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Turntable vs. Computer?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

I recently purchased an ASUS Xonar STX and am damn happy with it. I'm no audiophile, I have no idea what "soundstage" means and the only headphone brands I can think of are Sennheiser and Grado. However--I've always had this idyllic view of turntables, as if they're the apex of music. I didn't know they came so cheap--I just searched for them on Amazon and found many in the sub-$100 category. I have about a $300 budget for one, though...so I could buy a "higher quality" one. Anyway--what I'm asking is, would it be worth it to purchase a turntable, especially given that I already have a very good audio card?

I've never actually heard a vinyl record in my life (wasn't around) and given their age, I do expect them to die out eventually...although I do see new albums being released on vinyl. So is it even worth buying a turntable and vinyls if it's just going to die out on me?

post #2 of 28
I have both a turntable as well as an outboard DAC for computer audio. I have about 3000 LPs and I enjoy this part of my listening a lot. For one it's possible to sample a lot of music for very cheap and some things that will perhaps never show up as a digital release. Really this is a lot of fun.

Do you already have a "phono-in" option on your amplifier? It turns out that the preamp circuit for a turntable is a bit different than a line level input such as for a CD player or Tuner. If not, then part of your budget needs to go for this.
post #3 of 28
The main reason, in my view, to buy a turntable is access to the HUGE quantity of good music available cheap. New music is all digitally mastered anyway, so the benefits there are variable. But the fun of a turntable is you can go on craigslist, buy a crate of lps for $100, and find 10 records you like. Then sell the rest of the crate on craigslist and start over. I've found several amazing lps that way that I never would have otherwise, at a total cost of just a couple of dollars.
post #4 of 28
Even if you eschew the arguments for the superiority of analog audio quality vs digital there's a certain romance associated with pure analog audio and turntables in general. Not only is the potential there for higher quality playback, the way you listen to music is more lyrical.

With a turntable you listen to the whole album all the way till the end. When listening to digital music people tend to 'skip' around. Pre-digital age albums were designed to be listened through till the end. So IMHO the general listening experience is generally more rewarding from a creative perspective.
post #5 of 28
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by gochuckster View Post
Even if you eschew the arguments for the superiority of analog audio quality vs digital there's a certain romance associated with pure analog audio and turntables in general. Not only is the potential there for higher quality playback, the way you listen to music is more lyrical.

With a turntable you listen to the whole album all the way till the end. When listening to digital music people tend to 'skip' around. Pre-digital age albums were designed to be listened through till the end. So IMHO the general listening experience is generally more rewarding from a creative perspective.
I'm convinced. Turntable it is! As for cheap music and finding things you wouldn't otherwise--is it correct thinking that many of the more independent artists/lesser known of the 60s-80s never had their music digitized, so it remains only LP format?

I actually have $6,000 in my bank account...all of which I could potentially spend on a turntable and LPs (so maybe around $2000 for equipment? But even that seems excessive..I don't need top-of-the-range-amazing-audiophile equipment; just high quality without 80% price increase for pristine quality...if that makes sense). I have a pair of Sennheiser HD595s...and no speakers whatsoever. As to flatmap's question--the only amp I own is built into my audio card.

So should I go all-out on a turntable & amp, or maybe split it between a turntable and better headphones & amp...etc etc. What would be the best course of action? I'm reluctant to buy speakers because I'm off to college next year and I doubt my potential roommate will want to hear my music all the time.
post #6 of 28
You could also take the best of both worlds and convert your LPs to digital format. Play the records when you're at home, but just bring the digital stuff when you're off to college.
post #7 of 28
Potentially, you can get better sound from a well done analog vinyl system. I would however start simpler. Get a used turntable, or check your dad's attic, thats where I got mine.

Starting with record is "romantic" as noted above, especially if you are old enough to have done records as a teen (vs 8 track), however, I have found that "romantic" = fussy and expensive. I am not nearly as tolerant of pops and clicks as I used to be.

Getting used records (almost all of mine came from the attic with the turntable), means you need to get good at cleaning the records, and there are several religions around that subject.

I was about to leap in feet first, and get a VPI record cleaning machine, and angle for a nicer turntable for Christmas. Seeing as I am hoping to simplify my life at this point, and the fact that a cat lives in my study, I decided to pass on enlarging my vinyl experience at this point. Perhaps when I slow down at work some, I don't need another fussy project at this time.

As a hobby though, Vinyl is great, there is lots of new vinyl coming out, and lots of old vinyl to wade through. And you can tell the difference between vinyl and a CD on a decent system.

I also think that CDs will be phasing out as online sales of music continues to soar. I am very encouraged by the sales of hi rez music online, and have found it to be the equal of vinyl on my systems.
post #8 of 28
Bones is right on track and I'd like to elaborate on his thoughts.

I think there are a few things to consider before jumping into the world of vinyl. First, a TT is like most other audio components in that you get what you pay for. Buying a cheap TT will certainly play a record and it may be all you're looking for. But if you really want it to sound amazing and give you that "wow factor" a $100 TT is not going to suffice.

Digital music sounds nice with out all the fuss. Buy a decent CD player and decent headphone amp and a nice pair of cans and you're all set. But you need to put a lot of thought into a TT to get it to sound really nice. A quality table is just the the first step. You also will need a quality cartridge to achieve nice sound, and like everything else, you get what you pay for. You'll also need a quality phono stage, again cheap ones usually sound inferior to better models. Then you need good quality equipment to plug the TT and phono stage into. And again, a decent integrated amp is not gong to be had for cheap. Then of course you need good speakers and like everything else, good ones are gona cost you some bucks.

So you can see that this is one of those things that how far you want to take it needs to be considered before-hand because things can really add up quickly. If you think $2000 seems excessive then you may want to reconsider going down the analog road. You can easily spend that much on a nice TT and cartridge.

Oh, and one more thing to consider. You can spend a lot of money getting really nice equipment to enjoy vinyl but if your vinyl is dirty (or scratched up) it definitely won't sound nice no matter how hi-end your analog components are. A good RCM (record cleaning machine) is around $500 by itself and is totally worth it IMO for anyone wanting to enjoy vinyl. It cleans all the gritty junk out of the grooves and makes playing vinyl a real joy. Highly recommended.
post #9 of 28
I'd like to add the following tips:

You would also need a good arm to match your TT and there are different types. I had an ET2 linear tracking arm with air bearing. As far as cartridges, there are MMs and MCs. There are low output and high output MCs. If you get a low output MC, make sure that your phono preamp has enough gain for it. Some phono preamp even have adjustable impedance so you can match it with the cartridge. You would also need to learn how to align (azimuth and overhang) the cartridge properly so that the stylus is setup properly when it is tracking the LP's grooves. You align it after you have set the proper mass in grams for your cartridge. There's a template to do this.

You also need to adjust the spring or feet of your TT so that it is perfectly horizontal on your TT stand. You would need a small level to do this. I also used a bubble level on the platter to adust its level relative to the TT.
post #10 of 28
There are various possibilities possible and your budget is your limit. I would recommend experimenting first. I got a $5 yard sale Technics TT in near mint condition and cart, bought a few vinyls again from yard sales and started listening. I thoroughly enjoy the experience. I now know a little more and have bought a B&O TT. Slowly learning. And like a squirrel collects nuts during the summer, I have been going to all the possible yard sales and collecting as many vinyls as possible (good ones). I have around 300 of them, which I will find as quite a repose when winter sets in with lesser chances of outdoor movement. Looks like it'll be a lovely winter.
post #11 of 28
I'm not a believer that you always "get what you pay for". You can also get something good cheap or something bad yet expensive.

Generally speaking the table you get should be heavy and rigid, and have some form of suspension or heavily dampened coupling. Beyond this you'll want to get a well made tone arm that can pivot without much trouble, and has adjustments that will work for your cartridge. In other words the arm needs to be able to track well or you can expect any cartridge to sound bad. Next is the phono preamp which is the next in chain you must worry about. Even though the cartridge comes before this it can ruin the sound of anything you have on that tonearm. Make sure you get something that performs well . . . there's some rather good ones under $200, probably under $100 too if you look.

From there, depending what's left of your budget go cartridge shopping. This is something only you can decide as everyone has their own taste to how these perform.
post #12 of 28
eh, that depends on your goal. My $100 table (sony ps-x500 with biotracer arm) and $100 cart (sumiko pearl) do a darn good job, and are perfectly acceptable for $200 total outlay. Throw in a decent phonostage (say hagerman bugle), and you're out under $300, and can just enjoy the music.
post #13 of 28
And the merit of grawk's approach is that you're in business for a realatively small amount of cash... and you can always move up from there without much loss.

Another way to start cheap is to get a used deck and you can often find a pretty decent one on craigslist. Depends on where you live of course.

Another mode is to get a complete kit from TTVJ, Audio Advisor, or similar. Sometimes these guys have used/demo/returns and such as well. This is pretty much what I did, except that I had a Rega dealer in town and bought a P3 that someone had traded in for a P5. I still have that deck and have upped the quality of the cartridge and phonostage. So that was a super economical way to go over the long term -- but my initial outlay was $700 or $800.
post #14 of 28
Originally Posted by flatmap View Post
my initial outlay was $700 or $800.
Mine too, I just recently bought a used VPI Scout in excellent condition for $780. Very nice TT. The best I've ever owned. Didn't come with a cart though but I stole one from one of my other decks. Now looking for a cart that deserves to be mounted onto the Scouts tonearm.
post #15 of 28
I have not enjoyed music this much in a long time since I put all my CD's on a music server. The convenience and ability to listen to a lot of music at the touch of a button is for me, the ultimate listening experience.
I have a bunch of LP's gathering dust and I am not planning on going back. Vinyl is nice, but digital is just as good (actually its is better). It is of course a matter of opinion too. if you like changing records every 20-30 minutes, and don't mind an occasional scratching sound, go for vinyl.
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