Difference between a Turntable and a Record Player

Updated on July 5, 2017

Since the early 20th century, record replay has been prominent in households. While a turntable and a record player are both used to play records, they are far from being interchangeable.


A turntable with its cartridge and stylus

A turntable is a record replay device that has simple features. It is a standalone rotating platform used to playback phonograph records. Just like other record players, a turntable works by transferring data from the vinyl records. It rose in popularity in the early 1900s, and until now, it is still a popular item in the music industry.

A turntable was designed with a rotating platter where discs are placed. It also has a pickup device that is made up of a stylus (needle) and a cartridge. The pickup device is a small rectangular chip that uses electromagnetic induction to transmit sound waves from the grooves of the vinyl record. There are two types of cartridge systems used in turntables: the moving coil and the moving magnet system. The former is usually used in high-end turntables.

record player
A record player with its built-in speaker

A record player also functions to produce sound. It was made with elaborate features that include a turntable, a speaker and an amplifier. Typically, the turntables used in a record player are electronically driven.

A record player converts vibrations to electric currents. Since it has a built-in amplifier and speaker, these electric currents are automatically transmitted to form sound waves.

Turntable vs Record Player

So what’s the difference between a turntable and a record player? Record players have built-in features that include amplifiers and speakers. A record player is a complete device and does not require other gadgets to play back sound. Turntables, on the other hand, need other sound-generating pro-audio components like speakers and headphones to successfully produce sound.

In terms of quality, turntables usually produce clearer sounds since the device is solely concentrated on converting vibrations to sound waves. This explains why turntables are mainly used by professional DJs.

Another notable difference between the two is weight and portability. Since a record player was designed with an amplifier and a speaker, it is heavier and less portable than a turntable.

Lastly, a record player’s upfront cost is usually higher than a turntable. However, buying a record player is more cost-efficient as it is already an all-in-one playback device.

Comparison Chart

TurntableRecord Player
A standalone device used to play back soundA playback device with a built-in turntable, amplifier and speaker
Lighter and more portableHeavier and less portable
Upfront costs are usually lowerUpfront costs are usually higher
Needs speakers and other device to play back soundComplete playback device