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How Vinyl Records Sound

How Vinyl Records Sound

A record is a disc-shaped object made of plastic whose surface is made up of tiny grooves. These grooves, which represent the vibrations of sound waves as audio is recorded, are inscribed with depth and shape into the surface of the record. When the record player's stylus is placed on the record, it vibrates with the shape of the groove, converting the sound signal into an electrical signal.

A turntable includes components such as the tonearm, stylus, and speakers. The tonearm supports the stylus so that it is perpendicular to the surface of the record and allows it to move horizontally. The stylus consists of a tiny needle tip that vibrates to follow the grooves on the record. The vibrations are converted into electrical signals and sounded through the record player's speakers.

When playing a record, the tonearm and needle must remain stable and follow the rotation speed of the record (generally, the turntable has a button to adjust 33 or 45 rpm) to ensure the quality of the sound produced. At the same time, records also need to be properly protected to avoid scratches or damage that could affect the sound quality.

The working principle of the vinyl record player: the ultra-fine jagged track on the vinyl record directly uses the shape of the track to record the ripple of the sound. When the stylus slides inside, it will produce delicate vibrations due to the sawtooth track, and these vibrations will generate electromagnetic induction through the coil and magnet inside the cartridge, converting the sound ripples engraved in the track into sound electromagnetic signals (that is, Like a microphone), and finally through the power amplifier, the electromagnetic sound signal is amplified to the extent that it can push the speaker (rotating the new record player can directly push it), and finally we can hear the sound.

How to build a normal sounding vinyl record system?

Four things are needed for a vinyl record to produce a normal sound: a vinyl record player, a phono stage, a power amplifier, and a speaker.

  1. Vinyl record players: There are many types of vinyl record players on the market, and the price span is huge. Retrolife brand vinyl turntables belong to the entry-level high-fidelity series. They are cost-effective, simple to assemble, easy to operate, and high in quality. You need to manually adjust the needle pressure.
  2. Phono amplifier: The signal of the vinyl cartridge is relatively weak and needs to be amplified once and then input to the power amplifier to meet the actual level requirements. Some phono amplifiers also have the function of restoring the RIAA curve for old records.

Simply put, there must be a phono stage between the vinyl record player and the power amplifier that drives the speakers. Nowadays, the phono amplifier will be built into the entry-level vinyl record player, and will be integrated into the power amplifier (when the power amplifier is marked with a PHONO channel, it generally means that the power amplifier has a phono amplifier function), and will be integrated into some active speakers. There will be various price points as individual power amplifier options.

  1. Power amplifier: When the record player is working, we can hear the weak sound signal with our ear against the stylus. The function of the phono amplifier is to amplify this weak signal by one level and then output it to the power amplifier. The power amplifier then amplifies the signal and converts it into current to drive the speakers. The speaker itself cannot directly produce sound, and needs to be driven by current to work properly. We can buy separate speakers and power amplifiers, or we can buy active speakers with power amplifiers built into the speakers.
  2. Speakers: You can buy an all-in-one Bluetooth speaker because of its appearance, but I personally recommend that you buy a "pair box". There is a certain distance between the left and right channels, so that there will be a "sense of positioning" and "image formation" brought by stereo recording.
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