A few years ago, the only place you could pick up a record player was a high-end audio shop or on eBay. Even when the vinyl resurgence began with the catalyst that was Record Store Day launching in 2007 (2008 in the UK), you’d still struggle to buy a factory fresh record player unless you were prepared to pay big bucks. Now they’re ten a penny.
There’s a wealth of cheap portable record players available in all kinds of outlets from Urban Outfitters to Aldi and Home Bargains; Amazon is awash with retro looking turntables in the £20-80 price bracket, but what’s the real price?
“Really cheap turntables can wreck your records,” says Colleen Murphy, founder of Classic Album Sundays, which runs monthly events where you can listen to a quality record on high end audio kit. “Not everyone has to have the ultimate record player, but my concern is about the permanent damage to the vinyl.”
You only need to look at the paper thin tonearm on some of these players to see that it’s not much better than a toy record player (in fact, the Fisher Price toy record player tonearm is way more stable). It means the alignment when you’re playing your records is likely to be off kilter. This not only makes the sound shit (that tinny distant sound that makes even Massive Attack sound like a choir of sardines) but it causes uneven wear and tear on the record.
The vibrations from the in-built speakers aren’t helping either, turning the turntable into a mini trampoline – take a closer look and you’ll see your record bunny hopping. And with no counterweight, the pressure being put through the needle is way above the recommended amount. There’s only one thing that’s bearing the brunt of that – your records.
Next time you go on a record shopping spree, maybe pick up a few less and put that money towards a decent piece of kit instead.