What’s the Difference Between a Record Player and a Turntable?

Vinyl is back in style. That is something not many anticipated, but everyone can agree upon. Naturally, the next thing that happened was a spike in sales of turntables and record players. With so many new users every year, there have been some questions that are asked more than others. One of them is whether there is a difference between record players and turntables. If you haven’t guessed it yet, this is going to be the topic of our discussion today.

The Difference Is Absolutely There


The terms ‘turntable’ and ‘record player’ have been used interchangeably by those who lack knowledge of the subject. That wouldn’t be that big of a deal if mixing up terminology didn’t lead to a good number of new vinyl fans ending up disappointed. If you ever run into someone who keeps convincing you that there is no difference, you should have all the necessary arguments to get them on the right path after you’re done reading this article.

Same Purpose, Different Approach

The main difference between record players and turntables is their intended use. Both are made to play vinyl, but each utilizes a slightly different approach. Record players were designed to be an all-in-one device that would play vinyl. By all-in-one, we mean an integrated amplifier, integrated speakers and a generally simplified system of operation. With turntables, that is not the case. Most audiophiles love turntables exactly because of their modular nature. One thing worth noting here is that record players have a perfectly good place in this world. Most casual users and those who are just getting into the hobby can benefit greatly from starting with a record player. These offer the shortest path to quality audio.

But Turntable Actually Refers To The Rotating Platter?!


That’s true. The term ‘turntable’ originally referred only to the platter and the motor below it. By that original definition, a record player is also a turntable. However, as turntables and record players became more and more complex, the meaning of the term shifted as well. The definition we are giving you today may not be the one you will find in a dictionary, but it is the one that is used the most in the community. Chances are that even the most conservative of purists will forgive you if they hear you using the term ‘turntable’ in this evolved context.

Benefits Of Owning A Turntable

As we have mentioned before, turntables in the implied sense of the word, lack some of the major components necessary for them to work out of the box. This isn’t always the rule, but there are few exceptions. With that in mind, why would anyone want to get a turntable over a record player? The answer is quite easy. Integrated amplification is not always seen as a benefit. Same goes for integrated styluses and cartridges as a whole. Not to mention integrated speakers.

By choosing a standalone version of all of these components, you are essentially able to have a serious impact on the performance of your turntable. Not every phono amplifier sounds the same, nor does every stylus work well with every type of records or turntables. A great turntable will get you 90% of the good sound, but being able to customize it will push that number to 100%. This is exactly why so many audiophiles wouldn’t be caught dead with a record player in their possession.

The only actual downside to owning a turntable is their price tag. Good turntables will set you back quite a bit, however, this has started to change. We are seeing more and more affordable turntables that allow all of the upgrade paths we have mentioned above, all while sounding pretty decent.

Customization Is Only The Beginning


There’s one more aspect of turntables that makes them desirable to hard core fans of vinyl sound. If you were to take any proper turntable model, you would find that everything is more or less manual and that everything can be adjusted to perfection. Whether we are talking about balancing the tonearm, or the anti-skate, you have absolute control. While absolutely great for those with experience and knowledge, all of this responsibility can be rather intimidating to new users.

Benefits Of Using Record Players

Record players are far more user-friendly for beginners than turntables. That is simply a fact. On top of that, you can find a number of models which are somewhere in between. In other words, they will either offer some amount of control and upgrade paths to the user. Not having to deal with all of the controls, buttons, and switches is a great way to get started if have no previous experience with this type of tech.

Casual users prefer record players over turntables for the most part. The main reason being that an average record player is fully automatic. All you have to do is pop the record on the platter and press a button. Once the stylus reaches the end of the record, it will lift automatically, thus preventing any damage to that record. Not everyone wants to think about if their tonearm is dialed in perfectly. For them, it is all about convenience.

Conclusion

If there is one thing you should take away from this article, it is that both turntables and record players have a place in this hobby. It doesn’t always have to be whether one is better than the other. Application and what the person behind the device needs also plays a significant part. With that said, the unwritten rule is that turntables deliver better sound but cost more, while record players are lacking in some areas but are much more convenient and affordable. That’s about as far as the discussion should go. The most important thing is that both allow you to experience the beauty of vinyl in a very intimate way. Once you understand that, everything else becomes a secondary concern. It is all about enjoying those grooves.

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