A version of this story originally appeared on the Strategist U.S.
Listening to music at home can’t replicate the experience of being at a club or music festival, but with stay-at-home measures in place for the foreseeable future, you might be thinking about upgrading your setup. While you could simply invest in some new speakers, it’s worth considering a vinyl player for a sophisticated way to play your favourite music. The world of vinyl and turntables might conjure up images of complicated gear (like preamps, amps, and receivers), but our experts — who include DJs, record-store owners, record-label staff, and music journalists — told us it’s not as intimidating as you think.
We asked ten experts to help recommend the best options, from inexpensive starter players to minimalist options, as well as pricier models that pro DJs swear by. In fact, several players came in at under £200 — making it an affordable option if you’re keen to improve the ambience in your home.
One word of advice: All our experts advised avoiding one very popular all-in-one record player that comes in a suitcase. “Whatever you do, don’t get a Crosley,” said DJ Prestige of the blog Flea Market Funk. Dan Alani, a DJ at Reprezent Radio, agreed that “bargain priced retro-styled players” like Crosley “have been known to damage records, potentially ruining your collection.”
The turntables below are best suited for those new to playing vinyl, but they aren’t necessarily “entry-level” because even the least expensive of the lot contains quality parts and will last for some time with regular care.
Best overall turntable
The Audio-Technica LP 120X is modelled — not so subtly — after what is probably the most iconic turntable of all time, the discontinued Technics 1200. It actually replaces our experts’ beloved LP 120 (although discontinued, the 120 is still in stock here), which Mark Steinberg, the chief technologist and turntable specialist at B&H Photo and Video, says he’ll recommend to any customer — but he especially suggests it to those newer to vinyl who want something a little nicer to play their records on.
This record player’s key feature is the magnet-powered “direct drive,” which is usually only found in professional-grade turntables or other more expensive units. Unlike turntables with a “belt drive” (a motor powered by replaceable belts that wear down with use and may need to be swapped depending on the type of record you play), a direct drive will rarely, if ever, need service, explains Prestige, who says it can handle records of all sizes without any fiddling under the hood. “If I were starting over right now, I’d probably get this,” says due to the quality you get for the price, says the DJ of 20 years. Although Mike Davis, owner of New York City’s Academy Records, says he has never used the 120 or the 120X, “I bought a 120 for my nephew and he loves it. And he bought one for his friend, who loves it too.”
For Steinberg, Prestige, and Davis, this record player checks other appealing boxes too. Its maker, Audio-Technica, has a great reputation in the industry; it has a built-in preamp, so the only other thing you need to use it is a powered speaker; and it features a USB output that allows you to connect it to your computer in case you want to archive your vinyl.
And now it’s even better. According to Steinberg, the 120X “has a more efficient motor, so it needs less energy and gets up to speed faster.” Audio-Technica does a great job of listening to customer feedback, Steinberg says, and the 120X reflects that with its lower profile, stronger pre-amp, and a power supply that’s built into the charging cord instead of the turntable itself.
However, Alani told us about Audio-Technica’s slightly more simplified model, the AT-LP60X, which might be a good alternative. “The vinyl resurgence in the past decade has led to all kinds of affordable options entering the market,” he explains. The key difference between the two models is that this one is automated. “The LP60X has everything you need for your first player — the automatic operation allows for hassle-free playing, it features a range of connection options, and it has a dust cover, to keep your vinyl looking and sounding sharp.”
Best (less-expensive) turntable
Four of our experts recommended Sony’s PSLX turntable. Alex Bean, a senior marketing manager at RCA (and occasional DJ), called it “a good entry-level turntable,” while Declan McGlynn, digital tech editor at DJ Mag, called it “an excellent all-rounder at a good price.” This is a belt-driven turntable — which means the motor and the platter are connected by a belt. Bean said she inherited her model from her mum, who bought it in the ’70s, but the most modern iteration, the PSLX-310, comes with “more modern updates, like Bluetooth compatibility.”
Music journalist Jessica Lipsky has had her model for about ten years. “I’ve stuck with this because it’s simple,” she says. She’s a fan of the handy dust cover and she likes that it will be easy to plug into any system she wants in the future. Steinberg also recommends it, saying it’s one of his favourites for the price because Sony is a trustworthy brand and this model is so straightforward. Like the LP60, it’s also fully automatic, but unlike that model, this one comes with a USB output at no extra cost.
McGlynn likes this turntable’s stylish tonearm, but says that “the Bluetooth audio might not be suitable for high-end audio needs, it’s a useful feature for headphones or cable-free obsessives. It also features a built-in phono amp for immediate plug and play.”
Another inexpensive option is Lenco’s semi-automatic turntable; DJ and producer La La (real name Lauren Andrews) told us the bright green colourway is her Achilles’ heel. “This is a great entry-level product. I’d recommend this for someone looking to explore listening to music on vinyl. They’re so easy to use and they come in tons of different colours.”
Best (more) expensive turntable
Four of our experts recommended the Technics turntable — an admittedly pricier offering, but one that was deemed worth buying if you’re serious about playing vinyl. Anthony Hamer-Hodges, course leader at the London College of Creative Media, said that “my main advice for anyone looking to buy a turntable — don’t buy cheap, or you’ll buy twice.” He says his Technics SL1210 is still in excellent condition even though he bought the turntable in 1991.
Bean agreed that this model was worth shelling out for. “If you’re a bit more serious, Technics is the best model to go for. All the DJs swear by them, but they’re a little bit more pricey,” she says.
Alani noted that the “high-investment” turntable’s latest model, the Technics SL1210GR, “has added features to improve the listening experience while keeping the same pleasing design. The motor system in this turntable removes the issues typical with direct-drive tables, and the redesigned construction gives a much cleaner sound and a more detailed listening experience.” He also said that a Technics turntable will likely last a lifetime — and Hamer-Hodges agreed, saying his, which was previously owned by Carl Cox, has only needed an occasional replacement part (like a stylus or cartridge) after his two kids tried DJing with it.
Best portable turntable
Sean Griffiths, a music journalist and former deputy editor of Mixmag, said the Reloop Spin takes many of its design cues from the “iconic” Vestax Handy Trax, “which was hugely popular in the early 2000s. Both these models were designed with ‘record diggers’ in mind — so you can take it with you and listen to an unearthed gem at a car boot sale before deciding to buy.” The Reloop features a built-in speaker, and though Griffiths says “audiophiles might sniff at the sound quality a little,” it’s a good option for an affordable and, crucially, space-saving unit. “The platter is 7”, instead of the more commonly seen 12”, and I love how it looks with an LP hanging over the edge of the turntable.”
Best stylish turntable
McGlynn told us that Pro-Ject’s turntables were highly praised for their simple, minimalist aesthetic — particularly the T1 Phono SB, which is recommended by Sonos and sold in its stores. “It’s a stripped-back, glossy affair, with just a tonearm and a speed button visible. It has a switchable phono amp, so you can use the built-in option or connect it to your own amp if you have one.” He said this was a good option for someone who is looking for a vinyl player they can artfully style in the corner of a room. “If you want a player that can blend into your living space, without compromising audio quality, this is it.”
La La said that her preferred stylish option was this model by Roberts. “It’s a slick build and looks super sophisticated — I love the wood finish,” she says. The built-in preamp is fuss-free and “the USB connection is really handy for ripping vinyl into digital format — perfect when there’s a hidden track or deluxe song only available on physical formats. It’s the perfect combination of elegant and functional.”
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