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Turntable Kitchen’s Top Ten Reasons To Buy a Turntable

You’ve probably noticed that we like vinyl records in our home.  For example, at the end of many of my posts, I gently nudge our readers towards Insound to buy our featured albums on vinyl instead of digitally from iTunes.  Beyond that, we did name our site Turntable Kitchen.  Friends who haven’t started collecting records yet, but who are interested, always ask me two questions: 1) Why should I buy a record player / start collecting records, and 2) Which record player should I buy?

I’m going to do my best to address both of those questions.  First, here is TK’s Top 10 Reasons to Buy a Turntable:

1. Vinyl Records Just Sound Better

Let me start with a caveat: a bad turntable will only sound a little better than a bad CD player. Maybe even worse. But if you are serious about listening to music with high quality sound reproduction, in my opinion, vinyl is the way to go.  But let’s be fair, sound can be subjective.  What sounds great to you may not sound great to me.  But with a turntable, as opposed to a CD player, you can experiment with the factors that effect the sound quality.  You can upgrade your catridge, your platter, your tone arm, your power source, etc.  You can also tweak the components you do have until you find the sound you are looking for.  That is pretty much out of the question with a CD player.

Further, most audiophiles believe that analog/vinyl sound reproduction just sounds warmer and fuller than digital reproduction.  The debate as to which is better, analog or digital, has been raging pretty much since the birth of the CD, but to this day, if you visit almost any audiophile forum on the Internet, you’ll discover that vinyl is the overwhelming choice.  If you want to read some of the pros and cons you can check out this thread on Google Answers.  For my part, there is no question as to which I prefer.

I recall the first time I put vinyl and CD to the sonic taste test at a hi-fi store in San Francisco.  For the test, I listened to Spoon’s Gimme Fiction first on CD and then on vinyl using the exact same amplifier and speakers and standing in the exact same location. The CD was fine and sounded the same as it always had for me — but when we played the record on vinyl, it was as if I was hearing the album (one of my favorites) for the first time again. To explain, let me first provide a definition: a “soundstage” refers to the quality of music reproduction that allows the listeners to focus on specific instruments and elements of a song in relationship to where those elements are placed on an imaginary 3D/2D stage. With the vinyl copy of the album,  the sense of depth and sonic separation was amazing. I closed my eyes I felt like I could sense an actual physical space where Britt Daniel should be standing in the room leaning into his microphone, playing guitar and singing the lyrics to “The Beast & Dragon Adored” relative to where the other members of the band would be. Put another way, the richness of the music wasn’t just about the reproduction of the music – but the reproduction of the space between the sounds that allowed it to be perceived as three dimensional.

Spoon – The Beast & Dragon Adored

2. Most Vinyl Records Include Digital Downloads

It’s quickly becoming industry standard to include  a digital download of an album with a vinyl record.  So when you buy Best Coast’s Crazy For You for slightly more than the cost of a digital download from iTunes, you get both the vinyl record and the MP3s.  In other words, I’m not suggesting you don’t maintain a library of digital music at all – but that you maintain both.  Usually the cost of a new record is only slightly more expensive than buying that same album on iTunes – and then you have the vinyl copy to listen to at home and the digital copy for when you are on the go.  Now if only they’d start doing that with books.

Best Coast – Crazy For You

3. Records And Record Players Look Sexy

Sure you could have all of your books and music and media stored somewhere in the cloud or on your computer, but if I don’t have a physical copy I don’t feel like I really own the product.  Besides, decorating your home or apartment with shelves lined with records and bookcases neatly arranged with books is just sexier and warmer than an empty room with little more than a Macbook sitting on a table. Especially if you own a sexy turntable like the Pro-Ject Debut or the Bang and Olufsen Beogram 5500.

4. Records Are Collectible

I’m not suggesting that vinyl records are exactly a smart investment option, but many records actually increase in value after you purchase them.  Compare that to a CD where you’d be lucky to get back even half of what you paid – and I wouldn’t recommend trying to re-sell the MP3s you downloaded from iTunes.  Meanwhile, copies of Modest Mouse’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News actually sells for as much as $150 on eBay.  I wonder how much the limited-edition, hand-numbered TK 7″ releases are going to be selling for a few years from now.

Modest Mouse – The View

5. Records Are Fun To Hold

I love when I get a new record in the mail.  It’s fun to open it up and behold the actual record – black vinyl, white vinyl, etc.  As I mentioned above, actually holding a record gives me a greater sense of ownership than merely clicking play on my iTunes.

6. Vinyl Album Art Is Cooler

Album art is way cooler when it is in 12″ x 12″ format as opposed to the tiny little CD booklets or some sort of digital .zip file that I’ll never actually look at.  In fact, not only does the cover art for your favorite album look cooler, but so do the vinyl sized inserts and liner notes.  People frame and display vinyl record sleeves at home all the time.  When was the last time you saw someone frame and hang a CD booklet?

7. Playing Records Is Immersive

For me, the ritual involved in playing my records is delicious.  I’ll thumb through my record collection delightedly examining the spines of the records in my library before my fingers come to rest on the album I’m seeking.  I’ll carefully pull the record out and remove the LP from the jacket.  I examine the surface of the record in the light for dust and, if necessary, swiftly brush off any lint or dust that has collected.  Next, I carefully place the record on the platter and clamp it to the spindle.  I quickly blow on the stylus to remove any dust or fuzz that has collected there before lifting and subsequently lowering the needle to the record.  The soft thump I hear when the needle makes initial  contact with the vinyl is alone worth savoring. If music is a religion, then this is the sacrament.

8. Crate Digging Is Fun

Sure, some records can be pretty expensive – but most older records can be found quite cheap.  In fact, hunting for bargains can be endlessly entertaining for me.  I’ll blissfully spend a whole afternoon digging through crates of records at antique shops, record stores and Goodwill.  I’ve discovered everything from Portishead’s Dummy to The Supreme’s Anthology digging through crates of old cheap vinyl.  I have even dragged my wonderfully understanding wife with me to places where I could dig through crates of records in Moscow, Buenos Aires and Bogota.

9. Some Albums Are Only Available On Vinyl

Increasingly, as vinyl becomes cool again, some albums are only being released on vinyl.  Flaming Lips, for example, have released a number of records and collaborations recently in vinyl-only format, and Record Store Day (a.k.a. the biggest holiday of the year for music obsessives like myself) is pretty much dedicated to featuring vinyl-only exclusives.

10. You Need A Record Player To Play Your Turntable Kitchen 7″

Of course the main reason you’ll want a record player is to play those awesome Turntable Kitchen singles you’ll be receiving every month once you sign up for our Pairings Box!

Convinced?  Stay tuned for our recommendations on which decks to buy.  If you don’t want to wait, you can’t go wrong with the Pro-Ject Debut III.

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Posted by Matthew Hickey

Matthew is the music editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. He’s addicted to vinyl records, pour over coffee, craft beer, small batch bourbon, and pan roasting pork chops.

  • I have a crappy ion turntable, but I’m super happy to have it. I plan to get one that can record to mp3. I’d like to get one of your suggested models, but the price is a little hard to justify right now.

    I looooooooove vinyl. In my late teens and early 20s I used to buy a lot of random vinyl at thrift stores, yard sales, etc. I didn’t know a lot about music so my crate digging was a little unfocused and erratic. A crate-digging venture might yield a Simon&Garfunel LP, an album of latin percussion, and some sort of novelty record.

    When I became a more serious music lover I didn’t have a turntable so the bulk of my collection is on cd; that changed around 5 years ago and since then I’ve been buying music almost exclusively on vinyl.

  • I hear you. I use to have a crappy Sony turntable with a built-in preamp. There was nothing mind-blowing about listening to music on it, but it did the trick until I got a better turntable. That happened a few years ago when Kasey bought me the Pro-Ject as a gift. But you are right – it isn’t cheap. If you were going to buy that one I’d say wait until Insound or another retailer has a sale (Insound does 15% sales all the time – and the coupons normally work for turntables too).

    But an even better option for most people will be to buy an old used one from eBay or a garage sale (this is a bit of a sneak preview of my recommended turntables post). Generally I just recommend finding a good belt-driven turntable. You can always upgrade things like the cartridge over time. That said, I love the Beogram series from B&O (purely because they look sleek) – and they can be found for around $100 on eBay (some go for much more of course).

  • Thanks for the tips man! I look forward to your recommended turntables post!

  • blessingx

    I’m just getting into vinyl for the first time in a couple decades. It’s been a joy, but I do think a caveat is in order on the quality question – speakers, most of the time, yes, but as increasingly highly resolving headphone rigs are becoming commonplace, the surface noise can be too much there. I wonder how these two trends will make peace?

  • Do it! I love my turntable and my collection. The pic is of my record player.

  • So much truth in this post! I have been vinyl only for 6 years now, and I love it. There is no comparison. I am honestly a little shocked when I hear of friends still buying CDs. My record player and collection are the main focus of my apartment’s decor. You can also get great frames to hold vinyl covers to put your favorites on the wall, which is fun.

  • I agree re: CDs. They seem valueless to me. My vinyl collection though – that is my pride and joy.

  • Andy Matthews

    Some convincing tips there as to why to get a record player, you’ve really twisted my arm there!

  • Meister @ The Nervous Cook

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. We have a turntable in our office, and I am forever picking records up off the street and bringing them in to work only to find out that they’re completely bonkers and awesome. Talk about brightening up a workday!

  • Matty

    Great post! It feels really good to read about others who feel that same way about this medium. For those who are willing to spend a little bit more, I would recommend the Vestax BDT-2600 turntable as a great starter turntable. (which is what I own). It produces great sound and looks great.

    I also like what this guy has been doing with his turntable customization:

    My dream set is to pick up a subwoofer, two speakers, and a tube amp from Glow Audio.

    And hi-end audio upgrades: cartridges/needle replacements/clamps from needle doctor!

  • Pingback: Observant Nomad » Wax Trax Vinyl()

  • Ive just happened across your wonderful world. Im considering a shift over to vinyl, and actually considering listening to it in the kitchen!

  • claire

    hi, its my boyfriends 30th coming up soon and he’s talked about wanting to start a vinyl collection so was hoping to get him a turntable and some albums. however, im totally clueless as to where to start!!! what is a decent turntable that he will get good use and enjoymemnt out of and if i was to buy it over the net do i run the risk of it being damaged when delivered in the post? appreciate any advice you can offer, thanks!

  • Hi Claire, I’m happy to help. I think you should be safe ordering a turntable off the Internet. I know many people who have. If you need some tips for selecting one, check out this post we prepared awhile back:

  • vinylsnotdead

    The essence of it =)

  • TheShallows_NicholasCarr

    So really, there’s like 3 reasons.

  • joe

    Please. The best music only comes from reel-to-reel tapes.

  • Joey

    I have been a vinyl enthusiast since I was a kid. I have had my Vestax 2600 for the past 9 1/2 years, and it is still working flawlessly. Outside of breaking the hinge on the dust cover (my fault), it’s been great. My only suggestion is to upgrade the cartridge and stylus to an nice brand. The one that comes with the table is fine, but pairing it with a nice Shure set or an equivalent super diamond stylus from Japan (amazing) will blow you away.

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