Record players gradually became favored by more people worldwide. Because of its melodious, authentic, and classical sound, turntables are preferred to play jazz or piano music.
However, for the record player to play clear, resonant, and full tones, it is a prerequisite to set it up properly. And certainly, this isn't an easy task.
This record player setup guide for beginners will give you a better overview and help you understand the step-by-step installation process. If you're ready, let's start!
How Does A Record Player Work?
The turntable includes two main types: classical and modern. They have a common feature of playing back sound recorded on vinyl discs through receiving the vibration.
When the record player is active, the stylus tip will access and "read" the vinyl disc tracks' information. Then, the electrical signal from the tip is transmitted to the cartridge. The cartridge is now responsible for sending the signal to the preamp. Signals will then be transferred to the amplifier to emit the sound as we often hear.
What Do You Need To Set Up A Record Player?
To be able to set up a turntable system, certainly, you must prepare enough key audio components. This is extremely important because, in some ways, without a part you won't be able to set up the whole system.
A Record Player
Of course, this is the most important part, without a turntable, how do you set up the sound system?
Our buying guide by budget:
- Turntables under $100
- Turntables under $200
- Turntables under $300
- Turntables under $500
- Turntables under $1000
Pay attention, the record player that you prepare must have all of the following parts:
Plinth: This component is usually made of metal or wood. This part is responsible as the base and supports other turntable parts.
Platter: It's a thick circular disc above the plinth. It is assembled with a rotating motor so when you put vinyl discs on, it will react and emit sounds.
Tonearm: This is a crucial part of a record player. It's responsible for fixing the cartridge while the disc is rotating. It should be flexible for the stylus to enter the correct groove on the vinyl discs.
Cartridge: This part is in charge of correctly pointing the stylus tip into the grooves on the vinyl disc. If the cartridge isn't installed properly, the sound won't be emitted. To make matters worse, it may even damage your discs.
Therefore, you might want to research carefully to see which is a good phono cartridge to get.
The receiver receives signals from different input devices, the case here is a turntable. It then interprets and amplifies those signals, then sends them to output devices - your sound system, speakers or televisions.
Today's high-quality receivers make your audio experience better than ever when you have a good speaker system. In addition, they also have built-in Bluetooth and Wifi which is very useful to support more advanced streaming technologies like Apple Airplay 2.
The cartridge's sound has a signal that is almost 1000 times smaller than the signal coming from a sound amplifier or CD player.
That is exactly why we need a phono preamp. It will increase the low voltage signal of the cartridge to match the voltage level of the speaker.
Check our buying guide here:
After preparing a preamp, you also have to buy yourself an amplifier to output the sound. It is a crucial add-on for the sound system as the preamp is not a streaming device. It acts as a signal bridge between the record player and the amplifier.
There are many types on the market today, such as a built-in speaker, separate amplifier. The choice depends entirely on your needs and budget.
See our amplifiers pick for turntables here.
The speaker, however, isn't a must-have part. In case you want to listen to music in a large space, a speaker is worth buying. If you choose a speaker with an integrated amplifier, you will save some money compared to buying them separately.
How To Set Up A Record Player Step By Step?
1. Finding A Good Position
The base when rotating will produce slight movements. Hence, choosing the right position is important. It could affect the quality of the parts and make small noises when playing music, which might make you uncomfortable.
A solid surface like cabinets and shelves is a great choice, the flatter the surface, the better to minimize vibrations. The location should be within reach or convenient for any adjustment.
2. Balancing Your Tonearm
There are two types of turntable: belt drive vs direct drive. In case you have belt drive ones, you need to take the base and attach the belt before proceeding to this step. On the contrary, with direct drive turntables and record players, that step can be skipped.
This is an extremely important step and not easy to complete as it requires high precision and a little meticulousness. In case you install and adjust the cartridge incorrectly, the turntable may not be able to work. This can even damage your vinyl collection.
Next to the tonearm, there will be a small stylus force gauge. The number on this gauge tracks the weight of the tonearm and reflects the force exerted on the tip of the stylus.
Next step, gently lift the tonearm and place it above the vinyl disc. Be careful not to drop it! Damaged tonearm can harm the tip of the stylus and the disc, which also affects your cartridge's quality.
Then, adjust the tonearm parallel to the turntables platter by shifting the counterweight at the end of the tonearm. While tracking force, you need to rotate it slightly until it returns to zero. Now you have a correctly balanced tonearm!
3. Connecting The Cables And Components
The turntables usually come with phono, RCA jacks, and so on to connect to other components such as an amplifier. This step is quite simple. All you need to do is to find the correct ports and plug your turntable with the others.
There are many different types of setup, so the use of the jacks isn't the same. You can refer to the setup models below to fully prepare the necessary components.
4. Choosing The Speed And Checking
Choosing the rotation speed is entirely dependent on the type of vinyl disc you have. Thus, to choose a proper speed, you should check the vinyl's information carefully.
As usual, there are three-speed levels (RPM: rotation per minute)
33 RPM: This is the speed you should choose if your vinyl is 12 inches in size.
45 RPM: For 7-inch vinyl discs, this speed is recommended.
78 RPM: This speed isn't as common as others; it's only used for old-style records.
Now it's time to check your setup. You should put a record on the base first, gently lift the tonearm and place it on chosen recording vinyl. Remember that setting the stylus tip in the correct record's grooves on the disc is necessary.
Turn on and listen to the audio output. If there is no noise, distortion, or other errors - congratulations, you did a great job! Enjoy your results!
Record Player Setup Guide For Beginner: 6 Setup Models
1. Record Player + Powered Speakers
This is the simplest turntable setup model that doesn't require any technical skills. The method is easy to execute, less cumbersome, and space-saving.
However, for this method to work your record player must be preamp integrated; otherwise, this method will not be applicable. Also, you will need to prepare RCA cable and powered speakers.
Then the process is very simple. You need to connect the turntable and the speakers via the RCA jack, choose the correct ports and attach them. That's all!
2. Record Player + Preamp + Power Speakers
This is a fairly common turntable setup which is widely adopted. This setup model has the advantage of providing users with flexibility in sound adjustment.
With the separate preamp, it contributes to emitting a clearer and fuller sound. However, it would be best to prepare additional grounding wires to connect record players to the preamp and from the preamp to the speakers. This helps to minimize noise and signal interference.
First, connect the preamp to your turntable via the RCA port and cable, then use the grounding wire to continue connecting the preamp to the speaker. If you use more than one, prepare the speaker cables for them.
3. Record Player + A/V Receiver + Passive Speakers
This setup for beginners is also a fairly popular method thanks to the sound quality that it produces, which is quite stable and clear. All you need to prepare are a record player, A/V receiver, and speakers.
However, one thing to keep in mind here is that one of your turntable or A/C receivers needs to have a built-in amp. If both are not integrated, you can't apply this method.
From then on it is not too complicated for you to set up. Connect A/V receiver and turntable first via RCA cable, then use the wire to attach speakers to them.
4. Record Player + Preamp + A-V Receiver + Passive Speakers
This model carries one downside, it's a bit cumbersome. However, many people still prefer this method for its high adjusting capabilities. You can completely upgrade parts to improve sound quality.
5. Record Player + Standalone Speaker
This setup model has the same process and operating principles as the turntable + power speakers setup, if not even more compact and easy to do.
To be able to set up, you need to prepare an RCA to AUX cable. You then use this wire to connect the record player's RCA port to the AUX port of the standalone speaker.
In general, this model is easy to set up but isn't flexible as the adjusting ability isn't high. But for small spaces and non-professionals, this way is really useful.
6. Record Player + Bluetooth Speaker
This is the solution for you if you want to place wireless speakers far apart from each other without using cumbersome connecting wires. However, this way isn't usually recommended as its sound quality won't be at its best.
With this method, your turntable must be modern and have a built-in Bluetooth connection. You could also use a Bluetooth transmitter and an RCA male to 3.5mm stereo female adapter to connect them.
Tips For Setting And Maintaining
Cleaning Before Setting Up
Many people still say that for a new turntable or new vinyls, cleaning isn't necessary. However, we cannot tell from its visual a lot of dirt and stains can be invisible to the naked eye.
Dirt and mud on the disc surface or parts such as a stylus, cartridge, etc. will make the sounds incomplete. Sometimes you will hear crackle or distorted sounds.
Moreover, insufficient cleaning could reduce the turntable's performance. This can also make the parts more susceptible to be damaged by getting stuck or becoming rusty
You should take the record cleaning regularly, even better, clean vinyl discs and player every time right after using. Besides, you should have a specialized cleaning kit that includes both brushes and cleaning solutions to ensure the parts are always in the best condition.
Optimize Record Player Placement
People usually put the record player anywhere they find it convenient and easy to adjust. We often forget that this is a quite sensitive device; as soon as you set them slightly off, the sound output can be affected.
Therefore, you should place this system on a flat surface so the base can be more balanced. The surface should be ass flat as possible so the outcomes will be better, and the controls will be easier.
Check The Cartridge
Concerning the tonearm when installed and used, position deviations can occur. For this reason, record players will often be sold with a setup gauge, with which you can adjust the position of the stylus.
You need to align the cartridges both from left to right and from top to bottom. If the cartridge is pre-set with a turntable, you won't need to make too much adjustment. However, if you replace a new one by yourself, a more accurate setup gauge is required.
Replace The Stylus
Stylus is a part that must be active frequently; it's also often exposed to dirt in the air and on vinyl discs. As a result, the stylus has a lifespan and needs to be replaced after a certain period of time.
What happens if you don't replace the stylus? Your favorite vinyl discs can be at risk to be damaged! Therefore, pay attention to change the stylus after about 1000 hours of use to ensure the record player works smoothly and to protect your vinyl records.
Overall, we've revealed all the must-know things about the record player setup guide for beginners. We hope that our information will be helpful and support you in setting up your turntable system.
Obviously, each model has its features that is most suitable for you. So, consider carefully and choose the best for yourself! Also, don't forget to look at the tips to use and care for your system properly!