Many audiophiles swear by the warmth of vinyl records, touting their fidelity to the music as it was intended to be heard and the fact that an LP collection encourages slow, interactive appreciation of music. This approach may seem harder and harder to come by in a world bursting with digital music, whether that comes via over-compressed CDs, lossy MP3 files and streaming services. But, recent years have seen the resurgence of the popularity of vinyl, and with it a marked increase in the range of turntables and accessories on offer.
Whether you’re a seasoned vinyl enthusiast or an audiophile looking to explore the world of analog music, there are many considerations you’ll want to take into account when you begin shopping for high-end electronics in Chicago. What you’re looking for with a turntable is accuracy and consistency, because without those, your listening experience won’t bring the pleasure you expect. Here are some factors you should keep in mind:
Belt drive or direct drive
Motor placement is the key difference here. A belt drive turntable uses an elastic belt attached to the motor, which is placed off to the side of the platter. This reduces the likelihood of motor noise interfering with your listening experience. A direct drive turntable doesn’t use a belt. The motor is directly beneath the platter, allowing for very consistent speed and, consequently, very accurate sound.
Automatic operation or manual operation
An automatic turntable offers the convenience of pushing a button to control the tone arm. A manual turntable, on the other hand, requires the user’s involvement in manipulating the tone arm, which allows for greater flexibility in your listening experience, such as being able to stop and start playback at your convenience.
Internal or external phono preamp
While home audio systems used to come with the necessary circuitry for amplification, this is no longer the case. If your receiver doesn’t have a phono input, a turntable with a built-in preamp is generally easy to come by. However, an external phono preamp will likely offer highly superior sound quality, and may be preferable for audiophiles.
Moving magnet or moving coil cartridge
Turntables generally come with a cartridge and stylus, but if you’re inclined toward higher-end audio goods, you may find the pre-supplied cartridge unsatisfactory. There are two basic types of cartridges: moving magnet and moving coil. Moving magnet cartridges tend to be relatively inexpensive and practical for most consumers, but moving coil cartridges don’t have as much moving mass and can perform more accurately, which provides a far superior sound. A better cartridge will also last longer and should also cause less wear and tear on your records, which is always an important consideration.
You will likely also want to consider whether a turntable offers USB connectivity, varied playback speeds, a high signal-to-noise ratio and mechanisms to minimize unintended speed variation. As always, if you’re shopping for high-end electronics in Chicago, your best bet is to consult with the experts. A professional with years of experience—and who shares your love of high-quality audio—will help you find the perfect top-of-the-line turntable that fits your home audio needs and budget.