Turntable vs Record Player (Which One Sounds Better?)

The world of vinyl record playing has become somewhat of a niche area of the music industry, but the fact remains that some recordings are best heard on vinyl, and there is something special about the experience of using this type of music setup. Those who are into vinyl find themselves wondering what the differences are between turntables and record players and which setup sounds better?

Record players can sound good if they are high quality, but the best sound is produced by a good turntable built into a high-quality audio system. Ready-to-play record players are generally not high-quality or expensive. Use a custom turntable system for the best possible audio from vinyl records.

Turntable and record player are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but the truth is that there is a difference between a turntable and a full record player.

Let’s take the time to examine these two setups to determine which is better for you and to find out which setup has the potential for better quality audio.

Turntable Vs. Record Player

Anyone who is into vinyl records and the experience of listening to music in this way is familiar with the terms ‘record player’ and ‘turntable,’ but are these two terms not used to describe the same equipment?

Turntables and record players are not the same things, which is why there is a name for each.

A turntable is a standalone unit or a component within a larger record player that is used to read the record disc.

The turntable is the part of a record player that reads the disc, and it can be a separate unit that can be combined with a more modular system used for a greater stereo system or DJ setup.

one turntable
A turntable is a standalone unit (or part of a record player) that reads the disc (vinyl record).

A record player is a fully-fledged, complete music-playing device that has a turntable, speakers, and preamps all built into one complete unit.

A record player is a self-contained record disc player that requires no external equipment to function.

vinyl record player
A record player is a device that can play music, and it includes a turntable, in addition to speakers and preamps.

Turntables are simply the component of a setup that reads a vinyl record. They do not have any speakers, drivers, or preamps, and they require external equipment to output the sound that they read from the vinyl record.

There are advantages and drawbacks that come along with both setups, but the type of record playing gear that you use comes down to budget, personal preferences, and how willing you are to build your own record playing system rather than using a complete standalone unit.

Do Turntables Or Record Players Sound Better?

The most important question that music lovers ask regarding whether to use a turntable or a record player is which system sounds better? Do record players or turntables produce better quality audio playback?

Well, the truth here is that the quality of the equipment directly impacts the quality of the audio. This means that whether you use a turntable as part of a great system or if you use a complete record player, the quality of the audio depends on the quality of the hardware in the system.

direct drive turntable system
The quality of your equipment (record player or turntable and other equipment) will determine audio quality.

Playing music from a vinyl record is an analog process. This means that the hardware that is used in the process is the only factor in the quality of the audio, as it cannot be altered or improved digitally. This is a true analog music-playing system.

The quality of the audio begins with the quality of the record-playing turntable in both systems. A good turntable will read a record well and translate the frequencies it reads to the speaker system effectively.

vinyl record 2
Playing music from vinyl records is an analog process – there is no digital alteration or improvement.

This means that the quality of the turntable is as important as the quality of the speakers that output the music.

The fact that the hardware is so important for the quality of the music in this type of system means that it is impossible to say that a turntable or a record player will sound better because a poor quality record player will always sound worse than a good-quality standalone turntable, and vice versa.

turntable
If you use a standalone turntable, combine it with good drivers, preamps, and speakers.

The key to creating food quality audio from a turntable is to use a good turntable in combination with good drivers, preamps, and speakers to output the quality audio that the turntable produces.

The same is true for standalone record players. The better quality the record player is overall, the better-quality music it will produce.

vinyl record player 2
If you invest in a better record player, you will get better audio quality. In general, it is easier to get a high-quality standalone turntable than a record player.

It is easier to get very high audio quality from a separate turntable unit rather than a record player, as the record players that are made today are not typically as good as we may want them to be.

This means that buying a good turntable on its own and pairing it with a high-quality audio system will typically produce a far better audio experience than simply using a record player.

Which Setup Is Best For You?

We have established that the turntable is an individual component. A larger record playing system and a record player is a self-contained unit that features all of the equipment necessary for playing a vinyl record.

We have also learned that neither the record player nor the standalone turntable produces better audio than each other, but the quality of the hardware determines the quality of the output audio.

vinyl records
If you are a music lover with a big budget, you might want to invest in a standalone turntable and quality equipment to go with it (speakers, drivers, and preamps).

With this in mind, which setup is better for you? Should you use a ready-to-play record player that has everything you need for playing vinyl built into one unit, or should you use a turntable and build it into a larger record playing system?

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The answer here depends on how involved you want to be in the building of your record playing system and the budget that you have to spend on the system.

If you have a stack of records but no way to play them, but you also have a limited budget, then purchasing a record player that you can afford is the best way to get your records playing as easily as possible.

vinyl record
If you want to play records on a limited budget, an affordable standalone record player is probably your best bet.

However, if you want to get the most from your records and if you have the budget for it, building a turntable into a larger audio system will produce better audio quality than an average record player, as you will have control over which speakers, drivers, and preamps go into the system, which will ultimately determine the sound quality from the player.

(You can learn about active vs. passive speakers for vinyl here).

If you are interested in building an audio system for record playing, then use a turntable and build your ideal system, but if you would rather just turn on a record player, drop on a record, and hit play, then a record player is a better option for you.

Conclusion

At the end of it, it is true that a turntable is the part of a record player that reads the record, and it can be a standalone unit built into a larger system, which means that whether you use a turntable or a record player is dependent on the overall record playing system that you want to use.

The audio quality from a record playing system depends on the quality of the hardware, as this type of music player is completely analog. If you want to get the most from your records, begin with a good quality turntable and build a good quality audio system from there.

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