What to look for in a turntable in 2022

Generally speaking, if you’ve seen one turntable, you’ve seen them all. This makes it difficult to figure out what to look for when buying one. Before you spend any cash, be sure to check out the specs and make sure a turntable has the qualities you’re looking for.

First of all, the materials are important. For turntables on the lower end of the price spectrum, you can expect an aluminum platter (which the record sits on) and an arm (which holds the stylus on the record). You’ll also find some plastic parts on lower-end models.

As your budget increases, you will see the materials change. Starting around $400 or $500, you’ll start to see carbon fiber arms and stainless steel or acrylic chainrings.

A turntable may have a built-in preamp, especially budget and mid-range models. This is necessary to turn up the volume to a significant level that you can connect the turntable to an auxiliary input on a stereo. High-end turntables don’t typically have built-in preamps, as manufacturers assume you’ll have one built into your stereo or are using a separate preamp.

High-end turntables focus on being just turntables, but the lower end of the range will usually feature additional connectivity. This could be a USB port, but lately it’s more often Bluetooth, which allows you to connect to wireless speakers and headphones.

Finally, one more thing you might want to check is the availability of a replacement stylus (also known as a stylus). These wear out over time, so you’ll want to keep a few spares on hand. If these are hard to come by, you may want to choose a turntable for which you can more easily get replacement styluses.

Best Turntable Overall: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO

person listening to vinyl on project turntable

For a balance of features, sound quality, and minimalist brilliance, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO it’s our pick as the best turntable for most people. As elegant as it sounds, many of the best features are things you won’t notice at first.

As its name suggests, this turntable features an 8.6-inch carbon tonearm that combines light touch with stiff construction. Combined with the Sumiko Rainier phono cartridge you get pristine and accurate sound quality. Even better, if you want to upgrade, you can easily mount a higher quality cartridge like the Sumiko Olympia in just a few seconds.

Balance is everything for proper playback on a turntable, so the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO has some nice suspension characteristics. On the bottom of the turntable, three adjustable TPE-cushioned feet help you keep everything nice and level. The motor’s suspension under the steel platter resists vibrations, which means a heavy step shouldn’t alter the sound of your record.

Also neatly hidden at the bottom of the turntable is an electronic speed switch, allowing you to easily play back different recording formats. You can even play 78 RPM records by swapping out a different drive belt.

Finally, as a rarity for turntables, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO is available in multiple color options. You get relatively minimalist options like black and white, but there are also over-the-top options like High Gloss Red and Satin Golden Yellow.

Best budget turntable: Fluance RT85 Reference HiFi Vinyl Turntable

Fluance turntable in the entertainment center

This turntable isn’t our budget pick just to save money, it’s about getting the most bang for your buck. The Fluance RT85 Reference hi-fi vinyl turntable it’s far from cheap, but it’s an affordable option that you can buy once and won’t have to worry about for long.

The Fluance RT85 uses a “less is more” approach to playing your records. To that end, you have a pure analog signal path from the record through the cartridge and out to the RCA connectors that carry the signal to your stereo. There are no foreign electronic or digital components in the signal path.

This pure approach also leads to the acrylic plate. This material dampens unwanted vibrations and prevents resonant reverberations that could lead to unpleasant sound characteristics. Between the turntable and the signal path, you get a much richer three-dimensional soundstage.

All this rests on a solid wood plinth fixed with three insulating rubber feet. These prevent vibrations from traveling through the feet to the plinth, while the plinth itself provides a stable base for the motor, cymbal and tonearm.

One thing to mention is that, thanks to the approach this player takes, it does not include a preamp. You will need a stereo receiver with a phono input jack or a separate preamp.

Best cheap turntable: Audio-Technica AT-LP60X

Audio-Technica AT-LP60X-BK on blue and purple background
Audio Technica

Audio-Technica’s AT-LP60 series has been around for years, offering quality performance at a price that casual vinyl fans are most comfortable with. The Audio-Technica AT-LP60X it refines some components and simplifies the design, resulting in less noise and clearer sound in the process.

One of the changes in this new model is the tonearm. Audio-Technica redesigned the base and headshell to improve the way the cartridge follows the groove of the record. This new design also reduces resonance for a more accurate response.

Another key change is that the AC/DC conversion has been moved out of the turntable itself to an external adapter. This can make it a bit more difficult to find an outlet to plug the turntable into, but it also keeps this noisy process better isolated from the turntable itself.

As for features, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X features dual speeds with a switch to select 33-1/3 RPM or 45 RPM. This turntable is also fully automatic, with a size selector to allow the tonearm to automatically start and end playback. All you need to do is press the “Start” button.

The Audio-Technica AT-LP60X is available in a variety of colors. For a more traditional look you can choose Black or Gunmetal, while more striking options like Red and White are also available.

The best turntable for audiophiles: Marantz TT-15S1 Premium Manual Belt Drive Turntable

Marantz record player on wooden table

Regarding the price tag, it is possible that the Marantz TT-15S1 manual belt drive premium turntable may not seem as affordable as it really is, at least for what you’re getting. If you were to buy the arm and cartridge separately, they would already cost more than the price of this entire turntable.

It bears the Marantz name, but is actually made in association with the German high-end audio manufacturer. clearaudio . That company supplied the Virtuoso MM cartridge that is used here, complete with a non-replaceable diamond needle.

The Marantz TT-15S1 uses a unique design with a floating motor mount that dampens vibration and reduces audible distortion. Combined with the ebony wood cartridge, this means you’ll hear the detail on your favorite albums in a way you’ve never heard before.

If your home isn’t exactly perfectly flat, you’ll appreciate the three height-adjustable aluminum legs. These are more adjustable than the feet on many other turntables, which is great if you need to level the platter on an uneven surface.

Marantz includes everything you need to mount and adjust your turntable. This includes CleverClamp from the company, a felt mat, a shim to adjust the height of the tonearm, bearing oil, a spare silicone drive belt, and even a pair of white gloves.

The best turntable with speakers: Victrola 8-in-1 Bluetooth Record Player & Multimedia Center

Victrola record player on orange and pink background

Victrola is a classic name in turntables, but more recently the company is better known for its retro styling but with surprisingly modern features. The Victrola 8-in-1 Bluetooth Turntable and Media Center it is a perfect example of what the company does these days.

As the name implies, this is much more than just a turntable. You also get a CD player, cassette player, FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity, line-in, and headphone out. If you’re looking for an all-in-one music machine for a room or second stereo, this is a great option.

Looking at the turntable itself, this model supports three speeds: 33-1/3, 45, and 78 RPM. While you don’t get a fancy tonearm or cartridge, you do have some nice features. For example, thanks to the built-in USB audio interface, you can use this turntable to record vinyl records on your PC.

While this is meant more as a stand-alone player than a component for your stereo, it does have a pair of RCA jacks on the back that allow you to run it like a traditional turntable. This also works for the radio, CD player and cassette player, making it a versatile player.

This is as much a decor piece as it is a device, so it makes sense that it comes in multiple finish options. There are numerous wood finishes such as Espresso, Mahogany, and Oak, as well as Black and White painted finishes.

Best Bluetooth Turntable: Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT

Close-up of AT-LP60XBT-BK
Audio Technica

If he Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT looks a bit familiar, it’s for good reason. This is essentially the same turntable as the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X except it has Bluetooth built in. Of course, this raises the price a bit, but not as much as you might expect.

This model still includes RCA output jacks, so you can connect it to a standard stereo system. Thanks to Bluetooth, you can now play your favorite records on a speaker outside or on headphones across the room.

The Bluetooth model has the same refinements to the tonearm, so you get the same boost in clarity and quality as the wired model. The stylus is the same as the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X, so you can easily find replacements when the time comes.

As with the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X, the Bluetooth model comes in a variety of colors. You can choose from Black, White and Red for the wireless model.

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