Whether you have vinyl records handed down to you, you're a chart-topping DJ or you're getting into vinyl for the first time, you're going to need a decent record player. One that's reliable, durable and easy to maintain. Here are five of the best.
Title photo by Alan Levine.
Vinyl records are still a small part of overall music sales, but they're definitely on the rise. Many people still have their retro collection or love to shop for old recordings in garage sales. If this sounds like you, perhaps it's time to upgrade your player. In no particular order, here are five worthy of your consideration:
Audio-Technica's AT-LP120 is a direct-drive turntable that can connect to external devices (like mixers or computers) via USB or analogue. It's handy if you're looking to both listen to your old record collection and digitize it for on-the-go listening or backups.
The platter is powered directly by the motor, and there's no belt or other moving parts involved with the rotation of the turntable itself. This means there are fewer moving parts that can vibrate and create additional noise. The AT-LP120 is a semi-clone of the ever-popular Technics SL-1200MK2 (see below), except significantly more affordable — you can currently get it for $384 from Soundcorp Australia.
The turntable can be toggled in forward or reverse easily, has a pitch control slider on the side (+/-10%-20%), hinged dust cover, selectable 33/45/78 RPM speed modes, a cast aluminium platter (with Audio-Technica slipmats, of course), and all the cables and connectors you need to get it hooked up to your stereo, mixer or computer.
A modern, sleek-looking turntable that's aimed at buyers who care about form as well as function, the Rega RP1 is a belt-driven turntable aimed at audiophiles. That said, it doesn't come with an insanely exorbitant price tag — the Rega RP1 will set you back $449.10 at Denis White. It can take a beating and the table itself is made from phenolic resin for durability.
It features a low-vibration, belt-driven motor with manual speed adjustments so you can really dial in the rotation where you want it. The tonearm is hand crafted and the special "Rega Carbon" magnetic cartridge is designed to complete a high-quality package that delivers great sound at a reasonable price. Best of all Rega notes that their attention to design extends to the longevity of their products, and that you can buy one of these and enjoy it for years without having to worry about replacing parts.
Ah, the "wheels of steel." The Technics SL-1200MK2 (and later, the MK3, MK4, and MK5) are the quintessential turntables. Used by DJs, turntablists, musicians, radio stations, and everyday music lovers for decades since their release in 1978. Technics finally ceased production of the SL1200 line in 2010, making them highly prized. They're well regarded for their extreme durability — you could practically drop one out of the back of a truck and still play it like nothing happened. They're the industry standard for a reason, after all.
The SL-1200MK2 boasts a powerful, low vibration magnetic direct drive motor, steel platter, +-8% pitch control, selectable 33/45RPM speed modules and of course, removable dust covers and slip mats. Even though the SL-1200s have technically ceased production doesn't mean they're impossible to find — they're still in wide circulation, both new and used, and can be purchased for around $800 on eBay. We'd suggest you head to a music store in your area and see what they have. They may be the gold standard, but they're certainly pricey now that they're discontinued.
Full disclosure, I nominated the 1200s, because I own a pair, have for years, and they're rock solid. They're built like tanks, and while primarily aimed at the DJ set, are just as good for passive listening — provided you can find a good set. Many people have urged Technics to reintroduce the iconic turntables. There's even a petition to that effect.
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is a beautifully designed, great-sounding value turntable that's been consistently reviewed as one of the best budget buys you could pick up for your home stereo. A precision belt-driven turntable with a nicely sized platter, the Debut Carbon features a carbon fibre tonearm, low vibration motor and interchangeable cartridges (although it comes with a beautiful Ortofon cartridge you might not want to replace).
The Debut Carbon also comes in a number of colours, includes removable dust covers, and a minimalist design that will look great in any home theatre. The body is made from durable MDL and the platter itself is steel, so its durable as well as attractive, and relatively affordable, at $497 from Addicted To Audio.
The Debut Carbon is actually the subsequent model to the Debut III which has been discontinued. The Carbon is generally regarded as a solid improvement at the exact same price — the same turntable and innards with an improved motor and a carbon fibre tonearm. Don't expect to get hands on DJing with this thing, but it's a great, cost effective choice for people who just want to listen to their old records.
The Audio-Technica AT-LP60 is the smaller brother of the previously mentioned LP120, available at the wallet-friendly(ish) price of $199 from Store DJ. It's a belt-driven turntable, aimed directly at people who don't have a record player and don't really know what they want in one other than listen to old records.
The LP60 features a removable dust cover, 33/45 RPM selectable speed modes, a built-in phono preamp and replaceable cartridges. It's durable and solidly built, so you don't have to worry about it falling apart, even if it's a budget model. Finally, the LP60 has an all aluminium platter, space-saving design, and all the cables you'll need to hook it up to your home stereo.
This week's honorable mentions go out to the ever-awesome, superbly ancient Dual 1237. Seriously, go look at those things. You'll never find one these days unless you're extremely lucky (like this Redditor, for example) but if you or a family member have one, you should know you have something amazing on hand. These things are rugged and durable, sound incredible, are fully automatic and belt driven, and some have record changing features.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Don't just complain about the top five, let us know what your preferred alternative is — and make your case for it — in the discussions below.