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Vinyl is more popular than ever, and it continues to be the preferred listening medium for audiophile, and delivery method for artists. Large artwork, easy to read liner notes, and analog sound are just some of the advantages vinyl has over digital files. Yes, your albums can wear, warp, and scratch, but they’ll last a lifetime if you take care of them correctly.
A number of current pop artists have released vinyl versions of their latest records, from Harry Styles to Billie Eilish. Classic albums like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, and Thelonious Monk’s Brilliant Corners have been reissued, so you can hear them the way the musicians intended. This trend proves vinyl isn’t going away anytime soon.
Whether you’re new to records, or have built up a solid collection over time, you’ll want to invest in a reliable turntable that can fill the room with clear, full, sound. We’ve selected the best ones we could find for budding audiophiles who want to hear their favorite songs in high fidelity.
What Are the Best Turntables?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right budget turntable for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Upgradability: One major knock against many beginner turntables is that you can’t upgrade their needle. This poses a couple of problems: If your needle gets bent or damaged, you’re out of luck, and you can’t upgrade it later to improve the audio quality of your turntable. The turntables we recommend are modular, so you have the option to swap out or replace their needle whenever you’d like.
Speed Modes: All of our turntable recommendations can spin at 33/3RPM (rotations per minute) and 45RPM, so you can play full sized albums and singles.
Preamp: A preamp amplifies the audio produced by a record player to an acceptable volume for music listening. Some turntables have one built inside, others require you to hook them up to an external preamp before connecting them to a stereo receiver or active (powered) speakers.
Having a built-in preamp is convenient and takes up less space, but an external one is purpose built to do one job, and can be replaced or upgraded over time. Our guide feature a mix of turntables with and without a built-in preamps.
USB: If you want to digitize your vinyl, you’ll want a turntable with a USB port. This allows you to easily connect the record player to your computer, where you can rip (read: convert) your physical albums into digital files, making them easy to access on your computer or phone.
1. Audio-Technica AT-LP60XUSB-BK
This may be our entry-level pick, but it’ll provide an excellent experience right out of the box.
Audio-Technica’s LP60XUSB-BK comes loaded with a respectable ATN3600 cartridge, which features a replaceable stylus (needle). You can toggle between 33/3 and 45 RPM by pushing a button on the front of the turntable. The company provides a 7″ adapter, which fits in the larger hole found on older singles, and allows you to easily place them onto the record player’s spindle.
You can start and stop the turntable, or lift and lower the tonearm by pushing buttons on front of the front of the turntable. These are convenience features that take the stress out of accidentally dropping the needle in the wrong place or too forcefully. A switch on the top of the turntable allows you to automatically drop the needle at the exact starting point of an album or single.
The LP60XUSB-BK has a built-in preamp, so you can plug it directly into a pair of powered speakers or stereo receiver with a pair of RCA (red and white) cables. It also features a USB port, so you can easily connect it to your computer. If you don’t mind the look of its plastic frame, this is a great turntable for newcomers, or collectors getting back into vinyl.
2. Sony PS-LX310BT Belt Drive Turntable
Sony’s PS-LX310BT is a step up from our entry-level pick, but keeps almost all of the same convenience features.
It has the same cartridge and stylus as the Audio-Technica turntable we recommended earlier (the ATN3600), which you can easily replace if it gets worn or damaged.
The record player’s speed settings (labeled 33 and 45) can be changed by moving a switch on the top of the turntable. Another switch, located above it lets you change between 12″ and 7″ size settings, so the record player knows where to drop the needle if you hit the start button on the front of the record player. There are also buttons to stop playback, or lift and lower the needle, so you can’t accidentally drop it on the wrong spot.
Sony’s turntable has a preamp built into it, but you can turn it off and opt to use the external amp of your choice by flipping a small switch on the back. This flexibility is great because it allows you to build your system up over time instead of having to get a lot of gear at once. You can also control the gain (volume) of the built in preamp by switching between low, medium, and high settings to compensate for a weak or extra sensitive stereo receiver.
You can connect the PS-LX310BT to your computer via USB to convert your record into digital files for archival purposes, or pair it with a set of wireless speakers by pressing the Bluetooth button on top of the turntable. None of the other record players we’re recommending give you this many connectivity options, which makes this a great pick if you want a turntable with a lot of versatility.
3. U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus Turntable
U-Turn’s Orbit Plus is a true audiophile turntable with a striking design and the distinction of being made in the USA. I’ve tried two of the company’s record players in the past, and they’re my go-to recommendation for friends and family who want to get into vinyl.
The turntable is fitted with an Ortofon OMSE5 cartridge and needle, and can be upgraded to any stylus in Ortofon’s Super OM Series. I’ve used Ortofon’s needles in the past, and have always been pleased with how much detail they’ve been able to get out of my vinyl.
U-Turn took a minimalist approach when designing its turntables, and the Orbit Plus is a good reflection of that. It only has one button: a power switch located on top of the turntable. To change speeds, you need to lift the belt and move it to a different position on the belt drive (the circular piece on the upper-right hand side of the Orbit Plus). U-Turn says that having the belt drive away from the platter reduces vibrations, which can cause the turntable to rock, and your needle to slip or jump.
The company made the Orbit Plus’ platter out of a 5/8″ slab of acrylic, which it says improves speed consistency, and its designed its tone arm to allow the needle to move more easily, reducing distortion. Having tested U-Turn’s record players for myself, I can vouch for their top notch performance, and excellent aesthetics. Every piece of this turntable was chosen and designed to make the best sound possible.
The extreme focus place on the Orbit Plus’ core pieces is great for serious music listeners, but comes at the cost of convenient extras. Because it doesn’t have a lift and lower button, you have to physically lift the stylus and make sure to find the exact spot you’d like to drop it. If you don’t do this carefully, you risk damaging the needle, or scratching your record.
The Orbit Plus doesn’t have a built in preamp, so you’ll need to get one separately. It also lacks a USB port, which makes digitizing your vinyl more difficult. This turntable was designed to be one piece of an analog audiophile stereo system, so it only does one job: play records extremely well. If you’re okay with that purpose (and can accept the limitations that come with it), this turntable gets our highest recommendation.
4. Pro-Ject Essential III
Pro-Ject’s Essential III is the audio company’s entry-level table, but it borrows a lot of features from its higher-end siblings.
Its plinth (the turntable’s base) and platter (the circular piece the record rests and spin on) are made out of MDF (medium-density fiberboard), a solid, durable material. Using a dense material reduces the amount the turntable vibrates when music is playing. Vibrations can cause distortion that becomes audible when listening to music on better gear. Pro-Ject built the Essential III’s motor to the side of the turntable (you can see it on the upper-left hand side), to reduce the amount of vibrations that reach the needle.
The Essential III’s tonearm is made out of a single piece of aluminum, which is light and doesn’t put additional weight on the needle. Speaking of, the Essential III is equipped with an Ortofon OM10 cartridge, but you can swap it out with a different one at any time. Pro-Ject doesn’t have a version of the Essential III with a built-in preamp, but does offer one you can get separately if your A/V receiver doesn’t have a Phono input.
Pro-Ject designed the Essential III to be a great turntable for those just getting into more serious gear. That meant shedding conveniences like automatic start and stop buttons, or replacing the up and down buttons found on other turntables with a cue lever you have to manually raise and drop. It may take a little extra work to use the Essential III, but the difference in audio quality will make up for it.
If you’d like a higher-end turntable you can likely use for the rest of your life, Pro-Ject’s Essential III is a fine pick.
5. Fluance RT83
Fluance says its RT83 turntable is “reference” level audio gear, and its feature set backs up that claim.
By using solid wood for the plinth, metal for the platter, and setting the entire turntable on a trio of rubber feet, Fluance greatly reduced the amount of vibrations that will reach the RT83’s needle. The table’s motor is outfitted with an optical sensor that checks its velocity continuously to make sure your record is spinning at 33 or 45RPM within .07%. Speed fluctuations can impact your music’s pitch, which is immediately apparent if you’re familiar with the album you’re listening to.
Fluance says this record player’s curved tonearm allows it to track your music more accurately. This means the needle is in the middle of the record’s groove and won’t move around, which can reduce its audio quality. Fluance paired its RT83 with an Ortofon 2 Red cartridge, but you can upgrade to the needle of your choice whenever you’d like.
It doesn’t have a built-in preamp, but Fluance’s RT83 includes a couple convenience features that aren’t available in similar other audiophile-focused turntables. The first one is the speed settings built into the record player’s power switch, which lets you change between 33/3 and 45RPM without touching the belt. Second, you can flip the Auto Stop button around the back of the RT83, which will pause the platter once your needle hits the end of an album side.
If you’d like a really nice turntable, but don’t feel like it’s necessary to get ultra high-end audio gear, you’ll find a lot to like with Fluance’s RT83.
If you’re just getting into vinyl, Fluance also offers the RT80 record player, which is a great entry-level turntable that performs above its class. The belt-driven turntable delivers warm, streamlined sound with surprising clarity thanks to a well-balanced tonearm and Fluance’s “anti-skating system” that helps to better ground the stylus into each groove, to prevent scratching and skipping.
The RT80 sets up in minutes, is easy to use, and doesn’t require a lot of fussing or fidgeting to perfect the sound. With a sleek and sturdy wood cabinet, it’s a great display piece at the office or at home, too. Get the Fluance RT80 for $199 on Amazon.