We offer more different turntables now than we did in the 80’s. Vinyl records are definitely not dead! Here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop for a turntable.

Some turntables have straight tone arms, and some have curved. The curved arm causes less wear on the record, and provides a more accurate reproduction of the sound. If the turntable is used primarily to play a record from beginning to end, the curved tone arm is the way to go.

ThTT curved armTT straight arme straight arm is better suited for “scratching”.  If you work the platter back and forth while playing, a curved arm will tend to jump out of the groove, while the straight arm will stay put.

A turntable requires a specialized pre-amplifier to boost and properly equalize the signal before it connects to your mixer. (A DJ mixer may not need a separate turntable preamp, but a broadcast mixer will.) Some current turntables have the preamp built in. If you need an external preamp, they are available here.

A heavy platter works to smooth out any irregularities in the rotation of the disc. But a heavy platter takes more energy to come up to full speed from a dead stop. So, if you want the stability of a heavy platter, but need the instant speed, expect to pay more for a more sophisticated motor system.

The low-cost units with lightweight platters often use a belt-drive system. These don’t accelerate quickly, and are best suited to use for recording the disc to a computer for archiving, rather than playing directly on-the-air.

Most turntables include a cartridge and stylus (the “needle” that actually touches the disc.) If you have a choice of stylus shape, elliptical is preferred by audiophiles for accuracy and detail. Conical shape is more often found in broadcast and DJ use, as it tends to de-emphasize scratchy groove noise.

A few turntables have a USB interface built in, which makes for a simple one-step connection to a computer. Just be sure it also includes regular audio connections for the times you want to use it with a mixer.

Standard turntable speeds are 33 and 45 RPM. A few can play 78. (There are software tricks to allow recording of a 78 RPM disc with a 33/45 turntable, if you ever have the need.)


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