Want to buy a turntable, but don’t know where to start? Here’s an image of your basic turntable setup:
Basically, you’ll need the following components:
- Turntable: There are several different types of turntables. You have your direct drive, belt drive, and the less common linear-tracking turntable. You also have manual, semi-auto, and fully auto turntables. If you’re just looking for something basic that doesn’t sound like one of those all-in-one Crosley turntables sold at Target (sonic quality is awful, don’t buy it), I recommend the Audio Technica AT-LP 120 fully automatic turntable, which retails for $300 brand new, but you can probably find them cheaper online. Make sure your turntable is equipped with a phono cartridge – I know for a fact the AT-LP 120 comes with one brand new. Basically, a fully-automatic turntable is this: you put on a record, push a start button, and the needle lifts and drops on a record on its own. When a side of a record is over, the tonearm automatically puts itself back in the starting position. It really boils down to convenience when it comes to fully-auto turntables. Audiophiles, people who take music reproduction very seriously, argue endlessly about the pros and cons of the different types of turntables, but I won’t get into that here. Also, many turntables have grounding built in, which connects to your preamp, and its purpose is to eliminate ground noise, which is an annoying humming sound.
- Preamplifier: Sound travels from the needle of a turntable to the preamplifier before reaching the speakers and ultimately into our ears. There is no way to amplify a traditional turntable without a preamp – it’s the bridge between the turntable and the speaker. I recommend purchasing an integrated amplifier, which is a multifunctional unit with a preamp built in that can be used to simultaneously power up your TV, radio, and sound system. Grounding is usually not necessary with an integrated amp, for it is also built in. I bought mine used for $75 on Craigslist and it has served me well for a few years now. Make sure your integrated amp has a phono input, otherwise, your turntable setup won’t work. Turntables are usually equipped with what’s called an RCA cable (usually a red and white cable; red being a positive charge, white being negative). The RCA cable from the turntable plugs into the phono input of your amp. Next, your amp should also contain an output that connects to your speakers in order for your system to work.
- Speakers: So far I’ve recommended a fully-auto turntable and an integrated amplifier. Many integrated amps have a speaker output that requires speaker wires, which you can also find affordably at electronic shops like Best Buy. You can probably find them cheaper at Ace Hardware. After splicing and exposing the bare wires on both ends of the speaker wire, one end goes into the amp (red with red, white with white), and the other end goes into the speakers. From here, plug in your turntable and amp into an outlet and turn the power on. Make sure the integrated amp is set to phono mode and push the button that corresponds to where you plugged in your speakers wires (usually labeled ‘A’ or ‘B’ in the front and back of your amp). Put on a record, hit the start button on your turntable, turn up the volume, and if everything is connected properly, you should be good to go!
Click the image above for more information, but please note Turntable Lab suggests active speakers (self-powered speakers that omits the use of speaker wires) instead of passive speakers, which is what I suggest.