Gadgets

Published on July 26th, 2018 | by Alan Cross

5

How to Get Into Vinyl with Limited Funds

[This guest post is written by Michael Moore of Devoted to Vinyl. -AC]

Vinyl records are a really fun hobby, as there’s little that can compare to the tactile experience of placing the stylus into the groove of a record and hearing your favorite tune billowing out of your speakers.

While vinyl can certainly be a fun hobby, it’s definitely not an inexpensive one. Although we live in a world where both CD’s and a month-long subscription to Spotify or Tidal can cost $10, a brand new album on vinyl can cost $30 to $40.

On top of that, a spiffy high-end turntable can set you back thousands.

Ouch.

So if you’re looking to get into vinyl for the very first time, but have limited funds in your bank account, I’m going to give you my recommendations for how you can make the jump to the world of spinning records without going broke.

Find a Solid, Cheap Record Player

Let’s first begin with the most important part of the equation when it comes to vinyl records—the turntable.

Now, a lot of people that are starting out with vinyl records like to purchase a Crosley record player. And on the surface, it’s easy to understand why.

They have a fun, retro aesthetic. They can often be found for less than $100. They have built-in speakers. And they’re portable, so you can pack them up and take them over to a friend or family member’s house.

Personally, I don’t like to recommend Crosley record players. Not because they are inherently terrible (although they are cheaply made with ceramic cartridges and no adjustable tracking force, which is definitely a concern), but because you can find better quality record players on the market for just a bit more money.

So, if the Crosley Cruiser ($50) is on your shortlist, I’d instead recommend spending $100 on the Audio Technica AT-LP60.

With the AT-LP60, you still have some limitations in build quality and the lack of tracking force adjustment, but at least you’re getting a turntable that comes with a dust cover, is fully automatic, and has a built-in phono preamp.

Now, if you’re willing to spend a bit more money (and are fine with a higher quality, manually operated turntable), you should strongly consider the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 ($300), U-Turn Orbit Plus ($300) or the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon ($400).

All three are great in their own right, and don’t cause you to spend more than $500 for a very solid turntable.

I like the AT-LP120 because it offers so many options—from pitch control to the ability to digitize your entire vinyl record collection by hooking the turntable up to your Mac or PC.

The U-Turn Orbit Plus is built by hand in Boston, MA and boasts an acrylic platter.

And the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon features a carbon fiber tonearm that has an Ortofon 2M cartridge attached to it. And if you ever wanted to upgrade that cartridge by purchasing the much more detailed 2M Blue (about $240), installing it takes just 30 seconds—simply slide out the 2M red stylus and insert the 2M Blue.

Getting a Good Phono Preamp

As mentioned before, if you get a turntable with a built in phono preamp (such as the Audio-Technica AT-LP60 or AT-LP120), you can begin listening to your vinyl records as soon as you plug in the RCA cables to the back of your receiver or integrated amplifier or powered speakers.

For those that acquire a turntable that doesn’t have a built-in phono preamp (such as the U-Turn Orbit Plus or Pro-Ject Debut Carbon), you’ll have to buy an external phono preamp.

I’m a fan of two phono preamps that are relatively cheap (under $500).

The first is the Schitt Mani (about $130), while the other is the Vincent PHO-8 (about $300).

The Mani is small but packs a great punch for its cost. It works with both Moving Magnet and Moving Coil cartridges, and has four adjustable gain modes.

The sound of the Mani is excellent for the price. And while you won’t get house-thumping bass with this preamp, you’ll be very impressed with the mid range as well as the clarity of the treble.

The Vincent PHO-8, by contrast, is a different beast entirely. For just $300, you get two audio components. The first is strictly the power supply, while the second is the actual phono stage, which includes the phono inputs and outputs, as well as the ground wire connection.

The Vincent PHO-8 provides a more neutral sound to your records, but also makes your records sound more tight and punchy.

And if you choose to swap out the supplied (but detachable) power supply cable and replace it with something like the Pangea Audio AC-14 power cord, you’ll likely be shocked at the improvement in the bass response.

I know I was.

Recommended Budget Speakers?

Speakers are always a bit tough because everyone has different wants and needs.

Some people prefer bookshelf speakers, while others demand towers.

Some want modern speakers while others prefer vintage.

Some listen to music in a small dorm room, while others are rocking out to their vinyl collection in a mini-mansion.

With that said, because this article is catered towards the budget conscious, I’m going to recommend one pair of speakers that’s under $300, and another that’s under $800.

The Elac B6 speakers, at around $280, will provide far more bass than you would expect for its price point. On top of that, these speakers are designed by speaker giant Andrew Jones, who has worked for the likes of KEF and Infinity.

If anyone knows speakers, it’s certainly Mr. Jones.

Now, if you were looking to truly splurge on your two-channel speaker setup, I also like the PSB Imagine Minis ($760).

No doubt stretching the budget, if there’s one area where you should be willing to open up the wallet a bit, it’s for your speakers.

The Imagine Minis pack a wallop for the price. Vocal clarity is really superb here, and if you match these speakers with a nice turntable or amplifier, you’ll really begin to hear more mid-range separation and high-end definition.

Final Thoughts

Vinyl is a fun hobby, but it’s not cheap. But with a little shrewd shopping, you can have a very nice turntable setup for a reasonable price.

And once everything is bought and setup, all that’s left to do is to sit back, relax, and enjoy the vinyl bliss.

Michael Moore is the owner of Devoted to Vinyl, a website built to help beginners in the vinyl hobby better understand everything they need to know so they can enjoy spinning records as soon as possible.




Tags: , ,


About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


Related Posts


5 Responses to How to Get Into Vinyl with Limited Funds

  1. Jay says:

    Interesting.. If I were to start today, I’d go the route of getting a turntable with built-in pre-amp. Simply to eliminate the need for a separate device.

    I have a Technics table from 1999-2000 era, probably less than $250 CDN new (it was a Christmas present from my father when I started collecting records – he didn’t want me using the cheaper than cheap late 70s/early 80s plastic behemoth – RCA I believe – as it was certifiable as junk). With no pre-amp on the Technics, I lucked out as I had a 1999-era 5.1 Panasonic receiver that had a phono input.
    Then phono input became a relic that no one was putting on new receivers.. so I was stuck with this old, yet great receiver that has no HDMI capability. Finally companies started putting phono inputs back on newer units and I upgraded to a Yamaha. Ultimately getting the unit with a phono input cost more than what I needed in a unit if I didn’t need the phono input, but it’s one less device and one less plug. Had my turntable had a pre-amp this never would have been an issue for me.

  2. chad says:

    This is the oddest post. “How to Get Into Vinyl with Limited Funds” yet if you read the article, you’ll be out a thousand dollars (or more)…and you haven’t bought a record yet. The CROSLEY turntables (actually “record players”..b/c they have attached speakers) are pretty good. There are JENSEN record players also available. But yes, they may not be the “best”, but they work. The AT LP 60 mentioned is a great “starter” turntable (sans speakers) and CAN be hooked up to both POWERED speakers and/or an integrated amp/receiver. Note that suddenly the LIMITED FUNDS are becoming LESS LIMITED. The speakers mentioned in the article are subjective to each owner and environment….as well as the “music” being played. Don’t forget that the amplifier being used has to be able to DRIVE the speakers. You want to listen to records and yet have very little money? Go get a RECORD PLAYER (they come with speakers), find a record at a record shop or some place to get records locally, put the record on the platter, and “LIKE” it. When you feel you’re ready for an “upgrade”, consider the choices available, and your audience, and gather things accordingly. Listening to records is simply cool. Just do it.

  3. Jeff says:

    I agree Crosley is junk.
    However there is no point (IMO) in getting into vinyl unless you’re into it for fidelity and that costs money (or you are a collector of records like how people collect books or hockey cards, in which case it only makes sense to collect rare or limited pressings)
    If you don’t want to spend thousands just buy a decent Bose speaker and connect with your phone… Honestly! And this is coming from an enthusiast with $40k+ in equipment.

    People want to have something tangible with moving parts, and you hear everyone say “vinyl sounds better” but its deceptive because with the right CD player or even the Bose/Phone combo mentioned above you’ll get better sound than any Crosley Cruiser.
    Right now it is just a fad — something people are doing to impress one another or because “its cool”. Trust me, you are being sold on the novelty — not on the quality.

    Alternatively, if this is a hobby you are really interested in and you are passionate about experiencing all the rewards that actual Hi Fidelity has to offer then I would suggest you start with a budget of around $1500 for a decent turntable, speakers, integrated amp and phono pre.
    Don’t expect to get 10/10 sound out of $1500 though… More like a 5 or 6 out of 10 (and by that I mean extracting all of the possible information from the record)

    BUY USED and research prices (I use hifishark.com) so you don’t lose money should you decide to sell. For a turntable Rega, Technics, Denon, and Thorens are all good bets depending on the model. I now have a Micro Seiki BL 111 but started with a Rega Planar 2, then later a Denon Dp 6700.

    For an integrated amp I started with a vintage Pioneer sx 1280 but have since gone to separates (tuner, amps, preamp etc). I would recommend a decent Solid State integrated in the Pioneer lineup, Marantz, Sansui is also very good, and at the upper range a Mcintosh.

    Speakers are very much a personal choice, Ive owned 3 pairs thus far but I started with a pair of $500 Monitor Audio Bronze series that I broke even on, then had a pair of french made Focal speakers, and now Wilson Audio. However if I were just starting out with a small budget I would look for a pair of Paradigm Audio Esprit or something similar who’s price has drastically depreciated. The key is to buy a set of speakers that work (always demo them before you buy) and have already lost most of their value but are still in great condition. Research for value and reputation of course and stay away from all Chinese (ChiFi) gear.

    Finally, after all of this I should state also that even with the greatest setup in the world, if the recording itself sucks than it’ll still sound like crap lol… True story.

    So please, folks… Consider all of these things before you jump into Vinyl.
    Its a really great hobby if you know what you’re doing but its also very easy to spend a ton of money and get less worse sound than if you were to use your phone and a Bose Bluetooth speaker. I hope this helps at least one person lol

    — Jeff

  4. Alan Elam says:

    First off, it’s not entirely true that ALL vinyl costs $30-$40 each, although they CAN typically breach that price point. Even some NEW or reissue titles can still go for a fairly reasonable $20-$25, depending on what it is. However, that doesn’t mean new vinyl prices AREN’T getting out of hand lately. New releases by some bigger artists are retailing at the $30 to $40 mark, and not all of them are even deluxe or 180g pressings. So, it all comes down to good old-fashioned GREED! That said, CLEAN used copies of certain well-known albums can still be found quite commonly and for SUPER-cheap ($2-4 on average, sometimes $8 TOPS). You might even get lucky now and then by scoring pristine copies of good stuff at thrift stores for as little as 50 cents! But otherwise, even that sector of the vinyl market is seeing a certain degree of price gouging (i.e., beat-up/barely playable used copies of albums by The Beatles, Zep, The Stones, Pink Floyd and all the other biggies going for a ridiculous $15-$20 each, and CLEAN used copies commanding twice as much). It didn’t start OUT being a not-inexpensive hobby. But too many factors (greed, supply and demand) have made it that way for the most part.

  5. If you need a budget speakers(which is not linked here to any website) you can find some honest reviews here: https://worldofturntables.com/speaker-reviews/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to Top ↑