Straight Talk About Cheap Turntables

This time of year lots of folks are buying record players, either for themselves or to give as a gift.  There are all kinds of audiophile-grade models to choose from, often selling for thousands of dollars.  But that’s not what we’re going to talk about now.  The fact is, most first-time buyers are looking for something quite a bit cheaper, generally under $100.  There are plenty of choices.  Unfortunately, most of them will end in disappointment.

IMG_3157The market has been flooded with cheap machines that will indeed play a record, but not do a very good job of it.  Many of them look like little suitcases.  Some are in fancy wood cabinets, and some include CD players.   Some brand names are Crosley, Ion, Jensen, Victrola, Boytone, Studebaker, Innovative Technology, and the above-pictured Funkyfonic (not at our store!)  But no matter how they’re packaged, and what brand name they carry, they all use the same basic mechanism and probably come out of the same few factories.  The main selling point of these players, besides the low price, is that they are self-contained units with the amplifier and speakers built in.  They are simple to set up and operate.  The bad part is that they have poor sound quality, will prematurely wear out your records, and will often skip on currently-issued vinyl pressings, even records that are brand new.  They are not built to last and usually not worth the cost of repair if they break.

These players almost always have two characteristics which make them easy to spot: the rotating platter on which the record sits is made of plastic and is usually about 8 inches in diameter, too small to fully support a standard record; and the tonearm is not counterbalanced and uses what is known as a “ceramic” cartridge with a stylus (needle) mostly made of red plastic.  For kids these players are ok.  But anyone who plans to build a record collection, particularly of current music, will soon want to upgrade to something better.

The alternative costs a little more but is worth it.  We’re big fans of the Audio-Technica LP60 turntable.  This is a component turntable, which means that the amp and speakers are not built in.   This is actually a good thing.  It can easily be connected to any existing audio system the same way one would connect a CD player or MP3 player.  It can work with something as simple as a pair of powered computer speakers, or as complex as a home theater system or a traditional stereo.  It’s a basic entry-level turntable but a solid performer, with nice features including automatic tonearm cueing and return, full-size metal platter, and a magnetic (rather than ceramic) cartridge.  It won’t tear up your records.  Right now we have it on sale for $99, a great value.  We also have USB and Bluetooth versions of this turntable which cost a bit more.

13438858_10153885879591891_2152808576591028985_nIf you want to step up in features and quality, there are several good turntables available in the $200-$400 range.  These offer better build quality and will play records with greater fidelity, more stable speed and less wear to the record.

“But wait,” you ask, “don’t you guys sell Crosleys?”  Yes, we do.  The fact that these are simple, self-contained record players make them a good choice for kids, or anyone who just wants to listen to those old records Aunt Sally gave them but who isn’t particularly interested in getting serious about collecting vinyl.  We carry the Crosley brand because they’ve been in the record player business for a long time, they have good customer service if something goes wrong, and as a bonus they’re based in Louisville. (Crosley also sells some better-quality turntables too at a higher price point).

Bottom line for gift shoppers: if you’re buying for a young person who just has a casual interest in vinyl, a Crosley might be the way to go.  If buying for grown-ups, consider a component turntable.  Whatever you do, skip the big box stores or online sellers and buy it at a record store where you can get knowledgeable advice and service.

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New Releases — December 9, 2016

The Last Shadow Puppets – The Dream Synopsis CDEP/12” (Domino)
The Last Shadow Puppets — Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner & Miles Kane — return with a follow up EP to this year’s studio album Everything You’ve Come To Expect. The EP compiles studio recordings of new versions of EYCTE tracks “Aviation” and “The Dream Synopsis” as well as covers of Leonard Cohen, Jacques Dutronc, The Fall, and Glaxo Babies performed in the band’s live sets this past year.

Buck Owens And The Buckeroos – The Complete Capitol Singles: 1957-1966 2xCD (Omnivore)
Taken from the original mono, single reels, The Complete Capitol Singles: 1957-1966 collects all 56 sides from that period, including 13 #1’s, in their original and chronological form, newly remastered, and featuring liner notes from Buck’s autobiography (written with Randy Poe), plus an introduction by Dwight Yoakam.

Post Malone – Stoney CD (Republic)
Debut album from the multi-platinum Dallas, TX rapper. Stoney contains additional production from DJ Mustard, FKi, Illangelo, Pharrell, and others. Justin Bieber appears on album track “Déjà Vu.” Available in Regular and Deluxe editions. Deluxe adds four bonus tracks. “A lot of cool sh*t on there,” he said.

Soundtrack – Hairspray LIVE! Original Soundtrack Of The NBC Television [OST] Event CD (Masterworks Broadway)
Hairspray LIVE! stars exciting newcomer Maddie Baillio, Dove Cameron, Kristin Chenoweth, Garrett Clayton, Harvey Fierstein (recreating his Tony Award-winning performance), Ariana Grande, Derek Hough, Jennifer Hudson, Martin Short, Ephraim Sykes and Shahadi Wright Joseph, with special appearances by Billy Eichner, Sean Hayes, Andrea Martin and Rosie O’Donnell. Based on the Tony and Grammy Award-winning Broadway musical, Hairspray LIVE! takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Continue reading

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Top Selling Music, Week of Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2016

1. Rolling Stones- Blue & Lonesome
2. Johnny Conqueroo- Washed Up
3. Weeknd- Starboy
4. Childish Gambino- Awaken My Love
5. Leonard Cohen- You Want It Darker
6. Sturgill Simpson- A Sailor’s Guide To Earth
7. Metallica- Hardwired To Self Destruct
8. Pink Floyd- Cre/ation: The Early Years
9. Jim James- Eternally Even
10. Hamilton Mixtape- Various Artists

1. Metallica- Hardwired To Self Destruct
2. Rolling Stones- Blue & Lonesome
3. Afghan Whigs- Black Love (RSD)
4. Angel Olsen- Burn Your Fire For No Witness
5. Pink Floyd- Dark Side Of The Moon
6. Kanye West- College Dropout
7. Smiths- The Queen Is Dead
8. Fleetwood Mac- Greatest Hits
9. Sesame Street- Sesame Road (RSD)
10. Dennis Coffey- Hot Coffey In The D

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New Releases — December 2, 2016

Avenged Sevenfold – The Best Of 2005-2013 2xCD (WB)
18 songs from Avenged Sevenfold’s best-selling Warner Bros. albums released between 2005 and 2013 including City Of Evil, Avenged Sevenfold, Nightmare and Hail To The King. The package also features a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, originally on the tribute album Covered, A Revolution In Sound as well as two original songs that Avenged Sevenfold wrote for video games: “Carry On” (Call Of Duty II) and “Not Ready To Die” (Call Of The Dead).

Kate Bush – Before The Dawn 3xCD/4xLP (Concord)
This three-act show contains many well-known Kate Bush songs along with two song suites: “The Ninth Wave” from Hounds Of Love and “A Sky of Honey,” from Aerial. The New York Times called the performance “Dense, cathartic and physical.” NME concluded: “It is no ordinary artist that can tackle life, death, synchronicity, identity, spiritual transformation, empathy and the chaos of relationships with idiosyncratic ease in the space of a few hours,” and the UK’s Independent gushed, “Undoubtedly the most ambitious, and genuinely moving piece of theatrical pop ever seen on a British stage.”

Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love! CD (Glassnote)
In a recent interview with Billboard, 33-year-old rapper Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) explained the overall feel of his new album, Awaken, My Love!, was sourced from childhood memories of listening to his father’s favorite music. “I remember listening to songs my dad would play – albums by the Isleys or Funkadelic – and not understanding the feeling I was feeling,” Gambino says. “I remember hearing a Funkadelic scream and being like, ‘Wow, that’s sexual and it’s scary.’ Not having a name for that, though; just having a feeling. That’s what made it great.” Gambino went on to say he approached Awaken as “an exercise in just feeling and tone.” He also summarized how some people felt in the 1970s and compares it to what’s going on around the world today. “It felt like people were trying to get out of their minds, with all the things that were happening – and that are happening right now,” Gambino said. “How do you start a global revolution, really? Is that possible with the systems we’ve set up? There’s something about that ’70s black music that felt like they were trying to start a revolution.” Continue reading

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Top Selling Music, Week of Nov. 21-27, 2016

1. Johnny Conqueroo- Washed Up
2. A Tribe Called Quest- We Got It From Here
3. Leonard Cohen- You Want It Darker
4. Bruno Mars- 24K Magic
5. Afghan Whigs- Black Love
6. Highly Suspect- Boy That Died Wolf
7. Ghost- Popestar
8. Gillian Welch- Boots No.1: Official Revival Bootleg
9. Miranda Lambert- Weight Of These Wings
10. Nine Pound Hammer- Bluegrass Conspiracy

1. Bob Dylan- Real Royal Albert Hall Concert 1966
2. Alice In Chains- Live – Facelift
3. Death Grips- Fashion Week
4. Ramones- Live At The Roxy 1976
5. Amanda Palmer- Strung Out In Heaven: Bowie String Quartet Tribute
6. South Park: Mr Hankey’s Christmas Classics
7. Jerry Garcia- Reflections
8. Otis Redding- Live At The Whiskey A-Go-Go
9. Twenty One Pilots- Blurryface Live
10. Sesame Street- Sesame Road

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