Drop the Needle: Turntables, Vinyl and Home Audio on A Not-So-Stringent Budget

There are a realm of blogs and websites dedicated to being thrifty. How to save money and tighten the purse strings, travelling on a budget, saving money on your weekly food shops etc. Personally I don’t buy into any of that. I am all for finding a bargain and nobody wants to be paying through the nose for things but sometimes you must not allow yourself to compromise on quality.

I am a firm believer in extracting value. What is the most amount of bang you can reasonably expect to get for your buck? I am currently going through a career change and my partner is looking to start her own business so yes, life on a budget is necessary in places, but is it necessary in ALL places?

Living frugally and saving where you can is a must, especially in today’s climate. Nevertheless, we should always look to spoil ourselves every now and then. Selfishness is not a taboo word, and when it comes to treating yourself you should always do it with conviction. Whether it be a meal out, that shirt you’ve been eyeing for months or that gig you really want to go to.

Extracting quality is an art form in itself and to master it takes time, patience and a lot of research. So when it came to finding the perfect set up for my home audio equipment I didn’t start with a budget, I started with a vision.

Genesis

Five years ago I purchased my first vinyl record. It was an original pressing of the Joy Division album, Still. It came with a hardback hessian outer cover and it cost me £80. This is still one of my most extravagant purchases I have made to date, however, the way I see it is that it is a classic record to own. I love the band and it will never go down in value and therefore, I have extracted the most bang for my buck.

At the time of this purchase I didn’t own a turntable, I didn’t (and still do not), own a CD player. All my music had been previously digitised, uploaded to a music library and predominantly listened to on my phone. So where I thought I was going to store a collection of 12” records was anyone’s guess! But I persevered.

I signed up to an online record store called Vinyl Me, Please! Through a subscription service they would send me a record a month that had been exclusively pressed for them and curated by members of their team. A bit like Craft Gin or those Graze boxes you can have delivered to your home or work but this was for Vinyl. The monthly subscription provided value for the items received and I managed my outgoings to ensure I could afford it on an ongoing basis. This is how my journey into the world of home audio began.

Research, Research, Research!

As the months progressed and my collection grew I became adept to sourcing records. Finding under-priced gems at record fairs, job lot collections for sale items on Gumtree and Facebook sales and frequent visits to charity shops became a priority with every visit to the high street. I was in full swing.

It was then that I turned my attention to the audio side of my new found hobby. I could have visited my local high street and for less than £100 bought a turntable, some active speakers (I had to learn what this meant) and been at home that afternoon enjoying the sweet sound only vinyl can produce, but I didn’t do that.

I had my vision. I had seen hundreds of pictures online of other people’s home set-ups and I knew what I wanted. I also knew that I did not have the disposable income to spend on thousands of pounds worth of equipment either and this is where the research came in to play.

I spent hours, days and literally months (patience), reading tech magazine pages and product reviews of budget hi-fi systems, going on to forums to read threads about products and problems faced with certain items and what amplifiers paired best with what speakers. At the time I had no idea what an amplifier was (big speaker you plugged a guitar into is what I thought), I joined Facebook groups where people would have heated debates over cables… cables!

Home Audio Equipment

It was a whole new world, the forums had all but confirmed my initial suspicions of home audio options. Poorly made, cheap suitcase type turntables lend themselves to the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’. By all accounts I may as well have bought a Bluetooth speaker and plugged my phone in it for all the sound quality I would have received.

After months of research I had pretty much settled on what I wanted. I had read a lot of reviews and had discussions about the Project Debut Carbon DC. It is manufactured by a UK company based in Southend (as an Essex boy myself this only added to the appeal), and they produced turntables at reasonable prices.

These tables allow room for numerous upgrades should you wish to explore and extract the most from your purchase in the future, this was also part of the appeal. Incremental upgrades over time with little expenditure is a great way to improve your system without hefty price tags attached to higher priced items. Certainly one way to get the most value from your original outlay!

I paired this item with a Marantz pm6005 integrated amplifier (this means it is essentially an amplifier and a pre-amplifier in one unit), saving me money on having to purchase separate items to achieve the same outcome.

Finally I had been drawn to a pair of Dali Zensor 3 speakers, which by all accounts matched perfectly with the turntable and amplifier choices I had made according to current and previous owner reviews. They are a great bookshelf speaker that packs a hefty bassline punch for such an innocuous item.

The Final Countdown

It took me nearly two years to acquire all these things which gave me ample time to save, and it did so because I was patient, thrifty where I needed to be and determined not to compromise on value. Three years on and my humble little home audio set-up still provides me with the same amount of joy and quality as it did on day one. I have achieved my vision and acquired the most bang for my buck. I have had no need to change or replace anything, upgrade or swap items out just yet… but, as you will come to find when you begin your journey… It doesn’t stop you looking!

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