Vinyl record players have made a comeback in recent years thanks to the unrivalled sound quality they offer. However, unlike digital music or CDs, vinyl record players require careful handling, especially when it comes to placing the stylus on the record or removing it at the end of the record. Automatic turntables are a more user-friendly option for beginners, as they automatically place the stylus on the record with the required force and remove it at the end of the record. This way, you don’t have to worry about damaging your vinyl or having to carefully watch the end of the record.
To find the best automatic turntable on the market today, we considered a number of features that affect everything from sound quality to durability to ease of use. Some of the factors we considered include the speed of the turntable, which affects the size of the records the turntable can play, and whether it is belt-driven or direct motor-driven, which affects the life of the turntable. We also considered the materials of the stylus and platter, and the shape of the tone arm, all of which are important in determining the quality and fidelity of the sound reproduction.
We spent dozens of hours reading the technical specifications of the most popular turntables and combing through customer reviews. The result is a list of the six best automatic record players, with the best features highlighted in the table below. Read on for detailed reviews of each turntable, with the pros and cons of each. Our buying guide and FAQs cover everything you need to know about choosing the right record player for you. Finally, we summarise what we liked about our three favourite automatic turntables.
This elegant belt-driven turntable from Audio-Technica is a customer favourite thanks to its incredible audio playback quality. The turntable is capable of playing 33 1/3 and 45 RPM vinyl and comes with a diamond stylus and a basic moving magnet phono cartridge made by Audio-Technica. Although some users would have liked to have received a more advanced cartridge given the price of this turntable, they appreciated the ability to switch the preamp to use a moving magnet or moving coil cartridge. Users also appreciated the universal headbox, which allows for easy cartridge changes.
The platter is made of die-cast aluminium and has a 4.5mm rubber top layer to further reduce vibration, which is one of the main reasons for the audio quality of this turntable. The turntable also has rubberised feet to keep it stable when playing vinyl records. Users also liked the straight tone arm, which needs to be balanced when you first get the turntable, but is relatively easy to calibrate to the appropriate strength.
The only minor issue users have had with the turntable is that the buttons on the front seem cheaply made compared to the rest of the unit and the white text can be scratched and faded over time. However, it is still one of the more decent turntables under $200 only.
- 33-1/3, 45 RPM
- Belt Drive
- AT91R Dual Moving Magnet Phono Cartridge
- die-cast aluminium platter, anti-resonance, with 4 mm thick rubber mat
- switchable preamp modes for moving magnet and moving coil cartridges
This sturdy belt-driven automatic turntable from Denon is a great value for money considering the quality of its audio playback. The moving magnet cartridge with diamond stylus is constructed with a removable head, making it easy to change the cartridge at will. In addition, the diamond stylus is elliptical rather than conical in shape, which improves tracking and allows the stylus to last longer.
The die-cast aluminium platter is constructed with an extra heavy base to reduce vibration from the motor and movement in the room. In addition, the 5mm thick top sheet of the platter further reduces vibration, and Denon has included a hologram vibration reduction analysis to provide the best possible playback quality.
Users have noted one major problem with this turntable: the speed setting is slightly off, so that the 33 1/3 and 45 rpm settings of the turntable are not quite accurate to the vinyl it is playing. Although the exact cause is unknown, it appears to be related to drive belt problems rather than the platter. Customers have received mixed support from Denon on this issue, which can lead to significant frustration if this problem occurs on your turntable.
- 33 1/3 or 45 RPM
- Belt Drive
- Moving magnet
- rigid die-cast aluminium
- 5mm thick turntable sheet, built-in phono equalizer
VInYL MUSIC ON Retro Record Player
Looking for a belt-driven turntable that plays cool music and can easily play 78 rpm records? Then you should consider the Vinyl MUSIC ON Retro Record Player. The manufacturer makes some impressive turntable models, and this retro model is one of the best in its class. It has a stylish, retro look that will give your room an elegant appearance. The vanished brown wood used on the body has a premium look and feel. It provides a pleasant acoustic while sitting comfortably on your table.
This is a three-speed phono record player, capable of playing 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM and 78 RPM records. It is also compatible with certain devices.
In addition, this model has stereo speakers that enhance audibility and allow you to fully enjoy your music. As a wired connection, it can be connected to various devices to allow you to play better. The 3.5mm cable offers greater versatility and better musical performance.
Thanks to its compact design, it is easy to carry without fear of damage. It is also made of high-quality materials to ensure long-lasting use.
In addition to compatibility with wired devices, the wireless connectivity makes it one of the most versatile options in this review. You can connect it to Bluetooth devices and play as many songs or records as you like.
The vintage design and overall construction make it an expensive option. However, there are cheaper alternatives that offer similar performance.
- 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM, 78 RPM
- Belt drive
Sony USB Stereo Turntable
This belt-driven automatic turntable from Sony is perfect for those who want to digitise their vinyl collections with the built-in USB port. As well as being able to play vinyl records on your computer, the turntable comes with Sony’s Audio Studio software to help you record and optimise your vinyl records quickly and easily. Although the turntable can play 33 1/3 and 45 RPM records, note that it cannot be used to play or digitise 78 RPM vinyl.
However, this turntable also works well as a stand-alone vinyl player thanks to features such as the quality S-shaped tone arm and the diamond stylus. This type of tone arm is often used in sub-$1000 turntables, but you can get this model with the same quality tone arm at a much more affordable price. The platter is slightly raised to reduce vibration and the turntable itself is heavy enough that the sound quality is not affected by movement in the room. The turntable includes a preamplifier as well as a 100ft copper speaker cable, but it should be noted that the preamplifier cannot be disabled if you wish to connect to a larger audio system. In addition, the RCA cables are wired into the turntable, making them difficult or impossible to replace or upgrade.
- 33 1/3, 45 RPM
- Belt drive
- not specified
- cast aluminium
Thorens TD 295 MK IV
If you’re determined to get an automatic turntable but don’t want to sacrifice anything on sound quality, this high-end turntable from Thorens is a spectacular – if expensive – choice. The turntable is equipped with Audio Technica’s 95E cartridge, one of their premium cartridges that you won’t find as standard on cheaper turntables. In addition, Thorens has equipped this turntable with their TP 41 tone arm, which is extremely light and counterbalanced so that it sits perfectly on your vinyl for optimal tracking and playback quality.
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The turntable is capable of playing 33 1/3 and 45 RPM vinyl and includes a phono preamp for easy connection to a set of speakers. However, note that the preamp cannot be easily disabled, which may disappoint more serious audiophiles looking to upgrade the preamp to something more substantial.
The die-cast aluminium platter is slightly raised from the base of the turntable to isolate it from the vibrations caused by the motor. In addition, the base of the turntable is fitted with rubber feet to reduce vibration and further improve sound quality.
Audio Technica AT-LP60BK
This inexpensive belt drive turntable from Audio Technica is a great option for those who want to be able to play an old vinyl collection but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars or more for incredible sound quality. The turntable is capable of playing 33 1/3 and 45 RPM vinyl and uses a diamond stylus mounted on a dual magnet phono cartridge. The included preamplifier can be switched between RCA cable and line-out modes, making it easy to connect to a large sound system or simple powered speakers. In addition, Audio Technica offers another version of this turntable, the AT-LP60BK-USB, which has a built-in USB port allowing you to connect to a computer to digitise your vinyl collection.
The playback quality of this turntable is average, as there is relatively little vibration reduction apart from the die-cast aluminium platter itself. Users note that people walking in the same room as the turntable can cause the stylus to pop, although this can be partially mitigated by placing the turntable on a vibration-isolated table with a rubber mat. Also note that the tone arm on this turntable is not counterbalanced, so it is relatively difficult to control the weight of the tone arm on your records compared to more advanced automatic turntables.
- 33 1/3, 45 RPM
- Belt Drive
- Dual Magnet phono cartridge
- automatic, straight
- die-cast aluminium platter, anti-resonance
Turntables can be difficult to tell apart at first glance because of their very specific parts, but a closer look at each of the essential components of a turntable can reveal some of the hidden differences between models and help you understand how your record player works. In addition, knowing more about these components will help you recognise whether a turntable is good value for money or too expensive for what it offers. In addition, we will address some of the questions that beginners usually ask when they want to buy an automatic turntable, so that you can be sure that you are getting the right model for you.
Why buy an automatic turntable?
Automatic turntables make it easier to use a vinyl record player, especially for beginners. Traditional manual turntables require you to place the needle arm on the record with the right amount of pressure to start playing a record, and then carefully remove the arm from the record when playback is complete, before it starts scratching. If you apply too much pressure to the disc or leave the room just before the playback is complete, you risk damaging both the disc and the stylus of your turntable. Automatic turntables eliminate this problem by automatically regulating the pressure of the stylus on the disc – at the touch of a button the arm of the player lowers – and automatically raising the arm at the end of the disc.
This convenience comes with an important caveat, however. You won’t find automatic tone arms on high-end turntables, as they slightly alter the audio quality of the record player. This is because the platter has to leave extra space for the mass of sprockets and other mechanical parts involved in moving the tone arm up and down, which can introduce more vibration as the record spins. In addition, the electrical circuits of the motorised arm may interfere, even slightly, with the current flowing through the cartridge that reads the disc.
Features to consider in an automatic turntable
Speed of rotation
The spin speed of a turntable is one of the most important features to consider when buying a new player and your preference may depend on the vinyl records you already have in your collection. Most turntables are designed to play 33 1/3 or 45 rpm vinyl, which are the most common vinyl formats. However, only a few turntables, such as the VInYL MUSIC ON Retro Record Player, are capable of playing these records as well as the larger 78 rpm records. If you have 78 rpm records in your collection or prefer the slightly higher audio quality of these records, then you will want to look for a turntable that can play at this speed.
Turntables can be divided according to whether the motor rotates the platter via a belt (belt-driven turntables) or whether the motor is located directly under the platter (direct-drive turntables). The differences between these types are quite significant for DJs who use turntables, but when it comes to using an automatic turntable to play music, there is relatively little difference between them. Belt-driven decks generally have a slight advantage in terms of music quality, as the platter vibrates less than direct-drive decks, where the motor rotates directly under the platter.
Stylus and platter
The stylus and platter are two of the most important components of any turntable, as they largely determine the quality of sound you get from playing vinyl records. The stylus is the needle that runs through the grooves of your records. It is usually made of diamond, but other types of stylus are available. It is often worth investing in the best stylus and cartridge you can afford, and fortunately most turntables can be easily upgraded by changing the cartridge.
The platter is the part of the turntable that, driven by the motor, spins the record. It is at the platter that your turntable is most susceptible to vibration and noise from the disc playback. It is therefore important to have a heavy, solid platter to achieve optimum sound quality. The majority of modern turntables use platters made from die-cast aluminium, but these platters vary in terms of weight and additional vibration-reducing features, such as a rubber mat.
Tonearms come in a variety of different configurations, as they are another part of every turntable where sound quality can be affected. Some tone arms are straight to ensure even movement of the stylus across the record, while others are curved to allow greater flexibility of the stylus, such as the S-shaped tone arm on the Sony USB stereo deck. Both styles can introduce vibration, so there is no one best style of tone arm. In general, it’s best to go for a high-quality tone arm when buying a new turntable, although you can usually replace the tone arm later if you want to upgrade your record player.
The preamplifier is a component that is built into most turntables, including all the automatic turntables in our review. The purpose of the preamplifier is to raise the audio signal from the cartridge to audible levels, which can then be indexed through a set of speakers or headphones via an auxiliary cable. Although preamplifiers can be purchased separately from the turntable and connected externally, most vinyl enthusiasts will not want to bother running their turntable through an external preamplifier.
The most important additional feature to consider when looking for automatic turntables is whether the turntable offers a USB port for connection to a computer. This is often found in the best decks under 500 euros, for example. This is important if you want to record the audio playback of your vinyl records, for example to digitise your music collection, or to run the audio line through your computer’s speakers.
Our favourite automatic turntables are the Audio Technica AT-LP3BK, the Denon DP-300F and the Thorens TD 170-1B. All three of these turntables have heavy-duty platters, and both the Audio Technica and Denon models are built with topsheets for additional vibration reduction and better audio quality. We found the Audio Technica AT-LP3BK to be the best automatic turntable on the market today, not least because it is one of the few turntables that can use moving magnet or moving coil cartridges and because it has an almost perfectly balanced tone arm. The Denon DP-300F suffers from speed problems due to the belt drive, but it offers exceptional playback quality. As for the VInYL MUSIC ON Retro Record Player, we liked it because it is one of the few automatic turntables capable of playing 78 rpm vinyl records in addition to 33 1/3 and 45 rpm records.