In the world of audio reproduction, we've come a long way. From Thomas Edison's early wax and tinfoil cylinders to compact discs and MP3s, advances in technology and fidelity have been nothing short of astounding, enabling the average listener to walk around with a sound library in his or her pocket which would have required several large bookshelves to store just a generation ago.
When it comes to the actual listening experience, nothing compares to the joy and wonder of placing a slab of vinyl on a quality turntable and watching that needle move as it rides the thin groove and produces warm, rich musical magic. While turntables and vinyl records have been supplanted in the hearts and ears of the general
public with more modern forms of audio delivery, there is still quite a demand for the classic record player, both from professional DJs and hip-hoppers, as well as the loyal contingent of audiophile and retro-loving music aficionados for home listening.
While the massive console with a record changer, radio and maybe a tape player all built into one unit is now a thing of the past, the turntables of today have as much fidelity and more versatility than the finest units from thirty years ago. The two main designs available today are belt drive, which has a rubber or synthetic belt running from the drive motor to the record platter, and direct drive, where the motor is beneath the platter and directly connected to it. Belt drives used to be the primary type, and are generally less susceptible to unwanted vibrations from the motor. Direct drives usually have stronger torque, and are favored by DJs and turntablists because they are better suited to the rigors of the dance club. For the home listener who wants to experiment with the allure of vinyl, or who wants to revisit that collection of records put in storage years ago, you can now buy USB-enabled turntables with analog-to-digital converters built in, so you can archive your beloved vinyl on your hard drive as you groove to those classic tunes. Some even include a 1/8" stereo input jack for connecting your tape deck, as well as software like Gracenote MusicID technology, which analyzes your sound signal and retrieves the song, album and artist information for you (or you can manually enter it if you wish). You can now archive your vinyl (and tapes or 8-tracks!) with just a few clicks.
For the professional or aspiring DJ who might be lamenting the loss of the recently discontinued Technics SL-1200, there are other turntables that can fill your spinning needs. Look for a unit with a strong torque motor and quartz lock speed control to withstand the rigors of scratching, and still keep the groove happening. Other features may include pitch sliders to vary the speed for beat matching, variable start and brake settings for easier cueing, and perhaps digital I/O for connecting to your rig. Some even have built-in CD players or iPod docks for combining the best of both worlds! Get a coffin case
to safely transport your mixer, two turntables and a microphone and you're ready for the club! No matter what your musical background or tastes require, you won't regret the audible warmth and fullness you can only get from spinning vinyl.