Turntable Vs Record Player: The Main Differences

Published Categorized as Vinyl 101

Again, this seems a very simple question for simpletons at first, though there is actually a perfectly good reason someone might have asked such a question. These two terms, turntable vs record player, are used so interchangeably as to be synonymous, whether online or in person by the wider record collecting community.

This kind of linguistic interchange is especially evident for newcomers to collecting, prospective enthusiasts who have yet to learn the specific terminology and how it might be implemented in real world contexts.

It is frankly confusing, and can often leave a bad taste in the mouth of a new collector, who feels like they are being excluded from an exclusive, cult-like society.

This is especially evident for the terms turntable vs record player, and it is a linguistic confusion and interchange that has seeped from the mainstream into the most exclusive circles, despite the fact that, at root, they mean very different things indeed.

It is thus our business today to help elucidate just what exactly separates these two terms, and yet what makes them work synonymously too.

So, we push forward, in an attempt to democratise the medium just that much more, to help those in need to know the difference between turntable vs record player.

when were record players popular

What Exactly is a Turntable?

First, in our quest to elucidate the difference between a turntable vs record player, we will be grappling with the turntable itself. At its root, the turntable is simply a piece of a larger record player.

The principle job of the turntable is to hold the record itself and to spin it on its platter, so that the stylus can, at the appropriate speed, come into contact with the encoded grooves on the chosen record disc.

Each record player has a turntable but not every turntable has a record player, if you catch my drift. A turntable is very similar to a record player, and almost every all in one record player that you are likely to come across will come with a turntable attached. A turntable on its own, however, will not come with the inbuilt speaker system, nor any of the other added extras that a whole record player or stereo system is likely to.

what is a turntable

A turntable alone will primarily include an inner motor, to control the spinning of the platter, and the platter itself atop, with a stylus, cartridge and tone arm on the surface level aswell, all being vital for the projecting of a record disc’s sound out into the world. Most turntables worth their salt these days will come with a built in pre amplifier, allowing connection to an external speaker system without the bulky addition of a phono amplifier, though many an audiophile will still swear by such a bulky luxury.

Thus, if not already clear, a turntable alone will almost certainly require external elements and items in order for the disc spinning upon its platter to be heard at any reasonable or sane volume.

So, What is a Record Player?

On the inverse, then, of the turntable vs record player diorama, a record player is the turntable’s opposite. At its root, the record player is the larger puzzle that the turntable is a piece of. The record player does not necessarily have a principle job, for it is, in essence, the entire stereo setup, so its whole job is to effectively hold all of the other components in place so that they might do their job. This includes the speakers, the pre amplifier, the phono amplifier (should one be needed or wanted), the turntable, and anything else the listener sees fit.

I repeat: each record player has a turntable but not every turntable has a record player. A turntable is very similar to a record player, and almost every all in one record player that you are likely to come across will come with a turntable attached. A record player, in contrast to the solo turntable, will usually either come with inbuilt speakers attached already out of the box, or the term will come to mean the whole stereo setup, which will need to include speakers in order for any sound to be heard at a reasonable and sane volume.

what is record player

Both turntables and record players come in varying shapes and sizes, though the variation is far more obvious with record players. This is likely because the turntable is serving a very specific purpose, whereas a record player is the entire setup itself. Thus, the various elements can vary so much that one record player will aesthetically, internally and externally, look and feel very different from another. Some audiophiles will stand and swear by bulky analog phono amplifiers to project their sound, whereas others less financially able will simply use the newer all in one record players, which very often can play several different types of media in one, acting as more of a home entertainment system.

Turntable Vs Record Player: Which is Best for You?

So, with all this linguistic interplay going on alone, not to mention the utter saturation of the market, it can be incredibly difficult to know which, between the turntable vs record player, is right for you. Thankfully, we have assembled this handy list of pros and cons for you to read and for you to make up your own mind with, taking into account your own needs, wants, and personal circumstances, so that you might come to your own personalised decision.

Turntables

So, first we will deal with the former, the turntable, and the various benefits and drawbacks of simply purchasing a turntable vs record player.

Pros of Turntables

  • Sound quality is often league’s better. Many argue that in terms of sound quality and turntables, the sky is the limit. This is, of course, relative, and will wholly depend on which turntable is up for consideration, but generally higher quality turntables trump more expensive all in one record players.
  • And if not, upgrading the turntable to another is easy, and you can still keep the same setup. This is the primary argument of those who believe in owning and purchasing each individual element of the set up separately.
  • A specialised turntable will tend to come with more specialised settings that make for a more personalised and specific listening experience, that you can customise based on your own particular needs and wants.
  • Since there are countless turntables from earlier eras still working and fully functional, there has never been a time in which to live with more options for customisation of one’s stereo setup!

Cons of Turntables

  • More than a record player, a specialised turntable will require more regular maintenance and upkeep, and this is especially the case if said turntable is from an earlier era of record collecting. Not only that, but having an older turntable like this means that parts are likely to be harder to find, should the repairs be of a serious variety.
  • Purchasing a turntable, and thus an entire setup individually, is objectively more expensive compared to the cost of a record player, and so will not be for everyone, particularly those who either do not have the money to spare in the first place, or those who are otherwise not overly concerned with high fidelity playback.
  • Owning and working a turntable alone will require more work in the long run, too, as will owning each of the individual elements. Since there are several individual parts, one will need to be savvy with each one to maintain an at least somewhat sanctimonious listening environment.

Record Players

Now, we inversely look at the latter of the turntable vs record player diorama, the record player itself, to see how it fairs when expounded upon as above.

record player not spinning

Pros of Record Players

  • In direct contrast with the turntable and the buying of each individual element of the stereo setup separately, buying a record player is almost certainly going to be a much more affordable route to take.
  • An all in one record player will also be far more portable, meaning it can be taken just about anywhere. And, seeing as many can even be powered with batteries these days, they can be taken just about anywhere you please.
  • Many of these all in one record players will come with added multimedia functionality aswell, meaning that they are perfect as holistic home entertainment systems, as mediators for CDs, cassette, and various other forms of media.

Cons of Record Players

  • Often with such all in one record players, sound quality takes a serious dive, especially in comparison to that of more specialised turntables.
  • Record players of this variety, particular some by the infamous brand Crosley, have been known to do some serious damage to records, adding more cost to the process if the owner of the damaged record is to buy another copy of said record to replace it. Not only are the styluses installed in the factory not up to scratch, but the tonearm is often not properly calibrated or lacking in the tools to do so.
  • Since this is an all in one setup we are speaking about, chances are that there will be little to no potential to upgrade the setup over time, so this is certainly something serious to consider if you are someone who likes to improve such things over time and patiently.

Final Tones

So, there you have it! Hopefully this wild ride through the dichotomy of the turntable vs record player has been of some use to you, whether in your purchasing of one yourself or simply to navigate the various linguistic quandaries that such insular communities stir up (like murk at the bottom of the pond).

Keep it foolish and keep it spinning!

FAQs Turntable vs Record Player

Can you play vinyl records on turntables?

Yes, absolutely, you can! A turntable alone will primarily include an inner motor, to control the spinning of the platter, and the platter itself atop, with a stylus, cartridge and tone arm on the surface level aswell, all being vital for the projecting of a record disc’s sound out into the world. Most turntables worth their salt these days will come with a built in pre amplifier, allowing connection to an external speaker system without the bulky addition of a phono amplifier, though many an audiophile will still swear by such a bulky luxury. A turntable alone will almost certainly require external elements and items in order for the disc spinning upon its platter to be heard at any reasonable or sane volume.

Do turntables sound better?

It would be impossible for a turntable to sound better than a record player, for a turntable is an essential part of a record player. Without a turntable, a record player cannot play records – simple. I repeat: each record player has a turntable but not every turntable has a record player. A turntable is very similar to a record player, and almost every all in one record player that you are likely to come across will come with a turntable attached. A record player, in contrast to the solo turntable, will usually either come with inbuilt speakers attached already out of the box, or the term will come to mean the whole stereo setup, which will need to include speakers in order for any sound to be heard at a reasonable and sane volume.

What are turntables?

At its root, the turntable is simply a piece of a larger record player. The principle job of the turntable is to hold the record itself and to spin it on its platter, so that the stylus can, at the appropriate speed, come into contact with the encoded grooves on the chosen record disc. A turntable alone will primarily include an inner motor, to control the spinning of the platter, and the platter itself atop, with a stylus, cartridge and tone arm on the surface level aswell, all being vital for the projecting of a record disc’s sound out into the world.

Published
Categorized as Vinyl 101

By Robert Halvari

My name is Robert Halvari - audio engineer and a total audiophile. I love vinyl because it has that natural character which brings music to life. I've been using and testing vinyl record players for around 15 years and I'm sharing my love and knowledge of vinyl by publishing all I know at Notes On Vinyl

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