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How to Buy a Good Record Player

How to Buy a Good Record Player

After buying vinyl records and expanding my vertical collage, I’ve become a well-versed scholar in the ancient art of turntablism. If you’re new to vinyl, you’re in luck. In this post, I discuss how to find the perfect record player. Collecting and enjoying vinyl records is a great hobby, and you’ll find it rewarding as time comes.

Ask Yourself Questions

Asking yourself a few general questions will help you focus on what you want out of a record player. Keep these in the back of your mind as you shop!

1. What is my budget?
2. Do extra “bells and whistles” matter to me (Bluetooth features for example)?
3. What is my style?

Determining your budget is your first step. There are record players that range from roughly under $100 to upwards of $500. Think about how serious you are as a buyer. You also want to think about what you want out of a record player. Are you one for “latest and greatest”, or do you have simplicity in mind? Lastly, be aware of what you think looks good and suits your personality. Whichever record player you choose, you’ll want it to be something that fits your style as a record collector.

Price Ranges

  • $100, More or Less: At the bottom of the spectrum, you’ll find record players offering basic functions. They play records. Although it may seem easy to grab and go with a record player from this range, be wary of their construction. Many of these options don’t have the best designs, or they feature “all-in-one” solutions (built in speakers, or other portable options). If portability is something you value, then there are a few options in this range from Retrolife R609.

If you are a serious “audiophile” or someone looking for good quality, then it’s probably best to keep away from this range of record players. True, these do the job, however they don’t do a proper job for someone who is meticulous about sound quality. The portable options in this range are OK if you want something to carry around, but there are more capable options for home stereo systems.

  • $200-$400: For the beginner looking for an affordable record player that offers exceptional playback and features, this range is best. Record players in this range are typically well-made. You’ll find a wide variety of brands that offer great turntables. In my opinion, this is the best range to browse overall. You’ll find quality options from models like Retrolife R517, Retrolife UD006, Retrolife SY101, and quite a few more.

This range is full of hot contenders that have great sound quality compared to lower priced models. They are equipped with better cartridges/stylus and are better builds overall.

  • $500 and Beyond: For the serious audiophile in it for the best, this range offers high-end models with impeccable accuracy and quality builds. When you get into this range, you find a highly diverse range of options. I recommend doing some homework and really digging into the companies that offer them.

Belt Drive or Direct Drive

There are two basic classifications; belt drive and direct drive. This specification refers to the method used to spin the platter of the turntable. Belt-driven record players spin the platter with a thin rubber belt. Direct-driven record players have a dedicated motor that spins the platter.

Direct-drive record players have a clear advantage over belt-driven record players because you don’t have to worry about replacing the rubber belt. Consequently, direct drive record players are known to produce more noise, which will interfere with sound quality.

  • Belt Drive

Pro: Very quiet
Con: Belt needs to be replaced as needed.

  • Direct Drive

Pro: No need to worry about belt replacement
Con: Known to produce unwanted noise and vibration

Manual, Automatic, or Semi-Auto

This refers to how the tonearm operates. Manual record players require you to lift and drop the tonearm by hand. Automatic record players have the ability to automatically lift and drop the tonearm. Semi-auto record players need to be operated by hand as well, however they have a lever system that drops the tonearm onto the record.

Going Digital | USB and Bluetooth

On the market, you can find record players with USB features to use with a computer. These record players usually come with software to make the process easy. There are some great advantages to these models. If you want to take your vinyl collection with you (iPhone, MP3 player, or CDs), consider one of these options. Archiving vinyl is a great way to keep digital copies of your record collection!

If you have a Bluetooth-capable speakers, definitely consider a record player with Bluetooth capability. Many purists may advise against this, but if it works for you that’s all that matters! Bluetooth is a really simple and clean approach to listening to your records. No cables or preamp required!

Determine How and Where You're Going to Listen

You’ll need to find out if you want to dedicate a room to listening to music, if you want a turntable in the corner of a room or something in between.

If you have a room that you’d like to dedicate to listening to music, you’ll have the room to get a turntable, a separate amplifier and some nice speakers such as model UD006. This is the scenario where you, aside from budget, don’t have to compromise anything.

Don’t have any room available? You’ll have to give up something and it’ll probably in the loudness department. I suggest finding a turntable with a built-in pre-amplifier such as HQKZ-006, so you don’t need to worry about yet another box to put somewhere.

There’s also the scenario that sits in between the previous 2, where people have their turntable as part of their living room entertainment system. Record players with a built-in pre-amp HQKZ-011 can be usually be connected to a home entertainment system.

With so many models to choose from, Retrolife has your back. Tested by time and fans, the engineering cannot be bested. You really can’t go wrong. With flawless sound equipment, every Retrolife record player is a good purchase to play your vinyl collection. You do not have to worry about buyer’s remorse. Buy the one that catches your eye. The record player that is best for you is only a click away!

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