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In Defense of the Automatic Turntable

Automatic turntables and manual turntables have always been on opposing sides of a vinyl community rivalry. For some, the convenience of an auto-return tonearm is a luxury they can’t live without. For others, the deliberate act of dropping the needle in the correct groove makes them feel more deeply connected to the music they are spinning. These experiences can have a huge impact on how you listen to music, but the greatest debate here is centered around how each type of turntable will affect sound.

Those in the manual turntable camp claim that an automatic turntable’s extra parts have a negative impact on the overall sound. Automatic turntable detractors often equate these models with beginner turntables as the ease of use makes them a popular option for new collectors.

Defenders of the automatic turntable claim that if the turntable is made with quality materials, listeners won’t be able to tell the difference. As someone with both types of turntables, I am speaking out in defense of automatic turntables and celebrating the many advantages they offer.

Automatic turntables can help prevent damage.

With the flick of a switch or push of a button, an automatic record player will find that first groove and drop the stylus right where it’s supposed to go. With a manual turntable, there is the possibility that you’ll miss the groove or accidentally drop the tonearm. In either scenario, you can potentially damage your stylus or records. Automatic turntables help prevent this from happening.

Automatic turntables sound just as good as manual turntables.

Can an automatic turntable hold its own when it goes head-to-head with similarly priced manual turntables? The answer is yes! Since 1991, Pro-Ject has made a name for itself with turntables like the Debut Carbon and Debut Carbon EVO. These beloved turntables are manual, but Pro-Ject has finally developed a way to make an automatic turntable that captures the quality and affordability of their Debut Line.

a side shot of a turntable with a vinyl record playing on it

The new Automat A1 turntable offers much more than an automatic tonearm. The pre-adjusted tracking force and anti-skating mean you won’t have to adjust any settings before you plug in and play your first record. This takes the guesswork and careful calculations out of the equation as everything is calibrated for you.

Armed with an aluminum tonearm, integrated amplifier, gold plated RCA connectors, and vibration-absorbing feet, the Automat A1 just may convert some of the automatic naysayers. The resonance-damped wooden chassis, carbon fiber reinforced non-magnetic headshell, and premium semi-symmetrical phono cable ensure that the additional components do not negatively impact the listening experience.

Automatic turntables are ideal for certain environments.

Not having to worry about removing the tonearm once it hits the dead wax comes in handy in certain rooms and situations. If you enjoy listening to music from the comfort of your own bed, you won’t have to worry about accidentally dozing off. An automatic record player will prevent your needle from getting locked in the runout groove for hours on end. This is also useful for any record players that may provide musical accompaniment for messy activities like cooking or cleaning. If you’re in the zone, it can be nice to have the record player do the work for you when you’ve reached the end of a side.

Automatic turntables make record collecting accessible.

Like all audio gear, the prices of automatic turntables can range from budget-friendly to bankruptcy-inducing. However, the ease of use has inspired many brands to make entry-level turntables with auto-return arms. Ask a group of collectors what their first turntable was and you’ll quickly learn that many of them started with an automatic. That’s because choosing the right audio gear can be daunting for the uninitiated. An automatic turntable feels a little more inviting as new vinyl enthusiasts learn how to properly play and care for records.

After they’ve gotten the hang of it, some collectors begin to climb the gear ladder and invest in pricier turntables. With turntables like the Automat A1, you don’t have to spend a lot of money or sacrifice hi-fi sound in the name of convenience.

Published in partnership with Pro-Ject. Images courtesy of Pro-Ject.

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