Are you getting ready to take the plunge for your first turntable? Or maybe you're a long-time vinyl vet looking to upgrade?
In either case we've got you covered. Here are two dozen (!) of our favorite models, from "ultra-budget" to "sky's the limit."
Technics introduced the world's first direct-drive turntable, the SP-10 in 1970, and the direct-drive SL-1200 arrived in 1972. The SL-1200 remained in production through 2010. It's back, but I think Technics' only misstep with the new SL-1200GR was in charging so much money. People willing to spend over $1,500 on a turntable -- which last time I checked were definitely audiophiles -- would probably be turned off by its DJ looks. A 'table with the same working parts sheathed in a more conservative-looking design would attract a lot more customers at this price. For DJs, there's always the Pioneer PLX-1000.
There's a lot to like about Audio Technica's budget 'table, first because setup is a lot easier than average, Rare for budget models, the LP60 has a cast aluminum platter and automatic operation. The AT LP60 also sports a built-in phono preamp, so this turntable will work with any audio system or a set of powered desktop speakers.
U-Turn turntables are assembled by hand in the company's Woburn, Massachusetts workshop. Each turntable goes through comprehensive listening, wow and flutter, and rumble tests, as well as a 15-point performance evaluation. The majority of the parts for the Orbit Plus are sourced within the US; the acrylic platters are made in Ohio, the base and plinths come from Minnesota, and dust covers from Maine. Sadly, it's not available in the UK or Australia.
The Thorens TD 190-2 is a fully automatic design. Most turntables with high-end aspirations are manual in operation, meaning you have to lift the arm from its rest, put the stylus (needle) in the groove, lift the stylus at the end of the record side, and return the arm to its rest, then turn off the platter motor. So compared with playing a file or a CD, LP playback can seem like a lot of work. The TD 190-2 does all that stuff automatically. So even if you have unsteady hands or are visually impaired, you can play records with the TD 190-2 with ease.
The Fluance RT81 turntable's build quality is way above what I'd expect from an entry-level turntable. It puts the $289 U-Turn Orbit Plus and $449 Rega RP1 turntables to shame. The solidity of the medium-density fiberboard base is noteworthy, and my sample's real walnut-grain finish was stunning. This belt-drive design features auto-start operation, so as soon as you move the tonearm into position to play a record the platter starts spinning.
The VTE-R is one of the very few turntables designed for wall mounting, it's a vertical turntable. The idea here is space saving, not fidelity, but I still think it's a very cool product for people starting out in the hobby.
Call me an audio snob, but I never thought Crosley turntables were in the same league as Audio Technica, Music Hall, Pro-Ject, Rega or U-Turn turntables. Crosleys seemed to come from a different, less-audiophile-oriented mindset, so when I heard they were getting serious about competing in that market, I was curious. I kept putting off getting one in for review, but now that I've played a few LPs on the Crosley C10 turntable I can tell you it's good.
Music Hall mmf-1.5's real cherry-wood-veneered base feels luxurious, and the mmf-1.5's removable headshell is a feature you won't find on Pro-Ject Debut Carbon or Rega turntables. I like removable headshells because they come in handy if you want to easily swap cartridges for different occasions. For example, pop on a spare headshell with a cheap cartridge when you're throwing a party, and another headshell with a higher-end cartridge for the times you want to go deep with your music.
The new Planar 3 is a far more sophisticated turntable than the Planar 3 I knew in the 1980s. The gestalt of the design is similar, but fit and finish are lightyears ahead of original Planars. In fact, the new Planar 3 is so new it shares almost no parts with even the previous Rega RP3 turntable!
The ongoing vinyl surge may have something to do with the release of Thorens' slick TD 203 turntable; but the company has been making music playback machines since 1883 in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland. Back then, the company made music boxes and clock movements. Thorens started manufacturing Edison-inspired phonographs in 1903!
The Acoustic Signature WOW XL is built on a beveled MDF plinth to which is bonded a thick aluminum top plate. The aluminum platter is damped on its underside with a lossy material and is belt-driven by an AC synchronous motor. At the center of it is a version of AS's Tidorfolon-bottomed bearing that uses a rounded-off spindle instead of a captured ball.
The most classic of all audiophile turntables, the LP12 is the one that made belt drive de rigueur for decades. The LP12 debuted way back 1972, and it's been revised many times since. The Majik is now the entry-level LP12 (so to speak).
The AMG Giro turntable features the AMG 9W2 tonearm, and the belt-driven platter is a combination of synthetic and aluminum materials. It uses the decoupled spindle design of the highly-acclaimed AMG Viella V12 turntable. The Giro's plinth is meticulously machined from aircraft-grade aluminum and features both 33 and 45 RPM via electronic control.
According to the Clearaudio website, the "Master Innovation's incredible rotational speed stability is achieved thanks to the combination of the patented Clearaudio ceramic magnetic bearing (CMB) supplemented by an additional flywheel and a high torque DC motor. An infrared sensor sends signals to an optical speed control mechanism to consistently maintain the perfect speed, while non-contact magnetic decoupling of the drive prevents any vibration or noise from the motor system from reaching the main turntable. Consequently, speed variations are eradicated and perfect pitch is obtained. The Master Innovation provides the ability to mount up to three tonearms."
The Onkk Cue DD and the next three turntables were shown at the High End Show in Munich, Germany a few weeks ago. The Cue is the flagship product of ONKK Limited UK. The turntable features a DSP speed control of the direct-drive motor, a cast aluminum plinth, pistonic suspension and a ceramic bearing.
Made in New Jersey, the VPI Avenger Plus chassis is three layers of bonded acrylic/aluminum/acrylic, with damping material between layers, locked in by three isolation steel corner posts, and the massive bearing assembly. The corner posts that hold the tonearms (up to three will fit) have adjustable machined knobs, giving the user the ability to easily raise and lower the height to level the table.
No Technics DJ turntable this time, the upcoming SL-1000R is aimed at the hard core, well-heeled audiophile. This all-new direct drive turntable dazzles the eye and the ear for $20,000. Not available in the UK or Australia.