A record player platter spins a vinyl disc with sound waves etched into grooves. A precision arm with a needle (stylus) vibrates in these grooves, reproducing the sound information stored within.
Parts of a record player
1 On/off switch
The on/off switch controls power delivery to the entire unit.
2 Speed calibration strobe
The speed calibration strobe light is built into the side of the main power switch, and strobes at a constant rate.
3 Speed calibration pattern
The raised dot pattern on the side of the platter will appear to stand still under a strobe light when the platter spins at a certain RPM (revolutions per minute). This allows the operator to visually evaluate playback (rotation) speed.
4 Start/stop button
The start/stop button controls platter rotation.
5 Speed selector
The most common rotation speed (RPM) for a vinyl record is 33 1/3. Another common but smaller vinyl record rotates at 45 RPM, and must be used with an adapter  due to its larger center hole diameter.
The platter is a solid platform that holds and rotates the record.
7 Cueing lamp
The cueing lamp illuminates the stylus so the operator can see where the stylus is in all light conditions.
8 Head shell
The head shell is attached to the end of the tonearm and holds the cartridge.
The tonearm holds the headshell and houses audio wiring. It has varied adjustment capabilities for vertical and lateral behavior.
10 Pitch or tempo adjustment
A fader knob allows fine control of platter rotation speed, which directly affects playback pitch and tempo.
The plinth is the base of the turntable. A sturdy plinth keeps crucial parts stable for better playback and less external vibration interference.
12 45 adapter
Smaller, 7” records have a larger center hole diameter. The 45 adapter accommodates these records.
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Motor and base
Motor: direct drive vs. belt drive
Turntables generally use one of the following drive options:
1 Direct drive
In a direct drive system, the platter and motor components are connected. A magnet fastened to the under side of the platter acts as a rotor (moving part of an electric motor). A set of copper windings is connected to the base and acts as the stator (stationary part of an electric motor).
This system has more torque (rotation force) and is stronger and more stable in response to external influences like stylus pressure or hand pressure (for example, when producing DJ effects).
2 Belt drive
In a belt drive setup, the platter is driven by a belt and motor combination. The belt can act as a shock absorber or filter that prevents vibrations (from the motor or otherwise) from affecting sound quality. As such, this setup is preferred by some for high fidelity audio reproduction. Platter balance and torque may not respond favorably to operator interference; belt driven models are generally unsuitable for various DJ effects.
3 Platter mat
The platter mat material can affect turntable functionality. For example, a cork or rubber mat will grip the record and platter; this allows the turntable operator to affect the speed of the actual platter and drive motor when hand pressure is applied to the record surface. A felt mat for cueing (placing the needle in a specific location on the record disc) allows the record to easily decouple from the platter and spin independently (or not at all) under hand pressure.
4 Circuit board
Feet are adjustable for turntable leveling and can help isolate the turntable from external vibration.
The counterweight balances the tonearm horizontally and affects the stylus downward pressure (tracking force) on the record surface.
The anti-skate adjustment controls the tonearm’s side-to-side tension. The needle rides in a record disc groove, naturally pulling the tonearm toward the center of the turntable. The anti-skate spring setting acts against that force, providing tension adjustment toward the tonearm’s original resting position.
3 Cueing lever
The cueing lever safely raises and lowers the tonearm to prevent unintentional damage to sensitive surfaces. Cueing lever designs often feature hydraulic cylinders or other mechanisms to ensure smooth function.
4 Tonearm height adjustment
A set of threaded rings allow tonearm height adjustment.
5 Tonearm rest
The tonearm rest holds the tonearm securely in place when not in use.
Cartridge and stylus
1 Record groove
The cartridge houses the stylus, magnet, and coils.
The tip of the stylus (called the “needle”) is generally made of sapphire or diamond. It is fastened to one end of a metal cantilever which has a flexible support bushing as a pivot, and a magnet at the opposite end. The stylus can have a unique tip shape based on performance needs; common shapes are elliptical (pictured) or spherical (more perfectly round than oval shaped).
Electricity passes through coils of copper wire, creating an electromagnetic field (a magnetic field generated by electricity).
A vinyl record has microscopic “V” shaped grooves  that are cut as a precise reproduction of a sound wave; each side of the V corresponds to the left or right channel of a stereo recording and can have its own distinct shape.
The stylus  vibrates as it rides along this groove, causing a magnet attached to its opposite end to vibrate in turn. The magnet’s magnetic field interacts with the existing electromagnetic field generated by the coils , translating physical movement into electrical pulses that travel through electrical wiring.
Audio wiring for left and right channels transmits these electrical pulses to a sound system where they are converted back into mechanical movement, such as when a speaker cone moves back and forth to make sound.
- Guide, A. (2015). Anatomy of a Turntable. Record Player Pro. Retrieved 2 August 2016, from http://www.recordplayerpro.com/anatomy-of-a-turntable-a-beginners-guide/
- Vallejo, C. (2014). Turntable Basics // Belt Drive vs Direct Drive. The Limited Press. Retrieved 2 August 2016, from http://thelimitedpress.com/turntable-basics-belt-drive-vs-direct-drive/
- Rochman, D. (2016). Choosing a Phono Cartridge in the Vinyl Revival | Shure Blog. Blog.shure.com. Retrieved 2 August 2016, from http://blog.shure.com/choosing-a-phono-cartridge-in-the-vinyl-revival/
- High Fidelity Phonograph Cartridge - Technical Seminar | Shure Technical FAQ. (2016). Shure.custhelp.com. Retrieved 2 August 2016, from http://shure.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/4072/~/high-fidelity-phonograph-cartridge---technical-seminar
- Magnetic cartridge. (2016). Wikipedia. Retrieved 2 August 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_cartridge
- anti-skating, whats it for?, how it works and how to adjust it properly. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 2 August 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIBtZR941Yw
- Technics Tuneup Part VII: Tonearm Internal Assembly. (2016). YouTube. Retrieved 2 August 2016, from https://youtu.be/hGd-znbm_mg?t=3m51s