About 10 years ago my sister got a restored Sony direct drive turn table and started collecting records. I thought this was weird, since I had been listening to music via my MP3 collection that I had started back in high shcool (I still have all of those files from Napster, Limewire, etc.) But when hanging out with my sister and brother-in-law I enjoyed flipping through their collection to pick out music to listen to. I don't give much credence to the argument of owning physical media vs digital media. I like my ebook reader, I stream my collection to all parts of my home and share it with my family. But lately I've found I prefer reading physical books and listening to records when I am relaxing.
The records I own are the ones I really like. I used to buy records in the $2 bins to try out things, but now I am focusing on just the albums and artists that I know I will go back to over and over again. I am not saying digital music (like Apple Music or Spotify) are bad. I really like these services. (and if you’re happy with just a steaming account, good!). I've figured out how to use my Apple Music account to find new music, and if I find a record that interests me I can pull it up and give it a quick listen to see if I like it. I've found a few albums I never would have discovered at a record store, using Apple Music to preview the album. I think the 2 media types can compliment each other quite well. (This is how I learned about Grimes before.... well all the Elon stuff).
I like the idea that I own the record. There is no gate keeping. I can’t loose access because of some rights dispute. It’s always on my shelf if I need it. If I don’t want it anymore I can pass it on to anyone else.
I'm not going to tell you what record player to buy. The internet is full of opinions on which are good and which are bad. I have 2 turn tables in my home. The first is a Technics SL-D2 direct drive table. It sounds great, has been nothing but reliable since I got it, and has all the bells and whistles anyone would want. The second is a LXI direct drive table from Sears I found at a Goodwill. I had to clean and restore it. Replacing the needle with one from Ortofon, re lubricating the motor, and clean out the Speed Adjust knob. I honestly think both of them sound fantastic. My wife (a classical musician who plays in a Symphony) can tell the difference between them, but alas I cannot. To me sound quality has more to do with the quality of the record itself, not the player. So if you want to buy one, find a good used player, or a new one around $100ish dollars. I think anything past $200 is going to get into the diminishing returns territory.
Phono Preamps? The Rolls VP29 is fine in my opinion, plus it can be a fun project to poke at. You can really get into the weeds researching which pre-amp is the best. Vast forum arguments on Tube amps vs circuit amps have been written. I don’t notice the difference. The best Hi-Fi setup I’ve ever heard was from a retired IBM engineer who 3d printed his own acoustic lenses and spent over 10 years hand building the whole thing. You don’t need to do any of that. If you want a fun record listening setup, you can get it off eBay, Best Buy, or if you are feeling adventurous, an afternoon or two at a Goodwill.
Building your Hi-Fi can be a whole hobby on it’s own. You can always upgrade and swap parts out at anytime. But don’t think you are missing out if you only want to spend $100. You are not.
Music is fun, going to the record store is fun,
and collecting records is a fun hobby. I hope you can enjoy it
as much as I do.
I'm building a collection page, but here are a few
pics to look at :)
The Hi-Fi turn table. Technics SL-D2. It's a nice turntable,
great sound and clarity.