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Best record players 2021: Turntables your vinyl collection deserves

Rega Planar 1 record player in white
(Image credit: Rega)

When it comes to choosing one of the best record players for your vinyl collection, the choice can be overwhelming given the sheer amount of record players available.

If you’re coming into this space from one of the best budget turntables you might well be wondering what you get for that extra cash. And when you throw in extras such as phono preamps, the process can initially seem a little bewildering.

Well don’t worry, as we’ve dropped the needle on some of the best turntables out there and explained exactly what they’re all about. Not only that, but below you’ll also find buying advice and the best prices on record players from the likes of Sony, Technics, Rega, Audio Technica and more.

You might spot a record player or two that may be a little older compared to some of the younger models, but we've decided to keep them in our best record players list because they sound amazing and offer great vinyl appeal for the cash.

Best record players: The Louder Choice

Let's get straight to the point – our top choice for the best record player is the Rega Planar Elys 2. To call Rega dominant in the world of record players would be something of an understatement. After all, this is a company with almost 50 years of turntable building experience behind them, and yet they refuse to rest on their laurels, releasing quality product after quality product. And the Planar 3 is without doubt the pick of the bunch right now.

While it may look a tad expensive in a world awash with cheaper turntables, the Planar 3 is worth its weight in gold. It'll go toe-to-toe with record players that cost a whole lot more, making it a bit of bargain with that kind of perspective. It's definitely worth a purchase. Trust us, your vinyl record collection will thank you for it.

Best record players: Product guide

Best record players: Rega Planar 3 Elys 2 Turntable in black

(Image credit: Rega)

1. Rega Planar 3

The best record player you can buy for sound quality vs value

Launch price: $649/£649 | Operation: manual | Drive: belt | Cartridge: optional/moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: no | USB recording: no | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): 12x45x36cm

Exceptional sound
Traditional looks and build
Needs a solid support

The original Planar 3 is now over 40 years old. Yet, amazingly, if we put it and this current version side-by-side, we reckon most people would be hard pressed to spot any differences beyond the smarter plinth and updated tonearm.

Under the skin, almost every part had been revised since the last iteration – the P3-24 of 2007. And yet the core character remains. This Rega turntable is an unbelievably clean and clear performer that doesn’t impart its own character on your records. Everything you throw at it will sound just as it should – packed with detail, punch, rhythm and impeccable tonality.

You can also buy the Rega Planar 3 with added Elys 2 moving magnet cartridge, which will add a handful of cash to your purchase, but the extra outlay is worth it if you're looking for top-drawer performance and crystal clear audio.

If you want to hear your vinyl as intended – and why else would you be embarking on this analogue adventure? – this is how you should do it. The best record player around right now, bar none.

Read the full Rega Planar 3 review

Best record players: Sony PS-HX500 Turntable in black

(Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony PS-HX500 Turntable

Feature-packed and sonically capable – the best record player for beginners

Launch price: $299/£299 | Operation: manual | Drive: belt | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: yes | USB recording: yes | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): 10x43x37cm

Simple set-up but great sound
Built-in phono stage and ripping
Rega Planar 1 sounds better
No Bluetooth

On paper, the Sony PS-HX500 record player’s big selling point is that you can use it to rip your vinyl records – in hi-res, no less. Of course with our digital set-ups, that’s incredibly useful, but the best reasons to buy it are that it’s exceedingly simple to set-up, has a built-in phono preamp and that it sounds great.

This Sony turntable makes the most of your cherished vinyl by playing and even recording it – just plug in your Mac or PC and download Sony’s bespoke software – with all of its detail, clarity and texture intact.

But it doesn’t require a degree in audio engineering to set-up and you don’t need to buy a phono stage on top. It’s the perfect choice for the first-timer determined to take vinyl seriously.

Read the full Sony PS-HX500 review

Best record players: Technics SL-1500C

(Image credit: Technics)

3. Technics SL-1500C Turntable

The best record player for analogue nostalgia and next-gen tech

Launch price: $899/£899 | Operation: semi-automatic | Drive: direct | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45, 78 | Built-in phono stage: yes | USB recording: no | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): 12x23x16cm

As straightforward as vinyl gets
Sounds simply amazing
Looks like a posh DJ deck

The price of £899 might not scream 'entry-level' to most people, but the modern iteration of Technics is best known for its £3000 SL-1210 and lauded for its £14,000 SL-1000R. So this SL-1500C is decidedly entry-level by comparison.

This Technics turntable is a thoroughly modern unit with direct drive, so there's no belt to mess about with, a built-in cartridge and integrated phono preamp. It’s also semi-automatic, so while you have to place the stylus in the groove to begin with, the tonearm will lift from the record at the end without you needing to lift a finger.

But what’s most impressive about this next-gen turntable is how amazing the SL-1500C sounds. Clean, organised and dynamic, it takes a digital approach that digs up all of the detail on that big, black slab, but it’s not cold and unfeeling in the way of a hi-res music player.

In short, it’s as straightforward as vinyl gets and it sounds amazing. If you’ve got a grand to drop on your analogue habit, this is the best record player to spend it on.

Read the full Technics SL-1500C review

Best record players: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo

(Image credit: Pro-Ject)

4. Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo

Sound and style in one neat little package

Launch price: $499/£450 | Finish: High gloss, Satin, Real-wood veneer | Dimensions: 415 x 118 x 320 mm, dust cover open 415 x 365 x 405mm | Phono preamp: No | Speeds: 33/45/78

Sleek and stylish design
Sounds the business
Change speeds with one button
No phono preamp

The first of three entries in our list with a Pro-Ject slant – and with good reason as the Debut Carbon EVO will make you sit up and take notice. It’s priced in a similar bracket to the Pro-Ject Juke Box E turntable, so what do you get for your hard-earned cash by choosing this particular model? 

Perhaps the biggest difference is the inclusion of a rocker switch at the bottom of the unit which allows you to change speeds from 33/45/78 RPM with the simple push of a button – no need to for a manual kerfuffle. The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo also boasts improved suspension for more solid playback. And let’s face it, it looks he part too thanks to its stylish and sleek design.

Read the full Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO review

Best record players: Rega Planar 1 Turntable

(Image credit: Rega)

5. Rega Planar 1 Turntable

Simply the best turntable under £300 if sound matters most

Launch price: $250/£249 | Operation: manual | Drive: belt | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: no | USB recording: no | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): 12x45x36cm

Unbeatable sound for the money
Simple set-up
No integrated phono stage
No fancy features

If you are after fancy features such as Bluetooth and USB recording, this Rega isn’t for you. Heck, it’s one of the only turntables in its bracket that doesn’t have a built-in phono preamp, which means you’ll need an amplifier that’s got one or will need to factor in the cost of an external unit.

What it is, though, is the best-sounding turntable available at this sort of money. If you want to hear your just-bought or much-cherished records just as intended, the Rega is how you do it.

And don’t go thinking this is a cold, complicated deck. On the contrary, it produces a really fun sound and is pretty straightforward to set-up. If you’re prepared to be just a bit adventurous, this is the deck to buy.

Read the full Rega Planar 1 review

Best record players: Clearaudio Concept

(Image credit: Clearaudio)

6. Clearaudio Concept Turntable

This multi award-winning record player is a modern classic

Price: $1300/£1300 | Operation: manual | Drive: belt | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45, 78 | Built-in phono stage: no | USB recording: no | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): 12.5x42x35cm

Easy to set up
Great build
Excellent all-round audio
There aren’t any

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. Simplicity is a big part of this package’s charm: unlike some rival designs, which require patience, a steady hand and a passable grasp of mathematics to get working, the Concept is a 'plug and play' product straight from the box. 

This is a fabulously finished deck. Speed (33.3, 45 and 78rpm) is controlled by a hefty rotary dial, and the whole thing operates with the sort of solidity more readily associated with outside water closets.

We can’t see anyone turning down the Clearaudio Concept for a lack of talent. It is as clean, rhythmic, detailed and spacious as you’ll find for the money, not to mention engaging and entertaining. A Conceptual masterpiece, you could say... and it comes with a cost to match.

Best record players: Audio-Technica AT-LP3

(Image credit: Audio Technica)

7. Audio-Technica AT-LP3 Turntable

The best record player for automatic operation at a low price

Launch price: $200/£199 | Operation: fully automatic | Drive: belt | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: yes | USB recording: no | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): 13x44x35cm

Fully automatic operation
Authentic sound
No Bluetooth or recording

Those suitcase-style turntables you see almost everywhere you look these days are designed to bridge the gap between vinyl enthusiasm and analogue actuality by building everything in and making it as hands-off as possible.

But let's not beat around the bush: some of those suitcase turntables sound bloody awful, and unless you’re boarding the vinyl train for entirely hipster reasons – as a Louder reader we certainly hope that’s not the case – you simply must do better.

Better is the Audio-Technica AT-LP3, which has a completely automatic action – start the record at the touch of a button and finish it without lifting a finger – but sounds downright excellent for the money, with a balanced, natural sound that doesn’t mask your tune of choice. If you're looking for a great Audio Technica turntable, this is the one to go for.

Read the full Audio-Technica AT-LP3 review

Best record players: Pro-Ject Juke Box E Bluetooth Turntable

(Image credit: Pro-Ject)

8. Pro-Ject Juke Box E Bluetooth Turntable

Making Bluetooth connections in both directions

Launch price: $429/£429 | Finish: Black, red, white | Dimensions: 11.8 x 41.5 x 33.5cm | Phono preamp: Yes | USB: No | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45

Supremely easy to use
Fun, quirky design
Lacking a little muscle sound-wise

Now for something a little different – a Bluetooth record player that not only allows you to spin your favourite albums, but also lets you stream music through it too. This is made possible on the Pro-Ject Juke Box E Bluetooth because of RCA inputs and outputs, its own amplification and a receiver. It's a neat and versatile twist on the other turntables on our list.

Vinyl sounds great, offering a balance of dynamic space and warmth, while the mid-range price makes this a serious contender for your next purchase. To borrow a phrase from baseball, this is a multi-tool player.

Best record players: Lenco L-85

(Image credit: Lenco)

9. Lenco L-85 Record Player

The best turntable for plug-and-play simplicity at a low, low price

Launch price: $120/£115 | Operation: semi-automatic | Drive: belt | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: Yes | USB recording: Yes | Bluetooth: No | Dimensions (hwd): 15x42x36cm

As simple as turntables get
Incredibly affordable
Spending more gets better sound
Looks and feels cheap

It looks like a kid’s toy, and is almost as cheap, but the Lenco L-85 is actually a semi-automatic, belt-driven turntable with a built-in phono stage and the ability to record via USB. It’s as plug-and-play as vinyl gets.

It's old school enough - it comes with a pair of RCA cables so you can plug the L-85 into your stereo amplifier and get started straight away - but it's 21st century enough too: a USB port means you can convert your vinyl into MP3 files. 

A great starting point for anyone who's just getting into vinyl or digging out their old records from the garage.

Read the full Lenco L-85 review

Best record players: Sony PS-LX310BT

(Image credit: Sony)

10. Sony PS-LX310BT Turntable

The best Bluetooth turntable if you're on a strict budget

Launch price: $200/£195 | Operation: fully automatic | Drive: belt | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: yes | USB recording: no | Bluetooth: yes | Dimensions (hwd): 11x43x37cm

Fully automatic operation
Bluetooth built-in
Purist decks sound even better

If you’re looking to marry old-school hi-fi with new-school cool, this Sony spinner is the best record player for you. The big draw is Bluetooth support, which you can use to send that rich, analogue audio via the digital, wireless domain to a pair of Bluetooth headphones or a wireless speaker.

On top of that, the tonearm action is automatic, so the needle will find your record’s groove via a button-press and will extricate itself at the end with no intervention necessary.

Crucially, the PS-LX310BT record player also sounds great. Detailed, punchy and direct, this is a deck that reveals the details lurking in the depths of those vinyl grooves and brings them to the surface in fun, bubbly fashion.

Read the full Sony PS-LX310BT review

Best record players: Pro-Ject T1

(Image credit: Pro-Ject)

11. Pro-Ject T1 Turntable

The best record player for bass

Launch price: $250/£260 | Operation: manual | Drive: belt | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: no | USB recording: no | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): 10x42x34cm

Weighty, bassy sound
Lovely build quality
Sound isn’t exactly neutral
No integrated phono stage

If you want your affordable record player to have a premium look and feel then Pro-Ject turntables are definitely worth your consideration, and specifically the Pro-ject T1. This entirely plastic-free deck is completely solid and weighty, and it comes more or less ready to rock straight out of the box – you need only place the platter and belt yourself.

It should be noted that the T1 is light on fancy features – there’s no Bluetooth or USB recording, and you’ll need to add a phono preamp – but that’s simply because sound quality has been prioritised.

While the Rega Planar 1 is the no-frills record player to choose for sheer clarity and detail, this Pro-ject counters with a smoother, weightier, bassier sound that will suit a lot of your vinyl collection.

Read the full Pro-Ject T1 review

Best record players: Buying advice

A photo of vinyl records written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon for sell in a record shop

(Image credit: Mike from Pexels)

So, you've decided to pull the trigger and purchase a shiny new record player, but what are the key elements to consider before laying down your hard-earned cash? It might sound obvious but sound quality is the biggest priority by far. While no audio firm has a completely perfect record in this area, sticking to the established and well respected brands is a great place to start – unlike Bluetooth speakers, for example, a record player is a very specialist bit of kit. 

While our pick of best record player is made by Rega, don't forget about Austrian brand Pro-Ject which also boasts an accomplished range, while Technics and Clearaudio dominate the high-end record player sector. Sony and Audio-Technica, meanwhile, are particularly good at pairing true hi-fi audio quality with modern features such as Bluetooth and USB recording.

It's also important to put some thought into whether you’ll actually use those kinds of features. While it’s nice to have lots of options at your fingertips, don’t splash out on tech you'll never use, as you could save yourself a bit of cash. If in doubt, remember this: the techiest turntable is almost never the one that sounds the best.

If you’re boarding the vinyl bandwagon for the first time or getting back into the hobby, start by familiarising yourself with some key components, particularly the phono stage. This is essentially a step-up amplifier – they’re often referred to as phono preamps – that increase the tiny output of a record player to a level that a standard stereo amplifier can work with.

Many turntables have a phono stage built-in, as do some stereo amplifiers. Generally speaking, though, a phono-less turntable that goes through an external phono stage before getting to the amplifier will sound best, so consider going down that route if you’re serious about good audio quality from your record player.

It's worth bearing in mind that setting up a turntable for the first time can be a fiddly business, with components that need fitting and carefully adjusted. However, some are simpler than others. Many of the best record players on the market have automatic functionality, which means you only have to press a button for the tonearm to move into place and drop the needle into the groove at the start of the record.

Fully automatic and semi-automatic turntables lift the needle from the groove at the end, too. For many people, though, especially those who have been in the vinyl game for a while, a little initial tweaking and manual operation are keys to the charm of turntable ownership, and the simplest record players are often the best-sounding. Ultimately, only you can decide what type of vinyl listener you want to be.

Tom Parsons is a music and film fan who's been testing audio kit of all varieties for around 13 years, most of those at What Hi-Fi? He also loves rock and metal and is a particularly big fan of Coheed and Cambria.