Whether you’re just beginning the search for your first turntable, or a seasoned connoisseur of these musical devices, it’s probably a bit overwhelming trying to identify the best turntable on the market for you today,
There is a ridiculous amount of choices out there, all coming with a variety of distinct and unique feature combinations.
Fortunately, we can help you choose the best turntable for you.
This buyers guide has been created to help you make an informed decision when purchasing a turntable. We’ll go through the key features to watch out for when browsing options – as well as giving you our favorite turntable choices from the current market.
So, to get started, let’s look at some of the distinctions between different turntables.
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Best Turntable Under $1,000
Best Turntable Under $500
Best Turntable Under $300
Best Turntable Under $200
Best Vintage Turntable
What To Look Out For When Buying A Turntable
Turntables don’t come in a “one-size-fits-all” mechanical package. Instead, you’ll find that the turntable that best suits you may not necessary be optimal for anyone else.
There are a number of factors to consider when trying to ascertain which turntable you’ll enjoy using the most. Let’s go over those now…
Before you do anything else, you should ascertain how you are intending to use your turntable once purchased. Are you wanting a DJ turntable or a home turntable? Will your turntable be used frequently? Is price a key factor for you?
These questions are just the tip of the ice-berg when it comes to understanding how your turntable will be used. To get a better idea of things we recommend imagining yourself and your probable usage of a turntable next week, next month and next year.
Clearly if you’re only ever intending to use your turntable at home then it can afford to be of a more delicate and/or slightly lower featured nature. DJs on the other hand will probably want all the works and a sturdy turntable that could handle being ported about.
Upgradability & Ease Of Reparation
Tying hand-in-hand with the idea of intended use is the upgradeability of a turntable. If you’re not sure exactly what your usage might look like, then opting for an upgradable turntable model might be clever.
By choosing an upgradeable turntable model you will be paying only for what you need now, plus a tiny “insurance” amount to get a turntable that you could in future turn into something a bit more complex/high-end.
Being able to easily upgrade a turntable yourself is very handy, and so is being able to repair one. Both these features will help to ensure that you only need to buy a turntable once and then can enjoy it’s use for many years to come.
Some turntables will be made with replaceable parts that you can easily switch out for either upgrades or repairs. These are generally considered to be the better long term option for those on a budget.
Choosing the best rotational speed for you on a turntable will depend largely on the type of vinyl records that you want to play on it.
Most modern turntables will give you an RPM ability of 33-1/3 to 45. This is sufficient for recently produced vinyl records and will give you a fairly good sound quality.
If, however you have a set of more rare 78 RPM records that you’d like to play, do check that the turntable you purchase can handle this setting – as many recently produced ones cannot.
Also, if you’re going to opt for the rare 78 RPM records and turntable, do check that your turntable is outfitted with a specialized cartridge or stylus that can handle the wider grooves in these particular record types.
There are a whole variety of extra ‘features’ that have been added to turntables to make them more functional in specific usage spheres. A few of the key ones to be aware of include:
These turntables have been fitted out with conversion technology that allows them to convert vinyl record music into a digital format. Outputs can include both CD and MP3 music versions.
Most of these turntables function via a USB plug that captures analog signal from the turntable’s cartridge and turns it into digital PCM. The other end of the USB cord is attached straight to a computer where software will do the conversion of the digital PCM into the desired format.
A sort of mix between modern technology and old fashioned music of quality, Bluetooth turntables allow users the joy of being able to listen to their turntables vie wireless speakers.
This setup is very convenient for many people and means that you can have all the class of a turntable without the inconvenience that it affords.
You will however be sacrificing some audio quality by going down this route, so it’s definitely not for purists. For turntable newbies or just casual users these are a great option though.
Turntable preamps are known by a few different names including phono preamp, phono stage, phono preamplifier and RIAA preamp. They are an electronic device that takes the output from the turntable and converts it into a format that speakers can play.
Some turntables will come with amplifiers and others are sold separately. Usually turntables sold with amplifiers and speakers are called record players.
These turntables are an all-in-one outfit designed to be carried around from place to place. Some of them could more aptly be called record players because they come with an amplifier and speaker as well.
Portable turntables will usually have a suitcase type frame that can be closed up and moved about with ease. These turntables are ideal for DJs or frequent house movers.
Where To Place A Turntable
Where you place your turntable will greatly affect the quality of music and ease of use you get from it.
The most important thing to remember is that turntables physically read grooves in vinyl to make noise – meaning they must be on an absolutely flat surface to give you accurate readings.
Most people will have a table or cabinet bench in their home that is level and could serve as a turntable’s resting spot. For those who travel around (e.g. DJs) this question of where to place a turntable is a bit more interesting.
You can get specialized turntable stands that have been made specifically for the purpose of harboring a turntable. These are generally easy to setup and very reliable – ensuring that your precious turntable won’t go clattering to the ground.
The Best Turntable’s On The Market
By now you’re probably getting the picture that there are a whole lot of different things to consider when buying a turntable. On top of the functional features you also need to consider price range and durability.
Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite picks from the market today. Here’s the low down…
Best Turntable Under $1,000
For those who have a decent amount of cash to spend, you can get a pretty superb turntable in the $500 - $1,000 price category.
Turntables in this price range tend to have more durable compositions, higher end features, and some added style to their design that makes them perfect for professional or music artisan use. Here’s our favorite one:
WINNER: Klipsch R-15PM + Pro-Ject Primary Turntable Bundle
Sold as a complete turntable and speaker system package, this bundle is an incredibly good deal – giving you everything you need to get started as a turntable music connoisseur all in one buy.
While it may seem expensive, this bundle provides good value for money as it includes both a high end turntable and speakers.
The turntable is a special edition Pro-Ject Primary version that is super easy to setup and provides accurate readings. You’ll find the Bluetooth enabled technology makes it a synch for digital users as well.
The speakers supply incredibly acoustic performance and a are a big reason why this turntable combo package would appeal to DJs. The built in preamp means that this turntable can easily start playing tunes without the hassle of heaps of equipment.
You get a turntable and preamp that are absolutely custom designed to match one another, thus ensuring that you get great audio quality coming through.
The lack of a receiver requirement (you literally just need to add vinyl) also makes this an easy to use turntable setup.
The Bluetooth receiver is adequate, but not extraordinary so you’ll find running a cable still gives a better result. Also, the IR remote doesn’t have a very long distance range – but other than that we can find very little to fault about this turntable.
This turntable and speaker set actually gives really good value for money and definitely produces an upper level intermediate grade sound which most turntable purchasers are looking for.
Best Turntable Under $500
If you want to keep things slightly more affordable, but are still willing to shell out up to $500, then there are a number of high end options still available to you. The $500 range is probably where you’ll find the best mix of quality and value for money.
The turntable we’ve selected would be perfect for both seasoned music turntable enthusiasts and first time buyers – and without further ado, here it is:
Winner: Audio-Technica AT-LP5 Direct-Drive Turntable
You can think of the Audio-Technica AT-LP5 model turntable as one of the crowing achievements of Audio-Technica’s turntable designs. Under close scrutiny it more than measures up against some turntables twice its price!
If you’re willing to spend a little extra cash to get the best value for your money, then this turntable is definitely worth considering.
The operation of this turntable is fully manual and can be done at two different speed settings: 33-1/3 RPM and 45 RPM which is sufficient for most modern records.
The special AT95Ex Dual Moving Magnet stereo cartridge also has a replaceable stylus which is great since a stylus can be one of the first things to go on a turntable long term. This gives the overall lifespan of this turntable a decent length.
The AT-LP5’s J-shaped tonearm was created in line with Audio-Technica’s original designs from way back in the 1960s and 70s. This design has stood the test of time and is excellent at minimizing tracking errors.
This turntable hasn’t kept itself in the past though – and the combination of old technology and new technology is really rather appealing. The USB cable for instance allows audacity recording software to be used with this turntable and any PC or Mac.
As with any purchase you should be careful when setting up this turntable – making sure to use its included dust cover and mounting hardware.
If you’re willing to take the time to set it up properly, this will be an amazing turntable that could serve as a home audio system for years to come.
Best Turntable Under $300
If you’re just looking to buy your first turntable, or definitely only looking for a casual use one, then there’s no point going to the higher end of the turntable price bracket. You’ll find that there are some very decent affordable options in the <$300 price range.
Our favorite in this category is…
WINNER: Audio Technica AT-LP120BK-USD Direct-Drive Turntable
Another stand-out turntable brought to the market by Audio Technica (who by the way really know their stuff when it comes to music), this AT-LP120BK is a perfect entry level turntable.
It’s sleek black and silver design lends it a professional, classy feel that will make it a great addition to any home or office.
The AT-LP120BK is popular for a reason! Looking at its technical details, we can tell you that it is:
- A USB turntable
- A preamp built-in turntable
- A 33-1/3, 45 AND 78 RPM turntable
- A pitch adjustable turntable
- A high-torque, direct-drive turntable
That’s a lot of features for one turntable to boast, and we know they’ll have all been incorporated with Audio Technica’s expertise and attention to detail.
As an entry-level turntable, this is all you can ask for under $300 in the turntable industry today. And we say “all you can ask for” very generously as this turntable is absolutely amazing!
Right through from its quartz-controlled pitch lock to its adjustable counterweight, this turntable has all the high end features you could want, and not the price tag!
This turntable will allow you to convert old vinyl records into digital audio formats through audacity software on either your Mac or PC. This can be very useful for those with an old collection of vinyl music that they’d like to preserve.
Clearly the overall value of this turntable is hard to ignore, and we’re not surprised that it’s been selling like hot cakes.
Best Turntable Under $200
The cheapest category in our nomination of turntables, this is where you’ll find turntables for beginners or purely casual users. Don’t be fooled by the price tags though, there are still a few beauties in this category for those who know what to look out for.
For this category, we focused on value for money, and the winner was…
WINNER: Sony PSLX300USB Stereo Turntable
We were actually genuinely surprised when we came across this turntable, as it’s build and features definitely don’t match it’s affordable pricing of around $150.
The turntable has two speed setting: 33-1/3 and 45 RPM which is all most modern users will ever need. On top of this the operation is fully automatic, a welcome addition for anyone who values convenience in their life.
The part that really drew us to this turntable though was its belt drive system. Unlike direct drives, belt drives can be switched out and replaced later in a turntable’s life. That means this particular model is not only cheap – it’s durable too! What a find!
Of course, you’re not going to get the absolute best audio quality at this end of the pricing scale, but we can say that the Sony PSLX300USB does provide a decent level of quality – definitely enough for casual listeners.
The sound quality is maintained by a built-in phono preamp and a static balanced tonearm which output audio through a USB if desired. This means you are able to convert vinyl records into digital formats with this turntable.
Clearly the buying of a cheaper turntable is a bit of a trade-off. You’re sacrificing pure audio lover’s quality but not much else though. This turntable has features and durability like the best of them.
You could get some better parts, a more stylish appearance, and in some people’s opinions, a better turntable in general, but it will cost you a lot more than this baby. Everything said, the Sony PSLX300USB is a top entry-level turntable worth considering if you’re on a budget.
Best Vintage Turntable
The turntables we perused in this category were many and varied, but they all had one thing in common: a vintage flair and style that would make them the perfect accent to any vintage room in your house.
It wasn’t easy to pick our favorite, but when we considered price, features and style all together, there was a clear winner…
WINNER: Crosley CR6233U-BK1 Turntable
This turntable is an absolute beauty, so we’ll cover its aesthetics first. The turntable itself is black and white and seated inside a stylish grey fabric table-box with built in speakers. The four table legs are a solid black and curved circularly for added appeal.
We’d have to say that this is one of the best looking turntables on the market. But it’s now just attractive on the outside – it’s go features to match too!
The player can run at both industry standard speeds of 33-1/3 RPM and 45RPM. It is attached to dynamic full range stereo speakers (these also have an auxiliary input for the days where your vinyl collection isn’t varied enough).
The entire ensemble has a bit of a history, with British branded Dansette players having been a staple in many households in the mid-1960s. You’ll find that the resemblance to those old players makes this turntable a great pop culture reference point.
Current owners of this turntable seem very pleased with its performance, noting that it gives a great audio quality.
Regardless of whether you’re getting this turntable purely for its looks or are interested in its playing features as well, we think you’ll find it’s quite the score.
When setup, the ensemble is 25.5 inches tall and the aux input at the back is convenient to plug your phone into when you’re in the mood for some modern convenient. There is a mini RCA cable included with the turntable by most retailers (we recommend Amazon).
It’s only drawback is that it’s not an automatic turntable, meaning that you’ll have to manually drop the record, move and play the arm and return the arm when finished. Not a biggie but just something we thought you might want to know.
By this stage, you should have a much better understanding as to what to look out for in a turntable if you’re considering purchasing one.
While it’s pretty obvious that the above picks are our favorites, it’s up to you which turntable on the market will work best for your unique situation. Remember to consider all the relevant factors; including style, playing speed, digital features and durability.
Regardless of which turntable model you purchase, we’re sure you’ll love having one in your home and will thoroughly enjoy the unique analogue audio quality that they provide.
If you’re interested in learning more about any of the favorites we selected from the market, then you can check out their individual product reviews on our website.
We wish you all the best with your purchase!