Record players are fantastically simple things. They are a combination of a precise needle which reads the tiny grooves in the surface of the vinyl record, and a table which spins the black circle at 33.3 times each minute. Those two components provide the basis for every rotating recording medium, from the wax cylinder of Edison’s time, to the Blu Ray discs of today.
But the record player is also crude and inelegant. The needle on the end of the tone arm must be placed manually, and doing so with too much force on the surface can scratch the grooves. At some point, one of the owners of my first-pressing Dark Side of the Moon must have done this, to the detriment of the opening bars of “Us and Them”. There’s also the chance of damaging the needle if you’re not careful with the manual placement. In addition, the RPM must be selected because, while Dark Side is an LP and therefore plays at 33.3 RPM, I also have a copy of Robert Palmer’s quite excellent single “Addicted To Love”, which plays at 45 RPM.
My record player, a Bang & Olufsen Beomaster 3000, is different because of a couple of subtle tweaks. There is a scale below the turntable. If the record on the table is above a certain threshold, it spins at 33.3 RPM, but if it’s below this threshold, it spins at 45. Furthermore, the tone arm is entirely automated, and when the record is an LP, the arm is placed perfectly at the outer edge of the 12-inch disc. But when the record is a single, the arm is placed correctly at the edge of a standard 7-inch.
These two simple tweaks reduce the chance of damaging either the needle or the record, as the arm is placed gently in the same spot every time. But they also increase the elegance of the experience. If I place a record on the turntable and press a play button, music simply happens.
Until it requires flipping to side B, that is.