So you just bought your first record player and can’t wait to dive in?
If you’re a first-timer, you might be wondering where everything goes and how everything works. This is exactly where we come in with a simple guide on how to use a record player.
Essentially, the first thing you will want to do is read the manual that came with your record player. Then, you can proceed to setting everything up and turning it on.
Before you know it, you’ll be all ready to pop your first record on the turntable and lower the tonearm to play your album.
You’ll be happy to hear that for the most part, using a record player is quite simple. However, each step of the process involves its own little intricacies.
With the help of the rest of this article, you’ll have all the information that you need as a beginner to get started and jam to your first vinyl record.
Using A Record Player – The First Thing You Need to Do
We know this is the last thing that anyone wants to hear, but you need to read the manual! Most people feel like they don’t have the time to read the manual, but the reality is that reading the manual saves time in the long run. We realize that it’s difficult to reel in the excitement for a moment to do this step but it is well worth the effort.
The reason it’s so crucial to do this is that every brand and every model is unique. Sure, there are plenty of similarities across the board and several aspects will be close to identical across almost all record players. Yet, it takes one small design adjustment to throw a spanner in the works and wreak a world of havoc if you aren’t careful.
Once you have read the manual, you should have a good idea of the anatomy of your record player and how to begin the setup.
Setting up anything for the first time can be intimidating. However, it becomes significantly less intimidating if you are familiar with all of the parts you are working with. If you are a little hazy on this, we suggest checking out Parts of a Record Player – Full Turntable Anatomy Explained to get up to speed.
Once you’re acquainted with the parts of a record player, you can jump into putting everything together. Generally, there are several aspects that will require your attention like the location, powering the record player, and the preamp and speaker setup.
If you are having problems with your record player we recommend you take a look at our article on how to fix a record player at home.
Finding a suitable location for your record player is imperative to have a good experience. By and large, you should set up the record player in the room you intend on using to listen to your music. With a good set of speakers, you can certainly enjoy listening to your albums from another room but this isn’t recommended.
At the very least, the record player should be located indoors and undercover, not outside where it could be exposed to the elements. The last thing you want is for your electronics to be harmed by water damage!
In addition, you need to find a flat and unmoving surface to place the record player on. Any slanted or uneven surfaces could lead to damaging your machine if it falls off or decrease the sound quality if the whole turntable is wobbling like a boat in rough seas while you try to play your records.
Record players have intricate parts such as the stylus and cartridge, and by nature, can be somewhat fragile. So, one should ensure that the record player is set up out of the way and isn’t placed in any compromising positions in the room.
For example, look out for any doors or windows that could move and hit the record player. Check that it isn’t placed in any major walkways where people could accidentally trip and damage the system.
Furthermore, we know from Storing Vinyl Records – Vertically, Horizontally & In Heat that UV light can potentially degrade and warp records. For this reason, it may be beneficial to place your record player out of direct sunlight to protect the records that you play.
Most record players are simply powered by plugging in a power cord. However, some record players have the added benefit of being portable with a chargeable battery. This means that they can be used without being plugged into a wall socket but will almost certainly require frequent charging sessions.
The preamp and speaker setup will differ between record players, but in essence, you need both to be present to be able to listen to your records. This is where the convenience of owning a record player over a turntable comes in; a record player will include a preamp and speaker already, making the setup a lot less painful.
If you are unsure about how a record player and turntable differ, you can read all about it in Turntable Vs Record Player – Key Differences Explained.
If you are working with a record player, setting up the preamp and speaker could be as simple as plugging in the main unit to your wall power socket or merely charging up the record player and using it straight away. The latter is particularly common for portable briefcase-style record players that include a preamp and speakers inside the main base.
Other record player systems may look like a turntable that is accompanied by matching speakers. This may mean that you need to manually connect the speakers to the turntable through cables or even Bluetooth.
In this case, the preamp would be included in either the turntable unit or the speakers but either way, it is not usually something you need to worry about actively setting up.
It should also be noted that most record players can be connected to external speakers, should you wish to use a separate set. In fact, this is sometimes more favorable; speakers that are included in a record player setup may not suit your volume needs.
If you choose this route, connecting your record player setup to another set of speakers would be part of your overall setup.
A turntable setup is slightly more complicated. First and foremost, you should check if your turntable includes a preamp or not. If it does, all you need to do is connect your turntable to a set of active speakers. Lucky you!
If your turntable does not include a preamp, you will need to manually add one to your setup. This can be done in a number of different ways. For instance, you could connect your turntable to a standalone phono preamp and then connect that to your active speakers.
Otherwise, you could connect your turntable to an integrated amp unit that includes a preamp and amplifier, which can then be connected to passive speakers.
This is not an extensive list of all the options you have. But the approach that you choose is largely dependent on what makes sense with what you already have lying around and what your preferences are. We suggest asking your local record player store for advice if you are still confused about what setup your turntable requires.
Once you have sorted out the setup of your record player, you have officially conquered the most difficult hurdle and can finally get into the fun part! Playing records on a record player is much simpler than one may expect.
It involves setting the speed, placing the record on the platter, placing the needle properly, then cueing the platter to spin and lowering the needle to play the music from the record grooves.
Depending on what size record you want to play, you will need to select the appropriate speed. Choose 33 ⅓ RPM when listening to a large album record and choose 45 RPM when listening to a small single record. Typically, this can be adjusted with a physical speed switch on the turntable.
Whenever you handle your records, be gentle and ensure that you avoid touching the surface of the grooves. Touching this surface can increase the likelihood of it becoming dirty and possibly getting damaged. Instead, handle your record by only touching the outer rim and the center label.
By holding the outer edges on either side of the record with your two hands, you can gently lower it onto the platter. Make sure that the hole of the record lines up with the center spindle so that the record slides into place seamlessly. The side that you want to play should be face up and visible, not face down on the platter.
This is a great time to check if your record is clean. Even if it looks clean, it is good practice to give it a quick brush with an anti-static record cleaner brush to remove any dust lurking on the surface.
If you can see more dirt than just some minor dust that can be brushed off, we suggest giving it a more thorough clean. You can learn all about safe cleaning methods in How To Clean Vinyl Records Safely & Without Damaging Them.
With the tonearm still up and raised above the record (it should not be touching or scraping against any surface), swing the tonearm over the record to align the needle with the outermost groove. Indeed, you can move the tonearm to align the needle with any of the grooves to start on any of the tracks on the album.
But starting on the outside will play the album from the beginning. You will notice that the slightly wider grooves on the record will separate the different tracks. So, if you want to start from the beginning of a track that is in the middle of the album, not at the start of the album, navigate the needle to the wide groove on the outside of that track’s groove section.
Sometimes trying to do this from a side view can mean that you accidentally misalign the needle because of the change of perspective. If you struggle with this, try looking from directly above the record and this should help you to align the needle more accurately.
Now that the needle is aligned above the record, we can initiate the spinning of the platter and use the cueing mechanism to lower the tonearm. By lowering the tonearm, the needle can make contact with the groove and play music.
In some cases, one can press play and this will start the rotation of the platter and record. From there, you can lower the cue lever so that the needle touches.
In other cases, the play functionality and the cue mechanism are combined. This means that lowering the cue lever to the play position will automatically start the rotation of the platter and lower the needle at the same time. It all depends on what system you are working with.
Once the needle touches the spinning record, you should be able to hear your wonderful music through the speakers! All that’s left to do is enjoy.
If it’s your first time using a record player, it’s completely understandable that you may feel a bit lost. Reading the manual is the best way to get familiar with your setup and learn about any abnormal functionalities.
Then, you will want to set everything up and ensure that your record player includes a preamp and speaker. If the preamp and speaker are separate units, check that they are connected correctly.
Next, make sure that the record player is connected to a power source or that it is charged, if it is a portable record player that runs on a battery. Then you can adjust the speed, place a clean record on the platter and move the tonearm into place.
Once the needle is aligned over the desired grooves, you can press play and gently lower the needle down with the cue lever. As the needle runs along the grooves of the spinning record, you can relish the amazing music coming from your vinyl album.
- Hands-On: Victrola Premiere V1 Music System Review
- How to Clean a Record Player (& Needle) – With Photos
- Vinyl VS Record: Are They the Same Thing? What About an LP?
- How to Fix a Warped Record: Is it Possible to Unwarp Vinyl?
- How Much is a Record Player? Are They Worth the Cost?
Trent is a music lover, musical instrument player and passionate audio afficionado.