There is something sensory about a vinyl record that digital music will never replicate. Vinyl creates a complete digital waveform, and even though the experts say the human ear cannot differentiate between a complete and a sampled waveform, many people contend you can feel the difference. But vinyl has advantages beyond the quality of the music. Album covers are emblematic pieces of art that provide a structure to the memories of the greatest moments of your life. If you’re thinking of joining the growing trend of returning to vinyl, this article will help you find the best automatic turntable.
1. What Is the Best Automatic Turntable for You?
To answer that question you need to assess your listening needs. If you are an extreme audiophile that demands perfection in every aspect of your musical experience, then no price is too great to consider to achieve the perfect sound. Most turntables are equipped to play 33 1/3 and 45 RPM records, but only a few will play 78. Also, some turntables come with a built-in pre-amp and are Bluetooth capable, while others require you to invest in pre-amps and even cartridges. Assess your listening needs and determine what features and price point are most important to you.
2. What Does 33 1/3, 45, and 78 Mean?
Those numbers represent the rotations per minute the record must spin at to achieve the proper sound. If the record spins too fast, it sounds like the chipmunks and if it spins too slow the sound is elongated and distorted. Records exist with other RPM speeds, but 33 1/3, 45 and 78 are the most common. One of the most important things to consider with your turntable is a consistent play speed because any variation in speed results in a distorted sound.
3. What Is a Cartridge?
The cartridge is the needle that runs through the groove of the record to pick up vibrations and create the sound. Superior cartridges can greatly enhance the quality of the sound you get from your turntable. On most of the best automatic turntables, it’s easy to swap out the cartridge for a new or better one. The very best automatic turntables require that you purchase a cartridge separately.
4. How Many Grooves Are There on a Record??
Ask this question to your niece or nephew as a way of getting them interested in the allure of vinyl. You’ll blow their mind when you reveal that there is only a single grove pressed into the record, which the needle follows all the way from the edge to the center. In a digital age of computing where information travels on beams of light in fiber optic cables beneath the ocean, a simple, single groove on a record harkens back to a simpler age.
We reviewed the products in our best automatic turntable survey on a number of features. Price and sound quality were the first considerations. After that we considered the consistency of the unit’s rotation. We found that some less expensive models required fine tuning to get the rotation speed correct, and the belt operated turntables required a break-in period before they would achieve peak performance. We considered the overall aesthetic and style of each unit and operational ease. We provided a list of pros and cons for each product in our best automatic turntable list with further considerations.
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You can spend as much as you want on audio equipment. The more expensive equipment has a more consistent sound and durability. However, there is a price point of diminishing returns. All the turntables in our best automatic turntable survey were pleasing to listen to. The more expensive models featured 78 RPM capability, greater overall stability, and consistent motors.
- Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Stereo Turntable
- Denon DP-300F Fully Automatic Analog Turntable
- Marantz TT42 Fully Automatic Belt Drive Turntable
- Fluance Elite High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable
- Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Turntable
- Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT-BK Fully Automatic Bluetooth Belt-Drive Stereo Turntable
- THORENS TD 170-1B TURNTABLE
- Sony PS-LX310BT Belt Drive Turntable
- Clearaudio Concept 3-Speed Turntable
- REGA – Planar 1 Turntable
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The Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK is a very modern looking, fully automatic, belt driven turntable made from dampening materials that limit vibrations. The hydraulically damped lift control allows the stylus to be lowered with minimal risk of scratching. The head shell fits a 1/2 inch mount cartridge and allows users to upgrade with ease. The device comes with an AT91R moving magnet cartridge. This turntable will play both 33 1/3 and 45 RPM records. This is a nice looking, effective turntable that will bring new life to your old records.
- Modern look
- Good dampening features
- Easy to use mount cartridge
- Runs silent
- Speed might need adjustment
- Belt will stretch when first used
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The Denon DP-300F is a solid automatic turntable that features a heavy base construction to prevent vibrations. The removable head shell on the tonearm makes cartridge replacement easy. The turntable is belt driven so you might experience some variation in speed, especially early in use until the belt has been broken in. The heavy base of this turntable is effective at reducing vibrations. This turntable will play 33 1/3 and 45 rpm records.
- Solid base limits vibrations
- Attractive overall design
- Fully automatic
- Preamp that can be turned on or of
- Speed variation
- Denon has motor problems with other units
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The Marantz TT42 comes with an automatic turntable and is equipped with a DC servo belt drive that is silent and produces consistent rotational speed. The unit is loaded with per-installed features that make it convenient and easy to use. The transparent dust cover is easily removed for more convenient play and usage. Marantz offers a comprehensive 3-year warranty, so this is a purchase you can make with peace of mind. The model will play 33 1/3 and 45. There Marantz does not have a built in phono pre-amp.
- Removable dust cover
- Pre-installed features
- Fully automatic
- Three-year warranty
- No phono pre-amp
- Old fashion box design
Fluance RT81 Elite High Fidelity
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The Fluance elite high fidelity turntable is an attractive-looking unit featuring a belt drive, built-in preamp, and an Audio Technica AT95E cartridge. The base is made from solid wood and not only is effective at absorbing vibrations, but it also looks fantastic. The unit features a removable dust cover that makes it easy to swap out records when you’re entertaining. Available in piano black or walnut, you can choose the turntable that best matches the décor of your music room. Consistent playing speeds and a two-year warranty make the Fluance an easy purchase.
- Attractive wood base
- Available in two different colors
- Lifetime warranty
- Consistent playing speeds
- Built-in preamp
- Some speed adjustment required
- Arm does not return automatically
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This turntable has such a minimalist design you could call it the iPod of turntables. A very clean and glossy surface features only the 8.6 inch tonearm and the hefty platter. This unit is available in green, blue, piano black, purple, silver, gloss white, red, walnut and yellow. All the colors are bright and fantastic, so this turntable looks great even when not in use. The tonearm is carbon fiber to reduce vibrations, and the low-noise motor and stable isolation feet ensure high-quality play.
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Attractive, modern design
- Carbon fiber tonearm
- Good sound
- Difficult to assemble and adjust
- No auto return
- No dust cover
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The Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT-BK has Bluetooth capability which is convenient for hooking it up to speakers. The design features the platter, tonearm, and two switches on the horizontal surface as well as three buttons across the front. This is an ideal turntable for individuals who do not like to have to search around for a remote control to operate the unit. The platter is made from die-cast aluminum and is anti-resonance. The unit is available in black, white and red.
- Anti-resonance aluminum platter
- Available in three colors
- Bluetooth capable
- Fully automatic
- Variation in rotation speeds
- Only a one-year warranty
THORENS TD 170-1B
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The Thorens TD 170-1B turntable is an upper-tier turntable that allows you to play 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM albums. The Thorens represents a considerable investment, but the rotation speeds are consistent, the sound is fantastic, and this turntable will play all record speeds. It comes with a built-in pre-amp, so you can plug and play this item out of the box. Note that you will need to purchase a different cartridge to play 78 RPM records.
- Attractive design
- Consistent speeds
- Built-in pre-amp
- Automatic play arm return
- Separate cartridge required for 78 RMP records
Sony PS-LX310BT Belt Drive Turntable
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The Sony PS-LX310BT is a fully automatic belt drive turntable. The turntable features both Bluetooth and USB output so it’s easy to connect to virtually any speakers or headphones. The unit is minimal with a plain platform that has a platter and tonearm. The platter is die-cast Aluminum to reduce vibration and prevent the needle from skipping. RCA cables also are included to plug the unit directly into a stereo system. This is a good sounding turntable that is functional, inexpensive and easy to use.
- Bluetooth and USB connectivity
- RCA cables included
- Die-cast Aluminum platter
- Economically priced
- Unit is very lightweight
- RPM speed issues
Clearaudio Concept Wood Turntable
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The Clearaudio Concept 3-speed turntable is a turntable for audiophiles who want the best. Note that the purchase price does not include a cartridge, so you won’t be able to play this unit right out of the box. The lack of a cartridge is a nice feature, however, because it allows you to personalize your turntable to your own preference. The body is both sleek and highly functional. There is a knob in the corner where you can select between RPM speeds of 33 1/3, 45 and 78. A very nice finish and consistent rotation speeds make this a good choice for anyone who wants their listening experience to be perfect.
- Plays 33 1/3, 45, and 78
- Consistent motor speeds
- Easy to operate
- Does not come with a cartridge
- Very expensive
REGA – Planar 1 Plus
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The REGA Planar 1 is another turntable with a stylish, minimal design. It resembles a plain block of wood with a platter and tonearm. The tonearm is an RB110 with zero play bearings and ultra-low friction performance. The 24 Volt, synchronous motor reduces vibration and provides a consistent rotational speed. An on/off switch is situated in easy reach but out of view on the underside of the unit. This unit is available in gloss black and gloss white. There is no built-in preamp.
- Quiet, low vibration motor
- Stylish design with two color options
- High quality tonearm
- Dust cover
- No preamp
- No anti-skate
Best Automatic Turntables to Bring Music to Your Ears
Any of the products in our best automatic turntable survey will bring new life to your record collection and provide you with hours of listening enjoyment. We preferred the Thorens TD 170-1B Turntable for its great sound, nice design, and consistent play speed. We also liked that the Thornes was one of only two turntables in our survey with the capability to play 78 speed records but it is available at less than half the price of the other. For a more economical option, the wooden base of the Fluance Elite High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable looks and sounds great in any audio room. Get more enjoyment from your vinyl with the best automatic turntable.