As Hi-Fi Corner’s newest and youngest member, it is natural that I would be the least informed on the best turntable system and what a significant difference the right system makes. With the recent spike of interest in vinyl and turntables, I decided to do some intense researching, grilling my co-workers and trying out some of the best turntables we have to offer as a beginner.
Here at Hi-Fi Corner, we only sell equipment we have listened to and enjoy, taking price and reliability into account. So, turntables: How does one start?
The first thing I found was the huge difference between an all-in-one turntable and a system with separate components. Most people who are new to vinyl collecting do not want to shell out thousands of pounds on their first vinyl player. But the general consensus amongst most hi-fi fans is that the all-in-one units are cheap for a reason. They are unreliable, sound awful and can even damage your record.
All-in-one’s comprise of a turntable, an amplifier, and speakers in one unit. A vinyl player creates sound through very small grooves in the record, which the stylus of a turntable detects and creates vibrations, generating sound. Amazingly, the average LP has 1,500 feet (about 1/3 of a mile) of information stored in these tiny grooves, and the space between each piece of information is basically microscopic! The immense pressure a poorly engineered turntable stylus’ put on your vinyl can damage your record and produce a poor sound quality.
The phonostage used on turntable decks not only exists as a small amplifier to boost the sounds of tiny grooves, but as an EQ of sound. A sudden low bass or high pitched treble, if not filtered through an amplifier properly, can warp your record. The phono stage equalises and weakens the bass, and amplifies the treble so it all balances out and produces a great sound. If you want to know more about how phonostages work, or need a more technical description of RIAA processes, contact one of our turntable specialists in store or over the phone.
Separate units in a system are much better in virtually every way. Better sound quality, master engineering for each component, and gives the sound experience the artist intended when creating their record. In order to experience this, you’ll need more than just a turntable. You will also require an amplifier, a phono stage and a decent set of speakers. Buying separate components not only increases the overall sound quality, it can also “future-proof” your sound system. That is, you do not have to buy an entirely new set-up when one component needs replaced or upgraded. It adds a mix and match element to your system, where you can change and add to your set-up if you want to incorporate new elements. This can include CD players, network streamers, you name it.
If you already have a set-up with speakers and an amplifier, fantastic! You can purchase any Pro-Ject turntable with ‘Phonostage’ in the title, or alternatively any turntable and an additional phono stage, and you are good to go.
If you are a complete beginner, and you’re looking for a real quality system to play your music, look no further. If you’ve yet to experience the real difference a hi-fi system can make to your listening, you can come into one of our branches and we can demonstrate this for you with equipment of your choice. Our ears are very sensitive; the difference you can hear between a £50 and a £500 vinyl player is mind blowing.
After speaking extensively with the folks in the Edinburgh branch and trying out some of our products, their recommendation would be this entry-level set up that won't break the bank, but delivers incredible sound quality nonetheless.
First off, the star: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable. This beautiful piece of kit comes with so many colour options, you can tailor it to suit your taste or decor. As for the speakers, we recommend a set of Bowers and Wilkins’ 685’s. These small yet mighty speakers won’t break the bank and will be a happy addition to any set-up. Lastly, our amplifier of choice is the Rotel A10. This amplifier is all about maximum performance for the price. It’s simplistic, straightforward and does the job right.
This set-up will set you back around £1200, which at first blew me away. It seemed like an awful lot of money, until I really thought about it. One way to think of this, is that artists spend hundreds of thousands of pounds creating, mixing and recording master albums so they sound just right; will a £50 turntable really do it justice?
For the slightly higher quality and higher budget, we recommend the Pro-Ject Classic deck, KEF LS50 speakers, and the Arcam A29 amplifier. This is around double the price of the entry level recommendation, but can you really put a price tag on mind blowing sound? Bear in mind, some real audiophiles spend upwards of £100,000 on their set-up, but that isn’t quite beginner friendly so we won’t include the real dream systems.
I tried out these set-ups myself, to test their theory that you can hear a clear difference. And how right they were! I started off with the beginner's recommendation, and changed one component at a time to the upgraded set-up. The vanilla entry-level was a gorgeous sound, but a little fuzzy around the edges. The first change made was to the turntable. The Classic deck was unbelievably better quality; the sound was much cleaner and every detail was noted. The Arcam amp balanced out the deep bass notes and the shrill trebles so there were no uncomfortable shifts in the music. The KEF speakers made yet another huge difference in the sheer depth of the music; it was incredible! Most people have no idea how sensitive and finely tuned our ears are, and admittedly I was also skeptical. After that private performance, a believer has been made out of me.
The performance and price tag are definitely worth it, if you are serious about getting into vinyl.
So, if you are ready to take the plunge into excellent hi-fi, let me say welcome on behalf of Hi-Fi Corner. I highly recommend that you give these sets a try – You will be surprised at the depth of sound you feel.
For our full range of turntables - click here.