Generally speaking, if you’ve seen one turntable, you’ve seen them all. This makes it difficult to figure out what you should be looking for when buying one. Before you lay down any cash, be sure to check over the specs and make sure a turntable has the qualities you’re looking for.
First, materials are important. For turntables on the lower end of the price spectrum, you can expect an aluminum platter (which the record sits on) and tonearm (which holds the stylus on the record). You’ll also find a few plastic parts on lower-end models.
As you increase your budget, you’ll see the materials change. Starting around $400 or $500, you’ll begin to see carbon fiber tonearms and stainless-steel or acrylic platters.
A turntable may feature a built-in preamp, especially budget to mid-range models. This is necessary to bring the volume up to a significant level that you can plug the turntable into an auxiliary input on a stereo. Higher-end turntables don’t often have built-in preamps, as the manufacturers assume you’ll either have one built into your stereo or you’re using a standalone preamp.
High-end turntables focus on just being turntables, but the lower end of the range will typically feature extra connectivity. This could be a USB port, but more frequently lately this is Bluetooth, which lets you connect to wireless speakers and headphones.
Finally, one more thing you may want to check is the availability of a replacement stylus (also known as a needle). These wear over time, so you’ll want to have a few replacements on hand. If these are hard to get, you may want to choose a turntable you can more easily get replacement styluses for.
Best Turntable Overall: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO
- ✓ Fantastic features for the price
- ✓ Carbon tonearm
- ✓ Classy minimalist look
- ✗ Need to replace the belt for 78 RPM playback
For a balance of features, sound quality, and minimalist sheen, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO is our pick for the best turntable for most people. As sleek as it looks, many of the best features are things you won’t notice at first.
As the name implies, this turntable features an 8.6-inch carbon tonearm that combines a light touch with a rigid, stiff build. Combined with the Sumiko Rainier phono cartridge, you get pristine, accurate sound quality. Even better, if you want to upgrade, you can easily mount a higher-quality cartridge like the Sumiko Olympia in just a few seconds.
Balance is everything for proper playback on a turntable, so the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO has some nice suspension features. On the underside of the turntable, three adjustable TPE-damped feet help you get everything nice and level. The motor suspension underneath the steel platter resists vibrations, meaning a heavy footstep shouldn’t alter the sound of your record.
Also tucked neatly on the underside of the turntable is an electronic speed switch, letting you play different record formats easily. You can even play 78 RPM records by swapping in a different drive belt.
Finally, in somewhat of a rarity for turntables, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO is available in multiple color options. You get relatively minimalist options like black and white, but there are also over-the-top options like High Gloss Red and Satin Golden Yellow.
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO packs a solid feature set and premium sound quality into a great-looking turntable at a surprisingly low price.
Best Budget Turntable: Fluance RT85 Reference High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable
- ✓ Open, transparent sound quality
- ✓ Solid wood paint makes for great stability
- ✓ Acrylic platter
- ✗ You'll need a preamp or receiver with Phono input
This turntable isn’t our budget pick just for the sake of saving money, it’s about getting the most bang for your buck. The Fluance RT85 Reference High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable is far from cheap, but it’s an affordable option that you can buy once and not have to worry about for a long time.
The Fluance RT85 uses a “less is more” approach to playing your records. To that end, you have a pure analog signal path from the record through the cartridge and all the way to the RCA jacks that carry the signal to your stereo. There are no extraneous electronics or digital components in the signal path.
This pure approach leads to the acrylic platter as well. This material dampens unwanted vibrations and avoids resonant reverberations that could lead to unpleasant sound characteristics. Between the platter and the signal path, you get a much richer, three-dimensional soundstage.
All of this rests on a solid wood plinth fixed with three rubber isolation feet. These prevent any vibrations from traveling through the feet into the plinth, while the plinth itself provides a steady foundation for the motor, platter, and tonearm.
One thing to mention is that thanks to the approach this player takes, it doesn’t include a preamp. You’ll either need a stereo receiver with a phono in jack or a standalone preamp.
Fluance RT85 Reference High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable
The Fluance RT85 packs a number of higher-end features into this turntable, which boasts a nearly untouched signal from the record grooves to your stereo.
Best Cheap Turntable: Audio-Technica AT-LP60X
- ✓ Great sound quality for the price
- ✓ Fully automatic playback controls
- ✓ Redesigned model is even better
- ✗ Mostly plastic parts
Audio-Technica’s AT-LP60 series has been around for years, offering quality performance at a price tag more casual vinyl fans are comfortable with. The Audio-Technica AT-LP60X refines a few components and simplifies the design, making for less noise and clearer sound in the process.
One of the changes in this newest model is the tonearm. Audio-Technica redesigned the base and the headshell to improve how well the cartridge tracks the groove in the record. This new design also reduces resonance for a more accurate response.
Another key change is that the AC/DC conversion has been moved out of the turntable itself and into an external adapter. This might make finding an outlet to plug the turntable in slightly more difficult, but it also keeps this noisy process better isolated from the turntable itself.
Looking at features, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X features dual speeds with a switch to select 33-1/3 RPM or 45 RPM. This turntable is also fully automatic, with a size selector to let the tonearm automatically start and finish playback. All you need to do is press the “Start” button.
The Audio-Technica AT-LP60X is available in a variety of colors. For a more traditional look, you can choose Black or Gunmetal, while there are also flashier options available like Red and White.
The Audio-Technica AT-LP60X makes some key updates to this long-running design, meaning it remains one of the best sounding turntables in its price range.
Best Turntable for Audiophiles: Marantz TT-15S1 Manual Belt-Drive Premium Turntable
- ✓ Clearaudio cartridge sounds fantastic
- ✓ Floating motor design minimizes vibration and distortion
- ✓ Feet are more adjustable than most
- ✗ Bare bones feature set outside of audio quality
Looking at the price tag, the Marantz TT-15S1 Manual Belt-Drive Premium Turntable might not look as affordable as it actually is, at least for what you’re getting. If you were to buy the tonearm and cartridge separately, they’d already cost more than the price of this entire turntable.
This has the Marantz name on it but is actually manufactured in partnership with German high-end audio manufacturer Clearaudio. That company supplied the Virtuoso MM cartridge used here, complete with a non-replaceable diamonds stylus.
The Marantz TT-15S1 uses a unique design with a floating motor mount that deadens vibration and reduces audible distortion. Combined with the ebony wood cartridge, this means you’ll hear details in your favorite albums in a way you may never have heard before.
If your home isn’t exactly perfectly flat, you’ll appreciate the three height-adjustable aluminum feet. These are more adjustable than many other turntables’ feet, which is great if you need to level the platter on an uneven surface.
Marantz includes everything you need for assembly and adjustment of the turntable. This includes the company’s Clever Clamp, a felt slipmat, a shim for adjusting the tonearm height, bearing oil, a spare silicon drive belt, and even a pair of white gloves.
Marantz TT-15S1 Manual Belt-Drive Premium Turntable
If you want a premium listening experience, the Marantz TT-15S1 provides exactly everything you need, and nothing you don't. This high-end design comes at a lower price than you might expect.
Best Turntable with Speakers: Victrola 8-in-1 Bluetooth Record Player & Multimedia Center
- ✓ Built in CD player, cassette deck, FM radio, and more
- ✓ Bluetooth connectivity
- ✓ RCA jacks let it function as part of a larger audio system
- ✓ Great retro look
- ✗ Jack of all trades, master of none
- ✗ Turntable itself isn't the greatest
Victrola is a classic name in turntables, but more recently the company is best known for its retro styling but surprisingly modern features. The Victrola 8-in-1 Bluetooth Record Player & Multimedia Center is a perfect example of what the company does these days.
As the name implies, this is much more than a record player. You also get a CD player, cassette player, FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity, line input, and a headphone output. If you’re looking for an all-in-one music machine for a room or a second stereo, this is a great option.
Looking at the turntable itself, this model supports three speeds: 33-1/3, 45, and 78 RPM. While you don’t get a fancy tonearm or cartridge, you have some nice features. For example, thanks to the built-in USB audio interface, you can use this turntable to record vinyl records to your PC.
While this is meant more as a standalone player rather than a component for your stereo, it has a pair of RCA jacks on the back that let you run it as a traditional turntable. This works for the radio, CD player, and cassette player as well, so this is a versatile player.
This is a piece of decoration every bit as much as it’s a gadget, so it makes sense that it comes in multiple finish options. There are numerous wood finishes like Espresso, Mahogany, and Oak, as well as painted finishes in Black and White.
Victrola 8-in-1 Bluetooth Record Player & Multimedia Center
The Victrola 8-in-1 Bluetooth Record Player & Multimedia Center is an all-in-one music player that will just as easily integrate with your stereo, all with a hint of classic style.
Best Turntable with Bluetooth: Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT
- ✓ Adds Bluetooth to an already-solid turntable
- ✓ Also includes RCA jacks
- ✓ Great color options
- ✗ Again, plastic parts
If the Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT looks a little familiar, that’s for good reason. This is essentially the same turntable as the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X, except with Bluetooth built-in. Of course, this raises the price a bit, but not as much as you may expect.
This model still includes RCA output jacks, so you can connect it to a standard stereo system. Thanks to Bluetooth, you can now play your favorite records on a speaker outside or on headphones on the other side of the room.
The Bluetooth model has the same refinements to the tonearm, so you get the same increase in clarity and quality as the wired model. The stylus is the same as the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X, so you can easily find replacements when the time comes.
As with the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X, the Bluetooth model comes in a variety of colors. You can choose from Black, White, and Red for the wireless model.
Audio-Technica takes the AT-LP60X, adds Bluetooth connectivity, and the end result is as good as you'd expect. The perfect way to listen to records on your wireless headphones.
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