We might live in the era of digital music, where everything is sampled, converted to binary, streamed in, and auto-tuned until it becomes more synthesizer than music, but real audiophiles know that’s a passing phase. That’s why more purists and an increasing number of musicians are returning to the heyday of music, when quality mattered and music had depth and texture. These people know that a record is still the preferred method of music delivery, and if you’re one of them, you need a turntable to hear it the way it was intended.
Whether you listen to your music lounging by the pool on a waterproof bluetooth speaker or insist on hearing every note on your enhanced over-ear headphones, you can appreciate the fuller, richer sounds that come from vinyl records and know that sound will be lost to the ages if you aren’t using the right turntable to hear it. A quality turntable allows you to swap out features, such as the cartridge, platter, and tone-arm which will change the way it works. The speed is accurate for reproducing the warm sound and creating a fuller soundstage. Ultimately, the reason to get one of the 10 best turntables is for the incomparable audio experience.
Audio Technica AT-LP60
Pro: Easy setup, easy use
Con: Cannot change the phono cartridge
Beginner Buy: Normally we would tell you to put your vinyl in a brazier before you put them in a record player under $100, but the AT-LP60 surprised us. With its USB port and easy LP to digital conversion, belt-driven, full auto operation, and built-in phono preamp, you get plenty of quality that won’t damage your vinyl or corrupt your sound too badly. It also gives you the choice of using your own amp down the line.
Crosley CR6232A-BR Nomad
Pro: Stylish chrome and vinyl exterior
Con: No Tone control
On the Move: Want the bulkiest way to take your music on the go? Forget the walkman, go with the Nomad. This is an all-in-one suitcase record player that includes both turntable and speakers for music that goes anywhere. The belt-driven chassis can play all standard record speeds with the NP5 needle recreating sounds even on damaged vinyl. With the RCA output, you can use or ignore the built-in speakers as needed.
Audio Technica AT-LP120
Pro: Tone-arm includes plenty of adjustment features
Con: Captive RCA cables
Most for the Money: Largely beloved as the affordable turntable of record, this second offering from Audio Technica is good for casual vinyl fans, new converts, and even some experts. Channel separation is surprisingly clear with vocals coming across crisp as the crust on mom’s pumpkin pie. The phono preamp saves you a little cash right out of the gate, and lets you jump right in with 33, 45, and 78 RPM speeds on its Direct Drive system.
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon 2M-R
Pro: Comes with Ortofon 2M Red cartridge
Con: Anti-skate weight tends to drop off
Budget Range: When easy use and quick setup aren’t as important to you as overall sound quality, but you still don’t have a load of dough to drop, then the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon will fit the bill nicely. The speed accuracy is sharp as a diamond stylus, though that is accomplished via changing belts with no automatic drive system. You can swap out everything and tweak to your heart’s content, but it runs above the fold right out of the box.
Music Hall MMF 2.2
Pro: Tone-arm is a single piece alloy
Con: Limited bass output
Stripped Down: Music Hall generally makes their bones in the higher end of the turntable market, but their MMF 2.2 minimalist record player brings a lot of their top-tier accents to the lower market. They have installed an asynchronous motor decoupled from the plinth by dampening rubber ring that keeps vibrations and sound bleed to a minimum while cutting noise by keeping moving parts to the bare necessities. Ideal for the budget audiophile.
Rega RP8 Skeletal Turntable
Pro: Agile sound with enormous range
Con: Can work badly with aggressive stereo components
Feather Light: Rega’s entire RP line could go on this list, so if you’re looking for something of quality at a lower price, seek out any RP you can find. We suggest the RP1 and RP3. The RP8 is just our favorite because it is the best use of the skeletal plinth design we’ve ever seen. By cutting down on the base and using polyolefin foam for the core of the deck, Rega has also ceased vibrations and made a gorgeous, modern turntable that produces epic sound.
Townshend Audio Rock 7 MkII
Pro: Solid, thumping bass
Con: Does not add warmth or smoothness
Mechanical Marvel: Max Townshend is an engineering genius when it comes to the world of vinyl playback and the Rock 7 is no exception. Featuring a fluid trough that dampens vibrations at the cartridge and zero resonant signature of its own, this is an odd turntable that reproduces precisely what is on the record without muddling it. Neutral as Switzerland and natural as sleep, little else stays truer to your music.
Well Tempered Labs Versalex
Pro: Truly unique dampening on the tone-arm
Con: Requires special care and attention
Ultimate Ingenuity: More than 30 years ago an engineer named William H. Firebaugh turned the audio world on its ear with his Well Tempered Arm. So many decades later his baby, Well Tempered Labs is still creating some of the most astounding turntables and record player accessories on the market. The servo controlled motor is mounted to control vibrations and the zero tolerance platter bearing combined with a Baltic plywood plinth cut down resonance and create a sound years in the making.
Pro: Uses 24-karat-gold coils attached to a boron cantilever
Con: Does not include its own suspension
Collector Classic: If noise transference from your turntable’s arm or resonance from the plinth vexes your music, then the Ovation can cure what ails you. It has a traditional look that uses two aluminum plates that sandwich in a Panzerholz layer for exceptional sound dampening and create a low-resonance stage. A micro infrared-sensor keeps the speeds of the DC motor regulated for accuracy and sound that is far from ordinary.
Gramovox Floating Record Player
Pro: Plinth and platter are both acrylic
Con: Strange, untested design
Coming Soon: Stand and deliver is the motto of the people at Gramovox. They have taken the notion of the skeletal plinth to the next level by using a vertical stand that plays records standing up. The upright method cuts down on the reverberations going down and back from the record itself, allowing those to dissipate into the room for a clean sound and an incomparably stylish look that reduces the turntable’s footprint.