Vinyl is back, vinyl is cool and, don’t be fooled, vinyl is here to stay. How do we know? Because record companies like vinyl: they’ve found a way of getting music fans, young and old, to pay for collectible product again – hence the current rush to release coloured vinyl, vinyl boxsets, 7" single collections, you name it.
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If you want to join in – or dig out your old records and revel in your music in an old-school way – then you’re going to need a record player. There are load of cheap decks out there, but they’re not always great for sound OR for the upkeep of your records. The turntables below are all less than £300 – some are less than £100 – and all have been tested by our buddies on What Hi-Fi and TechRadar.
The best turntables come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re just starting out, you probably don’t need to be fooling around with a complex turntable with an adjustable vertical tracking angle, anti-skate and azimuth. Do you want to rip your vinyl to your digital library? If so, look for a turntable with a USB output and reliable software to get the job done. (But do think long and hard about it – it sounds like the kind of thing you might want, but it can be a faff and if you have any kind of streaming account, you probably don’t need to.)
Below are the most highly-rated turntables around like now, with price comparison guides so you can see where the best deals are…
One of the best budget plug-and-play turntables
Type: Moving magnet | Speeds: (rpm) 33 ⅓, 45 | Manual operation: Semi-automatic | Tone arm included: Yes | Belt drive: Yes | Cartridge included: Yes | Dust cover included: Yes | Dimensions: (hwd, cm) 12 x 42 x 36 | Weight: 2.5 kg | Finishes: 6 (black, white, green, red, yellow, grey)
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 do USB recording. What Hi-Fi called it “the best plug-and-play machine we’ve come across at this budget price” and a load of warm customer reviews on Amazon are testament to its quality.
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.
Excellent value for beginners
Dimensions: 360.0 mm (14.17") W x 97.5 mm (3.84") H x 356.0 mm (14.02") D | Motor: Belt drive | Platter: Die-cast aluminum | Phono preamp: Yes | USB: No | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 rpm | Stylus: ATN3600
Another too-cheap-to-be-true turntable that actually cuts the mustard. Perfect for the beginner or someone who’s just looking to dabble in the vinyl renaissance, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60 is portable, and totally automatic: it’ll queue a record and return the arm to resting position without requiring a manual lever. There are cheaper turntable than both of these on the market, but they’re poorly engineered and you risk damaging your precious records with poorly aligned and improperly weighted tonearms.
"The best starter turntable of 2018" according to TechRadar
Dimensions: 450.0 mm (17.72") W x 352.0 mm (13.86") D x 157.0 mm (6.1") H | Motor: Direct drive | Platter: Die-cast aluminum | Phono preamp: Yes | USB: Yes | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45, 78 rpm | Stylus: AT95E
TechRadar called it “the best introductory turntable for aspiring vinyl enthusiasts” and the AT-LP120-USB lives up to that description. It’s the turntable you can get as a beginner and then never really have to change unless you become as sad and particular as us.
With a classic design, the ability to even play 78s, should you get into collecting old jazz, and a built-in phono preamp, it’s easy to set-up and use, with a USB output that allows you to record your record collection if you want.
Pro-Ject Essential III
Another great value product from Pro-Ject…
Drive Type: Belt Drive | Speed: 33 ⅓, 45 | Platter Diameter: 300 mm | Material: Aluminium, Stainless Steel Bearing | Width: 42 cm | Depth: 33 cm | Weight Approximate: 5 kg | Height: 11.2 cm | Colour: High Gloss Red | Dimensions: 11.2 cm (H): 42 cm (W): 33 cm (D)
Pro-Ject is a relative newcomer to the field. They started out as vinyl sales seemed to be on a terminal slide but carved out quite a reputation in the last 20 years as vinyl itself has made its comeback.
Pro-Ject have two budget turntables priced below this – the Elemental (£150) and Primary (£190) – but calls the £240 Essential III its “first true hi-fi offering”. It may be made out of MDF but it doesn't look or play like a ‘budget deck’ – and you can even upgrade it: the Essential III A comes with an acrylic platter upgrade (called the Pro-Ject Acryl-IT E) for an extra £40 – money well spent. You can see why What Hi-Fi gave it 4/5.
A chic classic from the masters
Dimensions: 17-3/32 x 4-51/64 x 15" (434 x 122 x 381 mm); (WxHxD) | Motor: Belt drive | Platter: Die-cast aluminum | Phono preamp: Yes | USB: No | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 rpm | Stylus: DSN-85
It’s gorgeous and its sound is detailed and airy, with an automatic start/stop feature that means your needle won’t be worn down at the end of the record.
There’s no USB output – but do you REALLY need one when almost every song you ever wanted is on Spotify/Apple Music? All in all a great looking turntable from an established great of the industry.
Audio Technica AT-LP3
“One of the best automatic turntables we've ever heard,” says What Hi-Fi.
Drive Type: Belt Drive | Speed: 33 ⅓, 45 | Tone Arm Shape: Straight | Material: Die-cast Aluminum Platter | Width: 43.5 cm | Depth: 35.3 cm | Weight: 5.20 kg approx | Height: 12.8 cm | Colour: Black | Dimensions: 12.8 cm (H): 43.5 cm (W): 35.3 cm (D)
Yes, it’s the third entry from Audio-Technica, but there’s no way we could leave this one off. “One of the best automatic turntables we've ever heard,” says What Hi-Fi.
Fully automatic, with a fool-proof set-up and comes with an cartridge that can be easily swapped out for another moving-magnet or moving-coil alternative. “At this price there isn’t anything that gives us such an enjoyable listen,” says the What Hi-Fi boffins.
Rega Planar 1
A 2017 What Hi-Fi award winner
Dimensions: 17.5" (450mm) W by 4.5" (115mm) H by 15" (385mm) D | Motor: Belt drive | Platter: Phenolic resin | Phono preamp: No | USB: No | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 rpm | Stylus: Rega Carbon
In hi-fi circles, they’re still debating whether the Rega Planar 1 or the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is the best entry-level hi-fi turntable – the debut Carbon is outside of our price range, so that makes Rega’s budget entry the most highly-rated under £300.
The Planar 1 sounds excellent and , with a phenolic resin platter. It’s easy to setup too, though you’ll have to provide your own phono preamp. (Old amps have a phono input that provides greater amplification for turntables. New ones often don’t, so you’ll need to buy one.)
Very hard to fault.
The 'hi-res turntable' that can rip vinyl to hi-res files
Dimensions: 16.54” x 13.78” x 4.92”; (W x D x H) | Motor: Belt drive | Platter: Aluminum Diecast Alloy | Phono preamp: Yes | USB: Yes 44.1kHz / 48kHz / 96kHz / 192kHz (16bit / 24bit) | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 rpm | Stylus: Sony 9-885-210-05
The Sony PS-HX500 is a great entry-level turntable with a standout feature: you can record Hi-Res audio from its USB output in 96kHz/24bit resolution. Fitted with an internal analogue-to-digital converter and USB type-B output, just hook it up to your laptop or computer’s USB input and, using Sony’s Mac- and Windows-friendly High Res Audio Recorder software, record your records as either as a WAV (up to 24-bit/192kHz) or DSD (5.6MHz) file.
What if you just want it to play records? The good news is, it sounds great: detailed, with clarity and texture.
Don't need USB? This could be the one for you.
Dimensions: 16.5” x 5.5” x 13.75” | Motor: Belt drive | Platter: Aluminum | Phono preamp: Yes | USB: No | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 rpm | Stylus: ATN95E
According to TechRadar, "The Fluance RT81 is the best starter turntable you can buy. Its gorgeous design and convenient features takes the headaches and stress out of setting up a turntable for the first time and, while audiophiles won’t be impressed, most people will enjoy the RT81’s mix of features, design and price."
You can upgrade it to if things get serious: you can switch out the cartridge to squeeze out more performance and, while it comes with a preamp, you can turn it off if you get a better external preamp. The only downside is small: “auto-off” feature stops the turntable, protecting your needle, but you need to return the arm yourself. Think of the calories you'll burn.