The turntable is an audio equipment staple for many audiophiles. Inexpensive models can be found at grocery stores and thrift shops, while high-end ones sell for thousands of dollars. However, these devices are often neglected in the continuous quest to buy the next great piece of hi-fi gear.
If you’re considering a new purchase or want to give your current one a breath of fresh air, we’ve put together this post about how to upgrade your turntable. From spinning platters and better plinths to arm rests and cartridges, we’ve gathered all the best ideas from around the web so you can rule your listening sessions in style!
Table of Contents
Why Upgrade is Important?
Why upgrade your turntable? It’s true that buying a new turntable can save you money, while also giving you the thrill of new technology. But the real reason to upgrade is this: it will make your listening sessions better.
The little tweaks that can be made to your old turntable can make a significant difference in how it sounds, and will make your vinyl collection sound even more vibrant.
The good news is that most of the products discussed in this article are inexpensive or easily installed yourself. So what are you waiting for? Get to upgrading!
How to Upgrade a Turntable:
In order to make your audio equipment last, you need to upgrade it every few years. This is necessary because of technological advances that prevent quality sound from being heard through old pieces of audio equipment.
While an old turntable will sound just as good as a new one if maintained, there are a few simple upgrades that you can perform to improve your listening experience.
1. Replacing the Cartridge and Stylus:
A turntable cartridge is very important as it holds the stylus. If the stylus is too large for the groove in the vinyl record, it will have difficulty playing back music from it correctly. If it is too small, the music may skip and be hard to hear. If either of these occurs, opening your turntable and replacing the cartridge and stylus will solve the issue.
2. Replacing the Platter:
The platter is another important piece within a turntable, as it carries the record as it plays. It should be made of a material that provides the proper amount of resistance so that your tone-arm can move smoothly across it without causing skipping. The two most common choices for platters are acrylic and steel. If you want to upgrade your turntable, you can find new platters made of hi-tech materials like glass and carbon-fiber.
3. Upgrading the Tonearm:
The tonearm is the mechanism within the turntable that holds the cartridge and stylus. Because there are so many different models of tonearms, only a few options are available when upgrading. Two of the most common upgrades include changing to more advanced counterweights and replacing bent wire styli with flexible styli that curve more easily through vinyl grooves.
4. Adjusting the Tracking Force:
The tracking force within a turntable describes the amount of pressure applied to the stylus by the tone-arm. This is measured in grams and is usually somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 grams. If your tracking force is too high, you will hear more surface noise and potentially damage your vinyl records.
If it’s too low, you’ll hear skipping while listening to your favorite songs. When adjusting your tracking force, you should also replace your stylus or cartridge if either has been damaged or worn out due to heavy use. Though this usually isn’t necessary, if the tone-arm’s structure has been damaged, this may be required. You can find replacement parts for these easily online or locally.
5. Replacing the Platter Pads:
The platter pads are made of a material that provides resistance to the stylus so you can play your records correctly. These are relatively cheap to replace and allow you to play your vinyl records at their fullest potential once again.
6. Replacing the Tonearm Stem/Flanges:
The tonearm rests on the record player’s plinth, which keeps it secure and stable during rotation. You can upgrade this with metal components like bushings, bearings, and pipes. Replacing the tonearm will provide smoother playback and less wear on your records.
7. Upgrading the Stylus Assembly:
The stylus assembly is the fundamental part of your turntable that holds the cartridge and stylus. You can replace these if their screws are stripped or if their various parts need replacing for various reasons.
These parts include pins, balls, suspension points, filters, coils and magnets, just to name a few of them! You can also adjust the height of the tonearm to prevent it from skipping during playback.
8. Replacing the Plinth and Dust Cover:
The plinth is the base of your turntable and it works with the platter to provide a foundation for your tone-arm assembly on. There are many different materials that you can find when upgrading your turntable, such as aluminum, plastic, wood and even marble! The dust cover on a turntable is made of plastic so it will need to be replaced if it has cracks or is showing signs of wear.
9. Replacing the Tone-Arm and Replacement Parts:
The tone-arm is used to hold the cartridge and stylus and allows you to move your tonearm back and forth within the record player. When upgrading your tone-arm, you can replace the bearings with heavier ones to help prevent skipping. When replacing your tone-arm, you should also replace the arm rest and level arm so it is correctly positioned. These parts are relatively cheap to replace and will dramatically improve the quality of your sound.
10. Upgrading Your Turntable’s Construction:
Not only do turntables get worn down over time, but it can also be possible for them to break if they are not well constructed! Either way, you need to occasionally upgrade these components in order to get the most out of your record player.
The next time you’re in the market for a cheaper turntable, think about purchasing one with an upgradeable design. This is probably the best way to save money on future upgrades, as it allows you to start out with an affordable model and build upon it as time goes on. As always, make sure to check out the links posted above if you need any guidance with your own upgrade projects!
Turntables are just one form of vinyl player available. If you are looking for something different check out some of these home audio systems that play your favorite records for maximum listening pleasure.
Q: What upgrades can I make to my turntable?
A: Small upgrades can be made to your platter, cartridge, belt, oil, cables, and modifications to your tonearm. Most upgrades fit 95% of turntable brands.
Q: What makes a good quality turntable?
A: By this I mean your turntable is of a certain quality standard with a proper tone arm and counter weight, and the ability to upgrade your cartridge. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive turntable, but it should at least fall under the good quality budget turntables (and above) category.
Q: How can I improve the sound quality of my cartridge?
A: Upgrading your cartridge will deliver the fastest and most obvious upgrade in sound quality. Many upgrade guides start with isolation, record clamps, and other bolt-on upgrades, but in my experience, these amount to nothing if the first point of contact with your records isn’t what it should be. Get the input source right and you’re half way there.
Q: Does turntable Resonance Affect sound quality?
A: At such a tiny scale, any resonance that makes its way through the turntable feet and platter are bound to have a big impact on tracking, and ultimately sound quality. In the worst possible case scenario, your turntable and speakers are on the same surface.