HiFi Setup

How Much Should a Record Player Cost?

Whether it’s your first time diving into vinyl records, or you’ve been a vinyl enthusiast for years, shelling out for a record player can be equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. Figuring out how much should a record player cost while still prioritizing sound quality is a tightrope walk indeed. Luckily, with the resurging popularity of vinyl, there are a lot of options to choose from. So you can easily find a brand and model in your price range.


While there’s no one-size-fits all answer to the question of how much you should spend on a record player, there are a handful of factors to consider, and pros and cons to go over. So let’s dive into the basic price range for vinyl record players, and where your money matters most.


What’s the difference between a turntable and a record player?

A lot of people use the words “turntable” and “record player” interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two. 


A turntable is the platter, tonearm, and cartridge that all work together to play your favorite album. It refers to the connected components that directly touch, hold, and read the record grooves of your vinyl.


A record player is an all-in-one unit that includes a turntable, but also a preamp, amplifier, and built-in speakers. Basically, with a record player you don’t need to buy or connect any external components in order to listen to your music.


For beginners, starting with a record player instead of a turntable that requires its own phono preamp and hi-fi stereo speakers might be the way to go. But it all depends on what you want from your set-up, and the actual model itself.


What are the pros and cons of buying an inexpensive turntable? 

Turntables can get very expensive, very fast. While budget-friendly options can start as low as $50 or $100, good quality mid-range turntables easily run from $300-$700, and high-quality turntables for audiophiles can easily exceed $2,000. So, you may be wondering, is there any harm with springing for cheap record players instead of the more cost prohibitive options?


The answer isn’t so straightforward. If your option is to choose between a discount turntable, or nothing at all, then cheaper is no doubt the way to go! Introducing yourself to the joys of an analog listening experience is worth it, even if the initial playback isn’t top quality. Learning that you love browsing the local record store for vinyl is an incredible feeling, and once you learn more about that world it’s easier to find discounts on great quality gear. 


There is a simplicity to a cheap record player since all the components are there. All you need to do is put an album on, and let it play. Because everything’s built in, you don’t have to worry about adjusting the tracking force or replacing the turntable cartridge, since that’s not possible.


There’s a reason suitcase record players are one of the most common picks for music fans on a budget. The set-up is all there, it’s portable, and all you have to do is pick which record you want to throw on for a spin.


However, the major con is that low-end record players are far more likely to damage the vinyl. While the best turntables will have a quality drive system and a good platter, affordable turntables are often limited in this way, and have a built-in amp, which means you can never upgrade the source of your sound.


Similarly, an expensive turntable is likely to have a carbon tonearm you can replace or update if needed, while a cheap model might have a plastic tonearm that’s not adjustable. The difference in tonearm and stylus quality can directly affect the shelf-life of your records, since the needle is what makes contact with your record grooves. Any damage or misalignment can create scratches on your records, and since you can’t adjust a cheap record player, you’re left to either deal with the fallout or shell out for an entirely new record player. So, even on a budget, it’s more affordable in the long-term to go for the best record player available. In some cases, checking for a slightly used retro model as your entry-level turntable is a better move than getting a new cheap one.


What part should you get for more money? 

If you’re buying separate components, you may be wondering what parts of the record player you should spend the most money on. Luckily, when it comes to this question, the answer is simple. Whether you’re still blasting a cd player, or you’re cueing up the belt-drive turntable, you’ll want to spend the most money on the source itself. Even if you have the most high-quality powered speakers in the game, if the stereo turntable playing your music is bad quality, you won’t be able to salvage the sound.


If you have the best turntable you can afford, then the model of your turntable cartridge will produce quality sound. Whether you have space efficient bookshelf speakers or a massive stereo system, the source of your sound is going to be the most deciding factor when it comes to what you hear.


What are the components worth investing in?

If you want the best sound possible, it’s definitely worth investing in the best components out there. No matter what model you land on, springing for a dust cover (like the Cover it E from Pro-Ject USA) is going to help protect your turntable from a lot of potential dust and long-term damage. 


Just as the source itself is of utmost importance, so is the upkeep of your turntable cartridge and stylus. In general, it’s recommended that you replace your stylus after 1,000 hours of listening. Depending on how much you listen, this could mean yearly or once every few years. Since this is the component that directly touches your record, you’ll want to go for a high-quality replacement cartridge (the Oyster Series from Sumiko is top notch) in order to extend the life of your collection.


While less sexy sounding, the quality of your rca cables also make a huge difference for your sound quality. If you have low-quality rca output, that can cause distortion and interference. But if you have high-quality rca cables (like the Pro-ject Audio Connect It Model Phono RCA on Amazon), then you’ll have a deeper soundstage and a low risk of humming.


In reality, the more you can invest in all components of your listening area, the better your sound will be. The easiest way to figure out the hierarchy of where your money goes is to start at the source of the turntable, which parts are replaceable on there (the stylus, the cartridge), and then prioritize the phono preamp (we recommend the Phono Box DC from Pro-ject USA) next, since a bad phono preamp connection can affect what you’ll hear through the speakers regardless of speaker quality. Your amplifier quality comes after the preamp, and the speakers, in this specific ordering of components, come last.


This isn’t to say that speaker quality doesn’t make a difference, it definitely does! But more that, the source and translation of the sound itself will be the initial defining factor. So if you have to spend more, spend it closer to the turntable itself.


The different types of turntables


Now that we’ve gone over the basics of pricing, and what components demand the most money, we’ve arrived at the fun part: the types of turntables. Regardless of budget, there are two basic types: direct drive turntables and belt drive turntables. 


In a belt drive turntable (like the Pro-ject Debut Carbon DC), the motor is connected to the platter via an elastic belt. The platter sits on a bearing that is distanced away from the motor. One pro of this design is that the elastic belt helps absorb shocks and protects the platter from catching shaky vibrations from the motor. The isolation of the motor can also result in less noise transmission to the tonearm.


The con is that belt drive turntables have lower torque, which means DJs can’t use them. Also, the belt can eventually wear down and require replacement. Another pro though, is that the turntable from High Fidelity was a belt drive.


Direct drive turntables are the most commonly used by DJs. The motor sits right under the platter, which allows for more precise speed control and the sensitivity a DJ can work with. The major pro is that these models have higher torque, consistent speeds and are less sensitive to outside forces.


The con is that the motor’s proximity to the platter can sometimes affect sound quality, so it’s advisable to invest in shock absorbers.


Another factor to consider is if you want a manual or automatic turntable (like the A1 from Pro-ject USA). An automatic turntable lifts the tonearm out of the resting position and gently lowers it onto the record at the right spot. After it’s done playing, it lifts it back up and shuts the turntable off. With a manual turntable (like Pro-ject USA’s Signature 12), you guessed it, you’ll be the one to lift the tonearm and lower it gently onto the record. 


The major pro to an automatic is that you don’t have to worry about finding the right spot yourself, but the con can be slightly less amazing sound quality since there are attachments on the tonearm. The pro to a manual is improved sound quality, so long as you’re comfortable doing the work.


To bluetooth or not to bluetooth, that is yet another one of the questions. In the digital era, having bluetooth connectivity in your hi-fi set-up can be majorly appealing. There are bluetooth record players (like the PS-LX310BT from Sony) and bluetooth receivers specifically designed to combine the convenience of bluetooth with the analog joys of vinyl. If you use bluetooth headphones and work around the house, being able to listen to records through your headphones can be a game changer. 


Similarly, if you use bluetooth speakers, you can connect them to your turntable to play without worrying about cords. Bluetooth is generally compatible with most entry-level turntables, but when it comes to high-quality set-ups, it can diminish the sound quality. Because of this, many of the most high-end audiophile turntables don’t allow for bluetooth connectivity at all. 


How Much a Record Player Costs Depends on You

At the end of the day, it’s your choice how much you spend on a turntable, which parts you sink the most into, and what type you buy. Your budget, available space, and personal priorities are all going to shape your relationship with vinyl. The most important thing is you’re enjoying the medium.

are cds worth anything pile of discs

Are CDs Worth Anything: What to Know Before You Dump your Discs

It’s not uncommon for some of us to have folders of CDs gathering dust, especially with music services like Spotify making on-demand music an easy proposition. If you're wondering "are CDs worth anything", you should know there's a lot of value in those old CDs, especially if you’re an audiophile. These days, some streaming services are losing their luster – with some famous artists like Neil Young taking down entire catalogs.


Additionally, in the purely streamed digital formats, music that was designed with analog listeners in mind starts to lose some of the richness inherent in older formats. This ranges from older Eminem tracks to those classics from legends like Bob Dylan. Before you opt to dump or sell your old CDs, consider that CD sales are experiencing a resurgence, and there are plenty of reasons to embrace the format.


Are Old CDs Worth Anything?

Not everything makes it to the streaming services. For example, there are tons of valuable CDs from the Rolling Stones and other famous acts, which have yet to make it to the Pandoras, Spotifys, and Amazon Prime Musics of the world. Some underrated compilations from your favorite artists may be missing but quickly found at your local record store in the CD section. Additionally, if you opt to one day resell, some of these rare CD pressings can easily be worth some nice cash on the resale market.


Are CDs Worth Anything?: Reasons to Keep Listening to CDs

While some may consider resale, it’s a good idea to hold on to your older CDs, especially if you’re a fan of audio quality. CDs also have numerous other benefits for those looking for a strong audio format, so here are a few of those to consider:


You Can Listen to Them Anywhere

Any New York City resident will tell you that the music streaming services aren’t always compatible with mass transit. There’s typically minimal cell service on the subway, so you have to listen to music offline. Modern CD players have stronger audio quality than cassettes, and they are also readily available for not much cash. Their versatility isn’t limited to underground travel either; you can listen to your CD collection on the go when taking a flight or whenever you’re traveling through an area without much internet service.


New CD Players Have Become Very Impressive

CD Box DS3 Silver Close-Up

First things first, if you’re playing your music on an old Sony Discman from 95’, you’re doing yourself a major disfavor. These older devices are inclined to skipping, and as lasers age, they become less precise, so sound quality will undoubtedly suffer. Newer players have many bells and whistles simply not present in old generation CD players. The most important for your listening experience is the digital to analog converter, known as the DAC.


DACs are incredibly useful for discerning music fans. These internal circuitry devices cut down jitter, which improves the timing of digital audio. DACs take digital data, change it into analog audio, and push the music to the amplifier. These devices are the chief reason why compact discs approach the sonic quality of vinyl. These circuits are common in most new players, and they can easily be found in electronic stores or Amazon.


Additionally, CD transports, like Pro-Ject’s CD Box RS2 T, make bringing CDs with you very simple. These couple well with DAC-enabled devices so that you can achieve high-end sound quality.


You Can Find Some Real Gems Almost Anywhere

Just take a walk around the neighborhood, and you can easily come across a garage sale with an array of used CDs from legends like Michael Jackson and Prince. On top of that, eBay, your local record store, and the web, in general, are excellent options for expanding your collection. These vintage pressings and promo discs will usually be much cheaper than the barcode indicates, and you can also use sites like Discogs to look into your latest finds or find more CDs to augment your collection. 


CD Sound Quality is Better than the Streaming Services

With the advent of the DAC, music recorded in an analog format and converted to digital for the CD-making process becomes much closer to the original recording. Artists like Coldplay, Pearl Jam, and David Bowie recorded music with a warm analog sound in mind. While vinyl records maintain that sound, the sound experience post-DAC on a CD player is definitely comparable. Unfortunately, the sound quality on streamers like Spotify and Prime Music isn’t nearly as high-quality, especially if you don’t know your way around the equalizer settings.


New CDs are Being Produced with Great Success

Besides rare CDs and used CDs found in record stores, famous artists are still using the medium in recent years. In fact, according to Billboard, thanks to recent CDs from Taylor Swift and Adele, CD sales are on the upswing. This is a clear indicator that music listeners are looking for more traditional formats for their listening experience. This is even happening with vinyl, which recently saw its biggest week since 1991.


CDs Provide the Intended Experience


One of the chief weaknesses of music presented on a streaming service is how disjointed the experience can be. While it’s nice to have an on-demand listening style, in many cases, albums are designed to be listened to in a sequence. This experience is completely lost unless you go out of your way to listen to an album track-by-track on Spotify or a similar service. This is especially problematic with larger projects like box sets. With a CD, all you have to do is press play and relax.


Don’t Underestimate the Value of a Good CD

compact discs

With formats like Blu-Ray starting to show signs of age, some dismiss the viability of older compact discs. Still, disc sales are growing, and there’s nothing quite like listening to your vintage Slim Shady EP, the Rolling Stones’ Steel Wheels Japan Tour, or the Safety EP on a disc format.

If you're still wondering "are CDs worth anything", remember that there’s nothing like holding your music in hand, which is why CDs aren’t going anywhere soon. 

pro-ject slipmat turntable

All about Turntable Isolation: How to Block the Noise

When it comes to audio playback, a vinyl turntable tends to require more upkeep than other audio systems. You have to maintain the stylus, engage in the occasional vinyl record cleaning, and you need to replace components from time to time. Still, when it comes to the aural experience, many audiophiles feel that the effort is well worth it. One of the most important aspects of maintaining sound quality with a vinyl system is turntable isolation, to keep your record player from unwanted vibrations.


Why Turntable Isolation is Critical

Vibration isolation is a major buzz term amongst vinyl enthusiasts in record stores and online forums, and for good reason. When there’s too much vibration, it’s easy for the stylus of your player to become misaligned, which will adversely affect the record playback. Have you ever played your records and heard low-frequency acoustic feedback when someone walked into the room? Has your table been nudged to the point where the record skipped? Poor isolation is the cause.


The vibrations caused by everyday life sometimes adversely affect the sound quality of your vinyl systems. Fortunately, accessories like turntable isolation platforms will ensure that these unwanted vibrations won’t affect your overall listening experience.


Causes of Turntable Vibration

Ideally, if you live in a newer home, strong floors won’t carry much vibration. Floors made of concrete or other hard materials will ensure that nothing will cause vibration issues with your turntable’s playback. Still, not everyone lives in one of these homes/apartments. Materials like hardwood, especially as it ages, are poor at vibration control, which is why some need some form of sound isolation for their systems. Here are a few causes of acoustic feedback and vibration in cases like these:



A roommate or family member merely walking around either in another room or the same room as the turntable can easily cause vibration. For DJs, simply moving away from the table to adjust settings on the preamp or going for a quick drink can easily cause issues with vibration control, thanks to weak or springy floors.


Closed/Opened Doors

Doors don’t have to be slammed to affect the playback of your vinyl records. The mere closing or opening of a door can cause vibrations that lead to playback issues on your turntable.


Interference from Other Devices

This is a major issue for vinyl enthusiasts because the surfaces that are home to record players also tend to have a variety of other devices, which cause vibrations. A CD player, which is prone to vibration issues, also causes vibrations that will throw off playback on a turntable. Even audio equipment like digital to analog converters (DACs) and phono preamps can cause unwanted vibrations.


Still, the most common causes of vibration interference are larger devices like speakers, amplifiers, and subwoofers. These tend to produce significant vibration as music is played, which the turntable will pick up. Speakers also move air, and at loud volumes, the mere air being pushed by a speaker system will cause vibrations that could affect the listening experience.


Internal Causes

Not every instance of turntable vibration is caused by external sources. Sometimes, the motor in the turntable starts to vibrate. Additionally, bearings and belts may also cause this issue. When this is the case, you may have to replace the components or the device itself – even with the best turntable wears down with time.


Another internal component that could cause vibration is the tonearm itself. High-speed ripple effects in the structure of the component can easily cause the cartridge to move in a way that causes poor audio performance. This is usually a result of a design flaw, and to fix it, you’ll have to replace the tonearm.


How to Implement Turntable Isolation Against Vibrationtube box preamp with debut carbon evo

Just because your turntable is prone to resonance artifacts as a result of any of these causes doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy artifact-free playback. As mentioned before, a turntable isolation platform is a great way to ensure that vibration doesn’t ruin your listening experience. For example, Pro-Ject’s Ground it E is an adjustable platform for turntables that actively damps external vibrations to maintain sonic performance.


Here are a few alternative methods for vibration control to consider.

Cork Isolation Pads

In most cases, isolation feet that utilize cork as a component typically use other materials, like rubber, to ensure traction and optimized vibration negation. These aren’t always exclusively designed with

turntables in mind, but the spongy material is 100% natural and really will dampen any vibrations along the surface of your table or platform.


These pads also benefit from being very lightweight, so if you have to lug your equipment from gig to gig, you won’t have to put in much extra effort to carry this pad around. Typically, you find these on Amazon and work well to minimize the subtractive resonances of excess vibrations based on many customer reviews there.


Bamboo Pads

Another 100% natural, anti-vibration material to consider is bamboo. Some call these pads or platforms butcher block acoustics because of their square wooden design. Typically, these use naturally shock-absorbing bamboo slats to dampen external vibrations. You can use a bamboo chopping board to a similar effect for those looking for a do-it-yourself solution. This type of isolation system is also low profile and looks very attractive with a vintage player.


This material also serves as a practical option for those looking for vibration-absorbent speaker stands, even for heavy-weight speakers. With a bamboo block, the physical vibration emanating from your speakers won’t affect your turntable directly, but it could still experience vibrations from the pushed air.


Sorbothane Isolation Pads

Sorbothane, a proprietary, viscoelastic polymer material, is an excellent material for those looking for a more professional-grade isolation system. Pads made of this material are very capable of reducing not only vibration but also shock. Pads and platforms using this material might incorporate metals like aluminum or Kork-Kautshuk material to heighten the vibration reduction. Despite being very effective, these are also very lightweight.


Fiberboard (MDF) Platforms

These isolation stands utilize medium-density fiberboard to create vibration isolation. Similar to bamboo platforms, these are lightweight, and some are covered In Ozite. Ozite is a flooring material designed to provide a high level of vibration isolation. MDF platforms also have a butcher block design in some cases, so they tend to add a natural styling to your vinyl setup, which is perfect for a dedicated table or bookshelf setup.


Synthetic Rubber Pads

You can also quickly and easily reduce vibration by merely installing synthetic rubber feet to reduce vibration. For example, Pro-Ject’s Absorb it high-end damping feet can be quickly and easily added to most audio components to minimize mechanical vibration. This means that you can install them on your speakers, your turntable, or any other hi-fi sound system appliance that needs iso damping.


Iso Feet

These are very similar to the pads, but usually, they are explicitly designed for distinct turntable models. They typically screw into the device's base and provide a thick layer of isolation that sometimes use springs to reduce vibration. You’ll find these available for models of turntables from producers like Technics, IsoAcoustics, Rega, and Audiocrast. In just about every case, these come in sets of four so that checkout is simple.


Cut the Vibration with Turntable Isolation to Enhance Your Experiencepro ject debut carbon evo white

A deluxe audio setup needs vibration isolation to provide the best listening profile. Fortunately, there are several options that you can use to protect your sound. Pro-Ject provides a few great isolation options, and there are also do-it-yourself options to consider as well. In any situation, if your environment is prone to vibration, consider one of the solutions presented in this guide to ensure the perfect audiophile experience.

If you're still wondering "Why Does My Record Player Sound Bad", contact your local hi-fi shop or reach out to us directly with questions.

7 best record shops in seattle

Vinyl 101: The History of 7 Inch Vinyl

We have never lived in a time when it was more convenient to listen to music. In the age of streaming platforms, all it takes is a device and a login to immediately access thousands of artists, podcasts, and curated playlists. And still, in the age of ads and endless options, enduring love of vinyl prevails, especially for 7 inch vinyl.


For some, collecting vinyl records is as much about the archival experience as the music itself. As each year passes, owning physical media becomes rarer, and playing an album on a turntable can feel like stepping into a time capsule. It can be grounding to tap into the technology of recent history and see how quickly the medium and sound quality has evolved. One of the distinguishing markers of vinyl LPs is their size, and RPM (revolutions per minute). The size and RPM of vinyl can tip you off to the basic time period it was pressed in, or at the very least, give you an estimate of how much music is packed in.


The history of the 7-inch vinyl showcases shows us how flexible and curious audiophiles have been about vinyl’s versatility. Whether you’re a life-long collector, new to the world of records, or you simply love queuing up the dive bar’s jukebox, this refresher on how 7-inch singles hit the scene will likely inspire a visit to the record store.


The beginning of vinyl

Before we jump into the arrival of the 7-inch rpm records, it’s important to rewind back to how it all began. Music made the jump from a purely live experience to a massively recorded art form in 1877, when Thomas Edison first patented the phonograph. Edison had been working on an invention similar to the phone when he discovered he could use his discoveries to create a machine that could record and playback sound. The first official recording was “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” and Edison quickly made headlines with his massive breakthrough.


78 RPM records

For the first few decades of its existence, the phonograph was an expensive and niche product that needed to be operated by experts. By 1901 phonographs were finally getting mass-marketed, the first 10-inch 78rpm record came out, and the machines entered people’s homes.

78s were the only format of record for decades, they were generally pressed on 10 or 12-inch records, and could only hold about three to five minutes of music per side. Naturally, the short runtime limited the number of songs each record could hold. While many people associate the term “vinyl” with all records, the original 78s were made out of shellac. Shellac is a material created with natural resin that female lac bugs leave on trees. The resin is mixed with alcohol, then formed into shellac. It’s easy to scratch shellac, which made cutting the record grooves a breeze, and the material also resists moisture which made storage simpler. 


Vinyl LPs

It was hard to imagine any format replacing 78s until 1948, when Columbia Records released long-playing albums pressed on a new plastic called polyvinyl chloride. As a material, vinyl was much tougher than the shellac used to make 78s, which gave records a longer shelf-life. Even more importantly, vinyl allowed grooves to be cut even closer together which meant you could store far more music in one record. Rather than topping out at four minutes per side, an LP extended play to as much as twenty or twenty five minutes of music before being flipped over. This was possible because the record pressing cut the grooves closer together, but also because LPs were played at 33 RPM, which allows the needle more than double the time to arrive at the center (when compared to a 78).


The arrival of 7-inch vinyl

As with most inventions in the history of humankind, a competitive spirit was what ushered in the 45 RPM single. It’s crucial to note that RCA was Columbia’s major nemesis, so when Columbia licensed their first LPs in 1948, RCA vowed to enter the arena. For over a decade, RCA had developed similar technology capable of creating LPs, but their patents had expired so they didn’t beat Columbia to the chase. 


Rather than riding the tail of Columbia’s invention by releasing their own LPs, the company released 7-inch vinyl singles as another answer to 78s. Visually, 45s made a splash as they were much smaller, with large holes in the center, and originally printed on colored vinyl sorted by genre. Country records were released on green vinyl, hues of blues and reds were used for popular music, R&B, and classical, and children’s music was on yellow vinyl. 


Public reaction

At first, the arrival of 33s and 45s caused a lot of public confusion. Neither the full-length 33s nor the 45 singles could be played on a gramophone, due to the different RPMs, which meant people interested in “upgrading” to vinyl had to buy a new record player altogether. This meant you had to choose between a Columbia record player compatible with 33s, or an RCA turntable compatible with 45s. 


Nowadays, most record players have adjustable speeds (like the Signature 12 from Pro-ject USA) with the capability for both 33s and 45s (some rare ones can even play 78s, like the Debut PRO from Pro-ject USA). But during the advent of vinyl, you needed to pick a team or shell out for two new record players.


Luckily, the public was clearly ready for change.


The explosion of the 7-inch vinyl

Within one month of the format’s debut, RCA sold a million 45s, and struggled to keep up with the immediate demand. 45s were cheap to produce, and easier to move around and hand out to radio stations, which made them an ideal vehicle for pop music. Vinyl singles sold for 65 cents (roughly $7 today), which made them affordable for people across incomes. In contrast to LPs, which sold for $5 or more (roughly $60 today), singles were one dollar Itunes digital download of their time. You didn’t have to commit too much money or time to a musician in order to see what they were all about.


The rise of rock n’ roll singles

Timing is everything, and when it came to the advent of the single, the iron was hot. The vinyl pressing of the first 45s came a few years before the birth of “rock n roll,” and a whole teenage subculture surrounding it. One of rock’s earliest major hits, “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets sold three million singles in 1955. The affordable promo friendly format of 45s was soon in its heyday, with everyone from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones releasing best-selling singles via 45. On top of the affordability, one of the appeals of the single was the excitement of fishing out the inserts and stickers, getting your hands on a hot picture disc, or flipping the 7-inch vinyl to check for surprising b-sides. Fans who flipped over Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” in 1977 got a b-side of “Silver Springs, the Stevie Nicks breakup anthem that got cut from Rumours


Singles proved a popular and lucrative way to release music for decades, reaching their commercial peak in 1974 when a reported 200 million were sold. Since then, the global demand has gone down, but they’ve held on in creative ways.


Singles in the time of CDs and the internet

The arrival of the compact disc in 1982 was one of the many factors that began to tank the sales of 45s (and flexi discs as well). Even before the CD arrived, many artists were experimenting with longer song formats, some of which couldn’t be contained on a six-minute side. On top of this, the number of jukeboxes in bars was going down, cassettes had hit the scene, and even cassette singles were competing with 45s. By the time CDs were in the mix, it was a death knell for the 45s. At least, for a couple of years.


Wherever there’s passion, there’s sure to be a revival. And in 1988, the indie record label Sub Pop launched a “Singles Club,” where they mailed 7-inch singles to members, and introduced the world to Nirvana. The club continued to grow, featuring many more household names like The Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, and Babes in Toyland


Around the same time, early 90s dub, techno/house, and hip-hop DJs created tracks in-home or local studios and would press as many as 500 to 1000 singles on 12-inch white labels to sell at dance music record stores. While these were a larger physical size than the 7-inch singles, they were still played at 45 RPM and promoted in a similar fashion. Just as the Sub Pop “Singles Club” harkened to an earlier era in rock music, the DIY ethos of mass pressing white labels gave a nod to the 1970s, when the disco era ushered in the first 12-inch singles.


Where are 45s sold today?

One of the biggest current proponents of the 45 format is Jack White of The White Stripes. Over ten years ago, Jack White started to resuscitate the 45 on his Third Man label, starting with his Dead Weather single. Since then, Third Man has released over 300 7-inch vinyl singles, with each averaging around 2000 sales per single, enough to keep the labor of love worth it for the musicians and the audiophiles. 


Online marketplaces like Discogs offer music lovers seeking everything from reggae to psych, to classical the chance to scope out limited edition singles, box sets, rare reissues, and truly whatever your heart wants to add to cart before checkout. 


And of course, your favorite local record store is the ultimate place to dig into some crates and score a 45 that transports you to another time in music. While 45s have fallen from their original throne, the fact that they’ve outlived CDs and are facing a resurgence of interest shows they refuse to go down softly.

How to Clean a Record Needle for Perfect Playback

If you have an interest in the world of vinyl records, you need to know how to keep the vinyl and the needle clean. Even old phonographs were made with needle tips that you had to clean from time to time. These machines build static electricity, acting like a magnet and attracting dust. If you’re not an audiophile, you may not know how to clean a record needle properly. Let’s dive into how a dirty stylus affects your listening experience and learn about some steps that you need to take to remove the gunk that accumulates around the styli.


How a Dirty Turntable Stylus Impacts Sound Quality

Clean record player needles help prevent playback issues. When dust interferes with the stylus reading the record grooves properly, you will hear a slight scratching or popping sound when you play the records. If you hear these sounds, it’s time to inspect your record player’s stylus to see if there is any visible build-up that’s removable. 


When a stylus is dirty, you are more likely to hear the needle jump as it navigates the turntable. This is referred to as record skipping, and it can affect the sound of the music.  Dust and grime will also cause additional wear on the stylus tip, which will be heard as you play your music. If you don’t keep your stylus clean, it will wear down more quickly. In effect, a clean stylus will help you save money because you won’t need to replace it as often. 


Tips to Follow when Cleaning a Turntable Needle

Before trying your hand at stylus cleaning, here are some tips to help new record enthusiasts get back to the hi-fi sound that a clean record player creates. 

  • Cleaning a record needle should be done once a week. If listening to records is somewhat infrequent, you will be able to clean the needle every other week instead. 
  • Most record player needles last for about 1,000 hours, so the first time you hear static during playback, it most likely only needs to be cleaned.
  • When using a brush to clean the tip of the stylus, make sure that you brush in the direction that the record spins. This helps to ensure that the cantilever is not damaged during the cleaning.
  • Even if your stylus looks clean, before playing a record, whether it’s new or used, use an anti-static record brush to ensure no dust is hidden in the grooves that will transfer to the needle.
  • When cleaning your stylus, use a cleaning solution to get a deeper clean when using a stylus brush.
  • If you are uncomfortable using a stylus cleaning brush on the tip of the stylus, try using a stylus cleaning gel pad. This method may cost more, but it’s an option that many feel is less abrasive than the brush bristles.


Steps to Follow During the Cleaning Process

Following the right steps in how to clean a record needle or stylus requires a few select cleaning products. Most cartridge manufacturers provide a brush to use for this reason when you purchase the record player. You will also need cleaning fluid like Pro-Ject’s Wash It to do a thorough job. 


Follow these easy steps if you are using a stylus cleaning brush for this DIY process.

Step 1: Select a stylus cleaner to apply to the record needle. Any cleaning solution that is designed for records cleaning will do. If you don’t have anything that works, clean the record needle without a cleaning solution. It will remove the dust, but any caked-on grime will be more challenging to get rid of.


Step 2: Apply a small amount of the solution to the brush that you are using to clean the stylus. Since you are only cleaning the needle, very little liquid cleaner is required.


Step 3: Move the brush along the needle in a motion that moves from front to back. You will need to move the brush in the direction that the record spins because going the opposite direction can cause damage.


Step 4: Repeat these steps until you do not see any more grime on the tip of the stylus. 


If you are uncomfortable using a brush, there are other options to try, like the cleaning gel-based cleaning kit mentioned above. With this method, you simply place the gel on your turntable platter, and sit the needle on the gel. Then, raise it back out of the gel. Repeat this a few times to remove all of the grime stuck on the stylus. 


You may have also read forums about cleaning record needles with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. To start, gently place a small piece of the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on the platter. These sponges can be purchased at any hardware store. It needs to be an all white pad because the blue ones are a bit more abrasive and could cause unwanted damage. Lower the tonearm down to touch the pad, and then raise it back up. Do this process about two to three times or until the debris is removed. 


Vinyl Records Cleaning and Proper Storage Helps

gold rush vinyl austin

Even if you clean your stylus every time you use your record player, there is a good chance that dust will transfer from your records unless you have clean vinyl as well. Cleaning records revitalizes them and gives you better sound during playback. 


Make sure that you always clean the records in a circular motion from the inner grooves moving outward so that you don’t create scratches in the vinyl. Even new records need to be cleaned before use because static builds up, and dust accumulates on the surface before you purchased the vinyl. 


Learning how to clean a record needle is one thing, but record storage can make a big difference.


Record players and vinyl albums also accumulate dust when not stored properly. To protect your turntable, simply use a turntable cover to minimize dust. To keep your records cleaner, you need to use an inner and outer sleeve to reduce the dust that gets on the vinyl. Vinyl records also need to be stored in an upright position in an area where the temperature and the humidity are just right so that damage does not occur.

Top 10 Record Stores in Raleigh NC

Raleigh is one of the up-and-coming major metropolitan areas in the U.S., and it’s got quite the arts and music scene. Not only does the city have a vibrant college radio presence, but live music is experiencing something of a renaissance. In fact, it was considered by Rolling Stone to be one of “The Best Music Scenes Right Now.” As a result, record stores in Raleigh, NC, are drawing audiophiles from around the country to experience its aural flavor.

Music lovers who live in NC state often travel to larger cities on record store day to find new places to find rare vinyl gems and vintage items. The Raleigh-Cary Metropolitan area in North Carolina, often referred to as the triangle, has several shops to find new and used vinyl at affordable prices. Each location has a myriad of genres and exciting history that is fun to learn. Let’s dive in and explore the top record stores to add to your vinyl collection in Raleigh, NC.

Schoolkids Records

schoolkids records raleigh

While folks from the Chapel Hill area may know Schoolkids Records, it’s also worth visiting the Raleigh store, located at 2237 Avent Ferry Rd, Ste 101. At the Schoolkids Records Raleigh location, you’ll find a variety of indie gems from artists like Black Country, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, and Hippo Campus. You’ll also find more established artists, with vinyl available from legends like Paul McCartney and Neil Young at the store.

Schoolkids also has merch, such as T-shirts and hoodies with the iconic fish logo from the store. The store is a great way to stay up-to-date with new releases, but it also has a used vinyl section so that you can find the gems that will augment your collection.

Sorry State Records

sorry state records raleigh

Located at 317 W Morgan Street Ste 105, Sorry State Records is something of a legend for fans of vinyl records. The store has new and used punk titles of music organized lovingly by an expert staff who are well-versed in music history. In addition to punk, there is also an extensive selection of soul, jazz, and alternative rock for vinyl lovers.

Sorry State Records also purchases records for top dollar prices for those looking to sell their extra or unused vinyl. For those looking to buy, the store frequently restocks popular titles, and there’s a weekly newsletter that helps customers stay up to date with what’s available.

Hunky Dory Records

hunky dory records durham

Named after the seminal album by rock great David Bowie, Hunky Dory Records can be found in both Durham and Raleigh. The store in Raleigh at 111 Seaboard Ave has a very classic feel – instantly reminding visitors of the old-school record stores of the 80s. Records are presented in crates, and the well-lit store also provides opportunities to drink on-tap craft beers while listening to in-store tunes.

In operation for 12 years, Hunky Dory has always kept vinyl sales as its primary raison d’etre, and of the store’s collection, about 99 percent is used. This means there are plenty of opportunities to grab some true classics from bands like Pearl Jam, Radiohead, and the Grateful Dead.

The Pour House Music Hall & Record Shop

pour house records raleigh

The Pour House Music Hall & Record Shop is located in downtown Raleigh at 224 S Blount St. If you enjoy listening to live music, make sure you stop by for a show. They have events most nights, so look for something while you are in the area, regardless of whether it’s a weekday or a weekend.

They sell both used and new records in the upstairs section of the store. There is even a $1 bargain bin where you’ll find treasured vinyl deals that you won’t want to miss. In addition to this, drinks can be purchased at the location. In fact, they have quite a few draft beers on tap that are worth tasting as you explore the store.

The Record Krate

record krate raleigh

If you enjoy jazz music, make a stop at The Record Krate. They have three locations that are easy to visit in North Carolina. The address in Raleigh is 508 St. Mary’s Street Raleigh, NC 27605. They also have locations in Wake Forest and Selma that you can visit if you would like to check them out and see how the vinyl collection differs from place to place.

The Record Krate sells turntables, cassettes, and vintage t-shirts that you can explore as well. Try some of the handcrafted kombucha brewed on location as you are exploring the vinyl the store offers. There are even record players located throughout the store at listening stations to listen to the artist before diving in and purchasing it.

Nice Price Books & Records

nice price raleigh

Located at 3106 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, Nice Price Books & Records is another excellent location to find rare gems for your vinyl collection. If you are searching for something specific, the staff will special order vinyl for you if it’s available. New and used records are available as well as other items like t-shirts, books, comics, movies (DVD, VHS, and Blu-ray formats), and turntables from popular brands like Pro-Ject.

Nice Price Books & Records has a bargain bin that you will want to take advantage of. When searching for the top record stores in Raleigh, NC, few others also hold a book club and an artist choice club where individuals gather and talk about books, movies, and music.

Chaz’s Bull City Records

If you are visiting the Durham area, stop by Chaz’s Bull City Records – you won’t regret it. This store has been around since 2005, so they have an extensive collection. They have new and used records from every genre. If you know what you want and cannot go to the store, they even offer the option of purchasing an album online.

For music lovers that purchase new vinyl monthly, there is a subscription service that will allow you to explore hand-picked staff favorites. This record store also has listening parties for local and non-local artists to help introduce you to new music that you may not have heard.

Carolina Soul Records

Run by soul collector and vinyl lover Jason Perlmutter, Carolina Soul Records is located on 117 E Main St. in Durham.


While infamous for selling on eBay and Discogs, Jason is also a purveyor of some of the finest soul, jazz, and funk records in the Raleigh-Durham area. One of the more exciting ways to find new records there is to check out their Soundcloud account where they post mixes every few months. If you hear something exciting and new, Carolina Soul is the place to find it.


It's a brilliant marketing tactic to us!

Sound Off Records & Hi-Fi

sound off records raleigh

Sound Off Records & Hi-Fi is a great store where collectors can find rare albums. Located at 14 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, this location sells both new and used records. If you have records that you want to trade, they also have that option to consider. They also sell turntables, amps, and speakers if you need to upgrade your record equipment. However, equipment sales are only done on the weekends.

The record store is actually where Groove Records used to be located. It became Sound Off Records in 2016 when Anna and Aaron purchased the location. The record store is a pet-friendly building, so feel free to bring in your furry friend for some pets as you browse.

Cream Puff Records

If you plan to explore the surrounding area for vinyl records, make sure you head over to Charlotte and visit Cream Puff Records. Their collection of records is stellar, so you will have no problem finding the genres you prefer. The store also is an excellent option for anyone looking for live music.

In addition to selling both new and used records, Cream Puff Records is also a place where you can purchase clothing, books, and art. There is also a small coffee shop where you can grab a cup to enjoy while browsing through the vinyl.

Record Stores in Raleigh NC: Honorable Mentions

Father & Son Antiques is a vintage record store that sells clothing, furniture, and other accessories. Make sure you check out the upstairs to find a full collection of vinyl records that could hold a true treasure for your collection.

TrunkShow is another one of the more unique record stores in Raleigh NC. In addition to finding records at this location, you will be able to shop for local art and vintage furniture.

used records

Buying Used Records? Here are 10 Things to Know First

Collecting records is almost as much of an art form as the music itself. There is a certain dance you must learn to navigate the world of vinyl, and once you’ve mastered the moves you can spot a gem from a mile away. Before that, however, a trip to the record store can be as intimidating and disorienting as it is fun.


The act of buying an album is simple, but being able to figure out which used records are worth it, when pricing is on point, and which sellers to trust can take practice. The devil is always in the details, and when it comes to vinyl LPs, he’s in the grooves of the record. So, while you’ll eventually settle on your own record shopping guidelines, we have answers to common questions that will make the quest for your dream album smoother. 


1. What is the record grading system?

A record grading system is an invaluable tool that will help guide you during your record shopping endeavors. In short, record grading refers to the process of checking vinyl LPs for damage, then “grading” them according to the shape they’re in. Mint (M) is at the absolute top of the food chain. Both the record and sleeve must be in perfect condition to get a Mint rating, so they’re incredibly rare and usually still sealed up. Near Mint (NM) is often the highest rating you’ll find in a store, as they’re practically perfect. NM records can have no visible wear, no stickers, marker, or mislabeling, no off-center pressing, and absolutely no surface noise.


Very Good Plus (VG+) or Excellent (E) records still sound great during playback, but are far more likely to have light signs of wear or discoloration on the sleeve. However, if you don’t mind a little visual imperfection they’re a great purchase. The next step down, Very Good records are far more likely to have scuffs and potential surface noise. They’re generally still playable and good for a listen if you aren’t bothered by a few audible scratches.


Good (G), Good Plus (G+), or Very Good Minus (VG-) are often very cheap, and are bound to have ring wear, unavoidable surface noise, and warping. That said, many can still be played, and if you’re really looking for an album, a G copy is better than none.


At the bottom of the crate are the Poor (P), Fair (F), and Good Minus (G-) records. These puppies usually go for pennies, and often skip and have difficulty completing playback. Some collectors grab these for the cover art or view them as more of an artifact than a playable record.


2. Are used records worth anything?

A lot of audiophiles view their record collection as an investment. They’re investing in a collection of albums they love, while also curating a sellable product. The idea of flipping used records for profit sounds fun and simple, but the reality is far harder than it sounds. 


The condition of a record is going to be a major factor in how much it’s worth. The same album with a Near Mint rating will go for a much higher price than with a Good rating. And even used records in good condition are often competing with tons of other copies. The perfect axis for scoring a record that’s “worth” a lot is finding a vintage vinyl that is in pristine shape. Unless your used vinyl is rare or pristine, keeping a random record with the intention of selling it later isn’t likely to give you a major profit. However, it could give you just enough cash to trade for another lp.


So, to answer the question, the worth of a used record can be measured in a lot of ways, in money, experience, and based on your personal taste. A lot of used records are worth buying because they’re in great shape for playback and come with interesting art and history. But a used record isn’t automatically valuable in financial terms simply because it’s old. You’ll have to dig into how big an artist’s fanbase is, how many copies are floating around and if the demand is there.


3. Is it safe to buy used records online?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is yes, but only if you use your judgment. Online go-to marketplaces like ebay and Discogs make it super simple to find used records on the web. All you have to do is search for the album you’ve been thinking about, and voila, you’ll be matched with an eager seller. However, there is a risk that comes with shopping online, since you can’t physically inspect a used record. Yes, all online sales use the grading system, but that itself is subjective since the seller is the one marking it. Luckily, there are generally photos posted of used records online, and if you’re feeling crafty you can pop it into photoshop, play with the brightness levels, and spot any scuffs the seller might have been concealing.


You can also check the reviews of the seller you’re buying from and make sure they don’t have consistent complaints (and that they’ve been established a while). But also, with the pandemic in tow, a lot of amazing record stores are fully online, so if you want a trustworthy online space to digitally crate-dig, there are great options.


4. How much should you spend on used records?

Naturally, the answer to this will shift based on your personal budget and what kinds of records you’re looking for. In general, new records often range from $10-$40. When it comes to used records, most stores have $1 and $2 bins you can dig through for cheap vinyl, and interesting finds. Well-known or slightly better quality used vinyl often sits between $5 and $15, while rare used vinyl can go for hundreds of dollars. If you feel unsure about the pricing on an album while out at a shop, you can always check online to see what it’s sold for previously. Or, take a chance and visit your other neighborhood record store for comparison.


5. How do you tell what year a vinyl was pressed?

One of the most exciting parts of curating a vinyl collection is the sense of history. When the sound quality is on point, spinning a vintage lp on the turntable can feel like a form of time traveling. And yet, figuring out which year your vinyl was pressed can be its own journey. 


First, you’ll want to check the spine of the record sleeve. If your lp is an original pressing (aka it was pressed when the album came out or if it's a reissue), then it will have a four-letter and number combination like ABCD-1234. Records that are second or third pressings have two letters and five number combos, like AB-12345. You can also check the sleeve of the record for a barcode. If there’s a barcode, you know for sure it wasn’t pressed before the 1980s.


You can also check the catalog number on the front of the record. The catalog number usually starts with two or three letters and a series of numbers, like ABC-1234567. You can plug the catalog number in on Discogs to find out if it was an original pressing.


6. How do you examine used records?

While it might sound harsh, judging a record by its cover can actually be a useful litmus. If an lp is sitting in a plastic bag or its original shrink wrap, that bodes very well for the quality. It’s also a great sign if the record is neatly tucked in its inner sleeve. Conversely, the cover is dog-eared and tainted with water damage, that’s generally a preview of what the record itself has gone through.


However, it’s always best to look at the record itself before fully judging. You’ll first want to check it at eye level to see if it’s warped or bent at all. Then, you’ll want to find the brightest corner in the shop to fully inspect. Place the record directly under the light source to check for visible scratches or damage. Generally, if the record has a glaring sheen that means it is smooth, slick, and fresh. Similarly, if there are short fibers that look like hair, that means it’s been in the sleeve without much use - another green flag. Any obvious perpendicular scratches or warping is a red flag, you can check light scratches with the back of your fingernail. If you can’t feel the scratch, then it’s unlikely to affect playback. You can always clean your records, so dirt and grime isn’t a definite deal-breaker unless it’s lodged in a scratch.


7. How do you know if the sound quality will be good?

Unless you’re shopping at a thrift store, pretty much all record stores have turntables so you can test out your potential purchases. Since this is the only way to truly know what sound you’ll be working with, it’s recommended you always give an album a spin before taking it home. Otherwise, you could be dropping money on a completely unlistenable album.


8. How do you clean records?

Regularly cleaning your records is the best thing you can do for your collection. Giving your used records a deep clean can improve the sound quality and extend the shelf-life. Regardless of the grading, we recommend you wash every record after buying it, just to ensure you have the cleanest version hitting the stylus. 


There are a handful of equally solid ways to clean vinyl, but the most important rule is that you never use your fingers to remove dust because the oil from your hands is majorly damaging. Only touch the labels and edges of the records during handling.  


You can easily wash your records with a carbon fiber brush like Pro-Ject’s Sweep It record broom, which mounts on your turntable and cleans the surface of your vinyl while it spins. This type of brush is anti-static, which means it both removes dust and static build-up (which helps prevent future build-up). If you’re feeling fancy, you can give your collection a full vacuum clean with the VC-E Compact Vinyl Record Cleaning Machine. The vacuum machine applies a cleaning solution to the records, scrubs them, and vacuums away all of the solution and debris.


You can also dampen a microfiber cloth with some eco-friendly Wash It cleaning fluid and gently wipe your record in a circular motion before leaving it out to safely dry.


9. What are the albums I need on vinyl?

While music taste is deeply personal, there are some vinyl essentials that are simply meant to be played on a turntable. There’s a reason most record collections include a copy of The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. The layers of psychedelic sounds simply make more sense in an analog format. Whether you’re a super fan or a passive listener, if you’re going to have The Beatles on your shelf, it’s hard to beat the feeling of listening to “Here Comes the Sun” blasting from your Abbey Road vinyl. The debut album Endtroducing from DJ Shadow immediately became a landmark recording for instrumental hip-hop and a major inspiration for musicians to this day. With its patchwork of moody vinyl samples, it’s best enjoyed blasted from a turntable, where it can really shine. 


It’s a massive understatement to say What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye was groundbreaking both creatively and politically. Gaye’s nine track narration of the return of a Vietnam War veteran was specifically mastered for vinyl, and that’s how it’s best appreciated. Michael Jackson’s Bad simply hits harder when cranked up in your living room after a successful shopping trip on record store day.


`0. Does colored vinyl sound the same?

The aesthetics of colored vinyl can be deeply entrancing, and for most albums, colored vinyl is harder to find than black vinyl. Historically, record companies and artists have leveraged limited edition colored vinyl pressings as a way to bolster artistic vision and inspire more sales. Colored vinyl (and clear vinyl) is often popular with avid collectors because of the novelty, and potential investment.


When it comes to the sound quality itself, in theory, colored vinyl should sound exactly the same. All vinyl records are made of naturally colorless PVC. In order to create the standard black vinyl color, black carbon is added. For colored vinyl, titanium dioxide and dyes are added. Technically, black carbon strengthens the vinyl in a way that dyes don’t, but the difference shouldn’t be noticeable unless the production process was compromised.


However, when it comes to picture discs and glow-in-the-dark pressings, there is a greater risk for finicky playback. Picture discs pose a particular risk because of their three-layer structure. The first layer is a clear record without sound, the second layer is the picture, and the third plastic layer contains the musical grooves. Because the thin top layer isn’t as hefty as regular records, picture discs can have a shorter shelf-life. When it comes to the ever so rare glow-in-the-dark vinyl, the pigments that enable the glowing unfortunately atrophy the acoustic properties, so surface noise is common. That said, if you buy from a trusted source and keep your records clean, the sound quality should still be solid.


With these tips, you're now armed with the knowledge to dive deeply into the seemingly endless world of used records!

turntable with moving coil cartridge

Moving Coil Cartridges: Better Than Moving Magnet Cartridges?

When it comes to the sound quality of your record player, every detail counts. The room you store your turntable in, how often you clean your records, and all the components of the turntable affect your listening experience. In this vein, few parts of the machine directly influence sound as much as your turntable cartridge. The cartridge does the work of actually reading the grooves of a record, so it makes sense that it’s crucial to invest in a quality cartridge, and knowing the difference between moving coil cartridges and moving magnet cartridges is where to start. 


What does a cartridge do?

If you’re new to the world of vinyl, or you simply need a quick refresher, it’s helpful to break down what exactly a cartridge does. The cartridge is the small piece on the end of the cantilever that touches down on the record.

Cartridge bodies are usually made of plastic and include the needle that kisses the vinyl itself. When the stylus touches the record grooves, it works as a transducer to translate mechanical movements into an electrical signal that can eventually be amplified through your favorite speakers.

Basically, the turntable cartridge turns the small etched grooves of the plastic into a signal that can eventually be music. They act as translators between the physical artifact of vinyl and the albums we love to jam out to. When you break it down this way, it explains why so many audiophiles are specific about what kind of cartridge they buy.


Are Moving Coil Cartridges better than Moving Magnet Cartridges?

Now that we’ve refreshed ourselves on the role of a cartridge, we can dive into one of the longest-running discussions in the audiophile community: Moving Coil vs. Moving Magnet.

Many an argument has been had over which type of cartridge is better for sound quality, makes more sense with various set-ups, and is ultimately the best. Obviously, given the subjectivity of this argument, this debate is ultimately unwinnable. However, mulling over the pros and cons of each cartridge type can be incredibly helpful for anyone considering mixing up their hi-fi setup.

Before we dip into the pros and cons, let’s first distinguish what makes these cartridges different from each other.


How do Moving Magnet cartridges work?

A moving magnet turntable cartridge contains a small magnet inside the stylus. There are two sets of fixed coils hugging the magnet on both sides. When the stylus reads the grooves of the record, the magnet moves between the coils to create a small electrical current. That magnetic field is what gets plugged into the phono stage so we can eventually listen through our speakers.


How do Moving Coil cartridges work?

Rather than using a moving magnet to create an electrical current, moving coil cartridges create the signal through the movement of the coils (thus the name). Moving Coil cartridges do contain a magnet, it’s just a fixed magnet surrounded by vibrating coils (so in many ways it’s structurally opposite of a moving magnet cartridge).

When the record grooves create vibrations on the styli, the coils then react by translating that movement into an electrical signal that will get amplified in the phono stage, and eventually through your system.


Pros of Moving Magnet cartridges

Moving Magnet phono cartridges, also known as MM cartridges have a lot of pros to them. For starters, the moving magnet design is very robust and generally produces a medium to high output level. This means it requires less gain in the phono stage in order to amplify loud enough to listen to on your speakers. MM cartridges are also typically more compatible with a wider range of household stereo equipment. Which is to say, you’ll find that most standard phono inputs connect with mm outputs. Because of a moving magnet’s widespread compatibility with everyday stereo equipment, it’s often a simpler choice when it comes to installation.


Moving magnet cartridges often come with a replaceable stylus, so if you want to swap out your conical needle for a Shibata, you’re in luck. Or if you’re simply looking to buy a new model of the same kind of stylus, a moving magnet is going to make this far easier. With a replaceable stylus, you’ll find your cartridge can survive lots of changes, and in some cases live a longer life because of it. 


One of the most practical pros of the MM cartridge is affordability. It’s generally easier to find more MM cartridge options across different price levels, and incompatibility with different equipment, so if you’re on a budget they pose clear benefits.


Pros of Moving Coil cartridges

As evidenced by the very title of this post, Moving Coil phono cartridges have enough pros a lot of audiophiles consider them to be the better option. Since the coils on a moving coil cartridge are lighter than a magnet, the process of transferring vibrations into an electrical signal is more fluid, which means the tracking, frequency response, and overall sound quality are often more precise and high-quality. 


Basically, because MC cartridges have less mass, they’re capable of transcribing more micro-detail, especially when it comes to high frequencies. While most moving coil cartridges don’t come with a replaceable stylus, they often come with more precise styli such as fine-line, microline, and Shibata needles that are less likely to wear out as fast. So the quality and shelf-life of an MC cartridge often live up to the investment.


Cons of Moving Magnet cartridges

While MM cartridges produce a higher output that connects to most sound equipment easier, the higher inductance can negatively flatten the frequency response. This is to say, the heavier bearing and higher output can erase a lot of the nuance of sound. If you have a trained audiophile ear, or you’re simply someone who savors all the distinctions of your favorite album, you’ll likely be able to tell there are details lost in translation. 


One of the (many) reasons people get addicted to vinyl is the different playback experience. Record players offer us a more holographic and warm sound experience compared to streaming. So, even a speck of sound quality difference can be a dealbreaker for people who have already decided to invest in phono equipment. This is the primary reason a lot of people opt against mm cartridges despite the affordability and convenience: the sound quality can still be super high-quality, but it is less likely to match the meticulous detail of an MC cartridge.


Cons of Moving Coil Cartridges

Because MC cartridges produce less signal and lower output, they need a step-up transformer in order to blast your favorite album through your amplifier. This adds yet another step to the initial setup process, which can be overwhelming for any entry-level vinyl fan. And even if you’re a seasoned record collector, knowing you’ll need a quality phono preamp in order to enjoy the fruits of the MC cartridge can be a deterrent. The stylus inside an MC cartridge is usually non-replaceable, so if you want to get it fixed you have to ship it to a factory (which isn’t always possible). Generally, if a stylus attached to an MC cartridge gets damaged or ages out of use, you’ll need to replace the whole cartridge at once, which can be an expensive ordeal.


Because MC cartridges often come with high-end turntables and are designed in a far more light and delicate way, they run a much higher bill overall. If you don’t have lots of money to spend on a cartridge, this can be a full-on dealbreaker. Similarly, if you can’t tell the difference in sound quality between MM and MC cartridges, then springing for a moving coil might not be worth the hassle. 


A Moving Coil Cartridge Suits Most Vinyl Priorities

There is no one-size-fits-all winner of the rivalry between moving coil vs. moving magnet. Everyone has different priorities and relationships with sound. And there are exceptions in both cartridges that defy the regular talking points. For example, MC Cartridges are known for more meticulous sound quality, there are plenty of high-quality Sumiko MM cartridges that deliver stunning sound. Similarly, there are high output MC cartridges that are designed to function more like MM cartridges when it comes to easy compatibility with your preamplifier or receiver.


A lot of people can list off anecdotal experiences with both types of cartridges that dispel stereotypes, while others may still not find the sound much different. At the end of the day, you’re the only one who can decide which is the best match for you. The good news is you can always change your mind and switch cartridges if you feel like it. There are no rules when it comes to exploring and having fun with your HiFi set-up.

gold rush vinyl austin

The 8 Record Stores in Austin for Vinyl Lovers

Back in 1985, Austin, Texas, was named the live music capital of the world by Billboard magazine. Today, the city is home to more than 250 music venues where you can enjoy a live show any day of the week. In addition to these venues, music festivals often line East Sixth Street for music lovers to enjoy. But nothing compares to the many choices of record stores in Austin.


Regardless of the genre you love, you’ll find an artist you love either holding residency or passing through in Austin. You can even find rising artists that play Texas music at some of the local record stores. Unfortunately, places like Encore Records and Groovers Paradise are no longer around, but there are still plenty of lively record stores in the city. Let’s look at the best record stores in Austin and find out what makes them unique.


Waterloo Records

Waterloo Records, located at 600A N. Lamar Blvd Austin, TX 78703, is an icon in the city. The store was founded in 1982, but it is more than a typical record store today. In addition to finding new releases and reissued LPs, there are in-store performances where you can enjoy live music from known local artists.


If you are in the area, check out their calendar of events to see who is performing during your visit to find new artists you enjoy. Every genre is found at this location, but they focus on indie and alternative music. There is also a book and film section in the shop that may draw your interest.


End of an Ear

End of an Ear, located on Clawson Rd, has been a niche-rich record store serving South Austin since 2005. You can find rare punk, indie rock, and electronic treasures that help create the store's atmosphere. One of the best qualities of the location is the knowledgeable staff. If you are unsure about a record, check with one of the staff members to get suggestions.

In addition to selling vinyl and music collections, there are VHS tapes and DVDs available for movie enthusiasts to enjoy. They also sell turntables, speakers, and other stereo equipment from popular brands like Pro-Ject.


Breakaway Records

Don’t miss the chance to visit Breakaway Records on North Loop in your search for the best record stores in Austin. Founded in the year 2008, this location features music in genres such as psych, R&B, and soul. While they specialize in vinyl records that are old and new, you’ll find cassette and VHS tapes at this location as well.


If you are a fan of original artwork, this is a must-see record store in Austin. Turntables, receivers, and more can be bought a Breakaway Records as well if you are looking to upgrade your stereo equipment.


Piranha Records

Located in Round Rock, which is a short drive from Austin, Piranha Records is a must-visit location in the area. This is especially true if you are looking to add vinyl to your collection of hip-hop from the 90s. The shop also has impressive rock and soul sections that you will want to check out.


In addition to new and used vinyl records, you will find CDs and DVDs for movie enthusiasts to enjoy. Make sure you check out the Piranha merchandise before you head out; they have hats, t-shirts, mugs, and more that could catch your eye.


Antone’s Record Shop

Antone’s Record Shop was launched in 1987 by founder Clifford Antone. The store came 12 years after the launch of his nightclub, which is located across the street and is still a favored spot for artists like Stevie Ray Vaughn. While Clifford passed away in 2006, thousands still visit this mainstay at 2928 Guadalupe St every year. Antone’s is a place to find new vinyl, classics, and all the equipment you need for playback.


In addition to records and equipment, you can also find merchandise like posters and DVDs at Antone’s. The staff is also very knowledgeable, and they each have staff picks that span various musical genres.


Exploded Records

Located in the Juiceland neighborhood on Duval St, you’ll find Exploded Records, one of the most compact record stores in Austin. When it comes to the overall aesthetic, Exploded Records is very unassuming. The store was formerly a gas station that’s been repurposed with the vinyl lover in mind. The pumps are long gone, and now you can buy and sell vinyl or sound systems. The store hosts afternoon sound sessions and has been known to draw hundreds of audiophiles at a time.


Exploded Records was nominated as the best record store by the Austin Chronicle, and it’s widely considered well-worth a visit by just about any vinyl lover. There are even live musical performances in the store from time to time.


Living in Stereo

Located close to the classic record stores of bygone eras, like The Sound Gallery and Friends of Sound, you’ll find Living in Stereo. Like those other locations, this store is located on S Congress Ave, and if you’re looking for vinyl records, home audio, or vintage systems, then this is a must-visit location. According to the owners, the store was created for “designers, music lovers, musicians, and artists” and visitors can even grab a cup of coffee when they visit.


This is an optimal place to experience old-school artists as their music is meant to be heard. The systems they have set up are designed for the audiophile’s ear, so spend some time exploring. One of the better features of the store is how it’s set up; the designers furnished it in a very homelike way. Effectively, the experience approximates listening to good records while in the comfort of your own home.


Big Henry's Vinyl

Big Henry’s Vinyl is located next to Antone’s Nightclub, so if you arrive early, check it out while enjoying a Po Boy and a cold drink. In addition to vinyl, they also sell t-shirts, posters, gifts, and more at this location.


Best Record Stores in Austin Honorable Mentions

If you are looking for Tejano or Conjunto music, Turntable Records is a must-see record store. In addition to rare vinyl records, the store is also filled with cassettes that may be considered a gem by music lovers. Finding the best record store in Austin could also fill that thirst for magnetic tape.

BLK Vinyl, which is located at 2505 E 6th St in Austin, opened in 2018. It’s a great place to find rock and jazz LPs, so if you are looking for something specific, stop by.

If you happen to be in search of a place to press your own vinyl records, we can't rave enough about the team over at Gold Rush Vinyl. Not only do they make some of the best-looking new discs on the market, but they also rely on Pro-Ject turntables to audition freshly pressed vinyl to the artists who work with them.

sweep it e record broom

Must-Have Turntable Accessories to Upgrade Your Setup

Anyone who enjoys listening to analog music on a record player is going to wonder how they can improve the sound quality of their vinyl records. Any audiophile will tell you that getting perfect Hi-Fi sound is not easy, but there are several turntable accessories that you can purchase to upgrade your home audio listening experience. These accessories will not only make your record collection sound amazing, but they ensure that even the best turntables don’t skip a beat during playback.


Must-Have Turntable Accessories

Whether you get your vinyl accessories from Pro-Ject, Audioquest, or Amazon, they can be used to provide you with high-quality sound that you can’t get when listening to music on a CD player. With the right accessories, record skipping as well as the pops and crackles that are sometimes heard through the speakers will no longer be picked up by the stylus. Let’s take a look at some of the upgradable accessories that will improve your Hi-Fi sound. 


Phono Preamp

tube box preamp with debut carbon evo

A phono preamp is a great way to upgrade your setup and push your audio listening to the next level. Without using one of these, you will find that distortion occurs when the signal is not boosted.  An A/V receiver is used in combination with the phono preamp to boost the sound coming from the turntable before it reaches your speakers. If your amplifier does not have a built-in phono input, then a separate phono box, like the Pro-Ject Phono Box DS2, is a solution. You simply use RCA cables to connect the devices, so it’s relatively easy to use.


If you are unsure if a phono preamp will benefit your audio setup, take a look at our phono preamp guide to learn more.


Turntable Weight

record weight puck

Also called a record weight, these turntable accessories work as a stabilizer and help keep vibrations to a minimum. This added weight will also ensure that the tracking is more precise, which will produce a cleaner, less distorted sound. The weight should be enough to stabilize the records without adding weight to the bearings or straining the motor of your turntable. 


Stereo Interconnect Cable 

When audio cables wear down, they don’t perform as well as new wires. A stereo interconnect cable is an excellent way to provide a performance-boosting sonic upgrade to your audio system. Typically, you can connect these cables anywhere you have an audio cable connected.


45 RPM Adapter

Most record players are not designed to play 7-inch singles. RPM adaptors, like Pro-Ject’s Adapt It, make 45s a universal fit for most vinyl records to fit on any turntable easily. This specific model is made out of aluminum, so it will last for years.  Without an adapter like this, the different-sized records will not spin properly on the platter, which causes damage to the stylus.


Bluetooth Transmitter

Older audio equipment is not likely to be Bluetooth enabled, but with a Bluetooth transmitter, you can easily add the functionality to amps, record players, and other technology. The device is relatively small and enables you to connect to Bluetooth headphones anytime you want to listen to music without disturbing those around you. 

While it's not the first place most vinyl enthusiasts think of, it can ensure that your system can stay analog-focused while being future-proofed. If you're considering a new turntable, there are a few that are Bluetooth-enabled right out of the box.


Turntable Mat 

A turntable mat or a platter mat is designed to keep the record and the platter from moving during playback. This helps to minimize vibrations and gives you more resonance control. It also helps prevent static from forming, which means less dust will accumulate over time. DJs often use slipmats to more easily cue and back-cue music. It gives them more freedom to move the vinyl as they see fit. Typically these mats are made out of cork, felt, or leather.


Cartridge Alignment Protractor

cartridge alignment tool

One of the turntable accessories that you will want to have to keep your vinyl’s tracking force in check is a cartridge alignment protractor. Pro-Ject’s Align It tool will allow you to align the phono cartridge's edge so that the needle tracks better in the record’s grooves. It will also prevent the needle from jumping on the vinyl, which could damage the stylus.


When using one of these tools, you are actually not aligning the cartridge; you are aligning the stylus to make sure it tracks the grooves correctly. The cartridge body is larger, making it much easier to see when you align it. Having a misaligned stylus will create pops and crackles in the music, giving it a distorted effect that is always unwanted. 


Isolation Feet and Pads

Isolation feet and pads will improve the sound of your music by removing unwanted vibrations that could affect playback. Even someone walking in your home or traffic going by could add to the vibration you hear, so decreasing it will help create hi-fi sound. If your turntable is heavy, make sure that you have stiff feet so that the vibrations do not move the feet along with the turntable. 


Cleaning Kit

record vacuum vc s2

A good vinyl cleaning system will come with cleaning solution, microfiber cloths, and a carbon fiber record brush. These items are used to remove static and dust from the vinyl before it is played. You will also need a stylus cleaner because stylus cleaning is just as crucial as cleaning records. In fact, if you don’t properly clean your stylus, the dust on the needle has a good chance of being tracked back to your records.

Cleaners come in all types, from tools like the Spin Clean to the Pro-Ject VC-S2 (pictured above). A record brush or record broom is a bare minimum for preserving your vinyl.


Dust Cover 

Of course, you protect your vinyl with record sleeves when they are not in use, but how can you keep the dust off of your record player when it’s not being used? To keep your turntable platter cleaner, a dust cover is going to be a must-have accessory.  Most dust covers, like Pro-Ject’s Cover It E, are designed to sit right on top of the record player without attaching to it.


In addition to keeping the dust off, it also protects your device from spills and helps extend the life of your record player. Another benefit of this accessory is that it will protect your tonearm from getting bumped and damaged. 


Beyond Turntable Accessories, Consider Upgrading Your Speakers

Whether you are using soundbars or bookshelf speakers, there is always an upgrade that you can find to give you a better audiophile speaker setup. This doesn’t mean finding bigger speakers. It’s the quality of the components that give you higher-quality sound. If you have all of the accessories mentioned above but want to continue upgrading your setup, see what speaker options call out to you.