As Black Friday approaches, it could be time to do your research on what turntable you hope will make it into the Black Friday sales.
We've already done a best budget turntable feature – this time around, we're looking at the most incredible, price-no-object, let’s-go-fucking-mental, what-happens-if-I-press-this, impress-your-mates, get-laid-purely-on-the-quality-of-your-record-player, turntables.
NB: This doesn’t mean they’re all out of the price range of people who don’t own a solid gold helicopter gunship.
As with our budget turntable feature, all of these “decks” are tested by our pipe-smoking chums on What HiFi and TechRadar, so they know what they’re talking about.
A repeat award-winner, and for good reason
Dimensions: 16.54” x 13.78” x 4.92”; (W x D x H) | Motor: Belt drive | Platter: Polyoxymethylene | Phono preamp: No | USB: No | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45, 78 rpm | Stylus: Clearaudio Concept MC
The sound is awesome, there's poise and pace to spare, and it packs a punch too. 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.
As with all turntables, you’ll need a level, rigid and properly damped support for this deck to sit on if you’re serious about getting the best out of it (at £1000, you should be).
You can fit a platter and a drive belt, can’t you? Of course you can – and then the Concept’s ready to play.
Before dropping a record into place, though, it's worth taking a moment to admire the Concept's clean design and chunkily substantial finish. 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.
Ambitious, space age insanity
Sound? Massively detailed. Agility? Class-leading. Dynamics? Strong. Precision? Exceptional. The RP8 is the very definition of a brilliant all-rounder.
Initially, it’s possible to confuse it for one of the same company’s cheaper models, but a closer look reveals there’s far more going on here than first impressions suggest. And we’re not talking about the gloss-black finish, either.
Rega is quite rightly recognised for the quality of its more affordable decks. The likes of the RP3 particularly have dominated their sector and the What Hi-Fi Awards for far more years than we care to remember.
But when the company really goes for it, shooting for the stars rather than trying to meet a price point, the results are spectacular. If you have the budget for the RP8/Apheta combination, jump right in. You won’t be disappointed.
The best starter turntable with all the features you’ll ever need
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
The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB is the best introductory turntable for aspiring vinyl enthusiasts. Out of the box, it features the ability to play 33 ⅓, 45 and 78 RPM, this means there will never be an album you can’t play. There’s also a built-in phono preamp so you never have to worry about finding one on your own.
New record collectors will love the easy setup and features while more vetted users will love the option to dial in the vertical tracking angle, tracking force and easily replaceable headshell. Sure, it looks like a Technics SL-1200 rip-off but at a fraction of the price, it’s entirely worth it.
The AT-LP120-USB also comes with a USB output that allows you to record your record collection if you want. To put it simply, this deck strikes the perfect balance of ease of use for beginners while still including some more advanced features for you to grow into.
Project Debut Carbon Esprit SB
Project dominates the UK entry to mid-price turntable market thanks to its tie-up with Richer Sounds, and the fact that its products are jolly good.
Dimensions: 415 x 118 x 320mm (WxHxD) | Motor: Belt drive | Platter: Aluminum | Phono preamp: No | USB: No | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 rpm | Stylus: Ortofon 2M Red
This slightly offbeat special edition boasts a carbon fibre tonearm of the same type used on certain high-end Linn turntables, and an acrylic platter, sat on a high gloss plinth of purest, er, MDF. Well, all of these materials are deemed highly favourable to the sonic results, you see.
Whatever the science of it, the result is a belt-driven turntable with a superb, focused sound and a highly attractive look. Both build and audio are like what you'd expect from a much pricier deck. A cartridge is included, but there's no pre-amping here.
Awesome sound in an incredibly durable build
Dimensions: 453mm x 372mm x 173mm | Weight: 11.2kg | Motor: Direct Drive Manual Turntable | Platter: Aluminium diecast | Speeds: 33-1/3, 45 and 78 rpm
The original range of Technics SL1200 and SL1210 – the only major difference between them was the former was silver and the latter black – rightly became iconic as rock-solid DJ turntables. So that Technics has now reinvented them as high-end, high-price retro-fetish items seems a bit odd.
You can still buy old SL1210s online that will probably work fine – those things were built to last – or you could spend a grand more and get this (or spend two grand more and get the even more upmarket SL-1210G). To be fair, this definitely sounds better than the old version, and comes with a warranty. In terms of build, weight and appearance it's very similar. Get a roadie. And an entourage.
VPI Prime Signature
Expensive turntable makes anything sound good
Dimensions: 21 ⅜" x 15 ¾" x 11" | Weight: 66lbs | Platter: 12" Aluminum Platter, 20lbs
It's not cheap, but the Prime is getting into serious turntable territory. It handles even the most challenging musical arrangements with barely a shrug.
VPI Industries has a long history of producing great value, high quality turntables. The New Jersey-based specialist’s products have never been cheap, but even at £3750, the Prime represents something of a bargain, as far as high-end record players are concerned. You’d have to look at products that cost close to double that before any notable upgrades are heard. Surprisingly for a high-end offering, that sub-four grand price includes the deck and partnering arm. All you have to do is add a suitably talented cartridge – in the case of the review sample, a Lyra Delos moving coil costing around £1000 – and off you go.
VPI started back in 1978. Since then it has made some terrific decks and we think the Prime should be considered one of them. By high-end standards it’s aggressively priced while delivering a scale of engineering and sound that’s hard to better for anywhere near this price. Sure there’s no lid, and you’ll have to pay extra for a decent cartridge. But once you do, we think the Prime is good enough to remind you why you got into hi-fi in the first place.
A steal, a deal, the turntable sale of the century
Dimensions: 440mm x 350mm x 110mm; (W x D x H) | Motor: Belt drive | Platter: High-Density Acrylic | Phono preamp: No | USB: No | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 rpm | Stylus: Clearaudio Virtuoso
The Marantz TT-15S1 costs a serious bit of change, but you’re actually getting a killer bargain. The Clearaudio Virtuoso included with the turntable is $1000 when purchased separately. Additionally, you get a killer tonearm and gorgeous turntable at a price that’s definitely an investment, but not unreasonable.
So what does the Marantz TT-15S1 get you over the competition? Attention to detail. Just about every part of the turntable has been poured over to be the best it can be for the price. The fit and finish are excellent and it’s a pleasure to handle the high-quality components. This is a turntable you’ll find yourself admiring its visual and audible qualities. Newbies should not get this turntable as it requires more knowledge to set up properly than the entry-level turntables on this list. But if you’re ready to take your record collecting and listening to the next level, the Marantz TT-15S1 is the perfect place to start. You can go pro with this high-end turntable.
Linn Klimax LP12
The Rolls-Royce of turntables. Look, but don’t touch
You might baulk at the price tag, but if you get a chance to experience this deck, its dynamics and rhythmic ability are out of this world. Build quality is also awesome, as you'd expect at this price.
The Linn LP12 was introduced in 1973. This unassuming belt-driven turntable took a while to gain traction, but by the 80s it had become the dominant premium record player on the market, in the UK at least. Even today, it’s held in high esteem and still considered by many as one of the most capable decks around. That’s impressive staying power for a design that outwardly looks little different from the decades-old original. Of course, despite appearances it has changed over that time. Almost totally. Just about every part has been developed and honed on multiple occasions. The good thing is that all the important improvements are retro-fittable. If you have one of the early decks it can easily be brought up to current standards. Easy, in this case, isn’t the same as cheap, as a quick rundown of our range-topping Klimax LP12 review sample shows.
Yet, in most respects it’s startlingly better than what has gone before and is still right up there with the very best at this price. The Linn LP12 remains a deck to be taken very seriously indeed. A triumph of British engineering.
Crosley executive USB
The ideal record player for spies
Dimensions: 356mm x 305mm x 127mm | Weight: 3.2kg | Speeds: 33/45/78 | USB: Yes
A USB turntable in a suitcase for about £60, this an entry-level turntable. You have a choice of a slightly weedy, built-in speaker, a slightly noisy line out to an amp or external speaker, or USB, to rip your tunes via the bundled app, or any other audio capture software you may favour. Clearly, you're not going to get audio to make hi-fi buffs stroke their beards with delight but the great thing about cheap turntables is that once cranked up, they do punch way above their price-weight.
Can also be used for converting cassettes to MP3
Dimensions: 514mm x 435mm x 174mm | Weight: 3.5kg | Speeds: 33/45 | USB: Yes
DJ turntables used to be a huge market, and there are still brands gamely trying to take on the market-dominating Technics SL-1200 and 1210, despite over 40 years of consistent failure to do so.
Chief amongst these are Stanton and Numark, who serve up this multi-speed, deck for a tonne. It is decidedly plasticky but has a bit of heft to it, and setup is simple, because the output is line level rather than requiring a phono pre-amp. That said, output is on the quiet side, but feed it through a half decent mixer, into an amp, and you get perfectly acceptable results, for the money. It looks like a DJ set-up but don't even think about scratching with it; you'll ruin your records and the needle!
The TTUSB also includes a 1/8-inch stereo mini jack input connector to facilitate the transfer of cassette tapes (or similar line level sources) to computer files-making this unit the perfect tool for archiving older recordings, regardless of their original format. For the editing of your transferred files, the included Audacity software (PC and Mac compatible) provides a wealth of easy-to-use features. Export your analog music to popular digital formats such as WAV or MP3, and turn your old, forgotten records to the top of your digital music playlist.