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If the AT-LP120 was already one of the best-sounding turntables on the market, particularly in this price range, the new AT-LP120XUSB is the overall best. Because it brings full-fledged digital USB output to the table, you can play music stored on your laptop or desktop computer back to your turntable. You can also interface with DJ software, an impossibility for its analog predecessor.
But the analog functionality of the unit is top-notch, too. It has three playback speeds. 33 1/3rd and 45 RPM are in tow. However, there’s also a 78 RPM option, giving you amazing flexibility. A pro-level, anti-resonance aluminum plate helps cut down on artifacts while anti-skate controls keep the tonearm from flying too close to the sun. And, speaking of which, that tonearm is loaded with the AT-VM95E cartridge, resulting in impeccably balanced playback quality. The LED target light — which can be turned on or off depending on your environment — helps position the tonearm in low-light scenarios. It all comes in a sleek, contemporary chassis that Audio-Technica says is designed to eliminate unwanted vibrations and grace your turntable with unparalleled sound.
As a brand, Sony has a long history of solid audio performance, and there are few better examples of this than the PS-LX310BT. This belt-drive turntable has all the basic features you’d expect: 33 ⅓ RPM and 45 RPM options to play back the two most standard record speeds. Sony has even stowed the 45 RPM deck adapter in a handy slot on its underside. It has also included a switchable phono out that has three different preamp gain settings, allowing you to customize the headroom you’re sending into your amp or speakers. This is a feature you normally see in higher-end record players, and it’s nice to see it at such a low price point.
For more efficient audio playback, the Sony PS-3LX10BT has a low-vibration aluminum plate. There’s also a USB output option, allowing for digital connectivity for copying audio files to your computer, and RCA cables are included in the box for standard analog output. But what’s most impressive about this unit is its Bluetooth connectivity support — meaning you can connect it wirelessly to a set of compatible speakers and spin away, without the need for a separate amp or long cables running across the room.
The AT-LP60XBT has everything we love about the LP60, with a few extras to sweeten the deal. This belt-drive turntable operates at the two industry-standard speeds: 33 1/3rd RPM and 45 RPM, granting you all the flexibility you could ever need from a turntable. It spins on a die-cast aluminum plate that resists artifacts, but this player really gets its sound performance from the tried-and-true tonearm construction and ATN3600L dual moving magnet cartridge furnished with a replaceable diamond stylus.
Otherwise, the design is minimalist. In addition to the aforementioned, it has controls for speed and playback, but not a whole lot more. You can look forward to a 3.5mm-to-RCA plug in the box for analog connectivity, though most of us will get more mileage out of the Bluetooth functionality. That's right, you can stream music from your records to the Bluetooth speaker setup you already own if you're so inclined. At this price, Bluetooth is a rarity, so kudos to Audio-Technica for making it happen, along with everything else.
U-Turn — which was born in a college dorm — originally set out to demystify the concept of simple, effective, nuts-and-bolts record players. Nowadays, their Orbit model is ideal for those who want a modern yet classic look. It’s built on a solid hardwood plinth that you can purchase in either flat-cut maple or rift walnut. The cartridge they’ve used in the tonearm is the Ortofon 2M Red, which offers award-winning response and sound quality. The spin mechanism itself is another way that U-Turn is bringing the classic look into the modern realm, offering an acrylic platter that gives you better, smoother, more consistent spinning. The belt system is also really reliable, operating at 33 or 45 RPM playback speeds, ensuring it's compatible with your entire record collection. Perhaps the best feature is the Orbit's cleanly weighted tonearm gimbal system, which gives you the exact proper balance for unobstructed playback.
Pro-Ject is known for high-end turntables, and many of their products fit that bill — down to the high price tag. The Debut Carbon pays homage to the line’s first iteration back in the 1990s, offering a high-quality turntable at a more approachable price point. At its center, you’ll find an 8.6-inch carbon tonearm. Normally this addition is seen only on higher-end units because it costs a lot to produce, but Pro-Ject has saved money elsewhere on the design to include this carbon component. The material is stiffer and therefore doesn’t transmit vibrations and unwanted frequency resonance like some lower-end materials. They’ve also included a larger platter size for more stable playback, a belt-based drive system, a new and improved DC power supply with Speed Box capabilities that will allow for more even playback, a new TPE motor suspension, and magnetic cartridges from Ortofon 2M. But the best part is the range of color options you can choose from and the simplicity of the design these colors support. Our pick is the high gloss red, which accentuates the flat, slab-style design. It'll look great with a pared-down setup.
Weighing 42 pounds, this behemoth of a machine is no joke. Among experienced DJs, the Stanton STR8-150 has garnered quite the reputation. The turntable’s top half is completely made of steel, while the bottom half is made of heavy rubber which allows for optimal damping and isolation. Along with its durable, high-quality construction, Stanton delivers the strongest torque motor in the industry (up to 4.5 Kgf-cm), meaning that the speed at which the platter revolves stays consistent, even when you apply pressure. The STR8-150 features a wide range of controls, including dual start/stop buttons, key correction, three levels of pitch control [+/-8%,+/-25%,+/-50%], and reverse play. The Stanton is also a digital turntable, so you introduce additional non-vinyl tracks directly through an S/PDIF output. Plus, with a handy “key-lock” feature, you can mix tracks with different BPMs while maintaining the record’s original pitch.
For amateur and enthusiast DJs, you can definitely find a cheaper turntable that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the STR8-150. However, there’s a reason why the STR8-150 is considered an industry standard: because it’s the best on the market. So if you're serious about your career, it's a worthwhile investment.
There are a few schools of thought when it comes to digital features you’d want from a turntable. Some buyers prioritize having Bluetooth and wireless connectivity so you can stream separate MP3s to the system while others look for more professional features — like those you'd find in a high-end Audio-Technica model. This relatively affordable turntable from 1byone splits the difference and offers a built-in MP3 conversion option.
First off, the wooden enclosure is a standalone device, employing built-in stereo speakers that won’t require any external setup. Though that said, if you want to, Bluetooth connectivity is enabled and there are RCA connections. But, it’s the USB functionality that is really cool here, allowing you to listen to vinyl and take that audio and convert it into MP3 to save for later digital consumption. All you have to do is plug in a thumb drive, an external hard drive, or your computer and it’ll convert what it plays into digital format.
With so many high-quality affordable turntables on the market, you might ask yourself why anyone would sink more than $1,000 into a model. Well, when you invest in something like The Classic from Pro-Ject, it turns out you get premium construction and seamless playback. This sub-chassis turntable centers on a premium 9-inch tonearm made of a carbon/aluminum sandwich, giving you rugged construction at a light weight. There's a smooth, accurate belt drive that’s unique in that it gives you digital control (no need to actually adjust the belt system like on some record players). They put a lot of effort into manufacturing a record platter that pulls its weight, too, going for a TPE-damped aluminum construction that is light and smooth. The tonearm itself moves from its base on a Japanese ball bearing, giving further freedom of motion and less possibility of friction. It gives you the standard I/O you’d expect on a player, and there are no flashy, futuristic tech features here. What you’re paying a premium for is expert construction and serious attention to detail. If you want the best record-listening experience, turn your attention to Pro-Ject.
Beautiful design, great sound and a price that’s more than wallet-friendly, the 1byone Belt-Drive 3-speed stereo turntable is a worthy contender on this list. The beautiful wooden finish and protective dust cover feel more vintage than modern. The included front-facing speakers won’t knock you down, but they offer full-spectrum sound to listen to both your vinyl records and MP3’s via USB. You can also connect the 1byone to your home sound system via RCA input.
It has selectable speeds of 33/45/78 RPM alongside the 45 RPM adapter to play just about every vinyl in your collection. Digitally, the 1byone can record your favorite vinyl to any plugged-in USB key that can be transferred to a computer for portable listening. Separately, playing MP3 music via USB is as simple as a few button presses. And at five pounds and 14.8 x 11.4 x 5 inches, the 1byone is the perfect size for any entertainment center or room in your home.
Those who are new to vinyl listening may recognize this stylish model from trips to local bookstores and Urban Outfitters. Similar to other 1Byone models, the brand's portable version features front-facing speakers that produce a dynamic sound thanks to a nicely balanced tonearm with soft damping control. Other functions include three adjustable speeds (33, 45, and 78 RPM), as well as a 45 RPM adapter. There’s also an RCA output, 3.5mm port, and Bluetooth-pairing capabilities, so you can enjoy the full scope of your music library using your phone or iPod.
Weighing 5.7 pounds and measuring just 5.12 x 10.04 x 13.78 inches, the 1Byone’s portable turntable still manages to deliver the brand's signature rich quality, but in a fashionable, durable, easy-to-carry package. Its retro briefcase design makes it easily portable, and the trendy light-blue color adds flair to any living space. The only downside is that this product can’t play music with the top down, but we consider that a small issue overall.
Level of experience - If you’re buying a turntable for the first time, then it’s important to purchase a machine that isn’t too complicated or confusing. After all, these machines can be pricey, and it’s really easy to drop a lot of money on features you probably won’t use as someone new to the format.
Connection types - Does the turntable you’re looking at have built-in speakers? If it has connections to hook up external speakers, how can it connect to those devices? Whether it’s through an AUX input, Bluetooth, or something else entirely, it’s important to make sure that any turntable you buy will work with your current speaker setup.
Style - A turntable is more than just a device you can use to play music. They are often conversation pieces within the home. Because the typical turntable is large (even the most portable version), it will likely be on display. Make sure the style, colors, and aesthetics of the turntable match the decor of whatever room it’s going to be placed in.