Your Ultimate Guide to Buying a Record Player

A person sitting on a bed and playing vinyl records

From antique phonographs to state-of-the-art DJ turntables, there are many different types of record players out there. If you’re planning on joining the vinyl revolution, or if you simply need a replacement player, learning about your options is the first step towards achieving sonic bliss. 

There’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all record player for everyone—it all comes down to personal preference. The best approach is to track down the player that has the specific features you require. A little research goes a long way! Here’s what you need to know to find your holy grail.

Consider the Full System

A record player with a preamp/amplifier and speakers

If you’re starting a new hobby from scratch and don’t already have a stereo system, just buying a record player may not cut it. In order to put together a hi-fi, audiophile-approved setup, you’re going to need three other essential components: a preamplifier (preamp), an amplifier or receiver, and speakers. 

There are all-in-one record players on the market, but they don’t deliver the exceptional sound quality that makes vinyl so desirable. That said, if you’re just looking to dip your toes, they can be a great starting point until you inevitably upgrade down the line.

Some turntables and receivers do have integrated preamps. Similarly, there are powered speakers that don’t require external hardware. However, most vinyl enthusiasts recommend buying a record player, preamp, amp, and speakers separately for both fidelity and customization reasons. Refining and upgrading your setup is part of the fun!

Long story short, make sure you check the specs so you don’t end up buying unnecessary hardware.

Think About Your Listening/Playing Style

A DJ using a specialized turntable

There are two main types of record players: those for personal listening and those for performing/audio production. If you’re planning on using your record player for scratching and mixing (live or with a DAW), you’ll need to seek out specialized turntables designed for that purpose. 

If you only need a player for home listening, you’re better off buying a record player without all the bells and whistles. That said, an analog or hybrid DJ turntable will still play your vinyl. It’s up to you to decide if you’d prefer to keep it simple or have the option to go beyond casual listening and into performance and production.

Know the Features

 A record player and records of various sizes


Next, it’s time to consider the player’s features. Here’s a look at some of the most important ones you should know about.

Record Size and Speed Compatibility

Make sure your record player can play the various types of records at their appropriate speeds. Different size records spin at different speeds. When buying a record player, consider your current vinyl collection, as well as any records you might buy in the future.

Most record players can play 12-inch records at 33 RPM (revolutions per minute) and 7-inch records at 45 RPM. However, not all are able to play 10-inch records at 78 RPM. 10-inch records are uncommon these days, but if you own any or plan to buy any, make sure your player is compatible.

Direct Drive vs. Belt Drive Rotation

When it comes to how the record spins, there are two types of record players: direct drive and belt drive. Direct drive players use a dedicated motor to rotate the player’s platter, while belt drive players use rubber belts. 

When buying a record player, it’s up to you to choose which configuration is more desirable. Direct drive players require less maintenance, as you won’t have to worry about replacing the belt. On the other hand, belt drive players tend to produce less vibration and noise.

Tonearm Operation

Would you prefer to lift and drop the tonearm onto the record by hand, or would you rather the player handles that for you? Manual turntables require that you set the needle yourself, while automatic players do it—you guessed it—automatically. Semi-automatic players require that you move the tonearm into place, but the lever system places the needle onto the record for you.

Other Features 

Other features to look for when buying a record player include a removable cartridge and headshell, anti-skate control, a counterweight, and USB/Bluetooth compatibility.

Shop Essential Vinyl Accessories at Big Fudge

A record player is only as good as the records it plays! While you’re exploring different types of record players, there’s no better time to pick up essential supplies to keep your vinyl records in mint condition

Vinyl protection products like outer sleeves, inner sleeves, and gatefold sleeves will extend the lifespan of your collection, and vinyl cleaning supplies will ensure exceptional sound quality. Collecting records is a visual hobby, too, so be sure to pick up some vinyl storage and display accessories to keep your collection organized and showcased in style.

We hope this guide to buying a record player is helpful as you plan your purchase. The right player will put you on the path to auditory elation, but proper record care is just as crucial as choosing the right deck. Protect your collection with high-quality products from Big Fudge!