Tips on purchasing record players
Probably no other hi-fi source comprises such complex mechanical and electronic interplay as the record player. And only a few sources present you with the wonderful option of continually spending more and more money: Anyone can buy a viable all-in-one model, including pickup unit, for around 400 euros if they want. However, anyone so inclined can also purchase the turntable unit, pickup unit and tonearm separately, investing as much as what a luxury car would cost. If you are in the latter category, you can skip the following tips, because these are geared toward beginners.
Direct-drive record players are usually not as good as belt-drive players. The belt, which is, strictly speaking, a wearing part (although this doesn’t bother you when it comes to your car’s fan belt) decouples the turntable from the drive motor, thus freeing it from unnecessary vibrations.
Secure an advantageous position!
Not even the best and priciest record player is any use if you put it on a wobbly chest of drawers. A solid, vibration-reducing platform is crucial. Invest a good portion of your budget in proper phono furniture.
MM or MC?
MC (“moving coil”) pickup units tend to be superior to MM (“moving magnet”) pickup units. MCs have a lower moving mass and are therefore better at following the modulations of the record’s groove than MM models. However, with the exception of “high-output” MC systems, they also generate a significantly lower output voltage of between 0.15 and 2.5 mV, while MM pickup units generate between 2 and 8 mV. This requires a correspondingly higher gain (no problem), but above all, a pre-amplifier with a very high signal-to-noise ratio (actually quite a problem). Furthermore, with MC pickups, the user normally can’t replace the needles. All of this easily makes MC pickup units somewhat more expensive. In terms of sound though, it’s worth it.
Tinkering does the trick
With a bit of tuning, it’s possible to get a lot out of low-priced record players. More on this in section 19…