How Does a Turntable Work – Record Player’s Method Of Operation

Introduction – what are turntables and record players?

Phonographs were the first devices that we used to receive written (programmed) sound. Their invention can be linked to Thomas Edison, Eldridge Johnson, and Emil Berliner. These people literally made the history of music by inventing this remarkable wonder.
Shortly after the invention of phonograph, the first gramophones were made – improved variants of sound-producing units. Gramophones were superior to phonographs in virtually every possible aspect, but they paled in comparison to turntables – the record players we all love and cherish.

Record Player’s Basics

Simply speaking, record players produce sound through data transmission. The vinyl record (which is placed on the record player) transmits data to the record player which tracks it down and reproduces it in the form of a sound.

Each part of the turntable does a specific job – a motor runs the show, the tonearm holds the cartridge and the record player needle which grazes the records, ultimately, producing sound. It’s hard to describe the parts and functions of a standard record player as there are different models, each being supplied with different parts and different method of operation.

It’s important to note that there are also different types of record players, such as versatile record players, all-in-one record players, portable record players, AM/FM record players, and more. Each of these models come with special features and characteristics.

Record Player & Mechanics – Motor

There are different types of record players, and don’t be surprised if you hear the word turntable, as it, basically, mean the same thing. Furthermore, record players come with different motors. These motors are the engines (same as with a standard car), and they run the entire mechanism.

Motors usually run at 45 RPM (rotations per minute), but some record players come with selectable speeds – 33, 45, and 78 rotations per minute.

Why is this speed important? The faster the engines run, the faster the process will be. However, this is in tight correlation with the stability of your record player. Some turntables will skip, scratch, or even malfunction if the speed surpasses the stability. For instance, a turntable with a fast motor should have a heavy platter if you wish to avoid potential problems.

Understanding the basic parts of a record player

Once we understand the parts of a record player, we can easily understand how these contraptions work. Each part is tightly connected with the other. We can see how a record player functions when we know the role of each part as a standalone factor.

There aren’t many parts, so let’s just mention the key elements of every turntable – The Base, The Needle, The Arm, and the Cartridge.

The Base

The base is also called the plinth of the record player. This term is relatively new, but it definitely means the base of the construction. The base of a turntable holds the parts together, and it serves as a sheltering box for other parts. The base should be heavy if it’s to provide stability to the construction. However, there isn’t a rule that will state what the material should be.

For instance, some manufacturers make record player plinths from wood, die-cast aluminum, metal, and other parts.

The Needle

The needle is located on the record player tonearm’s end. This is what actually makes the sound. It grazes the surface of the record and deciphers data written on it. This data is converted into small vibrations (which are later converted to music).
The needle is actually very small, and it’s hard to consider it as a main part. It’s basically a sub-part of the turntable Tonearm, and it can easily get damaged, but it’s also very simple to replace. People still consider it as one of the key elements of a record player because it serves a vital function.

The Arm

The arm (or the Tonearm) of the turntable is often found on the rightmost side of the turntable plinth, and it’s often locked in place – this was done to avoid unnecessary risks of damage, lest it wanders when unused.

The Arm contains the cartridge and the needle. These two parts are crucial for the functions of a record player, as they track down music data from the record player, and convert it to music at a later point. As with the needle, the entire arm is also replaceable, but the price might not be as affordable as the needle itself. Anyway, the tonearm is also a vital element.