New Turntable? Wait...
Updated: May 27, 2021
Hunting for a new Turntable is a popular sport and there are for sure many videos and articles that can help you choose an entry-level to high-end Turntables. But before you jump at your next Turntable review allow me to give you some other areas to focus on that may encourage you to improve your current Turntable or be more comprehensive with the next or new Turntable.
For me, the cartridge is where I start; are you a moving coil or moving magnet fan. That decision impacts your next investment and decisions in a pre-amp, cables, and perhaps a phono preamp or step-up transformer. I am a moving coil fan; I believe the level of detail is greater regardless of the lower output needing some external gain. And for that gain I don't look at the pre-amp to do it all, I look for a dedicated step-up transformer matched specifically to the cartridge. You will have other options like a phono preamp with solid-state or tube capabilities and that may be your decision but for me, it’s a step-up transformer; no solid-state electronics and a dedicated specific use device equals better performance.
Next, I recommend revisiting the cables that feed the signal from the TT and ultimately to your pre-amp. Keep them short and invest in these with the materials that align with your system and the performance you are looking for. All cables are not created equal, experiment with Silver vs. Copper and that will give you a starting point on if you need brighter (Silver) or warmer (Copper) cables. Yes, I simplified this a bit but it’s a good way to start and see which end of the spectrum to head for. Try different cables and make sure they have gone through a burn-in process if possible.
At this point measure your turntable speed to ensure it has a consistent speed. Believe it or not, the best belt drive systems drift overtime/temp/humidity and require adjustments. It is easy to check the speed as well as any wow/flutter with your cell phone/app (I use RPM). Following that, I would recommend a custom linear power supply and not a wall wart power supply (Read more about clean power supply here).
Vibration control, this one can drive you crazy pending on the room, your rack set up, the weight of the turntable, and its feet. Spend some time on this. Eliminating vibration to the turntable has a tremendous effect on sound clarity. Look at the rack, the feet on the turntable, and rack, is an isolation table needed? Or do you just have to move to a different room? You can measure vibration as well and I recommend it with your smartphone/app.
Finally, the matt that sits on the platter. Experiment with different materials that are either compatible with the platter material or enhancing. For example, an acrylic platter should produce a warmer softer sound and with a metallic mat that can be sharpened up dramatically. I use an Asai AMG 2000 Disc Sheet on an acrylic platter (will post a pic of this soon). I found this “disc sheet” at a Tokyo Audio trade show several years ago.
These are inexpensive experiments and do impact the final performance. Improving items around the turntable can often make better improvements than purchase a new one. More importantly, many if not most of those surrounding improvements can migrate with you as you upgrade over time.
Are there any other areas that you consider while upgrading or buying a new Turntable? Will be glad to learn from fellow audiophiles about how you go about fine-tuning or upgrading your Turntable. Please do share your experiences in the comments section.
"The only truth is music" - Jack Kerouac