The Tables Are Turning, Or Are They?
While most people are getting their music from clouds and using wireless ear buds, the retro world of playing music is undergoing its own business boom. With the resurgence of performers releasing their music on vinyl along with their digital downloads, the turntable industry is growing rapidly once again.
Most turntables were packed away when CDs (compact discs) became popular in the 1980s. CDs became our new source for music and record collections were sold off at yard sales, or donated to libraries, or given to friends who collected such stuff. Some music lovers had the burning desire to digitize favored LPs (long play vinyl records) so that they could still enjoy favorite albums that they either couldn’t find on CDs, or to avoid buying those same records in another format. I know people who have the same records on 45s (records played at 45 rpm), LPs, 8-track tapes, cassettes, CD’s and MP3s (MPEG Audio Layer-3 music format), and Cloud-stored versions. Music fans spent billions for newer versions of things they already had.
For almost 20 years since the advent of MP3 players, numerous companies marketed turntables with a USB plug so people could convert their music to a computer and eliminate having to replace records with CDs. But many of these cheaply-made turntables came with an editing program that didn’t always work very well, so the turntables were eventually sold to frugal music enthusiasts.
But these days, it’s a whole new world for turntables. They’re coming in all shapes and sizes, colors and designs. Most of these aren’t to help you digitize your old records. These turntables are for enjoying the sound quality of vinyl, just like the “cavemen” used to. No USB cables here. RCA cables and your old-or-new amplifier and speakers are going to get a workout.
Here are a few examples of what’s out there today.
1) You can still get turntables for less than $100 for your home or to hook into your computer, but quality will vary from pretty good to “You got hosed!” I wouldn’t recommend most of them because they aren’t made to last. They’re barely made to be used from the start. Speeds can be off, so the sound is also off.
2) For $180 to $460 you can get one of the elegantly designed Orbital turntables from U-Turn Audio. Besides being a cool looking and fun gadget, you can order a custom-built model by choosing your color, finish, cartridge, clear acrylic platter, and more. It’s a good, solid model with a modern-retro look. If you don’t know which cartridge to choose you’ll probably be fine with whatever they send. Until you take the time to learn more about the world of audiophiles, I wouldn’t get into spending thousands of dollars for your equipment.
3) Gramovox makes impressive turntables. They have designed one where your LP stands and spins on its side. Back in the day when jukeboxes played 45s, many played their discs in the vertical position like this. I’ve heard that the Floating Record Vertical Turntable by Gramovox has a much more sensitive tone arm so the concerns of wear are lessened. It also comes with integrated speakers which many users like because there’s no need for a new amp. RCA jacks are included though in case you want to play it through your own high end speakers.
Before you buy, Google “vertical turntable” and check out the other vertical turntables. They come in modern and vintage styles, and even come in “Old Timey” simulated wooden radio cabinets.
4) Now the utmost in modern turntables, is the Love Turntable. The bizarre looking oblong player, designed by Yves Behar, will play your new and old vinyl, but it integrates modern technology to use Bluetooth to deliver the audio to your speakers. It can even be controlled by your smartphone. What makes the Love Turntable so cool is that your LP lays still on the platter and your Love player spins around the disc. It’s really something to see. And hear.
5) For the ultimate in portability, you’ll want the RokBlok made by Pink Donut. It’s literally about the size of a small brick. This player runs around the top of your record while it lays on any flat surface, even the green grass in your back yard. It has integrated speakers that are on the low end, but it can also be connected to your Bluetooth speakers or headphones for a much bigger sound. It is cute as hell, but people with pets will likely find they need to keep them out of reach as the movements can make Spot or Fluffy really curious.
Whichever you choose, enjoy your new vinyl experience and play on!