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Best Record Player for 2022

Looking for a high-quality turntable to listen to your precious vinyl collection? These are the top record players we've reviewed, starting under $150

Streaming music may be convenient, but nothing compares to playing your favorite albums on a turntable. The best record players have a sound that's richer and more engaging than anything you'll find on digital.

Music enthusiasts on the lookout for a new system have a lot of options in 2022. Not only can you find affordable speakers, but there are also plenty of high-quality turntables , including models with Bluetooth connectivity. Superior sound often comes with spending more money, but it's not necessary. If you're a vinyl enthusiast, you could start with something like the $140 Audio-Technica AT-LP60X  workhorse or go all-out with the excellent Rega Planar 3.

Any of our best record player picks should provide great sound to have you spinning vinyl for years to come. This guide will walk you through all of the models CNET has tested between $100 and $1,000-plus, and the things you should be looking for. If you're a music lover, then dust off your vinyl collection and keep reading.

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The Fluance RT82 offers everything you could want except an onboard preamp, so if you have a receiver or amplifier with a dedicated phono input, this is the model to get. I was mightily impressed by the well thought-out inclusions with the Fluance. Auto-start on/off, adjustable feet and even a little bubble-level were included with the user in mind. This high-quality turntable had one of the most entertaining sounds of the $300 turntables, with plenty of insight into recordings as well as a healthy bass kick.

 

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

If you're just starting out in vinyl or looking for a cheap turntable to give as a gift, the inexpensive Audio-Technica AT-LP60X belt-driven turntable offers the warm sound you've heard about. Plus, it offers fully automatic operation. It also includes a limited upgrade path with a choice of line or phono output, allowing users to add their own preamp. This automatic turntable option is a great value.

Read our Audio Technica AT-LP60X review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Among audiophiles, the name Crosley has a bad reputation, but it still produces some excellent hi-fi models. The C10A is a case in point: It was engineered with help from Pro-Ject, but it offers more refinement than you may expect from either company (the T1 below excepted). This vinyl record player sounds good, it looks great, and if you can get it under $300, it's a bargain. We don't like it quite as much as the Fluance overall, but it's a solid runner-up.

Read our Crosley C10A review.

 

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The Pro-Ject may be a little over $400, but it shows how spending a little more can reap benefits. In terms of sound quality it really can bring out the best in your records. It offers refined treble, an expansive, detailed midrange and supple bass. It looks lovely too with its glass platter -- second only in appearance to the Audio-Technica (but the Pro-Ject sounds better). The T1's only "problem" is that it's ergonomically awkward -- the switch is deep on the left-hand side instead of on the front, and you need to apply a bit of upward force to remove the tonearm from the rest. 

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO offers everything you want in a player for the money: excellent sound quality, ease of setup and use, and striking looks. You would have to spend twice as much on another brand (*cough* Rega) to get better sound.

Read our Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo review.

 

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Entry-level turntables are great for people getting into the vinyl hobby, but if you really want to unlock the sound quality encased in your records it's well worth upgrading. The Pro-Ject Debut Pro is a high-quality record player that offers a lot of usability features the competitive Rega Planar 3 doesn't.

For instance, the Sumiko Ranier cartridge comes preinstalled, and the combination of adjustable feet and electronic speed change are a godsend for user-friendliness. The only tip I would give a potential buyer of this turntable is to buy a stylus force gauge as the "plastic see-saw" in the box is finicky to set the tracking weight correctly. 

Once setup is complete, though, the sound the Pro produces simply astonishes. If you've ever heard of vinyl described as "warm", then this is definitely not that. When paired with a decent system, a high-quality turntable vinyl like the Pro-Ject should sound as good as, if not better, than the equivalent digital file. Through testing, I found the Debut Pro has a way of making even well-worn records sound hi-fi with plenty of high-end detail, an expressive midrange and surprisingly deep bass. If your music needs some pep -- if your records make you sleep rather than dance -- this player is a great way to energize your system. The downside to the Pro-Ject's enthusiastic presentation is that with the "wrong" record, the sound could become a little fatiguing.

When you pair "true hi-fi" performance with day-to-day ease of use and drop-dead good looks I can't think of another turntable at this level that competes with it. That said, it is also worth looking at the pared-back Rega Planar 3, as it offers a touch more sonic subtlety and comprises of one of the best tonearms out there.

Read more about the Pro-Ject Debut Pro.

 

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Rega has made turntables for over 40 years, and was the first to develop the lightweight plinth or base that's now seen in most modern turntables. Even at $1,125 the Planar 3 sits just in the middle of the company's range, but it's arguably the best value. It's also a thing of elegance, with a simple-to-set-up design and the beautiful RB330 tonearm (if you're into that sort of thing). If you're a tweaker you can customize almost every part with a wide selection of third-party upgrades. With the right cartridge the Rega Planar 3 offers an exciting, fun sound, while also looking great and just being a complete blast to use. It is highly recommended. Note that the Rega comes in a number of different configurations, such as without a cartridge ($1,125), with the Ortofon 2M ($1,295) or with the Rega Elys ($1,395). If you get the cheapest option you can choose whichever cartridge you want, and a good dealer will install one without charging additional fees.

Read our Rega Planar 3 review.

 

Other products we've tested

Most of the turntable models I've tested for this buyer's guide have at least something to recommend it -- whether it be design, sound quality or both. However, the following players didn't quite make the list.

  • Crosley Cruiser Deluxe ($80) The "suitcase-style" turntable is hyper-popular due to its combination of eye-catching design and cheap pricing. The Deluxe has a plethora of features including Bluetooth in/out plus RCA out, but some compromises appear to have been made including a cheaper stylus. It's a fun toy, but in the end it's the Crosley's poor sound quality which disappoints. The Victrola Eastwood sounds better, but it has its own issues.
  • Music Hall MMF-1.3 ($349) The Music Hall MMF-1.3 is a good turntable at a decent price. It has an even-handed response with all types of music but it wasn't as engaging as the Pro-Ject and Fluance tables. If you're looking to plug a turntable straight into any receiver without a phono preamp this is the model we'd opt for.
  • Audio-Technica AT-LPW40WN ($349) With its carbon-fiber tonearm and natural wood veneer plinth, the Audio-Technica features excellent design, but it's a mixed bag in terms of sound quality. The table sounded boomy when plugged into a phono preamplifier, and while it was more neutral with the onboard pre-amp, it was still a little ho-hum.
  • U-Turn Orbit Plus ($299) While it's better-sounding than I remember the original being, the U-Turn couldn't compete with the performance of other players around $300. The turntable sounded truncated with a lack of extended high frequencies, and on the hardware side the lack of a cue lever felt like a glaring omission.
  • Fluance RT85 Unless you have a mellow-sounding system, the Fluance RT85's combination of an Ortofon 2M Blue and acrylic platter seems like one upgrade too far. The RT85 will be too much for already-bright systems and the Pro-Ject T1 and Debut EVO are a better value at this level.
  • Victrola Eastwood ($99) Unlike the competitive Crosley Cruiser Deluxe, the Victrola offers a proper cartridge (no plastic moving parts here) and compact styling. While it also sounds better than its competitor, the Eastwood's main problem is that the lid gets in the way when you try to change records, which could lead to damaging your vinyl.

The best record players compared

Product Fluance RT82 Audio Technica AT-LP60X Crosley C10A Pro-Ject T1 Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO Pro-Ject Debut Pro Rega Planar 3
Cartridge Ortofon OM10 Audio Technica AT3600L Ortofon OM5E Ortofon OM5E Sumiko Rainier Sumiko Ranier Ortofon 2M Blue
33/45 speed switch
Onboard preamp
Adjustable feet
Platter Metal Metal Metal Glass Metal Metal Glass
Removable headshell
Weight (lbs) 14.1 5.7 12.1 11 12.4 13.2 13.23

FAQ

Do suitcase turntables ruin records?

While a turntable like the Fluance RT84 could be considered a serious piece of equipment, models like the Crosley Cruiser Deluxe are really toys. That's ok, and as long as users treat them as such they shouldn't run into any problems. 

Whether turntables like this will destroy your records or not, though, is hotly contested, but the moving parts can be of a fairly basic quality. For example, the stylus on my Cruiser was a chunky plastic/ceramic combo instead of the aluminum/diamond you'd see on almost any other turntable in the world. The stylus itself is also quite large which could lead to greater wear, and when plugged in to a hi-fi the player sounded like an AM radio.

The other factor that could lead to damage is that it is typically children who use these record players and they aren't as careful with their records as experienced users. While I know people who've used suitcase models without issue, it is worth paying a bit more for a player like the Audio Technica LP60 which offers superior build quality and also sounds better.

How much should I spend for a good record player?

While you can spend extravagant amounts on a turntable, the true sweet spot for a record player is around $300. The best models at this price are not simple toys and can be considered true hi-fi. They offer elevated vinyl record sound quality and high-quality components. Unlike cheaper players, spending a bit more on these will buy you a turntable that is built to last.

Is vinyl better than digital?

Music fans have been debating the differences between digital and analog since the introduction of CD in the early '80s. There is no true "winner" as both have their respective strengths. Digital offers ease of use, portability, and should sound the same on day 1 as it does on day 10,000. Vinyl offers a fuller, richer sound and it's also more fun thanks to its tactile nature. Many people have collections which encompass several formats: streaming, CDs, vinyl records and even cassettes!

Can I leave the dust cover on when playing records?

It's worth noting that all of the models I tested come with a dust cover, but in every instance I used them with the lid off. While every other aspect of a turntable is damped, the dust cover usually is not. It's a simple piece of plastic designed to keep dust off your vinyl while not playing music, but it can cause feedback if it's left attached and the volume is up loud enough. It's best to remove the cover before playing a record: Players look and sound better that way.

How do I pick a record player?

There are four main elements to a turntable: the plinth or base, the platter on which the vinyl record sits, the motor and the arm. The best designs offer extended bracing and isolation between each of these elements to reduce the noise, which can affect the sound quality of the vinyl. All of these record players offer a belt drive, which further reduces noise over direct-drive designs

The best turntables feature a user-replaceable cartridge, which allows you to experiment with a higher-quality cartridge (such as an Ortofon 2M Red). Other convenience features to look for include an electronic speed switch (no more removing the platter) and a switchable onboard preamp which enables you to use a better phono stage.

Read about how to buy a turntable here.

 

001-best-turntables-under-300-dollars-2019

From left to right: Music Hall MMF-1.3, Fluance RT82, U-Turn Orbit Plus, Audio Technica AT-LPW40WN and Pro-Ject Primary (which has been discontinued).

Sarah Tew/CNET

How I tested

Best Turntables Under 300 dollars

The Audio-Technica offers a carbon-fiber tonearm.

Sarah Tew/CNET

All of these turntables offer a phono-level output -- an unamplified signal that needs RIAA equalization. I used a combination of gear including a Rotel RA1592 amplifier, Onkyo TX-NR696Q Acoustics 3050i tower speakers. and the Cambridge Audio Due preamp.

For receivers and amps that lack phono input, you'll need a phono preamplifier. CNET contributor Steve Guttenberg recommends the $100 Schiit Mani phono preamp as a quality budget option.

Two of the models offered a switchable line-level output -- the Music Hall MMF-1.3 and the Audio-Technica AT-LPW40WN -- and this is handy if you don't have or don't want an external preamp. You can plug these models into anything that accepts RCA cables. I also plugged these two directly into the amplifier and compared them against each other.

It's worth noting that some of the models are unavailable outside North America, such as the Crosley C10A, Music Hall MMF-1.3, Fluance RT82 and the U-Turn Orbit Plus. If you're looking for the best alternative to the Fluance RT82, I would recommend the Pro-Ject T1

As part of the tests listened to a number of different albums including these four artists: Bob Marley, Slint, LCD Soundsystem and Miles Davis. On each turntable, I listened for bass response (was it boomy or clean?), midrange detail (low-level instruments and echo effects) and high frequencies (were they recessed or too loud?). The best turntables performed well across all genres.

What is the best vinyl record player?

The Fluance RT82 is the overachiever of the bunch with its polished looks, useful features and involving sound. While most are competent, the only ones that fall far behind are the Audio-Technica AT-LPW40WN and the U-Turn -- their sound quality can't match the others. If you're able to pay a little more, the Pro-Ject T1 is lovely, if a little awkward to use.

If you want to get a greater insight into the performance of each model, below are the notes I took for myself while listening to each turntable with four different songs, each from a different record.

More audio advice and recommendations