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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.