The Complete Turntable & Record Player Buying Guide

Turntable / Record Player Buying Guide

Craig Walker |

What Is The Difference Between A Turntable & A Record Player?

Whilst both terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between a record player and a turntable.

What Is A Turntable

A turntable is the part of a record player that spins your record either via a direct drive or a belt drive. Some turntables also include a built-in phono EQ (amplifier) which allows them to connect directly to a separate amplifier or active speakers.

What Is A Record Player

A record player is the complete system that comprises the turntable, amplifier and often built in speakers allowing you to play your music without any other components needed.

Almost all of the turntables you’ll find at K&B Audio include a Phono EQ allowing them to be connected directly to speakers or an amplifier. 

But if you’re looking at a specific higher end turntable then make sure it either includes a Phono EQ or, if it doesn’t, you’ll need to buy a turntable preamp. We recommend the iFi Audio Phono Turntable Preamp.

2. Turntable Features

Researching turntables and record players may seem confusing with all the jargon, but in reality it’s quite straightforward until you get into the ultra high-end.

Below we’ll list out the most common terms you’ll find on our turntable with speaker bundles and explain what they mean.

Phono EQ: Turntables need an amplifier, otherwise known as a Phono EQ, to bring the sound output to a suitable level for your amplifier. 

Almost all of the turntables you’ll find on our website will include a built-in phono EQ allowing you to connect them to your speakers/amplifier without needing any extra equipment.

Bluetooth / Wireless: Some of our turntables, such as the best selling Audio Technica LP60XBT, feature a Bluetooth transmitter. 

This allows you to connect your turntable to compatible Bluetooth speakers without running a cable between them. This is perfect for when you want to place your turntable on the opposite side of the room to your amplifier/speakers. 

Note that it’s a transmitter not a receiver so you can’t (and wouldn’t need to) connect your phone to the turntable.

Platter: The platter is the main part of the turntable that holds the record, the platter is then spun by either belt or direct drive.

Direct Drive: With a direct drive turntable the platter is directly driven by the motor, they start quicker and are most commonly used for DJ. 

Belt Drive: Belt drive turntables, as per the name are driven by a rubber belt. They are slower to start so not suitable for DJ'ing but they are the most common home record player setup. 

The rubber belt helps to reduce vibrations picked up by the stylus.

Automatic / Semi Automatic / Manual: When you see this terminology it’s usually referring to the tonearm. 

A manual turntable requires you to pick up the stylus and move it to your record to begin playing your music. 

Semi automatic turntables require you to manually move the tonearm to start playing, when it reaches the end of the record the tonearm will lift but you’ll need to return the tonearm to its original position. 

And finally a fully automatic turntable does all the work for you by moving the tonearm to the start position and when playback is finished the tonearm will lift and return to its original position and also stop the motor.

Tone Arm: The tone arm holds the cartridge and the stylus, it’s the part that you place on the record to play your music and holds the stylus in place as it makes its way through your record.

Stylus: The stylus, also known as the “needle” is the part that tracks the grooves of your record and sends the vibrations to the cartridge to be converted into sound. 

The stylus is a consumable item and will need replacing after a certain period of time.

Cartridge: The cartridge is the part on the end of the tonearm which holds the stylus and a magnetic pickup, it converts the vibrations from the stylus into electrical energy which is then amplified by the Phono EQ. 

You can buy replacement cartridges but most of the time you’ll only need to replace the stylus.

USB: You’ll see a few turntables with built in USB such as the Audio Technica LP60XUSB. These turntables allow you to connect them to a PC / Apple and digitise your record collection using software.

So if you’re hoping to record your records to MP3 then look out for a USB turntable.

RPM: This refers to the speed that the record plays at. Most turntables will have a setting for RPM, short for Revolutions Per Minute, of 33 or 45 (with some including 78 such as the TEAC TN-180BT-A3).

Vinyl records come in three speeds, 33 ⅓, 45 and 78.

78 rpm records were phased out by the 1950’s so if you’re looking for modern records you won’t need to specifically look for a turntable that supports 78 rpm.

Typically 7” & 10” records will play at 45 rpm, usually a single (i.e one song each side)

A 12” record contains more data so is most common for albums and plays at 33 ⅓.

All of the turntable you’ll find here support 33/45 up to 12” and if you do need a 78rpm turntable then look for the Teac TN-180BT-A3

Your records will have the speed clearly marked so it’s very easy to understand once you have it in your hands! 

3. What You Need To Get Started

Now that we’ve covered all of the turntable jargon we’ll now explain what you need to get started.

All In One Record Player

If you’re looking at an all-in-one record player unit with built in speakers then you simply need the record player and some records to get started! We'd recommend taking a look at the Crosley range.

These all in one record players will have built in speakers and often have USB connectivity so you can digitise your record collection to a computer.

They are great for casual listening but as you can imagine with small built-in speakers the sound quality isn’t going to be as good as a proper setup with separate bookshelf speakers.

Turntable With HiFi Speakers

If you’re looking to add a turntable into a HiFi speaker setup then you’ll be looking at a separate turntable. It’s quite straightforward to get up and running but you’ll need a few extra components:

  1. Turntable
  2. Phono EQ
  3. Amplifier
  4. RCA Cable
  5. Speakers

Most commonly, especially with the turntables on our website, you’ll find the Phono EQ built into the turntable so you typically won’t need to buy this as a separate item.

You’ll most likely want to hard wire this turntable into your amplifier for ultimate sound quality and performance, however if your amplifier supports Bluetooth then you could also wirelessly connect a compatible Bluetooth turntable.

Turntable With Active Speakers

This is the most common home turntable setup and is our main focus here at K&B Audio.

It’s easy to get started, high quality but doesn't break the bank. 

You still have a lot of flexibility in turntable and speaker choice but you don’t need to worry about separate amplifiers, pre amps, grounding cables etc. Just plug & play!

  1. Turntable with built in Phono EQ
  2. Active Bookshelf Speakers
  3. RCA Cable

If you want to get up and running with an amazing system quickly then take a look at our turntable with speaker bundles. 

All of our bundles are hand picked by our expert audio team based on compatibility, sound quality and ease of use. Tried, tested and ready to run.

4. How To Connect Your Turntable To Speakers

There are two methods of connecting your turntable to your speakers or amplifier. Namely wired or wireless.

For outright sound performance and for anything high end then naturally you’ll want to go with a wired connection. However for most lifestyle home audio applications you can also consider using a wireless Bluetooth turntable for ease.

Wired: Your turntable will have an RCA audio output which you can plug into your amplifier or active speakers via an RCA audio cable.

Plugging in is simple, it’s just an RCA cable (red & white lead) from the turntable into the amplifier/speakers.

If your turntable doesn’t have a built in Phono EQ then you’ll need to cable from the turntable to a turntable pre amp, then into your amplifier.

Wireless: There are a growing number of Bluetooth turntables on the market that have a built in Bluetooth transmitter. These are most commonly used with active Bluetooth bookshelf speakers such as the Edifier R1280DB.

Simply setup your speakers and set to Bluetooth pairing mode.

Then place your new Bluetooth turntable, press the Bluetooth pairing button and it’ll wirelessly link to your speakers allowing your records sound to play through the speakers.

This setup is great when you want you record player to be in a different location to the speakers i.e on the other side of the room for instance

5. Looking After Your Records

It’s important that you take care of your records to ensure the best sound quality and to avoid any damage to your new record player setup.

Even as a casual record listener it’s still recommended to keep your record collection in good condition as a warped record can cause damage to your stylus and tone arm.

Luckily it’s pretty cheap and easy to look after your records correctly.

Cleaning Your Records

Record Cleaning Cloth: The most basic item you’ll want is a record cleaning cloth and cleaning solution such as the Vinyl Kleen record cleaning starter kit

This is your daily cleaning before and after use for removing dust etc.

Record Cleaning Brush: Cleaning brushes also help to remove dust etc but can also help to discharge static which improves sound quality. 

We’d recommend having a cleaning brush with your record collection alongside a cleaning cloth and record cleaning solution.

Storing Your Records

Sleeves: It’s important to keep your records in a record sleeve. They come with one from new, usually paper, so there’s no excuse to not store your records in a sleeve. You can also buy plastic sleeves, inner sleeves that reduce static and much more! 

We’d recommend that as a minimum you keep them in the original sleeve in a dry place away from heat!

Store Vertically: Your records should be stored vertically and never stacked on top of each other. This prevents them from being warped or damaged which can then cause damage to your record player. 

We’d recommend investing in a record storage box or taking a look at our HiFi stands that have in-built vinyl storage.

6. Conclusion

Hopefully you now have a good understanding of turntable jargon, how each part works together and most importantly what you need to get up and running.

At K&B Audio we are focused on the lifestyle end of audio so all of our turntables and bundles are selected by our audio experts to ensure compatibility, ease of use and excellent sound quality. All of our bundles include everything you need to get up and running, just add records!

As usual our team is on hand to help you out if you have any questions or issues getting up and running.