Hi-Fi Faceoff: Vintage VS Modern Turntables

Audiophiles are the most avid proponents of their sound systems, and the passion extends to turntable owners of both modern and vintage models. You may have heard that nothing beats the craftsmanship and nostalgia of older record players, or that nothing compares to the fine-tuned precision of modern-day turntables. But no matter which model you’re feeling drawn to, there are significant differences that may help you choose. Our team at iWired has compared and contrasted the two so you can select the record player that matches your listening lifestyle.

Physical Appearance

Turntables are available in a wide range of shapes and sizes, and you’ll soon realize that their cosmetic appearance varies more widely between brands than age. However, the majority of older turntable models tend to be significantly larger than new ones due to the pre-amp that was built into them. Most users found it too bulky, so companies began trimming down the size until they reached sleek, transportable designs that can be as small as a laptop. These modern setups often look like a suitcase and are lightweight and easy to move around the home.

Sound Quality

It’s important to note how turntable audio quality has also evolved with the times. The gramophone surged in popularity during the 1900s, and different brands competed to outdo each other in sound quality. A high-quality vintage record player will still produce audio far superior to that of a cheap modern turntable. The state of your record player, no matter the age, is essential to its sound quality. A substandard stylus with rough edges will wear down your record and permanently warp the audio, so we recommend testing your equipment before bringing out your favorite limited-edition album. Newer stereo setups are solidly built with a combination of wood, alloys, and other metals, and the manufactured combination of the stylus with cartridge has also overall improved audio.

Technological Advancements

This may seem obvious, but new technologies are what allowed audio quality to advance in record players throughout history. Classic setups have relatively primitive capabilities in comparison to the plethora of bells and whistles that are part of the modern listening experience. If you’re a casual listener, you may prefer to have fewer features for a more straightforward musical experience. Furthermore, while most audiophiles prefer the silent motor of a modern turntable to achieve crisp sound, many listeners love the audible purr of the spinning deck of antique models. It all depends on your preferred taste for the nostalgic or the novel.

Fix-it Factor

Your record player will likely be damaged one way or another in its lifetime through a drop, a careless hand, or a spill, meaning you’ll need to get it fixed. Although vintage turntables were built to last and don’t break easily, their parts are incredibly difficult to find when something does go wrong. The older your turntable, the harder it will be since these parts are no longer manufactured. Repairing a model older than the 1960s will be almost impossible to do. Modern record players are still quite durable, and if you break a piece, it’s not hard to call the brand or take it to a store to replace your damaged parts.

Cost & Value

The prices for modern and vintage turntables truly depend on their quality. Nowadays, you can anticipate paying at least $300 for a high-quality record player that reflects the care and maintenance its previous owner invested over the years. A deal too good to be true likely reflects poor craftsmanship that will destroy your records. But $300 is still a fantastic deal for a piece of technology with years of history behind it. On the other hand, a $300 modern turntable reflects a short lifespan and basic features. Anything under $200 is probably so cheaply made it will destroy your records. A superior contemporary design costs around $1,000, which is a worthy investment for professionals and audiophiles who want to enjoy cutting-edge technology and a listening experience that feels otherworldly. However, no matter what record player you choose, you’ll still need to purchase amplifiers and a speaker, so consider their costs and quality as well.

Complexity of Use

Turntables are created with different purposes in mind. Due to earlier technology and fully automated simple settings, vintage stereos are considered far easier to operate. You may only have to adjust the RPM before putting on the tunes. On the other hand, modern models require you to lift the platter and manually adjust a variety of features before listening. Almost nothing is even partially automated, both record players that are this complex tend to be reserved for professional performers and DJs; there are still simple modern models available out there. Just be aware that though it may not seem logical, the more convenient option is actually the older model.

Whether you have questions about RPM or are deciding between a few vintage brands, our team of experts at iWired is excited to help you find the best audio system for your lifestyle! We are happy to grant recommendations, answer your questions, and install your hi-fi stereo system.  Contact us today to begin!