I just inherited my father's record collection. Now what?
April 3, 2011 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Buying a turntable, vinyl record cleaning kit, and vinyl sleeves. Need your recommendations, please.

There are some great suggestions here, but my budget is around $100-200 for now. The models I'm looking at the moment are:
- Crosley CR49 Traveler Portable Turntable, because I like the look and the fact that it is portable
- Crosley Mini Turntable
- Victoria GDI-TW3USB 7-in-One Stereo Entertainment Center, because you can also play cassettes with it.

Are these any good or do you have any other recommendations?

Some thoughts running through my mind:
- Most of my records are classical and jazz. Does it matter whatever model I get? Some guy at the store before was telling me that some turntables are better suited for rock and techno music, but I just don't get it. Does this have to do with the turntable itself or the speakers?
- When I search for models and read the reviews, there would always be people who say the sound is great vs not, and I always wonder if this is more of a matter of audiophiles vs regular listeners. I am just a regular listener, I mean, I know I can't expect *very high quality* given my budget, still I want something that's a good buy.
- Should I forgo the cassette-playing option? I just thought it was convenient, and I do long to play my tapes again. I could always look for a separate CD+cassette player, with AM/FM radio to boot, like this one. Would having extra features like this compromise the quality/performance of a turntable?
- I am going to place this in my office, which is smaller than an average living room. Should I buy speakers, too or would I be fine with built-in ones?
- Been reading about all this hype on the Crosley brand but also some hate there, too. Is it really any good or should I look at something else?
- Would love a retro look, as this reminds me of the one my grandparents used to have.

Vinyl Record Cleaning Kit
I see these serious looking kits in Amazon and I wonder if one really needs it? Should I buy a brush or would a fibercloth do? Found this homemade solution that I would like to try to save some money.

Vinyl Sleeves
Some records that I have are very old and dirty and thought I would replace paper inner sleeves, then as an extra protection buy the plastic outer sleeves. Good idea? How else can I protect them? For now they are stored standing up in a cabinet, secured by bookends to keep from sliding. I thought of buying crates, but they seem more protected from dust if inside a cabinet. What do you guys think?
posted by pleasebekind to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: this one. if you type 'turntable' into this and the non-USB version come up right near the top...they are knock-offs of the Technics one a bit further down the page (which is about $1000...if that's in your budget...get it!) there is a reason for this. DJ's use this kind of player. They wont fuck up your records and they sound good. also, you can calibrate the speed with precision (see all those dots around the perimeter of the platter and that cylinder on the lower left? the cylinder has a light that (like all lights on a AC current) strobes at 60hz, which flashes on the dots, which appear to hold still if it's turning at the right speed (there are 4 rows of dots usually: 16, 33 1/3, 45, 78)...if its not going the right speed (funky current, sunspots, whatever) adjust it with the slider on the right), and the heavy vibration dampening feet and removeable cover are good too...you will need some sort of amp, but this could be as minimal as powered speakers...
also, the usb will let you make mp3s of the tracks you like and want to be more portable than any turntable could hope to be...
posted by sexyrobot at 10:59 AM on April 3, 2011

I have the Audio Technica USB turntable sexyrobot recommended and for $200 it's a pretty fantastic value.
posted by dhammond at 11:33 AM on April 3, 2011

Same here- I have the ~$200 AT as well. Sounds great.
posted by supercres at 11:37 AM on April 3, 2011

All three pieces you linked to are complete and utter garbage. Please do not destroy your dad's vinyl collection using that crap. The "speakers" in those combo units cost the manufacturer about $1 each, and will sound like it. The Audio-Technica model sexyrobot linked to is what you want. You'll need an amplifier and speakers of course, but the Audio Technica linked to has the phono-stage pre-amp built-in so most anything will work. Do you have an old receiver kicking around anywhere?

Record-cleaning fluids are nothing more than isopropyl alcohol and water.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:53 AM on April 3, 2011

For new entry level (under $300) turntable, I would really recommend one of the Audio-Technica ones mentioned above. Anytime you have a "combo" player (turntable+cd+radio), the quality tends to be really bad; it's like a dedicated printer is always better than one of those all-in-one solutions.

Also... forget the salesman telling you one turntable is better than another for certain types of music. It's technically true, but it's only when you are dealing with expensive audiophile level turntables. (Like say a Technics vs Rega vs Thorens, they have different levels of musicality.)

For turntable setups, you ideally want bookshelf speakers. There are many affordable M-Audio and Audioengine models that will be worth the cost.
posted by xtine at 11:55 AM on April 3, 2011

Yeah, xtine is correct. If you want go the powered speaker route to save footprint size Audioengine and Behringer make some nice mid-fi bookshelves these days. I like the connectivity of the Behringers a lot.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:14 PM on April 3, 2011

Best answer: Get a dedicated turntable, a preamp, and a receiver for the best sound. Make sure you can change out the stylus and cartridge, and as sexyrobot says above, get one with a strobe light. You can get old receivers with a built-in phono preamp for cheap at thrift stores/pawn shops. The preamp built into some turntables is ok but the sound is often not as good. I had a Sony turntable with a built-in preamp and it had this constant low-volume 60Hz buzz.

As for cleaning, I never had luck with brushes. I get a spray bottle and shammy. AM record cleaning solution for vinyl (I think it's just alcohol and deionized water), and Groovy record cleaner for shellac 78s (I think this is just deionized water).

And yes, get new inner sleeves. I recommend paper ones with rounded corners. Don't bother with the poly-lined ones because they won't always fit. And save the original sleeve. There's enough room in an album cover for a new sleeve+disc, and the old empty sleeve.

Always store vinyl records upright, and never stack them. I don't bother with a plastic outer sleeve unless the record is really valuable (for my cheapo collection this means >= $40). Storing shellac 78s is a whole other story I won't get into here.

One final tip: if a vinyl record is warped, you can sometimes fix it by laying it flat (not in the cover) on a table for 24 hours. Keep it out of the sunlight. Also remove any shrink-wrapped plastic from the cover as this might constrict and warp the album cover.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:48 PM on April 3, 2011

On preview, instead of a receiver you could use powered speakers as PareidoliaticBoy says above.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:50 PM on April 3, 2011

Some guy at the store before was telling me that some turntables are better suited for rock and techno music, but I just don't get it. Does this have to do with the turntable itself or the speakers?

Some turntables (in fact, most of the ones you'd get at say, Guitar Center) are built for DJing. They'll have slipmats, a powerful motor, and a tonearm that'll stay in the groove when you spin the record around. This also goes for many cartridges, which'll have a needled shaped such that it sounds good going either forward or backwards and won't wear the record out during backspins.

That's the kind of thing he's talking about. Not so much that it sounds better with techno -- in fact, it might even sound worse. They're just built like tanks so they're able to take a beating during live performance.
posted by empath at 3:04 PM on April 3, 2011

If you want to go down the portable route, here are two very respectable portable decks (I've got one of each, love them both):

Numark PT01
Vestax Handytrax

OK, so it's not the wooden retro styling you're looking for, but it is a retro 60s plastic styling, and the build quality for both is excellent.

They both have built in speakers, which are quiet, but pretty good considering.

These would be great for an office environment (assuming you have an office with a PC and some decent powered computer speakers) - you could plug them directly into the computer speakers, or they both have USB outs that will run the sound into the PC. Alternatively, you can plug in headphones.

If you don't have any powered computer speakers, Creative make some surprisingly decent ones that sound a million times better than you'd expect.

These are the best sounding portables you'll find, but that said, the sound quality and tracking is always going to be worse than a proper deck. The Audio Technica deck recommended above is a good choice.

Please don't settle for a deck with a radio, cassette deck, retro wooden styling or one of these other gimmicks, as it inevitably means that sound quality has been compromised to include these extra features for the same price.
posted by iivix at 3:04 AM on April 4, 2011

Response by poster: Hi everyone, thanks for all the help. Might go with sexyrobot's suggestion but would like to ask a few more things below. Sorry for being such a n00b, anyway:

1. What is the difference between Audio Technica ATLP120 Professional Turntable with USB and the Audio Technica At LP120 USB Record Turntable Direct Drive? I'm confused.

2. So if I buy this model (per sexyrobot), I would still need speakers, right? Aside from Audioengine and Behringer, do you know of any other good brands out there that's not so expensive? Am planning to invest on a more respectable sound system in the future but for now my funds are limited :/

3. How long would the cables be? I am planning to place this on my bookshelf when I'm in the office, but when I swing by my parents' house my dad might like to plug it in his home theater and am just worried this might be too short?

4. Planning to buy an extra stylus/needle/cartridge, in case of emergency. Should I? What kind of replacement should I get?
posted by pleasebekind at 9:24 AM on April 5, 2011

Personally, i wouldn't get the direct drive tables with pitch adjustment, etc, unless you planning on learning how to DJ. It's overkill for a home turntable, imo.
posted by empath at 10:12 AM on April 5, 2011

You might want some replacement needles that fit whatever cartridge comes with your ATLP120. You won't need them right away. I change the needle once a year.

Shure makes inexpensive cartridges/needles. But don't bother buying one now.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:45 AM on April 5, 2011

1. Both those links lead to the same turntable.

2. Yes. All output devices require amplification. Turntables especially, to the point where they require a pre-amp to boost the stylus signal to a readable level. Modern turntable designs such as the one recommend come equipped with the pre-amp capability on-board.

What existing equipment do you have?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:16 PM on April 7, 2011

Response by poster: I don't have any equipment at all. Thinking of buying the speakers after I buy the turntable.
posted by pleasebekind at 10:49 AM on April 11, 2011

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