If you want to be a proper EP lover, first of all, you have to get armed with a proper record player in a good condition. Dirt in the turntable will be spread onto the platters making even the best vinyl cleaner useless.
Start with giving your tray a thorough dust treatment. First of all, you take off all the top parts. Remove the dust cover together with the hinges, take off the headshell and the balance weight.
Prepare cotton sticks, tool wipes, compressed air, vacuum cleaner, and regular paper towels. Start with removing the dust with a vacuum cleaner. Then move to the smaller parts and clean them with compressed air. Use wipes and Q tips for the smaller parts. Make sure to use the wood polish or wood oil on the wooden base.
Remember to keep the linear arm apparatus well lubricated. A properly aligned arm mechanism would never damage an LP. Contacts, bearings and tracking mechanism should all be lubed up thoroughly. Player maintenance is an important part of the vinyl record maintenance.
I cannot just tell you which drive is better as here options differ from one user to another. But both drives can ensure proper record care leaving your platers in top notch condition no matter if the model is expensive or not.
A brand new belt might cost you around $20 to $15. They are widely available. Besides the drive, you should also check the spring suspensions by gently touching them with your finger. They should immediately bounce back a little bit. If you are looking for a turntable that is easy to tune up you should get yourself a belt-less and suspension-less option.
Get your turntable a brand new P-mounted cartridge. The simpler ones come for about $30 while some finer options will cost you up to $150. A better cartridge gives you a better, clearer sound. Pick one depending on the price and condition of your record player.
Trying to achieve perfect alignment between a cartridge and a pivoting arm might be a challenge of its own and you will have plenty of fun trying to perfect it. You can do it every time you’re about to play some records.
Time to apply a metal polish aka contact cleaner. Use it on the power cord and RCA plugs. Also, clean the dust cover hinges with some compressed air and sewing machine oil or other machine lubricants. Learning how to take care of vinyl records and player might be hard but is well worth your time and money.
In case you have an anti-skating dial move it to the 0 positions. Put the stylus protector on and try changing the arm position between the armrest and the record. The cueing lever should be in the lower position.
Do the counterweight motion until the arm floats parallel with the platter. You will achieve 0 balance when the arm floats parallel with the disk. If the arm moves independently of the counterweight you can just set it to 0 and move the arm together with the counterweight to ensure the alignment is proper.