There are plenty oflike and Apple Music that make listening to music easier than ever. But for true audiophiles, there's nothing that compares to the rich sound of records on a turntable. Which is why we here at CNET have tested and rounded up some of the very best record players on the market right now.
There's a difference in sound quality that music streaming can't quite compete with. There's nothing quite like picking up one of your favorite vinyl records, pulling it out of its sleeve and placing it on a turntable. As the needle drops on to the shiny vinyl, you're transported by the performances of your most beloved artists.
Music enthusiasts on the lookout for a new system, with vinyl at its core, have a lot of options in 2022. Not only can you find high-quality turntables , including models with Bluetooth connectivity. Superior analog sound often requires spending more money, but it's not necessary. If you're a vinyl enthusiast, you could start with something like the $149 Audio-Technica AT-LP60X workhorse, or you could decide to go all-out with the excellent ., but there are also plenty of
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 from $80 and up, plus go over the things you should be looking out for. If you're a music lover, then dust off your vinyl collection and keep reading.
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 Rainier||Ortofon 2M Blue|
|33/45 speed switch||✔||✔||✘||✘||✔||✔||✘|
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.
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.
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.
The Pro-Ject may be a little pricey, 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.
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.
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 offering many usability features the competitive Rega Planar 3 doesn't.
For instance, the Sumiko Rainier 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 one of the best tonearms out there.
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 or more, 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 ($1,364) or with the Rega Elys ($1,395). If you get the bare table you can choose whichever cartridge you want, and a good dealer will fix one without charging installation fees.
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Other products we've tested
Most of the turntable models I've tested for this buyer's guide have at least something to recommend them -- whether it be design, sound quality or both. The following are ranked in order of commendability.
- ($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 Fluance RT82. If you're looking to plug a turntable straight into any receiver without a phono preamp this is the model we'd opt for.
- ($500) 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.
- ($379) 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.
($700) The first turntable to work wirelessly with Sonos, the Victrola Stream Carbon is easy to set up and play on any compatible speaker. The turntable's a lot of fun and the sound quality was fine enough, but sadly the ergonomics were a little off. Specifically, the two components you use every time -- the power-speed switch and the tonearm lift -- are almost comically tiny.
- 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. ($329) While it's better-sounding than I remember
- ($70) 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 (below) sounds better, but it has its own issues.
- ($91) 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.
Do suitcase turntables ruin records?
While a turntable like the Pro-Ject Debut Pro 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 review unit was a chunky plastic/ceramic combo instead of the aluminum/diamond you'd see on almost any other turntable. The stylus itself is also quite large which could lead to greater wear, and when plugged in to a separate 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.
How I tested
All of these turntables offer a phono-level output -- an unamplified signal that needs RIAA equalization. I used a combination of gear including a amplifier, , tower speakers. and the Cambridge Audio Due preamp.
For receivers and amps that lack phono input, you'll need a phono preamplifier. CNET contributorphono 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.