We love vinyl. It's not convenient, it's not cheap, it's not accessible, but there's just something brilliant about owning, playing and listening to records. Whether it's the sound, imperfections and all, the physical form, the artwork and the liner notes, there's nothing else like it (no, not even you, compact disc). And that's probably why it's still going strong more than 100 years since its invention.
Whether you're a long-time vinyl lover or new to spinning records, it's important you do your level best to get the best possible sound. You need to make sure you buy the best turntable for your needs, then ensure your turntable set-up is properly configured. We'd also suggest you check out our turntable tips and tricks. And when it comes to getting the ultimate hi-fi sound, there's always more you can do...
The following accessories and upgrades will help you improve the sound of your turntable and hear your vinyl at its best. From phono amps to turntable weights, cartridges to interconnects, read on to find out how to maximise your music.
Cambridge Audio Duo MC/MM phono amp
You're not going to get anywhere without a phono amp or phono stage. This acts as the preamplifer, amplifying the turntable's signal before it reaches your amplifier. Some amplifiers have a built-in phono amp - look for the 'phono' connections - as do some turntables, but if not then you need to use a separate device. A separate box is also one way to upgrade the sound - a dedicated preamp is likely to perform better than one in an integrated unit. This is a flexible, affordable option from Cambridge. It works with MM and MC cartridges, so any turntable, and it can also work as a headphone amp. It looks great, is easy to use, and delivers a full-bodied sound.
Arcam rPhono phono amp
If you have a more expensive turntable, then you should spend a little more on your phono stage. We'd look to the Arcam rPhono. This is a small aluminium-cased unit – about the size of a typical paperback book – and feels about as solid as a brick. It’s finished beautifully with crisp edges and has a smart, understated appearance. It works with MM and MC cartridges, runs quiet and delivers great detail and entertainment from your records.
Neoteck digital stylus gauge
This little gadget is all about measuring the force of your stylus when it's placed on a record. This should form part of the set-up process when readying any record player to ensure you get the best sound from a stable needle without damaging your records due to an unnecessarily heavy tracking weight. This tool is simple, just rest your needle on the scale and then adjust accordingly. Most record players should come with recommended force weights, otherwise Google is your friend.
Nobsound record weight
Talking of weighing things down, how about this record weight? To allow for optimum performance you want your needle moving as little as possible. A weight will keep vibrations to a minimum, which should mean a cleaner sound with less distortion, and also help when it comes to playing any less-than-perfectly-flat records - keeping them flat will again help ensure optimum tracking for better sound. A turntable weight is far from essential but well worth experimenting with. The stroboscope will also allow you to check your turntable is spinning at the right speed.
Chord Company C-line interconnect
Sexy, it ain't, but a stereo interconnect cable is another simple and effective sonic upgrade for your system. Provided your turntable doesn't have a hard-wired phono cable, an upgrade on any free cable is likely to be a good way to boost performance. Chord Company has been making five-star cables for as long as we can remember and the C-line is another fine example at an affordable price. Of course you can connect these anywhere you need an analogue audio cable.
AmazonBasics Microfibre cleaning cloths
Talking of unsexy accessories, try these microfibre cleaning cloths for size. The humble art of keeping your records clean is another way to help your system run smoothly. While some might say it wouldn't be vinyl without a bit of snap, crackle and pop - wait, that's something else - dust on your records will make its way to your stylus and ultimately what you hear coming out of the speakers. Or don't hear. We see no reason to spend an unnecessary amount here but a quick wipe from time to time will keep your vinyl sounding crisp and clean.
Vinyl Guru album sleeves
Another way to ensure pesky dust particles are kept to a minimum is by keeping your records clean when they're in storage. You don't need anything fancy but these clear sleeves have a decent thickness and size, with room for single or double LPs and no danger of ripping.
Goldring 1042 cartridge
Goldring is Britain's oldest cartridge company, so when it comes to thinking about upgrading one of the most important components of your vinyl playing system, the company is a good place to look. This isn't a new model, nor is it a particularly exciting looking piece of technology, but thanks to a rigid design and the quality of the sound - expect reduced noise, increased detail, and everything in between - it remains a superb choice for anyone with a midrange to high-end turntable.
Rough Trade slipmat
So you fancy yourself as a budding Grandmaster Flash, cutting up a storm in your spare room? If you're a vinyl lover of the DJ persuasion, you'll want a slipmat or two. Standard turntables will have a simple rubber mat or no mat at all, while turntables aimed at DJs have a slipmat to allow the record to be moved more easily against the platter. We like the look of these from legendary London record shop, Rough Trade.
Audio-Technica AT615 turntable spirit level
You're hopefully getting the idea that the more attention you pay to your turntable set-up, the better your results. Everything matters to an extent, so while you shouldn't lose sleep over the effect of these details, if you enjoy experimenting to get the best out of your music, here's something else you can try: a spirit level. Simple but effective, this level comes in machined aluminium housing and will help you ensure the horizontal adjustment of your turntable is spot-on.
Pro-Ject Ground-IT Deluxe isolation platform
To help you keep your turntable level, you might want to invest in an isolation platform. Vibrations are the enemy of record playback and this Pro-Ject platform is one way to keep them to an absolute minimum. It has a granular-filled, heavy-weight MDF base, with adjustable feet and a choice of sizes. It looks pretty smart in a minimal way, too, thanks to the anthracite finish.
Hi-Fi Racks Omnium8
Continuing the theme of keeping things on the level, a good hi-fi or AV rack is a must-have for any system with more than a few components and especially when dealing with a sensitive turntable. Hi-Fi Racks has been making simple, solid, wood furniture for some time now, which will help ensure your kit can perform at its best without being interrupted by any external vibrations. The Omnium8 has a range of design options that give a degree of flexibility, so if you like the basic style, you should be able to make it work with your system and space.
Atacama Apollo WT1 SE wall shelf
But what if a rack doesn't work in your room? Whether that's because of space, children or a springy floor, you could go for a wall mount instead. Use this shelf to get your turntable up and off the floor - and ideally, mounted at the perfect height for putting on vinyl, too.
Audioquest anti-static record brush
Keep your records free from dust with this anti-static brush. And not just any anti-static brush, an upgraded anti-static brush. Atacama promises "smaller fibres in greater quantity" to help you remove every particle from your plastic.