3 Best Vintage Record Players for Retro Lovers

Published Categorized as Vinyl Buyer Guides

If you, like a large number of older record enthusiasts, are tired of your records from years of yore gathering dust up in the attic or out in the garage, then look no further! We will be elucidating here today some of the greatest the market has to offer, and hopefully helping you find the best vintage record player for you.

The new vinyl boom has meant that the market has become beyond saturated when it comes to choice with regards to these things. It can, in fact, be very difficult to navigate these worlds, especially if you are an older vinyl enthusiast who is not so accustomed as younger collectors to the internet and such like.

Despite the veritable saturation of the market, there are a few key players who deserve your attention, many of which are by the two big brands in the business, Crosley and Victrola. A large number of these products are in fact very similar and offer very similar things; many of the main differences lie in the aesthetic character of these products.

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Key Things To Consider

Before jumping right in and finding out the best vintage record player for you (or for anyone else for that matter), it seems only right to stop, pause, and evaluate a few key things. These are criteria that we ought to consider when purchasing anything of this ilk, this category of music related product or consumable.

Granted, everyone’s specific circumstances are different and ought to be treated as such, though there are a few things that anyone looking for a set up that works well will want to heed, pertaining to the individual aspects of what make these products tick, as well as how well they conform to what you are looking for in purchasing them for yourself.

Technical Capabilities of Vintage Record Players

No doubt the main reason you are purchasing a vintage record player in this fashion to listen to your records on a sanctimonious set up that will be able to play them well and with ease. Any good record player will help you do this without any snags or complaints.

The kind of vintage record players that this article will be delving into are those that look very similar to vintage record players, but are in fact reinventions, taking the best aspects of real vintage record players and updating them for our modern moment.

Thus, these vintage record players will almost certainly be able to spin those old discs of yours, and then some! Some models can play CDs, spin cassettes, and even transmit radio signals (which is all the more ironic considering that it was radio that almost eradicated the record player back in the early 20th century).

Vintage Record Players

If this multimedia aspect is not what you are after, as seems like a little too much stress, more than you have bargained for perhaps, then it is likely that a modern version of a vintage record player is not quite for you. Maybe opt for a real best vintage record player instead?

Since there are two or three main speeds at which records are commonly spun these days, it would certainly be best for you to check whether the unit you are looking for has the speeds you are looking for. No doubt just about any best vintage record player you are looking at will be able to play the two main speeds, 33 1/3 rpm and 45 rpm. Though not nearly as popular as it once was, the speed or 78 RPM is still around, so if you have any discs that need spinning at this speed, make sure the product you are purchasing can offer such capabilities.

Audio Capabilities

Many examples of the best vintage record player will come with speakers already built into their physical mechanisms, and these will be all well and good. Some are even rather exemplary, so if you are not planning on outsourcing the audio to some external speakers setup, then you are almost certainly going to want to look for such a vintage record player, one that comes with speakers attached that can do the job, no questions asked.

If, however, you are indeed looking to send the audio from the vinyl record and the record player to an external set up and / or some external speakers, then you will need to check whether this is possible first. Any best vintage record player worth its salt, will almost certainly be able to do so, though you would be surprised.

If an external set up is part of your course of action, the main route through which to do so would be to send the record player’s signals through an RCA output (name derived from the Radio Corporation of America – another touch of irony). These extra cables are relatively cheap and as easy to setup as just about anything else with cables in the multimedia home entertainment market (perhaps I am showing my age by instantly thinking of setting up a DVD or VHS player).

Bluetooth is another option for outsourcing the audio of the record player, though this comes with an inherent dip in audio quality, seeing as the audio is being sent across the airwaves and not through a cable. Some record players even offer an aux port, meaning that you can plug in anything else that you have and wish to feed through the inbuilt or external speakers.

Hardware Capabilities

For all the benefits that a newer best vintage record player can offer, there are a few things that will be missing in the whole package, especially for those more audiophile listeners used to the actual vintage record players from years of yore.

You are, for example, not likely to find many (if any) of the various intricate extra parts that make older vintage record players such a valuable and sought after commodity in today’s day and age. This includes tonearm weights and any other such extra that will be of use to those aiming to get the optimum possible sound from the record player.

Some examples of the best vintage record player do allow you to change the stylus / needle cartridge, however, which can instantly reinvent the sound that you are receiving from the setup, whether this be through the inbuilt or external speakers. Many audiophiles would, in fact, recommend that you make changing the stylus cartridge a top priority, if you are indeed to choose a new vintage record player as your steed of choice with which to roam upon the wide open ranges of tone and tune.

Owing to the price point and the simplicity of these machinations, the inner mechanisms are likely to be primarily belt driven, as in years of yore. These kind of inner drives are best suited for the dampening of vibrations, the rubber of the belt doing an exemplary job of absorbing external shocks in an effort to reduce the amount transmitted to the record and the stylus.

Its opposite, the direct drive, certainly has its own advantages, however, so you would do best to weigh these up before making a hasty decision. The direct drive, for example, has a faster startup speed and greater torque, since the motor is directly under the turntable platter.

Victrola Metropolitan Bluetooth Record Player

Victrola have been in the best vintage record player game for almost as long as record players have existed at all. They were major players in the advent of the gramophone at the very turn of the 20th century, so they are likely to be a brand on which you can hang your trust.

The original Victor Talking Machine Company was the largest and most prestigious firm of its kind in the world at the time, on the very cutting edge of gramophonic and phonographic technology, though probably best known for its use of the iconic ‘His Master’s Voice’ trademark and the production, marketing and design of the popular ‘Victrola’ line of phonographs.

Victrola Wood Metropolitan Mid Century Modern Bluetooth Record Player with 3-Speed Turntable and Radio

After its inception in 1901, Victor rapidly became the dominant recording company in America for over six decades, retaining its status after merging with the Radio Corporation of America in 1929 to become RCA Victor, the original side of the company continuing with the manufacture of phonographs, records, radios and other products.

This particular product reflects the rich heritage of the company within the realm of the record player, combining aesthetically vintage appearances with more updated inner mechanisms to provide a new user base with the best of both worlds.

PROs

  • Exciting blend of contemporary and vintage aesthetics
  • Loud enough speakers to fill a moderately sized room
  • Audio processor cuts down on record static
  • Closing lid that can protect LPs and the record player itself from dust and debris
  • Plays several different types of media
  • Three speed turntable

CONs

  • Not able to fill a larger room / would need external speakers to do so
  • Passable, though not exceptional, audio quality on inbuilt speakers
  • Likely need to upgrade the inbuilt stylus for better sound quality
  • Touch and Go mechanics that quickly devolve

Electrohome Kingston 7 in 1 Record Player

This is another best vintage record player by a reputable brand with a long and storied history, established and intertwined, much like Victrola, within the very fabric of recorded music history.

The original era of Electrohome saw the brand as Canada’s largest manufacturer of television sets, between the years 1949 and 1984. Initially founded as by Arthur Bell Pollock in 1907, as Pollock Manufacturing Co. Ltd., the brand quickly became synonymous with manufacturing and releasing the first ever phonographs in Canada in the history of records.

They eventually, in the 1920s and 1930s, branched out into other consumer goods, such as records, radios, furniture, and electric fans, though they never quite lost sight of their loyalty to the recording industry, continuing to create esteemed record players alongside other musical products throughout the 20th century.

The brand has since been acquired in its many guises by other corporations, though the Kingston model best vintage record player seeks still to combine what made their original products so good and aesthetically pleasing with the more modern musical and technological advances that have marked our times.

Many, including myself, in fact vouch for the audio quality being markedly better than other competitors at this price range. Many will even go as far as to call this the best all in one record player on the market. Go figure!

PROs

  • Solid and reliable build quality
  • Wood finish, with a smooth and rounded design
  • Perfect for a small to medium sized room
  • Noticeably better sound quality than other reputable brands at this price range – a clear and warm sound
  • Multimedia offerings: bluetooth, USB, AUX, CDs, AM & FM radio

CONs

  • Struggles to fill out the sound of a medium to large sized room without a decline in sound quality
  • Somewhat unreliable electronics long term, specifically the digital display and the CD player attachment
  • Lightweight and flimsy turntable arm

LuguLake Belt Drive Record Player

By contrast, here we have a best vintage record player from a decidedly less esteemed company, though I would hope that this does not ultimately affect our assessment of their wares.

The LuguLake was recently founded in 2010, with production bases and customer service centers in major Chinese cities such as Hong Kong, Beijing, Shenzhen and Changsha. The company deals with electronic products, household products and outdoor products which have a certain brand influence in the United States and China. In their own words: ‘The Lugulake Brand is just like the legend of the beautiful lake, where they reached, there will be extraordinary influence.’

LuguLake Record Player Retro Turntable All in One Vintage Phonograph Nostalgic Gramophone for LP with Copper Horn, Built-in Speaker 3.5mm Aux-in/USB

Their less than storied history, especially in comparison to the previous two brands Victrola and Electrohome, make comparing LuguLake’s products with their older works rather difficult. The company, however, must be commended overall for attempting to forge their own way in the vintage record player market. One would be hard pressed to find another company or product that takes making the best vintage record player so literally, going back for design inspiration to the some of the very first record player designs, the phonograph / gramophone etc.

And this is not just a gimmick. This, in fact, harbours specific sonic qualities that you are not likely to experience in other products in this category, the conical speaker (when combined with the other inbuilt speakers) projecting forth the music with a singular and unique tonal quality.

PROs

  • Eye catching aesthetic presence
  • USB and FM radio capabilities
  • Digital control panel, with a remote for extra ease and comfort of use
  • Unique surround sound owing to inbuilt side speakers and conical horn speaker combined

CONs

  • Limited to just two speeds: 33 1/3 rpm & 45 rpm
  • Less multimedia capabilities than other similarly priced all in one record players
  • Belt drive might not be preferable
  • Less than desirable build quality for the price

Final Tones

So, there you have it! Hopefully this short guide on some of the market’s offerings of the best vintage record player have been of some use to you in your search for audiophilic bliss.

FAQs Best Vintage Record Players

What is the best record player of all time?

I would think that there isn’t one, certainly not one holistic all encompassing, omnipotent, omniscient record player that trumps all others. The answer to this question will undoubtedly vary depending on whom exactly it is posed to. A turntablist, for example, would no doubt have a completely different answer than your average sometime vinyl collector, for they are approaching vinyl collecting from such different ends of the spectrum; why would they have the same answer if they are indeed using their record players for different purposes? So, too, the answer would be different were to ask a teenager, content as some are to tear the inner workings of a record’s grooves to shreds with one the cheaper iterations of a Crosley catastrophe.

Are vintage record players any good?

Indeed they are; I mean, they certainly served countless music enthusiasts for decades before the advent of more modern technologies, such as the Compact Disc or the MP3. The main choice for anyone looking to purchase a vintage record player is: whether to purchase a genuine vintage record player, or whether to source a record player that is aesthetically vintage but is in fact more modern and streamlined in the features offered within. For many, the latter option seems more desirable, able as many of them are to play both records and CDs, and even in some instances to play MP3s via aux, or even cassettes!

Is Wockoder or Victrola better?

Neither is inherently better than the other, both offer something different. Certainly, both the Wockoder and Victrola brands seem, at present, to be attempting to corner the same sort of consumer into the same sort of area of the vinyl record collecting market, namely those consumers seeking a more aesthetic driven experience than an audiophilic one. And this is all well and good for those so inclined, and both the Wockoder and Victrola brands do this to a decent standard. The differences are negligible and should be studied closely if you are, indeed, intending to purchase either one and are comparing the two for their inherent differences.

Do vintage turntables sound better?

There is no turntable that sounds inherently better; rather, they sound different, and which is better will depend on the taste of the consumer in question. I mean, vintage turntables certainly served countless music enthusiasts for decades before the advent of more modern technologies, such as the Compact Disc or the MP3. The main choice for anyone looking to purchase a vintage record player is: whether to purchase a genuine vintage record player, or whether to source a record player that is aesthetically vintage but is in fact more modern and streamlined in the features offered within. For many, the latter option seems more desirable, able as many of them are to play both records and CDs, and even in some instances to play MP3s via aux, or even cassettes!

By Robert Halvari

My name is Robert Halvari - audio engineer and a total audiophile. I love vinyl because it has that natural character which brings music to life. I've been using and testing vinyl record players for around 15 years and I'm sharing my love and knowledge of vinyl by publishing all I know at Notes On Vinyl

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