Want to get into the mix, become the great DJ of
tomorrow or just enjoy your grandparents’ old vinyls? Then you surely want to
buy one or two vinyl turntables! Buying them second-hand will allow you to save
a hell of a lot of money,
With the return of vinyl, hundreds of turntable models
are offered to the consumer. And the choice is not always easy, especially if
you are a beginner.
Which turntable for which use?
The choice of a vinyl turntable depends directly on the
use you wish to make of it.
If you want to digitize your black records to keep a
backup or to listen to them on a CD player with the convenience that this
implies, you will turn to a turntable with a USB connection. These turntables
are fairly simple to use and are not always optimal in terms of sound quality.
The manufacturing is often quite basic and the dedicated cells are not very
qualitative. In short, they are not the ideal turntables for a quality
listening, their specialty being obviously the extraction of information in analog
for a digital transfer. It should be noted in passing that the digitization of
vinyl records makes the “hot” side of the transcription, which is the
prerogative of analog, lose its “hot” side. That being said, some
manufacturers offer quality USB turntables, such as Denon with its DP-200 USB.
It should also be noted that some USB decks have an integrated preamplifier,
which allows you to directly drive any RCA input without having to use an
For a direct listening of your vinyl records, you will
therefore need a dedicated turntable. And the choice in this matter is
important nowadays, perhaps even more, paradoxically, than before the arrival
of the CD.
The mid-range entry level
First of all, very plain-looking turntables can be found,
for example, at the English specialist Rega or in the entry-level/mid-range
range of the Austrian manufacturer Pro-ject. These turntables are deliberately
simple to operate, but are technologically much more sophisticated than they
appear. In order to achieve good sound quality, manufacturers work on the
materials used for the support (often sandwiches of materials with different
resonance frequencies), on the flow of vibrations, on the lightness of the arm,
etc. So don’t rely on the plumage of these decks, they are of very good quality
and fit perfectly within an entry-level and mid-range audio system. Moreover,
as the cell is often supplied as standard, they are almost ready to use as soon
as unpacked, except for a few adjustments.
The Rega RP1 and the Pro-Ject Debut III are
particularly recommended in this range (under 500 euros). They both offer a
detailed, balanced listening experience with that famous “human”
timbre, especially on vocals, which is still lacking in digital sound. And you can
upgrade them later with a more high-end cell, such as Denon’s famous DL-103.
In another style, Audio Technica offers turntables with
a more “technical” look, but just as easy to live with. The design of
the turntables of this historical actor is not without evoking DJ turntables.
The top of the range
At the top end of the market, manufacturers are pushing
the limits of vibration flow and stability research. Thus, we can find
turntables with remote motor (to avoid that it transmits its vibrations to the
turntable), with external power supply (for the same reasons), with thick
Plexiglas top, etc… The manufacturing of the arm, which is based on
high-precision mechanics, follows the same evolution, including the use of
On some of these plates, we also see pressure rollers
appearing to fix the disc and thus eliminate micro-vibrations. These
turntables, often supplied without a cell, are more difficult to implement and
are rather dedicated to mid/high range systems. The adjustments become much
more precise, as well at the level of the arm, of the cell, as of the position
of the assembly. A brand like Thorens, also from Austria, has been offering a
wide range of high-end turntables for more than 130 years (!). Although they
are more complicated to implement, these models go much further than an
entry-level turntable, in terms of bandwidth extension, bass response,
dynamics, signal-to-noise ratio and richness of the midrange. Without being
exhaustive, other names resonate with demanding audiophiles, such as the famous
Linn Sondek LP12, which has been continuously improved since 1973 (!) or the
Clearaudio turntables. And let’s not forget the re-release of the SL-P1200.