If vinyl is your preferred physical media format for music, and you’ve already set yourself up with the right turntable (we have suggestions if you need one), you can improve your listening experience with a few accessories.
Playing records requires a lot of moving parts, not to mention worrying about physical problems, like vibrations or static causing audible distortion (a.k.a “pops” in sound). Going the analog music route also means setting up a multi-piece audio system that works in sync to deliver the best sound quality.
Below you’ll find 7 accessories that will actually make a difference in how your records sound, or help you maintain them for many years. We also have a guide specifically dedicated to record cleaning and maintenance if you want even more recommendations.
1. Pro-Ject Audio Phono Box
A phono pre-amplifier is an accessory that boosts the volume of sound coming from your turntable before sending it to your speakers through an A/V receiver. Some turntables and A/V receivers have a built-in preamp, but if the ones you use don’t, we recommend getting Pro-Ject’s Audio Phono Box.
The Phono Box will work with any turntable, and is really easy to use. Plug your record player into the RCA (red and white) inputs on the back, and use a pair of RCA cables to connect its outputs to your A/V receiver. We’re recommending the Phono Box over other preamplifiers because of its small size (it’s four inches wide, four inches deep, and just over one-inch tall), and Pro-Ject’s excellent reputation in the audio space.
2. FEMELI Record Weight Stabilizer
FEMELI’s Record Weight Stabilizer sits on top of your record while it’s spinning on your turntable to keep it from moving up and down as it plays. If a record moves around, the needle will have a more difficult time staying perfectly centered in its groove, reducing its performance.
This weight weighs .7 pounds, which FEMELI says is heavy enough to keep the record from causing unwanted vibrations, but not enough to strain your turntable’s motor. This accessory is helpful when playing any album, but is necessary when playing slightly warped records, which move around a lot.
3. AudioQuest Anti-Static Record Brush
AudioQuest’s record brush can clean the dust, dirt, and static that builds up on top of your records and cause clicks, pops, and even skips. Its bristles are made out of carbon fiber, so they won’t scratch your vinyl, and its handle is made of metal, which allows static to pass through the brush, and onto your hand (not enough to cause a shock, don’t worry). The only way to preserve your records for years to come is cleaning them often, so use this brush before and after each spin.
4. Blue Jeans LC-1 Stereo Audio Cables
Cables are the tool that sends music from your turntable to your pre-amp, A/V receiver, or speakers, so it’s worthwhile getting this set from Blue Jeans. The cables are mostly made out of copper, with a nitrogen-injected shielding that keeps them insulated, and protected from getting damaged.
The connectors are also made out of copper, and have a thick plastic covering to prevent the area between the connector and cable from fraying or breaking with heavy use. This specific cable structure was designed in-house at Blue Jeans, and the cables themselves are assembled in the USA.
5. Pro-Spin Turntable Mat
Most record players come with a felt mat, which keeps the records from scratching, but introduces a lot of dust and static.
Pro-Spin’s Turntable Mat is made out of cork, which is still soft, but won’t attract dust or static as easily. Another benefit of using cork is that it’s a little thicker, so it can absorb vibrations before they reach your turntable’s needle and cause distortion.
The company says its mat is designed to match the exact shape of an LP (the center, where the label is, is always a little thicker), which improves audio quality because your album lays more flat.
6. Sony STRDH190
Sony’s STRDH190 is a 4.0 stereo receiver with a phono input, so you don’t have to use a dedicated pre-amp. It doesn’t support any modern surround sound formats, but you can hook up four speakers and listen to quadrophonic records.
Beyond its phono input, this receiver has four sets of RCA inputs, so you can connect other audio gear, like a CD player. If you like to augment your record collection with a digital music library, you can stream music from any connected device over Bluetooth. This isn’t the stereo receiver to pick for a home theater system, but if you’re building a setup for music, it’s a great choice.
7. Tuneful Cables Sound Isolation Pads
One of the easiest ways to make records sound a little better is to reduce the amount of vibrations that reach your turntable. Big vibrations will cause your needle to jump, while smaller ones may cause a skip, or subtle-but-audible distortion.
Tuneful’s Sound Insulation Pads are made out of cork, and can be placed under your turntable’s feet to absorb vibrations, and prevent these minor annoyances. If anything, these pads are an insurance policy against damaging your album if you accidentally bump into the stand your record player is sitting on and cause the needle to slide.
From Rolling Stone US