Can a cheap turntable damage records (MY 1ST POST!)

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by dennis1077, Jan 5, 2010.

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  1. dennis1077

    dennis1077 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I recently bought a cheap, entry model turntable (Pioneer PL-990) to take the plunge into vinyl and it's evolved into a severe addiction to collecting vinyl. Being that I have a cheap $120 turntable, I can't help but wonder what the difference is between the Pioneer PL-990 and all these fancy turntables costing hundreds of dollars. I guess my biggest concern is whether I'm damaging my records by playing them on a cheap turntable. Any insight on the matter would be appreciated.
     
  2. Maybe. If you hear distortion on loud parts of the records you play, then yes, most likely.
     
  3. dennis1077

    dennis1077 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I'm not hearing distortion (not that I know of anyway). I hardly have audiophile ears and I'm running the turntable through a cheap, Sony receiver.
     
  4. mrt2

    mrt2 Active Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI, USA
    :laugh: Sorry, but I have to laugh. Many people consider $1,000 entry level when it comes to turntables.
     
  5. dennis1077

    dennis1077 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    This seems insane to me. What IS the difference between a $500 turntable and a $5000 turntable. After all, my $120 plays records.

    Please don't misread my tone as being disrepectful. I'm sincerely curious!
     
  6. Perisphere

    Perisphere Forum Resident

    The better questions are, what kind of cartridge is on your tone arm, the condition of its stylus, and the tracking force and anti-skate it's set at right now?
     
  7. dennis1077

    dennis1077 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Tracking force.......anti skate.....oh man, this is all like a foreign language to me. I have no idea. I just bought the turntable new from Amazon, plugged it into a receiver and started playing records.

    At some point I'd like to get a nicer turntable (mine works but just LOOKS cheap) but these terms make the whole venture seem overly complicated.
     
  8. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker sh.tv member number 666

    Location:
    Northern VA, USA
    The Pioneer PL-990 and the many clones under different brand names are basically the same ultra-cheap Chinese turntable. These are fair to poor performers which I believe can and will damage the vinyl played on them in the worst case.

    You don't need to spend a whole lot more to get substantially better performance. I recommend the cheap Technics 1200 clones; the Audio Technica PL120 and Sony PSLX350H (not to be confused with the Sony PSLX250H which is a clone of the same table you already have). Either of these would be orders of magnitude better than what you have. These are new tables. If you open your search to used turntables you can do better for as little as $50. Heck, I got my Realistic LAB-440 for $50 on craigslist and it's a fairly good turntable. You may need to buy a belt or do other cleanup work.

    Yes all the adjustment stuff can be complicated and/or overwhelming. If you don't want to deal with all that, you can not go wrong with a used P-mount turntable with a fresh stylus or fresh cartridge. The P-mount system offers plug-and-play ease with minimal if any adjustments (they're all built into the spec). If you get a used 1/2" standard mount turntable you have to learn how to align the stylus.
     
  9. pharmboycu

    pharmboycu Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA

    I'm not an expert, however, I believe you have a legitimate question for someone just getting into vinyl.

    What you've probably got is a decent turntable that isn't going to do much, if any, damage to your records. What you want to avoid are the turntables like the "3 in 1" stuff, most USB turntables, and the stuff in target or best buy that look like old-timey radios/suitcase record players and such. Those usually have styli which wear down after a couple of plays and will damage a record very quickly. If you've got a turntable with some sort of elliptical diamond stylus, you're probably okay for now.

    Before you invest in records that are mega-$$$$, you *might* consider a different turntable. Lots of good ones out there and I'm not gonna start a debate on which is better or best. But, if you're getting your records from the used piles and they're sounding okay, chances are you're doing fine.

    The differences creep in when you start looking at the cut of diamond in the stylus, the make/materials of the cartridge, shape and materials of the tonearm, etc. All that stuff will be easier to understand in time-- it's a learning curve.

    The main thing for now is to enjoy your records and read all you can in the forum and archives. I've learned more about music in just over a year of being here than in the rest of my life combined. For any questions, do a quick search of the archives first and if you can't find the answer, ask away... there are kind folks here who will either answer or direct you to the answer.

    Take care!

    John
     



  10. You should balance your tonearm to zero and then add 1.5 grams. At least this would be a start. From reading your post, you don't even know if your tonearm is balanced.
     
  11. dennis1077

    dennis1077 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I'm a musician and would be willing to sell off a few pedals for a decent turntable. I'm more worried about the turntable being compatable with my reciever. One of the major selling point of the Pioneer was the ability to plug directly into the reciever. From my limited understanding, this isn't the case with most turntables.
     
  12. Jay F

    Jay F New Member

    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    You might find this thread useful: http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=203463

    I take it your receiver does not have a phono preamp. If you buy a Technics or a Rega turntable (those are the choices this discussion generally leads to), you will also need a phono preamp.
     
  13. It's not overly complicated, it's just what goes into playing records. It's not plug and play. You also need to make sure your cartridge is aligned. You want to be able to control tracking force and anti-skate; a cheap turntable that doesn't have those things most certainly will damage records.
     
  14. dennis1077

    dennis1077 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    You're right. I have no idea whether my tonearm is balanced. I have no idea how to balance it and even less of an idea as to what "add 1.5 grams" means.
     
  15. PhilBiker

    PhilBiker sh.tv member number 666

    Location:
    Northern VA, USA
    The Pioneer turntable he has does not have any of these adjustments. It's not even P-mount. You can replace the needle, but can't change the cartridge. The tonearm appearance actually scares me.

    http://www.pioneerelectronics.com/P...ioComponents/PioneerTurntables/ci.PL-990.Kuro
     
  16. dennis1077

    dennis1077 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    No phono pre-amp. Is a phono preamp expensive?
     
  17. dennis1077

    dennis1077 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    It SCARES you! That CAN'T be good. But seriously, that's what has me considering a new turntable. The tonearm just LOOKS cheap and had me concerned about the possibility of it damaging my growing vinyl collection. I'm actually a bit weary (perhaps overly paranoid) about opening and playing new records.
     
  18. mrt2

    mrt2 Active Member

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI, USA
    You are a musician, right? What instrument do you play? Is there a difference between a cheap guitar and an expensive guitar? From the perspective of a novice they both play the same notes, right?

    The job of a turntable is deceptive. While seemingly simple, there is a lot going on. It needs to be a stable platform that turns at exactly 33 1/3 rpms, resist extraneous noise. The tonearm must track the records precisely while holding the cart at precisely the correct angle so the cart can do its job. And the cart tracks the grooves and translates the grooves into electrical energy.

    And, all the parts need to work together perfectly without adding or subtracting from the sound of the record itself. All this requires gear designed and built to very tight standards, which cannot be done well for $120 which, when you account for shipping and profit margin is probably about $5 worth of parts.

    And to answer your first question yes, it might damage your records. My first cheap table, bought back in 1977 certainly did. IMO, if you are not willing to invest modestly in a decent table (either a quality vintage table that is serviced and up to spec or a quality new model, even a fancy one costing hundreds of dollars) I would stay away from vinyl. Cds, even lossy mp3s will sound better than a cheap table.
     
  19. Jay F

    Jay F New Member

    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    They come in different prices, starting at a little over $100 for an NAD.

    What I would do if I were you is e-mail Sound Organisation, the USA Rega distributor, and find out who your Rega dealer is in Phila. Then go there and listen to a couple of your favorite LPs on a Rega P2 or P3.

    http://www.soundorg.com/
     
  20. Robin L

    Robin L Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Fresno, California
    It's always surprising to hear how much the turntable affects the playback quality. You can have the same cartridge—even the same tonearm—and leave the rest of the playback system alone, switch out the turntabe and there will be a big difference in sound quality. Some of the biggest differences you will find between $500 turntables [like the popular Technics SL 1200, give or take a few hundred] and the $5000 Linns, Regas VPIs and others can be found in the quality of parts and tighter design tolerances. The net effect of tables that spin more perfectly and quietly, arms that track the right path at the right angle without rattling, is to eliminate as much as possible the audibility of the mechanical aspects of record playback. Dynamics open up, louder passages play with less distortion, bass lines sound more like music, surface noise recedes.
     
  21. phish

    phish Jack Your Body

    Location:
    Biloxi, MS, USA
    while there are some very helpful people on this forum, it's not really a "beginner friendly" forum, so keep that in mind.
     
  22. ashulman

    ashulman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Utica, NY
    I agree with a previous post that if you start hearing distortion on a lot of records you should be concerned. That might appear as a buzzing or fuzziness during louder sections. Not sure what shape your needle is in but if that wears down you can hurt records too.

    As long as it plays ok, I would keep it for a while, just get into the enjoyment of playing records. I went 30 years with cheap turntables until I was ready to put a priority on good sound. If you find yourself enjoying the process then dive into this forum a little and places like audiokarma.org and investigate upgrading your table and receiver. If you get frustrated that your setup doesn't sound any better or even as good as your cds, then you may want to make the leap earlier.
     
  23. pharmboycu

    pharmboycu Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    +1. :wave: Sound advice here.
     
  24. dennis1077

    dennis1077 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    You guys are awesome. My head is spinning from all the advice and most is a bit over my head. As the one poster said, "it's not really a "beginner friendly" forum." I guess I'll sit back, try and process all the information, read the threads and hopefully I'll actually UNDERSTAND the advice at some point. It seems like there is a lot to be learned from these forums.
     
  25. phish

    phish Jack Your Body

    Location:
    Biloxi, MS, USA

    do you have a friend or a friend of a friend that could give you some "schooling" firsthand locally? hands on is always the best way to pick up stuff, otherwise things just get more jumbled up.
     
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