Here's what you need to know before you buy a record player!

If you’re thinking of buying a turntable, it is important you know how to use your record player correctly, as if you use it incorrectly, you can cause damage to your precious vinyl.

SETTING UP YOUR RECORD PLAYER

In order to learn how to set-up your record player it is good to understand its basic components.

The platter, also confusingly referred to as the turntable, is one component that every record player shares. It holds the vinyl records and spins them at a consistent speed.

The record’s platter can be made out of aluminium or other type of metal (can also be plastic or acrylic or even wood). Some manufacturers will cover the platters with a thick felt or plastic in order to prevent static or scratches, which can damage a record.

The tone-arm This contains two important components that are needed to play a record: the needle and the cartridge.

The needle is equipped with a diamond tip and runs along the grooves of the record, creating vibrations that are then transmitted to the cartridge.

The cartridge contains a magnetic field and transforms the vibrations into an electrical signal. This electrical signal is then amplified so that it can be sent to the speakers for output. There are different types of cartridges:

Ceramic Cartridge

The back end of the stylus sits in a small block of ceramic material. The front end of the stylus has the diamond tip, as the diamond-tipped stylus plays the record grooves, the back-and-forth motion of the stylus causes the ceramic element to produce an electrical signal in response to the motion of the stylus.

MMC (moving magnet and moving coil)

This type works completely different than the ceramic cartridge. Unlike a ceramic cartridge, the back end of the stylus in a magnetic cartridge is not embedded in a block of material. Instead, it’s free-moving. As the diamond stylus moves back and forth in the record groove, the back end of the stylus is also moving freely. Moving magnet cartridges have a cantilever which transfers the mechanical vibrations picked up from the record groove directly into the cartridge's magnet. The sound quality of MMC systems is much better than ceramic cartridges

Preamp

If you are looking for your first record player, it’s usually best to start off with a turntable with a built-in preamp. Lenco turntables come with a built-in preamp.

The preamp boosts the weak signal from a record player to the same level as other sound signals. Purchasing a model with a built-in preamp makes it much easier to get your player set up and ready for use. 

Speakers

If you use a record player with built-in speakers, or with a speaker set, then you can start listening to records right away. If not, you’ll need external powered speakers.

Setting up external speakers is pretty straightforward if you have a record player with a built-in preamp. All you have to do is plug the speakers directly into the record player using the red and white RCA cables. From the RCA outputs you need to connect powered speakers or a HiFi set.

Some record players also come equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, which can send music from the player to wireless speakers. Or you can stream music from a Bluetooth enabled device and play it over the record player’s built-in speakers.

Bluetooth connectivity essentially eliminates the need for extra wires and cables, so your set up will look nice and clean. It also has a longer range than any normal cable.

In order to use this feature, just connect a device to your record player using the Bluetooth setting and simply press play. It’s very easy to set-up.

Also, with some models there is the option of connecting to a Computer via a USB cable.

This is an easy way to created digital recordings of your precious vinyl so you can listen to your music on any portable device.

Vinyl Speed

Records are designed to play at a few different speeds; 78, 45, and 33 1/3 RPM. The speeds are measured based on the number of rotations the record will make per minute. This is referred to as rotations per minute, or simply RPM.

Most of the time you will probably listen to full length albums, which measure twelve inches in diameter. These records are designed to spin at 33 1/3, which is the default setting for most turntables.

If you want to play a twelve-inch record, then you won’t even need to worry about adjusting the speed. However, if you want to play a seven-inch record (single), then you will need to adjust the speed to 45 RPM. There are some 12-inch records that play 45RPM (called Maxi 45RPM). 78 RPM records were produced way back in 1895 and up until 1955 so you most likely will not have to worry about dealing with 78s, unless you possess very old records.

Playing a Record

To play a record, begin by placing the record on the turntable. Since records come with an A and a B side, make sure you place the record on the correct side, based on the song you want to play.

Next to the tonearm there is usually a cue lever. You raise the cue lever in order to raise the arm. Now you can move the arm to the outer edge of the record.

Make sure you have the record set to the correct speed. If you’re using a standard record (album) it should be 33 1/3 RPM.

With the record spinning and the arm in position, you can now use the cue lever to lower the arm. This will bring the needle into contact with the record. Once it makes contact you should begin to hear music.

Skipping Tracks

If you want to skip a track on a record you would follow the same process, except you place the arm above the beginning of the track you want to hear, and not above the beginning of the record.

On most Vinyl records are thin segments that look different from the rest of the vinyl record and form circles. Each of these circles is the quiet space between two tracks.

Most beginners are scared to change tracks at first, since doing so incorrectly can result in a scratched record. But if you go slow and become familiar with the way your record player works, you should have no trouble getting the hang of jumping from track to track.

Cleaning Vinyl

Many people mistakenly believe that the hissing and cracking sounds they hear when they play a record are normal. These sounds actually point to a dirty record.

In order to avoid these sounds, you must clean your vinyl regularly. To do this, you can use a brush that’s specifically designed for records. These brushes are made up of thin carbon fibres which do a great job of getting the dirt and debris out of the grooves of your vinyl.

You can also use a specific record cleaner fluid combined with the brush in order to get deep down into the grooves. You’ll notice a difference in sound quality immediately after you’ve cleaned your records.

Cleaning the needle can also have an impact on sound quality. A dirty needle can make your records sound terrible. There are plenty of brushes and products to choose from that are specifically designed to clean the needles on your record player.

The needle will not need to be cleaned as often as your vinyl, but if you have cleaned your records and you still notice a dip in sound quality, then most likely a dirty needle is to blame.

Now that you know how to use a record player, the speed to set it at and how to play a record without scratching it, you can get started on your path as a vinyl enthusiast.

Remember to change up the speed of the record player based on the size of the record you’re playing, carefully touch the needle to the surface of the record in order to avoid scratching it, and always keep your vinyl clean for ultimate sound quality.

Enjoy your vinyl!


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