntables sound warmer and more dynamic than digital sound, due to the nature of analogue technology. At one time Technics was a top of the line brand for DJs who spun vinyl. Today's top quality turntable brands include Pioneer, Audio-Technica, Denon, Marantz, Numark, Pro-Ject, Clearaudio Concept, Fluance and Rega.
A soundproof room is often the best listening environment for music. Recording studios are typically soundproof, but most homes aren't. It requires putting up foam padding that absorbs soundwaves. Since most people aren't going to bother soundproofing their homes, which can be expensive, the next best thing to focus on is a room with carpeting and wall coverings that absorb sound. What you want is a room with minimal reverb because too much sound bouncing off of walls can add unwanted noise to the music.
Soft materials absorb sound while hard materials such as wooden floors create reverberation. Ultimately, it comes down to personal taste, but to hear the music closer to how it was recorded, you should be in a room with minimal echo.
Modern record players use technology that reduces rumble compared with old models from a few decades ago. If you plan on being a DJ, you'll need two turntables, a mixer, an amplifier and speakers. Casual listeners can replace the mixer and amplifier with a standard stereo receiver that comes with built-in amplification and controls.
The most important feature of a record player that will require replacing periodically is the stylus, which many people still call the "needle." As the stylus wears out, the sound gets duller. If you completely avoid replacing a worn out stylus, it will begin to damage vinyl records. A stylus is typically made of diamond due to its sharpness and costs around $10.
A dust cover is another important feature that can protect your records. The worst enemy to both a stylus and a record is dust or dirt. Keeping a dust cover over the record while it's spinning helps protect the vinyl, stylus and the sound. Many times pops and scratches heard from records are a result of debris stuck in the vinyl groove.
Other important features to check in your search for a good record player are a lightweight tonearm, a USB output for recording to a digital medium and automatic operation. Make sure the record player already has a built-in preamp or you will have to invest extra in preamps.
An important technical feature to be aware of is whether or not the turntable is belt-driven or direct-drive, which is superior in quality. Professional DJs choose direct-drive turntables because they start and stop faster.
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