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. And with Record Store Day rescheduled for three dates after the lockdown, there's still time to upgrade your deck before heading out to pick up some limited edition vinyl.
Our round-up of the best record players features 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. 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.
Whether you're looking for an entry-level, midrange or premium turntable, this page is our pick of the best record players around.
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 Planar 3.
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 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. If you're looking for the best value turntable on the market, this is it.
Read the full review: Rega Planar 3/Elys 2
If you're on a tight budget, the 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, you can't go wrong with this musical deck.
You won't have to set aside an hour of your time to set it up, either. With the anti-skate weight and the 1.7g tracking force pre-set (there’s a stylus pressure gauge in the box for checking the latter), all you need do is attach the belt and you're in business. A standard cover is supplied for keeping the Primary E’s chassis dust-free and while the all-black design is fairly plain, this model is all about nailing the basics.
Despite the bargain price, the Primary E outperforms expectations, delivering plenty of detail and an even tonal balance that's spacious enough to keep things coherent. For the money, its hard to beat this excellent pound-for-pound performer.
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 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 for around £85. It includes Rega’s Bias 2 moving magnet cartridge, upgrade drive belt and 100 per cent natural wool turntable mat.
Read the full review: Rega Planar 1
The rebirth of Technics has spawned another fantastic turntable. Compared with the high-end SL-1000R (£14,000/$18,000/AU$30,000) 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 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 ($500/AU$800), 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 (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 review: Sony PS-HX500
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 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. 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 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. 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 review: Sony PS-LX310BT
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 review: Rega Planar 2
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 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 merely 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. Even standard items such as the platter, which has a layer of acrylic rather than a conventional mat, are designed with a twist. Once properly set-up, the MG-1 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 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 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 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 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 and Bluetooth connectivity. The fact it's one of a handful of decks that support aptX HD Bluetooth is impressive, and means the Alva TT can stream your vinyl wirelessly to compatible Bluetooth headphones or a wireless speaker in hi-res 24-bit/48kHz. The Alva TT is also a direct drive design, which is unusual at this price point, but promises a number of improvements over belt-driven designs, including speed stability and accuracy.
It's a good-looking turntable too, with a smooth and attractive graphite grey finish. Sound quality is just as pleasing, 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 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 review: Rega Planar 8/Apheta 2
The SL-1000R sits proudly at the top of Technics' turntable range. At £14,000 / $18,000 / AU$30,000, 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 review: Technics SL-1000R
VPI Industries has a long history of producing great value, high quality turntables, and 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.
The New Jersey-based specialist’s products have never been cheap, but even at £3750 ($3995 / AU$7380) the Prime represents something of a bargain as far as high-end record players are concerned. From the chunky 9kg aluminium platter to the 24-pole outboard AC motor and 3D-printed unipivot arm, everything about the Prime is nicely-made.
It sounds wonderfully confident, with plenty of punch and rhythm. Sure, there's no lid, and you’ll have to pay extra for a decent cartridge, but we think the Prime is outstanding value for money. In fact, 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 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 review: Linn Klimax LP12
See all our Linn reviews
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. We love the way the Synergy delivers music with transparency, verve and authenticity. It's a combination of qualities that are rare, even at these levels.
This deck does require a little bit of assembly, but 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