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A Guide to Essential Features for your Record Player

Blog - April 1 2022 - Image 1

A Guide to Essential Features for your Record Player

April 1, 2022/Audio

Do you ever wish you could turn back time? When you listen to a classic album on a record player, you might feel like you’ve gone back to your favorite decade. It’s easy to feel nostalgic with the resurgence of vinyl, with more affordable options than ever now available for the home market. These systems come with some confusing options, but our team at SounDesign is here to guide you through all the features of your next turntable.

Belt-Drive or Direct-Drive?

Most turntables play vinyl records at 33⅓, 45, and 78 revolutions per minute (RPM), with the ideal speed printed on each record. The turntable body, known as a plinth, needs to sit on a flat surface so the stylus tracks within the grooves of the record. The plinth’s platter is powered by one of two kinds of drives: a belt-drive uses its motor to torque an elastic belt to the spinning platter, and a direct-drive system directly spins the platter with its motor. The direct-drive is the ideal choice for professional DJs and performers, while the belt-drive turntable is preferred by audiophiles, record collectors, and easy listeners.

Moving Magnet or Moving Coil Cartridge?

Your record player's cartridge relays the electrical signals from the physical vibrations of the stylus to the preamplifier. Choose between two types of cartridges: the moving magnet (MM) or moving coil (MC). The MM is the most common choice with a diamond stylus that produces vibrations down a cantilever connected with a magnet that interacts with a pair of coils to create the electrical signal for your preamp. The MC cartridge lacks the weight of the magnet, detecting more of the song’s subtle audio differences within the record grooves. However, using your MC with a heavy hand could end with you scratching your record if you aren’t careful.

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Separate or Integrated Phono Preamp?

The phono stage marks the vinyl experience as unique from other listening systems. Because vinyl records are manufactured for a 22-minute runtime on each side, wider grooves for low frequencies are removed to optimize space. Therefore, turntables output a weak phono signal with decreased bass frequencies and increased treble. The phono signals are so quiet they require conversion to a balanced frequency "line level" signal that matches with several sources. The purpose of the phono preamplifier is to reduce the treble and augment the bass frequencies into an audible range. Most record players have built-in phono preamps; just check the back of the plinth for a Line output or a Phono/Line selector.

Integrated Standalone or Pre/Power Separate Amp?

As your musical vibrations move down the audio chain, the balanced “line level” signal reaches the amplifier, signal-boosting equipment compatible with passive speakers. Your stereo amp powers all your sources with inputs for cellphones, CDs, vinyl, DVDs, and more. You have two choices between amplifiers that increase the dynamic range, spotlights the bass, and heightens the sonic quality of your audio. The first option is the integrated standalone amp, a small model that combines the circuitry of the preamp with speaker-driving power into one piece of equipment. Audiophiles consider this the more convenient choice over the pre/power separate amp, a two-unit setup. However, many record collectors prefer a two-unit system since there's an opportunity to upgrade the individual units if you want to elevate your sound further. No matter which system you choose, a quality amp setup will drive your system for decades.

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Passive or Active Speakers?

Your sound signal has finally reached the final stage; your speakers. Passive speakers, as mentioned above, are connected to amplifiers, to augment your audio and filter the appropriate frequency signals to specific areas of the speaker. Alternatively, active speakers are not compatible with amplifiers and require power outlets as their energy source. The audio signal travels from the preamp to the active speaker, which amplifies the signal, and then moves to a speaker. The active speaker system is considered easier to set up and manage because the amp and speaker are combined into one unit, but some audiophiles think the standalone amp has more power and fine-tuned detail.

Now that you feel more prepared on how to find the best record player setup for your listening habits, our team at SounDesign is ready to help you design and install the best system for your needs. Whether you have questions about passive speakers or want to browse between different amplifier brands, contact us today to begin!


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