Trends are cyclical, and no market makes this quite as obvious as the vinyl record market, whose rapid resurgence took the world by storm. Unlike records themselves, record players have greatly evolved over time, and what was the best turntable some years ago is not what you need now. Whether you’re a proud vintage-vinyl owner or a newbie looking to purchase your first disk, you won’t make a mistake by sticking with the top choices from our list.
- Unmatched sound quality
- Vintage look
- Optional cartridge/tonearm
Pro-Ject Juke Box E
The first turntable we’ll review is the Pro-Ject Juke Box E. Anyone even remotely interested in turntables has surely heard of Pro-Ject Audio Systems, an Austrian manufacturer that turned 30 this year. The Juke Box E came out in 2018, and it’s one of the best value–turntable options on the market. This is an all-in-one system with Bluetooth and IR receivers and remote control. The device is composed of the popular Primary turntable and an Ortofon OM 5E cartridge. While most all-in-one turntables compromise sound quality to a certain degree to support so many options, the Juke Box E seems to avoid these pitfalls.
The Juke Box E is a belt-drive player with an Ortofon OM 5E cartridge and utilizes the tried and tested Primary turntable – probably the best turntable under 200 dollars you can get. That alone puts Juke Box E slightly above its competitors in the same price range.
There are RCA outputs at line and preamp/phono level, as well as RCA line-level input, next to Bluetooth and IR. The IR is there for the remote control. Of course, since this is an all-in-one turntable setup, it comes with a built-in preamp (50W per channel – 4 ohms).
This turntable can be used right out of the box: The cartridge comes pre-fitted, and the tracking force and anti-skating force are also adjusted beforehand. And if you still don’t think this the best turntable for this price, just wait till you experience its seamless speaker pairing. If you want to go the extra mile, you can get it with Speaker Box 5 speakers at additional cost, but even without them, the Juke Box E will connect to your existing stereo setup without a hitch.
This record turntable package includes speaker cables, a dust cover, and the aforementioned remote control. While having a remote is nice and dandy, the button layout is completely ludicrous. Still, this is a pretty small downside to an otherwise very good record player.
While most audio-elitists will probably roll their eyes at all-in-one turntables, the Juke Box E managed to beat many of its equally-priced brethren. The fidelity is definitely there, the sound is tonally warm, and the instruments have weight to them. Of course, the Juke Box E can’t match expensive ‘true hi-fi’ turntables, but it can certainly punch above its weight class. Surface noise is at negligible levels as well; if you really want to get the most out of this turntable, try removing the dust cover, as it can impact sound quality. While this may not be the world’s best turntable, the Juke Box E is certainly good enough to satisfy all but the pickiest users.
This device will set you back between $599 and $699, depending on the supplier. If you want the speakers too, be ready to part with around $150 more.
We found the Pro-Ject Juke Box E to be a great affordable turntable. Ease of use is its main strength, added to the fact that it doesn’t suffer from the usual audio shortcomings plaguing all-in-one turntables. All in all, it’s a good record player, suitable for new and old vinyl lovers alike.
Next up on our list, we have the Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT. Audio-Technica is no small fry in the turntable world – far from it. They’re a reputable company with a long track record of manufacturing the best turntables for beginners and those who can’t afford to spend a fortune on sound. The AT-LP60XBT is one of the least expensive yet decent record players you can find, available for as little as $140. The sound quality is well above what you’d expect from a turntable this cheap, and Bluetooth makes it ideal for cable-averse users.
Unfortunately, to maintain decent sound quality for a low price, this Bluetooth turntable had to be built with subpar materials. While it’s probably the best cheap turntable, the AT-LP60XBT might feel a tad too cheap to the touch. Thin plastic is the predominant ingredient in the casing, which makes the device extremely lightweight – picking it up feels like playing with a toy. Not that this has a negative impact on the turntable’s performance, mind you, but it might be a turnoff for users who prefer sturdier design.
The AT-LP60XBT is a belt-drive turntable. This is usually a good choice for home use due to better sound quality, but don’t expect to do any DJ shenanigans with it. The turntable is fully automatic, as the best affordable turntable should be since mostly beginners opt for these devices. With automated turntables, you don’t have to worry about accidentally damaging the tonearm or stylus when starting or stopping a record.
The platter itself is made of aluminum and comes with a dual magnet cartridge. This is a record player with Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to pair it with speakers or headphones. The built-in phono equalizer function alleviates the need for an external preamp, but you can still connect one if you have it. For wired connections, a detachable RCA output cable is included as well.
Like any best budget record player, the AT-LP60XBT plays both 33 ⅓ and 45 RPM records, as there is a 45 RPM adapter included in the box, along with a plastic dust cover.
While design concessions have obviously been made, this turntable sounds better than a device this cheap has any right to. The presentation is spot-on, with warm sounds and proper fidelity. It might sound slightly subpar when it comes to lower frequencies due to the built-in equalizer. However, if you connect your external amp, you should experience a surge in quality. One way or another, this is probably the best budget turntable, and you’ll struggle to find anything as good in this price range.
The main strength of this Audio Technica turntable is the balance of pricing and quality, as you can find the AT-LP60XBT for as low as $139 on Amazon.
The Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT combines excellent sound quality and Bluetooth connectivity with extremely low pricing to make a turntable ideal for beginners and frugal listeners.
We present to you another best–buy turntable candidate – the Sony PS-LX310BT. There’s no need to waste words on describing how influential Sony is in the record player market, so we’ll get right to the point: The PS-LX310BT is an exceptional entry-level turntable for under $200. Sony packed it with features and made it ultra-affordable but not cheap-looking. This budget-friendly contender comes with Bluetooth connectivity, auto playback, and an integrated preamp – a bargain indeed!
The most common method of cutting costs when manufacturing a turntable record player is by utilizing cheap plastic, and, on paper, Sony’s best starter turntable is no different. But, even though the chassis is mostly plastic, the platter and the tonearm are both made of aluminum. A tonearm made of quality material is essential, as plastic ones feel extremely fragile and detract from the overall visual impression. Additionally, the rest of the device has a matte finish for extra visual appeal.
Like the turntables we’ve reviewed previously, the Sony PS-LX310BT is also a belt-drive device. It operates at two speeds – 33 ⅓ and 45 RPM, thanks to a 45-RPM adapter. Most of the best entry–level turntable options are, naturally, aimed at fledgling vinyl lovers. As one such option, the PS-LX310BT comes with a built-in phono preamp, and an MM cartridge perma-mounted to the tonearm, saving you the hassle of setting that up. The only thing you have to do after taking the turntable out of the box is position the platter and pull the belt over the pulley. Plug it into a power source and you’re ready to spin.
Going cordless is all the rage these days, and the best inexpensive turntable should join this movement away from clunky cables. To that end, this Bluetooth turntable allows you to place your speakers in otherwise unreachable places – so long as they’re within signal range – or move around the house with your headphones on. Of course, there’s something to be said about the loss of sound quality with Bluetooth-powered listening, but newer technologies minimize this drawback as well. Pairing up is easy: Just put your speakers or headphones in pairing mode and press the Bluetooth button on the Sony PS-LX310BT.
Besides being one of the best Bluetooth record–player choices out there, this is also a fully automated turntable, so the tonearm will fall into place by itself when you press the Play button and raise itself once the record ends. Another great feature is the gain selection switch. You can adjust it to high, low, or mid to match the audio level of your record. The device also has a USB socket, RCA cables, a phono output, and a phono/line selector switch.
As previously mentioned in our record–player reviews, we were surprised by how good a budget record player can sound. Similar to the reviewed Audio Technica record player, Sony’s turntable manages to beat all expectations. The instruments are weighty and the sound is full, with the gain switch allowing you to get even more out of each record. Even the built-in preamp performs admirably. However, you can certainly boost the sound quality by using an external phono preamp.
This turntable currently costs $199 on Sony’s website, and its combination of features and sound quality is tough to match in the under-$200 range.
The best affordable record player award goes to Sony’s PS-LX310BT. The aluminum tonearm makes up for the otherwise plastic frame, and the matte finish makes this turntable look like a $500 device, while the features, sound quality, and overall ease of use are practically unmatched by any of its competitors.
A beast of an entirely different kind, the Clearaudio Concept is the best turntable for vintage sticklers. While the previous options we’ve reviewed mainly stood in the budget category, you should be ready to shell out nearly $1,500 for this premium device. This is also the first vintage record player we’re showcasing here – or at least vintage-looking.
You can say goodbye to plastic-ridden turntables – we’re in the big leagues now. The box is made up of medium-density or pressure-formed solid wood, either in a single color or with wooden accents for a true vintage feel. Unlike its cheaper plastic competitors, the Clearaudio Concept has that decent weight to it.
The best audiophile turntable is a belt-drive so you know the Clearaudio Concept is one of those. From a purely sound-oriented standpoint, their improved dampening just puts them a whole class above everything else on the market. If you choose to buy it with a cartridge and tonearm, you can get the Concept MM, Concept MC, or Essence MC cartridge. The tonearm can either be the Concept or the Satisfy Kardan variant.
The optional cartridge/tonearm setup will be fitted in the factory, so the only thing you’ll need to do is position the platter and pull the belt around the pulley. This sets the Concept apart from other best–sounding turntable options, which often require some sort of esoteric knowledge to properly install.
Another aspect of the Clearaudio Concept distinguishing it from cheaper vinyl players are its three operating speeds, as opposed to two: 33 ⅓, 45, and 78 RPM. Consider upgrading the cartridge if you have a 78-heavy collection, as prolonged use might cause some wear.
While vintage lovers will absolutely adore the stylish design of the Clearaudio Concept, futurism-oriented users will lament the lack of Bluetooth and USB connectivity. The best record–player brands often omit Bluetooth from their pricier devices. This may come as a surprise to some, having in mind how expensive this turntable is, but the hardcore vinyl market considers it a sacrilege to defile powerful turntables with quality-deteriorating Bluetooth.
Clearaudio Concept’s sound quality is top-class. If you’re switching from a budget turntable, the difference in sound will be evident even to the most untrained ear. All frequencies, including the lower registers where cheaper turntables fail, are as crisp or as weighty as they should be. All melodies played during our turntable reviews sounded warm and precise. Remember to obtain proper support for the turntable to stand on, to remove all possible obstacles to audio bliss.
Now we get to the iffy part – pricing. If you want a top-notch record player setup, you need to be ready to part with a considerable sum of money. The current price of the Clearaudio Concept is an exorbitant $1,800 with the cartridge, and $1,600 without one.
The Clearaudio Concept is definitely a solid competitor to other heavy-weights such as the Rega P5 and deserves a spot in the best turntable setup. It’s got remarkable sound quality, stunning design, and three available speeds to accommodate even the pickiest connoisseur – just be ready to part with a month’s rent to get one.
Rega Planar 1
The answer to what constitutes the best budget record player is often relative. For those unable to spend $1,000+ on their musical hobby, a $150 turntable is considered a budget solution. However, by vinyl-market standards, everything below $500 is more than affordable, and that’s where you’ll find the Rega Planar 1. This turntable actually came out back in 2005 under the moniker P1. However, it has undergone significant modifications over the years, retaining its distinguishable sound quality while improving on various aspects, all of which allowed the Planar 1 to keep the best turntable under 500 dollars title.
The Rega Planar 1 rocks a slick, minimalistic design that fits perfectly in any environment. The plinth looks laminated – a change from the original P1’s textured surface. The ON/OFF switch has also been relocated underneath the plinth to avoid any interruptions to the glossy surface. There are two colors available, black and white, and we found both to be equally appealing. The newest version of the Rega Planar 1 for 2021 has a matte finish – also very stylish.
The addition of an RB110 tonearm is another reason why the Planar 1 is considered to be the best turntable for the money. The platter has undergone changes as well, with the new flywheel effect bringing further improvements to sound quality. Since both the tonearm and the Carbon moving magnet cartridge are fitted at the factory, the Planar 1 is a true Plug & Play device: Enjoy your records the moment you get it out of the box.
As any high-quality or retro record player does, the Rega Planar 1 is a belt-drive turntable. Rega used a 24 V low-noise synchronous motor to reduce vibrations for better sound quality than many of the best cheap record–player options can manage. This is actually the first Rega turntable in this category to utilizes this type of motor, which is one of the many reasons the Planar 1 dominates the budget turntable market.
The supported speeds are 33 ⅓ and 45 RPM – no 78 RPM here. The Planar 1 also has no preamp built in, but thankfully, you can snag a great amp – like Brio – from Rega’s website, too. Unpack the Planar 1, connect it to the preamp, and you’ll be all set to hear that sweet vinyl sound.
If you’re impressed by the build and looks of the Rega Planar 1, wait until you hear it play. The P1 – considered to be the best vinyl player in its price range by many – owed its huge popularity and longevity to the distinct sound quality. Many fans were worried that these recognizable audio capabilities might change or worsen with the alterations made to the turntable over the years.
They didn’t need to worry – we’re happy to report that the Planar 1 sounds incredible. Any record you put on shines in its own right: The bass is strong but not too heavy, the instruments all sound spot-on, everything is precise, textured, and crisp. Even the best turntables in the budget class can’t go head-to-head with the Planar 1.
The Rega Planar 1 can currently be found for $475 on Amazon, but you might be able to get it for as low as $400 from other suppliers.
We’ve been trying hard to find some sort of weakness or fault with the Rega Planar 1, but there was none to find. From the visuals to the hardware and audio quality, the Planar 1 wins on all fronts – truly the best inexpensive turntable.
Our Methodology – How To Choose the Right Turntable
The main obstacle prospective turntable buyers face is coming to grips with their various technical aspects and complicated naming conventions. Thanks to this, finding the best turntables becomes an extremely arduous task for people unfamiliar with vinyl–player technology and the various device specifications. To help with that, we’ll go through the crucial technical characteristics of a vinyl–record player by which we reviewed and ranked turntables.
Turntable Phonograph Design
Motor configuration is probably the most significant difference between turntable models. There are three main types of motor configuration – belt drive, idler, and direct-drive. With direct-drive turntables, the motor is positioned right beneath the center of the platter. On the other hand, a belt drive is a staple of the best record players, with the motor positioned off-center and connected to the platter with an elastomeric drive belt. Lastly, idler motors utilize an idler wheel to transmit rotations from the motor to the platter, but these are far less frequent among modern turntables.
Why are these distinctions important? The answer is – damping, or the way manufacturers tackle vibrations caused by the motor and outside sources. For example, direct-drive record players are much more resistant to outside forces and feature faster start-up speeds. In fact, one of the main advantages of the best direct–drive turntable is its suitability for DJ-ing. Their design allows DJs to stop, slow down, speed up, backspin, or scratch vinyl.
On the other hand, DJs usually avoid belt drive turntables since any of the tricks we mentioned can cause damage to the cable. Still, the motor position in a direct–drive turntable leads to more sound-altering vibration, whereas belt-drive devices offer more fidelity, as they handle vibrations much more efficiently. The right decision ultimately depends on what you want to do with the device.
Manual vs. Automated Turntables
In your search for the best record player, you’ll come across the terms ‘manual’ and ‘automatic’ in reference to the movements of the tonearm and needle. With manual turntables, you physically place the tonearm and stylus in the correct position when you want to play vinyl and raise it once you want to stop. Semi-automatic turntables require you to lower the tonearm manually but automatically lift it and stop the motor once a side has finished playing.
With an automatic turntable, the tonearm automatically falls into position and raises itself once that vinyl side ends. If you don’t want the hassle of manually moving the tonearm every time, you should probably go with the best automatic turntable options. However, some connoisseurs believe that the many moving parts negatively affect sound quality. Additionally, many vinyl lovers prefer to conduct the needle-placing ritual themselves for sentimental reasons – it all depends on what you like.
Turntable Phono Preamp
One does not simply connect a turntable to their existing sound system: The signal coming out of the turntable cartridge is much lower than the one emanating from standard stereo devices. To bridge this gap, turntables require a phono preamplifier to boost the frequency to a level required by your stereo system.
The best vinyl record player options can come with a built-in turntable preamp. While some audiophiles might prefer to keep it separate, the choice usually boils down to what kind of stereo system you have set up. Newly minted vinyl lovers will probably appreciate a turntable preamp shipped with the record player – we know we do. Turntables with built-in preamps are often referred to as ‘all-in-one’ and save users plenty of set-up time.
Newer turntable models sometimes include built-in speakers, but these speakers can rarely match the sound quality provided by standalone models. Still, the best all–in–one turntable with an integrated preamp and speakers lets you start listening to your favorite records right off the bat. Just keep in mind that the sound quality might suffer.
As any vinyl fan will tell you, turntables are much more than mere record-playing devices. They represent atmospheric set pieces, an essential part of the decor, and a nostalgia-packed symbol of times past. To that end, their design is often as important as their technical specifications. Some turntables lean strongly towards the vintage feel, while others are sleek futuristic machines, and we’ll pay special attention to how visually attractive the turntable is.
USB and Bluetooth Connectivity
The best Bluetooth turntable gives you an easy way to connect the player to your sound system. More and more turntables nowadays ship with Bluetooth devices, which can be a lifesaver for people fed up with cable management and odd speaker placement. However, since Bluetooth connections are digital, the sound data gets compressed, resulting in a slight drop in audio quality. However, newer Bluetooth variants allow more data to come through and lessen the sound impact.
Another way to integrate the turntable with your other sound tech is via USB. The best USB turntable allows you to rip music from your records into a digital format and listen to your favorite vinyl on other devices – at a lower quality, of course. If this is something that interests you, finding a USB turntable is easy enough.
Best Turntables and Record Players in 2021
- Pro-Ject Juke Box E – Best All-Rounder
- Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT – Best Bluetooth Turntable
- Sony PS-LX310BT – Best Budget Option
- Clearaudio Concept – Best Premium Turntable
- Rega Planar 1 – Best Value for Money
What is the best turntable on the market?
While it’s hard to pick out a single product in such a varied market, the best – and most expensive – turntable we’ve reviewed here is the Clearaudio Concept.
What is the best turntable ever made?
This title goes to the vintage Linn LP 12 which holds a near-legendary status among vinyl lovers. Unfortunately, its price is quite legendary, as well.
Is a direct drive better than a belt-drive turntable?
Unlike the idler-driven best dual turntable options around, both direct drive and belt drive turntables can provide top-class sound quality. Direct drive turntables are more durable, while belt-drive devices are considered to be better audio-wise.
How much should you spend on a turntable?
While there’s no exact answer here, ultra-cheap turntables can sometimes damage your records. We recommend investing at least $100 into a turntable to get the best value for your money.
Do vintage turntables sound better?
Vintage turntables were made from better materials compared to today’s cheaper models, so you can often – but not always – get a better sound from an older model than from a newer, budget model.
Do expensive turntables sound better?
Thanks to the quality of their overall design, the best turntable choices can provide a much better sound quality than their cheaper counterparts.