Best Record Players: Our Top 3 Turntables for Getting into Vinyl
These Are Our Picks for the Best Beginner Turntables – but They’re Ideal for Vinyl Veterans, Too
No matter who you are, you can find something to love about one of the turntables we’re covering in this article. We’ve handpicked these three record players based on the quality of their design, the quality of the sound they produce, and their affordability (every turntable listed here runs for between $350 and $700).
If you’re just getting started with listening to vinyl, you’ve come to the right place. Finding the right turntable is just as important to your vinyl listening experience is picking up your favorite records. Without an excellent turntable and audio setup, you’ll be missing out on the sonic potential that vinyl has to offer. The vinyl listening experience is all about getting the most out of the music you love, and a great turntable is one of the most important assets you have at your disposal as a collector.
But if you’re a vinyl veteran, there’s something here for you, too. If you already have a massive collection of your favorite albums lining the shelves of your home, these great turntables still deserve your attention. If you’re on the lookout for a record player that can give you great sound quality at a price that won’t break the bank, one of these three is the ideal pick for you.
You don’t have to skimp in terms of audio quality to avoid going broke when you buy a turntable. You don’t have to sacrifice in terms of aesthetics, either. These three turntables sound beautiful, look beautiful, and are priced in a range that is friendly to vinyl newcomers and veterans alike.
Great Price and Good Build: U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus: Sleek, Sturdy, and Minimalistic
If you’re looking for a turntable that racks up major points in the style department, U-Turn Audio’s Orbit Plus record player just might be the winner in your book.
The Orbit Plus has a simple, sleek build that makes it extremely attractive, and it’s available in multiple colors, so there’s something for everyone with this turntable. In terms of sound quality, the Orbit Plus is comparable to other turntables in its price range, but where it really stands out is its design. The turntable is incredibly sturdy, with enough durability to last for years.
The Orbit Plus is designed to play either 33s or 45s, the two most common types of vinyl records on the market today. It’s got a built-in preamp, which means all you need to get sound out of this turntable is a pair of lightweight passive speakers. The onboard preamp is high enough in quality that you won’t likely want to switch to an external preamp anytime soon, but if you want to, you can bypass the Orbit Plus’s built-in preamp to use one of your choosing.
Another aspect of the Orbit Plus that really makes it stand out is its cartridge. Again, the Orbit Plus has competitive sound quality among its peers in its price range. However, the cartridge that comes on the Orbit Plus gives records a distinctly warm, low-end-heavy sound that is highly desirable for many audiophiles.
The only major con of this turntable is that it has a manually-operated tonearm. This means that, in order to get a record started, a listener will need to move the tonearm by hand and set the cartridge on the vinyl. For beginners, manually-operated tonearms can have a bit of a learning curve – but when you get the hang of it, using one can be a rewarding experience.
The U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus is American-made and typically runs for about $300.
Excellent Sound Quality and Moddable Setup: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Turntable
A bit pricier than the Orbit Plus but remarkably affordable for a turntable of its caliber, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC turntable is a cut above many of its peers. This turntable is equipped with an incredibly unique carbon tonearm, which helps to reduce any unwanted resonance that can affect the sound quality from a record. With a carbon-fiber tonearm, you’re getting as much signal as possible and as little noise as possible (known in the audiophile world as “signal-to-noise-ratio”).
Among turntables in its price range, the Debut Carbon DC is often considered to be a step above entry-level and into the world of high-end audio. The higher price reflects this, but you get what you pay for. The cartridge on the Debut Carbon DC is aesthetically beautiful and produces great sound. Plus, this turntable has a build that makes it incredibly easy to modify your audio setup – no built-in preamp means plenty of options for configuring your source of amplification.
Not having a built-in preamp on your turntable might sound like an inconvenience. However, if you’re in the vinyl-listening game for the long haul, having the ability to easily upgrade your setup is a big deal. A great preamp can have a major impact on sound quality, sometimes just as much as a new turntable. If you opt for the Debut Carbon DC, you’re setting yourself to be able to mod your listening setup over time, pairing the turntable with newer, better speakers and an external preamp if you so desire.
The Best Sound Quality, But For a Higher Price: Rega Planar 2
If you have over $500 to spend on a turntable, the Rega Planar 2 is one of the best options you can go with. At this price point, you’ve moved a step beyond entry-level turntables. This record player may be more of an investment, but you end up with exceptional sound quality, a beautiful build, and an immersive listening experience.
Unlike the other entries on our list, the Planar’s tonearm is automatic, which makes it incredibly low-maintenance and user-friendly. The Planar 2’s hardware is all designed to produce the minimum amount of noise and get you a signal that is rich in detail. Like the Carbon DC, the Planar 2 does not include a built-in preamp. A turntable like this one is designed to cater to audiophiles, avid vinyl listeners who want the maximum amount of freedom to customize their listening setups.
If you want to get into vinyl listening and stick with it for years to come, a turntable like the Planar 2, one without its own preamp, is the way to go. That way, as you save up and continue to increase your audio budget over time, you can hang onto your turntable and upgrade your preamp.
The Planar 2’s carbon cartridge has a big role to play in getting the turntable to its level of exceptional sound quality. When it comes to assessing the quality of your turntable, the cartridge is one of the aspects of its build that you want to pay the most attention to. The cartridge houses the stylus, or needle, and converts the vibrations picked up by the stylus into electrical signals, which are then converted into sound by your preamp.
Why does a great cartridge matter? Simply put, the higher the quality of your cartridge, the better your turntable will sound. Some cartridges are designed in a way that makes it harder for them to pick up some of the highest and lowest frequencies of a record’s audio. If you’re missing these frequencies, you’re ultimately missing out on a huge part of what makes vinyl so special.
Speakers, Preamps and Other Keys to Sonic Success
You probably noticed that only one of the three turntables that we covered in this article has its own built-in preamp. Likewise, none of these three record players come with built-in speakers. That means that in order to get sound out of one of these turntables, you’ll need to pair it with an excellent set of speakers and, in the case of the Rega or the Pro-ject, a preamp.
Virtually no high-quality turntables come with built-in speakers. The turntables that do include onboard sound tend to be more of novelty items – designed for getting sound out of a record, but not great sound. If you want to make the most of the vinyl listening experience, it’s well worth the investment to use external speakers.
If your turntable does not have a preamp, you will either need to set up a standalone preamp with a pair of passive (unpowered) speakers or pick up a pair of active (powered) speakers. Active speakers have built-in amplification, meaning you won’t need to add a standalone preamp to your signal chain.
When it comes to getting great sound out of your turntable, there are plenty of different options – there’s no objective “best way” to build an audio listening setup. But with an excellent turntable, you’re well on your way to getting the best possible experience out of listening to vinyl.