It's déjà vu in the turntable category this year as duos of decks from Rega and Pro-Ject, plus Technics and Vertere models, hold onto their What Hi-Fi? Awards crowns from last season (and, in most cases, some seasons before that too). Indeed, a What Hi-Fi? Awards ceremony without at least two of those iconic turntable brands would be as familiar as a Ballon d'Or red carpet without Lionel Messi and David Beckham.
Last year we witnessed a shake-up in the camp as Pro-Ject's Debut Pro ended the long-time reign of Rega's Planar 3 (like when Ronaldo ended Messi's successive haul in 2013), but there's no such tussle this time, with every 2022 winner standing strong for another year. In fact, the only movement in the category has been in its pricing parameters to accommodate a couple of models' increased asking prices, such is the current climate of the market today.
Surprises in a category may be more interesting than stagnancy, but on a positive note, repeat wins just go to show how good (and compelling) these record players really are. If you bought one of last year's winners, congratulations – you still own a veritable class leader.
It isn't like the six players went unchallenged, either. Turntables from the likes of Cambridge Audio, Audio Technica, Lenco and House of Marley have taken the fight to these established victors over the past twelve months, but none was able to delight our ears nearly as much as the established class leaders when compared to them. That's the beauty of comparative testing, of course – a testing process the What Hi-Fi? reviews team prides itself on.
So, the winners in a nutshell...
First up we have the Pro-Ject Primary E, winner of the 'Best turntable under £200' Best Buy award for the sixth – sixth! – consecutive year. Heading up our best budget turntable buying guide and costing little more than a handful of vinyl records, the Primary E is a performance-first, no-nonsense deck with a penchant for musicality. Plug it into a phono-stage-toting amplifier, itself connected to speakers, and first-time record spinners are away.
If your budget can stretch a fair bit further, the Rega Planar 1 will offer you the same phono-stage-less set-up but a markedly more mature performance. The best buy 'under £500' picks up its eighth successive win this year, no less, so is about as recommendable as a roast dinner on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
The aforementioned surprise of last year, the arrival (and calibre) of the Pro-Ject Debut Pro hasn't seen Rega rush out a next-gen Planar 3 in an attempt to win back the mid-price gong. Yet, anyway. It remains "the most ambitious and sophisticated Debut model we’ve heard" and the benchmark-setter at this popular '£500-750' price point.
Now for a turntable with an integrated phono stage: the Technics SL-1500C. The sophisticated spinner may have gained a few pounds(/dollars) over the past twelve months, but even though its asking price is now four figures (just), it can still be considered fantastic value – that's how good it is. Prospective buyers can expect a crisp, detailed and musically cohesive presentation, a spec sheet as solid as its design, and a warm inner glow that comes from knowing you own a Technics deck.
Your inner glow should be blazing if you're lucky enough to be able to afford the Rega Planar 6, another record player with a full trophy cabinet (six What Hi-Fi? Best Buy Awards) and an even fuller sonic presentation. A great all-rounder, as refined as it is dynamic, this Planar heavyweight is the one to buy if your budget can stretch to £1600/$2600/AU$3300.
Last but by no means least (quite the opposite, in fact!) is the Vertere DG-1 S (pictured top in an alternative white finish), the latest iteration of a model that has impressed us for a number of years now. The high-end British brand has widened its audience by redefining a new 'entry-level' for itself (take that with a pinch of salt; the DG-1 S still costs just shy of £4k after a small price increase), and such an audience would be lucky to own it. Exuding class, from its distinct-shaped platter to its crystal-clear, dynamic and exciting presentation, the DG-1 S flies the flag for high-end engineering.
The Pro-Ject Debut Pro won the category's most esteemed Product of the Year gong last year, but a new year could mean a new category king. Tune into whathifi.com on Wednesday 15th November to find out which of the six takes home the ultimate 2023 prize.
See all What Hi-Fi? Award 2023 winners
Read our all-new Rega Naia/Aphelion 2 turntable review
Or see our expert pick of the best turntables for every budget