New to Turntable - what're involved in playing LP?


Hi, I'm building a 2-channel hifi system around my Harbeth P7ES3 and are interested in getting into the turntables. BTW, I had no prior experience with a turntable.

What steps are involved in playing back LPs? Is it a complex process?

Can someone explain to me what compoents/tools I need to get in order to setup the turntables/tonearm/cartridge properly for an excellent quality playback of LPs?

Or am I jumping too far ahead because I may need to upgrade my digital source (CD or SACD player) first and find the amps for my Harbeth?

Please share your thoughts and experience.
r0817
Remember, there were a FEW HUNDRED MILLION record players around before the advent of CD. They were not all owned and operated by rocket engineers. To be brief, it goes like this: disengage arm from rest, lift , and place on record. Reverse this process at end of side. This covers the essentials. As to the subtleties; that is a little harder. You will need a decent alignment device; a paper protractor will do and can be downloaded free from several sites. VPIs, which I sell, come with a good alignment gauge which is easy to use. Set up can be time consuming at first but as you learn how to do it becomes much easier. These days LPs take more commitment than CDs as they are more expensive and have many fewer choices available. I would set up my system for CD first and then decide whether to add LP. I myself still find LP to be the superior medium but CD can be very good also.
I should have mentioned that there is a good DVD explaining set up in detail by Michael Fremer; I would get that and watch it before making a decision.
Great little speaker you have.
find someone locally who has one and check it out first. it's helpful to have someone who knows their way around, especially if they can help with tracking force and such.
I am not sure that Fremer's video would not discourage a neophyte from going anywhere near a record player. Maybe the best advice is to purchase a player with a built-on tonearm (so no installation and alignment necessary) and then ask your dealer to install your cartridge of choice, or a knowledgeable friend. Then, enjoy. If you are smitten, you will take it upon yourself to learn more about the art and science of record playing. If not, you won't.

You will also need a phono stage; the signal that comes out of a phono cartridge is tiny in magnitude (voltage) compared to that which comes from any sort of silver disc player (CD/SACD/DVD), and it needs to be equalized, which is the unique job of the phono stage. Decent ones can be bought for well under $500. (Check out phono stages on Audiogon.) For a cartridge, I recommend any of several good "moving magnet" (aka MM) cartridges. As a class, MM cartridges work best and sound best with those low cost phono stages mentioned above. Shure, Grado, and Ortofon, among many others make good MM cartridges.
There's a lot of very good entry level decks that come with pre-mounted cartridges. They're about as plug and play as it gets. Speak to the seller and get a sense of what you'll need spec-wise from a phono preamp.

After you amass LPs and decide you want more out of your setup, get familiar with cartridge installation. A local dealer is invaluable in this regard.

That's how I started out anyway. I bought a Pro-Ject 1Xpression deck which had a pre-mounted Sumiko Oyster cartridge, and an NAD PP2 phono stage. I upgraded to a better integrated that also had a great internal phono stage (Bryston B60). After moving, I found a local Rega dealer who's a vinyl guy. I bought a Dynavector 10x5 cartridge from him, and he installed it while explaining everything to me. When the time comes to replace it, I'll buy something from him and ask him to watch me install it. He's a great guy in this regard and would be happy to help me out.

One thing I'd strongly suggest is good cleaning stuff - for your records and stylus. They don't need to be expensive however. I bought some Mofi record cleaning fluid, a wet brush, and a carbon fiber brush from Music Direct. Nothing fancy or exotic.

After you amass a decent sized collection, a vacuum cleaning machine works wonders. I bought the KAB USA unit for about $150 or so? Took my vinyl sound quality up several notches. I also added using a hand held steam cleaner that I already had (it was about $25), and that combined with the vacuuming took it up another few notches.

It's easy to get caught up in the cleaning stuf and other vinyl tweaks. One thing at a time IMO, and don't get overwhelmed by it all. It's not as difficult as it seems.

Cleaning is an essential process. No matter how good your equipment is, it'll sound like crap if your records are dirty. That doesn't mean it has to be an intricate process though.
RO817
There are several reasons that I would discourage you against vinyl.
At the top the number one reason which made the compact disk an instant World Wide success was it's over whelming convenience of use.
My suggestions would be to put your money into improving what you have now be it mods to your player and or vibration control including finding the right amps for your Harbeth speakers as you mention, I think money well spent.

Someone like yourself in this position of never owning a record player, a collection of Lps and everything that should go along with it including developing your own expectations with vinyl playback.
You could very easily find yourself not enjoying it and throwing money at it is not a solution either, it takes time and gained knowledge.
Sorry for the wet blanket , just something to think about carefully.
Get a "plug and play" model so you dont have to spend much time with set-up. Rega, Sota and VPI very nice TTs, with used ones as an option. Then I would seek out quality used vinyl at your local record store or EBay and Agon are good too.
Or am I jumping too far ahead because I may need to upgrade my digital source (CD or SACD player) first and find the amps for my Harbeth?
Since all of your experience is with digital, it may be better to get that setup first, since you are familiar with the format.

Doing both together can be a headache. Analog has less dynamics, but other nice things going for it. Even someone that is a veteran with both, may have a hard time starting with new gear using both formats.
I got back into it after having been all digital for the last 20 years and I am having a blast with it. It is certainly more work than digital but the sonics are simply splendid; more life like than sacd / cd. As others have suggested buy something plug & play or buy from a dealer who will set the table up for you if you don't want to do it yourself.
Unless you already have a record collection I would advise against it. Of course you can always find cheap records at Goodwill if you like Lawrence Welk, Andy Williams and Herb Alpert.
Come on in, it is fairly easy, you will love it, and you will get great sound. I very rarely listen to CDs anymore.

It would be good to get linked up with a good hearted local dealer that can show you the ins and outs and then help you get set-up with a good rig for your system.
Hifi,
Do you really think analog has less dynamics? I've read that, but it has not been my experience. I don't want to have the same old argument here, but in my collection of older LPs and newer CDs, the former seem more dynamic to me. On the same recording, Muddy Waters Folk Singer, for instance, the LP is clearly better in almost every way. The CD is slightly less noisy, but only slightly. That is its only advantage, besides convenience. Same thing for Ray Brown and Duke Ellingtons' This One's for Blanton. No comparison. Just curious.

As far as the OP getting into vinyl, that's a tough one. It's a real commitment (read time and money) if done seriously, especially with no existing collection, IMO.

Do you really think analog has less dynamics? Peterayer
Maybe I should have said dynamic range. I think vinyl has the edge myself over CDs. I don't know about future digital audio yet. But, a lot of people going from CD to vinyl, usually complain about it being flat, lacking bass, plus other things. I grew up with records and know what to expect. I don't have any problem with it, except the convenience difference. I have LPs that have plenty of bass and dynamics for me. I just think it will be hard to set up all of this new equipment (new digital, analog, and amps) at once. I think it would be a lot easier to have one format ready and running first. And, be familiar with it. Then add a second type of playing system.
Find a great local used record shop. I've had a blast starting from zero LPs just under a year ago to quite a decent little collection. :)

I went from a Pro-ject Xpression I with Pro-ject Speedbox I and Pro-ject Phono Box I (not a bad little deck) to a Pro-ject Xpression III with an Ortofon MC-3 turbo cartridge, the same Speedbox and a Pro-ject Tube Phono Box II and am loving it.

Scott
Lots of cool stuff.Dude.
Hifihvn- "But, a lot of people going from CD to vinyl, usually complain about it being flat, lacking bass, plus other things. I grew up with records and know what to expect. "

This is an interesting statement as I have experienced the exact opposite. Now I did have prior experience with LP's about 30 years before I took the dive back in to vinyl this year.

I know many would try to get the digital first and get the "best" they can afford because this is where their software investment is but I do at times wish I would have spent a little less on my current digital and therefore have more to invest in my turntable.

I really enjoy the sound of vinyl and the overall experience. Maybe I just have a little buyers remorse and would feel differently if I had went with a lesser digital source.
Now I did have prior experience with LP's about 30 years before I took the dive back in to vinyl this year.

I know many would try to get the digital first and get the "best" they can afford because this is where their software investment is but I do at times wish I would have spent a little less on my current digital and therefore have more to invest in my turntable.

Bjbcab (Threads | Answers | This Thread)
This makes a big difference in my opinion. The OP has no experience. I never dropped vinyl myself. I run both, digital, and vinyl.

The past threads people have posted in, is what I'm going by. We all have our own opinion.

I hate to tell someone to drop the big majority of their money on something they have no experience with. But again, that's just me. At least we know the OP does like digital, or they would have never bought Harbeth speakers. That says a lot. Can you be sure the OP will be happier with vinyl? The OP can read everyone's experience and opinions, and go from there.
If you are willing to clean records, often clean styluses, carefully isolate your turntable, and get up often to change records, you still will get more thrilling real music reproduction.

When I started in audio there was only radio, initially not even fm radio and LPs. My father even had an excellent record changer system.

The best digital is getting quite good and is much more convenient. Most week nights I listen to digital because of the convenience. I use an Ipad as a remote and can merely punch what I want to hear. I just wish I could be happy with digital!