Best record players 2024: the best turntables reviewed for every budget

In the market for a new turntable? Whether you're looking for your very first record player or want to upgrade your existing deck, you might be wondering which turntable best suits your needs and budget.

We can guide you to the right choice with our round-up of the best record players across all budgets and types, regardless of whether you're a complete newbie or a long-standing vinyl fan. Our selection below includes budget turntables alongside more premium and even more high-end decks, Bluetooth turntables for streaming vinyl wirelessly, turntables with phono stages built in for convenience, and even those with USB to help digitise your vinyl collection.

While most decks here are a plug-and-play design with tonearm and cartridge included, you might still need to balance the arm and set the tracking weight. But don't worry, just follow the instructions supplied in the box or our handy guide on how to set up a turntable, and you'll be just fine.

You'll also need a phono preamp (or phono stage) to raise your turntable's audio output to make it compatible with line-level modern amplifiers and add standardised equalisation. Plenty of record players now have them built into the deck itself (which makes it easier to plug into any amp or active speakers), but most purist turntables will need to be plugged into an external phono preamp or into a stereo amplifier that has phono stage inputs.

Every record player in this guide has been comprehensively tested by the experienced What Hi-Fi? review team in our dedicated listening rooms, so you can be sure you're getting a genuine, expert recommendation. You can read more about our testing process and get in-depth advice on how to choose your turntable, or scroll down to see our favourite record players.

Written by
Kashfia Kabir
Written by
Kashfia Kabir

I am the Hi-Fi and Audio Editor of What Hi-Fi? and first joined the brand over 10 years ago. I have tested, reviewed and listened to dozens of turntables (and amplifier and speaker pairings), including all our favourite picks below. The best turntables will deliver rock-solid and precisely engineered build quality, account for any vibrations affecting the deck, and be able to track a record's grooves accurately and in a stable manner to deliver the best sound quality. I have first hand experience with every turntable in this list and they all sound fantastic (and look good while doing so), so whether you have a strict budget or have plenty of fun money to spend, I'm confident you'll find something you'll love in the recommendations below.

The quick list

Best overall turntable

What Hi-Fi? Award winner. The new Pro model moves the Debut range upmarket with excellent results.

Specifications

Type: Belt drive
Operation: Manual
Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45, 78
Speed change: Electronic
Cartridge: Pick It Pro moving magnet
Phono stage: No
USB: No
Bluetooth: No
Dimensions (hwd): 11.3 x 41.5 x 32cm
Weight: 6kg
Finishes: 1 (satin black)

Reasons to buy

+
Clarity and sonic precision
+
Taut and controlled bass
+
Impressive finesse
+
Fine build

Reasons to avoid

-
Some might prefer a richer sound balance

Pro-Ject's latest Debut Pro model celebrates the company's 30th anniversary and is the most ambitious and sophisticated Debut model yet. It's a classy-looking deck and easy to set up. Pro-Ject’s engineers have carefully developed almost every aspect of the design, from the new carbon fibre and aluminium tonearm to the dedicated Pick It Pro cartridge.

This Debut Pro turntable is terrific at digging deep into the production and revealing layers of instrumental textures that most at this level ignore. It sounds incredibly precise and crisp. Its presentation is a little on the lean side, but the upside of such a balance is agility. It produces a stable and controlled sound too, one that retains its composure even when the music becomes dense and demanding. Stereo imaging and a spacious soundstage prove admirable and we are impressed with the sonic authority on offer.

Pro-Ject isn't short of rivals at this price, mainly the stellar five-star Rega Planar 3/Elys 2, a legendary model that has long held the top spot in this particular price bracket in its various iterations over the years. It's now pricier than ever before (£100 more than the Pro-Ject) and offers a bit more in terms of dynamic expression and outright attack and excitement. But the Pro-Ject Debut Pro sounds a little cleaner and crisper, delivering low frequencies with an agility and tautness even the Rega struggles to match. It goes to show just how talented this superb-sounding Pro-Ject deck is. Not only a multiple What Hi-Fi? Award-winner, it's also now the best value option at this price point. 

Read the full Pro-Ject Debut Pro review

Best budget turntable

What Hi-Fi? Award winner. A multiple winner for the cost of just a few records.

Specifications

Type: Belt drive
Operation: Manual
Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45
Speed change: Manual
Cartridge: Ortofon OM moving magnet
Phono stage: No
USB: No
Bluetooth: No
Dimensions (hwd): 11.2 x 42 x 33cm
Weight: 4kg
Finishes: 3 (red, white, black)

Reasons to buy

+
An enjoyable temperament
+
Nails the sonic basics
+
Easy to set up and use

Reasons to avoid

-
Chassis edges a little sharp

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.

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. There's ample body and substance to every frequency, and the lively drive and momentum keeps us tapping our toes and enjoying every record we spin on it.

It's a basic, no-frills deck, but one that works smoothly and offers far better performance than you'd get with those trendy-looking record players that don't respect your vinyl records as this Pro-Ject will. As a first turntable, it's impossible to beat at this budget price.

Read the full Pro-Ject Primary E review

Best budget turntable with phono stage

The Planar 1 Plus offers the winning combination of convenience and superb sound.

Specifications

Type: Belt drive
Operation: Manual
Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45
Speed change: Manual
Cartridge: Rega Carbon moving magnet
Phono stage: Yes
USB: No
Bluetooth: No
Dimensions (hwd): 11.7 x 44.7 x 36cm
Weight: 4.35kg
Finishes : 3 (white, black, walnut)

Reasons to buy

+
Hugely enjoyable sound
+
Excellent clarity and subtlety
+
Agile and precise rhythms
+
Built-in phono stage

Reasons to avoid

-
Don't partner with any bright or lean-sounding kit

The Planar 1 Plus is essentially the brilliant five-star entry-level Rega Planar 1 turntable with the equally five-star 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.

If you think Rega has simply added the Fono Mini A2D to this deck with no extra thought, think again. 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.

For those looking for a talented turntable but want the convenience of a phono stage built-in (or maybe your stereo amp or active speakers don't have one), this Rega is the perfect place to start. A rival such as Audio Technica's AT-LPW50BTRW also offers an internal phono stage and even Bluetooth streaming into the mix, but the Rega can't be beaten when it comes to sound.

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. You could opt for the What Hi-Fi? 2023 Award-winner Planar 1 on its own and use a separate phono stage for a purer performance, but this deck is a neater and more cost-effective solution.

Read the full Rega Planar 1 Plus review

Best mid-price turntable

A step-up in sonic performance from the entry-level Planar 1.

Specifications

Type: Belt drive
Operation: Manual
Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45
Speed change: Manual
Cartridge: Rega Carbon moving magnet
Phono stage: No
USB: No
Bluetooth: No
Dimensions (hwd): 11.7 x 44.7 x 36cm
Weight: 5.5kg
Finishes: 4 (white, black, red, walnut)

Reasons to buy

+
Detailed sound
+
Solid and authoritative
+
Sleek, understated design

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs care in setting up

Rega is notorious for keeping its products pure and uncomplicated (the phono-stage-toting Planar 1 Plus a rare exception), but that doesn't mean the Planar 2 is anything but remarkable for its mid-price point. What it does buy you are some key component upgrades over the entry-level Planar 1 that deliver even better sound quality – all packaged up in a smartly understated design. 

Rega's no-nonsense set-up requires minimal effort, save for ensuring the speed is set correctly (speed change is manual), fixing the weight to balance the tonearm and setting the included Carbon MM cartridge’s tracking force to the recommended 2g. It's not quite 'plug and play', but it's straightforward enough.

Once we start spinning records, the Planar 2 more than makes a case for itself at this price. We hear punchy basslines and room-filling scale through this deck, that's further complemented by an impressive attention to detail and engaging 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. 

For those wanting electronic speed change, more colourful finishes and a more laid-back sonic balance, the also-five-stars Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo is a solid alternative at this price.

Read the full Rega Planar 2 review

Top Tip
Kashfia Kabir
Top Tip
Kashfia Kabir

How do you set up a turntable? All the elements – tonearm, cartridge, headshell, counterbalance/weight, platter – should be included in most turntables, along with instructions on how to set up each deck. Setting up the cartridge and tracking force yourself are the trickiest but most important steps, so do take the time to set it up carefully and correctly. We'd recommend getting a tracking force gauge (they're affordable and easy to buy) to help check you've set the precise tracking weight and downforce according to the cartridge manufacturer's recommendations. If it's heavier or lighter, it will have an impact on your record player's sound – so it's important to get it just right.

Best premium turntable

What Hi-Fi? Award winner. A wonderfully refined, articulate and precise-sounding turntable.

Specifications

Type: Belt drive
Operation: Manual
Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45
Speed change: Manual
Cartridge: Ania moving coil
Phono stage: No
USB: No
Bluetooth: No
Dimensions (hwd): 12 x 44.7 x 36cm
Weight: 5.2kg
Finishes: 2 (matte white, polaris grey)

Reasons to buy

+
Superb timing, agility and dynamism
+
Smart-looking finish
+
Good build

Reasons to avoid

-
Demands careful system-matching

The Planar 6/Ania is yet another feather in Rega's cap and another big step up in performance. It’s an astonishingly refined and mature sound that conveys 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. Partnered with an equally talented amplifier and pair of speakers, this is a winning system if you're serious about your vinyl collection.

Rega's engineering principle across its turntable designs is of low mass and high rigidity. Too much mass impacts the sound, according to Rega, and thus this 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 further sign this deck is serious about sound quality.

We would highly recommend placing this deck on a sturdy support and away from any other electronics to minimise any vibrations. There are three aluminium-trimmed rubber feet on this deck – that's the only isolation you're getting here, so it pays to make sure the Planar 6 is positioned correctly in your home.

Do that, and you'll be treated to truly impressive levels of refinement. Clearaudio's rather lovely Concept MM is another viable option at this premium price point, but the Planar 6 beats it hands-down in terms of outright insight, rhythmic precision and excitement.

Read the full Rega Planar 6/Ania review

Best premium turntable with phono stage

What Hi-Fi? Award winner. A great sounding, fuss-free record player for around a grand.

Specifications

Type: Direct drive
Operation: Semi-automatic
Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45, 78
Speed change: Electronic
Cartridge: Ortofon 2M Red moving magnet
Phono stage: Yes
USB: No
Bluetooth: No
Dimensions: 16.9 x 45.3 x 37.2cm
Weight: 9.9kg
Finishes: 3 (silver, black, white)

Reasons to buy

+
Defined, insightful and musical
+
Impressive bass
+
Simple to use

Reasons to avoid

-
Rega rival offers more insight

The Technics brand is still going strong when it comes to turntables. While we love the high-end SL-1000R model (so much so that we use it as part of our reference testing system), the SL-1500C is much more affordable, and it's also one of the best record players we've heard at around a grand that includes a built-in phono stage.

It uses a core-less direct drive motor with clever speed management circuitry and the company's trademark S-shaped arm, which is attached to an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge. The engineering and build quality of the deck is of a high quality; everything is pleasingly put together with precision. That is further reflected in the equally pleasing sound. Songs are relayed with a brilliant sense of dynamism and energy. There's also an impressive amount of agile, yet weighty bass on show too.

While purists may prefer the slightly more insightful Rega Planar 3/Elys 2, 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

Best Bluetooth turntable

A simple, yet hugely effective Bluetooth turntable with an entertaining sound.

Specifications

Type: Direct drive
Operation: Fully automatic
Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45
Speed change: Electronic
Cartridge: Moving magnet
Phono stage: Yes
USB: No
Bluetooth: Yes
Dimensions (hwd): 10.8 x 43 x 36.7cm
Weight: 3.5kg
Finishes: 1 (black)

Reasons to buy

+
Entertaining sound
+
Easy to use
+
Bluetooth

Reasons to avoid

-
Sound can be bettered at this budget price

If you're looking for a supremely fuss-free entry into the world of vinyl, this brilliant Sony turntable with fully automatic operation 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. 

Despite newer record players with integrated Bluetooth streaming entering the market (even hi-res wireless options like the Cambridge Audio Alva TT V2) this Sony continues to deliver the best combination of performance for a Bluetooth model, and for a very affordable price, 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. We found the Bluetooth connection sturdy during testing, with the connection strong enough that could walk into another room and still listen clearly using headphones.

A fully manual deck like the budget Pro-Ject Primary E or the step-up Rega Planar 1 Plus 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

Best USB turntable

A fine sounding, fuss-free turntable with great features including USB-ripping.

Specifications

Type: Direct drive
Operation: Manual
Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45, 78
Speed change: Electronic
Cartridge: AT-VM95E moving magnet
Phono stage: Yes
USB: Yes
Bluetooth: No
Dimensions (hwd): 15.7 x 45 x 35.2cm
Weight: 7.3kg
Finishes: 1 (black)

Reasons to buy

+
Composed, robust presentation
+
Easy to use and set up
+
Impressive phono stage module
+
USB rips to WAV file quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Purist rivals offer better outright performance

Audio-Technica’s original AT-LP5 turntable was a winner. Launched in 2016, its combination of solid engineering, useful features and fine sound was 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.

It's no surprise, then, that Audio-Technica hasn't changed this winning formula too much for the current AT-LP5x model. But the brands have made some improvements.

There's a 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. Aside from these neat additions and tweaks, the LP5x's audio performance mirrors its predecessor closely. It sounds a touch cleaner and clearer than before, but without losing any of its composure or dynamically pleasing presentation. 

The USB ripping feature remains, so you can digitise your vinyl collection is CD quality WAV files up to 16-bit/44.1kHz and 48kHz. 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

Best high-end turntable

What Hi-Fi? Award winner. Careful evolution has reinforced the Vertere DG-1 S as a high-end class leader.

Specifications

Type: Belt drive
Operation: Manual
Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45
Speed change: Electronic
Cartridge: Magneto moving magnet
Phono stage: No
USB: No
Bluetooth: No
Dimensions (hwd): 13 x 46.9 x 38.4cm
Weight: 8kg
Finishes: 2 (gloss black, gloss white)

Reasons to buy

+
Bold, dynamic and exciting presentation
+
Impressive rhythmic drive
+
Class-leading clarity
+
Clever engineering

Reasons to avoid

-
Magneto cartridge can be improved
-
Power button placement could be better

An updated version of the 2021 Award-winning DG-1 Dynamic Groove, the new Vertere DG-1 S continues to offer a fair dose of the performance of Vertere's top-end turntables but at a far more approachable outlay. Clever construction and engineering advances further this deck's performance, which is designed to be easy to use. It even has the option of a fitted Magneto cartridge for those who want a complete package.

The new Vertere DG-1 S edition builds on that excellent original and continues to remain one of the best-sounding turntables we've heard at this level. It's a terrific-sounding deck that brims with energy and drive. 

We’re impressed with the level of detail too. The DG-1 S 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 is a hugely entertaining sound, one that’s rhythmically surefooted and has a spring in its step when it comes to rendering dynamic nuances.

There’s no denying the fact that the Vertere DG-1 S is up against some mighty competition (such as the excellent Rega Planar 10), but given what we’ve heard, it can go into any such comparisons with confidence. The best just got better.

Read the full Vertere DG-1 S/Magneto review

How to choose the best record player for you

The source of your hi-fi system - be it a streamer, CD player or record player - is a crucial component; as the saying goes, 'rubbish in, rubbish out'. 

When it comes to choosing your turntable, first things first: decide on your budget. It should be no more than around a quarter of your system's cost, otherwise, it's unlikely your amplifier and speakers will get the most out of your deck.

Once you've nailed down your budget, decide on the features you require or want. Belt drive or direct drive design? Do you need a phono stage built-in or prefer a purist design? What about the cartridge – is it included or do you have to buy your own? Is Bluetooth streaming or USB recording important to you? Are you happy with a fully manual operation, or would you prefer a less fussy electronic speed change or automatic operation? Turntables have plenty of features, so it pays to check the details to find out which deck you'll be happy to live with. Make sure you have a checklist based on your needs to help you narrow the search.

Looks can play a huge factor – if you have a particular aesthetic in mind for your turntable setup, check that it's available in the finish and style you want. The flashier looks of a Technics or Vertere deck might not be for those who prefer the simplicity of a Rega turntable, while Pro-Ject's colourful choices can appeal to many. We would overall choose a turntable on its sonic merits, but taking pride in your hi-fi's design matters, too.

We would advise you against the 'suitcase'-style record players that remain trendy and are often rather cheap. Many of these turntables don't have the careful engineering or precise build quality that's so crucial to ensuring the tonearm is stable and the needle is accurately reading a record's groove, and many of these kinds of decks also don't let you adjust the tracking force of the cartridge. If this is too heavy (as we discovered with some of the cheaper Crosley decks), then this can damage your records. We don't want that.

Additionally, make sure you read up on the sonic characteristics of all your components to ensure they match your chosen turntable and vice-versa. Not all five-star products are equal, and every hi-fi setup benefits from the right partnering.

Once you have made your choice, it's also crucial you set up your turntable correctly. While some record players are relatively "plug and play", many require a little more time and effort to hear at their best. If you are buying a more high-end record player, ask the dealer if they can arrange a demo before you commit to buying.

This is a quick run-through of the basics of choosing a turntable. But if you want to know more or need more in-depth advice, read our complete guide to choosing the right turntable.

How we test record players

What Hi-Fi? has been reviewing turntables ever since the first magazine issue was published in 1976, and our reviews have remained independent, trusted and thorough ever since across print and online.

The current What Hi-Fi? team has more than 100 years of collective experience in reviewing, testing and writing about consumer electronics – and that includes plenty of record players. We have purpose-built, acoustically treated testing facilities in London and Reading, where our team of expert reviewers do all our in-house testing. This gives us complete control over the testing process, ensuring we are consistent across all product reviews and in our advice. 

When testing turntables, we ensure we place them on a stable, level surface, set them up correctly, and partner with price-appropriate and various partnering electronics. We use a variety of amplifiers and phono stages (if it doesn't have one built in) and also test our extra features such as Bluetooth and USB recording. We spend plenty of time listening to the turntable, and play a variety of records in a variety of music genres, to test the turntable's sound quality.

All new turntables are tested in comparison with the best-in-class model at the same price level. We keep five-star and What Hi-Fi? Award-winning models across each price bracket in our stockroom so that we can benchmark and compare all turntables that enter our listening rooms. These comparisons are bread-and-butter to our reviewing process, and ensure we give buyers the best advice on which turntable to buy at any given price. 

All turntables are listened to by multiple members of the What Hi-Fi? reviewing team, and the final review verdict is agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than a single reviewer. This method helps to ensure consistency and avoids individual subjectivity and biases. Our reviews are honest and independent, and there is never any input from the brand, PRs or commercial teams on our reviews. That's why our reviews are trusted by customers, retailers and manufacturers alike.

From our reviewers, we hand-pick only the best turntables at each price to feature in this Best Buy guide. That's why if you take the plunge and buy one of the products recommended here, you can rest assured you're getting a What Hi-Fi?-approved product.

You can read more about how we test and review products on What Hi-Fi? here.

FAQ

What is better: direct drive or belt driven turntables?

There are two basic designs of turntables: direct drive and belt drive. This relates to where the motor is positioned. The motor is what sets the speed and makes the platter (on which a vinyl record sits) rotate.

Direct drive designs have the motor placed directly under the platter. This method allows for faster start-up speeds and better rotational stability (how consistently the platter runs at the correct speed). The downside is that unwanted vibrations are more easily introduced. This affects the cartridge and how it tracks the groove in a record, which means distortion is added to the final sound.

Belt drive designs have the motor offset from the platter, and use a belt (or sometimes multiple belts) wrapped around the spindle and the main platter in a pulley system to rotate. This keeps the platter isolated from those pesky vibrations, but because of the different forces being pulled on the belt (which is usually made of a rubber material), the belt can get stretched or lose its tautness over time. This means the rotational speed potentially isn't always consistent, and you'll likely need to replace the belt after a few years.

Which design the manufacturer employs is a matter of preference and which compromise they're happier to deal with, and each brand takes care when making a turntable to account for the flaws in either design. 

In terms of sound, that entirely depends on the individual turntable. Many reliable Technics decks use direct drive, while Rega always uses belt drive designs – both make excellent-sounding turntables, so one design isn't necessarily better than the other.

Do new turntables play old records?

The beauty of an analogue source like a turntable is that the principle of the design has stayed the same across decades. Whether it's a turntable from the 1970s, the 1990s or 2020s – it plays records the exact same way. How well-made the new turntable and its tonearm are, the speed stability and accuracy, and how precisely the cartridge and stylus can track the grooves on the record – these are what matters most when playing your record collection. So you simply have to choose the best-performing turntable for your budget and needs (our recommendations in this list should help!)

What condition your old records are in is another factor. You might need to get them cleaned (there are various record cleaning equipment available) and depending on the type of records you have – 33.3, 45, 75 rpm – it's worth checking that your new turntable can play these different speeds or has an adapter that will let you play all record types.

Do I need to buy speakers for my turntable?

Yes. While you can buy record players with speakers built in, we tend to find these generally perform poorly. A turntable performs better without additional drivers and vibrations affecting the way it tracks the grooves on a record. We'd recommend a pair of good speakers that match your turntable – sonically and price-wise – to get the best performance.

If your turntable has a phono stage built-in, active speakers (ones with amplification built-in) such as Ruark MR1 Mk2 or KEF LSX II LT are ideal pairings. Otherwise, there's plenty of choice when it comes to passive speakers from brands such as Elac, Bowers & Wilkins, Q Acoustics, KEF and more. Check out our guide to the best speakers and best active speakers to find the right pair for your turntable.

Do I need a phono stage for my turntable?

Yes, always. Every turntable will need a phono stage – whether that's a standalone unit or built into the turntable, or integrated into your amplifier or speaker – to be able to play a sound that you can hear through your speakers.

Why? The audio information stored in a record's groove can be in an area as small as a micron (one-thousandth of a millimetre), so the scale of the task to retrieve it and playback through your speakers is immense – one that your standard line-level stereo amplifier isn't able to do on its own.

The physical limitations of vinyl mean that the original audio signal has to be altered before it can be recorded onto its tiny grooves – low frequencies are reduced in level and the highs are boosted. This is where the phono stage (or phono preamp) comes in. It has to reverse the response built into it – one that boosts bass and flattens treble to exactly the right degree, which should result in a tonally even presentation for the audio signal. And it has to amplify the signal. The cartridge signals from tracking the groove can be as low as a thousandth of a volt (CD’s output is specified at 2V, for instance) so the signal has to be amplified massively before the line-level stage of a stereo amplifier can take over.

You can learn more about how a vinyl record makes a sound.

Are old vinyl players better than new turntables?

If you have an old record player, say a few years or decades old, the same principles apply: the build quality, the cartridge choice, how reputable the manufacturer was and the care it took in making the record player, and overall performance all matter. A well-made or high-end turntable should last you decades, if not a lifetime, as long as you still enjoy listening to it.

As long as you've kept the turntable in good condition over the years and paired it with capable matching electronics, it should still sound good. The very well-regarded Roksan Xerxes turntable, for instance, still sounds as good today as it did in the late 80s/90s, according to our reviewers.

New turntables have the advantage of refining a design with newer, cleverer materials or manufacturing processes. So they can sound cleaner and more precise with every new generation; in our experience, Rega and Pro-Ject turntables have generally improved with every iteration of their Planar and Debut ranges, respectively. Newer turntables these days also include extra features like Bluetooth streaming or USB recording – so it depends on what you require. 

Turntables generally have long shelf lives, and don't require software upgrades like digital-based products do. Long-standing models from Michell Engineering, Clearaudio and Linn still sound fantastic and perform beautifully today.

Recent updates

  • February 2024: Updated our advice and testing process, and added FAQ section to help buyers with the most asked questions about turntables.
  • November 2023What Hi-Fi? Award-winning products are labelled following the 2023 annual What Hi-Fi? Awards Best Buys and Product of the Year announcement.

MORE:

18 songs that sound their best on vinyl

15 of the best turntable accessories for better vinyl sound

Partner your turntable with the best hi-fi speakers and best stereo amplifier