Trying to find the best turntables for vinyl records, so you can enjoy the comeback of an old format is not as easy as it may seem. Yes there are now tons of options for for buying portable record players, but many models are simply style over substance.
The old fashioned way of listening to music has resurfaced and become cool and trendy, people appreciate the large artwork and some even claim “it sounds better on vinyl”. Words like “vintage” and “retro” are ones you’d associate with the resurgence of vinyl, and the design of newly manufactured turntables are certainly aiming to nail those keywords as well.
Be careful not to fall into the trap of buying one for it’s design alone, although it may look well in you’re living room, many of these vinyl record players will become a mere piece of decoration, as the quality is notoriously hit and miss.
The technical specifics of turntables can be quite confusing (belt-drive, direct-drive etc).. and it not something I wanted to get too bogged down on. Yes I want a turntable, I want to to work and sound good… so, here’s simple look at the best turntables for vinyl records without going into deep scientific and technical specifics.
The Best Record Players on the Market – All Under £250
Sony PSLX300USB – £120 / €150
If you’re not too pushed about the fancy retro looking designs, then play it simple and go substance over style. I’ve talked before about my appreciation for Sony products, I think of them of the Toyota of electronics and this product is in keeping with the brand. It’s durable, has good sound quality and basically, it’ll do a fine job without any fancy design or features. You’ll need to plug it into an external stereo system but after that it plays perfectly with zero noise or jumps.
It’s other feature is USB, meaning you can play it through you’re PC or laptop, thus transferring old vinyls into digital so they can be listened to on your mp3 player… as if they were on vinyl. If you were buying for an elderly person, with this feature in mind and the said person is a not overly used to PC’s then it’s a bit of an irrelevant feature as it wouldn’t be an easy task transferring and using the software (Sound Forge).
As well as that, vinyl should be enjoyed on good speakers on headphones, having recorded vinyl material on your mp3 player, is kind of pointless if you use cheap in-ear headphones. So maybe this feature is a bit of irrelevant to a lot of potential buyers. I’d prefer a slightly cheaper version without this feature personally.
Another drawback is the length of the leads, but I wouldn’t let this put me of as longer connection leads are cheap and cheerful purchase, if you require something lengthier.
Overall it’s a strong choice, no frills and won’t break the bank. It’s a little more expensive than a lot of fancier looking ones on the market and looks fairly basic, but it will perform better and last longer. However you will need a stereo system already to hook it up to, but if your in anyway picky about sound quality… I’d recommend that anyway.
Crosley CR6232A-BR – £210 / €270
A very established brand when it comes to turntables. This is one of the best turntables for vinyl records I have found, that is also portable and has a vintage and impressive design that will look great in your living room or bedroom.
The cost isn’t easy on the eye (or pocket), and unless you really, really want a slick vintage design, I’d be inclined to go for something a bit more like the Sony PSLX300.
As with most of the portable vinyl record players, I’d take full advantage of the RCA output. Skip using the internal speakers altogether and connect to something where you can get the full enjoyment of the vinyl record sound. Other than that it’s reliable, if you’re not overly fussy on the sound quality, then the internal speakers are still better than most (can you tell I’m not a fan of internal speakers yet). Most importantly it plays ANY record without skipping and the briefcase design means it won’t stand out like a random, bulky sore thumb.
Audio Technica ATLP120USB – £240 / €300
While we’re on the subject of reliable brands… Audio Technica are certainly that when it comes the the best turntables for vinyl records. This may just be the best of the best, and for just £20 above the Crosley, the price is actually not that bad and should be considered affordable for the standard of product you get.
To look at it you know you’re getting something that is of a very professional standard. There’ll be no skipping, and you’ll have every feature that you require from a classic record player. The design, well it’s substance over style. It is maybe going to stick out a bit in your home, and is possibly more than you need for an occasional listen to a small vinyl collection.
It’s one for the purists, that’s for sure. If you’re in anyway serious about records, if it’s something you really want to enjoy on a daily basis, then this is the type of product you need to go for, there is no point in trying to save costs, you get what you pay for in the end…. the casual listeners, maybe choose one of the other 3 options.
Audio Technica ATLP60BT Bluetooth Turntable – £169 / €215
Here is a product that is possibly a compromise of all of the positives / negatives of the above products.
At £169, it’s certainly an affordable turntable for vinyl lovers. The design, Is on the sleeker side of the turntables on the market, it’s manufactured by a highly reputable brand and instead of using internal speakers (as we’ve established are never the best), it gives you a clever alternative if you don’t have a full blown stereo system to hook your record player up to (which 2 of the above recommended models require)
This product is bluetooth compatiable, so you can play it off any set of Bluetooth speakers. Wireless speakers generally cost £20 – £100, but any half decent set will provide much better quality than built in speakers on most turntables for vinyl records. Considering the best Crosley model is £240, if you were to spend the difference on bluetooth speakers, you’re going to end up with a much better sound and product.
Turntables to Avoid
There are a number of vintage turntables which are just not worth any kind of money, a lot of cheap brands trying to cash in on the newly revived vinyl market, and offering record players for around £50, I’d be very cautious, here’s just 2 that have had the unfortunate experience of trying to use:
GPO Stylo – £40 / €50
The reviews online and on amazon for this product are largely positive, it’s one of their big sellers. I paid about €60 or maybe a bit more with delivery. I was so disappointed, although it looks very nice and fit into my living room decor perfectly, the quality leaves a lot to be desired. Practically all my 12″ records (new and old) constantly skipped, it made it impossible to listen.
I read up to see if other people were experiencing the same problem and many were, there were suggestions like put a weight (like a coin) on the record and the skipping stops… but really, what is the point in paying €60 for something that doesn’t do the. To add to it, the sound from the built in speakers is really poor. It’s very tinny, relatively no bass can be heard. If a record didn’t skip (the odd time) and it was plugged into external speakers… it’s OK I guess, but I wouldn’t take a chance on it. It’s got a mind of it’s own, just check out this video I recorded of it trying to play a record:
ITek Antique 4 in 1 Music System – £100 / €130
ITek?? never heard of them, that’s the first warning sign. Brand is so important with any audio technology and your always better off spending a bit more on a reliable brand. At £100 this is spending a lot more for an unknown brand!
I actually love the idea of this produced. The combination of Vinyl player, FM/AM and cassette is really good and would appeal to a whole generation of people (my parents were looking to buy a new cassette player for years without much joy!).The design is lovely as well, the wood finish and the old school level meter / speaker design look great. However it’s all one big gimmick. The quality of the record player is poor and the sound is equally so. Overall it just doesn’t cut it, there’s far too many corners cut and faults. It’s a yellow pack imitation of the vintage old builds. Avoid this or anything that looks like it.
Best Turntables for Vinyl Records – Summary
Be very wary of anything with a portable case / vintage design by a brand you have not used before. They look trendy but they are highly likely to be poor performers, and not quality controlled very well which means you might buy one that’s good or you might get a dud, of course if you get a dud be sure to return it, but to avoid any of that hassle, invest a bit more money (upward of £120 / €150) and choose a reliable brand – Sony, Crosley, or Audio Technica are great choices.
If you have tried any of the above, or any other models not mentioned… Please comment below and share your own reviews.