LONGING FOR A TURNTABLE?
Music lovers young and old are finding it difficult to ignore the impact that the vinyl record has had on the music industry in the last five years—and it’s getting stronger every day. While the format was pretty much dead in the late ‘80s when compact discs hit the scene, diehard audiophiles kept the flame burning with a trickling of remastered releases and, especially here in Portland, a used record store on every corner.
Today, the LP record has made a comeback with a vengeance, with a little over 30 million albums pressed in 2013. Granted, this is nowhere near what it was at vinyl’s peak—when those numbers were 20 times that—but in an age dominated by digital downloads and MP3 files, it’s a major leap from the lone million LPs pressed in 2008. We’ll argue the merits of the analog format some other time, but for now, let’s assume you’re on the bus.
SO, WHERE TO BEGIN?
You can spend a 100 bucks at a garage sale, or you can invest upwards of a quarter-million dollars on a turntable—it just depends on how mental you are, and of course, how much disposable income you have. In a somewhat linear fashion, the better the table you can afford, the more sound you will be able to retrieve from those black grooves—assuming they are in good shape. But for the moment, let’s discuss small, medium and large before we talk about super-sized tables (and prices).
You will need an amplifier capable of boosting the tiny signal from the phono cartridge (where the needle is housed) to a level that your amplifier or computer-based music system can use. If you have a vintage receiver or amplifier, chances are good that it has an input marked “Phono.” Should your amplification lack one and just have inputs marked “Aux” or “Line,” you will need a phono stage or preamplifier. (Again another article for another day, and an area where you can buy something for the cost of a decent bottle of wine to as much as a new Porsche Boxster.) For the purposes of this discussion, if you just need something decent to make your spinning vinyl audible, I highly recommend an outboard phono preamp from Music Hall, Cambridge Audio or Creek, which you can find for about $150 in any of Portland’s local hi-fi shops.
Unless you are a seasoned audiophile, avoid the urge to buy from garage sales, flea markets or Goodwill. And forget about eBay—the chances that someone selling a $100 turntable also knows how to pack it to survive shipping is next to zero. Thus, the choices here are all brand new.
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