This article is a part of RS Recommends, an editorial series reviewing products in music and entertainment. Items are independently selected; Penske Media may earn a commission from purchases made from our links.
In 2018, sales of vinyl records grew for the 13th straight year in the U.S. Vinyl is now more collectible than ever, and it continues to be a preferred method of listening for millions of audiophiles. It’s also the preferred method of physical delivery for artists, and not just rockers and rappers. A number of current pop artists have released vinyl versions of their latest records (see everyone from Ariana Grande to Mariah Carey, proving the format isn’t going away anytime soon.
According to Jason Menard, Director of Marketing for Crosley, the rise of streaming music has actually helped grow the demand for vinyl. “Music at the push of a few buttons doesn’t provide the experience that you get with vinyl,” he says. “Things like admiring the jacket artwork, putting the record on the spindle, dropping the needle, being in awe of the fact that sound is coming out of tiny grooves — vinyl provides a time to sit down and enjoy a whole album how it’s meant to be listened to.”
And while digital music lives on your phone or computer, vinyl still occupies a physical space, something Marie Kondo devotees might not be too thrilled about, but music collectors can be proud to cherish. “There’s something about physical music that creates memories,” Menard says. “I’ll always remember my first cassette tape, CD and vinyl record, but have no idea what song I downloaded first. The tactile experience of vinyl is why it’s special. It still blows my mind that this technology has pretty much remained unchanged for almost 100 years and its seeing a comeback in a huge way.”
Popular on Rolling Stone
Whether you’re new to vinyl or have built up a solid collection over time, you’ll want to invest in a reliable record player that can fill the room with clear, full, unfussy sound. We’ve picked out six turntables that deliver the goods when it comes to sound quality, price point and ease of use.
1. Victrola Vintage 3-Speed Bluetooth Suitcase Turntable
Open the gold-lined suitcase that holds this Victrola turntable and you’ll find a vintage-inspired record player with a three-speed belt-driven turntable that plays discs at 33 1/3, 45 and 78 RPM. Modern conveniences include Bluetooth connectivity, which lets you wirelessly pair the turntable with your device from up to 33 feet away and play music through the Victrola’s built-in speakers. A 3.5mm aux cord offers even more ways to connect. Need to pack the turntable up? Just close the box like you would a normal suitcase and lock it up. The accompanying carry handles let you easily grab and go, whether you’re headed to soundtrack a party, or just sliding the suitcase under your bed until your next listening night at home. Purchase: $69.67 on Amazon.com.
2. ION Audio Max LP Turntable
There’s a lot to love with this ION turntable, which packs a ton of features into its $190 price point. The Audio Max features USB connectivity, which lets you convert your records into digital files that can be stored on your laptop or device. You can also invert the process and play music from your device through the turntable’s built-in speakers, or use the included converter software to record music onto blank discs. The set includes a protective dust cover, adapter and a felt mat to prevent slipping (and skipping). We like the natural wood-grain finish, which blends in anywhere, from office to living room to den. Purchase: $189.99 on Amazon.com.
3. Audio-Technica AT-LP60 Turntable
Reviewers praise this Audio-Technica turntable for its ease of use, high-fidelity audio, and its simple but efficient design. The record player is fully automated, which means all you have to do is set your disc down. The turntable will place the stylus on the record for you and automatically return the tonearm when the record ends. The die-cast aluminum platter delivers a sleek, striking look, while the player’s belt-driven design works to minimize vibration from the motor. (Like the name suggests, belt-driven turntables are powered by an elastic belt, which connects the platter to the motor, rather than a motor directly underneath. That positioning, coupled with the ability of elastic to absorb shock, delivers cleaner, clearer sound). Audio-Technica is a well-respected name in audio technology (they also manufacture a wide range of headphones and mics) so this turntable well worth the$99. Purchase: $79.00 on Amazon.com.
4. Fluance RT81 Turntable
Another belt-driven model, this turntable from Fluance is one of the most elegant on the list, coming in either a rich walnut or deep piano black. Boasting an Audio Technica AT95E stylus right out of the box, the RT81 from Fluance offers a Hi-Fi sound at an unbelievably reasonable price. Purchase of the RT81 nets you a Dust Cover, 45 Adapter, Rubber Slip Mat, 3ft RCA Cable with Ground Wire and Lifetime Customer Support. And thanks to its well-balanced S-Type tonearm, you can expect near flawless tracking, ensuring playback they way it was intended to sound. The team at Fluance is committed to a quality product in a beautiful package, and they succeed on that mission with the RT81. Place it front and center on your entertainment console to let this device act as the focal point for your system. No wonder 77% of Amazon reviewers gave this turntable a perfect 5 out of 5 stars. Purchase: $249.99 on Amazon.com.
5. Crosley C100A-SI Turntable
Spin like a pro with Crosley’s C100 Turntable. The unique S-shaped tone arm is fully adjustable, letting you control its weight to tune out any skipping and distortion, while helping to preserve the life of your valuable records (less impact = longer lifespan). The C100 also features adjustable pitch controls and a built-in preamp that lets you easily pair the player with your speakers. We like the super durable ABS material (a type of impact-resistant plastic) which holds up to repeated use and transport without worrying about dings and dents. We’re not the only ones who like this set – the C100 is one of the best-reviewed turntables and record players online. Purchase: $123.99 on Amazon.com.
6. House of Marley Stir It Up Turntable
A record player that is as thoughtful as it is powerful, the Stir It Up is made from an eco-friendly bamboo and delivers warm, robust sound in a slim, design-driven package. A USB jack lets you connect your devices, and easily convert your favorite vinyl records into a digital file. Features-wise, we like the auto-start and power down function that conserves energy when left on, and the included anti-slip silicone mat, made from upcycled silicone, that protects your records from scratching on the platter. The House of Marley’s commitment to “mindful materials” is also shown through the included dust cover, which is made from a mix of hemp, organic cotton and recycled plastic bottles, and slides easily over the record player when not in use. Purchase: $199.99 on Amazon.com.