The record player came first.
Before we had the MP3 player, the CD player, the cassette tape player, and all the failed technologies no one even remembers, we had the turntable.
Today most consider the record player an old-fashioned technology.
It is something used by our parents or grandparents and collected (but not used) by hipsters.
But in some circles, the turntable player has been making a bit of a comeback. In others, it never went out of style.
More and more people are interested in getting a record player and starting up a little vinyl collection of their own. But before you buy a player, you need to know exactly what you’re getting.
You need to know the different parts of a record player.
Not only will this help when making a purchase, it also helps when using your player and when you need to replace a broken component.
Knowing the functions of each record player component makes it easy to diagnose problems and figure out which part needs repairing or replacing.
Parts Of A Turntable Record Player: The Six Major Components
These are the six major parts of a record player, although the final two are not included in many models. If they are not, you will need to get an external preamp or amp, or a receiver or mixer that has them built in.
- Tone arm
We’ll break down every record player part and tell you exactly how it works. We won’t go into extreme detail, but we’ll try to give you a basic understanding of how your turntable record player and its main parts function.
Most people use the terms “turntable” and “record player” interchangeably, but they are not the same. Technically, “turntable” only refers to the part of the record player where the record sits.
“Record player” refers to the overall device that houses all of the components, including the turntable. Se our article comparing a record player vs turntable for more.
Most turntable plates are made of metal or plastic and then covered with a rubber mat to protect the record from being scratched. Some plates are made from rubber themselves. In the center, a metal rod holds the record in place while it spins.
Many turntable styles are available. Most entry-level turntables use steel plates, because they are more affordable. They are light and cheap to produce, but they have a low inertia. This means that any slight instability in the motor speed will have an effect on playback.
Aluminum plates are a better solution. Not only are they more stable, they are heavy enough to reduce vibration. Their weight also makes for better balance. But naturally, they cost more.
The turntable drive system controls the rotation. There are two main types of systems: belt drive and direct drive.
A belt drive system generally gives you better sound quality, since the elastometric belt absorbs vibrations and other low frequency interference, which reduces noise coming from the motor.
A direct drive system does not use intermediary gears, belts and wheels. It is favored by DJs, because of a stronger motor and pitch control sliders. Quality direct drive players are more expensive. Cheap ones are generally useless.
It is fairly certain that something will eventually go wrong with the turntable. It is a component that suffers a lot of issues, most commonly a slipped belt, which means the turntable won’t spin correctly anymore.
This often results in a turntable that spins too fast, which distorts the sound. Luckily, this is easy to fix yourself. Head here for help with turntable repair.
You’re probably familiar with the stylus from classic movies. It is the needle that rests on the record and runs in the grooves while playing.
Most stylus manufacturers fashion them from diamond and form them into a cone shape. They use diamond, because it is the hardest natural material. Some manufacturers prefer sapphires, which are still hard enough to avoid damage from scratches in the vinyl.
No matter what material it is made from, every stylus needs to be replaced after a while. Generally, you can expect to get from 1000 to 2500 hours of use out of a single stylus.
A stylus takes one of two shapes: elliptical or spherical. The former is able to get more contact with the record groove with leads to a more faithful reproduction of the sound. A spherical styles does not get the same sound quality, but it is more sensitive.
The stylus is connected to the tone arm using a flexible strip of metal. The flexibility between these two components allows the stylus to move up and down within the grooves of the record.
The Tone Arm And The Cartridge
The tone arm and the cartridge work in tandem. The tone arm holds the stylus and connects it to the record player housing.
Some tone arms are straight, while others are curved or S-shaped. Neither shape is inherently better. DJs generally prefer a straight tone arm, because it makes it easier to scratch, but many people claim that a curved tone arm gives you better sound. Unless you are a DJ, you’ll probably want a curved one.
The cartridge is responsible for translating the grooves of the record that the stylus reads into the actual sounds you hear. The vibrations from the stylus riding the grooves travel through wires in the tone arm until they reach the cartridge.
In the cartridge, the vibrations hit coils inside a magnetic field, which transforms them into electrical signals. These signals are then sent on the the amplifiers and the speakers.
Pre-Amplifiers And Amplifiers
Pre-amplifiers and amplifiers transfer the signals from your record player to the stereo speakers. They are responsible for all of the different sound frequencies you hear, like the treble and the bass.
The speakers they transmit the sound data to are either built into the record player itself or are external and connected via cable. Usually, the amplifier comes in the form of a preamp, but if you have powered speakers (meaning they contain their own amp), you can connect directly to the speakers without the need for a receiver.
In the past, it was common for an audio receiver to have a phono pre-amplifier to boost the audio signals coming from a record player to the same level as a regular audio signal, but modern receivers don’t generally have a preamp.
Some record players have built-in preamps, but if yours does not, you will need to get an external preamp to boost the signal before passing it into a receiver. Dedicated preamps are much better. This post compares internal and standalone preamps.
That said, most audiophiles will tell you that you should always use an external preamp anyway, since it makes for a much better sound quality. Read all about preamplifiers.
Components Of A Record Player: Final Thoughts
Record players might be an old-fashioned technology, but the technology used to build today’s record players is anything but.
Modern record player parts are crafted using the latest technological innovations. As a result, today’s turntable record players deliver sound quality on par with more modern digital technologies, like CD and MP3 players.
Someone On Mars says
This was super helpful.
David Richard says
I got a brand new Fluance rt81 and set it up correctly. However on day 2 after playing three records the turntable suddenly stopped mid song. I’ve unplugged and replugged everything and also opened the rubber band and repositioned it but no luck. The power works but not the turntable.
Hazel Levesque says
You could use more information for the stylus and the actual vinyl records. Aside from that, this article was really informative.
David Richard says
Thanks! I do plan on giving this article an update soon.
Elizabeth Kazmark says
I have a Zenith 1960’s Portable Record Player (Model zp-8L. It works, but the volume is very low, even when you turn up the volume dial. I
Do you know where I can get it fixed in the Western New York area?
Hi, I have an old dynatron SRX 26 record player. I went to change the needle on the Garrard 2025TC player when the tiny plastic bit holding the needle in place -shaped a bit like an x broke. Please tell me what this tiny plastic piece is called?! I tried to glue it but it just disintegrated. The players from the 70’s but I’m sure the tone arm has been replaced as other Garrard 2025TC players have a different tone arm. I would really appreciate your advice.
It’s a tiny fitting inside the tone arm – the bit where you put the needle. Now the needle squashes down when placed on vinyl and doesn’t rest in place. 🙁
David Richard says
I’m not sure, to be honest, but it sounds like it might be part of the cartridge.
I would try asking on a forum, like this one: http://www.vinylengine.com/turntable_forum/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=91498
or this one: https://www.vintage-radio.net/forum/showthread.php?t=78003
or check for parts on a store like this (and perhaps ask them for advice): https://www.pickupnaalden.com/english/record_player_needles.asp?M=Garrard_2025TC_V15-PDE_4747
Bill Jacobson says
An accident destroyed my high quality turn table, and anplifier. I have high quality cable speakers intact. 1 have 3000 classical records. Where do i go to get help
i repair record players and amps, email [email protected] for more info
I have a 1973 model HMV CALYPSO but the 4 speed switch is not working n i dont have a radio to connect. What is the alternative to play it without a radio?
Big Rob says
Where the record sits it technically called the platter or patten. The difference between a turntable and record player is a turntable is part of a component system. A record player has a built in speaker and is more stand alone for playing record with no other components required.
I have a vintage Bush radiogram and the metal rod has vanished, I’m not sure if it’s been removed on purpose but I can’t find it can anyone recommend where I can buy one please?
COLLEEN K DARRELL says
I recently found a Concert Hall record player which his supposed to play 33s and 45s. There is no center metal piece on which to place a vinyl record, but you have to sort of center it on top of the turntable… anyone have any thoughts on this?
bad idea, dont do that, you will damage your records and needle.
What was the part called that you stack records on and drop the next record
ethan g says
i really love the AV Designhaus Derenville VPM 2010-1 please email me if you have a spare