Good old times never die. There’s something about the crackle of vinyl and the warm sound of a turntable that makes us feel all fuzzy inside. So it’s time to shake the old days with the best vintage turntable!
We carefully looked at 24 models and narrowed them down to 5 with ION Audio Air LP as our favorite. We considered the speed to make sure it can play both 33 and 45 RPM records. Next, we checked vibration dampening as it will reduce the noise and improve sound quality. Stylus quality is also an important consideration as a better stylus will provide clearer sound and less wear on your records. Finally, we made sure that the turntable has a built-in preamp so you can connect it to different speakers.
For the serious audiophile, this turntable from ION has almost everything you could want. Because this player is catering to a more advanced audience, the price tag is the heftiest of the turntables in our roundup. However, for those looking for the best audio quality short of spending into the thousands of dollars, this turntable is an excellent choice.
The secret to the amazing audio quality is the attention paid to the turntable itself. The platter is die-cast aluminum and uses a belt-driven motor like all of the other turntables we reviewed. However, the motor is designed to be mechanically isolated from the rest of the player so as to drastically reduce vibrations. The beautifully finished base has a rubber non-slip mats beneath each foot that further isolate the turntable from vibration. Finally, the turntable has a built-in bubble level so that you can ensure there’s no record wobble when playing back your vinyls.
The tonearm is the other source of audio quality for this record player. The arm itself is fully automatic, and its lightweight design allows high precision when tuning 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 raise the sound quality even more.
With sound quality handled well, ION took this turntable one step further and added a variety of ways to listen. Unlike most current turntables, the ION can pair wirelessly with Bluetooth speakers. It also has an auxiliary input jack, enabling you to use the built-in pre-amp (which itself produces great sound quality) and Bluetooth compatibility to play music from other devices. If desired, the pre-amp can be bypassed to an aftermarket amplifier to further improve sound quality and raise the volume.
The Fluance RT81 High Fidelity Turntable is a rare gem of a turntable that is worth every penny it costs. It manages to blend sound quality, easy setup and usability, headroom to grow and high-end features.
The RT81 boasts a classic and understated design. Its MDF build and walnut finish give it an appealing retro vibe while still being modern. The design also incorporates isolation feet, a rubber slip mat and an aluminum platter that work to isolate unwanted vibrations.
The turntable is high fidelity belt driven and it packs a lot of premium features that offer pure analog listening experience. It allows you to recreate your performances as you had intended.
You will also be able to track your record grooves with top precision for high definition audio thanks to the Audio Technica AT95E featuring a diamond elliptical tipped stylus. It will give you a richer sound with zero noise and distortion, great channel balance and clarity on musical peaks.
Some of the features like the high-quality built-in Texas instruments preamp, gold-plated RCA line outputs, and ground terminal contribute to the true, warm sound you get from the turntable.
All considered, the RT81 is a perfect turntable for vinyl newbies. It has a load of incredible features that will keep you playing records rather than fiddle with settings.
This turntable from Denon is an excellent entry-level turntable that offers a solid mix of playback quality and price, with plenty of room to upgrade as your music collection grows.
The tonearm is fully automatic and comes with a magnetic MM cartridge. Although the included cartridge does not provide amazing playback, it is easily removed and upgraded. Many users found that the controls to balance the tonearm were difficult to use, which can be a source of frustration with this turntable.
The turntable itself uses an aluminum platter and is suitable for 33 1/3- or 45-rpm records. It offers several features to reduce vibrations. The first is a heavy base, which helps to reduce vibrations from the stand to the turntable. The second is a 5-mm thick turntable sheet that uses hologram analysis to reduce vibrations as your record plays.
The turntable comes with a built-in pre-amp that can be turned on and off via a simple switch. This makes it easy to install your own amplifier later via RCA outputs and bypass any changes to sound quality introduced by the built-in pre-amp.
Unfortunately, there are no options to connect to Bluetooth speakers or to record vinyls to digital audio files using this turntable.
For listeners on a budget or who just want to dip their toe into the vinyl world without diving in fully, this turntable from Audio Technica is a great budget choice. At under $100, this turntable offers decent sound quality and, importantly, has just the threshold of build quality required to ensure that it won’t damage your record collections like cheaper turntables might.
This turntable is built with beginners in mind. First, the turntable is fully automatic, meaning that once you start a record, the player will automatically return the needle arm to its holder when the record ends – a useful feature for those not familiar with record players.
Second, the turntable has a built-in pre-amp that enables you to connect it directly to a set of speakers without a receiver in between (the speakers must have their own power source). The pre-amp is the main hindrance to better sound quality on this turntable and cannot be replaced without upgrading the entire turntable. However, for those looking to hook their turntable into a more advanced sound system, the pre-amp can be switched off and the turntable connected to an amplifier using the included RCA output cables. This turntable is also available with Bluetooth, albeit for nearly twice the price, to enable a wireless connection to Bluetooth-enabled speakers.
In terms of the turntable build, it uses a die-cast aluminum platter built for 33 1/3-rpm records. An adapter to enable playing 45-rpm records is included with the turntable, although the player cannot play pre-1950’s 78-rpm records. The turntable uses an Integrated Dual Magnet cartridge with a diamond-tipped stylus. While the cartridge quality is good, it is also not replaceable – so if that breaks for any reason, the entire turntable will need to be trashed. The needle itself is easy to replace with an inexpensive spare.
This turntable also comes in a USB-enabled version for roughly $30 extra. The USB output enables recording vinyl records to digital MP3s on your computer. The unit must be purchased with the USB option, as it cannot be added later.
Rega’s turntable offers audiophile quality at a price that is far more accessible than similarly-featured turntables, which makes it one of the best turntables under $1000 – almost a halfway under, actually.
The gem of this turntable is the tonearm, which was hand-assembled by Rega and is lauded by customers as among the best tonearms they have seen even compared to turntables that cost in the thousands of dollars. The cartridge at the end of the arm is a high-quality Rega Carbon magnetic cartridge, which provides excellent sound quality and can be readily upgraded for those looking to get even higher playback performance. Controls for the tonearm, including arm weight and anti-skating, are located at the base of the arm and enable precision control. The only downside to the tonearm is that the RCA cables were hard-wired into the arm, so that after-market interconnects cannot be used to replace the wiring.
Another great feature of this turntable is the drive system. Instead of a die-cast aluminum platter, the Rega turntable uses a phenolic resin platter underlain by a specialized low vibration motor. These upgrades over lower quality turntables drastically reduce record wobble and vibration hum – two of the primary detractors of sound quality. Although the system isn’t fully suspended, as is the case on truly top-end turntables, the vibration reduction is significant for a unit at this price point.
The major downside to this turntable for the average user is that it truly is designed for audiophiles. It has no built-in phono equalizer, so it cannot be readily used with speakers and instead requires connection to an after-market amplifier. In addition, there are no non-essential features such as Bluetooth capability or a USB port.
Now that you’ve reviewed our five favorite turntables, it’s important to understand what features go into making a turntable stand out from the competition and that can play into your decision on what turntable is right for you.
Vinyl records come in different size standards – 7, 10, and 12 inches – played at 33 1/3, 45, and 78 rpm, respectively. The oldest records available were recorded at 78 rpm back in 1900–1920, and after World War II, 33 1/3 ( often referred to as the 33 rpm Trusted Source Phonograph record - Wikipedia The earliest rotation speeds varied considerably, but from 1900 to 1925 most records were recorded at 74–82 revolutions per minute (rpm). Edison Disc Records consistently ran at 80 rpm. en.wikipedia.org ) and 45 rpm mainly replaced the old 78 rpm format. All turntables on our list play newer 33 and 45 rpm records, therefore, check carefully whether the record player you intend to buy can play all the records from your collection.
The cartridge that comes with a turntable can make a huge difference in sound quality, since this is the component that is actually translating the grooves in the record into music. All of the cartridges for the turntables in our roundup are moving magnet (MM) type cartridges as opposed to the alternative moving coil (MC) type 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 down. MC cartridges are lighter, allowing them to provide slightly better tracking and thus sound quality. However, the stylus cannot be replaced at home. Upgrading the MM cartridge that comes with your turntable typically costs around $100, although there is no upper limit on how expensive cartridges can be.
The stylus, or needle, is also a secondary consideration. Most styluses included with turntables are diamond-type needles because they provide solid sound quality and last for hundreds of hours of use. Sapphire-type needles are also available for some cartridges and provide a slight boost in sound quality, but must be replaced every 50-100 hours to prevent degrading playback and wear on your vinyls.
All of the turntables in our round-up were belt-driven turntables, and there’s a good reason for this – belt-driven players tend to cause far less record vibration than direct-driven players. The former separate the motor from the turntable itself, whereas in a direct-drive turntable the motor is directly spinning the record and likely introducing a large degree of vibration that can negatively affect playback fidelity. Vibration dampening can also be influenced by the turntable’s base material and weight, as well as by the type of platter used – die-cast aluminum or, in the case of the Rega turntable, a phenolic resin platter. Higher quality (and more expensive) turntables fully suspend the record from the base to reduce vibration even further.
Whether or not a turntable has a built-in pre-amp or phono equalizer determines whether it can be connected directly to a pair of powered speakers, like computer speakers, or whether it requires buying a special amplifier for a turntable. Having to buy an amplifier can greatly increase the actual price of a turntable setup, but can also dramatically increase sound quality and allow more customization of output settings. If you plan on upgrading to an amplifier later, make sure that the turntable you choose can be switched to bypass the built-in pre-amp – these pre-amps often negatively alter sound output relative to an after-market amplifier. If your turntable has no pre-amp, and you need to buy one, there is a wide range of them available on the market. You might want to consider affordable DJ PRE II or Pro-Ject, or more pricey Yamaha.
It’s also worth considering in your choice of turntable whether secondary features, like Bluetooth compatibility or a USB output, are important to you. If you already own a pair of high-quality Bluetooth speakers or know that you want to be able to output the sound from your turntable wirelessly, then it is worth looking specifically for Bluetooth turntables – or amplifiers. In addition, if digitizing your record collection is important to you, a USB output to connect your turntable to a computer may be a necessary feature. However, note that digitizing records can be done cheaply compared to the cost of choosing a turntable with this specific function.
Vinyl records are back in style, and audio manufacturers have met the revival with a wide range of turntable options that offer performance playback from this classic media. The number of modern turntables has proliferated so quickly that it can be difficult for someone new to vinyl to tell which features are worthwhile, and which are just hype. Our guide gives you straightforward reviews of our five favorite vinyl players and lets you know what to look for when choosing a new turntable.