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What Is An Automatic Turntable What Is An Automatic Turntable


What Is An Automatic Turntable

Written by: Berry Burdette

Discover the convenience and joy of using an automatic turntable. Explore what a turntable is, its benefits, and how it enhances your music listening experience.

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Welcome to the world of turntables! If you have a passion for music and a love for the warm and nostalgic sound of vinyl records, then you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll be exploring the fascinating world of automatic turntables – what they are, how they work, and why they are a popular choice among audiophiles and music enthusiasts.

In an era dominated by digital music streaming, the resurgence of vinyl records has been nothing short of remarkable. Many music lovers appreciate the tangible experience of handling an LP, carefully placing it on a turntable, and dropping the needle onto the spinning disc. It’s a ritual that adds a sense of connection and authenticity to the listening experience.

While manual turntables require the user to manually lift the tonearm and place it on the desired spot on the record, automatic turntables offer a more convenient and user-friendly approach. With just a push of a button, an automatic turntable can initiate the tonearm’s movement, gently lowering it onto the record, and even lifting it at the end of the playback. This feature allows for a more hands-off experience, making it easier for beginners or individuals who prefer a hassle-free listening session.

Automatic turntables come in a variety of designs, with different features and price points. Whether you’re a seasoned vinyl enthusiast or just starting your journey into the world of analog music, understanding the benefits and considerations of automatic turntables can help you make an informed decision when selecting the perfect turntable for your needs.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the definition, functionality, advantages, and disadvantages of automatic turntables. We will explore some popular brands and models, and also provide some tips on maintenance and care for these delightful devices. So, let’s dive in and discover the wonders of automatic turntables!


Definition of an Automatic Turntable

An automatic turntable, also known as a fully automatic turntable, is a type of record player that offers automated features to simplify the playback process. Unlike manual turntables that require manual operation to lift and place the tonearm onto the record, automatic turntables utilize mechanisms and sensors to automate these tasks.

At its core, an automatic turntable consists of a plinth (the base), a platter (the rotating platform where the record sits), a tonearm (the arm that holds the cartridge and needle), and a motor that drives the rotation of the platter. What distinguishes an automatic turntable from a manual one is the additional functionality it provides through its automation mechanisms.

The automation features of an automatic turntable are typically controlled by buttons or switches on the front panel. These features include automatic start, automatic stop, and automatic return. Let’s explore each of these functions:

  • Automatic Start: With the push of a button, the turntable’s motor starts spinning the platter, and the tonearm lifts from its rest position and gently moves towards the first groove of the record. Once in position, the needle is lowered onto the record’s surface, initiating playback.
  • Automatic Stop: At the end of the record, the turntable’s sensors detect the approaching lead-out groove or the locked groove. The tonearm then lifts off the record, and the motor stops spinning the platter.
  • Automatic Return: After the tonearm lifts off the record, it automatically returns to its rest position, either through a mechanical arm or a motorized mechanism. This eliminates the need for manual intervention to lift and place the tonearm when changing records.

The automation features of an automatic turntable provide convenience and ease of use to the user. They eliminate the need for manual precision and careful handling of the delicate tonearm, making it suitable for those who prefer a more hands-off approach to vinyl playback.

It’s important to note that not all automatic turntables offer the same features. Some models may have additional automation options, such as cueing and repeat mechanisms, while others may have fewer automation functions. The available features and their implementation may vary across different brands and models, so it’s essential to review the specifications and user manual of a specific turntable to understand its automation capabilities.


Functionality of an Automatic Turntable

The functionality of an automatic turntable revolves around its automation mechanisms, which simplify the process of playing vinyl records. Let’s delve into the key components and how they work together to provide a seamless and convenient playback experience.

1. Motor: The motor is the heart of the turntable, responsible for spinning the platter. In an automatic turntable, the motor is typically controlled by various sensors and mechanisms to ensure precise and controlled movement.

2. Tonearm: The tonearm is the arm that holds the cartridge and needle. In an automatic turntable, the tonearm has an additional role in the automation process. It is equipped with a mechanism that allows for precise movement and positioning on the record.

3. Mechanical Arm: Some automatic turntables utilize a mechanical arm to control the movement of the tonearm. This arm is controlled by the automation system and is responsible for lifting and placing the tonearm at the desired position on the record.

4. Motorized Mechanism: Other automatic turntables utilize a motorized mechanism integrated into the tonearm. This mechanism allows for controlled movement of the tonearm, enabling it to smoothly lift, lower, and return to its rest position.

5. Sensors: Automatic turntables are equipped with various sensors that detect specific points on a record. These sensors play a crucial role in initiating and controlling the automation functions. They can detect the beginning and end of a record, as well as other important markers, such as lead-out grooves.

Now, let’s explore the functionality of an automatic turntable during playback:

  1. Automatic Start: When the user selects the automatic start function, the turntable’s motor starts spinning the platter. Simultaneously, the tonearm is lifted from its rest position and guided toward the desired starting point on the record. Once in position, the needle is gently lowered onto the record’s surface to initiate playback.
  2. Playback: As the record spins, the cartridge’s needle reads the grooves, translating the physical vibrations into electrical signals. These signals are then amplified and sent to the speakers or audio system to produce sound. The automation system ensures that the tonearm maintains constant pressure on the record, allowing for consistent and accurate playback.
  3. Automatic Stop: When the sensors detect the lead-out groove or the locked groove at the end of the record, the automation system initiates the automatic stop function. The tonearm lifts off the record, and the motor stops spinning the platter, bringing the playback to a halt.
  4. Automatic Return: After lifting from the record, the tonearm automatically returns to its rest position. This process ensures that the needle and cartridge are protected and prevents any accidental damage. The motorized mechanism or mechanical arm carefully guides the tonearm back to its original position, ready for the next record or when the turntable is turned off.

The automation features of an automatic turntable provide convenience and ease of use, making it a popular choice for beginners and those who prefer a more hands-free listening experience. However, it’s important to note that not all automatic turntables offer the same level of automation or functionality. Different models may have varying features and performance capabilities, so it’s crucial to carefully research and choose a turntable that suits your specific needs and preferences.


Advantages of Using an Automatic Turntable

Automatic turntables offer several advantages that make them an attractive choice for both beginners and experienced vinyl enthusiasts. Let’s explore some of the key advantages of using an automatic turntable:

  1. Convenience: One of the most significant advantages of automatic turntables is their convenience. The automation features eliminate the need for manual intervention in starting, stopping, and returning the tonearm. With just the push of a button, you can initiate the playback and let the turntable handle the rest. This convenience is especially beneficial for individuals who may have physical limitations or prefer a more hands-off approach to playing their vinyl records. It also makes it easier for beginners to get started without worrying about the precise handling of the tonearm.
  2. Precision: Automatic turntables are designed to provide precise and accurate playback. The automation mechanisms ensure consistent tracking force, allowing the needle to stay in the groove without skipping or causing excessive wear on the record. This precision in tracking helps preserve the quality of your vinyl collection, resulting in improved audio fidelity and longevity of your records.
  3. Protection for Records and Equipment: The automation features of an automatic turntable help protect both your records and your equipment. When starting and stopping playback, the turntable lifts and lowers the tonearm gently, minimizing the risk of scratching or damaging the record surface. The automatic return function ensures that the tonearm safely returns to its rest position, preventing accidental bumps or mishaps. This careful handling not only ensures the longevity of your records but also protects the delicate stylus of your cartridge from accidental damage.
  4. User-Friendly Operation: Automatic turntables are designed with user-friendliness in mind. The control buttons or switches are intuitively placed on the front panel, making it easy to navigate and initiate the desired functions. This simplicity of operation makes automatic turntables accessible to users of all experience levels, allowing them to enjoy their vinyl collection without the need for extensive setup or technical knowledge.
  5. Time-Saving: With the automation features of an automatic turntable, you can save time during the playback process. Instead of manually placing the tonearm on the record and carefully lifting it at the end, the turntable takes care of these tasks, allowing you to focus on enjoying the music. This time-saving aspect is particularly beneficial when playing multiple records in succession, as you can simply let the turntable automatically lift the tonearm and move to the next record in your playlist.

These advantages make automatic turntables a great option for those seeking convenience, precision, protection for their records, and user-friendly operation. However, it’s important to note that individual preferences and needs may vary, and some audiophiles may prefer the manual control and involvement of a traditional turntable. Ultimately, the choice between an automatic and manual turntable comes down to personal preference and the specific listening experience you desire.


Disadvantages of Using an Automatic Turntable

While automatic turntables offer many benefits, they also come with some disadvantages that you should consider before making a purchase. Let’s explore the potential drawbacks of using an automatic turntable:

  1. Cost: Automatic turntables tend to be more expensive than their manual counterparts. The automation mechanisms and additional components drive up the manufacturing costs, which are then passed on to the consumer. If budget is a concern, a manual turntable may be a more affordable option.
  2. Complexity: Automatic turntables are inherently more complex than manual ones. The automation mechanisms, sensors, and motorized components add complexity to the design and operation of the turntable. While this complexity allows for convenient automation, it also increases the likelihood of potential mechanical issues or malfunctions over time. Repairing and maintaining an automatic turntable may require specialized knowledge or professional assistance.
  3. Limited Customizability: Automatic turntables typically have pre-set automation functions that may not be customizable to your specific preferences. For example, the automation system may have a predetermined tracking force that cannot be adjusted, limiting your ability to fine-tune the playback characteristics. If you prefer more control over the technical aspects of vinyl playback, such as adjusting the tracking force, a manual turntable may be a better option.
  4. Compatibility: Some automatic turntables may have limitations in terms of cartridge compatibility. The automation mechanisms may be designed to work optimally with specific cartridge types or weights. If you prefer using different cartridges or upgrading to high-performance options, you may need to ensure their compatibility with your chosen automatic turntable.
  5. Limited Manual Control: The automation features of an automatic turntable leave little room for manual control. While this may be a advantage for some users who prefer the convenience of automation, it may limit the flexibility for manual adjustments or experimentation. Manual turntables allow you to manually adjust the tonearm position and tracking force, giving you more control over the sound and allowing for personal customization.

It’s important to weigh these disadvantages against the advantages and determine which factors are most important to you. If you prioritize convenience, ease of use, and a more hands-off approach, an automatic turntable may be the perfect fit for you. However, if you value customization, manual control, and a more traditional vinyl experience, a manual turntable may be a better choice.

Ultimately, the decision between an automatic and manual turntable depends on your personal preferences, budget, and listening goals. Consider these disadvantages alongside the advantages to make an informed decision that aligns with your needs and preferences.


Use Cases for Automatic Turntables

Automatic turntables are versatile audio devices that can cater to a wide range of use cases. Whether you’re a casual listener, a vinyl enthusiast, or someone looking for convenience, automatic turntables have various applications. Let’s explore some common use cases for automatic turntables:

  1. Beginners: Automatic turntables are an excellent choice for those new to vinyl records or turntables in general. The automation features simplify the playback process, allowing beginners to focus on enjoying the music without the need for extensive knowledge or manual intervention. Automatic start, stop, and return functions make it easy for beginners to dive into vinyl playback without the steep learning curve of manual turntables.
  2. Casual Listeners: If you enjoy vinyl records but prefer a hassle-free listening experience, an automatic turntable can be a great option. The convenience of automation allows you to sit back and enjoy your favorite albums without the need to manually operate the turntable. The automatic start and stop functions ensure that the playback begins with just a push of a button and ends smoothly without requiring your attention.
  3. Multi-Taskers: For those who like to multitask while listening to music, an automatic turntable can be a perfect fit. With the automation features, you can start a record and go about your other activities without worrying about manually lifting the tonearm or being present to stop the playback. This is especially useful if you’re working, cooking, or entertaining guests while enjoying your vinyl collection.
  4. Individuals with Physical Limitations: The automation features of automatic turntables make them accessible to individuals with physical limitations. Those who may have difficulty handling a tonearm or manually operating a turntable can benefit from the automated start, stop, and return functions. This allows them to enjoy the analog experience of vinyl playback without the physical challenges associated with manual turntables.
  5. Collector’s Showpiece: Automatic turntables can also serve as a collector’s showpiece and a conversation starter. Some automatic turntables feature elegant designs, premium materials, and intricate automation mechanisms that add a touch of sophistication to any room. These turntables not only offer functionality but also serve as a visually appealing centerpiece that showcases your love for vinyl records and audio technology.

Remember that these use cases are not exclusive, and an automatic turntable can cater to various listening preferences and lifestyles. Whether you’re new to vinyl records, prefer convenience, or have specific physical needs, an automatic turntable can provide an enjoyable and user-friendly way to experience the classic sound of vinyl.

It’s important to consider your specific requirements, listening habits, and personal preferences when choosing an automatic turntable. By aligning your needs with the features and functionality of the turntable, you can find the perfect match for your audio enjoyment.


Popular Brands and Models of Automatic Turntables

When it comes to choosing an automatic turntable, there are several reputable brands known for their quality, performance, and reliability. Let’s take a look at some popular brands and models that have earned the trust and acclaim of vinyl enthusiasts:

  1. Technics SL-1500C: Technics is a legendary name in the turntable industry, and the SL-1500C is one of their highly regarded automatic turntable models. It features a built-in phono preamp, a high-torque motor for consistent playback, and a tonearm with precise tracking ability.
  2. Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC: Pro-Ject is renowned for producing high-quality turntables, and the Debut Carbon DC is a popular choice among audiophiles. It features a carbon fiber tonearm, a heavy platter for improved rotation stability, and a quiet motor for minimal vibration and noise.
  3. Audio-Technica AT-LP5X: Audio-Technica is well-respected in the audio industry, and the AT-LP5X is a feature-rich automatic turntable. It boasts a direct-drive motor for precise and stable playback, a robust tonearm assembly, and a built-in phono preamp for easy connectivity to external audio devices.
  4. Rega Planar 3: The Rega Planar 3 is a classic turntable that has stood the test of time. It features a hand-assembled tonearm, a high-quality cartridge, and precise motor control for accurate and detailed playback. Rega turntables have a reputation for their musicality and attention to sonic clarity.
  5. Pioneer PLX-500: Pioneer is known for its professional DJ equipment, and the PLX-500 is a versatile automatic turntable that bridges the gap between audiophile quality and DJ functionality. It features a high-torque motor, USB connectivity for digitizing your vinyl collection, and a sleek design that appeals to both music enthusiasts and DJs.

These are just a few examples of popular automatic turntable models, and there are many other brands and models available on the market. Factors such as budget, specific requirements, and personal preferences should be taken into consideration when selecting the right turntable for your needs. Researching customer reviews, seeking expert advice, and listening to demonstrations can also help you make an informed decision.

Remember, the popularity and reputation of a brand or model should be considered alongside your personal preferences for sound quality, features, and design. Each brand and model has its own unique characteristics, so it’s important to choose the one that aligns with your specific needs and listening goals.


Factors to Consider When Choosing an Automatic Turntable

Choosing the right automatic turntable is an important decision that requires careful consideration of several factors. Here are some key factors to keep in mind when selecting an automatic turntable:

  1. Budget: Determine your budget range as automatic turntables can vary significantly in price. Setting a budget will help you narrow down your options and focus on turntables within your price range.
  2. Build Quality: Consider the build quality of the turntable. Look for sturdy construction, durable materials, and components that are designed to withstand wear and tear for long-term use.
  3. Automation Features: Assess the automation features offered by the turntable. Consider which functions are important to you, such as automatic start, stop, and return. Ensure the turntable has the necessary automation capabilities to meet your desired level of convenience.
  4. Sound Quality: Sound quality is a crucial factor to consider. Look for a turntable with a high-quality cartridge, precise tracking ability, and low vibration and noise levels. Searching for customer reviews or seeking expert opinions can help you gauge the sound performance of a specific model.
  5. Connectivity Options: If you plan to connect the turntable to external devices such as speakers, amplifiers, or audio interfaces, ensure that it has the necessary connectivity options. Common connectivity options include RCA outputs, USB ports, and built-in phono preamps for easy integration with audio systems.
  6. Cartridge Compatibility: Consider whether the turntable is compatible with different types of cartridges. Some turntables have fixed cartridges, while others allow you to interchange and upgrade cartridges based on your preferences and needs for sound performance.
  7. Tonearm Type: The type of tonearm used in the turntable is important. Look for features like adjustable tracking force and anti-skate settings to ensure accurate playback and minimize wear on your records.
  8. Support and Warranty: Research the manufacturer’s customer support reputation and the warranty terms offered for the turntable. It’s important to know that you can rely on the manufacturer’s support in case of any issues or concerns.
  9. Aesthetics and Design: Consider the aesthetics and design of the turntable, especially if you value aesthetics as part of your listening experience. Look for a turntable that matches your personal style and enhances the visual appeal of your listening space.

By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision when selecting an automatic turntable that suits your budget, preferences, and listening goals. Remember that personal preferences and priorities can vary, so it’s essential to prioritize the factors that are most important to you and align with your specific needs.

Taking the time to research and compare different models, reading customer reviews, and seeking expert advice can help ensure that you find the perfect automatic turntable that provides a delightful vinyl listening experience.


Maintenance and Care for an Automatic Turntable

Maintaining and caring for your automatic turntable is essential to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Proper maintenance practices can help preserve the quality of your vinyl records and keep your turntable operating smoothly. Here are some key maintenance tips to keep in mind:

  1. Keep the Turntable Clean: Regular cleaning of your turntable is crucial. Use a soft brush or anti-static brush to remove dust and debris from the surface of the record, platter, and tonearm. Clean the stylus carefully using a stylus brush or cleaning solution to prevent the accumulation of dirt and dust that can affect sound quality.
  2. Handle Records with Care: When handling records, make sure to handle them by the edges to prevent fingerprints, scratches, or smudges on the playing surface. Avoid placing records face-down on any surface to minimize the risk of damage.
  3. Ensure Proper Placement: Place your turntable on a stable and level surface. A wobbly or uneven surface can affect the turntable’s performance and even cause skipping or distortion during playback.
  4. Check and Adjust Tracking Force: Regularly check and adjust the tracking force of your turntable’s tonearm. Improper tracking force can cause excessive wear on your records or affect the sound quality. Refer to your turntable’s manual for specific instructions on tracking force adjustment.
  5. Keep the Belt in Good Condition: If your automatic turntable uses a belt-drive system, inspect the belt periodically for signs of wear or damage. Replace the belt if necessary following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  6. Protect the Turntable Cover: If your turntable has a dust cover or lid, use it when not in use to protect the turntable from dust and potential accidents. Handle the cover carefully to avoid cracking or damaging the hinges.
  7. Regularly Check Connections and Cables: Ensure that all connections and cables are secure and free from damage. Loose or damaged connections can affect the audio quality or cause intermittent issues during playback.
  8. Avoid Extreme Temperatures and Humidity: Keep your turntable in a suitable environment with stable temperature and humidity levels. Extreme temperatures or high humidity can potentially damage the turntable components and affect its performance.
  9. Service and Maintenance: Consider having your automatic turntable serviced by a professional technician periodically. They can perform comprehensive maintenance tasks, such as cleaning internal components, lubricating moving parts, and ensuring optimal performance. Regular servicing can help address any potential issues and extend the lifespan of your turntable.

Following these maintenance and care tips will help ensure that your automatic turntable continues to provide quality sound and reliable performance over time. Remember to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines and recommendations specific to your turntable model for further maintenance instructions.

By adopting good maintenance practices and handling your automatic turntable with care, you can enjoy your vinyl collection to its fullest and maintain the longevity of your equipment.



Automatic turntables offer a convenient and user-friendly way to experience the joy of vinyl records. With their automation features, these turntables provide a hands-off approach to vinyl playback, making it accessible to beginners and appealing to casual listeners who value convenience.

In this article, we explored the definition and functionality of automatic turntables, highlighting their advantages and disadvantages. We discussed use cases and considered popular brands and models known for their performance and reliability. Additionally, we outlined important factors to consider when choosing an automatic turntable and provided maintenance tips to ensure the longevity of your equipment.

While automatic turntables offer convenience and simplified operation, it’s important to consider personal preferences and priorities when making a choice between automatic and manual turntables. Some listeners may prioritize customization and manual control, while others may appreciate the ease and precision of automation.

Whether you’re a beginner, a casual listener, or an audiophile, automatic turntables can provide a delightful vinyl listening experience. By considering factors such as budget, sound quality, build quality, and automation features, you can find the perfect turntable that aligns with your specific needs and preferences.

Remember to take proper care of your automatic turntable by cleaning it regularly, handling records with care, and ensuring a suitable environment for its operation. This will help preserve the quality of your vinyl records and maintain the optimal performance of your turntable.

So, embark on your vinyl journey with an automatic turntable and immerse yourself in the warm, nostalgic sound that vinyl records have to offer. Whether you’re relaxing at home, hosting a gathering, or simply enjoying some me-time, an automatic turntable will be your faithful companion in bringing the joys of analog music into your life.

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