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Which turntable is the best?

As you may have noticed, vinyl records are experiencing something of a renaissance. In 2020, vinyl sales exceeded CD sales for the first time in 34 years. The first half of 2021 showed even greater growth, recording 108% more vinyl sales compared to the same period in 2020.

With so many consumers rediscovering their love for wax, many audiophiles are faced with the daunting task of choosing the best turntable to play their beloved records. The Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB direct-drive turntable is a quality choice for its classic design and USB capabilities.

What you need to know before buying a turntable

Built-in or stand-alone speakers

Some newer turntables have built-in speakers. These turntables, often sold in suitcase form, are generally portable, affordable, and easy to set up, but they sacrifice sound quality for convenience. Traditional turntables require separate speakers to produce the rich, classic tones of vinyl records. Casual listeners may find the built-in speakers adequate, but those passionate about sound quality should expect to incur the added cost of standalone speakers.

Direct drive or belt drive

A perennial debate among audiophiles is whether the direct-drive or belt-drive turntable is superior. Although the differences are subtle to the untrained ear, many swear that belt-drive systems provide better sound quality, while direct-drive turntables last longer. Belt-driven turntables produce less audible vibration, but require repositioning of the belt each time you change rotational speeds.

Automatic or manual tonearm

A turntable will have an automatic, semi-automatic or manual tonearm. The tonearm is the long piece that places the stylus on the record.

A fully automatic tonearm automatically moves the arm across the record and back to its resting position once the record side is finished.

Semi-automatic tonearms must be manually placed on the record, but similarly return to the rest position once the side is finished.

A manual tonearm must be placed on the record and manually turned over by the user. Although this feature is usually chosen for convenience, automatic tonearms prevent unintentional needle slippage and other accidents that can damage records.

Other platinum components

  • the basement is the base of the plate which supports all the other components.
  • the cartridge holds the stylus and is attached to the tonearm. It reads the vibrations found in the grooves of the record and transforms them into sound.
  • the style it is the needle attached to the cartridge that overlaps the grooves of the record.
  • the flat is the round surface that spins the disk.

What to look for in a quality turntable

Digital recording

Some turntables are USB compatible, which means that you can use external software to digitally record the analog tracks found on a disc and save them as audio files. This is a great feature for listeners who collect rare or out of print vinyl.

Design

Many turntables look like suitcases and come in bright colors, while others feature a minimalist or classic design. If looks are important to you, look for a record player that will blend in with your existing decor.

Additional Features

There are plenty of turntables with features like Bluetooth capabilities, equalizers, and smartphone audio streaming. These turntables are great options if you’re interested in an all-in-one sound system.

How much you can expect to spend on a turntable

The price of a turntable can vary greatly depending on the desired listening experience. Casual listeners might be happy with a $50 suitcase model, while avid audiophiles can pay up to $2,500 for their sound system. That said, most consumers can spend around $250 for a great-sounding turntable that will last for years.

Turntable FAQs

Why should I buy vinyl records?

A. Although streaming is still the most popular way to listen to music, the digital audio used is usually highly compressed and of poor quality. Many flock to vinyl records for the warm, organic tones and the immersive experience of a full album.

Do turntables require maintenance?

A. Dust can accumulate on turntable components, so a dust cover is recommended for most environments. You can also purchase microfiber cloths and soft brushes to occasionally clean the turntable parts with rubbing alcohol.

Are the plates difficult to install?

A. Although all the components can overwhelm beginners, setting up your turntable is usually very simple and can be done in minutes. Read the instructions that come with your turntable and you should be enjoying your records in no time.

What is the best turntable to buy?

Upper turntable

Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB Direct Drive Turntable

What do you want to know: Boasting an iconic design, this turntable is packed with features like USB recording and dynamic anti-skate control.

What you will love: This popular turntable comes with a high quality cartridge, quartz speed lock and variable pitch control. There is also a felt platter mat included which reduces record vibration.

What you should consider: Some users felt that the turntable was too expensive.

Or buy: Sold by Amazon

Top platinum for the money

Victrola Vintage Bluetooth Record Player Suitcase 3 Speeds

Victrola Vintage Bluetooth Record Player Suitcase 3 Speeds

What do you want to know: This portable and affordable suitcase model has a sleek design and built-in speakers.

What you will love: This turntable is available in over a dozen color options and is Bluetooth compatible, making it a great choice for listeners new to the world of vinyl.

What you should consider: The built-in speakers cannot deliver the classic vinyl-quality sound.

Or buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Fluance RT81 Elite High Fidelity Turntable

Fluance RT81 Elite High Fidelity Turntable

What do you want to know: Available in black, white and walnut, this sleek turntable uses a diamond-tipped stylus to deliver high-definition sound.

What you will love: This belt-drive turntable has a wooden base and uses advanced anti-skating technology to produce consistent sound.

What you should consider: The tonearm cannot be adjusted easily, which limits cartridge replacement options in the future.

Or buy: Sold by Amazon

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Patrick Farmer written for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their buying decisions, saving them time and money.

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