Guide to Spinning Vinyl Records for Beginners

March 05, 2024 3 min read

Guide to Spinning Vinyl Records for Beginners

Why Spin Vinyl Records?

It's as close to authentic sound as it gets. Vinyl enthusiasts appreciate the analog sound produced by the physical grooves on the record, which can add depth and character to the music. True music lovers will appreciate the sound vinyl records provide; the music and vocals are closer to the way artists sound live, with a lossless format that isn't overly compressed. It also maintains its value endlessly.

What You Need to Get Started Spinning Vinyl Records 
- Vinyl Records
- Turntable
- Phono Pre Amplifier
- Amplifier
- Speakers
At Andover, our turntables have phono pre-amps built in and our speakers have amps built in, so you only need the 2 pieces, like our SpinDuo (pictured below).
Our all-in-one record players, like the Andover-One and One E, have everything built into one (pictured below). You just need the vinyl records!
Other Important Items when Getting Started
- Record Cleaning Kit 
- Stylus Cleaning Kit
How Turntables Play the Music
Vinyl LP’s(records) store music information in one long spiral groove on each side of the disc. These grooves are physical representations of the audio waveforms of the recorded music. Because they are analog, they are a continuous signal that corresponds 100% to the sound waves of the original recording. There is no sampling or compression of the signal, as with many digital formats. 

A stylus, sometimes referred to as a “needle”, rides within the groove and converts the vibrations into an electrical signal in a device called a cartridge. The stylus is mounted on a short arm known as a cantilever which features a flexible pivoted suspension that allows the stylus to accurately follow the groove. Quality stylii are typically made from precision machined diamond for long life. At the other end of this cantilever, you will usually find a combination of a magnet and wire coils that act as tiny electrical generators that are amplified by the rest of the system.
There are a few different configurations you may read about. If the magnets are mounted to the cantilever, the cartridge is “Moving Magnet”, often shortened to simply “Magnetic”. Some expensive cartridges mount the coils to the cantilever and the magnets are fixed within the cartridge; these are called "Moving Coil”.
(Side note: Budget priced turntables forego either magnetic generating system for a version that flexes a piece of piezoelectric ceramic to generate the signal. This is not high-fidelity and can cause additional record wear, but is common in the low-priced mass-market brands. These low-priced record players often use sapphire stylii, which do not last as long.)
The phono cartridge is mounted at one end of a tonearm, which is pivoted near the other end to position the cartridge to follow the record groove accurately without restriction. Quality tonearms are precisely balanced to maintain a very low tracking force to prevent unnecessary record wear. Minimal play and friction of the tonearm pivot is essential for good sound quality and long record life.
The very low voltage signal generated by the cartridge is then sent to a phono preamplifier which amplifies the low-level signal coming from the cartridge. In addition, when records are pressed, the bass level is reduced and the treble level is boosted by a standardized amount known as “RIAA* equalization". This is so that the Bass notes don’t cause the stylus to skip, and the treble notes are boosted over background noise. The phono preamplifier reverses this EQ so that the natural frequency balance is restored. This preamplifier may be in the main system amplifier, may be in the turntable, or may be a separate component in very high performance systems.
If your system has a “phono" input, it means it has a built-in preamplifier (such as the Andover Audio turntables). If it does not, then a separate preamplifier or one built-in to your turntable will be required.
From there, the systems electronics will further amplify the signal to a level sufficient to drive the loudspeakers, which convert the electrical signal back to vibrations to create the sound we hear. 
*RIAA = The Recording Industry Association of America