Are Record Players Worth It? Should You Get a Turntable?

Author: Brian Campbell | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Vinyl records; all your hipster friends have them, they look cool hanging on your wall, and their “lo-fi” sound is intriguing. Your interest has been piqued, and you’re wondering, “Should I get a record player?”

But at the same time, maybe you’re skeptical. Like, is this just another passing fad that people will cringe at later? You know, like those Instagrammers downing shots of olive oil and drinking kale smoothies.

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of turntables and analog music. From their status as a pop culture phenomenon to their place in music history itself, they truly are an interesting topic!

First Things First: My Conclusion

You saw the title of this article. Vinyl records are a fascinating topic, but at the end of the day, you just want to know if they’re worth it. Everything else comes after that.

As it turns out, if they really intrigue you, then they are absolutely worth the investment!

As I mentioned, there are many reasons turntables are making a comeback. To do them justice, I have to write a big-picture article, focusing on different things.

However, every vinyl collector is similar in one way: they have an intense appreciation for music, and are willing to go out of their way to discover more.

If this describes you, then you’ll love turntables and vinyl records.

If you don’t, no worries! Not everyone has to like the same things – of course 😛 That just means you probably won’t find them as interesting as your music-obsessed friends. But trust me, you’ll make them happy just by reading this article!

Why Vinyl is Worth It

Below are several reasons why turntables are a great investment for music lovers. They are not listed in any particular order, but will give you a well-rounded idea of why we love analog gear.

Reason 1: Analog Sound Quality

“Sound quality” is a major reason why many people listen to turntables. Digital equipment is great in its own right and has been changing music since the 80s. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always better than analog equipment.

“Analog” equipment is any electronic device that doesn’t use digital computer chips to process sound. Admittedly, that is a very crude and simplistic definition, but it’ll work for this article.

The digital computers we use today transmit every form of data via 1s and 0s, like an on/off switch or either/or statement. That’s what all those funky little green and blue lines do inside your laptop.

Analog equipment, however, uses continuous streams of data. Cassette tapes record sound waves on tape, in every shape and form. Jimi Hendrix’s guitar pedals shaped continuous electronic waves. All those digital 1s and 0s don’t even enter the picture.

What does this all have to do with turntables and records?

It’s quite simple, really: by recording and saving every detail of a musical performance on a physical disk, rather than reducing it to 0s and 1s on chips, records actually produce the richest sounding audio around.

In fact, the first vinyl record was recorded clear back in 1887. There have been some slight changes since then. But overall, today’s records function in much the same way, simply because the technology is so adept at recording authentic sound.

If you listen to the same song on YouTube as you do on a record, you will hear noticeable differences. Of course, you have to develop your listening skills in the first place. But once you do, you will hear more timbres, dynamic changes, and space in the music.

At the end of the day, it’s all about detail and nuance. You can learn to like Picasso’s Guernica by seeing a pixel JPEG on Wikipedia. But you can’t really experience it or understand its craftsmanship until you’ve stood next to the 11-foot canvas in Madrid.

Reason 2: Stepping Back in Music History

It’s probably too obvious to mention that the Beatles didn’t record music with iPads in the 1960s. We all know that (and trust me, I’m NOT insulting your intelligence!)

But even though we “know” it, sometimes we don’t appreciate the work they had to put into the music we stream today.

They couldn’t mix songs in their teenage bedrooms. They couldn’t record to a portable laptop. And they certainly weren’t growing an audience on YouTube!

Instead, their fans had to buy their records. They had to go to a physical building (crazy, right!!?) to get their favorite songs. They had to talk to cashiers and carry their music home with them. Teenyboppers didn’t “listen to Sgt. Pepper,” they “owned” it.

Many record collectors love experiencing their favorite music as their idols originally intended them to. They admire the album art on a square-foot canvas. They go through the “ritual” of putting the disk on the turntable.

Sometimes, the album sleeves contain features that are missed in short-form videos and digital MP4s. Led Zeppelin often covered the inner sleeve with mystical artwork. Bob Dylan printed entire poems on the backs of his LPs.

Back in the 60s and 70s, every Zeppelin and Dylan fan knew about these paintings and poems. There was more to fandom than half-consciously tapping the “Play” button.

Reason 3: Physical Connection to Music

This reason is very similar to reason 2. Reason 2 emphasizes “stepping back in time” and experiencing classic music in its original form. Reason 3 focuses on slowing down and appreciating the process of actually listening to physical media.

The fact is, digital life forces us to do too much with too little time and too little effort. We text dozens of friends, read news headlines, and listen to a single song from a selection of 100 million songs online. How can we possibly digest all that?

Turntables and vinyl records make you slow down, and they are worth it for that alone. Nothing melts the stress of a long day like pulling out a record, placing it on a turntable, and sliding the needle over.

I know this sounds silly, but when you take 30 seconds to cue up a record, you are mentally telling yourself it’s worth your time. And when Side 1 stops and you have to flip it over, your analog friend is reminding you to stand up, stretch, and take a break.

Reason 4: Record-Collecting Culture

I’ll admit it, I’m not a vinyl fiend. I don’t drop $100 on my favorite jazz records, or spend hours perusing the bins at my local record shop.

However, I still value “record culture.” When you stroll into a shop, — even casually –, you’re bound to run into someone with unique musical taste.

You may bond over the same deep cuts of Radiohead that your friends have never heard of. Or maybe they’ll introduce you to something totally random, like “glitchtronica” or “plunderphonics.” Whatever it is, you know you’ll learn something new, and you’ll learn it from someone who cares.

At the end of the day, record collecting brings people together for the same reason: the appreciation and exchange of great music. Nothing else in the world, not even Reddit or a good book, can do that like a real-life music lover.

Reason 5: Investment

This reason is a bit different than the others but still worth noting! Unlike digital media, which isn’t actually anything besides data on a piece of metal, records are real, physical things (I know, duh!)

If you are strategic about the records you collect, and keep them in good condition, they can actually appreciate in value! I know for a fact that while I’ll keep my Harry Belafonte record and Grandmaster Flash until the day I die, I have many other noteworthy albums that I’ll probably sell.

Just like musical instruments and your house, if you handle your investments right, you can earn some good money off the records you buy now.

How to Get Started with Vinyl Records

If you’ve been convinced that vinyl is worth it, then there are several things you should know right away. Records are awesome, but if you don’t set things up right, they won’t actually be any better than streaming off YouTube.

A good record will have great recordings. But those won’t matter if your turntable or speakers suck. While you don’t have to fork out hundreds on your first system, there are some things you should consider doing.

A Budget Turntable is Worth It, Just Get the Right Specs!

Contrary to popular belief, more expensive isn’t always ideal.

In the turntable world, the cheaper ones often have the most features. This is because more expensive gear focuses on very specific parts of a sound system so that audiophiles can tinker with their system to their hearts’ content.

In your case, having multiple features in a single turntable is just fine. First, double-check the cables your speakers use, then make sure you find a turntable with the right input jacks.

Most turntables have stereo jacks. Others have a quarter inch jack like an electric guitar cable. You might have to buy adapters that make the connections fit.

Also, you may need to get a preamp, which is a small box which amplifies the audio signal from the turntable.

Sometimes when you plug speakers directly into a turntable, they won’t be very loud – even when the volume is all the way up. This is perfectly normal, and means you’ll need to buy a preamp.

Lastly, you will definitely want to hook your turntable up to external speakers. Many budget turntables include built-in speakers. Unfortunately, those can be even worse than your laptop speakers!

If that’s the case, then you’ll be missing out on the vinyl audio that you wanted in the first place. Of course, if your turntable ends up having built-in speakers, but you have your own, that won’t be a problem. Just make sure you plan ahead 🙂

Conclusion

If you are an avid music lover and have ever thought, “Should I get a record player,” then you should definitely try it out! Whether you’re a tech nerd, rock enthusiast, audiophile, or off to find your next jam, the record shop could be your next stop!

You may just find a new appreciation for your favorite song, or discover a band that you *GASP!!* like even better.

All thanks to good ol’ vinyl. Trust me, it’s worth it!

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About Brian Campbell

Brian has been playing piano since elementary school and started learning guitar in 7th grade. He teaches K-8 students in Columbus, Ohio, and writes lessons covering a broad spectrum of genres. As a child, he moved back and forth between Colorado and West Africa. He credits those experiences with opening his eyes to the cultural and artistic diversity he appreciates today. Several of his favorite musicians include J.S. Bach, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Radiohead. When not doing music and teaching, you can find Brian reading, hiking, traveling, or making just one more shot of espresso.

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