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9 best turntables 2020: simply the best record players for your wax

9 best turntables 2020: simply the best record players for your wax
(Image credit: Future)

If you're looking to buy the best turntable for your growing vinyl record stash, you're in the right place with our expert guide to record players. And while it's usually true that you get what you pay for, here we've found a stunning mix of turntables to suit a range of different budgets, so no-one is left out.

When the vinyl record revival began, many people laughed it off a hipster fad. How wrong they were. According to the BPI, over 4.3 million vinyl records were sold in 2019, while the Recording Industry Association of America reported that vinyl record sales topped $504million last year, marking 14 years in a row of growth. That's a lot of wax, people.

No wonder we're seeing such a big influx of new record players, but that doesn't mean all of them are good enough to grace our best turntables guide; oh no, we don't let any old riff-raff in here. That's why you may spot a record player that's a little older compared to some of the younger bucks, but we've kept it in because it sounds damn good and offers great vinyl appeal for the cash.

One of the main reasons we love vinyl is because of the warmer, richer sound records offer. Yes streaming is convenient, and we ruddy love having the likes of Tidal and Spotify and our phones, but come on, nothing truly beats the ritual of vinyl. 

And of course, if you want this fabulous analogue audio to sound ace, you need to invest in one of the best turntables to do your wax stash justice. Especially if you have any valuable vinyl records gathering dust at home. Wanna flog 'em? Learn how to buy and sell valuable records with our expert guide.

But choosing a record player is no easy task: the vinyl resurgence means that the market is flooded with decks of various styles and prices. Fear not, for help is at hand: scroll down and you’ll find a carefully curated list of the very best turntables for all budgets. In a hurry and want to know what our top pick is? Then let's get to it...

Best turntables: The Louder Choice

Our top choice for the best turntable is the Rega Planar 3 Elys 2. To call Rega dominant in the world of record players would be a laughable understatement. This is a company with almost 50 years of turntable building experience, yet refuses to rest on its laurels, releasing banger after banger. 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 cheap turntables, the Planar 3 is worth its weight in gold. It'll go toe-to-toe with record players that cost a heap more, making it a bit of bargain with that kind of perspective. Look, just buy it. Your record collection will thank you for it.

Here are our 9 best turntables at a glance:

  • 1. Rega Planar 3 Elys 2 
  • 2. Sony PS-HX500 
  • 3. Technics SL-1500C 
  • 4. Rega Planar 1 
  • 5. Clearaudio Concept 
  • 6. Lenco L-85
  • 7. Audio-Technica AT-LP3 
  • 8. Sony PS-LX310BT
  • 9. Pro-Ject T1

Choosing the best turntable for you

So what should you look for in a new turntable? Well, it might sound obvious but sound quality is the biggest priority by far. While no company has a completely perfect record in this area, sticking to the established, well respected brands is a good start – unlike a Bluetooth speaker, for example, a record player is a very specialist bit of kit. 

As mentioned above, our choice for the best turntable is made by Rega. But Austrian brand Pro-Ject has a huge and accomplished range, too, while Technics and Clearaudio dominate the high-end record player arena. Sony and Audio-Technica, meanwhile, are particularly good at marrying true hi-fi audio quality with modern features including Bluetooth and USB recording.

Speaking of which, put a good deal of thought into whether you’ll actually use those kinds of features. While it’s nice to have options, don’t splash out on tech you'll never use. If in doubt, remember this: the techiest turntable is almost never the one that sounds the best.

If you’re boarding the vinyl records bandwagon for the first time, 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 amps) that increases 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.

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

(Image credit: Mike from Pexels)

Do bear in mind that setting up a turntable can be a little fiddly, with components that need fitting and careful adjustment, but some are simpler than others. Some of the best turntables 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. Nice.

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.

The best turntables to buy right now

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

(Image credit: Rega)

1. Rega Planar 3 Elys 2 Turntable

The best turntable you can buy for sound quality vs value

Price: £649 | Operation: manual | Drive: belt | Cartridge: 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.

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 turntable around right now, bar none.

Best turntables and record players: Sony PS-HX500 Turntable in black

(Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony PS-HX500 Turntable

Feature-packed and sonically capable – the best turntable for beginners

Price: £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. That’s useful, sure, but the best reasons to buy it are that it’s exceedingly simple to set-up, has a built-in phono stage and that, for a feature king, 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.

Best turntables and record players: Technics SL-1500C

(Image credit: Technics)

3. Technics SL-1500C Turntable

The best turntable for analogue nostalgia and next-gen tech

Price: £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

£899 might not scream 'entry-level' to most, but the modern iteration of Technics (which actually has a 50-year history in hi-fi) is best known for its £3,000 SL-1210 and lauded for its £14k SL-1000R. So this SL-1500C is decidedly entry-level by comparison.

This Technics turntable is a thoroughly modern unit with direct drive (no belt to mess about with), a built-in cartridge and integrated phono stage. 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.

Best turntables and record players: Rega Planar 1 Turntable

(Image credit: Rega)

4. Rega Planar 1 Turntable

Simply the best turntable under £300 if sound matters most

Price: £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 want 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 stage, 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 our Rega Planar 1 review

Best turntables and record players: Clearaudio Concept

(Image credit: Clearaudio)

5. Clearaudio Concept Turntable

This multi award-winning record player is a modern classic

Price: £1,300ish | 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.

Best turntables and record players: Lenco L-85

(Image credit: Lenco)

6. Lenco L-85 Record Player

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

Price: £100 | 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 our Lenco L-85 review

Best turntables and record players: Audio-Technica AT-LP3

(Image credit: Audio Technica)

7. Audio-Technica AT-LP3 Turntable

The best turntable for automatic operation at a low price

Price: £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 turntables you see all over Amazon, Argos and even Urban Outfitters 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 here’s the thing: 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 our Audio-Technica AT-LP3 review

Best turntables and record players: Sony PS-LX310BT

(Image credit: Sony)

8. Sony PS-LX310BT Turntable

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

Price: £179 | 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 turntable for you. The big draw is Bluetooth, 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. Wires? In the bin.

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 black disks and brings them to the surface in fun, bubbly fashion.

Best turntables and record players: Pro-Ject T1

(Image credit: Pro-Ject)

9. Pro-Ject T1 Turntable

The best turntable for bass

Price: £239 | 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’re keen that your affordable record player has a premium look and feel then Pro-Ject turntables are worth your consideration, and specifically the new Pro-ject T1. This entirely plastic-free deck is brilliantly solid and weighty, and it comes more or less ready to rock - you need only place the platter and belt yourself.

The T1 is light on fancy features – there’s no Bluetooth or USB recording, and you’ll need to add a phono stage – but that’s 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 the vinyl records likely to be spun by you, our loyal Louder reader.