The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (2024)

The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (1)

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  • Best overall
  • Best value
  • Best features
  • Best Bluetooth
  • Best direct-drive
  • Best for beginners
  • Best high-end
  • Specs compared
  • Also consider
  • FAQ
  • How to choose
  • How we test

Today's best record players mix modern materials, design, and tech with that classic music format: vinyl. Despite first going mainstream in the 1940s, vinyl has stubbornly stuck around, and in the last few years it’s even enjoyed a resurgence as music lovers turn to its rich, tactile qualities. The kind you just don’t get from music streaming, in other words.

Below, we’ve cataloged the best turntables for your convenience. Although none of the models listed have received a full Tom's Guide standalone review, each record player has been tested by a vinyl expert for ease of set up, design and build, and sound quality. And it’s not like these are old relics, either: expect modernized hardware throughout, including some turntables that can even digitize your existing vinyl collection.

Read on for the pick of the very best turntables tested by our hi-fi expert.

The best record players and turntables you can buy right now

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Best turntable overall

The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (2)The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (3)

1. Rega Planar 3

Best belt-drive record player overall

Specifications

Speeds: 33.3, 45RPM

Speed change: Manual

Drive: Belt

Auto-stop: No

Wireless: No

Built-in phono stage: No

Reasons to buy

+

High audio performance

+

Great looks

+

Excellent cartridge

+

Very stable

Reasons to avoid

-

Not many extra features

Everything that made Rega one of the go-to turntable brands even during the format’s leanest years is here in the Planar 3/Elys 2 combination — and in spades.

Every crucial component is specified without compromise. The polished glass platter, the bearing assembly and 24v motor, the high-gloss acrylic plinth with double brace, the hand-assembled RB330 tonearm… they’re all significantly over specified and designed to make the Planar 3 record player perform to its absolute maximum. And in the Elys 2, Rega has developed and fitted a cartridge that does absolute justice to this engineering investment.

The result is a turntable that looks good and is built to last, a turntable that rejects external vibration manfully, that is completely stable… and, when slotted into an appropriate system, delivers a sound that’s alive with detail, immediacy, weight and dynamism. All of which explains why it's our pick of the best record players.

Best value turntable

The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (4)The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (5)

2. Pro-Ject Primary E

Best value belt-drive record player

Specifications

Speeds: 33.3, 45RPM

Speed change: Manual

Drive: Belt

Auto-stop: No

Wireless: No

Built-in phono stage: No

Reasons to buy

+

Low price

+

Easy to use

+

Great sound

Reasons to avoid

-

Dull design

-

Few extras

Pro-Ject has long been a true entry-level hero where the best turntables are concerned, and with the Primary E it’s delivered a record player that absolutely nails the fundamentals. If you’re looking for an affordable way into the joys of vinyl, look no further.

No, it’s not what you’d call a looker and yes, the finish of the plinth and platter could be more luxurious. But the Primary E — thanks to its high-quality tonearm, very acceptable Ortofon cartridge and general robustness of build and specification — is utterly fit for purpose. And thanks to its hard-wired RCA interconnects, pre-set tracking and anti-skate weights, and pre-fitted cartridge, all you need to do is slip the belt around the platter and the pulley; it’s basically plug-and-play.

And the sound the Pro-Ject makes is as easy to listen to as the turntable is to operate. All of the vinyl virtues — rhythmic expression, low-frequency weight and energy, overall unity of presentation — are present and correct. As a gateway drug, the Primary E proves very moreish indeed.

Best turntable for features

The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (6)

3. Cambridge Audio Alva TT

Best direct-drive record player with wireless connectivity

Specifications

Speeds: 33.3, 45RPM

Speed change: Electronic

Drive: Direct

Auto-stop: No

Built-in phono stage: Yes

Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth with aptX HD support

Reasons to buy

+

Direct-drive motor

+

Extensive wireless integration

+

High build quality

Reasons to avoid

-

Price seems high compared to rivals

Imagine a record player that can seamlessly fit into your modern, wireless ecosystem. A record player that can stream wirelessly at high resolution to your wireless speakers, wireless headphones or multi-room audio setup… then listen to the remarkable Alva TT and stop imagining.

Cambridge Audio has built a handsome, hefty and very well-specified turntable in the Alva TT. Its aluminium construction, weighty platter, medium-torque direct-drive motor arrangement (ideal for absolute rotational stability) and impression of unburstable build quality go a long way to justifying the asking price. And then for good measure, Cambridge Audio has fitted an analogue-to-digital converter and a Bluetooth streaming module — which basically makes the Alva TT the world’s first high-resolution record player.

Put the Alva TT anywhere you like in your room, put on a record, then sit back and enjoy its detailed, punchy and effortlessly musical sound, with mains power the only physical connection required.

Best Bluetooth turntable

The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (7)

4. Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB

Best record player with Bluetooth and for digitizing records

Specifications

Speeds: 33.3, 45, 78RPM

Speed change: Electronic

Drive: Direct

Auto-stop: Yes

Built-in phono stage: Yes

Wireless: Yes

Reasons to buy

+

Highly versatile

+

Bluetooth connectivity

+

Can digitize vinyl

+

Decent audio quality

Reasons to avoid

-

Unoriginal design

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Technics and its iconic SL-1200 turntable may be feeling mighty flattered by the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB. Still, there’s more to this record player than simply trying to look like a legend.

With its direct-drive arrangement, stroboscope and pitch control, the AT-LP120XBT-USB is a good starting point for any budding DJ. But thanks to its integrated switchable phono stage (making it easy to slot into systems of any kind), aptX Bluetooth wireless streaming (for uber-convenience) and USB output (for making digital copies of vinyl to a computer), it’s a Swiss Army knife of a record player.

And happily, the sound it makes is well up to standard. It’s not the most forceful or assertive turntable you’ll ever hear, but it extracts plenty of detail, has an easy-going way with rhythms and puts some nice emphasis on the midrange (vocalists in particular). It’s the best turntable pick if you want a little bit of everything.

Best direct-drive turntable

The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (8)

5. Technics SL-1500C

The best direct-drive turntable with iconic style and design

Specifications

Speeds: 33.3, 45, 78RPM

Speed change: Electronic

Drive: Direct

Auto-stop: Switchable

Built-in phono stage: Yes

Wireless: No

Reasons to buy

+

Premium design

+

Pre-fitted cartridge

+

Audio heritage

Reasons to avoid

-

Better-sounding alternatives are available

There’s currently no more affordable way into Technics turntable ownership, but that is emphatically not the same as suggesting the SL-1500C is built down to a price.

At a glance, it looks like the company’s storied SL-1200 DJ deck with the more hands-on elements deleted — and to an extent, that’s exactly what this is. So it has the same bank-vault build quality, the same fearsomely overengineered direct-drive motor mechanism and the same big ‘stop/start’ button as the world’s favourite record player.

Unlike the SL-1200, though, the SL-1500C is quite a deft and articulate listen. Whisper it, but the SL-1200 has always been a bit of a blunt instrument in sonic terms — but the SL-1500C is an altogether more nuanced device. The pre-fitted Ortofon cartridge helps here, while the switchable auto-stop mechanism and switchable phono stage make it a more flexible record player, too. Some turntables will hit harder and dig deeper, but very few will deliver the same pride of ownership.

Best turntable for beginners

The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (9)

6. Rega Planar 1

The best record player package for beginners

Specifications

Speeds: 33.3, 45RPM

Speed change: Manual

Drive: Belt

Auto-stop: No

Built-in phono stage: No

Wireless: No

Reasons to buy

+

Clean, responsive sound

+

Well-built

Reasons to avoid

-

Minimal design

Rega is the only company in this list with more than one entry — and while the rest of its turntable portfolio is not without charm, the Planar 1 is perhaps the purest expression of what Rega is all about.

As with almost all Rega record players, the Planar 1 doesn’t pamper you — it’s best to think of the chassis and plinth as necessary supports for the important stuff (motor, bearing, tonearm) rather than objects to be admired in and of themselves. If you can sort your visual and decorative priorities out, Rega will take care of the audio stuff for you, and in some style.

The Planar 1 is a disciplined listen, able to snap into and out of low-frequency information with none of the hanging around that lesser record players can indulge in. As a consequence the midrange is uncluttered, and free to get on with communicating impressive levels of detail. And the entire presentation hangs together coherently, meaning the Rega serves up a complete picture without sticking its oar in to any appreciable degree.

Best high-end turntable

The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (10)

7. Clearaudio Concept

Best high-end record player

Specifications

Speeds: 33.3, 45, 78RPM

Speed change: Electronic

Drive: Belt

Auto-stop: No

Built-in phono stage: No

Wireless: No

Reasons to buy

+

Slick design

+

High sound quality

+

Relatively compact

Reasons to avoid

-

Looks are a bit bland

When you get comfortably into the four-figure price bracket, the best turntables really need to be more than one-trick ponies. There’s no merit in just sounding great and looking amateurish or ugly, just as there’s no merit in looking a million dollars and sounding like a few cents’ worth. Which brings us to how it should be done: the Clearaudio Concept.

The design language here is elegant and understated — timeless, even. The quality of materials is unarguable, as is the build quality and finish. And the sound the Concept makes, while far from the last word in outright attack, is every bit as sophisticated as the record player from which it emanates.

With the emphasis squarely on subtlety, nuance and insight, the Concept is capable of extracting the finest details from the groove and laying them out for inspection. This isn’t at the expense of the broader picture, and neither is the Concept in any way prissy. It simply digs out the minutiae and puts it into proper context. It’s quietly thrilling.

Specs compared

Swipe to scroll horizontally

ModelDrive typeSpeedsSpeed changeAutomaticWirelessBuilt-in phono stage
Rega Planar 3Belt-drive33.3, 45RPMManualNoNoNo
Pro-Ject Primary EBelt-drive33.3, 45RPMManualNoNoNo
Cambridge Audio Alva TTDirect-drive 33.3, 45RPMElectronicNoBluetooth with aptX HDYes
Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USBDirect-drive 33.3, 45, 78RPMElectronicAuto-stopBluetoothYes
Technics SL-1500CDirect-drive 33.3, 45, 78RPMElectronicAuto-stopNoYes
Rega Planar 1Belt-drive33.3, 45RPMManualNoNoNo
Clearaudio ConceptBelt-drive33.3, 45, 78RPMElectronicNoNoNo

Also consider

At Tom's Guide, we test a lot of turntables. Not all of them made it into our guide though as they were beaten by better performers in a particular category and price. Nevertheless, each of the models listed here are still worthwhile considerations.

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The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (11)

Victrola Stream Carbon: This is a great solution for vinyl beginners. Unlike more complicated systems that might require some serious knowhow, setting up the Victrola Stream Carbon feels much like aSonos setup, with step-by-step visuals to get the turntable on the same Wi-Fi network as your Sonos system.

Once you’ve paired your Sonos account, the turntable is added as a playback source in your Sonos app.

Read the full Victrola Stream Carbon story

The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (12)

Victrola Hi-Res Carbon: A great vinyl spinner that's versatile enough to fit with traditional wired stereo setups as well as Bluetooth streaming. It's priced at $599, but comes with an Ortofon 2M Red moving-magnetic cartridge ($99) fitted to the carbon fiber tonearm with a removable head shell. This gives it proper audiophile credentials to warrant the higher price tag, and is a viable step-up model for anyone serious about music listening.

Read the full Victrola Hi-Res-Carbon story

The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (13)

Dual CS529:This automatic Bluetooth turntable is the first to be fully controllable via an app (available for both iOS and Android). It's fitted with an audiophile-grade Ortofon 2M Red moving-magnet cartridge and has a built-in phono preamp, which can be switched out to connect the turntable to an external phono preamp, should you wish. It's available in black at $1,199, while a walnut plinth option costs $1,399.

Read the full Dual CS529 story

FAQ

Why do I need an amplifier for my turntable?

First off, the signal from even the best record players is feeble to the point of being non-existent.

It takes a great deal more amplification to make it audible than any of the other format you listen to — so if it’s going to be of any use to an amplifier it’s going to need a rocket up it at some point. The rocket in question is a phono stage, sometimes known as a phono pre-amp, which amplifies the weak signal from a record player to make it louder. If your amplifier doesn’t have one, you either need to buy a record player with an integrated phono stage, or purchase a stand-alone phono stage to go between your turntable and your amplifier.

How to choose the best record player for you

Manual or electronic speed change: Once you've considered whether you want a turntable with Bluetooth, USB ripping, and/or a phono stage built-i, the next thing to consider is whether you prefer a model with manual or electronic speed change.

Models with manual speed change require you to shift the belt to the corresponding position on the motor pulley so that the disc platter spins at the correct speed for the record you wish to play. If you're only intending to play records at 33.3RPM, changing the belt position on the pulley is unlikely to be an issue.

Electronic speed selection is far more convenient for those with a large record collection of LPs and 45s, and is usually selected via a push button or selector found on the turntable plinth.

Lastly, do you have some old 78RPM disks? Not every record player can deal with them.

Automatic turntables: An automatic turntable may also be worth considering. A fully automatic design will usually lower the stylus into the groove at the start of the record and then return the tonearm to its resting position once it reaches the end of the record.

A semi-automatic turntable should at least lift the stylus from the groove at the end of the record, but make sure you check before you buy.

Price: After that, it’s important to make sure you’re budgeting correctly. There’s no point in spending thousands on a record player if the system it’s joining cost peanuts, just as buying a budget-conscious turntable is a false economy if your set-up cost proper money. In either case, you’re not maximizing performance.

Care and maintenance: Setting up a turntable is therefore more of a complex process than simply turning on your favorite Bluetooth speaker, though as any audiophile will tell you, that extra effort can yield some great-sounding rewards.

Whichever turntable model you choose, make sure you know how to take care of your vinyl records so that they deliver pristine sound for years to come.

How we test turntables

Every record player in this list has been tested by Tom’s Guide contributors — we won’t recommend a turntable based on hunches or brief impressions alone.

First and foremost, our testing focuses on sound quality; for all a turntable’s little tricks, nothing is more important than making sure your vinyl sounds good on it, so we’ll listen to a variety of music to find out when each record player best handles different instrument types and frequency ranges.

We’ll also take a close look at build quality, as even cheap turntables can cost a healthy three figures and should be appropriately built to last. And, while sound quality remains paramount, we’ll also try out any special features a record player might have, both to ensure they work reliably and that they’re actually useful.

More from Tom's Guide

  • Why do audiophiles think vinyl sounds better?
  • Tips and tricks to keep LPs sounding great
  • How to setup a turntable

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The best record players 2024: Top turntables for any budget (14)

Lee Dunkley

Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.

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