New to turntables

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Shawn.G, Jul 19, 2004.

  1. Shawn.G

    Shawn.G Second Unit

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    I am looking for a turntable so that I can play the many records I found in our garage. I don't have a clue what to look for in one, so any help would be useful. I am not looking for high-end, audiophile equipment, but something that will sound nice with my Polk R40 floor speakers and RCA receiver. Any information to help me get started is appreciated.
     
  2. Charles Gurganus

    Charles Gurganus Supporting Actor

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    Shawn, Technics still makes decent sub $200 turntables (BD20 and BD22). They make the best mass market TT IMO. Do NOT buy the $99 specials at Best Buy and Circuit City (the cheap Pioneers, Akais etc). J and R music world is a decent place to buy Technics (jr.com) and have a 30 day return policy.

    http://www.jr.com/JRProductPage.process?Product=25128

    Get the best Shure P mount cartridge you can aford and you will be in business.
     
  3. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    You can find older high-quality ‘tables on eBay that originally sold for hundreds of dollars, from brands like Yamaha, Pioneer, Technics, AR, etc. Get the best cartridge you can afford from Shure or Grado and you’ll be in business.

    As far as what to look for, manual tables are often considered the “connoisseur’s choice,” but I wouldn’t rule out the automatics or semi-automatics (the ones with auto return after finish). The latter used to be offered as an economical alternative to fully-manual, but at this late date there might not be much difference between the two on the used market.

    Whichever type you choose, make sure it has dampened cueing, meaning the tone arm gently falls to the record when you release the lever.

    You might want to make a decision between belt drive and direct drive turntables. Direct drive ’tables are generally more accurate, but lower-priced models can easily pick up vibrations since the platter is directly coupled to the base - and therefore the room. Since the cartridge is a transducer, the needle on the record functions like a microphone.

    I did a little test one time: I switched my turntable to neutral, set the needle on it, and fed the signal to a tape deck, and recorded it. Using a second tape deck, I played a tape at a high level, a level I typically used when I was alone at home. When I played the recorded tape back through headphones (of the signal from the turntable), I was amazed. I could clearly hear the music I had played, and was even able to distinguish the words to the song! Naturally if you intend to record the albums to tape or CD, keep the volume low during recording.

    Better direct-drive tables addressed the isolation problem by various means. A heavy turntable will indicate the unit was high-quality and expensive in its day.

    Belt drive ’tables are not nearly as prone to this “feedback” problem, because the only way the record couples to the room is through the rubber belt between the motor and platter, which essentially has an insulating effect. Budget belt drive turntables are not quite as accurate as budget direct-drives and typically have measurably (but not necessarily audibly) more wow and flutter, but if you intend to listen at loud volumes, you might want to get one. However, a problem with vintage belt drives will probably be replacement parts. Belts get brittle and break with age, and finding replacements will probably be a problem.

    The cartridge will make or break your system, so make sure you get a good one. I have a cheap turntable, but its performance dramatically improved when I switched from a $40 cartridge to a $250 Shure V15 Type V-MR (which cost twice what the turntable did). This cartridge tested in Stereo Review many years back and the charts showed ruler flat response! Too bad Shure quit making it, but they show up on eBay fairly often, as well as lower-line incarnations like the Type V and Type IV, also excellent cartridges.

    However, if you do get a used cartridge, make sure you are also able to locate a new stylus (the needle). A bad stylus will immediately and permanently damage a vinyl record; I personally wouldn’t utilize a used cartridge without first replacing the stylus.

    There are two basic types of cartridges, standard and P-mount. Personally I think the standard type are much better, but I’m sure there’s someone out there who will want to argue that point. The nice thing about the P-mount system is that it is a “plug and play” standard, and is very convenient. If you get a table that takes a regular cartridge, they take more effort to set up correctly. You may want to post a question for tips to make sure you get it right.

    Standard cartridges further break down into a couple of sub categories, moving magnet and moving coil. If I recall, MC cartridges had much lower output than MM and required a special pre-amp. This may be a moot consideration at this point, because if you have a modern receiver without a phono input you will have to get a phono pre amp anyway. Turntables can’t be used with standard inputs because they are extremely low-level and require special equalization (so-called RIAA curve).

    Hope this helps.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  4. Gary Seven

    Gary Seven Grand Poo Pah

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    I recommend Rega but they are high end...but man, they sound nice.
     
  5. Brian L

    Brian L Cinematographer

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    I recently bought a Rega P2, with Bias cart for about $550 out the door. There are also Music Hall and ProJect's that are very popular with the entry level, but good quality TT crowd.

    I did read one poster at Steve Hoffman's site that said that he felt $500 was price of admission for a decent TT. Not sure I would agree or disagree, but I am damn happy with the Rega.

    That replaced a B&O Beogram 1800 which actually sounds pretty good with decent vinyl, but I wanted to step up to a more purist TT, which the P2 certainly is.

    One thing that may not have been mentioned is a pre-amp if your receiver does not have a phono input. They can run from $20 for a Radio Shack unit to absurd prices. I went with a NAD PP2, which is around $120 or so...traded a Nordost cable I won for it (not being a cables matter kind of guy).

    BGL
     
  6. Mort Corey

    Mort Corey Supporting Actor

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    Denon makes a TT in the lower price range ($150 I think) that will work whether your receiver has a phono input or not. Decent player, plays 33 and 45 rpm records. No muss, fuss or bother....plug and play (well, actually better than that)

    Mort
     
  7. Philip>L

    Philip>L Stunt Coordinator

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    You can buy a Music Hall MMF-2.1 belt drive TT for about $250 new or probably under $200 used.

    Check Audiogon.com for used listings...
     
  8. Danny Tse

    Danny Tse Producer

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    I will second the Technics recommendations....here's my contribution to the topic....surprisingly found in the "speakers" section of the forum.
     

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