Many years have probably passed since your parents’ old vinyl collection was dusted off in the cellar or garage, but the vinyl revival has finally arrived and is holding on. Vinyl records offer a sound quality and physical feel to music that digital tracks simply can’t match, and more and more people are switching from computers to turntables. If you’re one of them, you may be keen to know which good old turntable manufacturers are still around and offering the best vintage turntables combined with a new style and the most advanced features.
Today’s turntables are undeniably modern and offer a wide variety of features that can turn the head of the uninitiated buyer. To make it easier for you to play vinyl records on a modern turntable, we’ve reviewed our five favourite turntables on the market today. We compared the many technical features that distinguish these turntables and combed through hundreds of customer reviews. The end result is a set of turntables that offers something for everyone, from those on a budget to those looking for the best turntable at any price.
The table below shows our choices, and you can read detailed reviews of each of the five turntables below. Plus, check out our buying guide to find out what features can make the difference between one new turntable and another.
ION Audio Air LP
For the serious audiophile, this ION turntable has almost everything you could want. Since this player is aimed at a more advanced audience, its price is the highest of all the turntables in our selection. However, for those looking for the best audio quality without having to spend thousands of dollars, this turntable is an excellent choice.
The secret of this exceptional audio quality lies in the attention paid to the turntable itself. The platter is made of die-cast aluminium and uses a belt-driven motor like all the other turntables we reviewed. However, the motor is designed to be mechanically isolated from the rest of the player to greatly reduce vibration. The neatly finished base has a non-slip rubber mat under each foot to further isolate the turntable from vibration. Finally, the turntable has a built-in spirit level to ensure that there is no record wobble when playing your vinyl records.
The tone arm is the other source of audio quality in this turntable. The arm itself is fully automatic, and its lightweight design allows for great precision when adjusting the needle weight on each record. The height and anti-skate adjustments are easy to use. The turntable comes with a high quality cartridge, which can be easily upgraded for those looking to further enhance the sound quality.
With sound quality well under control, ION has taken this turntable a step further by adding a variety of listening devices. Unlike most turntables today, the ION can be paired wirelessly with Bluetooth speakers. It also has an auxiliary input jack, so you can use the built-in preamp (which itself produces excellent sound quality) and Bluetooth compatibility to listen to music from other devices. If desired, the preamp can be shunted to an aftermarket amplifier to further improve sound quality and increase volume.
- 33 1/3; 45 and 78 RPM
- 32 feet
- Belt drive
- headphone output; automatic shut-off; installation CD included
TEAC is a well-known brand in the turntable industry. Originally founded as the Tokyo Electro Acoustic Company in 1953, TEAC combines its many years of solid experience with the latest developments to create the best all-in-one turntables and vintage-style turntables available on the market.
TEAC’s TN-300 is expensive, but it is one of the finest turntables on the market today, both in sound quality and appearance.
A quick glance at the turntable lets you know that it’s a solid build – the base is made from a single slab of polished wood, and the components are elegantly minimal. The lightness of the wooden base helps to reduce vibration when a record is spinning, which improves playback quality. The aluminium platter and drive belt are also designed to reduce record wobble for the highest fidelity playback.
This turntable is also extremely easy to use. Switching from a 33 1/3 to a 45 rpm record is as simple as flipping a switch on the top of the turntable. The arm is fully automatic, and controls for arm height and a slip adjustment are discreetly located at the base of the arm to fine tune the playback tone. The turntable can be connected via the included RCA output cables to an amplifier or directly to powered speakers using the built-in phono equaliser. Although the phono can be upgraded, the built-in phono is already of high quality. However, there is no Bluetooth function to connect to wireless speakers.
The turntable comes with an Audio Technica MM-style universal cartridge with a diamond-tipped stylus, which offers excellent playback and can also be easily upgraded to get even more sound from the grooves of your record.
Another great feature of this turntable is that it has a built-in USB port for connection to your computer. This allows you to save vinyl records as digital audio files for those looking to digitise their record collection.
- 33 and 45 rpm
- Audio-technica VM (MM) type
- die-cast aluminium
- belt drive
- MM-type preamplifier
- Built-in USB digital output and analogue phono/line output
RP2 from Rega
The Rega turntable offers audiophile quality at a much more affordable price than similar turntables, making it one of the best turntables under $1000 – almost half that, in fact.
The crown jewel of this turntable is the tone arm, which was hand-assembled by Rega and is considered by customers to be one of the best tone arms they’ve seen, even compared to turntables that cost thousands of dollars. The cartridge at the end of the arm is a high quality Rega Carbon magnetic cartridge, which offers excellent sound quality and can be easily upgraded for those looking for even higher playback performance. The tone arm controls, including arm weight and anti-skate, are located at the base of the arm and provide precise control. The only drawback of this arm is that the RCA cables are wired into the arm, so after-market interconnects cannot be used to replace the wiring.
The drive system is another great feature of this turntable. Instead of a die-cast aluminium platter, the Rega turntable uses a phenolic resin platter covered with a special low-vibration motor. These improvements over inferior turntables greatly reduce record wobble and vibration hum – two of the main detractors from sound quality. Although the system is not fully suspended, as is the case with high-end turntables, the reduction in vibration is significant for a device of this price.
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The main drawback of this turntable for the average user is that it is really designed for audiophiles. It has no built-in phono equaliser, so it cannot be used with speakers and must be connected to an aftermarket amplifier. In addition, it does not have non-essential features such as Bluetooth or a USB port.
- Speeds 33 and 45 rpm
- Rega Carbon MM Stylus
- Optiwhite float glass platter
- Drive belt drive
- Amplifier No built-in amplifier
- Rega RB220 hand-assembled tonearm
Audio Technica AT-LP60BK
For listeners who are on a budget or simply want to get into the world of vinyl without fully immersing themselves in it, this turntable from Audio Technica is a great budget choice. At less than $100, this turntable offers decent sound quality and, more importantly, enough build quality to ensure that it won’t damage your record collections the way cheaper turntables can.
This turntable is designed for beginners. Firstly, the turntable is fully automatic, which means that when you start a record, the player automatically returns the needle arm to its holder at the end of the record – a useful feature for those who are not familiar with record players.
Secondly, the turntable has a built-in preamp that allows you to connect it directly to a set of speakers without an intermediate receiver (the speakers must have their own power source). The preamp is the main obstacle to better sound quality on this turntable and cannot be replaced without upgrading the whole turntable. However, for those looking to connect their turntable to a more advanced sound system, the preamp can be disabled and the turntable connected to an amplifier using the RCA output cables provided. This turntable is also available with Bluetooth capability, but for almost twice the price, to allow wireless connection to Bluetooth-enabled speakers.
As for the construction of the turntable, it uses a die-cast aluminium platter designed for 33 1/3rpm records. An adapter to play 45 rpm records is supplied with the turntable, but the turntable cannot play pre-1950 78 rpm records. The turntable uses a double magnet cartridge with a diamond-tipped stylus. Although the quality of the cartridge is good, it is not replaceable – so if it breaks for any reason, the whole turntable will have to be scrapped. The needle itself is easy to replace with a cheap spare.
This turntable also comes in a USB version for about $30 more. The USB output allows you to record vinyl records to digital MP3 files on your computer. The unit must be purchased with the USB option, which cannot be added later.
- 33 1/3 and 45 rpm
- Audio-Technica phono cartridge with integrated dual magnet and replaceable diamond stylus
- Die-cast aluminium platter, anti-resonance.
- belt drive
- Output cables
- Built-in switchable phono pre-amplifier
- DC servo motor
- automatic operation
- Removable hinged dust cover
This Denon turntable is an excellent entry-level turntable that offers good value for money, with plenty of scope for upgrading as your music collection grows.
The tone arm is fully automatic and comes with a magnetic MM cartridge. Although the supplied cartridge does not offer amazing playback, it can be easily removed and upgraded. Many users have found the controls for balancing the tone arm to be difficult to use, which can be a source of frustration with this turntable.
The turntable itself uses an aluminium platter and is suitable for 33 1/3 or 45 rpm records. It has several features to reduce vibration. The first is a heavy base, which helps to reduce vibration between the stand and the turntable. The second is a 5mm thick turntable sheet that uses holographic analysis to reduce vibration while your record is playing.
The turntable has a built-in preamp that can be turned on and off with a simple switch. This makes it easy to retrofit your own amplifier via the RCA outputs and bypass any sound quality changes introduced by the built-in preamp.
Unfortunately, this turntable does not allow you to connect to Bluetooth speakers or record vinyl to digital audio files.
- 33 1/3 or 45 rpm
- MM removable cartridge
- Die-cast aluminium
- by belt
- DC servo motor
- Integrated phono preamplifier
Vinyl records come in different sizes – 7, 10 and 12 inches – and are played at 33 1/3, 45 and 78 rpm respectively. The earliest records available were recorded at 78 rpm in the 1900s-1920s. After the Second World War, 33 1/3 (often called 33 rpm) and 45 rpm mainly replaced the old 78 rpm format. All the record players on our list play the newer 33 and 45 rpm records. So check carefully whether the record player you intend to buy can play all the records in your collection.
Cartridge and stylus
The cartridge supplied with a turntable can make a huge difference to the quality of the sound, as it is the component that turns the grooves in the record into music. All the cartridges in the turntables on our tour are moving magnet (MM) cartridges, as opposed to moving coil (MC) cartridges. MM cartridges are often preferred because they can be easily replaced, for those looking to make a significant upgrade to their turntable, and because the stylus can also be easily replaced when it wears out. The MC cartridges are lighter, allowing them to offer slightly better tracking and therefore better sound quality. However, the stylus cannot be replaced at home. Upgrading the MM cartridge supplied with your turntable usually costs around €100, although there is no upper limit to the price of the cartridges.
All of the turntables in our review were belt-driven turntables, and there’s a good reason for this: belt-driven turntables tend to cause much less disc vibration than direct-drive turntables. The former separate the motor from the turntable itself, whereas in a direct-drive turntable, the motor rotates the disc directly and probably introduces a high degree of vibration that can negatively affect playback fidelity. Vibration damping can also be influenced by the base material and weight of the turntable, as well as the type of platter used – die-cast aluminium or, in the case of the Rega turntable, a phenolic resin platter. Higher quality (and more expensive) turntables suspend the record completely from the base to further reduce vibration.
Whether or not a turntable has a built-in preamplifier or phono equaliser determines whether it can be connected directly to a pair of powered speakers, such as computer speakers, or whether a special amplifier must be purchased for a turntable. Buying an amplifier can add considerably to the cost of installing a turntable, but it can also greatly improve the sound quality and allow for more customisation of the output settings. If you plan to upgrade to an amplifier later, make sure the turntable you choose can be switched to bypass the built-in preamp – these preamplifiers often adversely affect the sound output compared to an aftermarket amplifier. If your turntable does not have a preamp and you need to buy one, there is a wide range of preamps on the market. You can consider affordable DJ PRE IIs or Pro-Jects, or the more expensive Yamaha.
It is also worth considering in your choice of turntable whether secondary features, such as Bluetooth compatibility or a USB output, are important to you. If you already own a pair of high-quality Bluetooth speakers or know you want to be able to stream your turntable sound wirelessly, it’s worth looking specifically for Bluetooth turntables – or amplifiers. Also, if digitising your record collection is important to you, a USB output to connect your turntable to a computer may be a necessary feature. Note, however, that digitising records can be done at little cost compared to the cost of choosing a turntable with this specific feature.
Vinyl records are back in vogue, and audio manufacturers have responded to this revival with a wide range of turntables that offer powerful playback of this classic medium. Modern turntables have proliferated so rapidly that it can be difficult for a vinyl novice to distinguish the good features from the rubbish. Our guide gives you first-hand reviews of our five favourite vinyl turntables and lets you know what to look for when choosing a new turntable.