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Ultimate Guide to Turntables


Our Friendly Turntable Help Guide


In the market for a new turntable? If you're feeling baffled by the huge array of options, start here to determine the turntable that is right for you.


Records are a wonderful way to listen to music. The entire experience  from buying records to sitting down and enjoying them, involves a lot more deliberate thought than mindlessly streaming the latest pop tunes. Putting a little energy and love into listening to records can be one of the most rewarding experiences out there.


Buying a solid, nice sounding turntable is an investment in your future. You will find years of enjoyment, if you look after your turntable, so choose wisely.


A few of the options we have in store:


Debut Carbon RecordMaster


Pro-Ject 1-Xpression Classic

McIntosh MT10 


We are always here to help, so pop into one of our stores, or flick through an email and our helpful staff will get you on the right track.


Things to consider:

  • How do you want to listen?
  • What determines the sound quality?
  • How do I connect to my system?
  • How do I set up my turntable?
  • Do you have existing equipment?

How will you listen? Active vs. Casual Listening


The whole experience of listening to records obviously takes more care and time than streaming or listening to radio. That's the beauty of the process. For every minute of time you invest, you get something much better in return, real enjoyment of your music.


Active listening is when you sit down and listen to music as your primary activity. It can be a really rewarding experience, but be warned: It's addictive! If you consider yourself an active listener, you really should be listening to items before you purchase them, and considering what is going to sound best for your given budget.




If you are more of a casual listener, then things like simplicity of  use become a little more important (although it's still important for your system to sound good!)


What Determines the Sound Quality?

Wouldn't it be nice if sound quality were simple? It would certainly make our job easier!


Sound quality is complicated because humans are complicated and what sounds incredible to one person, might be just average to the next. That's where our most important suggestion comes in:


Listen to what you are about to buy!


A million online reviews are no substitute for your own ears. What suits a reviewer doesn't always suit your home. So the most important thing to determine sound quality is your own taste. We have demo rooms specifically set up so that you can be sure you are on the right track and end up with a system you will be happy with for many years.


Cartridges: Where the vinyl hits the road...

Cartridges are arguably the most important part of the turntable. They usually consist of a diamond tip mounted to a small metal cantilever. The movement of this cantilever in the cartridge produces the tiny electrical signal that goes on to ultimately drive the speakers and move the air that you listen to.


Choosing cartridge can be tricky, and worthy of an article in itself. The general gist of it is that


Moving Coil Cartridges sound better for high end systems

Moving Magnet Cartridges are more cost effective and not so sensitive to your phono pre-amplifier choice.


Make sure you get at the very least an elliptical stylus tip (Spherical sounds awful on all stereo records)

More elaborate stylus profiles, generally require a tone arm with a lot of adjustments available to get the most out of them


A Thorens Turntable in Action


Physical Build Quality

Most people want a turntable that will last and sound good. Turntables are mechanical devices and so the more highly engineered and heavily built will tend to sound better and last longer.


Things to look for:

  • Heavy Plinth, with quality isolation feet
  • Bearings that turn smoothly and without noise
  • A simple mechanism (nothing to complicated)
  • A platter that is suited to the bearings and the rest of the design

Of course these are all things that cost money to build into your design, so it tends to be that more expensive models have better isolation from vibrations and are more solidly built.


How do I connect it to my system?

The signal coming out from the stylus is very low level, so somewhere along the line needs to be amplified to reach similar levels to what is output from a CD player or similar. This is where the phono pre-amp comes into the equation.


Some cheaper models may have the phono pre-amp built in, to make things easy to connect. It's worth noting that the quality of built in phono pre-amps is usually fairly basic, so usually you are better off with a separate pre-amp.


Some amplifiers may have a phono pre-amp built in, so it's worth checking that before you purchase a separate one.


Phono pre-amp have to amplify a very sensitive signal and precisely match tonal RIAA curves, so the quality can vary quite a lot. Picking one that is suitable for your cartridge and doesn't lose any of the details is well worth some time and consideration.




How do I set up my turntable?


Taking the time to set up your turntable correctly can make a huge difference to the sound through your speakers! The first job is to get the turntable very level. Use a spirit level to ensure the surface is dead level. 

Watch Crighton set up a Pro-Ject Turntable on our youtube channel ::


The next step is to make sure your cartridge is aligned correctly. Audio-Technica have a great guide for this here: Audio Technica



Step three is getting the cartridge down-force correct. The easiest way to do this is with a small digital scale, although some turntables will make this easier. Have a chat with us or see your turntable's manual for more info.


Do you have existing equipment?

If you already have a system you are happy with, it makes sense to look at something that works well with what you already have. Our friendly shop staff are usually more than happy to help fit something perfect into your system. 


Now you're up and running, sit back and enjoy!


Stop into one of our friendly shops and have a chat about how turntables can change your life!

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