What’s The Difference Between A Turntable And A Record Player?

The Difference Between A Turntable And A Record PlayerDo you know the difference between a turntable and a record player?

Many don’t. And there’s good reason for the confusion. I’ve seen so many articles that use the two terms interchangeably.

In fact, that’s the best way to tell the difference between a website that actually wants to help you and one that just wants to send you to Amazon to collect a commission on anything you buy (yes, that’s how websites, mine included, make money). Sites that just want the commission hire writers at rock-bottom prices and they get what they pay for: someone who has no clue about the topic (or the English language). Luckily, you can almost always spot these sites within a sentence or two.

Since you’ve landed on this page, you are obviously looking for a good explanation of the two terms in question. So here goes:


What exactly is a turntable?

In its basest form, a turntable is simply a major component of a record player. It is the part of the player that holds the record and spins it. But turntable also refers to a standalone unit you can purchase.

A turntable does not come with built-in speakers or an amplifier. You will have to buy these separately and connect them to the turntable using RCA cables (usually).

A turntable like this only has a handful of components. Obviously there is the turntable itself, which includes the motor and the platter. It also comes with a stylus, a cartridge and a tone-arm. Usually it will also have a pre-amplifier, which allows you to connect the turntable to an external component without a dedicated phono input.

In simple terms, the stylus runs in the grooves of the record and the cartridge takes that information and transmits it to the pre-amp which turns it into sound via an external amp and speaker. The tone arm holds the cartridge and stylus in place. For more on the components of a turntable, read this post.

A turntable will require external components, but most enthusiasts prefer them. The options for customization are endless, depending on the components you pair it with.


What exactly is a record player?

A record player is an overall audio system setup that includes a pair of speakers and an amplifier along with the turntable. It is much more elaborate than a turntable and usually includes a ton of additional features, like the ability to play various other file formats (CD, MP3, radio, etc.).

The main drawback of a record player is size. They are generally larger and heavier than turntables and thus not nearly as portable. For that reason, record players are usually kept inside the home on a dedicated stand or in a home entertainment center. Obviously, they are also more expensive than turntables.

The main advantage is convenience. You don’t need to get any additional components. You can simply plug it in and start enjoying your music.


Which should I buy: a turntable or a record player?

Both the turntable and the record player have their advantages and disadvantages.

Many people prefer record players simply because they are ready to play music directly out of the box. There’s nothing to set-up and you can usually use them to play your CDs and MP3s as well. Many will also stream AM/FM radio.

Those who are more serious about vinyl usually opt for a turntable. They often already have the additional stereo components that are required, but even if they don’t, they are happy to buy them. No built-in record player amp and speaker combo can match the sound quality of a good receiver paired with a quality set of speakers.

When it comes to professional DJs, there is no choice: only turntables will do. This should be obvious, but DJs need the customization you get with a turntable and they also need the portability. Try lugging a record player from one gig to another! That said, try spinning a record on one. Just typing that sentence made me laugh!

Which one is right for you depends on your needs. Do you just want to play some records without any hassle?

Then get a record player.

Do you want to coax the best possible sound out of your vinyl collection?

Get a turntable.

Whichever you choose, I hope you are happy with your decision and you enjoy those beautiful vinyl sounds.

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  • Updated September 6, 2016
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