A Tale of Two Record Players

Alexander Voses

Buying a record player is easy; choosing one is difficult. If my prior article convinced you to dip your toes into the ocean of record players, then this article will outline the next step: purchasing a record player. In order to find the “right” record player, there are three main factors one must consider: cost, quality, and accessories. This article will cover two record player setups, which have different mixes of these factors. 

The first recommendation comes from junior Daniel Niu. Daniel became interested in records after being introduced to the medium by a friend. His record player, the Audio-Technica LP60X, has a relatively low entry price and is perfect for those wanting to get a first taste of records without breaking the bank. The player is fully automatic, meaning the needle will return itself to rest after coming to the end of a record; it can play both 33 rpm (rotations per minute) and 45 rpm records, the only ones you are likely to encounter; and it comes with a built-in phono-preamp. If that last word sounded straight out of science fiction to you, you aren’t alone. The phono-preamp, an essential part of any record player, amplifies the sound produced by the needle moving along the record. Without it, your record player would be essentially useless. Both of the record players presented in this article have built in phono-preamps (although it is optional on the Orbit models recommended in the next paragraph, it is advantageous to opt to purchase it from the manufacturer to avoid the hassle of installing it). If you decide to buy a record player not on this list, take care to see if it is included to avoid extra costs. This model is not compatible with bluetooth so wired speakers or headphones are necessary. Daniel recommends headphones since they allow complete immersion within the music. (Plus, if record playing is a bust and you don’t stick with the format, you can use headphones with your phone.) The stylus (or needle) on this model is not of the highest quality, but Daniel has been satisfied with it so far. Overall, this model is great for beginners and would serve as a perfect first record player, although with minimal capacity for upgrading.

The second player I will be recommending is my own, the Orbit Plus Turntable. This is my second record player (having upgraded after I learned my “suitcase” record player was probably damaging my records) and, despite having owned it for only a few months, I have already listened to it for countless hours. This model is moderately priced for a record player and has the parts to match. It has a quality Ortofon OM5E needle that, while of a high caliber, comes with a correspondingly expensive price tag. This means that replacing the needle, something that is almost inevitable, will cost you more than the needle on the prior model. This model has high-quality parts, but few of the comfort features one might expect on a record player. The record player is not automatic, so running over to catch the needle before it hits the center of the record can be a bit of a hassle. The speed has to be changed by manually swapping the belt, a loop of rubber wrapped around the platter that connects to two different motors depending on which speed you want to utilize in a process that is typically handled by a flip of a switch in most record players. This model was used alongside dual speakers, instead of the headphones utilized in the prior setup. I find that speakers tend to fill a room well with music and allow me to move around while enjoying my records. Of course the downside is a less immersive experience than when using headphones, so there is value in utilizing either headphones or speakers depending on your preferences. This model is the middle of three versions offered by U-Turn Audio, the manufacturer, and while I enjoy it greatly, the Basic turntable may be better suited for beginners. It is essentially the same model, but with slightly inferior parts that would most likely be indistinguishable for someone new to records. The Plus has an upgraded platter and needle, which both translate to more consistent sound quality, something that may not be worth the price tag for those unsure of whether or not they should jump into the record-playing medium. For these reasons the Basic may be more appealing as a first choice. The Plus is a turntable for life that you can upgrade to should you desire something a bit fancier.

The two setups recommended in this article have served their users well, but the bottom line is that your record player should feel like your own. Pick the one that appeals to you. Searching for your record player is half the fun, and if you sink some time into the process, I guarantee you will be all the more pleased with your final purchase. The Orbit Basic and AT-LP60X turntables recommended in this article are perfect for those wanting to break into the medium.

If you’re interested in why you might want to start listening to records, my article here argues the case for why records are the greatest format of music.