Welcome to TheBestTurntable, here it is our mission to inform you about the dynamics and intricacies that go into selecting the best turntable. Whether you are an audiophile, everyday mixer, casual listener, someone who is just getting started, or someone who is simply trying to buy a gift, we are here to help you get the footing you need to better understand these products.
We have a combined twenty years experience in the turntable business, and after using hundreds of these products, we have gained a lot of knowledge and believe we can help you choose the best record player for your needs. But before we show you our top pics, we have to first briefly explain the anatomy of a turntable.
Best Turntables: Top 7 Chart of 2016
|Fully automatic belt drive.||Two: 33.5RPM and 45RPM||Under $150
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|Belt drive.||Three: 33RPM, 45RPM, and 78RPM||Under $100
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|Manual belt drive.||Two: 33RPM and 45RPM.||Under $500
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|Direct-drive.||Three: 33.33RPM, 45RPM, and 78RPM.||Under $300
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|Manual belt drive.||Two: 33RPM and 45RPM.||Best Turntable Under $500
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|Automatic belt drive.||Three: 33.33RPM, 45RPM, and 78RPM||Under $150
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|Direct-drive.||Three: 33RPM, 45RPM, and 78RPM||$Under 1000
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This chart has both cheap turntables and ones that are of higher quality and price, all from the good turntable brands. We tried hard to balance out the ratings, so that price and quality both were weighed similarly. Regardless, these are 7 of the greatest record players and turntables that you can find today, and they do a great job of providing you with the unique sound and experience that you crave for. If you are an aspiring DJ and are looking for the best DJ turntable that is suitable for you, you should check out the Stanton STR8150.
Budget Picks: Getting Value With The Best Record Player
Your budget is obviously an important aspect that will determine which turntable you will bring home. It is one of our heaviest weighted categories in which we determine the top 8 list and that is because we all want to get value out of our purchase, and we are no different from you. Well because there are so many products out there, we have broken them down into three categories to make your choice as easy as possible. Here is our value picks, starting with the lower price:
It is very tough to get a superb product in this field with under $100, but the Audio Technica AT-LP60 is by far the most optimal choice and the definite low budget choice. The other choices like the Jensen JTA and the ones that did not make our list just don’t come close to the value of the AT-LP60
If your budget is over $100 and just under $300, then you’re getting there in terms of quality. Much like the under $100 choice, the award for the under $300 value pick goes to the upgraded Audio Technica AT-LP120. The motor has decent power and the cornucopia of features that come with it are parallel to that of a more expensive tier of record players, so it definitely rightfully belongs here.
A budget of under $500 gets you one of our most revered choices, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC. We love this turntable, all it’s features, its functionality and everything else. It really goes the whole nine yards. The price point is incredibly low for the quality, and if you’re looking at a budget in this tier, it is by far the clear choice.
Now that you saw our budget picks, let’s get more acclimated with these products. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced audiophile, you probably still want to know more about these turntables, so let’s first dive into the anatomy:
Anatomy Of A Turntable
Stylus: What those unfamiliar with the specific terms would call “a needle”, the stylus is the part of the best turntable for money that actually comes into contact with the record. This part generates the vibrations by running through the grooves of the record, that then travel through the tone arm (more on that later) to eventually become sound. Made from diamond or sapphire; styli can be either spherical or elliptical.
Plinth: Simply put, this is the base framework and housing of the machine. Make sure it looks cool.
Tone Arm: Pretty easy to understand the origin of its name, this component looks like an actual arm and is dedicated to holding the cartridge and stylus at one end, and combined with the counterweight and various other mechanisms at the other end, is responsible for transporting vibrations that ultimately get emitted as sound. Tone arms come either as straight or curved. And although many say that curved arms produce better sounds, most DJs prefer the straight arm as it is easier to scratch with. If the tone arm is off-canter from its desired position, the cartridge and stylus will not be parallel with the record and thus will affect sound clarity greatly. Most affordable turntables will come with straight arms, and the higher priced ones will most likely be curved.
Platter: A visual staple among all turntables and record players, the platter is the circular portion on the surface of the plinth that acts as a plate for the record to sit on. Although there are various design features throughout the spectrum of turntables, one feature that is widely accepted as a positive one is a heavy platter with good bearings — proper weight bearing method assures for low friction and a turntable that has its rotating mass spin at a constant rate and is less prone to suffer from excess noise, and any disturbances or variations in speed.
Mat: A soft, rubbery material that sits atop the platter, and is meant to grip and act as a soft cushion for the record to sit on. The mat also acts as a way to minimize vibrations from the internal motor.
Counterweight: Responsible for something called “tracking force”, this component acts as the tool to adjust the amount of downward pressure the stylus exerts on a record — too little tracking force, and the track will skip constantly, too much force and you will cause damage to the stylus and the record.
Cartridge: Attached to the end of the tone arm opposite the stylus, the turntable cartridge is the final destination of vibrations. Once arrived at the cartridge, the vibrations gets transformed into electrical signals via coils inside the cartridge itself.
Anti-Skate: Naturally, the tone arm and stylus will want to pull towards the center of the record, leading to damage of the record grooves. But good thing for a little something called Anti-Skate! This allows you to adjust for how much horizontal force is being applied to the tone arm.
Preamp (Phonostage): Commonly referred to as a ‘Phono Preamp’, to somebody who is just learning about turntables or audio equipment in general, the concept of a preamp might be a little confusing. No worries, we’re here to help. Inherently turntables produce PHONO output signals. These output signals need to be converted to LINE LEVEL signals, or what is commonly referred to as an AUX signal, in order to work with electrical audio systems such as headphones or speakers. And this is what a pre-amp does: it converts phono signals to line levels signals. Some turntables have pre-amps built in, while others do not. Pre-amps vary greatly in cost and quality.
What You Need With Your Turntable Purchase
Its true that just buying a good turntable is not all you need to get those records spinning. You’re going to need a few things first. If your turntable comes with a pre-amp, like most new products do, you will only need an amp or receiver to plug it into, which would then go directly into your speakers. If your turntable does not have a built in phono pre-amp, you will need to get one seperately.
Aside from that, we also recommend buying a new cartridge with your turntable. Chances are the one that it comes with is not up to par in terms of quality, so that should definitely be replaced with a better product as that would vastly improve the sound that your turntable produces.
So to organize everything, this is what you’ll need:
1. A Turntable: First and foremost of course. This creates a weak signal that needs to be amplified twice before it is deciphered by your speakers.
2. ( Phono ) Pre-amp: Either built in to the turntable, the receiver, or just seperately bought. If your pre-amp does not have a phono stage, you will need a phono amp to plug into the pre-amp. Cheap ones do just fine.
3. Power amp or Receiver: This is a crucial part of your build and will determine how the sound comes out of your speakers. It makes sense to spend more here.
4. Speakers: The final part of the chain and where the sound ultimately comes out of. Just like the power amp or receiver, if you have the best turntable speakers then the sound quality will be much better.
Some other optional items include a record brush to clean your records and a record shelf to adequately store your records.
Difference Between A Record Player and Turntable:
So we keep hearing these words best record player and best turntable and while most people use these words as synonyms and in context interchangeably, there are differences between the pair. In order to get a better understanding of these words and the tandem between them, let us delve into a brief history of the two.
The phonograph was first invented in 1877, and after years of electrical and technological advancements, it quickly started being referred to as the best record player by the public. Record players, for almost a hundred years acted as the main staple for people to enjoy their music on a daily basis — so this scenario begs the question: what is a turn table and why is a different term even needed if record player preceded it and was used commonly?
To answer the question simply, a vintage turntable is the component of the record player in which one actually places the vinyl record on so that the record can spin at a constant rate in order to create vibrations via the needle running through its grooves.
To simplify things even further, all record players have a built in amplification system to reproduce the sound in the product itself, as opposed to a turn table that needs to have its signal augmented in order to be triggered through speakers or headphones.
So in conclusion, a record player has all necessary parts to reproduce sound and emit it through a built in speaker, while a turntable needs extra components to alter and stimulate its output signal and produce sound through an external amplifier. All in all though, the best audiophile turntable can definitely also be the best record player, so don’t fret too much on it. The only time where this may not be the case is in terms of turntables meant for Dj’s, like the Stanton STR8150.
Why Even Buy A Turntable?
So what if you’re a person who is reading all of this and you still find yourself asking things like “Why should I even buy a turntable?” and “What’s the point? My phone works as a perfect music player” or even something like “Isn’t the concept of having a turntable old and outdated?” which would be all reasonable notions to have.
I mean, surely there are plenty of people out there who aren’t purchasing their second, third, or fourth turntable. So if you are one of those people who are looking to buy your first turntable, the question must arise: why even buy one in the first place? Let’s go through some reasons.
1. Better Sound Quality:
Now before we go any further, we are not saying that vinyls sound definitively better than any CD or audio file, because sound is such a subjective thing, what may sound good to one person can’t possibly be assumed to sound good to another. But what we are saying is that the use of the best turntable and vinyls allows the user more customization and precision in achieving specific sounds and tones. And although not ironclad, many audiophiles hold the belief that sound reproduction from analog (vinyl) has much warmer and richer tones than that of any digital sound reproductions.
Having the ability to change and upgrade certain components of your turntable means you can adjust the factors that contribute to the sound quality of your turntable, components such as the tone arm, cartridge, platter, etc. And on top of that, these parts can often be further adjusted to achieve even more precision in sound quality and reproduction. But if you haven’t yet listened to some of your favorite albums on vinyl yet, we suggest giving those albums a listen or two on CD or MP3, and then go listen to those same albums again on vinyl.
With a properly setup the best turntable for listening and audio-system it should feel as if you’re really listening to that album for the first time in a different way. And what we really mean by that is that a lot of things must be considered when talking about sound reproduction.
For example, when a band records a song in a studio, those band members are actually in a 3dimensional space, and those instruments have actual space in-between them in relation to each other, so when you think about reproduction of sound, you can also consider that there needs to be a reproduction of the space in between the sounds and instruments, and not just the sounds themselves. Simply put, if you were to close your eyes and listen to a vinyl, you’d be able to better imagine the band playing live in front of you, and where each member and instrument would be in relation to one another.
2. The Experience:
Nowadays it’s all random playlists this, and shuffle artists that — people put their headphones on, or plug their auxiliary cables in, click a button, and voila! MUSIC! It’s almost as if music most of the time is an afterthought in our everyday lives, and although I would be a hypocrite if I said I never got lazy or content when it came to my impulsive need for my music library, please allow me to divulge in a rather different experience of listening to music.
Sifting through your records, each one not a representation of pixels, but an actuation of physical matter gracing through your passing fingertips, the connection to the music and your want for it is much more personal. You finally find the album you’re seeking; not a touch on a screen or the click of a button, but like the plucking of a flower, or the removal of a familiar book from a shelf — yeah, there it is. That’s the one.
You hold the paper sleeve in your hands, gazing at what seems like a piece of art in and of itself, and proceed to remove your prize. You inspect the surface for any accumulated dust and clean it off if necessary. Your turntable is ready, you place the vinyl down, set the stylus in the groove, and that familiar soft thud welcomes you, and once again you’re gently reminded as to the true immersion of the music you love.
3. Building a Collection
Imagine trying to explain to someone how much pride you have in your CD collection or your iTunes library in contrast to an illustrious shelf of artistic envelopes filled with different colored vinyls. I think it’s pretty clear to see which one actually entails a sense of ownership and pride. On top of having blatantly different physical characteristics from its other musical reproduction counterparts, vinyls often accrue value, while certain ones come out as special editions or just become hard to find as more years pass by.
Compare that to CDs, which hold very little value, if any, or your digital purchased music libraries, which you certainly can’t sell back to Apple, Sony, Spotify or Google. There are also many artists that use vinyls to add a special element of exclusivity, importance, and value to what they are releasing.
If you’re curious, just search up the artist Portugal. The Man’s single “Sumatran Tiger” and artist Wu Tan Clan’s record “Once Upon a Time in Shao-lin”, pretty interesting stuff to say the least. Needless to say, some vinyls are, and can become very collectible and rare, even if they aren’t purposely made to be that way to begin with.
Direct Drive Vs Belt Drive
Before we get into the specifics of belt driven or direct driven turntables, let’s get a better understanding of the motor and what it does. Every turntable has a motor built inside of it. The motor’s job is to spin the platter at a constant rate while a record sits atop the platter and a stylus runs through the grooves of a record, creating vibrations, and thus creating sound; there are two motors that almost all conventional turntables use to achieve this, which now brings us back full circle: what is a direct driven turntable and what is a belt driven one? What are the differences, pros, cons, etc? It may all seem like an overwhelming amount of information, but let us proceed by breaking down some of the basics for you.
A direct drive turntable refers to a turntable that has its platter spun by being directly connected to the motor, whereas a belt drive isolates the motor from the platter, and the platter is spun via an elastic or rubber belt that connects the two using bearings.
Pros and cons of direct drive:
Generally speaking, direct drive turntables offer the user more stability and consistency when it comes to rotation speed, this stability can be attributed to the constant torque the direct drive creates. The additional torque generally means faster start up times, less sound distortion, and a platter that is less susceptible and vulnerable to any outside forces negatively affecting it. Most DJs are akin to these direct drive turntables because only direct drive motors allow for the platter to spin backwards on command, which is how a lot of desired sounds and special effects are created.
One major con of the direct drive is that the motor itself inherently generates unwanted vibrations, and being that the motor is connected directly to the platter, sometimes the platter is affected by these vibrations. This issue can often be assuaged though by adding shock absorbers inside, in between the motor and the platter.
Pros and cons of belt drive:
The use of an elastic belt to connect the motor to the platter gives the belt drive the advantage of not having any vibrations made from the motor interfere with the constant rotation needed by the platter. Combined with the fact that the elastic belt itself acts as a natural shock absorber — absorbing any excess shock created by the motor that may travel to the platter, and subsequently the control arm, it is generally believed that the belt drive creates superior sound quality compared to that of the direct drive, simply because with a belt drive, the motor’s vibrations have little to no effect on the platter.
Although overall sound quality of the belt drive might be better, the belt drive suffers from a lack of torque, causing potential problems with accurate playback speeds. Also, the belt itself will eventually get worn out and will have to be replaced every couple of years.
Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, we’re sure you’re wondering “Well, which one should I buy?” And the reality is, there is no black and white when it comes to this, only shades of grey. As stated above, both platforms evidently have their pros and cons. The information we have given you should by no means act as a complete, comprehensive guide to decipher which kind of turn table is the best, because simply put, what is best depends personally on you; what may sound good to one could sound horrible to another, irregardless of price.
Instead, let this act as a stepping stone to get you going in the direction you want. We here at TheBestturntable not only implore you to further your research on everything turntables, but to get out there and see and hear these products for yourself! Everybody is different, and nothing can substitute seeing and hearing these wonderful machines firsthand!
Properly Caring for and Maintaining your Turntable
To maintain your turntable and ensure that it lasts for a long time, you need to take several steps. Firstly, read our guide on how to calibrate your turntable so that you can get the best sound out of it. Secondly, depending on if you have a great USB turntable or not, you will need to make preparations on how to utilize it correctly. Lastly, you will need to clean your turntable and your vinyl records once in a while too. This is to keep them both clean and fresh and preserve them for the years to come.
All this will come with experience, and you will make mistakes, but being an audiophile takes practice and just grinding it out with different products before you are truly comfortable with using your great turntable product adequately. This is the same for everything in life, so don’t be worried if you are just starting out and all this information is overwhelming.. it happens to all of us.