Turntables

The Heart of Your Analog Music Playback System

Explore Our Large Selection of Thoughtfully-Selected Turntable Lines

washington dc virginia maryland acoustic signature authorized dealer

Acoustic Signature

Washington DC Virginia Maryland AMG Giro turntable dealer

AMG

turntables by Clearaudio

Clearaudio

turntables by J.Sikora

J.Sikora

SOTA Turntables STATEMENT SERIES

Sota

Turntables comprise the very heart of your analog stereo system. The signal that emanates from your turntable’s outputs defines the best that the music can sound in your system. Cables, phono preamplifiers, or other downstream components can either free the signal from the turntable or if preferred alter and color the signal, or even degrade the signal, but no components can improve upon your turntable’s output. At the moment the musical signal leaves your table it is as pure as it can ever be.

When you’re playing vinyl, the music starts with the microscopic vibrations between the grooves of the record and the stylus of your cartridge, the tiny electrical impulses generated between magnets and coils, and the extremely delicate resulting signal that propagates through the very fine wires in your tonearm and tonearm cable to your phono stage. In order for that signal to sound as the artist and the recording’s master intended, a lot has to go right and your turntable is foundation upon which you will build the rest of your analog system. No structure achieves greatness without a solid foundation.

Why is it important to invest in a good turntable? Aren’t the cartridge and tonearm what are really important?

To illustrate why your turntable is such a vital part of your music system, consider the following scenario: What would happen if you placed a world-class phono cartridge, such as a Koetsu Blue Lace or Lyra Atlas on a budget turntable? Would you expect the cartridge to be able to achieve its full potential? Of course not!

What if we did the opposite and placed an inexpensive cartridge on a world-class turntable like the TechDAS Air Force Zero with a Graham Phantom Elite tonearm? We would not expect the entry-level cartridge to generate the spectacular sonics that the turntable arm are capable of achieving. But we would expect the budget cartridge to achieve its full potential.

Asking why this is so leads us to the three reasons that turntables are so critical to accurate sound reproduction.

The purpose of a turntable is threefold:

1. Turntables maintain consistently accurate rotational speeds, allowing for faithful reproduction of the music that is pressed into your vinyl’s microscopic grooves.

Variations in speed cause audible pitch distortions, like wow and flutter. As such, maintaining a constant speed is critical to your listening experience. While many factors can contribute to accurate RPMs, the quality of the motors, the precision machining of the pulleys and platters, and the accuracy of speed controller all play a roll. As the price of the turntable increases, generally so does the sophistication of the speed control. Very basic tables have speed adjustment screws to manually adjust the speed, relying on the owner to tediously make fine adjustments. On the other hand, turntables like the Clearaudio Innovation, use an infrared sensor and an optical speed controller. The J.Sikora Standard MAX uses a microprocessor to maintain rock-solid speed.

2. Turntables prevent unwanted vibrations, both external and internal, from reaching the stylus and becoming audible.

Listening to vinyl is all about vibrations, both good and bad. The tiny vibrations a stylus makes as it travels through the record’s grooves are responsible for the music you hear. But that very sensitive setup is also vulnerable to distortions from external vibrations. Try the venerable “tap test”: Switch on a system and tap your finger on the turntable’s plinth. Do you hear the “thump” coming through the speakers? Now tap the surface on which your turntable rests. Is that vibration audible, too?

A great turntable will be impervious to such external vibrations. This is largely a function of some combination of mass, isolation mechanisms, and material composition. An inexpensive turntable might weigh less than 10 pounds and be made mostly of plastic, so we wouldn’t expect it to dampen many external vibrations. At the other end of the spectrum, the J.Sikora Reference turntable is composed of several complementary metals and tips the scales at over 200 pounds. If you tap on that turntable, you’ll be more likely to hurt your finger than to alter the signal!  But with the Reference turntable, it is not just about mass.  That table combines 5 different metals in specific amounts and strategic locations because every metal dissipates vibrations differently.  Also, the Reference uses ceramic ball bearings and vibration absorption materials to complement the other vibration control mechanisms.  SOTA takes an alternative approach with its Nova turntable. The SOTA Nova uses a four-point spring-suspended sub-chassis to dissipate vibrations.

Internal unwanted vibrations are also an issue to be dealt with. Have you heard the term “rumble?” Rumble is caused by vibrations from the turntable’s own motor making its way into the signal via a chassis that has been insufficiently isolated from the motor. For this reason, as you move up the ladder of audio turntables, you are likely to see more attempts to attenuate internal vibrations, from better damping materials to motors which are physically decoupled from the turntable body itself. For example, the TechDAS Air Force series places its motors into internally-isolated pods. Also, those tables “float” their platters on air bearings.

3. Turntables provide a solid framework for the mounting of a tonearm or tonearms.

As you will see in our section on tonearms, attaining and maintaining proper alignment is critical to both high-fidelity sound reproduction and to keeping your albums in good condition. Here again, it all starts with your choice of a turntable. If you have a sturdy house sitting on a shaky foundation, what do you really have? It’s relatively easy to upgrade tonearms and cartridges later. But it is wise start with a turntable that will serve as the foundation of your analog audio system for years to come.  It is also beneficial to select a table that does not lock you into one brand on tonearm.  Many of the better tables now have mechanisms, such as tonearm vendor-specific adapters that will allow you to change brands and models of arms without buying a new table.