What’s The Difference Between A Turntable And A Record Player?

You’ve heard of a record player and you heard of a turntable, aren’t they the same thing?

Ok yes and no, they both play vinyl records but there is a difference.

A turntable needs a separate preamp, amplifier, and speakers to play records.

A record player is an all-in-one device that does not need any external components to play records. In a record player, the turntable, preamp, amplifier, and speakers are all bundled into one unit.

And it is often portable.

what's the difference between a turntable and a record player?

Which is better a Turntable or record player?

For the ultimate vinyl sound, nothing can beat a turntable.

A record player is fine if you need something for casual listening to vinyl at home or in your dorm room, but if you’re really into that warm analog sound, then get yourself a turntable.

It’s not just about the quality of the speakers or how it’s hooked up either.

Turntables are built very differently than record players and they play records using a completely different mechanism.

Records are cut with more dynamics on a turntable, there are no moving parts except for the stylus (needle) which will pick up audio information from grooves on the record through vibrations as it moves across it.

The stylist sits inside what is called an “alignment tool.” The tonearm acts as the cantilever of a phono cartridge, which is mounted to the headshell.

A record player on the other hand has an inbuilt platter with a slipmat that holds your vinyl in place while it rotates, and then underneath there is usually an inbuilt preamp plus amplifier.

There is only one motor in play that drives both rotation of the platter and/or stylus across the record surface.

This motor also controls the start/stop by raising/lowering the tonearm to when you want to start or stop playing your vinyl record.

Can you play vinyl records on turntables?

Of course, you can!

There are plenty of turntables to choose from and they come in all shapes and sizes.

From the top-down, we’ll go over some common types:

Belt drive: where a belt attached to a motor turns a rubber idler wheel. The idler wheel feeds the platter (a large disk that holds your vinyl) from below.

Direct drive:

where the platter is connected directly to an electric motor which spins it when plugged in, great for DJ-ing with good torque levels but will add some vibration onto the record surface thanks to electromagnetic induction coming into play. If you want a super accurate soundcheck at home, invest in something more high-end like this linear drive turntable.


where the stylus (needle) is attached to a tube that attaches to the tonearm, and these come in both straight and S-shaped headshells; we recommend getting one with an adjustable counterweight rather than using any old cartridge you have lying around.


where the entire chassis is made out of wood or metal and sits below all your other components, it works like a body frame protecting everything inside while providing stability and support for the platter which holds your vinyl record. The plinth also contains various holes that can be used to mount stuff such as tonearms etc.


where the stylus (needle) actually reads information from grooves on the record, and these either come in P-mount or standard mount variety.


where the stylus (needle) sits on the tonearm while it moves across the record surface during playback; this component comes in many different shapes and sizes; make sure to get one with VTA (vertical tracking angle) adjustments if you want to maintain good sound quality over time.

Do new turntables play old records?

Yes, if you mean the ones you find in your parent’s basement, they will most definitely play on your turntable.

But if you mean the ones that were produced over 100 years ago, then we need to talk about record speed.

New records are cut at 33 1/3 rpm, but older records were produced at both 33 and 78 RPMs; we recommend buying a turntable that can handle both speeds if you’re looking to play oldies.

Check the turntable to determine if it plays both 33 and 78 without any problems; if it does then you’re good to go.

Can you play a turntable without speakers?

No, you cannot play a turntable without speakers.

You will need to hook up a set of speakers to your amplifier or receiver in order to hear the audio coming from your vinyl records.

How do you connect a turntable?

A turntable needs to be connected from your amp or receiver which in turn feeds a pair of speakers allowing the sound waves generated by the needle vibrating on a record’s surface to go through them and out into space.

You need to connect the red and white RCA cables which in turn go into your amp or receiver (red in the right speaker, white in left).

With your speakers connected in the back of your amp or receiver, you can now run wiring from the record player’s output terminals out the back as well; make sure not to confuse these with grounding posts.

Final Thoughts

While the concept of a turntable and record player may sound similar, there are significant differences between the two.

A turntable is an audio device that has a platter that can be rotated to play vinyl records with a needle or stylus reading information from grooves on the surface.

Typically it will have speakers for playback but can also work without them if connected via RCA cables to another amplifier or receiver.

A record player does the same thing as a turntable but usually works with similar components housed inside one chassis, making it easier to carry around.

Both turntables and record players will play your vinyl, though there are some differences between the two that should be understood before purchasing one of these units.

You can’t however play a turntable without speakers which means you need an amplifier or receiver in order to listen to music after hooking everything up correctly.

If you plan on using your turntable at home then make sure not to get one that’s too bulky as you’ll be limited with how much room you have to store it in.

If you don’t have the money for something expensive, then there are still some great budget turntables available on Amazon which is where I’ve found all my older audio equipment over the years.

Hope this article helps you further understand the differences between a turntable and a record player, happy listening!