If you have looked at a record player, you can attest that it has various parts. However, if you are not familiar with a record player, the anatomy might sound like rocket science. Record players have been here for a couple of decades, providing entertainment to those who love listening to music. For the older generation, they are nothing new.

Today, turntables are still in use as part of modern sound systems. Understanding the various parts helps one to know the way to operate a record player. Below is a detailed account of the parts:

Turntable

Although both the terms turntable and record player are used interchangeably, they mean different things.  A turntable is actually a part of the record player. It is where the record is placed, and is also referred to as a revolving platter.

At the middle of the turntable is a metal rod. The turntable itself is made of metal but covered with rubber or plastic to prevent the record from being scratched.

Some cheap record players use steel for their turntables. This is because the metal is light and cheap to produce. But, the plates have a low inertia. Some of the best turntables are made of aluminum, which are better balanced and decrease vibration.

The rotation of the turntable is run by a drive system.  There are two systems: direct-drive and belt-drive.  The latter helps to reduce noise from the motor and also cushions the vibrations. On the other hand, a direct-drive system does not use belts, gears and wheels.

The cartridge and the tonearm

First, the tonearm is the arm that connects the cartridge with the stylus.  Actually, it produces sound.  The arms can come curved or straight. You may want to ask, which of the arms is the best,  and the answer to this question is dependent on the person you ask. Some people are convinced that curved arms release better sounds. Others prefer straight arms since they are easier to work with.

When the stylus is following the grooves on the record, the vibrations move through the wires, and to the cartridge.  The cartridge features a set of coils that fall within a magnetic field. Once the vibrations produced strike the coils, they are changed to electrical signals. The signals can then be amplified using speakers.

Headshell

This component is located at the edge of the tonearm.  The cartridge attaches to this part. It is recommended that you choose a record player that has a removable headshell which will enable you to replace the cartridge easily when need be. It also makes it easier when you are replacing headshells.

Stylus

The stylus is also termed the needle.  It rests on the record. Some record players have their styluses made from diamond, however, the needle can also be made from sapphire. The stylus is linked to the tonearm with a thin metal strip. The metal is flexible enough to allow the stylus move over the grooves of the record with ease.

The stylus is either elliptical or spherical.  A spherical stylus does not form close contact with the groove but is more sensitive. The elliptical stylus has more contact with the groove, producing perfect sound.  One important thing to know is that needles need to be replaced after 1,000 to 2,500 hours.

Preamplifiers and amplifiers

Contemporary audio receivers are made for signal output from MP3, CD and DVD players. Hence, they are not designed to handle audio signals from record players. Some audio receivers had a phono preamplifier, to improve audio signals to the best levels. However, modern receivers do not have phono preamps.  Others have built-in preamplifiers.  The best preamp relies on the cartridge present.

Motor

This is another part of a record player. It is either uses direct-drive or belt-drive mechanism. For a number of decades, people have argued over whether a belt-drive is better than a direct-drive design. Both types of motors have their followers. Actually, the two produce varying sound.  Belt-drive designs are preferred since they separate the motor and the platter.  On the other hand, in the case of the direct-drive designs the platter and the motor are connected.

How the record player works

Now that you understand the basic parts of the record player, how do they interact to produce and record music? Most record players use a mechanism that was discovered by Edison, for the first phonograph.  However, modern record players do not use horns to amplify sound. On the contrary, they utilize electromagnetic devices to change sound frequencies into electrical signals.  These are then taken to amplifiers, and lastly to headphones or loudspeakers. Unlike, Edison’s phonograph, the record players from the 1980s used both electromagnetic and mechanical technology.

Usually, a standard record player has a stylus or needle. It moves up and down on the groove of the recorded disc. As it moves on the groove, the stylus makes minute vibrations, which are then transmitted along a metal bar. The stylus is connected to the cartridge, which is electromagnetic.  The interaction between the stylus and the metal bar produces electrical signals.  These signals are then transported to the amplifiers to produce the sound you hear when you listen through headphones or via loudspeaker.

It should be noted that not all record players featuring a cartridge use piezoelectricity to transform vibrations into electrical signals. Some players have magnetic devices and electrical coils inside them, which help them to make electrical signals.

A record player has a number of parts and is important to learn about the various parts. This can help you when you are buying a new player. Besides, it assists you to understand the working of a record player and gain knowledge on what to do when it does not work properly or stops functioning all together.  While the above record player parts are the basics, some record players will come with add-on features. The bottom line is that when you are out shopping for a record player, ensure all the basic parts are intact, after which you can consider other accessories.