Record players quality comparisson?
April 19, 2004 9:20 PM   Subscribe

A recent question regarding Record players got me thinking: Does it matter what quality record player you are using, as long as the cartridge is high quality? Can you hear a difference between a $100 and a $200 record player if the needle is the same, in regards to music playback?
posted by Keyser Soze to Technology (5 answers total)
The same question could be applied to any piece of consumer audio equipment and you will get the same range of answers. The audiophiles will say "of course" and the skeptics will say "possibly but probably not enough difference to merit paying double the price". I would say that if you can hear the difference yourself, and it's important enough to you, then it's worth it.

Turntables and tonearms, possibly more than any other components, benefit from having more attention paid to detail in their manufacture. After, all you're scraping a tiny gemstone over miles of spiral plastic canyons, and the task of eliminating unwanted effects due (for example) to inconsistent tracking is no small engineering feat. Compared to amplfiying an exisiting signal, or tuning into a radio broadcast, or reading binary patterns from a computer-etched optical disc that is. IMHO of course (I'm a closet audiophile but without the budget.)

Think about it: if you were given £1000 to buy a CD player and a turntable, and had to spend £100 on one item and the rest on the other, which would you spend the £900 on? I know what I'd do.
posted by cbrody at 10:18 PM on April 19, 2004

Something happens between the needle and your amp, doesn't it? I would guess that the quality of the electronics matters. The physical sound created by the needle has to be picked up, converted to an electromagnetic signal, and sent to the amp somehow, doesn't it?

/out of my ass
posted by scarabic at 9:46 AM on April 20, 2004

The quality that you look for in a turntable is how steadily it spins the record, and how much sonic isolation it provides from things like you jumping up and down next to it on a wooden floor.

The steadiness of the spinning can be heard most readily when the recording is of slow, single notes, especially when played by a piano. If your turntable is of lesser quality, the piano will kind of warble, and it's definitely noticeable.

A lot depends on your installation. If your living quarters have a concrete floor and you mostly listen to music without slow, solo piano, you might never notice.
posted by Daddio at 10:12 AM on April 20, 2004

go to an audio shop, listen, and make up your own mind. this isn't the kind of question you can get a fixed answer for and any decent place should have a listening room you can book, for free - take along your own records. beware of changes in volume level - louder tends to sound "better", so try to keep volume constant across comparisons (you may need to give them warning and pre-select a few components so that they don't have to keep switching cartridges around etc - unfortunately that's particularly true of turntables, which need a bit of care setting up).

i've run from one shop to another and back again trying to compare sounds from different items, laughed at salespeople who invariably say, when something expensive sounds the same or worse than something cheap, "well, it's a subtle difference", and once cancelled a holiday to buy a better sounding component (cd player, not turntable, in that case). give it a try...

(if you want a direct answer - the main things a turntable can influence are isolation, noise and timing. isolation stops the needle from picking up the vibrations from the speakers (think horrible feedback); noise comes from bearings and the motor (rumble), typically; timing means that turntable rotates at the correct speed (not so important) and does so steadily (important). the arm has to be rigid (little vibration at audio frequencies), provide adjustment to get tracking correct (orientation of the cartridge), and provide a sideways force that counterbalances the sideways drag of the record on the needle (to stop it jumping and, i thnk, possibly get stereo balance ok?) and a vertical force that correctly loads the cartridge (changes cartridge frequency response and tracking ability).)
posted by andrew cooke at 10:12 AM on April 20, 2004

Not much of interest happens between the needle and the amp actually. The big issue is for turntables is accurate and constant turning speed. Errors therein cause the pitch to be off. If you care to search for them, you can find long discussions on belt drive vs direct drive.
posted by fvw at 10:20 AM on April 20, 2004

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