After 30 years of CDs and the ushering in of the digital age in music, vinyl is back! And those longing for a return to the warm and rich sounds of a record can finally rejoice!
Turntables are no longer just a staple of old antique shops and hipster music stores, and many new artists also release albums on vinyl now.
It’s an unusual reversal of technology that harkens back to an age when music wasn’t as processed and legends like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin reigned supreme.
Whether you’re looking to relive those old glory days or experience that new Twenty One Pilots album in a different way, we’ve got you covered with our Turntable Buyer’s Guide!
There are numerous options to consider when buying a turntable, but these four factors are probably the most important: sound quality, style and durability, and ease-of-use.
We’ll go into depth on each of these and then present you with five our best choices from the table below!
Turntables may seem like simple machines, but there is a lot of craftsmanship that must go into their design to ensure quality sound.
Any outside vibrations can negatively distort the music, so cheaping out on a new turntable with poorly-made components could result in a disappointing experience.
That being said, there are plenty of budget choices that will let you test the proverbial waters of vinyl record playing without the need for a personal loan.
One other thing, there is a longstanding debate between belt drive turntables and direct drive turntables.
Belt drives obviously use a belt to minimize mechanical interference while driving the motor that spins the record.
Direct drives have no such belt and can be more prone to sound distortion. Higher-end models tend to engineer this flaw out; however, usually at a steeper price.
Both types have their own pros and cons though and each turntable will still be evaluated on the sum of its features.
Style and Durability
Style is by far the most subjective of the categories, and will definitely come down to your personal taste. However, we can at least make you aware of the most common styles.
Vintage turntables tend to dominate the market, ranging from handcrafted wooden boxes of the 1950s to clunky synth designs of the 1980s.
Those who like sleek contemporary designs are also in luck, as many manufacturers offer modern designs that forsake the vintage look without losing the vintage sound.
Durability, however, is certainly less subjective. Cheaper models tend to use fake woods, weak plastics and metals, or flimsy components.
As mentioned above, turntables are not simple machines so avoiding cheap parts is a must.
Believe it or not, using a turntable isn’t as easy as pressing a button and waiting the record to play like a CD player.
It can be—but many turntables are manually operated, meaning you have to set the needle on the record as well as the record speed.
The latter part is easier, as you’ll only need to follow the directions on the record. The former can be an acquired skill, but it really is as simple as laying the needle arm on the record’s grooves. If you don’t want to deal with all of that, go with an automatic turntable.
Aside from that, the only other major factor to consider is connectivity. Many of the turntables listed here have built-in speakers and/or the ability to hook up to external speakers.
There are also Bluetooth-enabled turntables, in addition to many of the features you might expect to find on modern music players.
However, one of the coolest features that some turntables have is the ability to turn old vinyl tracks into MP3 tracks.
This preserves the original sound of the track while still allowing you to listen anywhere.
|AudioTechnica AT-LP60||High-quality sound and comes with a cleaning kit|
|Bushnell Falcon||High-quality sound with automatic features and sleek 80s style|
|Wrcibo Record Player Vintage Turntabler||Good for astronomy|
|Victrola 6-in-1||Rapid, sharp focusing|
|GOODNEW Vinyl Record Player Turntable||Versatile|
Our 1st Pick Best Overall – AudioTechnica AT-LP60 Turntable w/Knox Vinyl Brush
In terms of price, sound quality, and style, Audio-Technica’s LP60 is far above the competition. At only $109.00, it’s not much more expensive than our budget option, yet offers superior operation.
The LP60 is fully-automatic—meaning you don’t have to set the needle yourself—and is highly-compatible with both PC and Mac computers.
Like some of our more expensive options, the LP60 is also capable of making digital copies of your records.
The LP60 forgoes the vintage look for a slick aluminum build that will fit in well with your modern electronics, while also offering quality protection.
The LP60 used a belt-driven system, which minimizes internal mechanical interference (from the motor), offering great sound quality.
Finally, the LP60 comes with a 45 RPM adapter, allowing the use of both 7in and 12in records; stereo adapter cables, and a cleaning kit.
That’s quite the package for a turntable that barely costs more than $100.
Now, unlike some of the other options here, the LP60 doesn’t have its own built-in speakers.
However, it is fully compatible with most speakers and devices—a minor downside in an otherwise flawless package.
Our 2nd Pick Runner up – Crosley C200A-BK Direct Drive Turntable
For those unwilling to sacrifice the vintage look, particularly from the 1980s, the Crosley C200A is equipped with a host of high-end features that include an improved tone arm.
Switchable phono pre-amplifier, and an Audio-Technica magnetic cartridge, or the option to use your own.
These all allow for a highly-customizable experience that’s great for a veteran user, but could go unused by a beginner.
There are two main drawbacks though. For one, the C200A is about $50 more than the Audio-Technica LP60 and the record is powered by a direct drive system.
Now, direct drives aren’t inherently bad, and there are even some bonuses (more in a second), but they are much more susceptible to mechanical interference.
Plus, this particular model lacks Crosley’s low vibration motor. That’s not a killing blow however, and the sound quality is still better than most of the other options on this list.
Ultimately, the Crosley offers features that are typically only seen in several-hundred-dollar turntables at a much more affordable cost.
The C200 would be a great gift for an 80s music enthusiast or budget turntable expert.
Our 3rd Pick Best on a Budget – Wrcibo Record Player Vintage Turntable
Wrcibo’s representation on this list offers some of the same characteristics that Audio-Technica’s LP60 offers, but at a discounted rate.
It lacks the ability to convert records into MP3s, but it can be used with your smartphone and it also has built-in stereo speakers.
You can even skip the records and play from your phone directly, though that might defeat the purpose.
The Wrcibo model is semi-automatic in that once you set the needle, the turntable can do the rest. This makes it relatively easy to use for beginners.
The chassis is also made of a high-density (real) wood, which when coupled with the belt-driven motor, offers great sound as well as interference reduction.
As a unique feature on this list, the Wrcibo can also be directly powered by a USB port.
Our 4th Pick Best for Casual Users – Victrola 6-in-1 Wood Record Player with 3-Speed Turntable
If you like the novelty of having a record player, but don’t necessarily care about all the extra bells and whistles, Victrola’s addition to this list might be for you!
This turntable might offer the most vintage appearance as well, with its turn dial FM radio, wooden construction, and midcentury appearance.
As mentioned, the Victrola comes with an FM radio as well as cassette and CD players, Bluetooth connectivity, 3.5mm aux input, and built-in speakers.
What it makes up for with multi-functionality, it may lose out on sound quality though. The drive system is unspecified and with all of the extra parts, it seems likely that mechanical interference is guaranteed.
However, if you’re not looking for a true turntable experience, or you only want a drip of the nostalgia, the Victrola could be the option for you.
Our 5th Pick GOODNEW Vinyl Record Player Turntable
The final entry on our buyer’s guide has the distinction of being the only truly-portable turntable on our list.
Surprisingly, the motor is belt driven and the needle uses a ruby tip, ensuring quality sound despite the compact and seemingly noise-prone design.
Like the Wrcibo, the Goodnew option is semi-automatic in that the needle will need to be set, but is automatic otherwise.
Additionally, the Goodnew turntable is three-speed enabled, meaning it can play any size record.
The biggest flaw on the Goodnew could hamper its portability to some degree though. When in use, larger records are likely to hang slightly off the edge, meaning placement choice will be important. However, this is a relatively small concern.
Ultimately, the Audio-Technica LP60 appears to be far above the other options for anyone other than the most casual user. For a little over $100, you get a high-quality turntable that fits right in with most modern electronics and appliances.
The LP60 is easily the best option for beginners, though more experienced audiophiles might prefer the Crosley C200, as its customizability may be worth the steeper price.
Those that prefer a more classic look will want to look at the Wrcibo model, as it has most of the features of the LP60, albeit with the potential for reduced sound quality.
However, if you really only want the novelty of a turntable, but the functionality of a modern music player, Victrola’s turntable is a great choice.