Just over two years ago, if I had suggested that you pick up a turntable to give as a holiday gift, you probably would have laughed. But, turntables are back in a big way with good reason. The sound that you get from those old vinyls is just better than the sound that comes from anything digital (in most cases).
If you are searching for a gift for a music lover and you're at a loss, I'll urge you (as a vinyl lover) to check out some of the turntables on the current market. Since record players are now going through a hipster resurgence, there are plenty of turntables available online and elsewhere.
How do you buy one? Here are some pointers.
Manual or Automatic?
Think about what you want to do with your new turntable (other than listen to music). If you think that getting up to flip a record every ten minutes (really, records are so short!) will be a pain, choose an automatic option. If you don't care about manually flipping a record when the time comes, manual record players are cheaper and perfectly good.
USB or No?
If you're going to buy an old school turntable, you won't find a USB option. But, newer record players are starting to come with built-in USB ports. So, think about whether or not having a USB option is something that you may want.
Can You Add Parts?
I'm betting that most people don't know this, but you can upgrade bits and pieces of a turntable. Some parts that you can change out for better parts include the belt, cartridge, slip mats, and other pieces. If you think that you'll be investing more money into your LPs in the future, choose a record player that allows you to upgrade when you have the extra cash (a nice option).
You'd think that used turntables would be cheaper, but that's not necessarily true due to the popularity of record players right now. So, if you want that old vintage look, just make sure you keep these tips in mind.
Has the record player gotten a lot of use? Ask the previous owner whether or not the turntable has been in operation all day long or just occasionally - this could determine the life of the device.
Does it function well? This may sound silly, but lots of people are buying turntables right now without actually listening to a record on that device first (think eBay or CraigsList).
What does the belt look like? The belt is one of the most important aspects of a turntable. If the belt isn't in good shape, don't buy that used player.
Can you upgrade or does it come with accessories? As with anything vintage, the more original accessories a turntable comes with, the more it is worth. If the one you're looking at is missing pieces, it might be better to find a different one.
What You Can Expect to Pay
For a used turntable, the going rate is around $150 - that's with all pieces and in fine working shape.
For a new turntable, you can pay as low as $75, but the sound won't be nearly as good as it would be with a higher priced model.
For my money, I'd choose a vintage turntable that's in really excellent shape. Or, look for a newer model that is in the mid-range. Questions?
Photo by Piano Piano! Via Flickr Creative Commons