Understanding the Difference: Turntable vs. Record Player

Understanding the Difference: Turntable vs. Record Player

It was announced recently that in 2022, for the first time in 35 years, vinyl records outsold CDs. Major releases from the likes of Taylor Swift and Adele, among others, helped to establish vinyl as the dominant format for physical music. Listeners flocked to their local record stores for new records, some seeking to capture the nostalgic, uniquely special sound of their favorite music on vinyl, and many for the very first time. With so many new listeners entering a world that up until now had an air of exclusivity, we thought it important to shed some light on one of the most frequently asked questions in vinyl; what’s the difference between a turntable and a record player? “Turntable” and “record player” may seem like interchangeable terms, but we promise we wouldn’t be wasting your time on simple semantics. There are important distinctions between the two that first-time buyers could find extremely valuable.

What Is a Turntable? 

To put it simply, all record players have turntables, but not all turntables are record players. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can start to explain a little more in-depth. A turntable is the revolving platter on which the vinyl record is placed. As it rotates, the turntable’s needle reads the record’s grooves, producing sound vibrations. Those sound vibrations travel through the tonearm, which houses the cartridge. That cartridge contains magnetic coils that convert those vibrations into electric signals.

Those signals, however, are too quiet to be heard without amplification. To amplify the signals, your turntable requires a preamplifier and a power amplifier. The preamp boosts the electronic signals up to what is known as a “line level”, a frequency that can be heard by human ears. Once the signal is boosted, it can be fed to the power amplifier that will allow it to be transmitted through speakers or headphones.

What Is a Record Player?

Going back to what we clarified earlier, a record player does contain a turntable. It also has the preamp, power amp, and speakers built-in, so all you need to do is plug and play. With all these components already built in, there’s no need for any external devices or speakers. Interestingly enough, the most rudimentary record player predates the first turntable.

Thomas Edison patented the phonograph in 1877, which was able to record sound waves onto a cylinder. To play the sound back, Edison connected a horn. A decade later, Emile Berliner invented a flat table that played a rubber record, the first turntable, dubbing it the “gramophone.” In 1906, the Victor Talking Machine Company was founded in Camden, New Jersey. They introduced the United States to a new kind of gramophone, eventually hiding away the horn in a cabinet, creating what we now know as the Victrola.

Record Player vs Turntable 

So, we’ve identified a few key differences that could inform your purchasing decision. Ultimately, it all depends on which unit you think is right for you.

A standalone turntable will not play records on its own, requiring additional components to do so. However, they offer greater amounts of customization in terms of speakers and are typically more compact, allowing you more room with decorating options. Victrola is proud to offer some of the best turntables on the market, including the Stream Series, which offer seamless connection to your Sonos system, as well as our T1 Turntable System, which boasts our M1 Bookshelf Monitors for a best-in-class listening experience.

Record players offer you the turntable, as well as the rest of the components already built-in for an easy listening experience. Victrola has you covered there as well, with our Revolution GO, a portable record player that features a built-in, rechargeable battery and a premium Bluetooth speaker enclosure. If you’re aiming for something more compact, our Re-Spin Bluetooth Suitcase Record Player is your best bet. The Re-Spin is unlike any suitcase record player on the market, made with 25% recyclable materials and featuring custom-tuned speakers, as well as a downward facing bass radiator for massive sound without any vibration.

With so many options on the market, we hope this guide made your shopping experience a little easier. Whatever your choice, Victrola is here to help you make lifelong music memories in your home. 



Library of Congress. “History of the Cylinder Phonograph” retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/collections/edison-company-motion-pictures-and-sound-recordings/articles-and-essays/history-of-edison-sound-recordings/history-of-the-cylinder-phonograph/ 

Quora. “What is the Difference Between a Turntable and a Record Player?” retrieved from https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-difference-between-a-turntable-and-record-player

NPR. "Vinyl records outsell CDs for the first time since 1987" retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2023/03/10/1162568704/vinyl-outsells-cds-first-time-since-1987-records