What’s the best turntable for your level?
Best turntable: For many turntables are the way to play back music. You can’t replicate the sound of analogue as well in a digital format.
And there’s much more of a interesting retro factor to vinyl physical records as they look a lot cooler. For those reasons and more, turntables have been enjoying a renaissance, back in the spotlight with the market seeing plenty of growth in the past few years.
And you don’t have to be a hi-fi connoisseur to get into vinyl either. Part of the passion is picking it up as you go, getting deeper and deeper into the various options available.
Of course, for tinkerers with cash to spare, there’s the high-end option of picking the turntable, tonearm, cartridge and phono pre-amp separately to create a combination that sounds best to you. High-end doesn’t have to mean mix-and-match, though – there are plenty of flagship record players offered with complementary arms and carts.
There are budget players aimed at novices that require very little set-up so all you need do is plug it, flick the switch and watch that record spin around. The past few years have seen an increase in turntables with wireless connectivity, which brings even more convenience and opens up the devices you can connect. Some turntables even come with a USB output, so you can connect to a computer and turn records into digital files.
We’ve collated the best turntables we’ve had the fortune to test. From expensive decks to more affordable record players, we’ve got the options to suit your budget and help you get started on amassing that vinyl collection.
- Best turntable: Rega Planar 3
- Best wireless turntable: Cambridge Audio Alva TT
- Best sounding budget turntable: Audio Technica AT-LP5X
- Best budget turntable: Sony PS-LX310BT
- Best turntable for experienced users: Rega Planar 8
- Best integrated turntable: McIntosh MTI100
- Best Technics turntable: Technics SL-1500C
- Best warm sounding turntable: Fluance RT85
- Best looking turntable: Pro-Ject 6 Perspex SB
- Best turntable for inexperienced users: Rega Planar 1
- Best value turntable: Pro-Ject Elemental
- Best turntable for timing: Technics SL-1200GR/SL-1210GR
- Best turntable for beginners: Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT
- Best turntable for attack: Clearaudio Concept MM
Rega Planar 3
A remarkable turntable
- Sounds incredible for the money
- Dust cover included
- Superb tonearm
- Lovely build quality
- Speed change requires platter removal
For many people, this will be the only turntable they ever need. The legendary Rega Planar 3 name has returned, having gone through a few years as the P3 and then RP3 – and that’s because this is a whole new record player.
The RB330 tonearm is an evolution of the old RB303, with a stiffer bearing housing and new cabling. The plinth has been re-engineered, the main bearing has been made to tighter tolerances and the bracing is stronger.
The result is one of the finest turntables for less than £1,000. Timing and imaging are spot-on, it creates a wonderfully wide soundstage, and bass is bouncy yet controlled.
Even if you end up buying the optional £200 TT-PSU power supply to add button-controllable speed switching, this is a bargain.
A tweak of an already impressive formula
- Extensive, useful spec
- Smooth build and finish
- Organised, controlled sound
- Not quite as much scale or punch as is ideal
The AT-LP5X adheres to the proverb “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, or more specifically it doesn’t mess around with a winning formula.
The original deck was already an excellent, and the AT-LP5X shores things up with a few useful upgrades. They include a switchable phono stage (moving magnet and moving coil), and a move to the AT-VM95E (which only works with 33.3 and 45rpm records), A different cartridge is needed for 78rpm records.
Thankfully the performance remains as composed, impressive and authoritative as ever, convincing in its organisation and control of records. The AT-KP5X is a great combination of performance, convenience and features.
Cambridge Audio Alva TT
Brilliant hi-res wireless source
- Simple to set up and use
- Bank-vault build quality
- Lovely, fluent sound
- Hi-res streaming
- Lacks ultimate dynamism
- Quite expensive
The Alva TT – named after the father of the phonograph, Thomas Alva Edison – strode onto the stage as the world’s first aptX HD Bluetooth turntable.
It’s ability to stream at 24bit/48kHz make it a great fit for those who want convenience without sacrificing performance. It feels hefty – in a good way – and stylish for the price, and give the impression of reassuring build quality.
Playing records the old way still offers better results than wireless, with its even-handed, faithful and convincing performance. But, wireless opens up placement options and makes joining the vinyl revolution less daunting than it used to be.
Convenient and affordable
- Simple to set up and use
- Phono stage and Bluetooth
- Entertaining sound
- Wireless performance suffers just a little compared to the wired alternative
After launching the PS-H500, a player that delivered on affordability and performance, the PS-LX310BT repeats the trick, adding Bluetooth to its feature-set.
It’s not the most attractive of turntables, it excels at convenience with a built-in phono stage and a set-up process that requires you to just add the platter and belt-drive.
And once it’s up and running it’s a solid performer that favours smoothness and extracts enough detail from vinyl tracks. It loses a bit of detail when in Bluetooth mode, but at this price, this is a excellent stab at a wireless and accessible turntable.
Rega Planar 8
A pared-back effort from Rega
- Exquisitely even-handed sound
- Simple to set up
- Impressive in purely engineering terms
- Not especially impressive in purely visual terms
Rega has stripped back this deck for an impressively engineered effort that’s concerned with just delivering on performance.
And in that context, Rega has succeeded wonderfully. The Planar 8 is an expressive deck, exhibiting a fluent, naturalistic and authoritative way with music. If you want the detail of your vinyl collection laid bare, the Planar 8 is the deck that will reveal all.
Add in the splendid Ania cartridge and you have yet another remarkable turntable from Rega.
A turntable, amplifier and preamplifier in one
- Controlled, explicit and entertaining sound from any source
- That logo, those valves
- Unblinkingly expensive
- Interfaces could be nicer
There hasn’t been an all-in-one, just-add-speakers integrated turntable system and the McIntosh MTI100 makes us wonder why no one else had tried before.
At £6995, the MTI100 is no one’s idea of a bargain, but the level of engagement and entertainment it provides is by no means a given, and you get McIntosh’s distinctive approach to design, wireless connectivity and the convenience of a turntable, pre-amp and amplifier all rolled into one body.
For that alone, the McIntosh MTI100 is currently number one in a field of one.
One of Technics’ most affordable turntables
- Robust, full-fat sound
- Bank-vault build quality
- Plug’n’play simplicity
- Capable alternatives available
With the SL-1500C, Technics has delivered the most convincing pound-for-pound product since it rose from the ashes in the 2010s.
£899 isn’t an inconsiderable sum to pay for a direct-drive turntable, although there are plenty of this list that cost a sight more. You do get a built-in phono stage for the money and a listening experience that’s confident and engaging. With its plug ‘n’ play approach and beautifully engineered looks, the quality the SL-1500C offers is inarguable.
A warm vinyl sound
- Warm, unified and rhythmically impeccable sound
- Very acceptable build and finish
- Not all that vigorous or attacking a listen
The RT85 is Fluance’s most expensive and extensively specced turntable in their portfolio, and coming in at £499 it hits the spot of not being too expensive for those stepping up their interest in vinyl. The finish and aesthetics match its asking price (as in it’s good), with the chassi made out of MDF to better aid against any resonant frequencies.
The feature set is nothing out of the ordinary: an S-shaped tonearm, Ortofon 2M Blue moving magnet cartridge and some stereo RCA outputs around the back. You’ll either need an amplifier with a bit of grunt to amp up that signal or opt to connect a preamp instead.
The RT85’s performance is best described as warm and luxurious, delivering a balanced and unified performance, excelling when it comes to timing and rhythmic fidelity. Its laid back nature means there’s little attack or aggression for recordings that need it, but what you do get is a rather pleasurable listen.
Pro-Ject 6 Perspex SB
Looks amazing, sounds amazing
- Striking looks
- Deep, controlled bass
- Immense soundstage
- Great value
- Annoying screw-down clamp
The Pro-Ject 6 Perspex SB looks and sounds immense. The thick Perspex plinth that gives it its name combines with a suspended sub-chassis and carbon-fibre tonearm to create a truly imposing turntable.
Its tight, deep bass and wide soundstaging offer a taste – no, more like a ravenous bite – of high-end hi-fi, without the price tag to match.
Throw in the dust cover and button-controlled speed switching and, well, what more could you ask for? All that’s left is to add a suitable cartridge and phono stage. Then you’re on the road to audio nirvana.
Rega Planar 1
- Dynamic, detailed sound
- Exceptional timing
- Classy look and feel for the money
For simplicity of set-up and hi-fi audio quality on a budget, no turntable can touch the Rega Planar 1.
The cartridge is pre-fitted and the tonearm has a guide ring on it so that the counterweight can be set for exactly the correct tracking force without the need for any special tools.
And it sounds great – exciting and detailed with great timing and agility. All you need to add is a decent phono stage.
- Not just another boring rectangle
- Wonderfully warm, full sound
- Simple setup
Want to step into the world of hi-fi vinyl spinning? This is the cheapest way. The Pro-Ject Elemental is a belt-driven turntable with an impressive Ortofon cartridge pre-fitted and pre-aligned, and it sounds superb.
Warm, detailed sonics combine with distinctive, curvaceous looks to make this an unbeatable entry-level package. Remember, you’ll need to budget a little extra for a phono stage if your amplifier doesn’t have one built in, but you’re still looking at a total outlay of only around £200. Bargain.
An excellent upgrade
- Unparalleled timing and grip
- Seismic bass
- Fantastic build quality
- Incredibly versatile
- High asking price
- Slight lack of resolution
The 1200 and 1210 are so synonymous with DJing that most people don’t realise they were originally designed as hi-fi turntables. And these new versions have been upgraded to improve sound quality even further, with a dampened platter, improved motor with digital speed control, and a low-noise power supply.
The result is a record player with phenomenal timing and grip, as well as the ability to dig prodigious bass from those vinyl grooves. Throw away your preconceptions and give it a try.
A budget performer
- aptX Bluetooth streaming
- Integrated phono stage
- Gets the audio basics right
- Plays it safe in terms of sound
- Feels insubstantial
The LP60XBT picks up where the LP60 left off, mostly improving on its predecessor without smashing the piggy bank to bits.
It isn’t the most substantial of decks in terms of build, and the sound can be on the safe side. Tweaks have been made in tracking and resonance rejection, employing a fairly even-handed approach to the frequency range. It gets the basics right.
It’s aptX Bluetooth streaming at this price that piques the interest. As an investment, it’s affordable and if you want convenience, the LP60XBT makes a convincing argument.
Clearaudio Concept MM
A classy effort
- Awesome build quality
- Simple speed switching
- Easy setup
- Superb timing and attack
- Plays 78s
Given the faultless build quality and super-slick styling, you’d be forgiven for thinking this turntable costs as much as an around-the-world cruise. But no. You’d be lucky to get a week self-catering in the worst part of Tenerife for the price of the Concept MM.
As well as looking amazing, there’s some awesome engineering here, too. The tonearm has a magnetic bearing, which means it floats in the bearing housing, making no contact with the rest of the deck at all. Speed changing is easily achieved via a large knob on the plinth, and fans of old-time records will be pleased to know it can even handle 78rpm.
Corners haven’t been cut with sound quality, either. It has superb timing and attack, as well as retrieving far greater detail, and with more subtlety, than you should expect at this price or from a moving-magnet cartridge.
How we test for the best turntable
Our audio experts use every turntable they test as their primary home music player for weeks while testing. During that time they A-B test against competitors in the same price range, using a variety of partnering hi-fi components and different genres of music, from classical to dance. Where appropriate, turntables are also tested with a variety of different cartridges.
Ratings are based mostly on sonic performance, but also take into consideration build quality, ease of setup, and features.