We love vinyl. Convenient it is not, nor is it cheap. It's definitely not accessible either. But there's just something about searching for, owning and listening to records that you simply can't get from digital music files.
Whether it's the sound (imperfections and all), the physical form or the artwork and liner notes, there's nothing else quite like it – no, not even you, compact disc. And that's probably why it's still going strong more than a century since its invention.
Whether you're a long-time vinyl lover or new to plate spinning, it's important you do your level best to get the best sound from your turntable. Of course, that means making sure you buy the best turntable for your needs and ensuring your turntable set-up is properly configured, but 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 coming from your turntable, thus enabling you to hear your growing vinyl collection at its very best. From phono amps to turntable weights, cartridges to interconnects, read on to find out how to maximise your music – after all, it's Vinyl Week; let's shop!
Welcome to Vinyl Week on What Hi-Fi?, in association with Technics. You can find out more about how Technics has been defining turntable culture for half a century and the company's SL-1200M7L Limited Edition turntable.
- How to choose the right record player
- The best cartridges you can buy
- And the best phono preamps
Rega Fono MM MK3 phono preamp
Most turntables will require a separate phono preamp to boost the signal. If your amplifier doesn't have a phono input, or it does but you want to upgrade its performance, a separate box is the way to go. And this is our current sound-per-pound favourite. The latest in the line of successful phono preamps from Rega, the Fono MM MK3 has been fine tuned within an inch of its life, making for a much sleeker product than previous iteration. It retains the winning simplicity of its predecessor but adds greater dynamic range and greater clarity, making an already fantastic performance even better.
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.
- Neoteck digital stylus force scale £11.99 at Amazon / $19.99 / AU$57.80
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 records 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.
- Nobsound record weight £32 at Amazon / $32.99 / AU$60
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 affect 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 crisper and cleaner.
- Amazon Basics Microfibre cleaning cloths (pack of six) £7.11 at Amazon / $12.28 / AU$18.50
Audioquest anti-static record brush
Giving your records a wipe with a cloth is one thing, but you're only going to attract more dust each time you remove a record from its sleeve thanks to static. And this is not just any anti-static brush, it's an upgraded anti-static brush. Audioquest promises "smaller fibres in greater quantity" to help you remove every particle from your plastic.
- Audioquest anti-static record brush £19.90 at HiFix / $29.99 (Amazon) / AU$30
Pro-Ject VC-S2 ALU record cleaning machine
If you want to step up your record cleaning game, Pro-Ject makes superb motorised options such as the VC-S2 ALU. It's dead easy to use and will get even the grimiest old vinyl looking and sounding great in moments. A must if you're buying or selling a lot of second-hand vinyl.
- Pro-Ject VC-S2 ALU record cleaning machine £429 at HiFix / $749 (amazon) / AU$1562
Spincare anti-static inner vinyl sleeves
Don't just treat the symptom, though, treat one of the causes by making sure all of your records have a nice protective sleeve to keep them safe and clean. Spincare's are perfect for replacing paper sleeves, with a 12-inch piece of rice paper sandwiched between two layers of anti-static, anti-dust and anti-scratch HDPE plastic.
- 50 Spincare anti-static inner vinyl sleeves £16.95 at Amazon / $22.99 / AU$43.22
Spincare plastic outer sleeves
You'll want to protect the outside cover of your records, too, especially if you want them to hold their value. Spincare's 12-inch plastic sleeves fit single, double and triple LPs, and the company offers 7-inch and 10-inch versions too.
- Spincare plastic outer record sleeves £18.95 at Amazon / $25.99 / AU$41.13
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. The 1042 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.
Tonar pure cork turntable mat
One easy upgrade to your record player's sound is the turntable mat – that's if it even came with one in the first place. This cork version from Tonar – it offers a slightly dearer cork and rubber version, too – damps vibration before it is radiated as noise for a cleaner overall presentation. What's more, your money will support one of our favourite bricks and mortar outfits, Juno Records DJ & Studio in Greenland Street, London. As the packaging proudly states, mats matter.
- Tonar pure cork turntable mat £13.38 at Juno Records, London / $26 / AU$59.32
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.
- Audio-Technica AT615 turntable level £36 at Amazon / $29 / AU$51.96
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.
- Pro-Ject Ground-IT Deluxe isolation platform £250 at Analogue Seduction (around $326, AU$438)
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.
Rega turnatble wall bracket
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.
- Rega turntable wall shelf £169 at HiFix (approx. $220, AU$297)