Your record player is a gateway to so many amazing experiences with music, collecting, community, and more. Even the most simple and affordable equipment can give you a great launchpad for a lifelong hobby you can share with others.
But like all hobbies, newcomers will quickly realize a whole world of equipment upgrades and improvements to discover. This is how audiophiles end up with several-thousand-dollar record player rigs that take up half the house. Add the cost of record collecting, and you basically have another mortgage on your hands.
Thankfully, you can make plenty of upgrades to your record player without these high costs, and minimal engineering knowledge as well. Here’s a quick and easy guide to take your record setup to the next level, and do so affordably.
This is the foundation of every record player and tends to be the most expensive component for obvious reasons. If you’re happy with the look, feel, and sound of your current turntable, skip down our list and make individual upgrades that will save you some serious cash.
However, upgrading your turntable might be the right move if your current model is outdated, warped, damaged, or lacking the features you’d expect from modern tech. Electrical issues are common in older models, and some basic turntables don’t offer the option to make manual upgrades.
If you’re looking to become an intermediate or advanced record enthusiast, a turntable overhaul is a good move, but can be expensive. Still, you can make incremental upgrades along the way as you save up for a new one.
After a few hundred hours of play, the typical stylus – needles for record players – will start to show signs of age and a drop in quality.
The good news is that a new stylus is affordable and quick to install in a matter of minutes, so don’t hesitate to make this upgrade if you suspect your current stylus is worse for wear.
You won’t need to spend more than $100 to get a well-rounded, high-quality stylus. Anything more than that will get you into serious hi-fi territory. As with all record player components, you’ll get diminishing returns the more you spend, so upgrade strategically and don’t get carried away.
All respect to those who want to keep their beloved turntable and upgrade key components to create a custom rig with a personal touch.
To get started on this route, we suggest swapping out your current cartridge for something new with better materials, construction, balance, and overall quality.
A worn-down cartridge will not only degrade the sound of your favorite records with clicks, pops, and weird warping, but it may also prove destructive to the vinyl itself in the long run – not good!
Upgrading a cartridge might seem complicated and expensive at a glance, but with some guidance and persistence, it can be done affordably and easily.
Cartridges can range from $100 to well over $1000, but even the budget options can make a huge difference on a basic turntable setup.
Mats, weights, stabilizers, and clamps all belong to a category of accessories that offer fast, noticeable upgrades to your rig.
By providing balanced pressure on top of your records as they spin, these circular components reduce unwanted playback noise and can enhance the sound of your music with simple installation.
These items can be found in the $50 to $100 range with exceptional quality, but the most dedicated audio pros can spend over $200 for a simple circular weight.
Stabilizers also offer a chance to add some flair and flourish to your record setup, since they often come in cool colors with unique designs. Just be aware that sometimes you’re paying for visual appeal and not necessarily improved performance – that’s part of the deal with any industry.
Preamps and Power Amps
Amplifiers and speakers are critical to your overall record enjoyment experience, and well worth the upgrade.
We suggest starting with a preamp upgrade because they’re smaller, less expensive, and can dramatically boost the sound quality of your records. These components might not look like much, but for under $200, they add noticeable richness and depth to your playback, while also reducing ambient noise.
Power amps are the big brother of the preamp, and generally cost several hundred dollars for basic models. Beyond that, some amp prices are downright shocking!
If you don’t have the budget to upgrade your whole speaker setup quite yet, hold off on investing in a large-scale power amp and wait to make a more comprehensive upgrade down the road.
Your Ultimate (Affordable) Record Player
Don’t be fooled by those who say that great record players need to cost a fortune!
You can upgrade your record player bit by bit and create an awesome custom setup for just a few hundred bucks following this guide.