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Getting Into Vinyl: How To Build a Turntable System

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Vinyl records have long been hailed as the superior sound experience for any true music aficionado, outperforming CDs, cassette tapes, and MP3s. We may live in a digital world with music downloaded from the cloud and played over a mobile phone and Bluetooth earbuds, but there is nothing — NOTHING — that sounds better than a vinyl record played on a high-quality record player and stereo system.

Vinyl records are growing in popularity, making a comeback, and finally outselling CDs for the first time since 1986, selling $224.1 million in the first half of 2019. Turntable technology and stereo technology has also improved over the years, and it's possible to have a high-quality audiophile experience at an affordable price.

If you're still not sure whether you should embrace vinyl as the best music medium, consider these benefits.

First, vinyl records sound a lot warmer. If you're not sure what that means, it's the difference between a trumpet blasting Dixieland jazz in an empty bathroom versus a nylon-stringed guitar playing classical guitar songs in a cozy living room. One is brassy, loud, and overly bright, the other is warm, soft, and doesn't overpower you. Even an electric guitar can sound warm on vinyl.

Vinyl records also have a richer sound, because they're often less compressed. Compression means the highest highs and lowest lows have been removed from digital versions of songs to make the file size smaller. While the removal may not be as noticeable to most people — especially if you're listening on a set of $20 earbuds — it can be noticeable on a stereo system. Digital music, including CDs, may have crystal-clear clarity, but they may be missing the higher and lower frequencies.

What Do You Need for a Home Stereo System?

If you truly want to appreciate your music, you need something more than just a mobile phone and earbuds, or a mobile phone and Bluetooth speaker. You need an actual stereo system that uses a few components to create crisp, clear sound — sound that can fill up a room, and let you hear every detail and nuance of the music that you can't get over earbuds or tiny speakers.

At a minimum, your basic home stereo system needs a receiver and two speakers. The receiver is actually three stereo components in one unit: an amplifier (it powers the speakers), the pre-amp (it controls the volume, bass, and treble), and the tuner (it receives the radio signal).

If you want to listen to vinyl records or CDs, which all plug into the back of the stereo receiver, you can get these as separate components and run them through your receiver. Most receivers today also have the ability to stream digital music and connect to Bluetooth, so you can have the quality of vinyl records while maintaining the convenience of digital music. 

But if you don't want to get a receiver, you can just get powered speakers, which you would plug your record player (or other component) into. In a regular stereo setup, the power comes from the receiver. But with powered speakers, the power to push the sound actually comes from the speakers themselves, and it saves you from needing a receiver or other powered component. They let you play any stereo component with them.

Otherwise, you just need a regular set of speakers. You don't ones that are too small, because the sound could be a little tinny. And you don't want ones that are too large because you could blast out your neighbors, and you may not have room for them in your space. Look for speakers that can either fit in your existing space, fit on bookshelves, or even be installed permanently inside the walls. (Those require expert installation.) Speak to a Parker Gwen design expert for advice on this.

Finally, you need a good record player. There are record players that are just analog playback devices, meaning you can only play records on them. And there are record players that also have MP3 encoding, which means you can turn your records into MP3 tracks to play on your phone while you're out and about. This is especially useful if you've just inherited a large record collection from a family member, or you found a particularly rich treasure trove of records at your local record store.

Parker Gwen carries several different turntables from Teac, Marantz, and Denon, as well as amplifiers and receivers from Denon, Pioneer, Marantz, and Onkyo to help you create a superior audiophile experience for your home.

Parker Gwen Record Favorites You Need for Your New Record Player

We did a quick poll around the office and came up with a list of the top records you'll need to put your new turntable through its paces and to introduce you to the full richness of your new vinyl collection.

Taylor Swift Taylor SwiftTaylor Swift, Taylor Swift: Taylor's self-titled debut album is the one that launched an empire. She released it when she was 16, all with songs she wrote when she was a high school freshman, five of which went platinum or even multi-platinum. When you were 16, you were just learning to drive. This album may seem out of place on a list of dude-driven rock albums, but Taylor Swift and Adele (below) are some wonderful singers who will make you understand why a high-end stereo system and vinyl records are the best way to truly experience music the way it should be heard. Employee Pick - Addison

 

Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USABruce Springsteen, Born In The USA: Bruce had been a star for 10 years, but it was this 1984 album that made him a mainstream star. It's a 3-times platinum record, and features some of the 80s greatest songs, including "Born In The USA," "My Hometown," and "I'm On Fire." (If you watch the "Dancing In The Dark" video on YouTube, that's also a young Courteney Cox who gets pulled onto the stage!) This album was also the first CD manufactured in the USA for commercial release, but we still think you should get the record. Employee Pick - Sean

 

Rolling Stones, Let It BleedRolling Stones, Let It Bleed: Released in 1969, this was the last album Brian Jones would ever appear on. The album contains some of the Stones' best songs, "Gimme Shelter," "Midnight Rambler," "Monkey Man," and of course, "You Can't Always Get What You Want." The album was originally recorded in stereo, but was re-released in mono. While most of the early Stones work sounds good in mono, stick with the original stereo recording for this one. Employee Pick - Ferd

 

 

Adele, 21Adele, 21: When most people think of Adele, this is the album that comes to mind, even though it was her second album. It's named after her age when she released it. (It was a followup to her debut album, "19.") It topped the album charts in more than 30 countries and was the world's best-selling album in 2011 AND 2012, and is the fourth best-selling album of all time in the UK. (1 – 3 are Queen, ABBA, and The Beatles). When we talk about the warmth of vinyl, this is the record that will really show it. Employee Pick - Ann

 

Dave Matthews Band, CrashDave Matthews Band, Crash: For many DMB fans, this is the album — the holy grail — of the band's discography, and we're coming up on its 25 year anniversary. Their second studio album features their fan favorites "Two Step," "Too Much," and "#41." This is a record that demands to be played at high volume, so make sure your speakers can handle it. (Hint: Don't put your speakers and turntable on the same shelf, as the vibrations could cause the record to skip a bit.). Employee Pick - Carolyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Stripes, De StijlWhite Stripes, De Stijl: The title comes from the Dutch art movement called "The Style" (it's pronounced the same way). The album is a cult favorite among White Stripes fans, especially for its low fidelity sound in both the recording and the writing. Jack White plays his signature growling guitar that sounds like someone slapped a guitar neck and some strings on Tom Waits. The album was also re-issued in vinyl, pressed in Nashville, Tennessee, and was mastered as an all-analog recording. (As compared to an all-digital recording, which most albums are done today. Audio purists and old-school musicians often prefer analog recordings.). Employee Pick - Matt

 

 

If you've been bitten by the vinyl bug, don't despair. There are plenty of places you can find records, but the best time to search is during Record Store Day, usually held on the third Saturday of April. There are special events, new releases of new albums, re-releases of old albums on heavier 180 gram vinyl, and a general festive atmosphere all around. Check your local record shop and build your collection with a few of your favorites.

Parker Gwen has the equipment to help you build your own high-quality stereo system, including turntables. You can check out our website, or if you have any questions or need advice, please contact us at support@parkergwen.com or visit our website for more information..

 

Photo Credits:

Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift - 

https://www.discogs.com/Taylor-Swift-Taylor-Swift/master/138812

Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A. - 

https://www.discogs.com/Bruce-Springsteen-Born-In-The-USA/master/26701

Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed - 

https://www.discogs.com/Rolling-Stones-Let-It-Bleed/master/52967

Adele, 21 - 

https://www.discogs.com/Adele-21/master/303567

Dave Matthews Band, Crash - 

https://www.discogs.com/Dave-Matthews-Band-Crash/master/271472

White Stripes, De Stijl - 

https://www.discogs.com/The-White-Stripes-De-Stijl/master/399

 


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