How to pack a vintage turntable

So there are lots of vintage turntables to be found on eBay and other reseller sites.  They were, after all, the primary way to listen to music until the advent of the compact disc and subsequently MP-3s.  Trouble is, precious few will come complete with their original packing materials and without them, great care must be taken for these often delicate relics to ship safely.  It’s really not that complicated, but vintage turntables can be intimidating to many, especially the pricey ones.  So lets look at some  simple steps necessary to ship them safely.

First, many turntables have transport screws.  These are much the same as those found in washing machines that secure the tub for transport.  They typically secure the power transformer in a similar way, since during operation it is usually hung off some sort of suspension for acoustic isolation purposes.  If you don’t have the original transport screws, find some at your local hardware store.

Second, both the platter and the dust cover must be removed and packed up separately.  The platter can often be heavy and it should be carefully packed in the bottom of the box in bubble wrap or something similar.  The dust cover hinges will almost certainly break or the dust cover will crack where the hinges attach if you ship it attached to the turntable, so remove it and pack it separately.  It usually slides off the hinges and can be wrapped individually and packed on top since it’s light and fragile.  Be careful, it scratches easily!

Third, place a stylus protector on the phono cartridge and remove the head shell from the tonearm if possible.  If the tonearm doesn’t have a removable head shell (many don’t), then remove the phono cartridge from the tonearm and carefully package it separately, in it’s original packaging if you still have it.

Fourth, remove the tonearm from the turntable if possible.  Manual turntables usually have an “arm board” that allow you to use different tone arms, often purchased separately.  High end manual turntables often allow easy removal of their tonearms, even if they are originally sold complete with the turntable (see the Denon in the photos), then remove the counterweight and pack these parts separately as well.  This is the best way to protect these delicate parts, but it won’t be possible with automatic turntables.  But… automatic turntables are contrary to high end audio reproduction anyway so are best avoided.  But… if you have one and need to pack it you probably won’t be able to remove it’s tonearm.

Fifth, pack your plinth, being careful with any isolation feet or springs it may have.  If you have a “sprung” turntable (Acoustic isolation for turntables – to couple or decouple?…) you most certainly will need those transport screws to hold everything in place or your turntable will likely arrive with tweaked springs at best and in pieces at worst.

Finally, take all these parts that are packed individually and double box them.  This will result in a very large box for the size of your turntable, but it’s the only way to ship it safely.  If you have the original packaging, you will notice the manufacturers found clever ways to keep the packaging small, like insets in the styrofoam for the platter and/or tonearm, but you won’t have this luxury.

I’ve successfully shipped two turntables this way, both Denon direct drive models that came complete with Denon tonearms.  One was transported as checked luggage on the airline and the other I coached the seller how to pack and successfully shipped across Canada via Canada Post.


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