Vinyl Rig 101: Where to start?
Dec 9, 2008 at 5:25 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 16

jonathanjong

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Over the last few days, I've been scouring used book stores and the like, and am now interested in starting a beginner vinyl rig. I've read some "beginner" posts here, but am still a little confused. So...what do I need? Is it just a turntable, or will I need amps and such things too? Can I just plug my headphones into any old turntable? Also, what's a good setup for a beginner, if I wanted to buy new? Thanks!
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 6:03 PM Post #2 of 16

Rednamalas1

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Generally, you'll need Turntable itself with the tonearm + cartridge + and phono stage in most of the cases. Then you'll need a headphone amp along with headphones.

I've skipped the beginner rig, so I'll let someone else answer that part.
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 6:18 PM Post #3 of 16

J.D.N

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As Rednamalas1 said, you will need a TT with tone arm and cartridge, a phono stage and amplifier.

The phono stage is needed as the pick up off the record is very very low and so need an extra stage of 'amplification' as it were.

What kind of budget are you looking at? Would you mind buying second hand?

Take a look at Pro-ject, they do some great budget gear.
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 6:19 PM Post #4 of 16

JadeEast

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One of the reasons you need a phono preamp is records are made with little waves in thr vinyl that are turned into electricity by the cartridge.
Because bass waves are so big relative to higher spectrum noise the music is recorded onto the record with equalization so the big waves fit on a little disk and the stylus can track them. High frequency information is recorded at a higher level to compensate for noise and distortion during recording. This EQ is called the RIAA curve and you need a preamp that compensates for this on playback as well as to boost the small signal from the cartridge so your amplifier can work with it desired input level.
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 6:22 PM Post #5 of 16

Sherwood

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Let's see how well I can handle this:

You'll need a turntable, first off. That's really just a bunch of heavy parts (plinth), a motor, and a heavy circle that you place records on (platter). Attached to that turntable should be a tonearm, and attached to that tonearm should be a cartridge.

There are many varieties of cartridges in the world, but the only one that matters to a beginner is MM, or moving magnet. These have the highest output, and are generally the least expensive.

You turntable will likely have RCA cables attached to it, but don't be fooled. You can't simply plug it in to any old thing. In order to make records a reasonable size, they are EQ'ed very strangely. You need a phono preamp to restore the EQ to something listenable, to provide the right resistance for your cartridge, and to give you an output level that you can actually hear. Some oft-recommended budget options are the Bellari VP129, and the Cambridge 640p. Some phono stages have a headphone amp, some do not. Lots of older integrated amps and many good newer integrated amps have a phono stage built in. If you have one like that, you don't need a phono preamp.

The two most common options recommended for beginners are the Technics SL1200 (usually modified by KAB) and the Rega P2, P3, or P3-24. What is most important for beginners is that you buy locally, and preferably from someone who can set everything up for you. Setup is daunting, and uses a whole host of tools you do not yet own. It all will get easier, but vinyl is a crazy beast right at first.
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 6:29 PM Post #6 of 16

Freakzilla

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If your starting on the cheap go for a vintage turntable. Check the local thrift store. Most people say it hard to go wrong with a Technics. Also as sherwood points out, if your current receiver or amp has a phono input on the back your good without separate phono stage. I've found audiokarma.org a great place for turntable information, especially vintage.
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 6:53 PM Post #7 of 16

Uncle Erik

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I recommend buying used for a first turntable. Go cheap, buy local and don't be afraid of servicing it yourself. New belts, changing a bearing, etc. can be accomplished without any experience and tools you probably have. Setting up the cartridge can be frustrating at first, but keep at it. A correct setup with a modern cartridge on a maintained vintage deck can sound great.

Keep in mind that you're not going to know what you like until you start spinning records. So don't get too hung up on the make/model. Get the first decent one that turns up, service it and add a new cartridge. Once you figure out what you like and dislike about your deck you can look into spending more.

For the record, my first table was a Rega Planar 3. Great deck, though I realized that I wanted a suspended one. The Rega arm does sound good, but I prefer the SME for easier setup and VTA adjustment. But I didn't know any of that when I bought the Planar 3.
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 8:48 PM Post #8 of 16

ffrr

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I reccomend the rega p2 (or nad 533), good table that you wont have to upgrade for a long time..


Quote:

Originally Posted by Uncle Erik /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I recommend buying used for a first turntable. Go cheap, buy local and don't be afraid of servicing it yourself. New belts, changing a bearing, etc. can be accomplished without any experience and tools you probably have. Setting up the cartridge can be frustrating at first, but keep at it. A correct setup with a modern cartridge on a maintained vintage deck can sound great.

Keep in mind that you're not going to know what you like until you start spinning records. So don't get too hung up on the make/model. Get the first decent one that turns up, service it and add a new cartridge. Once you figure out what you like and dislike about your deck you can look into spending more.

For the record, my first table was a Rega Planar 3. Great deck, though I realized that I wanted a suspended one. The Rega arm does sound good, but I prefer the SME for easier setup and VTA adjustment. But I didn't know any of that when I bought the Planar 3.



 
Dec 9, 2008 at 8:53 PM Post #9 of 16

robm321

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Buy a cheap but high end TT, Music Hall is a great example and they start from $299 with tonearm and cart., from a local dealer. He or she/but usually he will help you get it set up...
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 10:00 PM Post #10 of 16

whaleyboy

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Thanks for the information folks - I am embarrassed to say that I have always wondered what a phono stage actually does. I am delighted to find out that it does more than just straight line amplifying!

I keep thinking about starting with vinyl and then getting scared of futzing around with the cartridge/tonearm/???? setup.
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 11:37 PM Post #11 of 16

Rednamalas1

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I should also mention that vinyl is the one of the cheapest (and legal) way to obtain well-recorded music. If you're into 60s,70s and 80s rock like me, go to a used record store and you would be able to find thick stack of records for cheap, cheap price.

For example, last weekend, I grabbed 140+ classic rock collection (I haven't attempted to look at what they are yet, but I did see few of beatles, cream, and the who in there) for just under 100$. Good stuff.

I don't want to open them up just yet as I will have to clean records for the whole day.
 
Dec 10, 2008 at 12:50 AM Post #13 of 16

Uncle Erik

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Start picking up records that interest you. I bought a couple dozen when I decided to get into vinyl, but before I got the turntable.

Also, forgot to mention the Vinyl Anachronist. I'm posting from the phone so I can't paste the URL, but Google will bring him right up. There are about 50 columns going back several years. Some don't like his devotion to British hi-fi and dislike of the SL1200, but his heart is in the right place and there's a ton of good information.

I tend to agree with his Anglophilia - loved the Rega, and am crazy about J.A. Michell's turntables and the ProAc 2.5 clones.
 
Dec 10, 2008 at 1:06 AM Post #15 of 16

jsplice

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I picked up a new Music Hall MMF-5.1 from a local dealer. This table now sells for $875 on all the major retailers online, but I got a MUCH better deal on it than the online shops. I've been very pleased with it so far, and it's my first turntable (aside from my fischer price and a few others I had as a child). I always switch back between vinyl and my new Yulong DAH1 dac, and I have to say that I still enjoy vinyl a lot more. A very organic, "real" sound to it. Hard to describe until you explore it first hand. Sometimes the treble in digital recordings is just too much for me.
 

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