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The phonograph record dates to the late nineteenth century, when Thomas Edison perfected recording sound on a wax cylinder. By the early twentieth century, the industry had settled on a flat disk, first one-sided and later with recorded music on both sides. By the late 1950s, the ability to record stereophonic sound on records became possible, and economies of scale made phonographs affordable for nearly everyone by the mid 1960s.
The advent of the compact disc in the early 1980s nearly spelled the extinction of the phonograph record, as record companies sought to increase profits by phasing out the then-hundred year old product. Consumer preferences prevailed, however, and as the twenty first century enters its second decade, the sale of records continues to rise once again.
The appeal comes from several factors, including a larger format that allows users to more easily read the information printed on the covers and inner sleeves. Also appealing is the fact that, with the right equipment, records actually sound better than compact discs. Of course, to play records, one needs a turntable, and while the manufacturing of turntables was nearly extinct about fifteen years ago, they are now, like records, enjoying a resurgence.
New turntables can be purchased at any local hi-fi store, and at numerous sites online. Prices range from as little as $50 for entry-level models to $50,000 or more for high-end models designed to squeeze the last little bit of sound from any record placed upon it. While new turntables are selling briskly, collectors and audiophiles still show considerable interest in vintage equipment, and older examples of classic turntables tend to sell briskly when they appear on the second hand market.
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Companies such as Empire, Garrard, Dual, and Bang and Olufsen produced well-designed, iconic turntables that, with care, will continue to provide high-quality sound even today. Of course, they need to be maintained, with cartridges and belts being replaced regularly. Aside from that, most turntables are fairly easy to use; they simply need to be connected to your stereo system and turned on.
The appeal of older turntables stems from several factors, including their rugged construction. Empire turntables were solidly built and had heavy platters when compared to other tables from their day, making speed and stability more accurate. Bang & Olufsen made turntables that are easily recognizable by their unusual Scandinavian design; they will look great in any room, as they are quite attractive. Short-lived models by famous manufacturers, such as Nakamichi, are also sought out; this Japanese company was mostly known for cassette players and their turntables, while highly regarded, are quite rare, as the company did not manufacture them for very long. A similar model is the Pioneer PL-90, which was the company's flagship model, but one they only made available for a short time in the 1980s. If you didn't buy one when it was new, you will have to pay dearly to get one today.
Here on our site you will find information about vintage turntables in all styles and price ranges, including those that should meet the needs of both casual listeners and discerning audiophiles.
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- Pioneer Turntables from the 1960