As a guy in my late forties, the record player, turntable as we prefer, is not a new novelty. It’s how I grew up listening to music. It was my introduction to all the great things in life. For me, it never went away. I never threw mine in the trash and went without. There has always been, and will always be, a turntable in my system. In fact, there are no less than 4 of them running in my home. Yes, I’m addicted.
Is it the sound quality? Is it the tactile feel? Is it the pure tangibility? Yes, yes, and yes. There is just something so real and cathartic about a record turning at 33-and-a-third revolutions-per-minute in front of me. I find it very soothing. Unlike a CD, the record doesn’t disappear into the player. It’s a constant visual, turning and giving back to you. It’s therapeutic, somehow.
The sound quality of vinyl is always the subject of much debate. You’ll instantly get the “click and pop” naysayers coming down on you at every dinner table, it seems. Yes, I’ll put a record on and have to deal with some of that sometimes. I’ve always considered it part of the tactile experience. “Keeping it real,” if you will. But then come the sound quality questions – do records really sound that much better?
Here’s the only way I can answer people on that. First, it largely depends on the system you’re listening on – speakers, amplifier, etc. It all makes a difference, of course. Because, a cheap CD player on a cheap system will sound better than a cheap turntable in that same setup. The fidelity just won’t be there. But, a good turntable, through a good system sounds better than just about anything. There, you will hear the difference in fidelity, I assure you. Great, now let’s go blow 10 grand on a turntable, right? Hold up…
Having spent years as a DJ, I used a DJ turntable in my system for a long time. There are several advantages to these tables, such as stability, low rumble factor, durability, and ease of use. One day, however, I was cruising through a stereo store and stumbled across a close-out on a floor model Pro-Ject One. The caveat was there was no power supply with it. I would have to find my own for it. The price was silly good, and I pulled the trigger on it. The power supply was fairly easy to find on eBay, and there I was, all set!
First impressions of the One were just the sleekness of it. It’s very stripped down, basic black, down to business, and dead sexy. The power switch is underneath, and there is no selector for 33 or 45. Instead, this is done by moving the belt from one part of the motor spindle to another. There is no rubber mat, but only a thin piece of felt for the platter. Mine is a bit oval, and (I think) poorly cut. My only bit of complaint about the whole product at all. I will likely buy a cork mat soon, just to experiment with that anyway.
The turntable came stock with a Sumiko Oyster needle and cartridge, and this was worth the price of admission in itself. What a tremendous departure this was from the DJ phono cartridge I had just left behind that morning. It’s going to sound so cliché, but it really was like having a whole new record collection! Right from the first drop of the needle, it was a much more open soundstage, with everything suddenly seeming more rounded, more open, and much more alive. The sibilance didn’t feel so accentuated, and the bass felt much more natural. Oh man… I was becoming hopelessly lost in my record collection all over again.
One thing I was concerned about was noise floor and stability, which were the reasons I had been using a DJ turntable for so long. I’ve been very happy with the Pro-Ject in that regard. Rumble factor seems very low, and the noise floor (what it picks up from its own platter and such) is almost non-existent. I can walk normally through the living room without concern of skipping a record, and there doesn’t seem to be noise picked up into it. However, I am going to have to look into some better isolation, and it will pick up some low-end feedback if I get too far into the volume. I’m sure my laminate floors really don’t help my cause here.
I have found the tracking to be absolutely flawless, which is amazing, since Pro-Ject uses this tiny weight on a little fish line that you have to run through a hook. It requires some patience, and a good set of glasses. The straight tone arm has been just perfect. This has, and continues to, out-perform and outshine its price point! The only flaw on my particular model is that my tone arm lift doesn’t work, so I have to lift my needle manually every time. Since this was a floor model, and a blow-out price, I’m not crying about it.
I see a lot of questions online regarding good entry-level turntables, and I really have to give Pro-Ject my strongest recommendation for this. This particular model has been replaced, but there still is an entry model in their lineup. I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a spin, given what mine has done for me.