Vinyl may seem old-school, but records have been making a big come back in recent years thanks to a new wave of audiophiles and vinyl enthusiasts. For many, there’s just nothing like popping an old (or new) vinyl onto a turntable and hearing the familiar rich, warm sound fill the room. And along with this resurgence of vinyl records has come a new wave of classic turntables. We’ve sorted through some of the best turntables out there today, finding only those with the best sound, price and ease of use. Whether you’re looking for the most basic and decidedly entry-level, or the Ferrari of record players, there’s a smattering of options to fit your listening experience and budget.
The Audi-Technica AT-LP120BK is a classic turntable, widely recognized by vinyl enthusiasts and audiophiles as the best, all-around turntable for a reasonable price. It is capable of playing both analog and USB to analog, with an internal stereo pre-amplifier built right in, so you don’t need to use the included phono output. It also has a line-level RCA output to hook up to any sound system. Selectable speed lets you choose between 33/45/78 RPM. With a classic, retro appearance, the Audio-Technica also has an S-shaped tone arm and chrome-plated finish.
The AT-LP120BK is high-end enough for dependable, high-quality sound and performance, while still relatively affordable compared to many premium-end models. The USB output, which allows you to create digital versions of your favorite vinyls on your PC, is a cool bonus that we think will get plenty of use.
If you’re looking for something a little bit cheaper than the Audio-Technica, and don’t need a lot of features, the Crosley CR8005C-BK is a budget turntable with a retro appearance. Made from wood and leatherette, the Crosley folds up into a portable case, and actually has the ability to run off battery for ultimate flexibility (it also features an AC power adapter). In addition to playing vinyl (with 3 speeds, 33, 45 and 78 RPM) it also has an auxiliary input for hooking up your smartphone or PC, and both headphone and RCA output jacks to connect to anything. The turntable itself is belt-driven.
The built-in speakers on the Crosley aren’t exactly top of the line when it comes to providing clear, unmuddied sound. Nor or are they very powerful. But if you’re just looking for something affordable and compact, the Crosley gets the job done. You can always use the included RCA or AUX output to hook it up to something louder and better.
The ClearAudio Concept is a splurge for sure. It costs around $1600, without any additional cost of receiver or speakers. But in the audio world, you get what you pay for, and the Concept’s superb sound is worth it. Some call it the best you will get from a turntable in this price range.
The Concept is made from a wood core with a glossy, aluminum shell, which reduces vibrations for solid sound. The friction-free tone-arm has a magnetic bearing, and it plays at three speeds ( 33 1/3, 45 and 78 RPM).
But what really sets the Concept apart, besides its marvelous audio quality, is how easy it is to use, even for a record player as high-end and expensive at it is. It’s practically a plug-and-play system, integrating seamlessly with almost any audio receiver or speaker system. Keep in mind that due to the Concept’s extreme sensitivity, it will easily pick up vibrations. Set it on an isolated, rigid, dampened platform to prevent vibrations from interfering.
The Sony PS-HX500 is a similar turntable to the ClearAudio Concept, but for those of us with less disposable income. It is an all-in-one turntable, and includes an Analog to Digital Converter, a cartridge, a built-in phono stage, and USB port for connecting to your PC. Like the Audio-Technica LP120bk, you can make digital versions of your vinyls for safe backup, using Sony’s included recording software. You can also transfer the ensuing DSD (Direct Stream Digital) files to any compatible Walkman device, bringing the warm sound of vinyl with you on the go.
It’s very easy to set up and use (just plug it into your sound system or PC), and the analog to digital converter is excellent. Sound is crisp and clear, using Sony’s High-Resolution Audio. Set it up on an isolated surface for the best in sound quality. Finally, the Sony PS-HX500 looks fantastic, with its sleek, minimalist appearance.
The Rega RP3 is another fantastic turntable with terrific sound in a sleek and minimalist build. The direct-drive turntable plays 3 speeds (33 1/3, 45 and 78 RPM). It comes with Rega’s RB303 tonearm with double brace, which helps reduce vibration. Rega emphasizes this tonearm as the result of 30 years of experience with designing tonearms, and created it with the latest in 3d and CNC machining technology.
Setup is quick and easy. The Rega RP3 is much more expensive than most of the players on our list (though not as expensive as the ClearAudio Concept), but if you can afford it, its sleek build, fantastic audio and sensitive tone arm are definitely worth the price.
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