Buying a record player is something that you should consider doing if you are in the mood for some great music. The experience that you will get when listening to vinyl records cannot be compared to listening to music from a cassette or MP3 player. If you are below twenty years of age or so, most of the music that you listen to is probably what you download online. You may be of the idea that that music is the best, but your parents or grandparents might not think so. To them, record players were the best and will always remain to be the best.
How a Record Player Works
So you have decided to buy a record player in order to improve your listening experience. That is without doubt a smart move that you are about to make. But before you part with your money to pay for record player, it is a good idea to understand how it works. The first record player was constructed in the 19th century by someone known as Thomas Edison. Back then, it was referred to as a phonograph. Even though it looked quite different from the modern record player, it worked on the same principal.
Parts of Record Player
A record player is comprised of three main parts, namely the turntable, stylus and tonearm.
- The Turntable
Even though the words turntable and record player are used almost synonymously nowadays, the turntable is simply the part of the record player that holds the vinyl record. It is sometimes referred to as the revolving platter. In Edison’s day, the turntable was a cylinder. On the current record players, it is a flat rotating platter.
The center of the turntable is comprised of a metal rod that holds the vinyl record in the center as it turns. The turntable’s plate is metallic but is covered with rubber or plastic to prevent the record from being scratched inadvertently. The cheapest record players usually use turntables that are made from steel while the most expensive ones feature turntables that are made from aluminum. The steel plates have low inertia, something that makes the motor speed quite unstable. The aluminum plates on the other hand have better balance, low vibration and do not accentuate instabilities in motor speed.
The rotation of the turntable is controlled by what is referred to as the turntable drive system. There are two types of drive systems, namely the belt drive system and direct drive system. The former goes a long way in reducing noise that comes from the motor. The elastomeric belt absorbs vibrations and other low frequency sounds that are produced when the record is playing. The direct drive system has its advantages too. Even though it does not use intermediary gears, belts and wheels like its counterpart, it features stronger motors as well as pitch control sliders that make it a favorite among most disc jockeys.
- The Stylus
This is the cone-shaped needle that rests on the vinyl record. It is made from diamond which happens to be the hardest natural material on the earth. Apart from diamond styli, you may also come across record players with sapphire styli. A flexible strip of metal is used to connect the stylus to the tone arm. The flexibility is simply meant to allow the stylus to easily ride up and down within the grooves of the vinyl record.
When choosing a record player, you need to be keen on the shape of the stylus that it has. Some record players have spherical styli and others have elliptical styli. The latter is considered to be the better option because it improves the fidelity of the music by allowing more contact with the groove of the record. The spherical styli provide less fidelity but have the advantage of being more sensitive.
Whether you purchase a record player with a sapphire or diamond tipped stylus, you will need to replace it after a while. It is recommended to change the stylus after about 2500 hours of listening pleasure if you want to continue enjoying the best sound from your turntable.
- The Tonearm
This is the arm of the record player whose task is holding the stylus. Together with another component known as the cartridge, it produces the sound that you hear when a vinyl record is playing. It is fixed to the turntable and extends to the surface of the vinyl record. It can be lowered or raised using a lever for precision. The tonearm can also be placed manually, but you will need to handle it carefully if you decide to do that. If you have shaky hands, better use the lever to lower and raise it.
There are two types of tonearms, namely straight and curved. Both of them are great. There are some people who insist that curved tonearms produce better sound. But if you ask most DJs and hip hop artists, they are probably going to vouch for the straight tonearms because of the fact that they are easier to scratch.
The way a record player works is very simple. You simply need to take your vinyl record and then put it on the revolving platter. When the record is revolving, the stylus will bump up and down and send the vibrations into the cartridge via metal wires that are located within the tonearm. When the vibrations reach the cartridge, they are converted into an electrical current that is then sent to the preamp. The preamp simply does the job of boosting the signal or current on its way to the speaker. Once the amplified current hits the speaker, you will hear the sound of music or whatever is recorded on the vinyl.
Note that there are some record players that come with built-in preamps and others that require you to buy a modern receiver. The problem with some modern receivers is that they lack phono preamps that are required by a record player. But if you manage to get the best receiver, you will be able to enjoy the best sound quality when listening to music on your record player.