New to Vinyl? A starter guide to Vinyl and Hi-Fi systems.

New to Vinyl? A starter guide to Vinyl and Hi-Fi systems.

Paul O'Farrell Paul O'Farrell
7 minute read

We obviously love vinyl records. There is definitely a magic in the manual process and physical connection of picking a record and making it spin that brings us more joy than scrolling through pages of Spotify playlists. Unfortunately, there seems to be some unnecessary barriers for those that want to get into the hobby or develop a greater connection with their music.

We love the indie nature of record stores but they can be a little intimidating for those not yet in the fold, not to mention the intense advice of some audiophiles that doesn’t exactly lend itself to the beginner Vinyl enthusiast.

One of the reasons we started Bendigo Vinyl was to change that. Not only was the heyday of recorded music and Vinyl about bringing music “to the people”, technology has advanced since then lowering entry barrier for quality sound.

So the question is, do you need a degree and a several thousand dollars to start enjoying Vinyl records in your home? Simply, no. But to get the most enjoyment out of your first Vinyl playing system and help you make decisions about where to start there are a few things that are good to know.


  1. Hi-Fi stands for High fidelity.

A hi-fi system to play your records is all about high-fidelity, or high quality sound. Trust me that when I say you can both hear and feel the difference between a system with a wide dynamic range and one without. Vinyl vs Spotify? Analogue vs Digital? If you are considering getting into Vinyl these can be questions for further down the line. You don't need to be an expert to get started.

What you will notice as soon as you start researching what you’ll need to listen to your vinyl records is that there can be a lot of components that can all get very expensive and it could seem from some forums and reviews you couldn’t possibly listen to Vinyl unless you use that $500 stylus or have a turntable with an acrylic platter. What we would recommend is to think about what you currently listen to music on. You might be listening to your Spotify playlists on a portable Bluetooth speaker. An entry level turntable and a pair of decent bookshelf speakers will give you a noticeable difference in sound quality for no more than $500-$750 depending on how much you want to invest in your speakers.


  1. The Analogue Audio signal chain.

Here is the simplest, quickest crash course in Hi-Fi or analogue audio for Vinyl that you are going to get.

There are 4 components to any Vinyl audio system.

The Turntable, the pre-amp or phono stage (same thing), the amplifier or power amp, and your speakers.

We get sound from our vinyls by the turntable reading the grooves on the record and converting the vibrations (that’s important) into a weak electrical signal. This signal needs to be boosted (or amplified) to be then read by other components in our system. This step is done by a phono stage (or phono pre-amp) by boosting the phono level electrical signal, to a line level electrical signal. Now we have the audio at one consistent readable level. The signal then needs to hit an amplifier that will have a volume control so we can control the audio that our speakers will put out.


  1. When two become one

Any audiophile will be very quick to tell you that each part of our hi-fi system is crucially important and to have the true high fidelity experience each part of our system (our turntable, phono stage, amp and speakers) should be separate. And they are right. The simple explanation is that if each part is separate, they can focus on doing their one job perfectly without interfering with the other parts of the system. This includes things like the speaker not sitting next to your turntable so the vibrations don’t travel through the platform to your turntable and affect the sound it produces. 

However, while this would have been essential in days gone by, improvements in technology mean that the sacrifices we make for convenience don’t quite have the same impact on the end result as they used to. A lot of turntables (like the LP2X by Audio Technica) now come with a switchable built-in phono stage. Combine that with some powered speakers, essentially speakers with their own power amp, and you have a complete vinyl system in two parts and not 4. Less cables, less fuss, less $$$ and all the same fun.


  1. Four’s a crowd

Now you may be thinking, “that’s great, I’ve just seen a record player that even has speakers built in for under $200”. If you have been given one of these as a gift, great, you can start building your vinyl collection which is never a bad thing. Unfortunately, these are not cheap in the good way. We won’t go into it in detail here, but they can, over time, scratch your beloved records, and the built-in speakers aren’t exactly going to be reproducing the music the way the artist intended. When you do inevitably want to upgrade you’ll need to buy a whole new system, instead of growing one improvement at a time.

a vinyl record player with a prohibition sign over the top of the image. 

While this is all very interesting, if you have made it this far you are wondering - you still don’t have a record player, you desperately want to get started (or help someone else get started), what do you buy?

Here’s two straight forward recommendations for you.

If you were looking at those very cheap all in one systems, and really just want to start collecting you favourite albums on Vinyl, have a look at the LP60X by Audio Technica. Potentially the best turntable under $300. If you have a speaker with a familiar “AUX” input you can plug straight in and get listening if you are not ready to a speaker purchase yet. The LP60X is also fully automatic so all you need to do to play a record is hit start and the tonearm will automatically lower onto the record as it starts to spin. There's even a version with bluetooth. 

If you have a little more to spend, Audio Technica’s LP2X is probably our favourite turntable for beginners. Still well under $500 it provides almost across the board upgrades to the LP60X range, and is the perfect player to grow with your home Hi-Fi set up. While still fully automatic, you can operate the turntable manually if you wish and almost everything about the turntable is upgradable. 

Now the thing that actually makes the noise. Your speakers. Easily the part that will provide the most obvious audible difference. If you have the budget to upgrade whatever speakers you have at home already, we would recommend the YU4 or YU6 by Canadian audiophiles, Kanto. We are yet to find better sounding, better looking speakers for the money with this level of ease of use and connectivity in such a small package.

To wrap things up we firmly believe that the best Vinyl system is the one you have. It pays to be informed and make good choices early but the best advice we can give is to start with what you need, even if that means dealing with that Bluetooth speaker for a few months. You can upgrade your system as your collection grows. After all, it is all about the music… and the experience… and looking cool.

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