If you are, um, dated like me, you remember a time when turntables were THEE way to listen to music (besides maybe tapes and eight tracks).
But for a while there, turntables pretty much went into oblivion as CDs and digital music took over.
Now, nostalgia reigns supreme and turntables are all the rage once again. People have returned to vinyl record format and, well, how else are you going to play records?
With the rise in vinyl and nostalgia, the turntable industry is bigger than ever. Thinking of hopping on the bandwagon? Here are some reasons to buy a turntable in 2021.
What is a Turntable?
Before reviewing why you should buy a turntable in the coming year, let’s take a look at what a turntable is.
Also known as a phonograph, a turntable is a device used for playing sound recordings. It contains a motor that spins a platter at a constant speed.
A vinyl record is placed on top of the platter. Then belt drive and direct drive technology is used to turn vibrations into sound.
So What Happened?
Vinyl came out in the 1950’s and was one of the most popular ways of listening to music until the 1980’s and 1990’s when CD’s started to take over. In time, CD’s were partially replaced by digital downloads and streaming services.
No one knows exactly how vinyl started to make a comeback, and maybe it was never really dead, but in 2007, it started to peek its head back out of the sand.
By 2010, it was coming back big time and, currently, it even exceeds CD sales in some countries.
Now that we know a bit about the history of the turntable, let’s look at why you should add one to your gear collection.
It Provides High Quality Sound
Analog is the type of music that is created by continuous sound waves generated by artists and other equipment. The vinyl/turntable combination is the perfect example.
There is some back and forth on whether digital music sounds better than analog or not, but most go with analog. It is believed that the direct drive turntables provide a more accurate and continuous speeds while the belt drive technologies offer better sound quality with less distortion from the motor.
The proof is in the pudding as many recording and mixing engineers transfer digital tracks to analog to give the music a bit more flavor. You will rarely if ever hear of an engineer going the other way around.
It Appeals to the New and the Old
There is no doubt that turntables appeal to our sense of nostalgia. Yet, for the most part, it is the millennial generation that has made vinyl relevant once again.
In doing so, they mix a vintage appeal with something modern and updated working to appeal to various generations.
It’s A Great Way to Celebrate Record Store Day
There’s something about a record store. Anyone who grew up in the days of vinyl probably had a record store near them that was more than just a place to buy albums.
It was a place to hang out with people with similar musical tastes and find out about new stuff. Some even had book signings, meet and greets and live shows.
Once CD’s came, the record store experience just wasn’t the same and it became even less so once digital music took over.
When vinyl became obsolete in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Many record stores had to close. But today, they are reopening and they are cooler than ever. In fact, Black Friday, November 27, has been named Record Store Day.
Be sure to celebrate this year by going out and buying a cool new turntable.
Vinyl is Just Cooler
I remember when I used to get a brand-new album. It wasn’t just about the sound of the record, it was about the unboxing experience.
The cover looked great, the sleeve looked great and it was even better if there was a poster folded up inside.
Once we went to compact discs, it just wasn’t the same, mainly because everything was smaller. Sure, there were booklets and other extras, but everything was crammed up and, well compact.
What’s more, unlike vinyl sleeves which last a long time, compact disc cases broke, sometimes as soon as you got them out of the plastic wrapper.
When digital came along, all that was out the window. Even though it was convenient to access tunes through the computer, there was nothing tangible to hold on to.
When you own a turntable, you can get great vinyl records and enjoy them any time you’d like.
Turntables are Great for Collectors
Vinyl was dead for a while, but once it came back, both the records and equipment became collector’s items. Today, if you are lucky enough to have older vinyl records and phonographs, it’s likely you can get a pretty penny for them.
The items that are being reissued today may not be as valuable, but who’s to say how trends will evolve in the coming years? Either way, a turntable is a great item to have and it will always have collector appeal.
Turntables Make for a Better Listening Experience
A turntable contributes to a better listening experience. From unwrapping the album to putting it on the platter to cranking it up through the headphones, it gets you prepared for something special; great music being played the way it was intended.
The Turntablism Culture
When many of us think of turntables and vinyl, we think of classic rock and disco of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, but don’t forget, it is also often used in hip hop and rap music.
Turntablism involves manipulating sounds to create new music, sound effects mixes and beats. Deejays often use two turntables and a cross fader equipped DJ mixer plugged into a PA system for live events or broadcasting. The PA allows wide audiences to hear the music.
The sounds are produced when the deejay moves the record with their hands to place the stylus on exact points of the vinyl. They move the platter around to slow down, speed up or stop the motion. The result is a scratching effect that is often used in rap and hip hop
The crossfader helps with volume and equalization while the two or more turntables help deejays cue desired start points on different records
You Don’t Have to Get Rid of Your Vinyl
If you listened to vinyl back in the old days, you probably still have your records boxed up in your attic gathering dust. After all, who could bear to part with those gems?
Once you get a turntable, you can clean the dust off those albums and start listening to them again.
And with vinyl coming back big time, you will also have more options when it comes to listening to your new favorites.
While collector’s vinyl can be quite expensive, you can still find some great vinyl at garage sales, flea markets and secondhand shops for just a few bucks. In this sense, it is an economical option for listening to great music.
The Perfect Length
Back in the days of turntables we listened to albums that were just about 40 minutes in length with 4 or 5 songs on each side. Once CDs and digital took over, albums could be as long as the artist wished. But is that a good thing?
Shorter albums allow artists to be choosy and only add their best songs instead of throwing on filler because everyone else is making longer albums. It also gives listeners an optimal dose of their favorite musician and ensures they don’t get tired of hearing them.
When you play vinyl on a turntable, you get a certain amount of surface noise. When digital came out, the sound became clearer which some may have preferred, but is also took away from the charm vinyl offered.
Whether you prefer a clean sound, or a surface noise sound may be a matter or personal taste, but there’s gotta be a reason why people add that surface noise effect to modern music to this day.
Both CD’s and records scratch. However, CD’s are more likely to scratch than vinyl is.
Your Records are Recyclable
Sure, vinyl scratches and wears down over time, but the great thing about it is, you can recycle it into so many items. If you are crafty, you can use it to make a purse, a wall clock, a book holder and more. It can give a great vintage look to your fashions and home décor.
Allows You to Focus on Music
Playing vinyl on a turntable is a bit of a ritual. Taking the vinyl out of the sleeve, blowing the dust off its surface, placing it on the spinner and applying the needle takes a bit more effort than throwing a CD in a player.
While some may feel the extra effort taken is time consuming, true music lovers know this makes it more likely that listeners will sit down to listen to their albums and give them the attention they deserve.
What to Look for in a Turntable
If you are thinking of adding a turntable to your gear collection in the coming year, here are some things you will want to keep in mind.
Whenever you buy an item, budget will be one of the first things you will want to consider.
Turntables can range anywhere from $60 to $1200+. And while you don’t want to end up in the poor house, if you go too low end, you may end up with a product you aren’t happy with.
The first thing you should do is think of the features you want such as Bluetooth or an automatic arm. Go from there to find a player that has the desired features and works in your budget.
As a general rule, going for a turntable for around $300 will give you the best of both worlds when it comes to sound quality and affordability.
It goes without saying that you will want your turntable to provide great sound quality. But you really won’t be able to tell how good it sounds until you listen for yourself.
However, there are ways to determine sound quality before you buy.
The type of stylus, the wattage of the speakers and the audio components are all good indicators. Also, a larger system will tend to be louder if power is what you’re looking for.
Is it important for you to take your record player from room to room? Do you need it for your turntablism gigs? Do you like bringing it to your friends’ houses?
If so, portability is an important feature to look for.
Portable record players come with a handle and foldable locks that allow you to convert it into a suitcase that you can take with you anywhere.
It is important to note that a portable player and a wireless player are not one in the same. However, most wireless record players are portable.
What makes a record player portable is its ability to be played using some sort of batteries. This is ideal if you are looking for a player you can take to the park, beach and outdoor events where there is no power generator.
It’s funny to think that a turntable would have Bluetooth capabilities, but with modern technology, now we can have the best of both worlds.
Turntables can be Bluetooth in or Bluetooth out.
A Bluetooth-in record player has a signal that goes into the record player. This gives you the option of connecting your smartphone or MP3 player wirelessly so you can play your digital music through the turntable speakers.
A Bluetooth-out turntable sends the signal out so you can connect it to Bluetooth speakers. This feature will be useless unless you have Bluetooth speakers. But if you do, they will give your player an extra sound boost.
A record player that has USB allows you to convert your records into audio files. You can do this by connecting the turntable to a Mac or Windows PC using the USB cable. You must also have software that converts the analog signal to digital.
Alternately, some players have a USD port that allows you to insert a USB stick to convert the vinyl.
You may also be able to use the USB input to play MP3 files that can be listened to over the turntable’s speakers.
Fully Automatic, Semi Automatic or Manual Arm
A record player can come with a fully automatic, a semi- automatic or a manual arm.
A fully automatic arm will move to the record as soon as it is placed on the platter.
When the record ends it will return to its original position.
A semi-automatic arm will need to be placed on the record, but it will go back to its original position when the record is over.
A manual arm will have to be put on the record and taken off manually.
Audio Inputs and Outputs
If you want the option of listening to your record player through headphones, be sure to choose one with a headphone input.
If you like to play MP3s on your record player, make sure the one you buy has an aux-in function. That way you can connect your player to any device that plays digital audio. It will allow you to listen to digital music with a higher sound quality.
Aux-out, or line out, allows you to connect to your turntable to external speakers. This will provide a boost in volume and sound quality.
Today’s turntables are made with a variety of décor tastes in mind. They may have a modern look, a vintage look or an industrial look. Be sure to choose one that goes well with your interior design.
Also, if you have limited space to fit your turntable, make sure it meets your size requirements.
Your record player may come with a variety of accessories that may come in handy.
For instance, it may come with an extra needle which will be a good thing if your needle wears down. You may also want to have a dust cover to protect your vinyl from dust.
When shopping for a turntable, you may also consider buying your own accessories. Turntable cleaning sets can be purchased separately, or you may want to buy a cabinet that you can place your turntable on top of and store your records inside.
Technology has come a long way in providing convenient formats for listening to music, but there will always be room for vinyl and turntables in the hearts of true music fans. With the holidays on the horizon, now is a great time to think about adding a turntable to your collection. What record will you be playing first?