How can one turntable sound better than another?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by dennis1077, Sep 6, 2021.

  1. dennis1077

    dennis1077 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I stumbled upon an interesting video on You Tube. The guy is questioning how one turntable can sound better than another. Basically your amp, CD player, cassette deck will have electronics inside that correlate to sound quality. A turntable, however, does not. Basically, as long as the signal travels through your cartridge to the preamp, you're all good.

    He does make some interesting points. For example, people that upgrade a belt and claim there is a sound improvement. This guy is skeptical and asks people to ponder how that is even possible.

    Suddenly, I find myself rethinking future plans to spend $2000 on a turntable. Something like a Fluance RT-85 with an Ortofon Blue cartridge seems quite sufficient after watching this video.

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  2. Jeffreylee

    Jeffreylee Rock 'n' Roll Typist

    A. That guy is one of the last people from whom I would take advice.
    B. Turntables are just as dependent upon materials, electronics and design as anything else. Based on my experiences, most turntables in the $1,500 range that I've owned sound different from one another but I'd hesitate to say that any one is empirically better. However, all of my $1,500 turntables have sounded better than the $200-$300 turntables I've also been able to audition.
    C. The Fluance may be all you need. It's up to you and your preferences.
    D. See "A."
  3. Mike70

    Mike70 Forum Resident

    As Einstein said: "don't believe on anything you see on the internet" :laugh:

    Ok, bad joke.

    A turntable it's a mechanical device, and the sound is based on tiny (really tiny) vibrations on a stylus / cantilever.
    After that, you need more explanation?

    Ok, the TT have a base, feets, platter, tonearm, bearings ... all this stuff can transmit or reject bad vibrations, and let only the real sound to be transformed as electrical current in the cartridge.
    A much better turntable will do a better work on it ... so now you have the difference.
    The difference is night and day? that's other facet ... because if your records, your speakers, your room acoustic problems cannot show the difference ... the difference exists, but you don't see it. And you can say "it's everything the same"

    so, domestic audio it's not an easy stuff ... and even based on real experience, everyone can say anything.
  4. Doctor Fine

    Doctor Fine "So Hip It Would Blister Your Brain"

    A turntable is a vibration sensitive mechanical device that shakes itself as it plays.
    They come in different quality as some tables hum and shake along with the music.
    This makes the sound very muddy---some are dead quiet and you pay more for these.

    I have the excellent Fluance RT82.
    It has a thin cheap body (plinth) that picks up airborne vibration from my speakers like crazy.
    I suspect it also picks up vibration from the cartridge as the armtube is cheap and not damped in the least.
    Plus that cheap body it seems to me---must also pick up and hold vibration from just playing a record.

    I am still very pleased with how mine sounds.
    And will place its body on silicone dampeners eventually to upgrade its sonics.

    I figure the cheap rubber feet it rests on are doing little to mute vibration of the plinth.
    I can probably silence airborne vibration by isolating the plinth from the shelf the turntable sits on.
    So I plan on getting rid of the cheap little rubber feet eventually---and float it on silicone instead.
    I bet this will also help create blacker less muddy backgrounds in general as it quiets the entire unit.
    And I also plan on wrapping its armtube with silicone shrink wrap to dampen those arm tube resonances.

    So there are ways to use common sense and improve some turntables.
    I have done common sense mods to all my turntables throughout the years.
    They sound much better if you look at their faults and do something about them.
    Sometimes it doesn't cost very much to make big improvements.

    Some folks pay big bucks to get a table that has been sorted.
    Others like me do some mods to improve the mechanical interface.
    So the guy is RIGHT about tables not being like a CD player.
    And he is WRONG that all tables are the same quality---they are NOT.
    My two cents.
  5. BillWojo

    BillWojo Forum Resident

    Burlington, NJ
    Turntables are unlike any other piece of audio gear in that they are a precision instrument used to extract the very fine modulations pressed into the groove.
    I would compare it to a microscope. Would you rather have a cheap plastic microscope with plastic optics or a lab grade microscope with very good ground, polished and coated glass optics?
    With the cheap microscope you can make out the object that your trying to look at. With the lab grade microscope you can see amazing detail of that object. No difference with a TT, the better one always wins. Not necessarily the more expensive one, the better one.
    As far as that video, the guys an idiot. Probably a DJ with blown out hearing.

  6. JohnO

    JohnO Senior Member

    Washington, DC
    For belt drive turntables, the belt can make a big difference. We just had a short thread about that here and it has a link I posted there about Rega's new precision belt and a technical explanation of it at that link.
    Oh No!! How Can a Turntable Belt Matter So Much!?
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  7. Goldy

    Goldy Failed to load

    If I was in doubt like you are, I would go and audition two turntables in different price ranges. Cause you know, one guy's opinion is just that.

    And it's wrong.
  8. hi_watt

    hi_watt The Road Warrior

    San Diego, CA
    Not sure about his opinion on turntables, but that shirt does win the loudness wars.:hide:
    bhazen, Jacob29, dlokazip and 7 others like this.
  9. ROFLnaked

    ROFLnaked Forum Resident

    I'm not a CD guy, and I own just a small handful of CDs that I never really listen to anyhow. Only LPs for me. Of all the components you stated, I would think the one with the least amount of difference from one model to another would be a CD player.

    That said, I own two non-expensive turntables: an ELAC Miracord 40H that my dad bought new at some point before my time in the mid-1960s, and a three-tone Garrard Type A that I probably don't have $200 into. I have little interest in music past 1970, and for me personally, I never understood the point of spending big $$ on a turntable to reproduce records that deteriorate very very slightly each time they are played, and were "crudely" recorded to begin with.

    Is my Garrard a hi-fidelity turntable? Probably not, but it's a fun listening experience in my Turquoise Room of Misfit Objects...and it looks cool as heII spinning black-label Atlantic records.


  10. KT88

    KT88 Senior Member

    Indeed that is a very cool looking turntable, and the room is very impressive in a vintage chic sort of way. That said... I have been collecting records for 40 years and also have upgraded my stereo many times over the course of those years. I can tell you without any doubt that a really well designed turntable (in terms of mechanics) will sound way better than a poor design, or one that has deteriorated due to age! All vintage tables need some work, some more than others, some way more than others. It depends upon the design and parts choices the original maker made. New tables can simply be poorly designed or use poor choices for parts. Better tables incorporate much better mechanical design and parts quality based upon a thorough understanding of how they each effect performance. I really love the look of that Garrard table, but I would be horrified to play any of my records on it. I had the same or similar model in a chocolate finish, which would match your Fisher tuner. I think it was an RC-88. It just didn't have the refinement or adjustments to allow for the best playback. Sure, you can say "but the records sound like crap anyway", and you might be right about some thrift store collection, but you can get very nice quality vintage records in both recording and condition. Those deserve a top quality turntable, whether it's a new unit or a properly restored vintage unit of similar quality.
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  11. KT88

    KT88 Senior Member

    The only good seeds that guy might have planted are not about turntables...
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  12. dennis1077

    dennis1077 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I think you nailed it. The difference IS there, but will I even notice it? Even IF my other equipment can complement those differences, my listening room is less than ideal. Even IF I move to a better place, will MY EARS tell the difference? I'm not sure they will.
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  13. KT88

    KT88 Senior Member

    I am sure that you will be able to appreciate the difference that a really nice table will make. Go to a nice Hi-Fi shop around Philly and have a listen. I am sure that you still have one or two left.
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  14. allied333

    allied333 Audiophile

    I do not know exactly why one TT sounds better than another TT and that is both TT having speed control accuracy beyond hearing any deviation. I know the tonearm makes a difference.

    HIRES_FAN Forum Resident

    If you
    a) installed/used the same cartridge and phono pre with you 1500 dollar turntable and your 300 dollar turntable (well.... let's make it a 600 dollar turntable)
    b) calibrated them both correctly

    would you have heard anything different?
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  16. ROFLnaked

    ROFLnaked Forum Resident

    Hello Bill--

    I do not disagree with anything you said in your well-worded post. Not to stray too far from the original topic, but this Garrard tracks at 3g with the original Shure M3D cart and a JICO N3D stylus; I have yet to score up, or carve grooves into, one of my pre-1968 mono LPs, which are generally M- condition or better.

    My point to the OP is that upgrade-itis can send one spiraling down a bottomless rabbit hole. We have a tendency to want to see things in terms of black and white. Aside from my aforementioned Shure M3D, I have a second Garrard headshell with a professional broadcast GE VRII mono cartridge I found NOS a few years back; it's equipped with a 1.0 mil stylus. In A/B'ing the two carts, I could identify a slight difference in sound, but I couldn't say I liked the sound of one "better" than the other. Kind of like Häagen-Dazs Rum Raisin vs Butter Pecan ice cream. I generally keep the Shure on there, because I figure the 0.7 mil stylus is probably more in line with what the 1960-1968 LPs were designed to be subjected to.

    In my experience, an "upgrade" in gear doesn't result in any sort of epiphany where one will say, "Wow! I have never heard Sam Cooke's Night Beat sound this other-worldly as it does on my new turntable! My last turntable really must be junk." (Of course there are mitigating factors like a tonearm tracking at 8 grams, a worn stylus, or some other turntable issue requiring tech attention.)

    Life is too short. Just sit back and take in the music.
    pressureworld and Sterling1 like this.
  17. brockgaw

    brockgaw Forum Resident

    A good lens on a DSLR will produce better pictures than a smartphone camera to someone who cares about and seeks out the difference. Some people settle and some don't.
    People who don't settle don't take mind of people who do. I want to live in a world where people want to do better things.
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  18. Tone?

    Tone? Forum Resident

    San Francisco

    Awesome look.

    only thing missing are a couple ashtrays. Lol
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  19. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident

    When I replaced my Kuzma Reference- a very good suspension table, using a then new Triplanar arm with the Kuzma XL- a very high mass table (roughly 170 lbs without all the extras) and switched to the Airline linear arm, using the same cartridge (a Lyra Titan i, which was their top of the line at the time, I think) the differences were:
    Less sense of a mechanical reproduction; you didn't get any sound that told you it was a turntable and that "halo" that I often hear with vinyl was absent.
    Bass had a bottomless quality- not bigger, but deeper to the point where it carried down as far as the recording did. And this with a linear arm, which is generally reticent in the bass compared to pivoted arms.
    The first aspect-- the "halo" of vinyl sound and the presence of a turntable in the system as an artifact of sound-- was only evident by its absence.
    So, the differences in my experience, in a somewhat controlled evaluation (I owned both set ups, switching one out for the other) in my system was that the better table had fewer audible artifacts to get in the way of the music being pulled from the grooves.
    Although I'm not an avid reader of the audio press, I read Mike Fremer's review of the Air Force Zero and as I recall, he said he could hear something distinctive about its sound. Which left me a little puzzled since if I am right about better tables being "more absent," I would think the AF0 would have less of a sonic signature than other tables. I think I'll need to re-read his review with this in mind. (No, I'm not spending 1/2 million dollars on a table).
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  20. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident

    Very cool room. You need to get one of those vintage TV sets, like that Philco that had the screen on a pivoting mount. Nice vibe, that room!
    Stone Turntable likes this.
  21. NettleBed

    NettleBed Forum Transient

    new york city
    The cart and tonearm make much more of a difference than the table itself, but the table still matters a bit, IMO.
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  22. hi_watt

    hi_watt The Road Warrior

    San Diego, CA
    So, I take it that this VinylTV guy does not attend audio shows, or visit audio shops? How does he not hear a difference? I'm all for what one enjoys what they have, but don't go around saying that there's no difference or whatever.
    Tullman likes this.
  23. nosliw

    nosliw It's a hairstyle, not real cat ears :P

    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    I've seen some videos from Vinyl TV and aside from his work on removing the pre-amp on the Audio Technica LP-120, his video about different turntables don't make any difference sound-wise is utter bunk. Since then, I've largely sworn off his channel as he's just another YouTube vinyl proclaimed "expert". Not to mention that he's pretty old and his hearing ability should be called into questioning.

    He hasn't accounted for isolation, the quality of the motor, material to reduce resonance, the tonarm, etc. in a turntable.
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  24. vinylontubes

    vinylontubes Forum Resident

    Katy, TX
    That guy is stupid and clearly doesn't understand turntables. His assumptions are that there is a threshold for good quality. Somehow he can justify the that a cassette tape transports does affect the sound because it's complicated but somehow can't fathom that motor and a platter along with it's bearings aren't the same thing. What he's ignoring is that you are amplifying the signal 1000x for a good MC cartridge. 1000x, and he's justifying that if the motor can't be heard by the human ear, it's not going to affect the sound. The guy talks in circles, he later admits that amplification does have huge affect. Clearly he isn't an engineer. Engineering is about controlling variables. And there are variables with every components. There are bearings that have tolerances. Everything has tolerances. Tightening a bolt has tolerances. The physical relation of distances, perpendicularity, flatness, and parallelism have tolerances. And each of these things are included because they matter. Tighter tolerances aren't added just to make something more expensive. Tighter tolerances are included to better control the mechanism. If you loosen the tolerances things vibrate more and are easier to put together. But the mechanism performs with more variability. And when you amplify the it's performance 1000x, it makes a difference.

    And resonance is something that all engineers are taught about. And if you know anything about a turntable, resonance is a huge factors in it's designs. Some cartridges are going to resonate on some tonearms. Resonance is something that is something that destroys bridges. A poorly engineered anything can resonate. And if it resonates that wave form stacks in amplitude. An in audio amplitude is akin to being louder. So, it's just silly to think that things like resonance can't be heard with amplification to the magnitude of 1000x. So it's just silly to say that I can't hear something with my naked ears, so how can it matter?

    The way engineers control variables is by tightening tolerances. And when you tighten tolerances, it make things harder to assemble. So not only are the components more expensive because tolerances are improved, you also need more expensive tooling to assemble the components. While I'm not going to say that you can't make an affordable turntable, because that's just silly. I am going to state that more expensive should get you better performance because tightening of tolerances is being employed in the design. I'll also state that cost is something that considered in any product. So on my Rega turntables, they both has phenolic subplatter to lower the price. Changing the material to metal increases the price by maybe $100. And $100 matters if they are placing these decks in the marketplace. I replaced the subplatter and I don't care what that youtuber says, there was definite improvement by replacing the subplatter. Significant improvement where the noise floor dropped at least 5 dB. I heard things I wouldn't have heard with the phenolic subplatter. This was simple improvement and Rega knows this, but up until Planar 6, they couldn't justify changing the material on their more affordable units. The youtuber asks, how can this be the case? Well, again it's engineering. Tighter tolerances on the spindle to subplatter. The subplatter can be machined after it's molded to further tighten the tolerances. And tighter tolerances results in less variability which means less loss of energy. And less loss of energy means more signal. Engineering isn't all that complicated. The hard part is figuring out what you need to control to get the desired performance. But there is a cost for this and balancing cost to performance is what good engineering is all about.
  25. George Blair

    George Blair Senior Member

    Portland, OR
    I just did this, or very close to it. Went from a $500 to $1800 turntable, installed same cartridge, used same phono pre amp. The difference was instantly unmistakable. Why? Foremost would be isolation, then tonearm precision, then wiring. Isolation from vibration makes a huge difference, when the motor is independent from the plinth the background becomes silent. When dropping the stylus on a record, there is no background sound, when tapping on the plinth there is no amplified vibration. This was not true of my old turntable, as it had a built in motor and was very resonant. The new tonearm is engineered to another level of precision, adding to isolation from vibration and improved tracking. The wiring is continuous from cart to pre-amp, with low impedance, adding another level of silence. All this results in a big improvement in channel separation, soundstage, image clarity, detail, etc. There is no doubt these are audible improvements, assuming the other components are of good quality.
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