What’s the best turntable for your level?
For many turntables are the way to play back music. You can’t replicate the sound of analogue as well in a digital format, so only the best turntable will do.
And then there’s the x-factor of vinyl physical records looking a lot cooler. In the past few years turntables have enjoyed a renaissance and you don’t have to be a hi-fi connoisseur to get into it either. Part of the passion is picking it up as you go, getting deeper and deeper into the various options available.
These are the best turntables – from expensive decks to more affordable record players – we’ve collated the options to suit your budget and help you get started on amassing that vinyl collection.
1. Rega Planar 3
A remarkable turntable
- Sounds incredible for the money
- Dust cover included
- Superb tonearm
- Lovely build quality
- Speed change requires platter removal
For many people, this will be the only turntable they ever need. The legendary Planar 3 name has returned, having gone through a few years as the P3 and then RP3 – and that’s because this is a whole new record player.
The RB330 tonearm is an evolution of the old RB303, with a stiffer bearing housing and new cabling. The plinth has been re-engineered, the main bearing has been made to tighter tolerances and the bracing is stronger. The result is one of the finest turntables for less than £1,000. Timing and imaging are spot-on, it creates a wonderfully wide soundstage, and bass is bouncy yet controlled.
Even if you end up buying the optional £200 TT-PSU power supply to add button-controllable speed switching, this is a bargain.
2. Audio-Technica AT-LP5X
A tweak of an already impressive formula
- Extensive, useful spec
- Smooth build and finish
- Organised, controlled sound
- Not quite as much scale or punch as is ideal
The AT-LP5X adheres to the proverb “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” or at the very least mess up what you have.
The original deck was already an excellent and the AT-LP5X shores things up with a few useful upgrades. They include a switchable phono stage (moving magnet and moving coil), and a move to the AT-VM95E (which, mind you, only works with 33.3 and 45rpm records). You’ll need a different cartridge to play 78rpm records.
Thankfully, the performance remains as composed, as impressive and as authoritative as ever. The AT-LP5X is convincing in its organisation and control of records, and that makes this deck a great combination of performance, convenience and features.
3. Cambridge Audio Alva TT
Brilliant hi-res wireless source
- Simple to set up and use
- Bank-vault build quality
- Lovely, fluent sound
- Hi-res streaming
- Lacks ultimate dynamism
- Quite expensive
The Alva TT – named after the father of the phonograph, Thomas Alva Edison – was the world’s first aptX HD Bluetooth turntable. For those who crave high-quality and convenience, this might be the deck for you.
It’s ability to stream at 24bit/48kHz ensures it doesn’t sacrifice much in terms of its audio performance. Build quality is rock solid – it feels hefty – and it has style to go with its reassuring build quality.
We still favour playing records the traditional way, with its even-handed, faithful and convincing performance offering better results than wireless streaming. Still, having the option to go wireless will increase its appeal, opening up placement options around the home and making the vinyl revolution feel less daunting than it used to be.
4. Sony PS-LX310BT
Convenient and affordable
- Simple to set up and use
- Phono stage and Bluetooth
- Entertaining sound
- Wireless performance suffers just a little compared to the wired alternative
After launching the PS-HX500, a player that delivered on affordability and performance; the PS-LX310BT repeats the trick but adds Bluetooth connectivity to its feature-set.
We’d admit that it’s not the most attractive of turntables, but it’s a convenient one with its built-in phono stage and a set-up process that requires you to just add the platter and belt-drive. If you’re learning the rope about vinyl, this would be a rocksteady option to start with.
And once it’s up and running it’s a solid performer that favours smoothness, and extracts enough detail from vinyl tracks to make for an enjoyable listen. As you’d expect, it loses a bit of detail in Bluetooth mode, but at this price it’s an excellent stab at a wireless and accessible turntable.
5. Rega Planar 8
A pared-back effort from Rega
- Exquisitely even-handed sound
- Simple to set up
- Impressive in purely engineering terms
- Not especially impressive in purely visual terms
Rega has stripped back this deck for an impressively engineered effort that’s focused on performance.
Within that context Rega has succeeded wonderfully. The Planar 8 is an expressive deck, exhibiting a fluent, naturalistic and authoritative way with music. If you want the detail of your vinyl collection laid bare, the Planar 8 is the deck that will reveal all.
Add in the splendid Ania cartridge and you have yet another remarkable turntable from the wizards at Rega.
6. McIntosh MTI100
A turntable, amplifier and preamplifier in one
- Controlled, explicit and entertaining sound from any source
- That logo, those valves
- Unblinkingly expensive
- Interfaces could be nicer
At £6995, the MTI100 is no one’s idea of a bargain, but the level of engagement and entertainment it provides is by no means a given, and you get McIntosh’s distinctive approach to design, wireless connectivity and the convenience of a turntable, pre-amp and amplifier all rolled into one body.
For that alone, the McIntosh MTI100 is currently number one in a field of one.
7. Technics SL-1500C
One of Technics’ most affordable turntables
- Robust, full-fat sound
- Bank-vault build quality
- Plug’n’play simplicity
- Capable alternatives available
With the SL-1500C, Technics has delivered the most convincing pound-for-pound product since it rose from the ashes in the 2010s.
£899 isn’t an inconsiderable sum to pay for a direct-drive turntable, although there are plenty on this list that cost more. You do get a built-in phono stage for the money and a listening experience that’s confident and engaging. With its plug ‘n’ play approach and beautifully engineered looks, the quality the SL-1500C offers is inarguable.
8. Rega Planar 1
- Dynamic, detailed sound
- Exceptional timing
- Classy look and feel for the money
For simplicity of set-up and hi-fi audio quality on a budget, no turntable can touch the Rega Planar 1. The cartridge is pre-fitted and the tonearm has a guide ring on it so that the counterweight can be set for exactly the correct tracking force without the need for any special tools.
And it sounds great – exciting and detailed with great timing and agility. All you need to add is a decent phono stage and you’re off.
9. Technics SL-1200GR/SL-1210GR
An excellent upgrade
- Unparalleled timing and grip
- Seismic bass
- Fantastic build quality
- Incredibly versatile
- High asking price
- Slight lack of resolution
The 1200 and 1210 turntables are so synonymous with DJing that most people don’t realise they were originally designed as hi-fi turntables. These new versions have been upgraded to improve sound quality even further, with a dampened platter, improved motor with digital speed control, and a low-noise power supply.
The result is a record player with phenomenal timing and grip, as well as the ability to dig prodigious bass from those vinyl grooves. Throw away your preconceptions of it being a DJ turntable and give it a try.
10. Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT
A budget performer
- aptX Bluetooth streaming
- Integrated phono stage
- Gets the audio basics right
- Plays it safe in terms of sound
- Feels insubstantial
The LP60XBT picks up where the LP60 left off, mostly improving on its predecessor without leaving your wallet to whimper at the cost.
It isn’t the most substantial of decks in terms of build, and the way it sounds is rather safe. There have been tweaks to the deck’s tracking and resonance rejection, and it employs a fairly even-handed approach in uncovering the frequency range, dishing out a well-judged performance for the money, though its wireless performance isn’t as strong as listening to it in its wired mode.
As an investment it’s affordable, and if you want convenience then the LP60XBT makes a convincing case for its merits.
11. Clearaudio Concept MM
A classy effort
- Awesome build quality
- Simple speed switching
- Easy setup
- Superb timing and attack
- Plays 78s
Given the faultless build quality and super-slick styling, you’d be forgiven for thinking this turntable costs as much as an around-the-world cruise. But no. You’d be lucky to get a week self-catering in the worst part of Tenerife for the price of the Concept MM.
As well as looking amazing, there’s some awesome engineering here, too. The tonearm has a magnetic bearing, which means it floats in the bearing housing, making no contact with the rest of the deck at all. Speed changing is easily achieved via a large knob on the plinth, and fans of old-time records will be pleased to know it can even handle 78rpm.
Corners haven’t been cut with sound quality, either. It has superb timing and attack, as well as retrieving far greater detail, and with more subtlety, than you should expect at this price or from a moving-magnet cartridge.
12. Fluance RT80
Entry-level player with phono stage
- Integrated phono stage
- Audio Technica AT91 cartridge
- Smooth, detailed sound
- Lacks bass reach
- Short of dynamic headroom
The RT80 is Canadian hi-fi brand Fluance’s entry-level turntable and its most affordable with a price of less than £200.
What you get for the outlay is good build quality. The plinth is made out of MDF, which brings with it good resonance rejection and stiffness to ensure vibrations don’t colour the turntable’s sound. There’s an integrated phono stage – useful as it boosts the weak signal from the record player without requiring the need for off-board amplification.
There’s a slight warmth to its presentation along with a consistency to its sound that’s laudable. There’s good rhythmic ability, low end control and sufficient midrange detail to make for an enjoyable listening experience. It’s a lack of dynamism holds the Fluance back, at it serves up an enjoyable if polite presentation.
How we test for the best turntable
Our audio experts use every turntable they test as their primary home music player for weeks while testing. During that time they A-B test against competitors in the same price range, using a variety of partnering hi-fi components and different genres of music, from classical to dance. Where appropriate, turntables are also tested with a variety of different cartridges.
Ratings are based mostly on sonic performance, but also take into consideration build quality, ease of setup, and features.