3 of the best turntable systems for playing vinyl

Turntable systems
(Image credit: Future)
Vinyl Week on What Hi-Fi?


(Image credit: Technics)

Welcome to Vinyl Week on What Hi-Fi?, in association with Technics. You can find out more about how Technics has been defining turntable culture for half a century and the company's SL-1200M7L Limited Edition turntable.

Your sound system's sonic excellence cannot live and die on the quality of its turntable alone. It’s crucial that each component in a decent vinyl system makes its own case for inclusion in the line-up and, most crucially, complements the other members of the team.

Here, then, we give you three complete music system options, at differing price points, that we’re sure won’t disappoint. 

So whether you're operating on a tight budget or you're ready to spend a serious amount of cash, you’ve got no excuse not to make the very most of that precious vinyl collection.

The "all-in-one" turntable system

Turntable systems

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Pro-Ject Juke Box E £449 ($599, AU$809)

Elac Debut B5.2 £279 ($290, AU$499)

System total: £728 ($889, AU$1308)

It’s a generally accepted fact in hi-fi that, as far as sound quality is concerned, the more boxes the better – a system built up of well-selected separate components should be sonically superior to an all-in-one alternative. That route has some obvious downsides, though, of course. It requires far more careful planning and component matching – and, most importantly, usually more money…

Which is where our first system comes in. The wizardry of the Juke Box E, with its internal amplification, means that you can’t really get a simpler turntable system than this. You’ll be opening only two boxes to get your hi-fi up and running, rather than the four or five you might need to break into for a traditional system with (possibly) pre-amplifier, power amplifier and separate phono stage.

Not much could be simpler than this: put your Juke Box on a solid, vibration-free, level base and connect it to a pair of stereo speakers. And that’s it; stick a record on the platter, and you’re good to go. What’s more, you’re not compromising on sound a great deal (if at all) over an equivalently priced separates system.

There are a number of excellent speakers at an appropriate price to go with the Juke Box. We were tempted to go with the excellent Wharfedale Diamond 12.1, but we’ve plumped for Elac’s superb Debut B5.2 instead – one of the company's finest efforts in years, and a terrific all-rounder.

The 21st century all-rounder

Turntable systems

(Image credit: Future)

Audio-Technica AT-LP5x £369 ($450)

Marantz PM6007 £499 ($699, AU$906)

Dali Oberon 1 £349 ($599, AU$669)

System total: £1217 ($1748)

We step up in price here to a more conventional record deck/integrated amplifier/speakers system, using Audio Technica’s AT-LP5x as our source. This is an interesting turntable: it will play your vinyl impressively well, has a decent phono stage built-in, and will also allow you to make a digital copy of your vinyl music, via its USB output, to store and play wherever you wish. Handy.

Most importantly, of course, for a main system source, is that – while you’re taking advantage of all its abilities – it sounds great.

Our choice of integrated amplifier at this level is a no-brainer. Marantz has rather excellent form at this price point, and the 2020 Award-winning PM6007 continues to set the standard at this price.

As well as doing the best job you can buy at this price, the PM6007 has plenty of inputs for all your other equipment, including a tape loop for recording, should you so desire.

To round off this impressive system, we present Dali’s really rather excellent Oberon 1s. These petite bookshelf speakers are absolutely stunning with vocal-based material in particular – they’re nicely judged tonally and impressively confident and composed. All of which makes them the perfect accompaniment to the Audio Technica and Marantz combo.

The classic beauty

Turntable systems

(Image credit: Future)

Rega Planar 3/Elys 2 £685 ($1145, AU$1449)

Rega Brio £599 ($995)

Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary Edition £599 ($899, AU$1299)

System total: £1883 ($3039)

At half as much again on the price of our second system, this trio needs to represent a significant improvement in quality; and, of course, it does that – comfortably. We’re in the realms of serious hi-fi here.

Rega’s legendary Planar 3 turntable has pretty much dominated this sector of the market for around 40 years now, though it has evolved over that time, of course. This latest iteration has improved on its predecessor in pretty much every area – and looks the part as well. Most important is the sound it produces, and it’s here that the Planar 3 and Elys 2 cartridge combination really shines, with terrific transparency and detail resolution combining to make for a really engaging listen.

It’s no real surprise that the turntable enjoys impressive sonic synergy with Rega’s Brio integrated amplifier. This 2018 Award winner is another Rega update of a long-running favourite (the first Brio was launched in 1991). And this version will belt out a punchy, detailed dynamic sound with a fine sense of rhythm. It goes loud – and it’s thrilling.

The Rega pairing deserves some top-quality speakers to make it sing, of course, and Bowers and Wilkins’ 606 S2 Anniversary Edition bookshelf speakers provide the ammunition. These speakers deliver a beautifully balanced sound that complements the Rega duo beautifully. Bass is tight and insightful, and the sound of this system draws the listener in like little else at this sort of money.

Jonathan Evans
Editor, What Hi-Fi? magazine

Jonathan Evans is the editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine, and has been with the title for 17 years or so. He has been a journalist for getting on for three decades now, working on a variety of technology and motoring titles, including Stuff, Autocar and Jaguar. With his background in sub-editing and magazine production, he likes nothing more than a discussion on the finer points of grammar. And golf.

  • Steve Eldridge
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    Buying vinyl for the first time? Or want to upgrade your old system? We've made three brilliant vinyl systems.

    3 great turntable systems for playing vinyl : Read more
    What's the basis for the currency comparison between GBP and USD in these turntable systems?
  • Friesiansam
    If it was intended as a straight conversion from GBP to USD, it's all over the place. I suspect they have published prices actually being charged in the US. @anort3 may be able to enlighten us with regard to US pricing.
  • It looks like actual pricing in the US vs a straight currency conversion but I'm not sure how up to date the pricing is. Especially if you factor in sales and such.
  • manicm
    Steve Eldridge said:
    What's the basis for the currency comparison between GBP and USD in these turntable systems?

    Daylight robbery?