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Vintage Record Players

Do you have an interest in old record players? While streaming music may be easier, it can't compete with the warmth of an analog record. Plus, turntables, especially vintage record players, offer history and personality.

The first phonograph was invented by Thomas Edison in the 1870s, and it was improved upon by Alexander Graham Bell under the Volta group in the 1880s. After World War II, the introduction of stereo sound, amplifiers, and loudspeakers made record players more appealing and accessible to people for use in their homes.

Portable record players made before the 1970s are typically described as vintage. These machines may produce monophonic or stereophonic sound when playing records.

What technology is available in vintage turntables?

  • Speed governors: Record players use speed governors to control the rotational speed of the vinyl record on the turntable. This helps ensure the turntable does not go too fast or slow down.
  • Belt drives: Players with belt drives reduce low-frequency rumbles from the movement of the motor rotating the record on the player. The rubberized belt is made of elastomers. This can absorb noise from the record before it reaches the stylus.
  • Direct drives: Portable record players have direct drives that move the plate on which the record sits. The platter of the player functions as the motor armature, providing a flat-and-rotating but stable surface for the record.

What are the features of vintage turntables?

  • Aluminum castings: Aluminum castings on the classic record player minimize vibration at the stylus. This reduces unwanted low-frequency noise so that a classic song sounds like it does on the radio. Players with aluminum castings are not as portable because of the weight of the metal.
  • Arm counterweights: Arm counterweights on the record player reduce oscillation of the arm and stylus. It also minimizes variations in the angle of insertion of the stylus when the vinyl record is being rotated by the turntable.
  • Elliptical stylus: Older record players may have a spherical or elliptical stylus. The stylus is what fits into the groove on the vinyl album when it is played. An elliptical shape is able to fit easily into the V-shaped grooves and pick up on the full range of sounds.

What kinds of records work on vintage turntables?

A vintage record player may be able to play vinyl in the 45 or 33-1/3 formats. Some portable record players need to have a different stylus attached to play more than one type of vinyl.

If the retro turntable was made before 1948, it may be able to play the shellac discs that were common in the 1920s and 1930s. These retro discs were discontinued after World War II because the shellac was imported from Asia.

A portable turntable may also be able to play the audio on a laser disc. These retro discs were designed for use in portable players with HDMI hookups to a television. The audio is transmitted through the turntable, and the visual information is sent into the television.

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