Vinyl Vintage Audio Systems and Buying Guides

Welcome to Vinyl Vintage, a place dedicated to vintage audio and the finer things in your audio life. On this site you’ll find all sorts of info and evaluations of assorted products that make up the various parts of a proper vintage audio setup. I started this site to bring together all the information I think you’ll need to enter the world of vintage vinyl audio. I have tried to make everything here as accessible as possible.

I’m not the kind of technical person who knows or cares about every tiny mechanical or electronics detail. I’m just a person who loves good music and thinks vintage audio systems using vinyl and sometimes tube amplifiers still have something worthwhile to offer modern listeners.

Historical Grooves

Ever since we first figured out how to capture sound on a piece of wax, we’ve been pushing for higher and higher fidelity recordings. For some it has become a total obsession, and thus we have the birth of the audiophile.

Never heard the word before? Check out this short piece on what exactly an “audiophile” is.

Nowadays we have some incredible high-fidelity digital music. Even the crisp sound of CDs don’t compare to lossless digital formats.
Something has been lost in translation, though. Being more technically advanced doesn’t mean something is more enjoyable or subjectively better. For many of us, the sound of vinyl is tied to a certain time, place, and emotion. It’s not just about bit rates and signal-to-noise ratios. Sure, those things are important, but in the end what matters is how much enjoyment you get from the experience.

Listening to vintage formats like vinyl is an experience. It’s not just the click of a button and instant music. It doesn’t turn music into a fast-food convenience. You have to think about it, anticipate it, and spend time setting it up. If an MP3 is a Big Mac, then listening to an album on vinyl is a home cooked meal you spent time making yourself.

If you’re completely new to the world of vinyl and vintage audio, I’ve got some pages that are specifically meant for you.

The Crash Course

Listening to vinyls and getting good vintage audio to reach your ears is not a straightforward process. There’s no one-button solution to let the music play. Armed with the right basic knowledge, however, it’s easy as pie. But first, the most important question to answer is why you would want to bother listening to music on vinyl in the first place? It’s not only a question you have to answer for yourself, but also one you’ll have to answer when it comes from other people.

I’ve written down my own reasoning on why you should listen to vinyl, and although everyone has a personal reason I think it’s a good place to start. Next I suggest you read my piece on how to take proper care of your vinyls which you should know before actually handling any records. Once you know how to keep your vinyls in top condition, head over to my page on how to operate a turntable the right way. This way you can avoid the most common rookie mistakes that new hobbyists face. If you want to, you can also check out all the different parts that make up a turntable and impress your friends with your new knowledge. While you’re at it, take a note of the different sort of connectors you’ll run into as well.

Turntables – Putting it All Together

In order to put together a vinyl vintage audio system you’ll need a number of items, but first of all, you’ll need a turntable!

Much of my site is dedicated to figuring out the best turntables to suit your budget. I’ve decided to sort turntables into several price categories that I think people are likely to care about. There are five price points that I think matter: 100, 200, 300, 500 and 1000 dollars. You can read all my reviews on this dedicated turntable page, but here’s a preview of my very best choices.

The Best Turntable Under $100: Audio Technica AT-LP60BK

This is a little corker of a turntable from one of the most venerable record player makers in the world. This is about as rudimentary as you can imagine, but Audio Technica has applied the budget where it matters most.

It’s got great specs, great looks, and will last far longer than it has any right to. Read my full review here

The Best Under $200:Electrohome Signature

Adding more money to your budget doesn’t necessarily get you a better listening experience, but the Electrohome is charming and comes with more features such as MP3 recording. If you care about looks and you like the additional features, it’s well worth the premium over the Audio Technica for under $100.

Read my full review HERE as well as some alternative options.

Best Under $300 – Audio Technica LP-120BK-USB

We just can’t get away from Audio Technica’s excellence and at this price point they once again stand head and shoulders above the competition.

The upgrades over the cheaper models that they’ve made are really audible; although we’re getting into a more premium bracket here, the LP120BK is well worth it.

Read my full review of this excellent turntable HERE

Best Under $500: Pro-Ject – Debut Carbon DC

The Best Turntable Under $500: Pro-Ject – Debut Carbon DC
Now we start to get to the price tags that really hurt the eye. On the plus side, it gives me the opportunity to introduce you to a company that has stolen my heart: Pro-Ject.

We are out of kindergarten here for sure. This Debut Carbon DC is the perfect gateway drug to life-changing vinyl audiophilia. When you’ve outgrown the two Audio Technicas above, this is where you should look next. For most mere mortals this is the last turntable you’ll ever have to buy. Only the finest ears are going to tell where any additional money has gone if you buy something even more expensive.

Your can read my fawning love letter to the Carbon HERE.

Best Under $1000:PRO-JECT RM-5.1 SE

Believe it or not, this is by far not the most expensive turntable that Pro-Ject makes. There are still products in their stable that cost many multiples of the RM-5.1 SE’s price.

Personally, this is the ceiling. Climbing any higher is meant for the clinically insane. Past this point the returns diminish so much that only millionaires need apply. That being said, this turntable is a work of art so beautiful it’s been known to make grown men weep. Well, at least one of them and he’s not ashamed of it.

I’ll just repeat here what I said in my full review: “This is not a purchase for the brain or even for the ears. This is a purchase for the heart.”

The Rest of the Band

Once you’ve zoned in on the perfect turntable, you need to start thinking about the other members of the party. If the turntable doesn’t have a built in pre-amp, you need to buy one. From there it needs to be hooked up to an amplifier.

That amplifier is either going to be a standalone unit or it will be integrated into some speakers. A standalone amplifier is going to need some speakers though – ones that don’t have amps in them. You’ll find reviews for all of these on my site.

Sometimes you’ll want a more personal listening setup, in which case a pair of headphones is what you’ll be looking for. What you may not know is that you should also be looking for a specialized headphone amplifier. If you’ve never heard of this then be sure to have a look at my buyer’s guide and reviews.

Also, you need actual cables to hook everything up. While I don’t bother to actually review any cables, because that would be ridiculous, I do have a small buyer’s guide for that too

Since I want to help you have a long-term relationship with your vinyls, I’ve also reviewed some less sexy products. Specifically, there’s a page with some vinyl cleaning products, which you’ll remember from reading the guides I mentioned at the top of the page.

Room Scale Listening

I’ve also decided to say a little bit about the room you’ll be putting your audio equipment in. For example, it should be painted green and the carpeting must be a specific shade of blue.

Those are all lies, but there are things in your listening room that need attention or you’ll not be getting your money’s worth, no matter how much you spend on fancy gear.

I wrote a short piece called “Do Listening Room Acoustics Matter?”. Spoiler: the answer is yes, which is also why I reviewed a couple of acoustic panels as well.

For the Love of Sound

There’s more on the site for you to find, so I won’t keep you here for longer than necessary. If you want to know a little bit more about why I wanted to create this page, check out the ABOUT.

From here I suggest you go and sniff around the menus for some of the other handy information and review pages I left laying around the place. Most importantly, I want you to go out and get what you need to build a little “me-time” sanctuary. Bathing in the warmth of analog bliss is the cure for modern anxiety. Whether your thing is prog-rock or smooth jazz, it sounds better pumped through tubes from the vinyl grooves of a good old record.

Before I go, I’d like to ask that if you find my site useful and like it, please share it with your friends. A lot of love and time went into it; nothing would make me happier than this site helping as many people as possible.

Vinyl Vintage Audio System Reviews

If you’re completely new to the world of vinyl and vintage audio, I’d recommend to start with the reviews on Turntables, Phone Preamps, Record Cleaners and Speakers. Once you’ve got this covered, make sure to check the menu for more of my reviews.

Turntables Record Cleaners Phono Pre-Amps Bookshelf Speakers