If you have a prized collection of vinyl records, then finding the best turntable can help you relive treasured memories and share your love of music with others. Many music enthusiasts believe nothing can top playing one of your favorite vinyl records on a turntable for a truly authentic listening experience. It’s something that simply can’t be replicated by listening to the radio, playing CDs, or streaming music through your computer, cell phone, or speakers. This guide showcases some of the best turntable options on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: WOCKODER Wireless Turntable
- BEST BUDGET: Victrola Vintage Suitcase Record Player
- BEST VINTAGE: Victrola Innovative Technology Classic Wood Turntable
- BEST FOR SAMPLING: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Turntable
Types of Turntables
When you begin looking at turntables, you’ll notice that there are two different options: manual and automatic. Both choices have pros and cons. Below you’ll find details on these options to help you determine which one will best suit your needs.
As the name implies, you are responsible for doing most of the work with a manual turntable. For example, when you want to listen to a record, you will need to place the tonearm onto the record to get it to start playing. Once you are done listening or the record is over, you will also need to lift the tonearm, return it to its resting position, and power off the turntable.
One major drawback to manual turntables is that there’s a greater risk of damage to your records. If the tonearm gets dropped too hard onto the record or if you’re distracted and you leave the stylus in the record’s grooves for too long, your record could get scratched.
However, these turntables will almost always deliver the best sound quality. The tonearm on an automatic turntable doesn’t always track as well due to all of the additional attachments necessary for automatic function.
Automatic turntables definitely require less work on your part. The turntable will take care of placing the tonearm onto the record and lifting it back up once it has finished playing. A benefit to this is you won’t need to worry about accidentally damaging your records, the tonearm, or the needle by dropping it too hard.
You may also see some semi-automatic turntables. For these models, you will need to place the tonearm onto the record to start the music, but once the record has stopped playing the machine will automatically lift the tonearm.
While automatic and semi-automatic turntables are much easier to operate, most are not capable of matching a manual table’s sound quality. Typically, they are also more expensive because of all the additional electrical components.
What to Consider When Buying a Turntable
If you’ve started looking at turntables already, you may have noticed that there are lots of different options to choose from. Each turntable seems to offer unique features, and it can be quite overwhelming trying to decide which model will best suit your needs. Understanding the differences between the options can help you make an educated decision about which turntable is right for you.
Direct Drive vs. Belt Drive
One of the biggest decisions is whether you want a direct-drive turntable or a belt-drive turntable. Belt-drive models are designed with a belt that makes the turntable platter spin. The belt goes around the edge of the turntable and connects to a spinning motor. Belt-driven turntables typically give off less background noise than direct drive models since the motor isn’t under the turntable platter. However, these are not a good option for DJs or people looking to use two turntables to mix two different songs, since you could damage the motor if you try to spin the records in both directions.
A direct-drive turntable has a motor right under the turntable. This allows it to spin without any resistance and get up to speed much faster than a belt-driven option. As we mentioned above, direct-drive turntables are the best choice for DJs; they make it possible to blend songs together or change the tempo of a spinning record.
Vintage vs. Modern
The decision between getting a vintage or a modern turntable will likely come down to your style and preferences. Vintage turntables are designed to look like the original players from years past. If you’re looking to bring a touch of nostalgia into your life or to find a model that looks like something you or a family member once owned, then a vintage model would be a good choice.
On the other hand, some people prefer a more modern and updated look when choosing a turntable. Modern options often have a sleeker and slimmer design that may appear more cohesive in an updated living room.
The cartridge connects to the tonearm and holds the needle, or stylus, that reads the record’s grooves to play music. There are three different stylus tips that may be held in the cartridge for a turntable. A conical, or spherical, stylus tip is the cheapest option, and the one you’re likely to see on many turntables. This tip makes less contact with the grooves in a record than the other types, and, thus, doesn’t pick up as much information. It can also wear a record down more quickly.
Elliptical stylus tips are a bit smaller than conical tips. They are also polished which means that they not only will place less pressure on a record but also pick up more information from it. Finally, a fine-line stylus tip is the top-of-the-line option. They are quite expensive, but will deliver the best sound quality while placing the least amount of pressure on a record’s surface.
Many turntables don’t include speakers, and if they do, there’s a chance they may not be sufficient for your listening preferences. Before making a purchase, it may be important to look at the pairing options for connecting the turntable to external receivers, amplifiers, or speaker systems.
If your speakers have a phono preamp, you should be able to connect your turntable without too much work. Otherwise, you may need to look for some additional components to help you connect your chosen turntable to your speakers.
You could also choose to purchase a turntable that offers wireless pairing. Today, there are many models on the market that can connect to your speakers over Bluetooth.
There are a few other features that may be important to you when choosing a turntable. For instance, some turntables offer a USB output. This feature enables you to make digital recordings of your prized record collection.
Keep in mind the overall size of the turntables you’re eyeing. Think about where you want to put the turntable in your home and confirm that the model you’re interested in will fit there comfortably.
Our Top Picks
These products were selected among the best turntable models for their superb quality and the various features and benefits they have to offer.
The WOCKODER Wireless Turntable is an affordable option that offers many useful features. This model provides 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM listening speeds and can play 7, 10, and 12 inch records. The turntable’s base absorbs shocks with the integrated spring to deliver optimal sound quality.
This model includes a 3.5mm RCA Out/AUX in/headphone jack to provide you with plenty of listening and connectivity options. You can also use the turntable as a speaker to stream audio from your smartphone or tablet.
The Victrola Vintage Suitcase Record Player is a nice budget-friendly option if you want to enjoy your prized records when you’re away from home. The suitcase design not only makes it easy to carry, but also protects the turntable’s components during transport. It’s built with a sturdy top handle and weighs in at only 2.69 lbs.
This versatile choice offers three playback speeds (33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM). You can also stream audio from your devices through the built-in Bluetooth speakers. An RCA output offers the option to connect this turntable to more powerful speakers. With over 30 different color options to choose from, finding one that suits you won’t be difficult.
Victrola’s Innovative Technology Classic Wood Turntable is designed to look like something you would find in an antique shop, with five attractive wood finishes available. However, looks are deceiving in this case—the turntable boasts numerous 21st century features that add up to 6-in-1 audio functionality.
Victrola designed this three-speed belt-drive turntable to minimize vibrations for superior sound quality and enjoyment. Play your favorite records, cassettes, CDs, and FM/AM radio. You can also stream audio using the aux/headphone jack or any Bluetooth-enabled device.
The Pro-Ject Dubut Carbon DC Turntable is designed with a decoupled motor to reduce noise. This feature minimizes the background operation sounds, allowing you to focus on the music instead. The turntable also has a steel platter to keep the record and tonearm balanced and reduce skipping.
This Pro-Ject model also includes a one-piece carbon tonearm, which increases the stiffness and reduces resonance. A premium Ortofon 2M Red cartridge with an elliptical diamond stylus is included with this model to further improve its sound quality.
FAQs About Your New Turntable
Still have some questions about turntables? Read through the frequently asked questions below to learn more about selecting, using, and maintaining a turntable.
Q. How do you hook up a turntable to a receiver without phono input?
If your receiver does not have a phono input, then you can purchase a standalone phono preamp to connect the turntable and the receiver.
Q. How does a turntable work?
The motor (either belt drive or direct drive) on a turntable makes the platter holding the record turn. The turntable’s tonearm holds the cartridge and needle, which get lowered onto the record. As the needle traces the grooves on the record, the cartridge uses electromagnetic induction to change those grooves into audible sound waves.
Q. How do you use a turntable?
Place a record on the platter and turn on the motor to start the turntable. Then, lift up the tonearm and carefully lower the needle over the grooves along the outer edge of the record. Once you have finished listening or the record stops, lift the tonearm and replace it to its resting place.
Q. How do you clean a turntable?
When cleaning a turntable, be careful not to damage any of the components. Use a soft and lint-free cloth to remove dust; start cleaning in the middle of the turntable and wipe the dust out to the sides. You can also use a little alcohol on a cloth to remove fingerprints or other spots. Keeping your turntable covered when not in use can help it to stay cleaner longer.
Q. How do you replace a turntable needle?
Before replacing the needle on your turntable, start by unplugging it from the wall. Next, remove the old needle by unscrewing the headshell or unlocking the lever on the tonearm, depending upon your turntable’s design. Then, carefully insert the new needle, pointy end down, and retighten the screws. You’ll also want to test out the needle by playing a record to make sure everything is in optimum working order.