In the second of our monthly vinyl and audio column from the peeps at Henley Audio we look at how to choose the perfect record deck
Ten top tips to help you snare the best deck
- Throw some cash at it. Super-cheap turntables, including those “portable suitcase” ones, are likely to damage your vinyl as well as disappoint your ears. Keep saving till you can afford a deck that will outlive your yoghurt.
- A preloved bargain? Second-hand offers can be tempting, but turntables, complete with all their moving parts as well as delicate cartridges, are specialist bits of kit. Only buy used if you know your stuff.
- Figure out your features – from electronic speed control to Bluetooth output, a host of bells and whistles are available these days. Figure out your needs, so you don’t waste money on features you won’t use and get shopping!
- Try before you buy. Demoing a turntable is more valuable than even the most detailed review. With all the minutiae and delicacy of sound being so “personal-opinion-led”, the person that can tell you which system sounds best for you is… you. Visit your local hi-fi shop; most will be more than happy to let you listen. And remember to take some of your own music.
- The big finish. Vinyl is about the overall experience, so the looks as well the sound. From bright red lacquers to real wood veneers, turntables come in numerous finishes but look for quality engineering as well as a groovy finish.
- Separate! You could buy an all-in-one turntable that integrates everything you need, including a speaker. But a separates system – so, turntable, amp, and speakers – invariably delivers the best ‘sound-per-pound’. But first, you absolutely must check this page which explains how phono stages work!
- Strong and stable. Vibrations in a hi-fi system are bad news and can spoil the sound. Good turntables employ vibration damping materials. Techniques used here include “isolation feet” that reduce contact with surfaces. Always check what your prospective deck offers.
- That’s heavy, man! As record players get bigger and more expensive, you’ll typically find they begin to weigh more, too; so be careful with where you’re going to position your precious vinyl spinner. But, if you also want to benefit from a higher-mass design without shelling out the big bucks, consider looking into heavy-weight isolation platforms (like Ground-IT E), which bring a lot of the benefit at a fraction of the price.
- Red or white? Different materials, particularly in cartridges, produce varying sound profiles – think grapes and wine. Honestly! For example, the Ortofon Quintet Red sounds well-rounded, while the Quintet Blue is a super-smooth performer. The Quintet Bronze sounds spacious yet dynamic. For pure audio excellence, the Quintet Black S is a bit special. Match your cartridge to your sound tastes.
- House of fun. Listening to music is a hobby, and hi-fi is about balance. As your vinyl collection grows, there are accessories and tweaks you can introduce to help your system keep pace without going down the costly path of a wholesale upgrade. Clamps, mats, cartridges, and cleaning accessories are all great examples of affordable ways to upgrade your system’s sound further.
All of the gear mentioned is distributed by Henley Audio.
And don’t forget that Editor-In-Chief Jon’Mojo’ Mills swears by his Pro-Ject X2 deck and DS2 Phono Stage