You’ve been hesitating at length, weighing the pros and cons, but here you are, embarking in the world of vinyl! It’s a big leap! However, now you’ve decided, everything is a bit vague or too technical and you don't know where to start…?
Follow the guide and become the greatest Digger around you !
Obviously, to use your records, it’s better to be able to play them! It’s your choice to keep them as decoration but if you're an audiophile, a music and texture (grain) lover or a curious novice, you have several possibilities !
We’ve ranked them from the simplest (but with the worst sound quality) to the most technical :
All in one : an economical choice, but far from the audiophile-grade quality.
If the speakers are built-in, you’d better be on your way.
A turntable with a built-in phono preamplifier, directly linked to active speakers.
A turntable with a built-in phono preamplifier, linked to an amplifier then to passive speakers.
A turntable without a built-in phono preamplifier, linked to a preamplifier then to an amplifier then to passive speakers.
In our article, "how to choose the best turntable", we discussed the technicalities of the different turntables in depth, go check it out if you’re still not sure ;)
Don’t get scared by reading the title, we’re going to explain it !
Without going into complicated technicalities, the sound coming from a turntable requires a processing called “RIAA correction”. It’s the first amplification of the signal to reach the “line” standard so that it could be amplified by the amplifier like other products (CDs…). To plug a turntable, you need a dedicated RCA input, called a phono input.
If your turntable has a phono input, you can either plug it directly to active speakers (because they have a built-in amplifier), or you can plug it to an amplifier, itself plugged to passive speakers.
If your turntable doesn’t have a phono input, you only need to insert a small unit called a phono preamplifier between your turntable and your amplifier. You can find them in all price ranges, from around $12 to several thousand dollars. Moreover, a preamplifier allows you to have a better quality and to better process the signal. Based on your choice, a preamplifier can also allow you to use more or less upmarket cells meaning a better quality.
Hi-Fi speakers are the last elements composing your Hi-Fi sound system. They show the qualities or the flaws of the links beforehand ! To choose your speakers well is essential if you want to fully enjoy your music !
To ensure that the sound rendering of a Hi-Fi system is optimal to approach perfection, you always need to make sure that the components fit together harmoniously. To choose your Hi-Fi speakers, you'll have to be careful about the Hi-Fi material you already have.
Active speakers include the amplification process and only need a power supply to reproduce the audio signal that is transmitted to them. However, on active speakers, there is no power amplifier : this one is externalised and put before the turntable.
The particularity of monitoring speakers lies in the very neutral and linear sound reproduction so that you could listen to a recording in the most objective manner. These are speakers for work.
On the other hand, passive/Hi-Fi speakers deliver a high-quality listening with an accurate sound reproduction.
The phono cable
This cable is essential to connect your turntable to your phono preamplifier.
The RCA cable
This one is to be connected to the phono preamplifier and the amplifier. In the case of turntables with a built-in phono preamplifier, you need to plug this cable to the turntable and to the amplifier.
The speaker cable
The speaker cable is to be connected to the amplifier and the speakers. The primary task of this cable is to modify this signal as little as possible to reach the most accurate sound reproduction. The length, the diameter and the design impact on the quality of the signal. There also are several setups (broadband, simple bi-wiring, biamp)
Having a turntable is great. Setting it up properly is better.
For optimal comfort, your turntable must :
Be set up on a flat surface such as a wall mount or a Hi-Fi unit
Be far from devices negatively impacting the electrical signal such as the internet box or appliances.
Not be on the same piece of furniture as the speakers, especially to avoid the vibrations (here’s a bad example on the image)
Same way of thinking : having records is good, taking care of them is better! Quick reminder with our artice "How to best maintain your vinyl collection ?"
If your records are badly maintained or improperly stored, you can’t expect them to have a quality sound. They have to be stored in their sleeve, vertically, in a dry place and away from the heat.
There are different furniture to store your records, here are some of them:
Some tips : you can store your records in alphabetical order, by labels, by artists, by years of production (chronological order), by musical genres or by the colour of the splatter.
To pamper your records, there are very useful accessories !
The antistatic brush is a must-have to remove the dust from your records every time you use them but mostly to remove the static electricity building up on the surface of the record and which creates a signal disturbance. Opt for a carbon brush, they are very useful and inexpensive.
There are also cleaning brushes for the stylus of the cell and this should not be overlooked !
A pluck for heavy turntables which will optimise the contact of the record on the turntable and lessen the risk of a reading error. It also exists for light turntables such as the Clamp It from Pro-Ject.
Other accessories may be of interest based on your needs (an antistatic rubber mat, a protective sleeve, a washing machine for records, a headset, a cleaning kit, a cover…)
For starters, a turntable turns itself on when you begin to listen to your records and must be turned off only when you’re finished… It sounds logical but we say it again, it is important not to turn the turntable off when you switch records or you’ll wear the motor and the belt out !
To clean your records, you can clean them by following the grooves with paper dipped into soapy water or washing-up liquid. Be sure to rinse and let them dry but don’t wipe them off.
There also are devices to clean the records, they are very useful !
All the setting up and advice make sense only if you have records! This is where all the magic lies.
There is no set way to get them, everyone has their own approach! Some go bargain-hunting at record dealers, bric-a-brac shops; others opt for “digging” via Internet on specialised reselling websites and others favour buying straight from the artists, labels or independents like Diggers Factory.
Sometimes, we are looking for good deals, while on other occasions we want the collector’s edition record, the unique, the rare gem, a record for Diggers in other words ;)