Turntables - The Basics - Groove Central

Turntables - The Basics

In todays digital world and smartphone age, who would have thought many of yesteryear’s technologies are still striving. One such devices are turntables and record players.

It’s more than a retro revival, maybe even a rebellion against music streaming. Whatever the reason, listening to music via a turntable and building a collection of records is a pleasing [analogue] experience.

For the newbies and diehard fans, coming to terms with a turntable can be somewhat daunting. Most of us just want to listen and enjoy the music.

For those wanting in-depth techno babble, this article may not be for you.

Let’s break it down ….



The Basics


Belt Drive:  A belt-drive turntable uses a belt to spin the turntable platter thus isolating the motor from the turntable platter.
Direct Drive:   Motor is directly connected to the spindle rotating the platter.  
Which one is right for you?  It depends, but generally if you want to get the most out of your listening and hearing minuet details go with a Belt Drive.   If you’re a bit of a DJ or want-to-be, a Direct Drive is the way to go - ideal for mixing, adjusting pitch / music tempo and “scratching”.
Platter:   A round base on which the record sits and spins.
Spindle:   A spinning metal shaft that protrudes from the centre of the platter.
Slip mat:  A round piece of material that sits on the platter under the record. Simply put, used to minimise vibrations and dampens resonance from the turntable platter and other parts.
Which mats to get?  Turntable mats are generally made from either rubber, leather, cork and felt.  “Slip mats” are primarily made up of felt and often used by DJ’s.  For home listening any of the four mentioned materials are ideal.  Note:-  Each type of mats will affect the sound differently.
Speed Selections:   Vinyl records are available in three different speeds, 33 1/3, 45 and 78 rpm - revolutions per minute. The two most common are 331/3 and 45 while 78rpm are generally less popular.
Tonearm:   This holds the phono cartridge and pivots across the record.
Automatic Lifter:   As the name suggest, an inbuilt mechanism to lift the tonearm and cue the record from its cradle and return back once the record is finished at a push of a button.
Manual Lifter:  The process of manually cueing the record and at the end returning the tonearm back to its resting position.
Counterweight:  A cylinder shape device that can be adjusted to “balance” both the tonearm and apply the right downward force for the stylus to the record. 
Antiskate:  A mechanism that applies resistance, preventing the tonearm from being pulled / skating towards the centre of the record as it spins.



Headshell:   The head piece at the end of the turntable tonearm that the cartridge is bolted to.  

Cartridge:   It’s one of the most important parts of a turntable as it creates music and sound.  This is done by converting vibrational energy into electrical energy from groove undulations on the record.  

Stylus:   Stylus / Styli or “needles” are what connects the cartridge to the record. Designed to pick up vibrations from the record grooves.