We've seen many retro items make a comeback in the last few years, and the classic record player is no different. Record players might be vintage, but they still offer a great way to enjoy some music while also contributing to your interior décor. The best record players in 2021 should be excellent at conveying audio tracks on the records while also providing you access to modern features. Whether you are a music fan yourself or giving a gift to a vinyl-lover you know, record players are a great option.
Here’s our list of the top options when looking to equip your living room or bedroom with a record player.
If you have a love for old vinyl records, then you definitely need to invest in a record player. Owning a record collection is a great way to appreciate music in a different way than digitally downloading it. With so many choices out there, we know that finding the right record player can be a challenging task, so our buying guide is here to help you make sense of everything you need to know.
How does a record player work?
The most important part of a record player is actually not the record player itself but the record. If you pick up a vinyl record, you won’t be able to see the grooves that are present, but these grooves are integral to a record player. When you put a record on a record player, you place the player’s needle on to the record. As the record spins, the needle will align itself into the groove. The movement along the groove causes the needle to vibrate. These vibrations produce sound waves, which get turned into the music that you hear. Vinyl has been used to record music and conversations for over a century. Before you worry about using a record player, though, you should learn as much as possible about the record player that is best for you.
What are types of record players?
There are three main types of record players: manual, automatic, and semi-automatic record players. The difference comes in how the needle is put on and removed from the record.
Manual Record Players
Manual record players require that you place the needle on to the record. This happens by lifting up the arm to place the needle on to the record and lifting up the arm to remove the needle from the record.
Automatic Record Players
On an automatic record player, you won’t ever have to touch the needle. Placing it on the record and removing it from the record is as simple as the touch of a button—literally.
Semi-Automatic Record Players
With a semi-automatic record player, you’ll only need to do half the work. You’ll be responsible for placing the needle on to the record, but once it’s done playing, the needle will automatically lift off the record on its own.
With any type of record player, you’ll encounter a speed switch that will allow you to play different sized records. Having a speed switch is important because different sized records play at various speeds, which is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM). There are three main sizes of records: seven inches, ten inches, and twelve inches.
Seven-inch records have a speed of 45 RPM. Each side can fit approximately five minutes of music, so these records will mostly have singles on them.
Ten-inch records are not as common today, so if you find a record player that won’t play this size record, it’s not a deal breaker. For reference, they play at 78 RPM.
This size record spins at 33 RPM. This means that it can store up to 44 minutes of music on it, 22 minutes of playtime on each side, which is the perfect size for an album. Most vinyl records that you come across today are twelve inches in size.
Nearly every record player will play at 33 and 45 RPM, which equates to seven- and twelve-inch records. If you’re looking for a record player that can also handle the ten-inch records at 78 RPM, you’ll need one that has “three-speed” support.
That’s all the types of record players and records that you need to know about, but keep reading for the average price of record players and tips on using your record player.
What is the price range of record players?
Prices can vary depending on the record player you get. If you’re committed to vinyl records and love this old-fashioned form of music, then you’ll want a record player that reflects that interest. If this is you, you can expect to find a record player within the range of 200 to 400 dollars. But you don’t have to break the bank in order to enjoy a record player. For those dipping their toes into the world of vinyl records, you can get a good-quality record player for around 80 to 100 dollars. If you go for a less expensive model, you might consider making sure it is upgradeable so that you can enhance your record player’s features later on down the road if you so choose to. The most important thing, however, is to make sure you’re aware of your budget before you make any final decisions on a record player.
Tips for using a record player
If you want to get the most out of your record player, it’s best to know a few tips beforehand.
It might seem obvious that you need to place your record player on a sturdy surface. This is worth repeating, though, because record players work off vibrations, which means that they can also pick up external vibrations. If you’re not careful, it might interfere with how your music sounds. On top of making sure you place your record player on a sturdy surface, make sure it is away from any potential interferences.
Handling your record
When you pick up a record, you want to handle it by the edges. This will minimize the grease and dust that gets on the surface, which could affect the sound quality that is produced when you play it on your record player.
You also want to be gentle with the record when you’re placing it on and taking it off of your record player. Make sure to line up the holes you see on the disc with the spindles on your record player. When you’re done listening to a record, place it back in the sleeve to prevent damage from occurring to it.
Handling the needle
If you have a manual record player, you want to place the arm and needle on the outer edge of the record. Be sure not to scratch the needle across the record to try and get it to play. Most likely, the music will start automatically, so just be patient.
These are some great tips for you to help you make sure you’re using your record player and records correctly.
Still on the hunt for something musical? Check out our other accessories American Songwriter has to offer that a vinyl-lover like you is sure to enjoy.
By Jack Stoneybrook
Jack has been a touring guitarist for almost 20 years, playing in a number of country music and rock bands. Jack loves the road and defines himself as a never-ending student of the guitar and other important instruments or tools that make a musician.