What is the best high-end turntable?
Whether you’re brand new to vinyl or you’ve been collecting wax for decades, a high-end turntable is the best way to hear your records the way they were intended to be heard.
Some turntables, like the Audio-Technica AT-LP7, focus solely on delivering great sound in a stylish package, while others include functions such as MP3 conversion. Either way, if you want a quality record player that’s going to stand the test of time, it’s important to do some research before making your purchase.
What to know before you buy a high-end turntable
The tonearm places the stylus onto the record. When a turntable is being used, the stylus moves along the record’s grooves and transmits audio information to the cartridge, which then sends the signal through a cable that’s located in the tonearm.
A turntable could have an automatic, semi-automatic or manual tonearm. This determines whether the tonearm will place itself onto the record automatically or if the user will need to position the stylus themselves. While it’s mostly a matter of convenience, an automatic tonearm can help prevent the listener from accidentally dragging the needle.
Small but mighty, the cartridge is arguably the most important part of the turntable. This piece houses the stylus and uses a mechanism of coils and magnets to translate the signal into sound. New turntables typically include a cartridge, but many audiophiles choose to upgrade this component. Not sure if your cartridge can be replaced? Check if it’s mounted to the tonearm with screws. If so, this usually means that you can replace your cartridge.
The initial audio signal processed by the turntable is very quiet, so a preamp is used to amplify the sound before passing it on to the speakers. Standalone preamps give the listener additional control of their audio, but are often rather expensive. Some turntables have their own built-in preamps, which are slightly poorer quality but save you time and money.
What to look for in a quality, high-end turntable
Direct drive vs. belt drive
An ongoing dispute among many vinyl lovers, the choice between a direct-drive or belt-drive turntable can be a tough one. Direct-drive turntables are typically cheaper and more durable, while many people in the vinyl community swear that belt-drive turntables produce superior sound. This comes at a cost, however, as the belt might eventually need to be replaced.
Some record players let you move between 33 1/3, 45 and 78 RPM (or revolutions per minute) at the flip of a switch. 33 1/3 and 45 RPM are the most common playback speeds for vinyl records. While 78 RPM records are rare, turntables such as the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK still have the ability to play them. If you’re a collector of vintage records, a turntable with adjustable speeds might be right for you.
Many new turntables feature the ability to take tracks from vinyl and convert them into digital audio files. This is particularly convenient for users who want to share the music from their vintage or out-of-print albums.
How much you can expect to spend on a high-end turntable
High-end turntables typically cost around $250-$1,000. Certain specialty models can cost $2,500 or more.
High-end turntable FAQ
How often should I replace my cartridge?
A. Most turntable manufacturers recommend replacing your cartridge after 1,000 hours of playing time. If you haven’t been keeping track, a good rule of thumb is that if you use your turntable for an hour every day, you should replace your cartridge once every couple of years.
Where can I buy vinyl records?
A. If you like vintage or rare vinyl, many people look for records at garage sales and thrift stores. If you prefer new records, there are hundreds of excellent independent record stores all over the country. You can also buy records online directly from the record label or the artists themselves.
Why is vinyl better than other audio formats?
The audio quality provided by vinyl records is famously warm, rich and organic sounding. MP3s, CDs and streaming services all use compressed digital files that sacrifice audio data in order to save space. With vinyl, no audio data is lost, meaning the music sounds just as the artist or producer intended it to sound.
What’s the best high-end turntable to buy?
Top high-end turntable
What you need to know: Backed by Audio-Technica’s stellar reputation, this no-frills, belt-driven turntable provides consistently great sound.
What you’ll love: The DC motor uses a speed-sensor system to maintain accurate speeds, and the belt-drive operation lets you switch from 33 1/3 to 45 RPM with ease.
What you should consider: Lacks features such as digital recording. Some users reported receiving the turntable with a loose tonearm.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top high-end turntable for the money
What you need to know: The popular direct-drive turntable comes with three-speed capabilities and a USB-powered digital recording feature.
What you’ll love: Great for beginners, this affordable turntable has adjustable anti-skate control and a built-in phono preamp. It also comes with free Audacity recording software.
What you should consider: A bit heavy and lacks the belt-drive motor that many audiophiles prefer.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
High-end turntable worth checking out
What you need to know: This high-end turntable combines a direct-drive motor with built-in wireless capabilities.
What you’ll love: Dust cover, built-in phono stage and Bluetooth capability are all features that mean you’ll get consistently pristine sound from any high-definition sound system. At 6 pounds, this powerful turntable is also surprisingly lightweight.
What you should consider: Some users feel that this turntable is overpriced.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Patrick Farmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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