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Learn to Love Your Vinyl Again

What You Need to Know About Turntables

Learn to Love Your Vinyl Again

Vinyl records may be based on century-old technology, but they are alive and well in today's recorded music landscape. In fact, in 2019, vinyl was neck and neck with CD sales. Admittedly, in this age of 50 million tracks of music available on-demand via streaming, physical media is no longer the predominant way to listen. But while streaming is rapidly making the CD obsolete, vinyl is growing.

Vinyl's popularity is not only due to nostalgia, although it plays a part. Vinyl records bring back the era of listening to an album the way producers and artists curated it, and the artful covers and tactile nature are distinctly different from calling up music on a smartphone or tablet.

Then there’s the turntable the album plays on. Good turntables are elegant examples of industrial design and engineering, beautiful to look at in a way that a smart speaker isn’t. Shopping for physical records, whether new or vintage, is also a different (and often more social) experience than pushing the Buy Now button on Amazon. It all adds up to a different musical experience - one meant to be savored.

Are you looking to get back into vinyl, or get into it? Look no further than A&B TV, Austin’s audio and speaker store since 1967. Keep reading to learn what to look for in today’s turntables.

SEE ALSO: The Return of an Iconic Classic: The JBL L100

Belt-Drive vs. Direct-Drive

If you start shopping for turntables, you’ll quickly notice some are noted as belt-drive and others as direct-drive. What’s the difference?

Belt-drive turntables use a belt powered by a motor to spin the platter. Because it is driven in this indirect fashion, it can take the platter a few seconds to get up to the precise speed needed, such as 33 1/3 rpm for an album. However, this delay isn't typically of consequence as it takes a few seconds to drop the tonearm on the record, whether manually or automatically. The major advantage of belt drives is the isolation of the motor from the platter, to keep out any vibrations or pass along motor noise to the cartridge.

Direct-drive turntables place the motor underneath the platter and directly spin the disc. The main advantage is getting up to speed almost immediately. There are also variable speed controls, and both of these features make direct-drive the choice of disc jockeys everywhere.

Which type is better? You will find that most audiophile turntables favor belt-drive for its isolation of the motor, but excellent examples of direct-drive turntables are available, too. The drive mechanism is only one factor in overall sound quality.

Moving Magnet vs. Moving Coil Cartridges

Another critical feature of turntables is the type of cartridge that comes with it. The two types are moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC) designs. The phono cartridge is critical to sound quality; they are electromagnetic generators, picking up the sound of the needle riding across the grooves of the record and translating into an electrical signal. The goal of the cartridge is to add little to no sound or noise of its own to impair the signal.

Moving magnet designs are simpler and less expensive. They make it easier to replace a worn stylus, as the magnet is not attached to anything in the cartridge. MM designs also have higher voltage outputs, requiring phono preamps of lesser cost and quality.

Moving coil designs reduce the mass of the magnets, adding less weight to the tonearm cantilever. The lower mass enables more precise tracking of the record and can reveal more nuance and detail from the music. MC cartridges are more expensive and require more precise manufacturing techniques. They are typically found on high-end turntables where the rest of the construction and parts are also up to the task of extracting the best audio quality from a record. You may want or need a separate phono preamp with an MC cartridge for the best performance.

A&B TV Favorites

There are a host of turntables available, from very inexpensive to models running beyond ten thousand dollars. But you don't need to spend a fortune to get great sound from your records. Entry and mid-tier models from audio brands like Yamaha, Denon, and Marantz all provide an affordable way to enjoy your collection. For example, the Denon DP 450-USB features belt-drive, three speeds, a preinstalled MM cartridge, and a built-in phono preamp so you can connect your turntable to anything with a stereo analog input.

Moving up the ladder, the Marantz TT15-S1 forms part of the Marantz hi-fi line. It features a silicone belt-drive, asynchronous AC motor, and low resonance heavy acrylic chassis. It also makes a visual statement about your commitment to quality sound.

Pro-Ject Audio Systems is well-known to vinyl enthusiasts with a wide range of models and hi-fi components to match. Their offerings span entry-level to very high end, some with MM or MC cartridges or your choice; vertical designs, colors, and much more. Some turntables can even connect via Bluetooth to enjoy your vinyl wirelessly over powered speakers.

Vinyl enthusiasts love the warm analog sound of records as well as the listening experience. Visit A&B TV’s 10,000 square foot showroom to check out some of these models and hear the vinyl difference. Call us today at (512) 454-4534 for more information and pricing. We look forward to hearing from you!