You may wonder to yourself, are vintage turntables better than new ones? While the topic of vintage turntables can be subjective, some audiophiles may beg to differ. There are definitely some key differences between an old and brand-new turntable regarding features and specific aspects of design.
There’s a nostalgic and classic quality that a vintage table is known for, but aside from that, other qualities separate the old from the new. This article will provide a detailed overview of this question while exploring what vintage turntables have to offer.
Vintage vs. new turntables
If you’re new to vinyl records, it’s understandable that you might start looking at new record players. While this makes sense for numerous reasons, that doesn’t mean vintage tables are outdated. They may not come with many modern technical features, but they can deliver incredible audio quality at a fraction of the price.
Of course, vintage turntables are bound to have a few pros and cons and may even require more maintenance than you’re looking for. At the same time, many audiophiles are huge fans of their vintage design and overall quality. If you’re considering a vintage turntable, that means it’s more than likely used, and it could require some repairs that aren’t as easy to fix in comparison to new turntables.
From another aspect, even if they come with a little more trouble than newer turntables, you’ll still own a piece of history that’s essentially timeless.
Although you may be enticed by the nostalgic sound and look of a vintage turntable, you should consider a few key points before pulling the trigger on a purchase.
The pros and cons vintage turntables offer
There are a wide variety of vintage record players and turntables you could look into, and each one is guaranteed to come with a few pros and cons. To ensure you’re getting the most out of your money and listening experience, you’ll want to consider the factors below:
One of the first aspects you want to look at is how a vintage deck is built. For the most part, they’re relatively simple, considering the era they come from. When looking at a vintage turntable, you might notice some wobble, which can happen for a variety of reasons.
Whether it’s a worn-out belt or an uneven platter, it can sometimes be challenging to determine what’s actually causing that wobble. This is where some repairs may need to take place. If you find an issue with the mechanical features of the turntable, you’ll only be able to fix them by replacing certain parts.
Many new turntables can get quite expensive as some include a vast range of features that simply didn’t exist in the past. Thankfully, vintage turntables haven’t changed a bit, and their setup and included features are relatively simple across the board.
It shouldn’t be difficult to find a decent vintage record player for under a few hundred dollars, but if you happen to find something in great condition, it could potentially go for quite a bit more. Then again, vintage turntables aren’t as inclusive as new models, and you may need to invest in additional parts to have everything you need.
In many cases, items such as preamps or external speakers aren’t built into vintage turntables, and these can become rather expensive depending on the quality you’re looking for. Additionally, don’t forget that if you’re buying used, you’ll likely need to purchase a new cartridge as well. By the end of it, you could end up spending upwards of $500 to have everything you need within a good quality vintage record player.
You also have to take their material quality into account. A new turntable is made with much more cost-efficient materials, whereas vintage models are built with more expensive yet sturdy materials. This alone will add to that final cost, but you’ll also be able to feel the reliable build quality in your hands. Although the difference in cost between old and new record players is comparable in many ways, a vintage model is a piece of history that isn’t mass-produced anymore.
There are a lot of audiophiles that love the way their records sound on a vintage turntable, but others are content to buy the latest model, even if it means sacrificing some sound quality for reliability.
This particular topic can be somewhat subjective as every model is different. Generally, vinyl enthusiasts tend to prefer vintage turntables because they have a higher “quality-to-dollar ratio.” While that’s not to say that vintage turntables always produce better sound, they generally will produce comparable sound quality to modern turntables that are hundreds of dollars more.
However, the audio quality of a vintage turntable can diminish if the other components aren’t up to par.
From how the decks are built to the reliability of their internal parts over time, there are a handful of factors that play into the fidelity of the audio as a whole.
Is it worth buying a vintage turntable?
It may require a little more know-how and maintenance, but a vintage turntable is entirely worth the time and money you’ll save. Sure, it may not come with all of the bells and whistles of modern turntable technology, but it offers something unique that simply isn’t being produced today.
You can also appreciate them for their timeless and nostalgic features, and many of them offer an unbeatable aesthetic quality that isn’t found in newer models. However, always remember that it could lead to additional costs down the road. When you consider the age of a vintage turntable and how they’re built, they’ll definitely require more maintenance than a new model.
Above all of the points listed in this article, you have to look at a vintage turntable as an investment. Not only from the perspective of cost but all of the pros and cons that come with them.
Some people may consider them to be more hassle than they’re worth, but audiophiles and those who have a knack for old-school vinyl equipment are more than happy to deal with the needs of its upkeep. If this is something that intrigues you, check out our full guide on how to buy a vintage turntable.
Do vintage turntables sound better?
Depending on the context of the question, some might say it’s pretty subjective, but from a technological standpoint, it’s known that vintage turntables do sound as good as modern ones if properly maintained.
Going back to a point made earlier, vintage turntables are more likely to encounter more technical issues, one of which is a little wobble. Although this issue can be found with any turntable, older models are much more prone to it. This alone can significantly affect the audio quality, and newer turntables have many more features that ensure a smooth and high-fidelity listening experience.
There are a handful of limitations regarding vintage record players, and it isn’t as easy as just upgrading every single part. Newer models allow for a lot more customization if you’re trying to refine the turntable’s quality, while some aspects of older models are more set in stone.
If you look at it from a subjective standpoint, you might prefer the classic sound of a vintage turntable altogether. The audio it provides has a tendency to take you back in time, and some people feel it brings a sound out of your vinyl records that newer turntables can’t accomplish. Once again, if you ask different people about this topic, you’re bound to receive many different answers.
What is the best vintage turntable?
This comes down to a blend of personal taste and build quality. Although some aspects of this topic can be subjective to each person, other points pertaining to features, build, and sound quality is pretty absolute. There are many brands out there that have been making turntables for decades, each with its own purpose within the industry.
If you were to ask an audiophile about their favorite turntable company, you’d probably come across quite a few different answers. Nevertheless, brands such as Marantz, Rega, Denon, and Sansui are quite popular. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single answer to this question as each company has something unique to offer, and your money would be well spent with any one of them.
For example, Sansui is known for its blend of quality and affordability, while Marantz is highly regarded for its top-notch quality in manufacturing from every angle. Some companies may have been around longer than others, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have plenty to choose from.
Then again, there’s a decent variety in what’s considered to be a vintage turntable, as you can sort through equipment from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and so on. What makes this great is that not only are many turntables from these eras considered to be vintage, but they’ll display a decent range of technology. This is where you’ll be able to hone in on exactly what you’re looking for. Understandably, older models are bound to have a more simplistic design, while more recent models may come with additional features.
Audiophiles may not have a hard time choosing, but for those who are fairly new to record players in general, I’ll help simplify the search for you.
Below is a comprehensive list of companies that are known for some of the best vintage turntables of all time.
These turntable brands are a great place to start if you plan to go shopping for a vintage record player. You’ll always want to remember that some of these brands aren’t producing turntables anymore, so you may have to hunt to find one that’s suitable for you. Expect a little trial and error with this search, but the turntable community is vast and buzzing more than ever, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding answers along the way.
This article acts as a guide to point you in the right direction for purchasing a reputable and timeless vintage turntable. Make sure to always factor in the factual and subjective notes, and you’ll be able to find something that’s perfect for your needs.
Lead Editor / Owner
After beginning his career in the video and audio recording industry, Andrew started HiFi Hippo to share his knowledge and passion for vinyl and vintage audio with other readers.