Best turntable

Audio & Video Accessories

Most vinyl records are 33 1/3 RPM, but you’ll occasionally find 45 and 78 RPM records. If you have those in your collection, look for a turntable that can switch between speeds.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which turntable is best?

As you may have noticed, vinyl records are experiencing a bit of a renaissance. In 2020, vinyl sales surpassed CDs for the first time in 34 years. The first half of 2021 has indicated even more growth, reporting 108% more vinyl sales than the same period of time in 2020. 

With so many consumers rediscovering their love for wax, many audiophiles are facing the daunting task of choosing the best turntable for playing their beloved records. The Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB Direct-Drive Turntable is a quality choice for its classic design and USB capabilities.

What to know before you buy a turntable

Built-in vs. standalone speakers

Some newer turntables come with built-in speakers. These record players, often sold in the form of a suitcase, are typically portable, affordable and easy to set up, but they sacrifice sound quality for convenience. Traditional turntables require separate speakers to deliver vinyl records’ classic, rich tones. Casual listeners may find built-in speakers to be suitable, but those passionate about sound quality should expect to incur the additional cost of standalone speakers. 

Direct-drive vs. belt-drive 

An eternal debate among audiophiles is whether the direct-drive or belt-drive turntable is superior. While the differences are subtle to the untrained ear, many swear that belt-driven systems deliver better sound quality, while direct-drive record players last longer. Belt-drive turntables produce fewer audible vibrations but require belt repositioning every time you switch RPM speeds.

Automatic vs. manual tonearm

A turntable will have an automatic, semi-automatic or manual tonearm. The tonearm is the long piece that places the stylus onto the record. 

A fully automatic tonearm moves the arm onto the record automatically and returns it to its resting position once the record’s side is complete. 

Semi-automatic tonearms need to be manually placed on the record but similarly return to the resting position once the side is over. 

A manual tonearm needs to be placed on the record and returned manually by the user. While this feature is usually chosen for convenience, automatic tonearms prevent unintentional needle drag and other accidents that can potentially damage records. 

Other turntable components

  • The plinth is the base of the turntable that supports all of the other components.
  • The cartridge holds the stylus and is attached to the tonearm. It reads the vibrations found in the grooves of the record and turns them into sound.  
  • The stylus is the needle attached to the cartridge that rides the grooves of the record.
  • The platter is the round surface that spins the record.  

What to look for in a quality turntable

Digital recording

Some turntables are USB-enabled, meaning you can use external software to digitally record analog tracks found on a record and save them as audio files. This is a great feature for listeners that collect rare or out-of-print vinyl. 

Design

Many turntables resemble suitcases and come in vibrant colors, while others boast a minimalist or classic design. If the look is important to you, search for a record player that’s going to fit in with your existing décor. 

Additional features

There are many record players that come with features like Bluetooth capabilities, equalizers and smartphone audio streaming. These turntables are great options if you’re interested in an all-in-one audio system. 

How much you can expect to spend on a turntable

The price of a turntable can vary dramatically depending on your desired listening experience. Casual listeners may be happy with a $50 suitcase model, while passionate audiophiles can pay up to $2,500 for their audio system. That said, most consumers can spend around $250 for a great-sounding turntable that will last for years. 

Turntable FAQ

Why should I buy vinyl records?

A. While streaming is still the most popular way to listen to music, the digital audio used is typically very compressed and poor quality. Many are flocking to vinyl records for the warm, organic tones and immersive, full album experience.

Do turntables require maintenance?

A. Dust can collect on turntable components, so a dust cover is recommended for most environments. You can also buy microfiber cloths and soft brushes to occasionally clean the record player’s parts with rubbing alcohol.

Are turntables difficult to set up?

A. While all the components may overwhelm beginners, setting up your record player is usually very simple and can be done in minutes. Read the instructions that accompany your turntable and you should be enjoying your records in no time. 

What’s the best turntable to buy?

Top turntable

Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB Direct-Drive Turntable

Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB Direct-Drive Turntable

What you need to know: Boasting an iconic design, this turntable comes with features like USB recording and dynamic anti-skate control. 

What you’ll love: This popular turntable comes with a high-quality cartridge, quartz speed lock and variable pitch control. There’s also a felt platter mat included that reduces record vibrations. 

What you should consider: Some users felt that the turntable was overpriced. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top turntable for the money

Victrola Vintage 3-Speed Bluetooth Suitcase Record Player

Victrola Vintage 3-Speed Bluetooth Suitcase Record Player

What you need to know: This affordable, portable suitcase model has a stylish design and built-in speakers.

What you’ll love: This turntable is available in over a dozen color options and is Bluetooth-compatible, making it a great choice for listeners who are new to the world of vinyl.  

What you should consider: The built-in speakers can’t deliver the classic vinyl-quality sound.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Fluance RT81 Elite High Fidelity Turntable

Fluance RT81 Elite High Fidelity Turntable

What you need to know: Available in black, white and walnut, this elegant turntable uses a diamond-tipped stylus to deliver high-definition audio. 

What you’ll love: This belt-driven record player has a wooden plinth and uses advanced anti-skating technology to produce consistent sound. 

What you should consider: The tonearm can’t be adjusted easily, limiting the options for cartridge replacement in the future. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Patrick Farmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.

Trending Stories