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Record Player and Turntable FAQs [Answers to Over 30 Common Questions]

Getting into the sound of vinyl? Here’s a list of over 30 helpful and informative answers to your most common record player and turntable questions.

Record Player and Turntable FAQs - Fat City

Over 30 of Your Most Common Turntable and Record Player Questions Answered!
Needles, Stylus, and Cartridges
1. What’s the difference between a stylus or needle and a cartridge?
2. How Do I Know If My Stylus Needs Replacing?
3. How Often Do You Need to Replace a Record Player Needle?
4. How Long Does a Record Needle Last?
5. Can a Worn Stylus Damage Records?
6. How Do I Choose the Right Cartridge?
7. Are Turntable Cartridges Interchangeable?
8. How Do I Change the Stylus on My Record Player?
Vinyl Records
1. Does Vinyl Sound Better?
2. Do Record Players Sound Better?
3. Are Vinyl Records Worth Money?
4. Is It Bad to Leave a Record on the Turntable?
5. Is It Ok to Touch a Vinyl Record?
6. Do Vinyl Records Scratch Easily?
7. Do Vinyl Records Wear Out?
Speakers
1. Do You Need Speakers for Record Players?
2. Can You Connect a Turntable Directly to Speakers?
3. What Are Good Speakers for a Record Player?
Preamps
1. Do I Need a Preamp for My Turntable?
2. How Do I Hook up a Phono Preamp?
3. How Important Is the Quality of the Preamp?
4. How Do I Choose a Phono Preamp?
Setup and Troubleshooting
1. Why Does My Record Player Skip?
2. How Do I Connect My Record Player to My Speakers?
3. Does My Turntable Need an Amplifier?
4. What’s the Best Way for Me to Convert My Records to Digital Files?
5. Do All Turntables Have RCA Outputs?
General Questions
1. Is Phono or Line Better?
2. What’s an Automatic Turntable?
3. What Makes One Turntable Sound Better Than Another?
4. Which Is Better? Belt-Driven Turntables or Direct Drive Turntables?
Purchasing
1. What Is the Best Record Player with Speakers?
2. What Is the Best Turntable Stylus?
3. What Is the Best Turntable?
Final Thoughts, and Thank You!

Over 30 of Your Most Common Turntable and Record Player Questions Answered!

Are you thinking of leveling up your music station? Are you planning to start your vinyl collection? Or do you simply want to learn more about record players and turntables?

If you have answered yes to any or all of our questions, then please read on. We will answer record player and turntable FAQs and try to cover as much ground as possible.

Needles, Stylus, and Cartridges

FAQs-Needles, Stylus, and Cartridges

!. What’s the difference between a stylus or needle and a cartridge?

To answer that, we need to discuss the tonearm first.

The tonearm is the part of your record player that holds the headshell. It allows its parts, which are the cartridge and the stylus, to be positioned above and parallel to the record that you’re currently playing on the turntable.

The headshell is attached to the tip of the tonearm, and it is where the cartridge is attached. The cartridge is the small rectangular piece that holds the stylus in place. All cartridges come with their own stylus, but styli can be purchased separately.

2. How Do I Know If My Stylus Needs Replacing?

The main reason styli can be purchased separately is that they get worn down and will eventually need to be replaced. Don’t worry, most manufacturers offer stylus replacements, even for their cartridges that have long been out of production.

Tell-tale signs that your stylus needs replacing is an obvious change in sound quality, skips and slips during music play, and finally, jagged or bent edges when viewed under a magnifying glass.

3. How Often Do You Need to Replace a Record Player Needle?

So how do you know when to replace turntable needles? The basic rule of thumb when it comes to stylus replacement is to replace it once every couple of years or after 1000 hours of play. Nonetheless, you can go ahead and replace your stylus if you’ve noticed any of the symptoms we’ve shared above.

You must also remember always to replace the stylus of a second-hand record player before you use it in order to protect your vinyl records.

4. How Long Does a Record Needle Last?

As we mentioned above, record needles last for as long as a thousand hours of use. However, you can prolong its life even more by taking good care of it. Clean it regularly and make sure that the tracking force you’re using is correct.

The same applies to cartridges. Surprisingly a cartridge body can last up to fifty years if you really take care of it, but it can also easily get damaged if you’re not careful.

5. Can a Worn Stylus Damage Records?

Yes, it can. A damaged or worn stylus can scratch the surface of your precious records and even damage its grooves. If you suspect that your stylus is already scratched, then we advise you to stop using your record player until you find the suitable stylus replacement.

It’s important to keep in mind, though, that sometimes, it’s not really the stylus that’s the problem but the record itself. Fine dust and debris can easily get in between the grooves of your records and create a hissing, damaged sound.

If this is the case, then you must clean the record itself with a vinyl record brush. There’s also a cleaning solution that you can buy online or in record stores that you can easily spray and wipe carefully into your vinyl records to loosen up and remove more stubborn elements stuck on its grooves.

6. How Do I Choose the Right Cartridge?

There are several factors that you have to consider when choosing the right cartridge. First, you need to make sure that your cartridge matches the mount of your record player’s tonearm.

Next, you need to take into account the mass of the tonearm. Make sure that it matches the mass of the cartridge that you’re thinking of buying in order to retain the proper balance. Your record player’s manual should have this information ready for you.

Don’t forget to check the main mechanism of your cartridge. Is it a moving magnet or moving coil? Each has its pros and cons.

Finally, please take note that some cartridges have a replaceable stylus, while others don’t. This means that you would have to replace the entire cartridge if the stylus gets worn if your choice has an irreplaceable stylus.

7. Are Turntable Cartridges Interchangeable?

Yes, as long as the cartridge matches the mount of your record player’s tonearm, you can mix and match according to your preferences, regardless of the brand. In fact, that’s what we encourage you to do. Exploring and experimentation is part of the enjoyment.

8. How Do I Change the Stylus on My Record Player?

Replacing the stylus for the first time can be quite intimidating, but don’t worry, it is actually pretty easy. The first thing you need to do is to find out the stylus you need. You can check the serial number usually engraved on the cartridge itself.

Next, carefully remove the cartridge from the tonearm of your device and pull out the needle. It is advisable to clean that spot with compressed air before attaching the new stylus. Once done cleaning, you may now insert your needle facing down and put your cartridge back into your record player’s tonearm.

For a more detailed guide, please read our article here.

Vinyl Records

FAQs - Vinyl Records

1. Does Vinyl Sound Better?

Yes, they do because a lot of data is actually lost when an audio file is compressed into a digital format. This loss doesn’t happen when it gets pressed down into a vinyl record. You are going to hear your music exactly the way your favorite artists intended to.

 

2. Do Record Players Sound Better?

Yes, they do. That’s mainly because vinyl sound better as well, even when compared to the highest quality audio file you have downloaded for streaming. You must ensure that your player has great sound quality, though, and minimal vibrations.

3. Are Vinyl Records Worth Money?

piggy bank

Yes, they are. First, as we mentioned above, vinyl records sound significantly better than CDs or digital audio files.

Second, only the best musicians have a vinyl equivalent of their albums. That’s because vinyl caters to a particular demographic of music lovers—the more discerning ones.

Finally, searching for your records is an experience on its own. It can take quite a while to find a record that you actually like, and it all makes the listening more pleasurable and satisfying.

4. Is It Bad to Leave a Record on the Turntable?

Yes, it is. Even certified audiophiles forget to return their records into their jackets from time to time, but it’s a good habit always to remember to do so.

Keeping your record out and exposed to the elements increases the risk of it getting dirty or damaged. If you’re always guilty of doing so, then at least don’t forget to leave the dust cover open.

5. Is It Ok to Touch a Vinyl Record?

Definitely not the surface, you’re going to transfer the dirt and dust from your hands into your vinyl record. You can also cause unintentional damage to its grooves. At the very least, handle the records by the edges only.

Hence, it’s always a good practice to wear gloves if you’re planning to turn your collection frequently, and please do so with the utmost care.

Handling A Vinyl Record

6. Do Vinyl Records Scratch Easily?

Yes, they do because vinyl is actually a susceptible material. Even the tiny bits of dust, or just simply stacking them on top of each other, may already cause some damage.

Nevertheless, if you have followed our tips above on how to clean your vinyl records, then you won’t have to worry about those bits of dust.

The only thing that you need to do now is practice good vinyl habits such as inserting it back into its jacket after listening and handling it carefully at all times.

7. Do Vinyl Records Wear Out?

They only do if you don’t take care of them properly and if you don’t monitor your stylus. By following the tips we have already shared with you above, we’re sure that your favorite records will last for a very long time.

If you have purchased a vintage vinyl record and you suspect that it’s already worn out, then we recommend giving it a good cleaning first. Don’t forget to inspect your stylus if it’s still in good condition, as well, just to rule out all the possibilities.

Speakers

FAQs-Speakers

1. Do You Need Speakers for Record Players?

That depends on the quality of the built-in speaker inside your record player. It doesn’t hurt to use external speakers anyway since they can improve the sound quality of your unit.

Just make sure to place your speakers on a separate surface from your record player so that the speaker’s vibrations won’t bother your device.

2. Can You Connect a Turntable Directly to Speakers?

That depends on the jacks installed into your device if they accommodate those of your speakers’. Don’t worry, most of them do. We’re sure that you won’t have any trouble connecting your turntable to its speakers.

3. What Are Good Speakers for a Record Player?

Choose speakers with great dynamics and accuracy. We also recommend looking into the materials your choice of speakers are made of. Make sure that they are of high-quality components and have sonically inert casings.

Also, the best way to know whether or not a speaker is good is to listen to it. There’s no other way. Reading about its specs will only take you so far. Anyway, to learn more about our choices for speakers, you may read our article about it.

Preamps

FAQs - Preamps

1. Do I Need a Preamp for My Turntable?

The answer is both yes and no. Yes, because every turntable needs a preamp in order to translate its sound signals into something that your record player, its speakers, and other audio devices can read.

No, because most turntables already have their own preamp inside. If that’s the case, then there’s no need for a standalone preamp anymore.

We do understand, though, that some want to upgrade their sound quality and still decide to get a separate preamp regardless. If you’re one of them, then check out our answer to the next question below for more information.

2. How Do I Hook up a Phono Preamp?

Most turntables and record players already have a preamp built-in. Sometimes, even speakers have them too. However, if you do decide to get a separate one in order to level up your set-up even more, then here’s what you need to do.

You should connect all your audio cords accordingly. Don’t forget to connect the ground wire to a ground post if there’s one. Connect the audio cords from your turntable into your preamp, then connect the preamp’s cords into your audio system.

best preamp for turntable - how to use a preamp

3. How Important Is the Quality of the Preamp?

The preamp helps translate the weaker signals of your turntable into signals that your speakers and other audio devices will recognize. Hence, it is essential. Without it, you will only have a very weak sound.

4. How Do I Choose a Phono Preamp?

The main reference for choosing the best preamp for your record player is by referring to your cartridge. There are preamps made explicitly for moving magnet ones, and there are preamps for moving coil ones. Getting one that matches your cartridge will give you the best sound quality.

For more information and convenient options to choose from, read our article on the Top 12 Best Preamps for Turntables and Record Players.

Setup and Troubleshooting

FAQs-Setup and Troubleshooting

1. Why Does My Record Player Skip?

There are four common reasons why a record player may skip. First, there might be some dirt and dust on the grooves of your vinyl record. Second, your stylus or cartridge probably needs replacing already.

Third, you have not set the balance of your cartridge properly. Finally, the vinyl record itself might be damaged already. To learn how to clean your record needle, you may read our quick guide right here.

2. How Do I Connect My Record Player to My Speakers?

Your record player will have jacks where you can attach the audio cords that will connect your player to your speakers. Or better yet, you might have a preamp that connects to both.

3. Does My Turntable Need an Amplifier?

Yes and no. Yes, your turntable needs an amplifier in order to strengthen the weak signals it produces into something your speakers will be able to read. And no, because your turntable or your speakers might have a built-in amplifier in them already.

4. What’s the Best Way for Me to Convert My Records to Digital Files?

The best way to do so is by getting a record player already equipped with the feature. Most of them have the defining feature of having a USB port. Otherwise, you would have to record it manually instead.

After doing so and you have already transferred the file to your computer, you may then proceed to clean your audio file with an audio-recording software. We prefer to use Audacity because it’s free and it gets the job done.

5. Do All Turntables Have RCA Outputs?

Most of them do. You will recognize this if your record player or turntable has a cable that divides the left and right signals. If you’re still unsure, then we suggest referring to your turntable’s manual for more information.

General Questions

FAQs-General Questions

1. Is Phono or Line Better?

Honestly, it is difficult to compare the two since they are both very different. A phono is a signal that is more raw to your record player, yet it is weak, around only 0.005 volts. This is the reason speakers won’t be able to catch and translate them accordingly.

If you connect a phono to a line input, your music will sound very strange, and it will almost have no sound at all.

The line signal, on the other hand, is the signal that your speakers and most of your other audio devices recognize. It is stronger, around 0.3 volts, and is more defined.

You won’t have to worry about these signals most of the time since a lot of turntables, record players, and speakers have built-in amplifiers that will translate these signals automatically for you.

However, if you need a standalone amplifier, then you must attach the phono cord into the respective jack and use the line cord to attach to your speakers and other audio devices.

2. What’s an Automatic Turntable?

An automatic turntable is a device equipped with automatic features, and most of all, a tonearm that lifts itself from a resting position and places itself on top of your record to start playing. Once the track is done, it will lift itself from the track and return to its resting position.

Some users prefer this since they reduce the effort you need to do in order to play and stop your turntable. It is important to note, though, that this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to lift your tonearm manually. You can still do so.

3. What Makes One Turntable Sound Better Than Another?

There are a lot of different factors that you need to consider. First, the quality of the cartridge and the attached stylus plays a role in it. Next, some turntables are simply built with more features that allow better accuracy, less vibration, and, ultimately, better sound quality.

4. Which Is Better? Belt-Driven Turntables or Direct Drive Turntables?

Honestly, they each have their own pros and cons. Belt-driven turntables are those wherein an elastic belt rotates their platters. That belt can efficiently absorb any vibrations that can affect sound quality.

However, they do tend to get worn down and are not consistent when it comes to the speed of the rotation.

Direct drive turntables, on the other hand, have their platter rotated directly by the motor. As such, their speed is more consistent, and they don’t get worn down as a belt does.

The problem is, the motor itself can cause unwanted vibrations that can mess up your track’s sounds.

Purchasing

FAQs-Purchasing

1. What Is the Best Record Player with Speakers?

There are a lot of record players out there with built-in speakers made by renowned brands that produce great sound quality. That said, if you want to learn what we think, we have published an entire article about it where we have listed down the top three best record players with speakers.

2. What Is the Best Turntable Stylus?

There are a lot of styli to choose from, but if you want to know about our top choices, then we invite you to read our article about our top stylus choices available in the market today.

3. What Is the Best Turntable?

Most music lovers look for their turntables according to their favorite brands, then select their choice from there. It is important to note, though, that there are also a lot of newer manufacturers out there that create quality turntables that can rival, if not prove to be better than those units created by those well-known names in the industry.

To learn more about the turntables we deem the best of the best, then please check out our article for that.

Final Thoughts, and Thank You!

FAQs-good-vibes

Thank you so much for reading through our article. We hope that you have found it informative and that we were able to answer most of the queries that confuse you from time to time.

Don’t worry if you still feel intimidated by your record player. You will certainly get better in using it and caring for both your player and your records as the time pass.

We also recommend that you experiment with various set-ups, switching up different cartridges and trying out different brand combinations. Finally, don’t mind what others say. There are a lot of “experts” in this field.

Just remember that if your music sounds good to you, then it is. That’s the most important thing. For you to be able to attain the most enjoyment in listening to your timeless tracks. Have fun!

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