I recently heard that Urban Outfitters is the largest seller of vinyl records in America. Sadly, it also sells turntables that aren't very good for your records. The proof? This amazing thread over on Reddit detailing exactly why you shouldn't place your valuable records on suboptimal turntables.
The list of offenders is crazy.
The Reddit thread's intro alone serves as a warning as to what not to do with that $25 vinyl you just splurged on:
Playing vinyl records is a great hobby. It's easy to get started and you don't need to spend a fortune to do so. However, like any hobby, there is both good and bad products out there at both ends of the price/performance spectrum. In general, a record player or turntable needs to do three basic separate, interrelated jobs to successfully play a vinyl record. Some players perform these three jobs better than others and cost much more for the commensurate research, development, and precision manufacturing costs that went into producing them.
Job #1 Provide a stable, extremely flat, non resonant platform for the record to rest on.
Job #2 Turn the platform and record precisely at the correct speed.
Job #3 Position a stylus and transducer above a revolving groove, allow the stylus to follow the grove and faithfully reproduce the vibrations encoded within.
As one moves up the record player/turntable food chain, more of the build budget gets dedicated to improvements that affect audio quality either directly or indirectly.
Most mass-market turntables are made by three OEM factories: Hanpin, Skywin, and Leetac. They all make a low quality, non upgradable, low performance, budget-friendly, entry level model with built-in speakers, a heavy tracking ceramic or moving magnet cartridge, and a barely adequate tonearm prone to promote stylus mistracking. Even the more expensive mass-market turntables tend to place emphasis on convenience features such as automatic play, sometimes switchable built in phono-EQ, USB connectivity, and cosmetics, instead of design improvements that increase audio quality.
Reasons to not buy these brands/specific models:
• Skipping during playback of loud passages, including but not limited to heavy bass/drums, and/or loud transients due to exceeding the tracking abilites of the included stylus.
• No upgrade options, nor serviceable parts that can be sourced easily other than the stylus and belt.
• The included sapphire sylus on many Leetac and Skywin-manufactured players, which has a maximum lifespan of between 65 to 100 hours due to the stylus' softer material than diamond. Yes, you can upgrade to a diamond tipped stylus for increased stylus longevity, but you will still have the exact same problems as described in this list.
• Heavy, inconsistently set, tracking force (Leetac and Skywin tonearms) with ceramic cartridges require vertical tracking force be set at roughly 5.0 grams but is measured anywhere from 4.0 to 10.0 grams. The Audio Technica AT3600L moving magnet cartridge, found on some Crosley models (i.e., the Collegiate) and Hanpin FU-700/R200 OEM models have measured anywhere from 4.0 to 6.0 grams. This can shorten the lifespan of the stylus, specifically the tip, cantilever, and suspension, but also accelerate groove damage to the records. Note that the AT3600L moving magnet's stylus has a recommended tracking force between 2.5 to 3.5 grams.
• Non-adjustable or fixed counterweight that severely limits cartridge and stylus selection (usually to just one).
• Shorter tonearms also experience higher levels of tracing error, where the stylus is not perfectly parallel to the groove, causing audible distortions The short tonearm also further contributes inner groove distortion, where groove speed is the slowest and tracking is most difficult. IGD is audible distortion that affects the midrange and treble frequencies during playback at the most inner grooves near the center label.
Click here to read the rest and get the full list of the worst offenders...