These are exciting times for vinyl lovers. No one can argue records are making a considerable comeback all over the Western hemisphere. Not only do the elderly advocate for them, but a large number of 20 and 30-year-olds do so too. However, everyone needs a way to play vinyl, but what’s the best device? For this reason, today, our review will make an in-depth turntable vs. record player comparison. Together we’ll find out which one is better.
However, we need to keep something in mind. Although many people use the terms “turntable” and “record player” interchangeably, they’re far from being the same. Even some “specialized” websites do it, adding fuel to confusion among novice users. So, if you wonder what the difference is between a record player and a turntable, it’s your lucky day. You’ve come to the right place! Keep reading our review to find out.
Record Player vs. Turntable: Understanding the Difference
The critical difference between a turntable and a record player regards the way they function. In contrast, a record player is a complete playing unit. This means that it needs no other attachment to reproduce your disc. Turntables, on the other hand, can only read the disc but not play it.
What is Turntable?
A turntable is one of the components of a record player. This device will hold the record and spin it. In this regard, turntables are similar to record players, except they need speakers or an amplifier. However, turntables are also sold separately. You’ll need to buy and connect them (using RCA cables for the most part) to hear music.
This standalone unit only has a few components we can mention. On the turntable itself, we have the platter and the motor. Moreover, you’ll find a tonearm, a cartridge, and a stylus. Usually, turntables also have a built-in pre-amplifier. This component allows users to connect the device to the speakers or an amplifier without a dedicated phono input.
So, long story short, turntables are read-only devices. They need to be attached to external components for you to listen to the music on your discs. However, most enthusiasts like them better.
This preference occurs because built-in speakers aren’t as good as even a medium-quality speaker, despite how pricey your unit is. Think of a cell phone. In spite of how costly it is, an external speaker can easily top the speakers it has.
Lastly, let’s be honest. People looking for a device that plays vinyl discs often don’t care about space so much. If so, they would subscribe to a music streaming service and hear their songs through their computer or cell phone. As a result, they care about excellent sound, not spare room space.
How Do Turntables Work?
The functioning of the turntable is rather complex yet fascinating. It runs in the grooves of the vinyl. Then, it transmits the vibrations through some wires placed in the tonearm to the cartridge. This, in turn, takes the info and transmits it to the pre-amplifier. Next, the pre-amp converts this information into sound via an amplifier or some speakers.
What is a Record Player?
Record players are audio systems made up of a turntable, a pre-amp, an amplifier, and some speakers. Without much doubt, they are far more elaborate than turntables. They often include additional features too. These can include things such as the ability to play in other formats like CD, radio, MP3, etc. Moreover, the most modern ones usually have Bluetooth incorporated too.
The downside of record players is that they are much bulkier than turntables. This is why people usually allocate a stand for them at home and don’t move them around. Undoubtedly, they are also more expensive. Users, though, pay for the convenience of not buying other accessories to connect the turntable to.
Although turntables can connect to higher-quality speakers or amplifiers, some users don’t care about that. Most simply want to put their disc, sit down and listen to the music in the background while reading. What’s more, vinyl enthusiasts from newer generations don’t care for the sound quality as much as they do for aesthetics. For them, a record player is more than enough.
How Do Record Players Work?
A record player is simply a sound unit with a turntable attached to a pre-amp and some speakers. As a result of this, they work the same way as turntables do. You place the disc on the platter, turn it on and select the speed. Then, you carefully grab the tonearm and put the cartridge on the vinyl. Next, you close your eyes and listen to your favorite ballads.
Comparison Differences Between Turntable and Record Player
We’ve already talked about both record players and turntables and about how they work. However, how do they compare? Well, there are a few critical aspects in which they are very different. Among them, we have:
Size and Weight: Turntables are compact; therefore, they weigh much less. Record players, on the other hand, have a built-in speaker. As a result, they’re heavier than turntables and challenging to lift.
Features: Turntables have limited features. They can only reproduce vinyl, although newer ones also have Bluetooth and a USB port. In contrast, record players are much more versatile. Apart from playing vinyl discs, they can play the radio too. Some features they include nowadays are audio converters, recorders, music mixers, Bluetooth, and more.
Customization: People who purchase turntables can easily customize what they want. They can get a cartridge from this American brand and an amplifier from that South Korean brand. Nevertheless, when they buy a record player, they can’t. What they got in the store is what they’ll have until they buy a new device.
Parts: Turntables have the platter, the tonearm, the stylus, and a cartridge. Some of them also have a pre-amp. Record players, however, besides having a turntable built-in, have other components too. These include the pre-amp, the amplifier, and built-in speakers.
Which One Should We Buy: Turntable or Record Player?
So, having discussed everything about turntables and record players, what then? “Should I buy a turntable or a record player?” Well, it depends on what you prioritize. Let’s see some factors you should have in mind. This, of course, if you appreciate your money and want to spend it wisely.
Build Quality: The build quality of record players tend to be pretty poorer than that of turntables. Moreover, manufacturers build turntables to last for a long time. On the other hand, record players, specifically the recent mass-produced ones, are built to be remarkable. Businesses are thinking about Instagram and Tik Tok rather than sound quality and long-lasting materials. Therefore, if you’re thinking of making a one-in-a-lifetime purchase, you should go with a turntable.
Sound Quality: Record players have poor quality speakers built-in more often than not. This is because producers choose small speakers to save space and everything from fitting in a small case. In addition, they are also cheap to cut corners in the end product. The current vinyl market isn’t eager enough to pay for a top-notch player built with top-notch materials. This all adds up to have far-from-good sound quality.
In contrast, vinyl consumers can customize turntables based on their tastes, needs, and, of course, expense. Moreover, even if they aren’t satisfied with the quality of their speakers or amplifiers, they can simply change it. Record players don’t have this possibility.
Wear and Tear on Records: Valuable and beloved discs should always be kept apart from record players. We give this warning out because the tracking weight, which is the needle downforce, is factory-set. The recommended needle downforce is around 2 grams. Yet, some tests have reported that in some record players, it’s up to 6 grams! And it is often way off.
The same happens with the cartridge alignment, which is also vastly inaccurate. These two problems can combine to damage your vinyl’s in the long run severely.
So, Can a Record Player Ever Be Better than a Turntable? It sure can!
Even though we’ve talked a lot about the downsides of record players, they can be better than turntables. As we’ve mentioned above, it all depends on the users’ needs. Maybe you are a vinyl lover with a fine ear that relishes the poor quality of cheap speakers. In this case, you should opt for a turntable and plug it into a professional amplifier.
However, novice users will most likely don’t make a distinction. Moreover, most young people who are just starting to get to know vinyl don’t have priceless discs at hand. They’ll probably play cheap remastered discs that aren’t worthy of extreme preservation measures. They’ll just want to play some music and show off their acquisition. Then, the aesthetics and price of a brand-new record player are more than enough.
The Bottom Line
There are many people and “professional” blogs on the net using “turntable” and “record player” interchangeably. Nevertheless, there are significant differences between the two of them. Not only regarding their parts but also their functioning. Moreover, the price can also deter people from getting their first device to play their discs.
We hope our guide has been of help to you. Either if you are a TikToker looking for a trending way to play music or a vinyl enthusiast. Keep in mind what we’ve discussed throughout this article: it’s what you need that matters the most. So, good look with your purchase and have a great time listening to some great music! We sure will too!