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Turntables

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Posted by J-Dawg
Jun 25, 2011 0:20:55 GMT -5
Ok, so this is somewhat incredibly embarrassing, but I don't currently own a turntable, and I sold all my vinyl when I didn't realize it's value. I've been all CD / download for almost 2 decades.

This is going to be an awkward question, but I figure I'll get a better answer here than I would anywhere else.

I would like to buy a turntable. I'm a computer scientist by trade, and that means that more or less, I think like an engineer when it comes to buying stuff.

What I don't want from this thread:
Please don't recommend a specific turntable unless you have the cred / specs to back it up. If you can justify it, by all means go ahead, but don't just gush marketing-speak.

What I want from this thread
Please tell me the following:
- what is important in a turntable. Things to look for, things to avoid.
- what aesthetics are important. Pretend I worship Steve Jobs and I want things to "just work". What things are important from a usability standpoint that I might not have considered?
- what I should expect in terms of maintenance. How often do I need to replace a quality needle, how much do they cost, any other maintenance required?

My general requirements (computer science, remember?)
- plays vinyl (duh)
- knows how to WOMP, but is equally at home playing classical, rock, and jazz.
- I'm not looking to DJ with this turntable, just enjoy vinyl in the privacy of my own home. At the same time, I appreciate durability and am willing to pay for a turntable that won't break if i look at it funny. Engineering over price, within reason.
- will bring me joy, happiness, and eternal fulfillment (okay, optional)

Also, if it matters: I own a mid-end receiver and am not looking to upgrade. I'm willing to buy cabling as required though. My receiver -> speaker setup is well above average and will do whatever I ask of it well before the neighbours get pissed.

So bottom line:
- what things can I compromise on for home use?
- what things are important for real-world J-Dawg use?
Posted by j3ff8
Jun 25, 2011 0:33:17 GMT -5
This information would also be extremely useful to me also! I have one, but it's pure shit and I haven't even listened to all of my vinyl yet because my current turntable makes them sound horrible.
Posted by g0ldfinga
Jun 25, 2011 2:03:21 GMT -5
I use a Technics SL-1200MK2. These are very nice tables and are mostly known to be great audiophile and DJ tables. Unmodded however they sound excellent and can be had for fairly cheap.

Stay away from budget tables if you are concerned about sound quality and accurate sound reproduction.

One of the most important aspects of selecting a table is the drive mechanism it uses to spin your record. To reproduce the sound intended it needs to spin at 33rpm/45rpm etc depending on the album. You will notice some tables will speed up and slow down as it spins causing higher and lower pitches to the music which is very annoying.

The needle and cartridge is probably the biggest deciding factor in your sound quality. Choosing the correct shape will improve your tracking and keep the needle in the right spot on the groove. This will reduce distortion.

I use a Shure M97xE which is a great tracking unit. It has the cart and stylus built together and features an elliptical tip which is good for sq and tracking.

All the music I listen to at home is on vinyl.
Posted by g0ldfinga
Jun 25, 2011 2:23:29 GMT -5
How often you replace the needle depends on how much you listen to music. I have yet to replace mine after I bought a new one and it's been a few years.

Maintenance is pretty minimal unless you have some really expensive records that you plan on keeping in perfect shape. On mine I keep re stylus clean with a carbon fiber static brush. Also keeping the pbelt sander and records dust free is a good practice as dirt can get into the grooves and on the stylus which will hinder the sound.

The reason I recommend the above Technics is they are built and engineered extremely well. They use a magnetic direct drive mechanism to spin the turntable which won't wear like a belt driven table. It also sports very low wow and flutter (0.01%), which means that the pbelt sander will stay within 1/100 of 1% of the desired speed. Which as I mentioned earlier is very important in the music and voices sounding like they should.

Posted by g0ldfinga
Jun 25, 2011 2:36:00 GMT -5
Here's my gear so far:


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Posted by g0ldfinga
Jun 25, 2011 2:36:29 GMT -5
Technics

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Posted by Horned Gramma
Jun 25, 2011 16:27:01 GMT -5
The pre-amp that you run your turntable through is every bit as important as the turntable you choose. We bought our turntable -- it's a Pro-Ject Debut III -- pretty much based on aesthetic:



It comes pre-loaded with a decent cartridge and would sound pretty good on its own, but the depth and richness of sound we get from it can mostly be attributed to the JVC JA-S71 we got to go with it:



It's a beast but it's got some serious guts in it. I recommend a similar (vintage) pre-amp, something from the mid to late 70's. If you want WOMPage it'll be your best bet; word is that anything comparable made recently tries more to emulate what you'd get out of standard digital sound. That thing even adds some serious depth to my digital music library.
Posted by Horned Gramma
Jun 25, 2011 16:30:31 GMT -5
Sorry to say I don't know the specific type of cartridge I got on that turntable, but that Pro-Ject is top of the line and although the specs elude me I know they didn't skimp on it. Any audio equipment salesman worth his salt will be able to recommend a decent cartridge if you decide to go with a used turntable and want to put a new cartridge on it (which, if you do buy one used, I would strongly recommend).
Posted by J-Dawg
Jun 25, 2011 19:22:06 GMT -5
Thanks for all the advice guys. I'm going to start shopping over the next few weeks despite a busy schedule, hopefully will have the gear secured in the next couple of months.
Posted by g0ldfinga
Jun 25, 2011 23:39:06 GMT -5
The project debut iii's come from the factory with a Ortofon OM5e which is also an excellent cart. I've heard the projects are very easy to setup out of the box in terms of aligning and leveling the tonearm and pbelt sander.
Posted by Horned Gramma
Jun 26, 2011 0:02:25 GMT -5
I'm not going to lie, I fucking love that thing.
Jun 26, 2011 2:49:39 GMT -5
Technics 1200's are built like tanks. If you're using it to just listen to music and not to DJ, one that is brand new could possibly outlive you. I owned a pair for dj'ing for almost 10 years. During that time they probably got used about 4-10 hours a week, and I never had to repair one. It's the only brand I would trust buying used, and you could probably find one in good shape for a reasonable price.

Whatever you decide on, try to get one that has a standard removable cartridge needle and an adjustable weighted tone arm. That way you can get a good quality needle and it can be balanced properly. As mentioned earlier, if you're willing to spend the extra money, get a direct drive table rather than a belt drive. I sold my tech's last year and have been using a plain jane player for the time being. I think I want to get one of Gramma's players. They look sexy as hell.

Shure makes really good needles as does Ortofon. Buy a brand new needle and make sure it's balanced properly to make your vinyl last longer. I can help you with that if I happen to be in town.
Posted by J-Dawg
Jun 26, 2011 12:17:30 GMT -5
It turns out that Matsushita stopped making the Technics SL-1200s last year, so if I end up buying one of those it will have to be used. Assuming things are in good shape, is there any reason I couldn't buy one built in the 1980s? I'm not sure what I'll find when I start looking, but from they way you guys are talking I could buy one made in 2009 or one made in 1989 and probably be just as happy with it.

Jun 26, 2011 13:54:14 GMT -5
What???? There's no way they stopped making tech 12's. They an industry standard.
Posted by J-Dawg
Jun 26, 2011 14:20:34 GMT -5