The 7 Best Turntables to Buy in 2018

Turn back time with these classic turntables

U-Turn Audio - Orbit Plus Turntable
Amazon

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The classic, time-tested vinyl record player may seem like a simple machine at first blush, but it’s actually a fairly complicated (and beautiful) piece of audio equipment. If you grew up listening to compact discs and MP3s, you may have trouble finding the entry point in an analog turntable. But once you get past the weeds, there’s nothing quite like that warm analog sound. And who doesn’t love showing off their collection of 12-inch LPs? If you’re new to the market or just looking to upgrade, check out our list of the best turntables by category.

Best Overall: Audio Technica AT-LP120BK

Audio-Technica is one of the classic names in sound, especially when that sound is coming out of an old-school record player. If you’re looking for something that will impress your ears as well as your eyes, and you don’t mind paying top dollar, there’s hardly a better choice than the AT LP120BK. It’s equipped to handle straight analog or analog to digital audio, with a built-in pre-amp, phono and line-level RCA outputs and a USB output. It even includes Audacity, a digital audio and recording program for Mac and PC. And it looks great, with a chrome-plated finish and an S-shaped tone arm assembly, not to mention that iconic Audio-Technica platter branding. Some audiophiles may be turned off by the direct drive motor, which is usually considered inferior to belt-driven systems, but your average listener will not be able to tell the difference.

Best Classic: U-Turn Audio Orbit Special Turntable

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.

Best Design: Pro-Ject Elemental Turntable

A few years back, a Kickstarter campaign took the record player market by storm, offering a vertically oriented turntable that looked just as good as it sounded. Now, all things considered, once you know how to build a turntable to accommodate a vertically oriented record, then it really shouldn’t be that hard for the larger brands to manufacture one for a good price. That’s just what Pyle has done here with their take on it. This is your standard three-speed system, offering playbacks of 33 1/3rd, 45 and 78 RPMs. They’ve folded in a pair of stereo speakers into a pretty cool-looking wooden enclosure — though, considering how small the speakers are, they probably don’t offer much in the way of bass. But, with RCA outputs, you’ll be able to plug these into whatever speaker system you have for more oomph. Round it all out with Bluetooth connectivity so you can play music via your favorite apps, and you have a versatile, casual record player for most basic applications that looks pretty sweet, too.

Best Value: Audio-Technica AT-LP60

Don’t let its low price fool you. The Audio-Technica AT-LP60 is a seriously good value with the features to back it up. Along with a clear and balanced sound, the AT-LP60 offers incredibly easy operation that plays both seven-inch and 12-inch records. The onboard Bluetooth allows for a wireless connection to any Bluetooth-ready speakers along with wired compatibility for audio systems that have yet to give up the cord.

The Bluetooth connection allows up to eight different pairs of speakers, headphones or other wireless devices that can be all stored in the turntable memory for easy reconnection with the single push of a button. At 18 x 6 x 16 inches and weighing 8.4 pounds, the AT-LP60 is fairly compact for a turntable in its price range, which makes it all the more attractive as a value option. Add in two-speed operation at 33-1/3 and 45RPM, auto-resonance, a die-cast aluminum platter, as well as an integral dual moving magnet phono cartridge with a replaceable stylus and you’ll find this Audio-Technica model is well worth its asking price.

Best Digital: 1byone Belt Driven Bluetooth Turntable

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.

Best High-End: Pro-Ject The Classic Sub-Chassis Turntable

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. 

Best Vintage-Style: 1byone Belt-Drive 3-Speed Stereo Turntable

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.