In this article, I am going to go over some of the best audiophile turntables out there. I have is broken up the blog into sections starting from more expensive options for the best turntables down to the more budget options. Then at the bottom an in-depth guide to record players that may help refine your options. I hope you get the info you’re looking for, and thanks for stopping by!
Table of Contents
- High-End Turntables
- Best Turntables For Serious Audiophiles
- The Best Budget Turntables
- Best Audiophile Turntables under $300
- Still Not Sure What You Need In a Turntable?
- Record Player Types and Nuances
- A Few More Turntable Suggestions
It goes without saying that some of the most expensive record player models are found in the high-end price point category, but what is it that makes them so good? As you’ll probably notice, there are both plain, old-school turntables, as well as modern digital models in this range, but there are more crucial details that differentiate them from mid-priced and budget models.
For starters, high-end turntables sound incomparably better.Each model is outfitted with a different, unique set of hardware responsible for their unparalleled performance. On top of that, you’ll find these turntables more versatile when compared to your average record players.
They’re outfitted with a plethora of neat features, some of which are completely unique, others which are pretty common but perfect. The only thing you need to look out for is the valueof each high-end turntable – how much are you willing to pay, and what can that record player offer in return? Without further ado, let’s jump to the reviews.
Best Turntables For Serious Audiophiles
People who are searching for the best turntable under $2500 are called audiophiles for a reason. Namely, only people who won’t settle for less-than-perfect sound quality are willing to pay top dollar for record players as expensive as that. I’ve compiled a list of the best audiophile turntable models for you, and I hope you’ll like what you see.
1. Technics SL1210MLK2
Let’s open up with Technics’ SL1210MLK2. Analog high-end record players are quite common, but those that promise quality are a rare find and a breath of fresh air. This is a direct-drive turntable that looks absolutely amazing – it has that feel of nostalgia looming about it.
First things first, you’re probably most interested in hearing about how this turntable sounds. Since it costs a fortune, you should expect quite a lot from it, but shouldn’t bat an eye in that regard – the SL1210MLK2 boasts a superbly clear, rich sound that might appear a bit bright at times due to the peculiar method of operation.
Secondly, it’s as durable as can be, and it’s sure to outlast at least a couple of owners. In fact, the chances are that your grandkids will be able to enjoy it as well. Lastly, Technics’ SL1210MLK2 features an unmatched setup.
Every single control feels nice and expensive, not to mention that you won’t experience any lagging or feedback whatsoever. The vehement torque is just another feature that makes it unique, allowing incredibly fast start-ups. If you’re looking for the best audiophile turntable, don’t miss out on SL1210MLK2.
- Looks old-school and retro
- Amazing durability
- High-quality direct drive operation
- Superb setup
- The slider could be better
- Weighs a ton
2. PRO-JECT RM-5.1 SE
Pro-Ject is a brand that’s pretty famous within audiophile circles, and their record players are frequently present on “best of” showcases throughout various categories (DJ, vinyl, all-in-one, etc). We’re looking at RM 5.1 SE turntable, one of the finest audiophile record players you could get for the buck.
First of all, it’s important to note that this turntable appears plain at first, but it comes outfitted with bleeding-edge technology – in fact, the Sumiko cartridge costs nearly half as much as the rest of the player when bought separately.
This record player features a beautiful Piano lacquer finish on the plinth and can spin your records at three selectable speeds – at 33, 45, and 78 rotations per minute. Even though it looks straightforward, it boasts a distinctive, exquisite sound characterized with richness and brightness. What’s more, it’s not even that expensive, and it holds a magnificent value for the cash.
- Plain and beautiful construction
- Three selectable speeds (33, 45, and 78 rotations per minute)
- The unique Sumiko Blue Point cartridge
- Superb value for the money
- Perhaps not the most versatile turntable out there
3. Akai Professional BT500
If you want an old-school-looking turntable with a set of high-quality modern features, Akai’s Professional BT500 is absolutely perfect for you. Namely, this is one of those record players you’ll end up adoring as soon as you hear what it has to offer and you’ll know it’s love at first “sight”.
This record player comes with a marvelous walnut finish and is adorned with brushed aluminium settings, which help it excel in aesthetics like no other. Furthermore, the low-mass tonearm features an adjustable counterweight which provides pinpoint tracking accuracy.
There’s also a leveling bubble outfitted with a set of adjustable feet – the stability of your record player is imperative, and the crafty guys at Amiko devised a way to ensure it’s on the level at all times.
Lastly, the anti-resonance platter features die-cast aluminium materials as well as a non-slip mat made of rubber. The BT-500 is very durable, but it’s the sound it emits that lures people into falling in love with it.
Overall, it’s not too expensive, it’s pretty rugged, beautiful, and I can guarantee you’ll like how it sounds. I recommend trying it out even if you’re not a full-fledged audiophile, as you’re about to become one with it.
- Classy walnut finish, aluminium brushed control knobs
- Low-mass aluminium tone arm for pinpoint tracking accuracy
- Rugged, durable anti-resonance platter
- Adjustable feet and dust cover included
- Premium-quality full-spectrum sound
- The volume knobs are made of thin, flimsy plastic
4. Rega RP6 with RB303 Tonearm
First of all, Rega’s RP6 is a beautiful, magnificent-looking turntable that excels in virtually every single aspect of performance.
It sports an elegant high-gloss black finish, it was designed with reliability in mind, and its performance can easily outshine that of the majority of boutique-level record players. It’s outfitted with a hand-assembled RB303 tonearm, a low-vibration 24v motor, and 3D CAD tech which greatly complements the tonearm’s accuracy.
While it might be one of the most expensive turntables available on the market, its noiseless method of operation, low-vibration motor, superior stability, and impeccable accuracy will comply with your audiophile standards and taste, that’s guaranteed, to say the very least.
- Looks absolutely amazing
- Compact and stable
- Premium-quality tonearm
- Low-noise 24v motor
- No major flaws whatsoever, aside from the fact that it costs an arm and a leg
5. Clearaudio Concept
Here we’re looking at a major audiophile turntable. Clearaudio’s ‘Concept’ is basically a belt-driven turntable outfitted with a powerful and decoupled DC motor which is integrated into the resonant optimized plinth. It looks superb, packs a small footprint, and it’s pretty safe to say that it’s as compact as it is portable.
What’s so special about this turntable is the fact that its platter is comprised of 30 millimeters of polyoxymethylene materials combined with thermoplastic components – in plain words, expect high-durability, and low-friction performance.
The Concept can reproduce records at 3 speeds, including 33 rotations-per-minute, 45, and 78, all of which are selectable via the ESC (electronic-speed-control) knob. In truth, one shouldn’t expect less from German engineering.
- Timeless design
- Excels in aesthetics
- Highly durable POM platter
- Decoupled DC motor
- Premium sound at the expense of versatility
Best Audiophile High-End Turntables
Even though record players were considered to be relics of the past, audiophiles and turntable enthusiasts have proven that the situation is quite the contrary. More and more people are returning to the roots when music was plain, simple, and pure, so it’s safe to say that record players are as famous as they used to be.
Brands such as U-Turn, Teac, Roland, and Pro-Ject have graced the market with numerous quality turntables, and I’m here today to showcase my selection of the best-sounding budget turntables. Without any further ado, let’s get straight to it.
The Best Budget Turntables
1. Fluance RT81
Let’s open up with Fluance RT81 – this is a plain-looking record player which comes outfitted with bleeding-edge technology and top-shelf features, including a supremely reliable belt drive, high-performance cartridge, exceptional signal clarity, and a breathtaking walnut cabinet.
First of all, the sound of RT81 is unparalleled – it boasts high-fidelity performance due to its AT95E (borrowed from Audio Technica) cartridge and the exquisite diamond-tip stylus, so the tracking is executed with pinpoint accuracy. What’s more, you’ll need some time to raise the bar in terms of playback quality, as this model features a well-balanced aluminium tonearm that rests deep in the record’s groove, leaving no details out.
As for its exterior, the RT81 features a solid, sturdy wooden cabinet with a walnut finish, so it excels in both performance and aesthetics. Last, but not least, this is the cheapest turntable among the five I’m covering in this review, so if you’re looking for quality but feel insecure about paying a fortune, this one’s your safest bet.
- Superb-quality features
- High-performance cartridge
- Impeccable sound clarity and tracking precision
- Outstanding value for the buck
- Not too expensive
- Mediocre versatility
- Certain parts (within the interior) are quite flimsy
2. Roland TT-99
Roland is “responsible” for numerous highly sought-after record players, and I’m presenting you their TT-99 Special turntable. It looks modern and expensive, although it doesn’t cost a fortune – in fact, it might be the best turntable under $300 ever made.
It comes supplied with a brushless motor that boasts a nearly soundless method of operation (the attribute “nearly” is fitting due to the direct drive performance) which offers plenty of reliability on top of the granted convenience. You’ll be able to play your 33 1/3, 45 and 78 rotations per minute records on it – that’s plenty of versatility to go about, considering that I was after best-sounding turntables in the first place.
The S-shaped tonearm is onboard – it’s extremely accurate when digging deep into the grooves of your records and it’s fairly balanced for a budget record player. Lastly, Rolan’ds TT-99 special might cost just a bit more than my previous pick (Fluance RT81), but its value is exceptionally high – the sound quality is simply amazing, tracking is sharp, and the overall quality of features can’t be higher.
- Excels in aesthetics
- Nearly soundless method of operation
- Reliable brushless motor
- Three selectable speeds (33 1/3, 45 and 78 rotations per minute)
- Incredibly precise tracking
- Poor torque
3. Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK
Audio-Technica is one of the biggest names in the turntable industry, and there are only a few reviews that don’t feature at least one model from their catalogue – I didn’t want to be an exception, so I’ve tested out their AT-LP3BK belt-driven record player.
This record player looks rather plain, but you’ll be able to choose between “black” and “white” color variations if the original is not to your liking. You can also playback records at two selectable speeds – 33 1/3 and 45 rotations per minute.
You’ll find a built-in switchable pre-amp (phono and line) onboard which features a dual RCA output – this feature is the one responsible for AT-LP3BK’s exceptional sound quality. Audio-Technica is pretty famous for making some of the best cartridges for record players, and this particular model features the moving-magnet cartridge and a long-life diamond-tipped stylus. All things considered, this is phenomenal, if not the best.
- Available in black and white color variations
- Built-in pre-amplifier
- Amazing sound quality
- Phenomenal cartridge and stylus
- Flimsy switches made of plastic
4. Crosley C200A-BK
Crosley is often considered as the godfather of record players – these guys have been around ever since the trend began, and they certainly know a thing or two about how turntables should be made. I’m here with the review of C200A-BK turntable, and hope you’ll like it as much as I did.
The high-torque motor can playback records at two speeds – 33 1/3 and 45 rotations per minute. What’s more, the platter is incredibly stable as it features a felt slip mattress below it, not to mention its robust construction which heavily complements it.
It features a pre-installed Audio Technica cartridge and a balanced tonearm with hydraulic-lift control, an anti-skate mechanism, and height adjustment.
- Extraordinary set of features
- Superb sound quality
- Stable and durable
- Beautiful outlook
- Quite heavy and unwieldy
5. Teac TN-350-WA
I’m closing down the curtain with Teac’s TN-350-WA belt drive turntable. Teac is a big name in turntable industry, and I can safely say that most audiophiles have owned at least one model from their assortment.
This turntable features an MDF cabinet that minimizes external resonance, a built-in phono preamp, and a set of gold-plated terminals that prevent the eventual oxidation of headshell connectors. As for the sound, this turntable boasts high-torque motor and exceptional hardware, making it possibly the best turntable under $300 in this review.
Best Audiophile Turntables under $300
Record players are scattered throughout various price point categories, and finding the best turntable under $300 might sound easy, but it might not be so – there are plenty of brands (both underdog and famous), so weeding out valuable models from mediocre ones proves to be quite a job. That’s the reason why I’ve made this review for your convenience – simply kick back and take your pick.
Still Not Sure What You Need In a Turntable?
Buying a record player is just one of the luxuries we all want to partake in at some point in our lives, and the reason why I’ve made this little record player buying guide is that I too was a beginner back at the time when the thought of buying one first occurred to me.
In the sections below we’ll discuss all the record player types I’ve managed to think of, and I hope that this form of categorization will help you better understand what each record player type can grant you. Without further ado, let’s get straight to it.
Record Player Types and Nuances
Basically, a direct-drive record player features a platter that is “directly” connected to the motor. This way, the motor benefits from an increased level of “scratching” accuracy and starts up a bit faster when compared to other types.
Most direct drive turntables are capable of backward sound reproduction, however, the sound might appear a bit inferior due to vibrations that the motor transfers to its tonearm. That’s not a terribly big deal, but if you’re not just a beginner but an audiophile as well, consider other types.
Belt-driven record players feature a separate housing for the motor. The belt envelopes both the motor and the platter which is the only rule – certain models feature an outside belt while others, more aesthetic ones feature a belt inside the housing.
One of the main benefits of belt-drive record players is exactly that – since the motor is safely tucked away from the platter, the vibrations (and other interferences) that other record player types cause are neutralized, or at least kept to a bare minimum.
You can check out our article on direct drive vs belt drive turntables.
Idle-drive record players are pretty popular nowadays, and you’re bound to come across this turntable type at some point in your search. The so-called idler drive uses a special form of friction wheel that, in combination with a rubber wheel performs a pushing motion against the motor’s shaft.
One of the main benefits of belt-driven record players is that they offer a similar set of benefits when compared to direct-driven record players, but there are a lot of gears and pieces, so the chances of any of them getting damaged (or destroyed) are significantly higher than that of any other turntable.
The record player’s versatility is represented by the number of features it has onboard. Now, since you’re a beginner, it’s important to set one thing straight. It’s impossible to determine a uniform rule about these record players, so the only thing you can rely on is as follows – the first number in the record player’s description tells us how many features it comes with.
Further on that note, versatile (and not-so-versatile) record players are present in different categories as well. For example, Victrola Vintage 3-Speed is a 3-in-1 record player. The number three tells us that they have three features that are not parallel when compared to each other.
The Electrohome’s model comes with the following features – a stereo system, AM/FM radio, and CD+AUX input while Magnavox model features Bluetooth connection, selectable speeds, and built-in decorative lights. Note that the number of features won’t be able to tell you which features are there. The same applies for 4-in-1, 5-in-1, and 6-in-1 turntables.
The only exception from the aforementioned rule is represented by all-in-one record players. These turntables are, by far, the most versatile type since they almost always come with the highest number of features. Of course, the models differ between themselves through the quality of features.
In the audiophile world, most people take interest in this categorization – analogue record players and Bluetooth record players. This tends to puzzle the beginners even more simply because it’s wrong.
Basically, Bluetooth (Wireless) record players are often outfitted with analogue settings (Vintage 3-Speed Bluetooth Turntable Suitcase), but the same goes in the opposite situation. Analogue record players are sometimes called “vinyl” and can be found in virtually every record player buying guide.
Even so, for the sake of your proper introduction to the turntable world, let’s go with this categorization and discuss the benefits and flaws of each type.
Analogue Record Players
One of the very basic definitions of the word “analogue” refer and relate to a contraption which uses signals and/or information represented by a variable physical quantity.
Let’s break the science down a bit, and represent it in a plain way – analogue record players rely on physical parts, including gears, inputs, cables, etc. That’s why they’re often called “Wired” turntables, as opposed to “wireless” record players.
Some of the most notable benefits of analogue record players are:
- Look better than their electronic brothers
- Often come at a cheap price
- Peculiar, exquisite sound is almost guaranteed
- Easy to setup and use
Then again, analogue record players aren’t perfect, regardless of the model in question. Some of the main disadvantages of analogue record players are:
- Not so reliable in terms of durability – one part goes out, the entire system fails or underperforms
- Too old-school for new-age millennials, both in aesthetics and sound performance spheres
Wireless record players are a thing of the future. Most models don’t even rely on the old turntable concept, so you’ll see all kinds and shapes of them in your search. The reason why they’re called wireless is because they feature a form of non-wired connection which is usually the Bluetooth software.
Even though you’ll never be able to recreate the old “blues” with a true wireless record player (the one which belongs to both categories), you’ll certainly be able to use your record player in a more convenient way. Let’s see the most notable benefits of wireless record players:
- Looks modern and urban
- Nearly 100% accurate sound
- More convenient than analogue record players
- Usually feature a compact design
Every turntable category features a set of flaws, and regardless how small, you should know about them. Some of the highlights here are:
- Usually expensive
- Can’t provide the old-school sound like analogue record players
Record Player Types – Design
This is not a standalone category of record players in this record player buying guide, rather I wanted to point out one exception that doesn’t fit in any of the aforementioned categories. There are flat record players (most Audio-Technica’ models belong here), and there are average-sized ones that are just a bit wider in comparison.
The entirety of all-in-one record players can be considered as bulky, but other than that, there are suitcase record players which are somewhat new on the market.
These suitcase-style record players can have the characteristics of all the other record player types (can be belt-driven or with an idle drive, Bluetooth or analogue, flat or bulky), but the only thing that sets them apart from the rest is that they’re more compact. They usually feature a carry handle which makes them ideal for travel.
A Few More Turntable Suggestions
Best Value for the Money Record Player: Electrohome Wellington Record Player
Essentially, Electrohome’s Wellington is a beautiful, highly versatile record player. Though it doesn’t come cheap, it rocks a huge value for the money as it brings a plethora of benefits to the table.
This is a 4-in-1 retro style turntable which features a robust construction with a mahogany finish, it can play vinyl records, music from CDs, but you’ll also be able to listen to your favourite tracks via AM/FM radio. MP3 compatibility, as well as USB input are also present, but the best thing about Wellington is the integrated stereo speaker system which delivers audiophile quality sound.
Audio Technica AT-LP60BK
Audio-Technica is one of the most famous world-class leaders in the turntable industry, and I’ve had nothing but pleasant experiences with their record players. The AT-LP60 is a fine representative of their craftsmanship, and if you’re buying a record player that excels in aesthetics, this is the one you should get.
It looks exceptionally good and it comes in three color styles – black, silver, and white. Even though it’s analogue in nature, AT has issued an improved variant that comes with the Bluetooth technology as well.
Best Belt Drive Record Player: Teac TN-300
Now, Teac is a big name in the record player industry, and Teac TN-300 might be one of the finest turntables they’ve made so far.
This is, basically, a manual belt driven record player which supports 33 and 34 rpm records. It packs USB output, AT’s MM phonograph cartridge, and an integrated phono EQ amplifier which substantially enhances the already great sound quality.
What’s more, though it boasts a sturdy construction, it also packs a set of gold-plated terminals that boost its resistance to oxidation.
There goes that – all of the standard record player types are neatly categorized in the sections above, and it’s safe to say that, even though you’re a beginner, you’ll understand how turntables work in the blink of an eye! I hope that you’ve found my record player buying guide as helpful, and I wish you all the luck in your search.