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How to buy a used turntable

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Accurate stylus force is essential for the survival of your records and the listening pleasure.

Check that the controls for adjusting the stylus force is full functional and check the calibration with a special gauge if you have access to one.

Shure makes a simple yet functional gauge:


If you want top quality be very careful to examine the turntable before you invest your money in a used Linn, Pro-Ject, Rega, Thorens or similar high-priced deck.

Thorens  TD 124-II from 1967-68 can still be serviced with new belt and ildler-wheel and will serve you well if you are into both vinyl af shellac records. Audiophiles not playing shellacs will perhaps choose a more modern TD 160, TD 125 - or another brand.

If you are really interested in playing records, and not a DIY mechanic, then find yourself a relatively new turntable that is still in production, if a DIY-person there are lots of old decks around.

Fons CQ 30

Fons CQ30 is what I'd call a "dark horse". Sweet sounding with SME tonearm and Ortofon OM cartridge, adjustable speed for all record types. But beware of worn-out components that can be difficult to trace and swap.

Thorens TD 160

Sturdy, easy to maintain and relatively cheap - TD 160 from the 70's is - provided is has not been abused - a very good sounding deck with a reasonable TP16 tonearm, that is a good match for a not too compliant cartridge. No 78 rpm, though.

Garrard 401

Garrard 401, here with SME 3012 tonearm and Ortofon SPU cartridge, can - with proper restoration - still be a very fine record player, but prices have, like in the case of Thorens TD 124, come out of proportion here and there, so think before you buy.

If you only have modest interest in vinyl- or shellac-records, then try out the local flea markets. Perhaps you can find a full or almost functional turntable almost for free, but be sure you are quite a bit of a handyman or -woman, if you follow this route!

An older Lenco, Garrard or Technics table can bring you in contact with your records.

Beogram 1000 tonearm is a beauty, but you are unable to use standard pick-ups, and the 78 rpm shellacs will sound much noisier than played with a special stylus for this kind of records. The styli are no longer supplied by Bang & Olufsen.

Beogram 1000 is a beautifully designed turntable and can be found for almost nothing in the local fleamarkets, maybe even supplied with a built-in (RIAA) preamplifier. Beware, though, that even the most recent production models are more than 30 years old now. Often there is a reason for the low price tag.

A few words of warning

For 78 rpm playback the even older G42, G 610 etc. are also beautifully designed, but styli for all Beograms must be bought from special companies like Expert Stylus in England. Even good styli for vinyl are getting harder to find for the Beograms!

In all cases a word of warning: If you are not comfortable with tools, soldering iron and have an idea of what the necessary spares will cost, you may be better off buying a turntable from your local hi-fi dealer!
Beware that the latest version of Beogram 1000 cannot play 78 rpm, and that special 75 my stylus for 78 rpm records are no longer available. The 15 my stereo-version can still be found here and there.

Expert Stylus England can supply you with special styli for almost any purpose, including 78 rpm shellac records.

Check before you buy:

1. The turntable must run evenly and without rumble.

2 Tonearm-bearing must be without slack 

3. Pickup must be flawless

4. Listen for hum from the electronic circuits


1. Motor and suspension:

The motor and other revolving parts of the turntable should run without too much noise. If you can hear any noise from the turntable, you have to examine it thoroughly before investing more than your time in the project.

Often the noise comes from a worn belt or a dry bearing, maybe transmitted through a worn or misaligned suspension. Rather easily repaired for some handymen, but if you are not a handyman, invest in at better and more noisefree turntable.

If the sound seems to change up and down in speed, try to check the turntable with a stroboscobe disc and listen very carefully to a piano-recording or similarly revealing record.

Point a lamp towards the stroboscobe disc, the disc placed over the spindle of the running turntable. If the lines of the disc seems to flicker, and the sound sems to alter in speed, then something is wrong and must be examined closer.
The turntable can be checked for smooth running by a stroboscobe disc (here a built-in version from Beogram 1000). Point a light bulb to the running turntable and check for flicker.

If the pattern on the disc seems to run in a clockwise direction, the table is running too fast. If.... 

Some turntables have adjustable speed, some not. If something is wrong, and there´s no fine-tune possibility, you have to consider how much of a handy-man you are....

2: Tone arm
The tone arm should move freely and without slack in its bearings. Both parameters are essential, if you do not want to destroy your records.

Lenco L-75 tonearm - worn-out rubber-bearings are often seen
The Lenco L-75 tonearm is often seen with worn-out knife-bearings. The steel part of the bearing "chews up" the rubber, making vertical movement very restricted. Josef Svalander in Sweden has the spareparts, if you don't want to swap the entire tonearm with a better one.

A worn-out tone arm will also affect the sound. Vibrations from the pickup can even make the bearings "rattle"!
Click to enlarge The bearings of the tone arm are worn over the years. 

Try - gently - to sense the amount of slack in the bearings. There should be nothing or vere little!


Ortofon RS 212 antiskating and tracking force adjustment knobs

Be sure to check both the stylus tracking force and anti-skating adjustment knobs to see if it is still working properly.

3. Pickup:

The pickup cartridge is a fine piece of craftmanship and can easily be destroyed by clumsyness or neglect. 

In use over the years the moving and magnetic parts fatigue and gets worn. Replace at least the stylus every five years if you play a few records from time to time. More often if you play records daily.

If you buy a used turntable don´t hesitate to buy a new stylus if you suspect the old one to be damaged or abused. According to Scan Micro (Ortofon) a new stylus will last around two years, if you play one lp every day. A worn stylus will ruin your records rapidly!
Click to enlarge the bent needle
This pickup was certainly abused. The tiny tube, bearing the diamond-tip is visibly bent.

Perhaps the tone arm has skipped across a record during a a heavy party?

Replace before you damage your records. And do take more care about the new stylus.


4. Electronic parts:

Loose wiring, bad soldering and worn out componemts are among the many reasons for hiss, hum and other defects in the reproduction chain - in some cases repair is more expensive than to find a different turntable.

So check the wiring, switches and connections before you buy an old turntable.


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 Last update: May 20 2015