There are two typical setups to help you listen to your records:
First, and most popularly, is the traditional system of turntable, amp & speakers. What we call The Classic Setup.
The other simpler way combines the amplifier inside the speakers, so there is just a turntable & powered speakers. We call this The Slimline Setup.
But first, let's get you up-to-speed on these 5 equally important components that are necessary to get you going:
1:Turntable 2:Phono Pre-Amp 3:Amplifier 4:Speakers 5:Cables
1. The turntable = The Music
When you play a record the styli (needle) on the end of the turntable's tonearm sits in the grooves of the record and picks up the vibrations created by little hills and valleys in the groove on the left and right channels of these grooves.
Those vibrations are then transformed into a tiny signal through the cartridge and travels through the tonearm and out through the cables.
Better turntables pick up more information through a better designed cartridge and tonearm and provide better isolation from all possible sources of interference. Interference can be physical, such as motor vibration - or electrical.
2. The Phono Pre-Amplifier = Booster
The Phono preamp is a component that boosts that tiny, weak signal from the turntable and converts it to a line level signal, the equivalent signal strength of, say, a CD player. Basically it jacks up the volume so you are able to hear it.
Without this phono stage you will hear pretty much nothing, even when you max out the volume.
Back in the good ol days every amplifier had a phono stage built in, however since CDs became a thing, many companies looking to reduce the cost of manufacturing stopped putting them on board.
But luckily now vinyl is back again (some would say it never went away)! You can find this phono pre-amp either in the amplifier, built into the turntable, or as an external device.
So depending on what kind of amplifier you are using and how much room you’ve got, you may need to make a decision on what kind of pre-amp you might need.
3. THE AMPLIFIER = the power
The purpose of an amplifier is to receive the electrical signal from your source, in this case your turntable, and boosts that signal and forwards that signal on to your speakers which will use it to recreate the music.
Amplifiers have three basic connections: inputs from the source, an output to the speakers, and a source of power from the wall socket.
There are many types of amplifiers for different purposes. More channels are useful for surround sound, but music is mostly about just two channels. Good old stereo - you can't beat a great two channel system for music!
The more power the amplifier produces the better performance you will get from your speakers. Its a good rule of thumb to invest in an amp roughly around the same price as speakers, generally you'll find its a good match of amplifier power output to speaker ability.
Oh,and let’s dispel one popular myth right here and now. More speakers are damaged by trying to match them with an amp that has too little power, than an amp with "too much”. You can never have too much power!
4. The Speakers = the sound
These guys convert the electrical signal back into sound waves by vibrating their “drivers" back and forth to reproduce sound frequencies in the air.
Bigger cabinets generally mean that the speakers reproduce lower bass notes more effectively. But of course, it’s popular now to keep everything small. The subwoofer is probably the latest real innovation in speaker technology that has allowed this trend of smaller speakers to thrive without compromising too much on sound quality.
However, all things being equal, it is generally true to say that in speaker world, “bigger IS better!”
5: The Cables = the connection
There you have it, now you have taken the journey from the turntable to your ears.
All you need do now is relax and let the music take a hold of you!
So in a nutshell spinning your wax comes from all them Gooood, Good, Good... Good Vibrations…