Whether you are playing vinyl at home or for public events, record players and turntables can generate some incredible sound. There’s nothing quite like that authentic scratch and crackle! While CDs and digital music may have replaced vinyl in a big way over the years, there are still plenty of us out there who love our turntables. Professional DJs, for example, still use vinyl records from day to day. There’s just something really hands-on about mixing and playing music from a record player!
If you’re new to this technology, or would like to know more about how vinyl music works, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the absolute basics. Learning how to use a record player is crucial if you want to get the best sounds out of your system, and if you want to preserve your vinyl for years to come. Without further ado, let’s start breaking things down.
Getting Set Up
You can’t just install a record player anywhere. It’s tempting to have it balanced on a soft surface or similar, but you’re not going to get the right balance for your sound this way. Record players need flat, stable services. You could choose a bookshelf, a table or a bedside unit. You might even choose to buy your own special unit to house it on. Some record players have hi-fi stacks built-in, which means you won’t need to worry about external surfaces.
Make sure you understand how to control your player. Most record players are very easy to get used to, but it never hurts to consult the manual if it’s your first time playing vinyl. Make sure you understand what the speeds mean, for example. Some records play at 45 RPM, while are generally singles, while bigger records like LPs require 33 RPM. There are 12” discs such as remixes which run at 45 RPM, too, so make sure to check the record’s instructions! Some older records even run at 78 RPM, which means you’ll need to find a specialist player to handle them.
You should also read the manual to work out which strength or weight you need to set your tracker to, which you can adjust via the basic tone arm on the player. It’s important to follow all recommendations made by the manufacturer.
Some record players will also let you choose the size of your record automatically. Therefore, you can switch between 7” and 12” discs without much hassle. You’ll also need to take cartridges into account, which work to read vinyl records as you place them into your player.
What is a Phono Preamp?
In many cases, you won’t need a phono preamp, but some record players will need this external piece to convert your player’s sound. Record players emit phono sound, which will need to be converted to line level or AUX for them to work with external speakers. Most mainstream record players and mixers will have a preamp built-in, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you are using a system that needs additional pieces of kit to complete the setup.
Starting to Play Music
Once you’ve kept in mind the above, make sure you have a safe outlet to plug into, power on your player and choose the vinyl you’d like to play. Always be careful handling records, as they are prone to scratching, which can affect how they play. Make sure to hold the outer edges if you can.
Carefully place your record onto the player so that the middle hole of the vinyl fits onto the central pin. If your record doesn’t have an inner circle, some players have removable pieces which can be inserted in their stead.
From here, choose your speed from the selector on the unit. This should be fairly easy to do on both modern and traditional record players. In some cases, you will now either have to press ‘play’ or power up your turntable for it to start rotating. Once rotation is underway, make sure to activate the lever to cue the tone arm. Once this is rising, you will need to carefully guide it and the needle at its tip onto the record.
You can choose to carefully lower the needle yourself or use your player’s auto function to lower it into your preferred groove. You can play from the start of the record, or you can choose tracks on LPs by counting the thicker grooves.
Some record players will return the tone arm and needle back to its starting position once play has finished. However, in some cases, you’ll need to do this yourself. Carefully lift the arm during play and stop the turntable from spinning, and return the arm to its starting position.
When removing your record, make sure to be careful, again, not to smudge or scratch the surface. Carefully place back in the sleeve and switch off your player!
Other Things to Consider
As you get into playing records, you may find that you can tweak and fine-tune your experience. You can adjust the settings on the player itself depending on the model, and do be aware that you may need to change out your cartridge over years of use. You may need to install a new cartridge if you have bought a new, modern player outright.
Otherwise, do be sure to care for your records. Keep them in their sleeves and protect them against scratching for years of use. Vinyl is a fantastic music medium, and it’s one we really hope doesn’t go away any time soon. For DJs and everyday music enthusiasts, playing records really is an electric experience!
Providing you look after your vinyl, as well as your record player, there are no reasons why you can’t expect hours of listening pleasure for many years to come. This is just the beginning of your vinyl journey – start collecting and tweaking your record player and see where the medium takes you!