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The 8 Best Record Players to Make You Love Vinyl Again in 2021

Embrace the vinyl boom with the best turntables to breathe life back into your record collection.
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Want to get the most out of your music collection? While Jeff Bezos would probably try to convince you to pick up a high-tech stereo system to fund his next adventure into space, we recommend opting for a record player instead. A top-tier one, mind, that looks and sounds so good that even Keith Richards would think twice about smashing it up. That's where we come in.

Speak to any audiophile and they’ll probably chew your ear off talking about the advantages of needles and plates over modern smart speakers, but before you raid your mum’s kitchen for her finest china and try to spin an LP on them, take a second to read up on what all the terminology actually means below. What's more, we'll tell you about the best record players on the market. album on them, take a second to read up on the best record players.

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Whether you’re a veteran at-home disc jockey or just dipping your toes into the scene, we’re here to help you get the best set up. And with Black Friday's big shopping sale keeping prices low throughout November, it's the perfect time to treat yourself and not feel guilty about emptying your bank balance on a system.

We’ve researched all the top turntables, and got some killer advice from Neil White, purchasing category manager of hi-fi and AV at Richer Sounds, to find the nine best options for all budgets and tastes.

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So what’s White’s top tip to picking the best player? He reckons the most important thing you need to pay attention to is the build quality, making sure you get something that has a “weighty platter and a solid tonearm, which will reduce any unwanted vibrations, giving improved sound quality”.

But what else do you need to think about? Check out our full guide below.

Belt Drive v Direct Drive

Head over to any audio forum and you’ll see two camps fighting over how you should be spinning your records. Some stand with belt drives that are for fire-and-forget musicians, as it uses a small motor and a rubber belt to spin the platter.

Often more affordable, they offer decent audio quality as you don’t get any rumbling vibrations to distort your songs. However, you can’t tinker around with the record and scratch your tunes as you’ll damage the motor.

More: The Esquire Guide to the Best Headphones of 2021

Direct drives have a motor directly under the platter, which can pose problems for minute vibrations, but will always be the choice of DJs, as you can scratch and mix in real-time without damaging the belt. If you’re stuck for choice and you’re not looking to emulate Marshmello, then best stick to the belt drive.

Platter material

“But what is a platter?” we hear you ask. Well, it’s the plate you put the record on and it’s often made of either aluminum or a type of plastic. Take a trip to any vinyl forum online and you’ll find entrenched battle lines over which material is best, but honestly, it doesn’t impact the musical quality that much. White’s advice is to make sure you get a weighty platter to make sure you reduce vibrations, so go for whichever material is most pleasing to you.

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Outputs

You might have to hook up a different set of speakers to get the music playing, in which case you’ll need a turntable that has the right outputs. Most record players will have a high-quality phono jack in almost all turntables on this list to plug in speakers (even Bluetooth models will have one just in case you want to go manual).

You’ll want a gold-plated phono jack for the best quality, and you might want to also keep an eye out for players with USB ports that let you hook up laptops, PCs, and even smartphones so you can digitally record your vinyls.

Bluetooth

True audiophiles will tell you to ignore Bluetooth turntables, as the switch from an analog signal to digital data can mean you lose some sound quality.

More: 11 Best True Wireless Earphones in 2021

However, the advances in modern tech means this drop isn’t as impactful as it once was. In fact, you’d have to have a top-spec set of speakers and a trained ear to hear the difference. Many Bluetooth models use what’s called aptX transfer, which has the same sound quality as a CD. High-end turntables will have aptX HD which increases the quality even further.

RPM

It used to be that 78RPM (rotations per minute) was the standard, and all records were developed to play at this speed. Modern records (basically anything released since the ‘40s) all run at either 45 or 33 1/3 RPM, so that's all you need, but if you’ve got older records you might want a device that can play across those three speeds.

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Some turntables also have an adjustable pitch-shift slider, but like direct drive, this is more a DJ tool used to get two records playing at exactly the same tempo.

Stylus

The stylus is important to getting the best quality out of your music. It sits on the record and, by reading the ridges and grooves, converts physical data into sound. The best record players are useless if you've got a crappy stylus (think of it like putting tractor tires on a Ferrari), whereas even cheap turntables can be improved with decent needles.

They're typically made from diamond or sapphire, and are either spherical or elliptical. The former are cheaper, but don't offer the accuracy or sound quality of an elliptical.

Manual vs Automatic

Some of the turntables on this list will do a lot of the work for you, automatically lowering the tonearm and playing your record with a press of a button. If you like to play around with records though, you can get a manual option, which will require your gentle touch to lower the arm and adjust the speed. None of the below can flip the record, though.

Speakers

The beauty of Bluetooth turntables is they'll play nice with any Bluetooth speaker, which means you don't need to worry too much about things like amps, pre-amps, or line signals. For the rest, a turntable with a built in pre-amp can be plugged directly into speakers, otherwise, you'll need a dedicated amplifier to boost the sound so it plays loud enough.

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Some record players have speakers built in, but these are often tinny little things that destroy all the sound quality gains you're getting from playing vinyl.


Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Turntable in Black (Sonos Edition)

SONOS
£499.00
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Dimensions: 12.5” x 16” x 4.6”
Motor: Belt Drive
Bluetooth: aptX
Platter: Thermo-plastic / steel
Phono Preamp: Yes
USB: No
Speeds: 33, 45 rpm(capable of 75)

As its name suggests, Pro-Ject’s debut turntable at the back end of the ‘90s has been refined and tuned up over the years to offer modern features like a lightweight tonearm, a heavy platter, and gold-plated sockets for all your audio needs. Packed in a minimalist design, this fire-and-forget turntable comes with a fairly high-price, but plenty of reasons to invest. 

TN-280BT-A3 turntable

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TEAC
selfridges.com
£269.99
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Dimensions: 17” x 17.2” x 30.5”
Motor: Belt drive
Bluetooth: aptX
Platter: Aluminium die-cast
Phono Preamp: Yes 
USB: Yes
Speeds: 33 1/3, 33, 45, 78 RPM
Stylus: Elliptical 

Modern tech meets vintage needs in this turntable, which offers 78RPM playback as well as aptX Bluetooth capabilities. If you want to level up, then the USB port offers aptx HD quality audio. The design is also stylish and simplistic, with a hard wooden finish against the silver platter, tonearm, and footstools.

AT-LPW40WN Turntable

AUDIO-TECHNICA
johnlewis.com
£329.95
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Dimensions: 14.15" x 14.7" x 3.84"
Motor: Belt drive
Bluetooth: aptX
Platter: Aluminium
Phono Preamp: Yes
USB: Yes
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 rpm

Combining solid audio with a great price, this is the perfect Bluetooth turntable for those looking to upgrade their system on a budget. Set-up is simple, connecting either straight to Bluetooth or wired speakers, courtesy of its built in pre-amp. You also get the peace of mind that comes with Audio-Technica's 60-year, rock-solid reputation.

MusicCast Vinyl 500 Belt Drive WiFi Turntable - Black

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YAMAHA
currys.co.uk
£559.00
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Dimensions: 17.7" x 14.4" x 5.3"
Motor: Belt Drive
Platter mat: Aluminum
Bluetooth: Yes
Phono Preamp: Yes
USB: Yes
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 rpm

For a more premium Bluetooth-enabled record player, this Yamaha turntable is one of the most well-connected options on the list, with built-in preamp, headphone jack, and the ability to hook up to smart speakers and your Spotify playlist thanks to the MusicCast app. And if you don’t want to download that, you can still connect it with a speaker using RCA cables.

If you’ve got a swanky Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker, you can hook it up to your vinyl player, shout at Alexa or Google Assistant to play the record and then control the volume with just your voice, or use the phono line to connect to a more traditional Hi-Fi system.

The design is quite minimalist, and there aren’t too many buttons or any adjustable sliders on this turntable like there are with some of the more DJ-centric turntables on this list, but it is a fully manual model, so you’ll be lowering and lifting the tonearm yourself - Alexa can’t do all the work on her own.

Planar 2 Turntable

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REGA
amazon.co.uk
£429.00
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Dimensions: 17.5" x 4.5" x 15”
Motor: Belt drive
Bluetooth: No
Platter mat: Phenolic resin
Phono Preamp: No
USB: No
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 rpm

Arguably the best pound-for-pound turntable on the market, Rega's Planar 2 offers the sound quality you'd expect from a four-figure record player in a much more pocket-friendly package. The sound is clean and crisp, although it's decidedly old-school in the outputs stakes—with no Bluetooth or preamp, you'll need either a dedicated amp or powered speakers to enjoy its rich sound.

SL-1210 MK7 DJ Turntable

TECHNICS
gear4music.com
£899.00
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Dimensions: 17.7" x 13.8" x 6.6"
Motor: Direct Drive
Platter mat: Aluminum
Bluetooth: Yes
Phono Preamp: Yes
USB: No
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45, 78 RPM

When Techics discontinued the SL-1210 in 2012, generations of DJs wept into their headphones. The turntable has been industry standard since the 1970s, thanks to its rock-solid build quality (these will play on through spilled drinks, dropped record boxes, and even after clattering to the floor after some overexcited stage-diving. Ahem). Then Panasonic bought the company and relaunched the SL-1200 with some new bells and whistles—reverse play, a new motor that promises smoother playback—but at heart, this is the deck that everyone from DJ Alfredo to Deadmau5 cut their teeth on.

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High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable

FLUANCE
amazon.co.uk
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Dimensions: 16.5” x 5.5” x 13.75”
Motor: Belt Drive
Bluetooth: No
Platter mat: Aluminium
Phono Preamp: Yes
USB: No
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 rpm
Stylus: ATN95E - Elliptical 

For a more nostalgic look, Fluance has made this turntable in a shiny walnut finish against a black metallic platter that steps away from the modern DJ aesthetic you’ll find on other models. It also comes armed with a built-in pre-amp and Audio-Technica cartridges, which means great sound right out of the box.

AT-LP3 Turntable, White

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AUDIO-TECHNICA
johnlewis.com
£199.00
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Dimensions: 17.72" x 13.86" x 6.1"
Motor: Direct Drive
Bluetooth: No
Platter mat: Die-cast aluminum
Phono Preamp: Yes
USB: Yes
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45, 78 rpm

A clear homage to the SL-1210, but at a quarter of the price, this has all the cut-and-paste features a budding mixmaster requires. As a bonus, you get USB outputs so you can convert those Discogs finds to digital files.

FromEsquire UK

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