Best Record Players Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best turntables you can buy in 2021.
Whether you're buying your first turntable having just discovered the joys of vinyl, replacing a dusty old turntable or looking to upgrade your existing record player, we can help point you in the right direction.
We've rounded up the best record players around, whatever your budget, including, of course, our latest What Hi-Fi? Award winners.
Our round-up features a choice of affordable turntables at the budget end of the market, plus a selection of premium record players if you're looking to get serious about your system's sound quality. You can even get a wireless Bluetooth turntable should you want to stream your vinyl selections, or a USB turntable if you'd like to digitise your vinyl collection.
Most of the decks here are pretty much plug-and-play, and come with the tonearm and cartridge attached. You might need to balance the tonearm and set the tracking weight, but this is pretty simple – just follow the supplied instructions. In case there's no cartridge as standard, it could be worth visiting our list of the best cartridges you can buy for some inspiration.
No turntable has dominated its category like the Planar 3, taking on all-comers since its launch the 1970s. So if you want a step-up in performance, we're only too happy to recommend the Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 you see here.
Thanks to a thorough revision and some key component upgrades – notably the tonearm and cartridge – this version keeps the legacy in tact. The Planar 3 remains what it has always been: a simple, beautifully engineered deck that puts performance first. With an engaging sense of scale and good organisational skills, the Planar 3 ensures that every instrument is well-separated and composed, no matter how complex the track. It exhibits a greater level of transparency than its talented predecessor, too.
In short, this latest version is the best RP3 yet, adding extra servings of clarity, precision and insight to an already musical sound. If you're looking for the best value turntable on the market, this is it.
Read the full Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 review
The Primary E confidently nails the basics, from an even tonal balance to a delivery that’s clear and clean and spacious enough to keep things coherent. Decent body and substance cling reliably to every frequency, and that’s made all the more enjoyable by a spirited sense of drive and momentum.
For purists at the head of the beginner’s vinyl revival path who have a small budget and aren’t fussed about features such as record ripping and automatic operation, the Pro-Ject Primary E could be just the ticket.
As a first turntable, it's impossible to beat near this price.
Read the full Pro-Ject Primary E review
In an era of change, not even Rega’s best-selling record player is immune to the desire for fresh thinking. And with the new Rega Planar 1, change is unquestionably positive. Pretty much everything you see has undergone some form of modification, with the end result a clear step-up from entry-level decks.
It may be low on frills but you get an accurate performance that delivers detailed, dynamic sound. The Rega Carbon cartridge is fitted as standard, and this is the first of Rega’s entry-level turntables to house a low noise 24v synchronous AC motor with an aluminium pulley.
Sound is roomy-sounding, expressive, full-bodied. There are no obvious flaws here but if you do get the urge to upgrade this deck's capability in the future, Rega provide a Performance Pack add-on. It includes Rega’s Bias 2 moving magnet cartridge, upgrade drive belt and 100 per cent natural wool turntable mat.
Read the full Rega Planar 1 review
The rebirth of Technics has spawned another fantastic turntable. Compared with the high-end SL-1000R found further down this list, the SL-1500C is much more affordable, and it's also one of the best record players we've heard under a grand.
It uses a core-less direct drive motor with clever speed management circuitry and the company's trademark S-shaped arm. The arm is attached to an Ortofon 2M Red and the deck also comes with its own built-in phono stage. Everything is engineered with a pleasing sense of precision that matches the equally-pleasing sound. Music is delivered with a brilliant sense of dynamism and energy, alongside an impressive amount of agile, yet weighty bass.
While purists may prefer the slightly more insightful Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 (above), the Technics SL-1500C offers crisp presentation, a built-in phono stage and electric speed control, making it a great choice for those not totally engrossed in vinyl.
Read the full Technics SL-1500C review
The headline news with this excellent Sony USB turntable is the drop in price. Two-thirds of the price it was when we gave it five stars upon release, it represents a real bargain. Need we go on?
OK, well on top of great sound, this Sony allows you to rip your vinyl in high-resolution audio quality (note the high-res audio logo displayed proudly on the front edge). The process is simple enough: the PS-HX500 hooks up to your laptop or computer’s USB input and, via Sony’s Mac- and Windows-friendly software, and records the vinyl either as a WAV (up to 24-bit/192kHz) or DSD (5.6MHz) file. Just remember to hit 'stop recording' when the vinyl has finished playing.
Of course, performance is king and in that regard, we're happy to report that the PS-HX500 is far from a compromise. Sound, whether ripping or playing vinyl off the deck, is detailed, articulate and open. The design and finish is workmanlike, but if you want an appealing jack-of-all-trades from a trusted brand, it's a real winner.
Read the full Sony PS-HX500 review
The Planar 1 Plus is essentially a Rega Planar 1 turntable (as seen above) with the Rega Fono Mini A2D phono stage built in. Both have won Awards, and Rega thought it only felt natural to combine them together. We absolutely agree.
But Rega hasn’t simply taken the existing Fono Mini A2D as is and bolted it under the deck. It has been tweaked: the USB section has been taken out entirely, and the cost saving has gone into improving the audio quality of the phono stage.
The Planar 1 Plus sounds brilliant. It is rather lean-sounding when played straight out of the box – but the sound comes into its own after a couple of days, becoming more full-bodied and rhythmically exciting the longer you play.
Read the full Rega Planar 1 Plus review
The Pro-Ject Juke Box E is based on Pro-Ject’s well-regarded Primary turntable and is tricked out with an Ortofon OM 5E cartridge, amplification (25W per channel into 8 ohms) and Bluetooth receiver. At the back of the deck, you’ll find stereo RCA outputs at line level and pre-amp/phono level, plus a stereo RCA line-level input. There are also left/right speaker outputs, an aerial socket for the Bluetooth receiver and an IR receiver for the rather basic, but functional, remote control that comes in the box.
It’s an all-in-one system that demands very few compromises, given its price. It’s also an all-in-one system that we can’t easily argue against in favour of separates. The Juke Box E delivers convenience and backs it up with Award-winning sound that's warm and blessed with plenty of mid-range sparkle. The only real shortcoming is the bass, which isn't as solid as we'd like.
Still, if space – not to mention your budget – is tight, we'd recommend seeking out the Juke Box E.
Read the full Pro-Ject Juke Box E review
Pro-Ject has worked hard at making its latest Debut a current class leader, but also one with the potential to morph into a steady mid-range competitor by offering a series of affordable add-ons. However, as you can see from the five stars , the basic deck is impressive enough as it is.
Among the upgrades are improved motor mounting, new height-adjustable damped feet and a heavy steel platter that weighs 1.7kg and features a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) damping ring on the inside for quieter operation.
Perhaps most welcome, though, is the addition of a rocker switch on the bottom of the deck, which allows you to adjust the rotation speed. No more removing the platter and manually readjusting the belt when you want to go from 33.33rpm to 45.
Despite the lack of branding, its identity as part of the Pro-Ject family is revealed immediately as the room is bathed in its rich, full-bodied tone.
But it is also partnered with a great deal of detail and texture. Where competitors might beef up their sound in an attempt to disguise a lack of real insight, Pro-Ject here welcomes you to explore its vast sonic range, proving its aptitude for making a deck that is both easy to listen to and prepared for deeper, more analytical sessions.
Read the full Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo review
If you're looking for fuss-free entry into the world of vinyl, this brilliant Sony turntable deserves an audition. Set-up is a piece of cake: there's no need to fit and align a cartridge, set the tracking force or set the anti-skate, so once you've put the belt around the motor pulley you're all set to spin. The presence of a built-in phono stage and Bluetooth connectivity are a welcome bonus too.
There's a healthy dose of drive and attack to music – the Sony unearths a fine level of detail and peels back enough layers of emotion to keep the listener interested. You can pair the PS-LX310BT with up to eight Bluetooth devices and, in our tests using headphones, the connection was strong enough to walk into another room.
A fully manual deck like the Rega Planar 1 does sound even punchier and clearer, but what the Sony lacks in top-quality sound, it more than makes up by being fun and feature-packed.
Read the full Sony PS-LX310BT review
The Lenco L-85 is very much a 'My First Turntable' – a great starting point for you or your kids to get into vinyl at a knockdown price. At first glance, it looks like a toy but on closer inspection we have no complaints about the quality. Flashy colours and extra features are a bonus – there's a built-in phono stage so you can connect to any amplifier or powered speakers, while the USB output allows you to rip a digital copy of your records. Set-up is dead easy and there are plastic buttons to start recording or change the speed (33.3 and 45rpm).
But what of the sound quality? It's surprisingly good for the money – the equivalent to listening to MP3 or Spotify streams on your smartphone using £50 headphones. There's more out there in sonic performance, you'll have to pay around £150 ($200 / AU$300) to get it. If you're thinking of getting into vinyl and want a budget turntable that combines user-friendliness with a likeable performance, this is a decent place to start.
Read the full Lenco L-85 review
You might think paying more for a deck would get you more features, but that's not the case here. What it does buy you is some key component upgrades that deliver even better sound quality – all packaged up in a smartly understated design.
The no-nonsense set-up requires minimal effort, save for ensuring the speed is set correctly (speed change is manual) and fixing the weight to balance the tonearm. Once the tonearm is in a floating position, simply set the Carbon MM cartridge’s tracking force to the recommended 2g. It's quite 'plug and play', but it's straightforward enough.
Once primed for action, the Planar 2 delivers punchy basslines, room-filling scale impressive attention to detail and rhythmic subtlety. There's no built-in phono stage, so it needs to hook up to a stereo amplifier that has one, or you can always buy a separate one. If that's within your budget, you'll find that the Planar 2 delivers a clear step-in performance from the Planar 1 – and at a very competitive price.
Read the full Rega Planar 2 review
The Planar 6/Ania is another feather in Rega's cap, and another big step-up in performance. It’s an astonishingly refined and mature sound that convey plenty of space. Some of that is down to the upgraded cartridge and tonearm, and the benefit of the separate power supply, but either way this overall package more than justifies its high price.
Rega's engineers believe too much mass impacts the sound, hence the minimal design is a delicate balance of lightness and sturdiness. Forget vivid colours, the Planar 6 comes in a single matte grey/glossy black finish – a sign this deck is serious about sound quality.
One thing to note: there’s little in the way of isolation bar the three aluminium-trimmed rubber feet, so it’s essential the deck is placed on a sturdy support and away from any other electronics to minimise any vibrations. Once adequately positioned, you'll be treated to truly impressive levels of refinement.
Read the full Rega Planar 6/Ania review
The Vertere DG-1 Dynamic Groove is a deck/arm package that offers a fair dose of the performance of Vertere's top-end turntables but at a far more approachable outlay. It’s designed to be easy to use, and even has the option of a fitted cartridge for those who want a complete package. No wonder we gave it an Award.
It doesn’t take long to realise that the Vertere DG-1 is a terrific sounding deck. It has a bold, out-going sound that brims with energy and drive. We’re impressed with the level of detail too. The DG-1 is a precise and highly resolving product, one that’s able to dig up plenty of information and organise it into a cohesive and musical whole. It’s excellent rhythmically, and has our feet tapping with ease. We haven’t come across a rival that communicates the changing momentum of a piece of music so explicitly.
There’s no denying the fact that the Vertere DG-1 is up against some mighty competition, but given what we’ve heard it can go into any such comparisons with confidence. Highly recommended.
Read the full Vertere DG-1 Dynamic Groove review
If you’re not familiar with the Clearaudio Concept turntable by now, the concept is essentially getting the most exceptional sound you can from your records at this price. A trophy cabinet full of What Hi-Fi? Awards is proof that the approach works.
Unlike some rivals, which require patience, a steady hand and a calculator to get working, the Concept is a 'plug and play' product. It comes with the company's own moving-magnet Concept cartridge fitted to the Verify Direct Wire Plus tonearm (though there is also a moving-coil alternative available). Clearaudio sets everything, including the cartridge weight and bias, before the turntable leaves the factory so all you need do is supply the vinyl.
Some might prefer the more vigorous performance of the Rega RP6/Exact, but this deck delivers as clean, rhythmic, detailed and spacious a sound as you’ll find for the money, not to mention engaging and entertaining. Expensive but well worth the money.
Read the full Clearaudio Concept review
Audio-Technica’s original AT-LP5 turntable was a winner. Launched in 2016, its combination of solid engineering, useful features and fine sound were enough to make it one of our go-to recommendations for anyone wanting a sensibly priced, fuss-free record player with the added bonus of a USB output.
So it’s no surprise to find that Audio-Technica hasn’t changed its winning formula for this new LP5x model. Why would it?
The new cartridge that's easier to fit, the built-in phono stage can now cope with both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges and Audio Technica has added a 78rpm speed option. Those improvements aside, the LP5x's sonics mirror its predecessor closely. It sounds a touch cleaner and clearer before, but without losing any of its composure or dynamically pleasing presentation.
If you're after a well-executed design that's well built, easy to set up and sounds great for the money, the AT-LP5x is worthy of a spot on your shortlist.
Read the full Audio Technica AT-LP5x review
We’ve long felt every step up the Rega turntable ladder brings with it worthwhile sonic gains but they’ve tended to be incremental. But the performance gap between the Award-winning Planar 6 and this new Planar 8 is huge.
In contrast to the cheaper models in the range, there isn’t much carry-over of parts. The Planar 8 features a new main bearing assembly, which uses a single-piece aluminium sub-platter and hardened tool steel spindle running inside a custom brass housing. The platter is something of a work of art and made of two different types of laminated glass.
Set-up is easy thanks in part to the pre-mounted cartridge. All you need do is fit the tracking weight, set bias and you'll be free to gasp at the levels of clarity and insight, which are reminiscent of pricier turntables.
In being so ambitious with this record player’s engineering, Rega has pushed the boundaries of performance at this level and has given premium rivals positioned above it plenty to worry about.
Read the full Rega Planar 8/Apheta 2 review
The SL-1000R sits proudly at the top of Technics' turntable range. It's not going to fit everyone's budget and at 40kg you'll probably need another pair of hands to shift it. But from the magnesium S-shaped arm to the adjustable feet, build and finish are as precise as a Japanese bullet train.
Unusually for a high-end turntable, Technics has opted for a direct direct motor rather than a belt drive, but great care has been taken to reduce vibration. In conjunction with the external power supply and 7.9kg triple-layered platter, the SL-1000R delivers excellent speed stability at 33.3, 45 and 78rpm. As with most options at this price, you'll need to partner it with your own cartridge.
Sound is seriously punchy and tuneful, with tight, beautifully-defined bass and deeply impressive levels of scale and authority. It might seem expensive, the SL-1000R will go toe-to-toe with any rival in this price bracket. Truly a fantastic beast.
Read the full Technics SL-1000R review
The new VPI Prime 21+ (the number signifies the model year) builds on one of our favourite ever turntables with a series of well-considered changes aimed at improving performance, ease of use and cosmetics.
There are two versions of this deck. The ‘+’ model we have here includes the brand-new VPI Shyla moving coil cartridge (custom-made by Audio Technica) and the company’s Weisline tonearm cable (manufactured by Nordost). The base version of the 21 comes without these two options and costs £4500 ($4500) at launch.
Anyone familiar with VPI's Prime turntable will find the 21+’s sound instantly recognisable but with improved clarity and precision. This is an immensely confident record player. While sounding big and bold, its presentation is pleasingly underpinned with heaps of subtlety when the music demands. The VPI Prime+'s amount of punch, sense of power and degree of insight put it thoroughly among the class leaders.
Read the full VPI Prime 21+ review
The Linn LP12 was originally introduced in 1973, but this unassuming belt-driven turntables still got it. The LP12 might have taken a while to gain traction, but by the 1980s it had become the dominant premium record player on the market. Even today, it’s held in high esteem and still considered by many as one of the best turntables you can buy.
That’s impressive staying power for a design that outwardly looks little different from the decades-old original. Of course, despite appearances it has changed over the years. Every part, from the Ekos SE arm to the Kandid moving-coil cartridge has been honed to perfection and feels beautifully made. Speed change is electronic and set-up is simple.
Once it's had a chance to settle, the LP12 is as musical and fun as ever, delivering real punch and precision while losing nothing in composure. There’s no denying that this range-topper is expensive but in most respects, it’s startlingly better than what has gone before and remains one of the best turntables at this price.
Read the full Linn Klimax LP12 review
See all our Linn reviews
The ‘convenience is king’ mantra explains why a high-end, plug-and-play turntable with a phono preamp, such as the Clearaudio Concept Active MM, exists.
It's a pretty unusual concept: turntables with these features aren’t two-a-penny in the affordable market and are even rarer at the pricier end. After all, if you’re willing to spend big bucks on a record player set-up, you’re likely to value sound quality highly – and does an all-in-one offering really deliver the best performance for the money?
You can get better absolute performance going down the separates route, but if you are tempted by the Concept Active’s convenience and are happy to sacrifice a little absolute performance-per-pound value, there’s little reason not to welcome this package into your home. Just be wary of the headphone output, which feels comparatively compressed and lacking in the same excellent clarity and cleanliness delivered through the RCA output.
Read the full Clearaudio Concept Active MM review