Record Collecting 101

Choosing a Turntable


Over the last five years, vinyl records have come back in a huge way. In an increasingly digital world, the act of not only purchasing a record but physically playing it has entranced the public psyche. Old heads and novices alike have jumped into the market and begun collecting records at a pace the industry hasn’t seen since the eighties. But many new collectors have questions and concerns about the basics of record collecting.

We are here to help. In this three part series we will cover the basics of record collecting. This installment will cover the basics of a beginner set up; the one following will outline the basics of the market; the final part explores the benefits of analog sound. Hopefully new collectors will find some of their questions answered along the way.

Photo by Phil Dolby

The beginner turntable market is a confusing place full of misinformation. For instance, compact and portable turntables from a variety of distributors have become best sellers. While these low cost tables have the benefit of allowing collectors to start listening to their collections on a budget, their downsides are not always accurately described.

The largest design flaw are the built in speakers. While built in speakers are convenient and cost effective, they lead to problems with playback ability. The two primary cons of built in speakers: 1) these tables struggle to play bassey audio without skipping and 2) the arms on these tables frequently cause unnecessary wear on records. Although these tables are convenient, they prevent listeners from enjoying some records and do not give the owners the added benefits of listening to vinyl, like increased audio quality.

An example of a portable turntable with built-in speaker

This said, there are still cost effective ways to create a vinyl setup that will sound great and increase the life of your records. There are two types of equipment readily available to record collectors: vintage and new stock. Many blogs and articles claim that vintage equipment is best for new collectors.

While the best deals can often be found in vintage equipment, not all vintage equipment is created equal and oftentimes requires a precursory knowledge of basic repairs to get used equipment up and running. For this reason we recommend new collectors buy new equipment for their first set up. New equipment is often readily available and easy to set up. Here are three beginner setups to get any collector started.

The True Beginner

This setup consists solely of the Audio Technica LP60 and the Edifier 1280DBs. The Audio Technica LP60 is one of the most basic tables on the market right now, but it really does get the job done. The table has a built in preamp that makes setting up easy. The arm and platter are lower quality, but for the price they are by far the best option available.

The Edifier 1280DBs are slightly more expensive than their non-bluetooth counterparts but for the added simplicity and convenience, we feel they are well worth the extra twenty dollars. This setup is affordable at about $200, with components that, due to their affordable cost and high demand, maintain value and are a quick and easy sale on the secondary market when the time comes to upgrade.

Audio Technica LP60
Edifier 1280DBs

The New Collector

This setup uses the same speakers as the True Beginner, the Edifier 1280DBs, but opts for a superior table in terms of build and sound. Instead of the AT LP60, the U-Turn Orbit Basic is our turntable of choice. This table is simple, clean, and very customizable. It comes in an array of colors and is extremely easy to set up. The table also has a superior arm with an adjustable counterweight, which is important if you want to upgrade the needle on the table.  The only downside is that it does not have a built in preamp which means to run this into any self-powered speakers you will need a basic phono preamp.

We recommend the ART DJPREII Phono Preamplifier, which runs around $60 and is the best preamp you can get for under $100 dollars. This setup is a little more pricey at about $350 dollars, but every aspect of this setup is quality, and can be used for years with little need to upgrade or repair.

A U-Turn, purchaseable here

The Sampler setup

This setup is for someone who wants to be able to sample cuts they find on LPs for music production purposes, a setup for aspiring creators. It is by far the most expensive of the bunch, but gives creators everything they need to start sampling and producing off of vinyl LPs.

The Sampler setup consists of the Audio Technica LP140, a table which costs around $400 but can be found for less during sale seasons and has everything. A solid DJ needle that is more durable than a standard needle and the ability to control the pitch of the record. It is a sturdy and well built table that will last decades.

For this setup we still recommend the ART DJPREII Phono Preamplifier for its hard-to-beat price. There are two options for speakers: the Edifier R1700BTs and KRK Rokit 8. Both speakers come in at about $150 but have different pros and cons. The 1700BTs have bluetooth which is convenient but highlights the bass more, while the Rokit 8 produces a more neutral sound which can be helpful for production purposes. All together this set up costs about $600, but for the aspiring producer, this equipment can be used for decades.

Audio Technica LP140
KRK Rokit 8
Edifier R1700BTs

We hope this short guide is helpful when searching for the setup right for you. If you are interested in seeing a brief introduction into vintage equipment let us know down below.