In a different world, we’d all be out at the club. Or the bar. Or wherever you listen to music, and there’d be a DJ spinning records for everyone’s enjoyment. But in this world, you have to be your own DJ, and even though brighter days are ahead, all this cooped-up time we’ve spent inside has reminded us that we can make our own living rooms worthy of a dance party. That starts with the music. And every good DJ knows that if you want to feel legit, you have to play your music on something legit.
Cut to the record player. Of all the former modes of taking in music (RIP to 8-tracks, cassettes, etc.), it’s vinyl that has enjoyed the strongest resurgence. There truly is something special about dropping that needle at the start of the record, hearing just a bit of static, and then greeting your favorite album of all time. This, no doubt about it, is a legit way to play your music. The thing to know about modern turntables going in is that these aren’t the players your granny blasted Perry Como on for a Saturday night shindig. They’re elevated to meet today’s digital needs. And you ought to familiarize yourself with some basic features, even if you’re simply interested in what’s affordable.
Built-In vs. External Speakers
While most record players still have outputs for wired speakers at the ready, some of the below give you a Bluetooth option to connect your turntable to the high-end portable speaker you might also pair with your smartphone. For convenience, you could also opt for a turntable with speakers built right into it, versus an external speaker system, but know that you might be losing out on richer, clearer sound.
MC vs. MM Cartridges
There are also cartridges to consider—the device that takes the information in the grooves of your vinyl and turns it into music. You’re going to run, primarily, into two types: moving coil (MC) and moving magnet (MM) cartridges. Both have their advantages. The MC cartridge uses electric signals to carry that information, delivering a very detailed sound to the speaker. It also happens to be very sensitive, meaning that a jostle can really mess it up. For that reason, you can opt for MM cartridges, which are durable and reliable.
Built-In vs. External Preamps
A preamp could greatly affect your sound, too; if you don’t have one, you won’t have any music that’s worth listening to, as it boosts the signal from the vinyl so your speakers can read it. Many turntables have a preamp built in, but if you choose a turntable without a preamp, you’ll likely need to buy it separately.
Finally, of course, the most important decision is record player color. Just kidding. But whether you’re looking for a bright hue or a classic wood finish, you’re covered.
So, can you find a turntable that’s affordable and up to the task of producing gorgeous sound that isn’t going to break on you in a year’s time? Sure. No worries. This is our breakdown of eight great record players that scratch all your particular itches, from affordable newbie status to higher-end vinyl legend. No one reasonable could turn their nose up at any of the below devices. All you gotta do is spin it.
Most Affordable Record Player
Vintage 3-Speed Suitcase Turntable
$44.99 (25% off)
Yes, price matters when you’re getting into the complexities of turntables, but if you’re looking for a reasonably cheap gift that will launch someone into the record player world, this Victrola is plenty acceptable.
The design is the truly fun part. Styled to look like a briefcase, you can pack it up and go. No, it’s not a majorly professional setup, but if you want to cart a reasonable record player to a get-together, with bells and whistles like a built-in speaker and Bluetooth capability included, this is an affordable option under the classic Victrola name.
Best Record Player for Vinyl Newbies
Discovery Suitcase Turntable
$64.95 (19% off)
Not everyone is looking for a massively complicated rig. That’s where Crosley comes in. Instead of going for the intensive turntable setup with exterior speakers, this novelty briefcase with a record player inside has a built-in speaker to get you listening quickly. Conveniently, you still have the Bluetooth option, too.
Crosley’s built-in speakers are just fine, but the vintage design goes further to set a mood. Available in five colorways (fine, we prefer green), the Discovery is a bit fancier than the Victrola before it. It also has the brand recognition in audio (and home décor) circles.
Best Customizable Record Player
Orbit Custom Turntable
U-Turn is a solid brand when it comes to trustworthy, but still affordable, turntables that impress even the most finely tuned ears. The Orbit has a sleek, minimalist design for a price that isn’t going to zap your new vinyl fund altogether. It’ll go with just about whichever audio setup you prefer. And the MM cartridge is more durable, up to constant record changing or moving from place to place. For those starting out in the world of customization, this is a great record player: Not only can its appearance be altered to suit your style, but it is deceptively simple to play with the type of sound it emits, and how it emits it.
Best Record Player With Speakers Included
C62 Vinyl Turntable With Speakers
Crosley is simply one of those brands that is a sure bet for most folks. Pair that good reputation with a reasonable price point, and you have one of the most reliable record players on the market.
What’s great about this Bluetooth-enabled, external-speakers-included model is that it’s technically ready to go right out of the box, and it will give you solid sound with its MM cartridge. But it’s easy to dismantle, too, making the option to customize with other attachments and cartridge upgrades down the road simpler, if you so choose to level up.
Best Record Player Specs Under $200
Stir it Up Turntable
This one is an incredibly cool turntable for someone looking for a core piece of equipment for a larger setup. Also, if the “Marley” name rings a bell for you—yes, it’s tied to that Bob Marley.
The Stir It Up record player leans heavy into the specs. In addition to its main functionality, it is Bluetooth enabled. The built-in preamp means that quality sound will come out and run through external speakers with no additional parts needed. Pair that with a USB port for recording purposes (if you’re into your own manipulated DJ sets), and you’ve leveled up from a simple sound system to some bonafide at-home spinning.
Most Versatile Record Player
Kingston 7-in-1 Vinyl Record Player With Speakers
Less of a traditional turntable and more of an all-in-one audio box, Electrohome’s Kingston isn’t just going to scratch the record player itch. You got an AUX cord or a Bluetooth speaker? Great. Records? Obviously. CDs? Right there in the front. Same goes for a radio. Bonus: Its classic design harkens back to something you might’ve seen in your cool grandpa’s home. This turntable is a time machine, in some ways.
The Kingston’s speaker quality is pretty legitimate for a built-in system. However, when it comes to connecting external speakers, the bulkier box really doesn’t lend itself to a seamless transition into your home sound system, nor is it very movable. You’ll have to make space for it, even more if you want those extra speakers. The positive and negative of this turntable is that everything you really should use is right there in front of you.
Best Record Player for Form and Function
RT81 High Fidelity Turntable
Fluance’s RT81 model is extremely popular. The wood grain is traditional, but it’s also timeless in appearance, with a dark stain and a glossy sheen. To be vain: It’s just a gorgeous machine. And in case you’re interested in specs, it also has a built-in preamp. The aluminum arm on the stylus captures every particularity of those grooves, resulting in beautiful sound that might get lost with a standard, slightly lighter plastic arm. And unlike some other turntables, this one comes with an Audio Technica AT95E cartridge, which is one of the highest grade and most reliable cartridges on this list.
Best Record Player Under $500
Debut Carbon EVO Turntable
Oh, you want to be fancy?
This final installment is for people who are getting into the audiophile particulars, upping the ante on how much they can play with sound and produce new music. Yes, this is a higher price point, even for one of the most popular tables on the market, but with richer sound quality and accessories (like the removable braided Connect-It E RCA cables), the savings are practically baked into the price.
Keeping with the new standard, this turntable has a MM cartridge that boasts “open sound” with some warmth. Naturally, when you’re on the far end of the turntable price spectrum, you want to know that what you’re buying is customizable: The Debut Carbon EVO offers that in spades. Not only are you able to personalize its appearance, but once you have the table itself, many of its connections, as well as its inputs, can be switched out to suit your mood.
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