fallen for all the hipster audiophile bullshit discovered the realm of analog recording and want to get set up listening to vinyl records. Here's some basics and advice.
Before you start buying records from that swank shop you pass by on your way to Starbucks, you'll need some basic equipment. A single weak link in this setup could make your audio experience no different from listening to music on your computer with shitty Beats headphones.
If you just want some quick brand recs, skip past this part. If you want to learn something, read on.
For the love of God, do not buy a Crosley whatever the fuck integrated turntable. If you absolutely want a shit table, at least get one that won't eat your records, but if you want a good vinyl experience, then there's a few more things you need to look out for.
This is the piece that actually generates the signal. It has a small sapphire or diamond-tipped stylus on it (the needle in slang) and is comprised of several different designs. Without boring you with technobabble, let me just say that this is the part of your turntable that makes the most difference. Lots of different manufacturers make reasonably priced cartridges like Audio Technica, Grado, Shure, etc., so pick one in your price range that matches the mount your head unit has. If you aren't confident/competent with a screwdriver to install it yourself, take your table to a local audio shop; they're usually more than happy to help you.
The reason you want to stay away from Crosley's and the AT-LP60 is because they don't have adjustable counterbalances. When the head sits on the record, it needs to be balanced such that it's just barely sitting in the grooves. Not pressing into it, not floating above it, but sitting with just enough weight to flow with the record. If you can't guess, different heads have different weights. The LP60 has a fixed counterweight and a non-removable head unit. Balancing the head is vitally important for good playback.
And you know, it's nice when your turntable doesn't destroy your records.
Typically two kinds of drives; direct drive and belt-drive.
In a direct drive, as you can probably guess, the platter is connected directly to a motor that spins it at 33 1/3 or 45 or 78 RPM. This eliminates the need for a belt, which can contribute to speed fluctuations.
In a belt-driven system, the motor is connected to the platter by a belt, similar to your car's timing belt, but much less complicated. Potentially advantageous over direct drive systems because eliminates any vibrations in the platter caused by the motor, however, the belt system is an addition part and can encounter problems, like the belt wearing loose.
It really doesn't matter which one you get, just know when you get your table which one you have.
Just get a turntable with a dust cover. They're usually acrylic or glass for extra fancy shit, but make sure your turntable has one. Dust can set into the grooves of records and destroy them, and you don't want that, do you?
I won't spend much time here because this isn't too hard. Look for an RIAA equalized pre amp and a decent power amp to power whatever output system you decide to use, be it electrostatic speakers, planar magnetic headphones, balanced armature earbuds, or just some good ol' dynamic drivers. All outputs have specific power requirements, so do your best to match your amp to them.
Just to let you know, your Beats and EarPods are shit and you should invest in better iems or headphones. Don't ask me for advice when head-fi and /g/ exist, but know that any kind of audiophilic bliss you might capture from vinyl will be limited by your speakers/headphones. Always.
So what turntable should I get?
Look for used vintage tables. The brand seriously doesn't matter. All that matters is that the arm and the drive work. As long as it turns at the right speed, you can play records on it. That in mind, Turntables:
- Technics (vint.)
- Sony (vint. and new)
- Stanton (new)
- Audio Technica (new) (LP120 NOT LP60)
- Pro-ject (new, expensive)
- Grado (non-replaceable styli)
Acquiring Vinyl Records
Remember that hip shop you pass on your way to Starbucks? Take a step inside and check it out. Record stores are finding a new life and are prolific in any mildly liberal area.
Many record shops will stock both new and old records that have been traded in in varying conditions. For finding out if your favorite album is printed on a record, check Discogs; it's got tons and tons of info about almost any record you could think of.
One thing people ask a lot is, "what are the essential albums to get on vinyl?"
There's only one answer to this question and it's whatever albums you like. Most, if not all, major label releases come out on LPs today, priced around $30 or so. You can also find classic albums for like $5 if you look around. Search Goodwill, Amazon, Discogs, and your local record store to find gems.
Oh, and get Thriller.
Caring for your Records
Invest $20 into a carbon fiber record brush and use it whever you play a record.
Also invest $5 into a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser for cleaning off your stylus like this. It works and it's cheap and simple. Fucking do it.
Whenever you aren't playing your records, make sure they're in their paper jacket and sleeve. You may want to invest a further $10 into some plastic sleeves to prevent scratching, which paper sleeves are known to do when repeatedly taking the record in and out. You can find them here. These will keep most of the dust away and ensure that everything stays fairly clean. Do not store records horizontally, keep them upright.
Feel free to correct anything I've mistaken, add more links, pics, whatever.