Turntable for Thom


This is always a deeply personal topic, I feel, but we can narrow things down a bit based on usage and how much you want to be engaged in the whole ‘process’ (and how much you are willing to spend!) Realistically you are going to be limited by what is available in NZ. I got lucky. Things pop up. Keep an eye out.


With enough money you can get anything you want - it all exists. I’d expect a nice table for ~3-400, but it’s hard to gauge as popularity seems to have increased since I purchased mine, and with NZs limited market prices may have gone up.

Drive Types

You’ll see four types of drive mechanisms:

Direct drive is the motor shaft driving the platter directly - the motor will be of the variable speed variety to allow click button speed changes. It’s directly connected to the platter, so any variances in the motor, or weird noises it makes will be transmitted to the needle. The ‘greats’ of the era are all direct drives.

Belt drive is where the motor and platter are connected via a rubber belt. This is supposed to be the best for quietness and is very common on newer tables. The motor can be completely removed from the turntable assembly keeping this very quiet{.link}. To change speeds in most cases is a matter of the belt “changing gears” (seen in previous picture)

Idler wheels are similar to belts in that the motor drives a small rubber wheel which then drives the platter. In Dual (which I own) and some other brands the idler wheel is raised/lowered to different parts of the motor shaft which have varying diameters{.link} which align to the various speeds. On older tables the rubber wheel can be old and brittle causing some slippage. Any imperfections in roundness or hardness in the wheel increases any audible ‘rumble’.

Linear drive tables also exist. This was mostly Technics and Sony in the late 80s (though they date back to the 60s). I’ve heard good things and they are very accurate, but good luck finding one in NZ for a decent price and then even more good luck keeping it running.

I own an idler wheel drive and recently sold my Canadian lower end direct drive{.link}and both are\were great, but keep an eye on the stats{.link}.

Platter Size

In terms of platter sizes, you’ll see 10 and 12 inch. Generally 12 is better, but I’d take a solid 10” over a floppy 12”, if you know what I mean.


Everything will do 33 1/3, most will do 45 and some will do 78. 78 is only important if you will be swapping out needles and playing old-timey shellac (Real Groovy has TONS for pennies and it’s worth investigating). Low (and even high) end newer players may require you to remove the platter and manually move the drive belt to switch from 33 1/3 to 45, which is lame as lots of EPs and high end/interesting stuff are at 45rpm.

Anything worth it’s salt will have an adjuster dial to get the speed exactly right - some tables have built in strobes{.link} to help with alignment, others will need a printout{.link} and a strobe light and done manually (or you can do it by ear easily\close enough if you have a CD/mp3 reference to listen to at the same time, not that I’d do this because I’m an audiophile <_< )

Headphones or Speakers?

If you want to use headphones exclusively, then you’ll probably need to spend more - you just hear EVERYTHING and if you’re ‘particular’ it may drive you a bit mad and cause you to spend even more money. Anything using idler wheels or cheaper direct drives will be audible to some extent. Idler wheels you get ‘rumble’ and it sounds exactly like it sounds - very distant thunder. As mentioned, imperfections in the idler wheel rubber will magnify this. You can get them rebuilt{.link} overseas though and they are cheap to mail. It’s only audible in very quiet parts\between tracks and doesn’t really bother me - just reminds me that I’m on a turntable :)

If you’re going with speakers the majority of the time I wouldn’t concern myself toooo much with the tiny background noises - there will always be some hum/crackles etc but that is analog audio and you’ll be into the many, many thousands of dollars before you’re going to start noticing a real change there. Better to start with shonky house wiring and checking that everything is earthed properly!

Do you have a phono stage?

You’ll need one. Only (some) newer turntables have them built in and most are not great. I assume you have nice amps and speakers though :D

Fully Manual, Fully Automatic or Somewhere inbetween

Full manual tables are great, but you have to tend to them - eg at the end of a side you’ll need to go and lift the needle. Some records are pressed by evil people that have the stickers not centred and over the lead out, causing the most egregious noises and potentially damaging the needle. There are no adjustments to be made, low maintenance and all the money went into making the platter, tone arm and wiring.

Full automatic is not much fun either though - sometimes you’ll want to pick a track and then you’re SOL. I’m not sure if these actually exist.

Semi automatic means different things - auto return is the minimum I’d want. I like tables that allow full auto (ie placing the needle for you and returning at the end) or manual start with auto return. Dual make absolutely beautiful mechanisms with plenty of parts available (overseas) and are rock solid. I have a 1019{.link} and I love it to bits.


In terms of materials,generally heavier = better. Late 80s turntables were plastic commodities for the most part and look and feel like shit, and perform accordingly. There are of course exceptions.

For plinth, you’re looking at the overall quality - plastic base = bad time, wood or veneered MDF = the people who made this cared. Wood obviously looks way cooler anyway. 60s\70s vintage > 80s vintage look…

Look for a table with isolation feet or at least have the table on a dedicated platform, separate from the speakers.


Older ones will be well used, maybe too well used. You’d have to evaluate each as you came across them. Shure V15 vIII carts are rare and great. A lot will be replaced by newer carts, commonly the ortofon omega (budget and great, I own one) or Ortofon 2M Reds which I’ve not had the chance to use. Unless the cart is fucked or you are super anal about it all it shouldn’t matter too much to start.

What would I be looking at?

I would buy a Dual 1019 again in a heartbeat. They are affordable and well made, sound good etc. Lots of spare parts. I’ve only ever seen the one for sale in NZ and I own it, but that’s not to say it’s the only one.

I almost dropped some big bills on a Dual 701. I think it’s the best looking{.link} turntable ever made, direct drive, great tone arm etc etc etc

If I was buying new I would be getting a Debut Carbon With Ortofon 2m{.link}

Failing that I’d be looking at the Pro-Ject Elemental{.link}

The one I ended up with in Canada was just a budget (but reasonably) accurate direct drive from the 70s that had the tonearm replaced with a Grace 707 tone arm (a beautiful thing{.link})

Things available right now

Fuck all to be honest.

This one{.link} is really simple but less to go wrong. It’s a good tonearm and cartridge

If you find a Technics 1200 MKII for a decent price it’s probably been abused by a DJ it’s entire life and may not be great.

Everything else I see on Trademe at the moment is super high end or plastic junk. There is a Dual 505, but that is also plastic junk. Plastic platter, plastic tonearm, plastic plinth. You can’t even set them on fire in protest because you will just choke to death on the fumes.

I would reach out to Retrotronics guy - he’s really nice - just let him know that you’re interested and he might shout when something comes along. He may have stuff in the pipeline/under restoration too. Did I mention that he is nice? He drove me home when I bought mine instead of letting me lug it home on the train.

Failing that, just keep an eye out and get in first. Shipping is fraught with difficulties, especially from private (ie ebay) sales as who knows if they packed it properly.

Don’t bother with the new plastic crosleys etc, your friends will just laugh at you.