Today, Saturday, April 13 is record store day, so you should go support your local record store and buy some records.
Here’s what you shouldn’t do, though—pluralize the word ‘Vinyl’. Nothing bunches my nuts more than dudes talking about their collection of ‘Vinyls.’ Ugh. You have some VINYL. You went to the store and bought VINYL. You bought RECORDS. You did not purchase any fucking VINYL-SSS. Same as you didn’t go to the hardware store to pick up some LUMBERS. Stop it.
Now, to help you get started with record collecting, I’ve compiled a list of cheap to not-so-cheap-but-not-crazy entry-level turntables. Worth mentioning: you might find these turntables for a better price with a bit of research.
Crosley Coupe Turntable: $109 at The Good Guys
I don’t hate Crosley products but they worry me because they’re so cheap, and cheap stuff is almost always shit. That said, I had a Crosley record-player-in-a-suitcase years ago and it didn’t give me any trouble… it sounded like piss, but it worked. This guy, the Crosley Coupe, is about as entry-level as it gets. It’s portable, belt-driven, Bluetooth capable (if you want to stream from your phone), and has a built-in mono speaker. Three speeds: 33 1/2, 45, and 78 rpm, and it also has a headphone jack so you can plug in headphones or better speakers. Pretty dinky, but also pretty fun. And you don’t need to buy an amp or speakers—just plug it in and off you go.
Pioneer Pl-990: $179 at Dick Smith
$179? Has Dick Smith gone completely bonkers? That’s so cheap. Seriously, this is about as cheap as it gets before you go Fisher Price. The Pioneer PL-990 features a low-mass straight tone arm, precision DC motor, phono equalizer, and a universal-type cartridge connector. It has two speeds: fast and very fast, and the platter is belt-driven. Ideally, you want a magnet-drive for your platter, but you’re not gonna get that for $179, you nutter! Hahahahaha! This guy. Unbelievable. I reckon you could buy this, a second-hand amp, and some not bad speakers all for under $600 and be happy for a long time.
Audio Technica AT Lp60BT: $249 at Manny’s Music
I don’t like the way these things look at all, but I know a few people who swear by them because of their connect-ability and sound quality. You’ll probably have to wank around with your receiver to find that sound quality, but it’s there. The Audio Technica AT LP60BT connects wirelessly to speakers and other devices equipped with Bluetooth, or you can go direct. Two speeds: 33-1/3 and 45 RPM, integral dual moving magnet phono cartridge with replaceable stylus (I think that’s a good thing), switchable built-in pre-amplifier (means you can plug directly into little speakers without an amp), and a 45 RPM adapter (for those records with the big hole). All a bit plasticy, but it’s cheap and sounds okay. I think the Pioneer PI-990 is better, but, with Bluetooth and the preamp, this is easier to set up.
Pro-Ject Primary E Turntable: $359 at Vinyl Revival
If you were thinking about that Audio Technica, why not cough up an extra hundred and get this? I used to have one of these and it was beautiful. My records never sounded better. But then I moved countries and had to leave it behind; Gay James has it now. For the price point, the Project Primary E is amazing. It’s got specs up the whazoo, but all you need to know is it’s hand-made in Europe, has a balance-it-yourself tonearm, and it’s simple and clean—no extraneous bullshit dials or switches. The coolest/worst thing about this guy is the external belt drive, which is easy to replace if it breaks and looks pretty cool, but it can be a major bitch to get back on if you’ve had a couple of drinks, believe me. That said, I really miss this turntable.
Rega Planar 1: $495 at Addicted to Audio
Rega is brilliant. You may not have heard of this brand, but ask any old fart audiophile, and they’ll tell you Rega equals quality and precision. I used to have Rega amp and it was an absolute dream. Unfortunately, I lost it when I moved (Gay James has that too), but I’ll definitely get another when the NAD amp I inherited craps itself. This turntable though. Look at it. Gorgeous. And the price? You can’t get this kinda quality for $495. And although it’s an entry-level unit, you could buy this and never want an upgrade for the rest of your life. Really. Specs: two-speed manual belt drive, tonearm with hydraulic lift, Rega cartridge, lightweight plinth, flywheel effect platter, blah, blah, blah designed and made in England. If you have the means, get this. Rega is the shit.
So that’s some record players you can pick up on the cheap(ish). You’ll never regret sorting yourself out of with a record player; listening to records is the best, and actually going to a store to buy music is a lot more fun than typing a band name into a search window. But go buy some records today and worry about how you’ll listen to them later.
Happy Record Store Day!