Not surprisingly, more and more people have been buying vinyl the past few years, and with that comes the important decision of investing in a quality turntable. There are quite a few things to consider: price, quality and user friendliness. But just as important is the overall look and design of the record player. We've rounded up turntable options at every price point to ease your search, but don't fret—these look and sound great, making them perfect for audiophiles with an eye for design.
Orbit Custom Turntable at U-Turn Audio, Starting at $179.99
The great thing about the Orbit turntable is that it's completely customizable, from color to cartridge. It's ready to play your favorite records as soon as you unpack it, and it's bright, modern and stylish without breaking the bank. Best of all, you can order it with a built-in preamp if you want to avoid clutter and cords. This one is at the top of my Christmas shopping list this year.
Audio-Technica LP60 at Best Buy, $99.99
I have to give a shout out to my current record player, which has held up pretty well for the past few years. While its simple design isn't as polished some of the other turntables listed here, it's very user friendly. If you're in need of an entry-level turntable that isn't fussy, this is a top choice.
Max LP at Ion Audio, $99
I owned this turntable for a couple of years before finally passing it on to a friend as a gift. If you want to take advantage of the built-in speakers, it's more suited for small spaces like bedrooms, and even then, I'd compare the sound to audio coming from a laptop. However, if you connect it to decent speakers or high-quality headphones, the sounds is much, much better. Other benefits? It plays 78 RPM records (with a 78 RPM stylus, which can be obtained through the website) and also connects to a PC via USB to convert your records to digital music files, if you're into that sort of thing.
Orbit Special Turntable at U-Turn Audio, Starting at $459
Available in maple and walnut, the base on the Orbit Special Turntable is beautiful and is sure to add warmth and sophistication to any space. It comes with a high-end cartridge, and the external belt drive adds a sleekness to the acrylic platter that can't be matched.
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Turntable at Turntable Lab, $399
This all-black turntable is stunning, no question. One drawback? There's a bit of assembly required after you unbox it. Still, this one comes with the aforementioned Ortofon cartridge that vinyl enthusiasts hold in high regard.
Audio-Technica LP120 at Audio-Technica, $299
The LP120 is a staple at lots of the record stores I frequent. This turntable allows you to digitize your music, control the pitch, and plays three different speeds. If you deal with dust in your apartment the way I do, the removable hinged dust cover is an added bonus, so you can display the turntable with or without it.
Music Hall MMF-5.3 Special Edition at SoundStageDirect, $1,395
A few reviews swear by the sound on this turntable, and claim it's worth every penny. It's definitely a splurge, but if you've got an extensive collection you cherish, and only want the best for your records (that's a thing!), this investment might be worthwhile.
Rega Planar 3 at Audio Advice, $945
As I conducted this search for some of the best turntable recommendations, multiple audiophile forums name-dropped Rega. While I've yet to test one of these out myself, its sleek design would add an ounce of style to any table top or bookshelf.
Runwell Turntable at Shinola, $2,500
Sigh. I hope to one day own of these beautiful, limited Shinola turntables, but its hefty price tag and long waiting list are holding me back. Until I can conquer these hurdles, I'll keep this turntable in my dreams.
Other things to consider:
You may splurge on a turntable, but if you have low quality speakers, you won't get the most out of your player. If you're not the most technical person and don't quite understand audio setups, go to your local record store and ask for help. Record store employees are usually happy to help, and they may even have used speakers or stereo systems in good condition.
A lot of turntables don't have built-in phono preamps, though some of the custom players listed above allow you to install one. Because of that, you may need to buy a separate preamp, but luckily, they're not too expensive. My turntable is hooked up to this basic $25 preamp.
3. Belt-drive vs. Direct-drive turntables
Basically, belt-drive record players use a belt to spin the platter, and direct-drive players use a motor. Ultimately, it's a matter of preference, but a general consensus is that direct-drive turntables are a great option if you're a DJ. Here's a good article on the topic.