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Retro Record Players for Vinyl

Updated on May 28, 2014

Turntables and vinyl created pop culture.

Ask me where I think pop culture came from and I will answer that it was the records and turntables that did it. The scratchy black vinyl and rumbling turntables that brought people together to hear the latest could create a fan club in seconds.

Playing real records was often a group thing where friends got together and played the records they had brought along. Listening to music was a social thing, and gathering around the stereo was almost like a little ritual.

The records themselves were expensive trophies that you cherished and cared for and sometimes exchanged.

Into image shows the ultra-retro Trumpet turntable with USB and radio.

Many people think pop was/is a single genre of music. Popular music in the 60's was a very different thing from 70's pop, and today's version of it can be almost anything - from teen bands to drum-and-bass, from Cruise to Timberlake, from Nirvana to Lady Gaga.

It isn't the same these days though. Running through a smartphone playlist will never be the same as grabbing your favorite record, extracting it from the crumbling sleeve with cheap art on it and letting it actually spin on the turntable. It actually has to turn to make any sound.

I got my first record player when I was about 12. I clearly remember the first LP record I bought: Frank Zappa's Hot Rats. I had already spent hours staring listening to it at my brother's house but I wanted a copy of my own.

Some people would argue that Zappa's music wasn't pop. I disagree, anything can be pop and anything played on a turntable certainly deserves to be included in the pop culture heritage. Music etched on vinyl was what brought everyone together. This was before smartphones, internet, email and mp3 and the only way to share a tune was to actually carry it over to a friends home.

For someone my age, Zappa was weird but imaginative music and I remember having a sense of wonder at how so many complex sounds could be created by a simple needle moving over etched grooves of black vinyl.

This was back in 1972 and over the years I have owned several turntables. These days, a lot of what I listen to is digital but I really enjoy the retro experience of putting on a scratchy record, opening the sleeve and looking at the pics.

While nothing will be the same as before, some changes are for the better: the quality of even a cheap and simple record player is now often a lot better than what could be afforded before.

A different kind of pop

You can buy a Zappa record or any other "vintage" music today and play the file on your smartphone as you commute to work.. but it will never give you the same experience as true vinyl.

Every time you wanted to listen you had to actually be there, right beside the turntable, with the record in your hand, participating by gently lowering the needle-arm onto the surface, sitting back and waiting for the first beat to hit the speakers. It is a bit like a small ceremony, and the act gave you time to settle down and focus on the music.

Analog Hi-Fi turntable for the audiophile - A quality turntable to match a high-end stereo

hifi analog turntable
hifi analog turntable

I am happy that record players are getting popular again. For some it might be a kitschy prop, others might get one for nostalgic reasons. Getting one of these is something you do for the audio quality. Not cheap but quality costs.

Excellent Audio Pro-Ject Carbon turntable

Put the needle in the groove - A bestselling performer

I still marvel at the thought that a diamond edged needle can create magic as it runs through a miniature trench, and that every bump and fall through that uneven terrain actually converts into a unique sound.

Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable in Silver
Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable in Silver

One of the best modern turntables ever made.

Connect it to your sound system or plug it into your computer. Has built-in pre-amp and comes with software for Mac and PC.

This thing isn't cheap but it builds on the same mechanical principles as the best players from before.

retro modern portable record player
retro modern portable record player

Hard Edges and Soft Pops

Hard sound.

Digital is just combinations of yes or no translated into sound by software. Digital has no physical connection and is just hard and soulless entertainment. It seldom fails, or surprises and if you ask me, it gets dull. Too quick, too easy, and much too perfect.

When digital media becomes faulty it doesn't create anything except stressful repetitions of a single note ad-infinitum.. or silence. At the very least it makes you mad, because digital is supposed to be perfect!

Soothing vibes.

A vinyl groove on the other hand is utterly complex. It has ups and downs, sideways bumps, narrow and wide trenches and hordes of contaminating specs of dust cluttering the surface.

As the diamond head comes rushing through the groove and crashes into the debris, actual sound is created. A sound that may never be the same again on the next run!

Imperfection is art and the scratch and buzz of a true record is part of the analog experience.

Analog is soft, organic, human. Get this: to play a tune, you actually have to handle the music!

Nothing beats the real thing. The technology for playing back micro-groove vinyl plates goes all the way back to 1877 and Edison's first phonograph. With vinyl .. you just knew something was always going to happen, some new sound, a tic or a buzz or even skipping whole grooves.. it was part of the whole thing - it was never the same 2 days in a row.

That made you listen, not just hear, but reeeally listen to what you were playing.

I have been studying Ebay listings for records lately and there is a huge amount of really good stuff that can be had for cheap. When it comes to starting your own music collection, Ebay always has a lot to offer.

Wikipedia image

What is pop to you?

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    • profile image

      dellgirl 4 years ago

      It's playing the GOOD part of the record over and over (back when you had to move the needle/arm by hand) until you made a groove in the record. We ruined many records doing just that, but we just went out and bought another one.

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      The music that I enjoyed as a kid, and still enjoy today.