After a smooth summer, we are finally back to work. Our team decided to launch a series of articles for all the diggers focusing on all the vinyl equipment for the new season! We are lucky to be supported in this adventure by our exclusive partner in terms of turntables, Pro-Ject Audio Systems, real specialists in the turntable and vinyl records universe, and Ortofon, producers of turntable accessories, in order to have their expert opinion to help guide you!
This month's article is tackling turntables, as we explore together the different components that surround them to enjoy your favourite vinyl records at home!
We had the opportunity to guide you on the choice of your turntable, but even after reading us, you probably realized that it was not enough and that the world of turntables was still very wide! Between tonearm, the cartridge, or the platter,... The turntable has a lot of equipment to optimize its use and develop its musicality as well as the quality of its sound!
So we propose to give you an introduction to the turntable, by presenting its main components to you, to give you some keys on the various accessories essential to your turntable, by making brief explanatory summaries, for a clear, precise and synthetic accompaniment!
Once you have made your choice between automatic, plug and play or manual turntables, you need to concentrate on the rest : the personalized listening offered by the analog system requires a minimum of knowledge. So before getting deep into the subject, let's try to briefly summarize how the turntable works.
The vinyl record produces sound thanks to its circular groove composed of microscopic hollows and bumps that make the diamond oscillate. This movement is converted into an electrical signal by the phono cartridge and acts like a microphone, which is then transmitted to the preamp and then to the hi-fi amplifier (or directly to an amplifier with a phono input). At the end of the chain, the speakers will only have to reproduce this sound signature which differs from the neutrality of the music. It is therefore easy to understand why each element of the turntable, from the tonearm to the platter and the cartridge, is essential in the formation of the sound: the contact between the diamond and the tiny variations of the groove (of the order of a micrometer, i.e. 0.001 mm) has a strong impact on the reading of the record. Each point of external vibrations therefore affects the cartridge’s behavior and influences the final result and will offer you a particular listening experience that will suit your desires and needs.
First of all, let's briefly discuss the tone arm.
A tone arm is used to read the vinyl record. At the end of the arm is the famous cartridge that reads the recorded sound. There is not really much to modify. Just keep in mind that an arm that is too low will produce a dull sound and lack of energy while an arm that is too high will give a bright and tiring result when listening. Most high-end turntables offer the user the ability to adjust the height of the tone arm, so knowing these pieces of information, you can try to adjust the height manually if necessary.
The cartridge is the very source of the analog system because it is the component that reveals the sound information found at the bottom of the groove. Thus, the quality of sound reproduction will, in large part, depend on the quality of the cell.
There are two main types of cartridges offering different levels of output: moving magnet cartridges (MM) and moving coil cartridges (MC).
The first ones are generally the most affordable cells (even if the top of the range offers excellent products that can even exceed a thousand euros) and the most practical on the market. They have a simpler design and are compatible with the majority of phono preamplifiers offered. If you are looking for an efficient and convenient solution, they seem to be made for you.
The second ones are appreciated by a more demanding and expert public. Their design is also more delicate and more expensive (at manufacturers like Ortofon, all MC cells are hand-wound!) The extremely low distortion level and its excellent transient response give it a wider and more detailed sound. But their complexity requires the use of a specific phono preamp, and it is essential that the preamp is "MC" compatible.
Moreover, mounting a cell requires a minimum of precision. To help you in the adjustment and the assembly of your new stylus, there are many accessories, such as alignment templates to align your cartridge properly, or a cartridge scale which will prove to be essential to prolong its life. We advise you to invest in this kind of equipment to avoid irreversible breakage.
Finally, heavy platters remain the best solution if you want to push the optimization of your vinyl record. Indeed, the mass and density of the platter are the main factors of the efficiency of a platter. Heavy platters will bring this density to your turntable, and will allow it to better absorb the vibrations generated by its environment (engine etc.).
Finally, the platter mat (commonly called felt) is a disc that is placed between the vinyl record and the platter of the turntable. It is often called a felt mat because it is the most common manufacturing material, and most turntables come standard with a wool or rubber felt mat. However, we recommend you to choose platter mats that are more vibration-absorbing and promote better music reproduction. For example, cork platter mats absorb vibrations from the surrounding environment without affecting the dynamics of the record, while leather platter mats adhere much better to the platter and prevent resonance.
If this introductory article has motivated you to want to know more about the world of vinyl records, pay attention and follow us on our social channels and our blog! Many more tips and advice are coming soon!
Also, feel free to check out our accessories here, or the website of our partners Pro-Ject here and Ortofon [here]ici, ! 💿🎶