Once considered a relic that spun vinyl records, turntables have made a modern resurgence that has more to do with quality than audiophiles going retro in their musical tastes. Contemporary turntables are a testament to the pristine sound quality provided by analogue music.
Turntable manufacturers design the spinning disks to pull out an abundance of analogue information from individual record grooves.
The result of analogue reproduction is a warm, richer, and more engaging sound experience than the sound experience provided the various types of digital media.
For this article, we are reviewing the best turntables currently produced within several price ranges. First, let’s examine the features that define the best turntables.
Best Turntable Features
At the most fundamental level, turntables spin vinyl LPs at consistent speeds. However, the quality of a turntable’s analogue reproduction depends on several features
1) Direct Drive
Manufacturers design and construct direct drive turntables with the platter secured directly on the motor shaft. Unlike belt drive turntables, direct drive turntables do not waver in sound quality. Belts can wear to create bumpy platform rotations.
Direct drive turntables produce less of the annoying wow and flutter sounds that cause the inferior audio projected by belt drive turntables. Disc Jockeys love direct drive turntables because they can create sound effects by spinning the turntable platforms backwards.
2) Automatic for the People
One element of modern record players that has not changed since the days of spinning Led Zeppelin and Michael Jackson records is the sensitivity of the tonearm. Manual turntables require you to lift and lower the tonearm, which can scratch the surfaces of your favorite records.
Automatic turntables allow users to set an album on the platter and press a button to activate the tonearm. The turntable automatically returns the tonearm to the holder, before shutting off power.
3) The Need for a Phono Pre-amp
Turntable needles generate minute voltages that require immense amplification for people to hear the music played from records. Back in the day, receivers had the necessary electrical circuitry to amplify the electrical charges. However, most contemporary receivers require you to buy turntables that include built-in phono preamps. You can also add an optional external preamp that provides sufficient amplification.
4) The Importance of the Cartridge Family
Manufacturers produce moving magnet and moving coil cartridges to create music signals. Moving-magnet cartridges have emerged as the most popular cartridges for modern turntables because of low cost, high value, and compatibility with virtually every type of amplifier and receiver. Conversely, studio recording professionals prefer moving coil cartridges, since moving coil cartridges project superior sound quality.
Best Turntable under $100
Turntables that run for under $100 get a bad rap for providing inferior sound quality and possessing short shelf lives. Nonetheless, consumers have several viable options in this price category, starting with the highly reputable Audio Technica AT-PL60.
Audio Technica AT-PL60
This bargain basement turntable appears on a large number of electronics review websites. Audio Technica electronics components in all price categories garner praise for producing excellent sound quality and providing owners with long lasting audio systems.
The AT-PL60 includes a built in preamplifier, which allows you to plug the affordable turntable into a preamp for instant sound ampliifcation.
However, the AT-PL60 can also plug into preamps that possess phono input, which creates much better audio. Fully automatic, the Audio Technica AT-PL60 turntable only requires users to flick a switch to power the turntable.
The automatic switch reduces the chances of records scratching or premature wear on the tonearm. Automatic also means you never have to line up the cartridge manually to set on a track beyond the first track of a record.
You cannot change the cartridge for this turntable because of the lack of tonearm counterweight. Owners of the AT-PL60 have the option to change the stylus, such as upgrading the standard stylus that comes with the AT-PL60 to the ATN3600DLX stylus to enjoy a marked sound improvement. Solid construction ensures that owners of the Audio Technica AT-PL60 enjoy long lasting durability.
Best Turntable under $200
Audio Technica manufactures a wide range of turntables that cover all of the price ranges mentioned in this article. The company’s dedication to quality craftsmanship means you never go wrong with an Audio Technica turntable. However, for turntables under $200, another turntable beats the competition in terms of style and performance.
Electrohome Signature Retro Hi-Fi Stereo
As a compact stereo that prominently features a turntable, the Electrohome Signature Hi-Fi Stereo provides you with the flexibility to place the unit virtually anywhere in your home.
The all-in-one turntable makes an excellent second sound system for audiophiles who splurge on the most advanced audio systems. Owners love the walnut-finished cabinet that harkens back to the days when turntables first made an appearance in consumer homes.
The cool retro look works great in most rooms, but especially in rooms that are replete with hardwood furniture. The Electrohome Signature Retro Hi-Fi Stereo does a great job of absorbing the vibrations caused by the rotating platform.
Four built-in speakers produce powerful sound out of a unit that at first glance, seems to lack the power to carry audio through large rooms. The retro turntable includes an AM/FM radio, USB output connector, and CD player.
You change between analogue and digital recording by operating the MP3 via the USB port. This high performance all-in-one turntable system reproduces your favorite songs, without you having to waste money on individual audio components.
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Best Turntable under $300
Audiophiles who can afford around $300 for a modern turntable have a number of excellent options to enhance their listening experiences. However, the Stanton T.92 turntable represents the buy turntable buy for under $300.
As a USB capable turntable, the Stanton T.92 provides plenty of power driven by a high tech preamplifier. This turntable receives accolades from audio experts and consumers alike for its rugged lightweight design that makes the modern record player portable enough to move around the house.
The chic design blends seamlessly with modern interior décor that dominates the living rooms and entertainment centers inside of consumer homes.
Stanton uses the direct drive system to produce accurate renditions of your favorite musical artists. You have three play options and numerous other controls that heighten your listening pleasure. Disc jockeys benefit from using the Stanton T.92 for large social functions.
The turntable loads and spins a record within one second of you setting the disc up for play. Stanton designed the built-in preamp to produce more than enough power to eliminate the need for an external unit. The only downfall of this turntable is that many reviewers have chosen to switch out the standard cartridge for an upgrade.
Best Turntable under $500
So, you’re ready to splurge on a turntable. Well, you don’t have to spend $1000 to receive precise reproductions of your favorite artists.
The most beautiful turntables don’t have to possess the most complex designs, as the Rega RP1 proves to consumers who enjoy high audio performance. The Rega RP1 turntable receives plaudits for reproducing pristine audio for audiophiles that have budgets below $500.
Unique features include a manual speed change system that reduces belt wear and a tonearm that users assemble by hand. Audiophiles tired of skipping records should enjoy the low vibration motor that ensures all of your songs play unabated from beginning to end.
Rega constructs the RP1 with a precision main bearing in the tonearm to eliminate the type of drooping that scratches records. A simple to assemble sub-platter ensures your records remain firmly entrenched on the main platter that flawlessly spins for years.
Audio experts applaud the Regis RP1 platter for providing superior speed stability. Rega uses its proprietary carbon fibers to produce a moving cartridge that emits maximum electrical charges for audio reproduction. The lightweight turntable draws some negative scrutiny for its incompatibility with some name brand receivers.
Best Turntable under $1000
Although the priciest turntables run over $1000, savvy consumers can find a high-end turntable of similar quality under the four-digit price tag. Leading the under $1000 turntable ensemble, the Music Hall MMF 5.1 makes it seem like you are attending a live concert.
Music Hall MMF 5.1
The Music Hall MMF 5.1 turntable comes with a cartridge that retains a value of around $300. Audio expert reviews effusively praise Goldring 1012GX cartridge for accurately converting powerful electric charges into crystal clear audio. The cartridge is known for producing excellent record replications of all music genres, from heavy metal classics to light symphonic pieces.
Music Hall constructs the platter with heat-treated glass that provides the best medium for ensuring authentic audio. Although many audiophiles believe acrylic represents the best platter material, they should change their minds once they hear records spinning on the Music Hall MM 5.1 glass turntable platter.
The stable player never causes records to skip and the thick glass provides years of superior performance. Music Hall incorporates a double plinth design that does a great job of isolating a wide variety of music pitches. Many experts believe the double plinth creates better pitch isolation than the conical feet used by most other turntable manufacturers.