Best Record Players Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best turntables you can buy in 2020.
Vinyl is back and it's evidently here to stay. So whether you're buying your first turntable, replacing an old deck or looking to upgrade your existing record player, we can help.
We've rounded-up the best record players around, whatever your budget, including, of course, our latest What Hi-Fi? Awards winners.
There is a smattering of selections at the budget end of the market, plus a selection of premium record players if you're looking to spend a little – or a lot – more money. You can even get a wireless Bluetooth turntable should you want to stream your vinyl selections.
Most of the decks here are pretty much plug-and-play, and come with the tonearm and cartridge attached. All you might need to do is balance the tonearm and set the tracking weight, but this is pretty simple – just follow the supplied instructions.
Whether you're looking for an entry-level, midrange or premium turntable, this page is our pick of the best record players around.
Rega knows how to make turntables and we're only too happy to recommend the Planar 3 if you want a step-up in performance. No turntable has dominated its category like the Planar 3, taking on all-comers since its launch the 1970s.
Thanks to a thorough revision, and some key component upgrades – notably the tonearm and cartridge – this version keeps the legacy in tact. We think this new version is the best RP3 yet – as illustrated by its Product of the Year gong at the 2019 What Hi-Fi? Awards – adding extra servings of clarity, precision and insight to an already musical sound. Want the best value turntable on the market? This is it.
Read the full review: Rega Planar 3/Elys 2
Prepared to spend a little more for better sound? This multi-Award-winning Primary E is the way to go. There's no USB connection, no built-in phono stage, and changing the speed is a manual job – but if sound is your number one concern, and you don't want to spend more than £200 ($200), this is the way to go.
Read the full review: Pro-Ject Primary E
In an era of change, not even Rega’s best-selling record player is immune to the desire for a fresh approach. And with the new Rega Planar 1, change is unquestionably positive.
Pretty much everything you see has undergone some form of modification and the end result is a level of sound quality that is a clear step-up from budget decks. This is low on frills, in line with most hi-fi turntables, but instead you get an accurate performance that delivers detailed, dynamic sound.
Read the full review: Rega Planar 1
The rebirth of Technics has spawned another fantastic turntable. Compared with the £14,000 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. And as a package, this turntable sounds superb. It delivers music with a brilliant sense of dynamism and energy. There's also an impressive amount of agile, yet weighty bass on offer. It's a great alternative to the Rega Planar 3 mentioned above.
Read the full review: Technics SL-1500C
The headline news with this excellent Sony USB turntable is the drop in price. First launched – and given a five-star review – at £450, it's now widely available for less than £300. 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. There's a phono amp inside and a USB output. The design and finish is workmanlike but if you want a jack-of-all-trades from a trusted brand such as Sony, look no further.
Read the full review: Sony PS-HX500
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 quality. You can't really ask for more than that.
Read the full review: Pro-Ject Juke Box E
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. 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.
Unless you're prepared to spend over £100, we can’t think of another turntable that combines its features and user-friendliness with such a likeable performance. If you’re thinking of getting into vinyl, this is a decent place to start.
Read the full review: Lenco L-85
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 - 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. A fully manual deck like the Rega Planar 1 does sound even punchier and clearer, but some will find lure of the Sony's price and feature-set difficult to resist.
Read the full review: Sony PS-LX310BT
Don't expect to get more features for your money here, you're simply paying for a few upgraded components to deliver better sound quality. And it works. 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. Once done, the Planar 2 delivers punchy basslines, room-filling scale, and impressive attention to detail and rhythmic subtlety.
Read the full review: Rega Planar 2
Another Rega, another big step-up in performance. It’s a frankly astonishing refined and mature sound. 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.
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, level support and away from any other electronics to minimise any vibrations.
Read the full review: Rega Planar 6/Ania
Vertere Acoustics is a hard company to define. It was founded around a decade ago and focused on some quite extravagantly designed high-end cables. That range has since expanded to cover most price points, but in 2013 the company took what looked to be a left turn by producing a statement record player. The MG-1 MkII is just the second step-up in Vertere’s four-strong turntable family, though once arm and cartridge are included it still sits firmly in the high-end sector of the market.
Not everyone will like the MG-1’s extrovert appearance, but there’s no denying the excellent quality of engineering, build and performance. It is fuss-free to use and renders sound with a combination of precision, agility and dynamic dexterity that we haven’t heard bettered by any rival near this price.
Read the full review: Vertere Acoustics MG-1 MkII/Mystic
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 the proof. 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 review: Clearaudio Concept
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.
So it’s no surprise to find that Audio-Technica hasn’t changed its winning formula for this new LP5x model. Why would it?
There's a new cartridge, and the addition of a 78rpm speed option, while the built-in phono stage can now also cope with both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges. But it doesn't take long to realise that 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.
Read the full review: Audio Technica AT-LP5x
This is no ordinary £1500 turntable. Cambridge Audio has added a twist or two of its own by fitting it with a built-in phono stage, direct drive motor and Bluetooth connectivity. The fact it's aptX HD Bluetooth means the Alva TT can stream your vinyl wirelessly to compatible Bluetooth headphones or a wireless speaker in hi-res 24-bit/48kHz.
It's a good-looking turntable with a smooth and attractive graphite grey finish. Sound quality is pleasing too, with vinyl given an open and airy soundstage with vocals a particular highlight. If you want a simple home hi-fi system with a premium turntable as your source, the Alva TT could be just the ticket.
Read the full review: Cambridge Audio Alva TT
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 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 review: Rega Planar 8/Apheta 2
The SL-1000R sits proudly at the top of Technics' turntable range. At £14,000, it's not going to fit everyone's budget and at 40kg you'll probably need another pair of hands to shift it. The Technics is a direct drive design with a magnesium S-shaped arm and external power supply.
You'll need to partner it with your own cartridge, though – products at this level don't come with a freebie thrown in. It delivers a focused, punchy sound, with tight, beautifully-defined bass. The SL-1000R is a seriously tuneful performer and able to give any rival around this price a real run for its money.
Read the full review: Technics SL-1000R
The Prime turntable and arm combination is one of the most likeable record players we’ve heard in recent years. If you have this sort of money to spend on a turntable, don’t buy anything until you’ve heard this. VPI Industries has a long history of producing great value, high quality turntables.
The New Jersey-based specialist’s products have never been cheap, but even at £3750 ($3995) the Prime represents something of a bargain as far as high-end record players are concerned. Yes, really. You’d have to look at products that cost close to double that before any notable upgrades are heard over this deck.
Read the full review: VPI Prime
The Linn LP12 was introduced in 1973. This unassuming belt-driven turntable took a while to gain traction, but by the ’80s 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 that time. Yet, in most respects it’s startlingly better than what has gone before and is still right up there with the very best at this price (£18,670). The Linn LP12 remains one of the best turntables around.
Read the full review: Linn Klimax LP12
The Temptation-Award-winning SME Synergy package is made up of the new 12 turntable with a dedicated arm that’s essentially the highly regarded SME IV (but internally rewired with leads from Crystal Cables) and an Ortofon MC Windfeld Ti cartridge. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the inclusion of a built-in phono stage from Swiss high-end hi-fi royalty Nagra. Considering many of Nagra’s products tend to cost way more than the complete Synergy package that’s quite some coup.
Most importantly, though, it's a typical SME turntable in that it excels in detail resolution and control, layering instruments expertly in a large, spacious soundstage. If you’re looking for a fuss-free high-end turntable package where the manufacturer has already done all the legwork in component matching, this is a brilliant place to start.
Read the full review: SME Synergy