If you want to dust off those crates of LPs and 45s sitting in the attic, you might think buying the best vintage turntable is the only option to play those groovy tunes. However, authentic vintage turntables are quite expensive and can be challenging to find.
Instead, you might consider purchasing a new turntable that will give you the same vintage feel without breaking the bank. Still, figuring out how to choose the best vintage turntable to get that authentic sound can be tricky.
There are many turntable options on the market and deciphering all the features might be more than overwhelming. That’s especially true when you want the best vintage turntable — or one as close to vintage as you can get.
And this is even truer if you’re just beginning your vinyl journey.
So, it’s important to start with the basics.
It may seem simple, but to understand the features of a turntable, you need to know about its anatomy. All turntables have the same components, although the quality of each component will differ between price ranges.
And if you’re particularly nitpicky, there’s even a difference between a turntable and a record player. So, let’s start with that first.
Record player or turntable?
Many people use the terms “record player” and “turntable” interchangeably. They both play records, so what’s the difference, right?
Well, a record player is an all-in-one device which includes speakers and a built-in amplifier so you can simply plug it in and start listening to your records.
On the other hand, a turnable is a standalone device that turns the records and needs external components so you can hear what’s playing.
However, unless you’re a hardcore audiophile, the best vintage turntable you seek may often include built-in speakers in its base. Does this mean you’d have a record player and not a turntable?
It depends on how you look at it. Many turntables today also include modern technology like USB ports and Bluetooth connectivity where you still have to purchase external amplification. So, unless you’re nitpicky, you can call the best vintage turntable whatever you want.
And as long as it plays records the way you want to hear them, what you call the device doesn’t matter.
The guts are what matters
Every turntable or record player have the same components.
First, we have the cartridge which houses the stylus or needle. The stylus is the part that fits into the grooves of a record and plays it back. The cartridge fits on the end of the tonearm and can be changed when the needle needs replacement.
The tonearm holds the stylus and cartridge, and it can either be straight or curved. In addition, the tonearm includes a counterweight either pre-balanced or with one that requires manual balancing.
A properly balanced counterweight allows the record to play smoothly without any skipping. A tonearm can also include an anti-skate dial which prevents the needle from skimming across the record’s surface.
Next, we have the platter and mat. The platter rotates the records. Heavier platters are better because they can minimize vibrations and variations in record-playing speed.
The mat sits on top of the platter and is usually made of soft rubber. It acts as a cushion between the platter and the record.
Then, we have the motor.which can either be belt-driven or direct-drive. Belt-driven turntables feature a belt that runs from the motor to spin the platter. In a direct-drive turntable, the motor is part of the platter.
There’s a debate about which one is better. Some turntable aficionados say the separation of the motor from the platter produces better sound. Others say it makes no difference. So, essentially, it boils down to preference.
And the best vintage turntable in today’s world can have either.
Finally, there’s the plinth which is just a fancy term for the cabinet that houses all of the above components. Classic vintage turntables are made of wood, but the best vintage turntable of today can be made from a variety of materials.
Also, some people refer to the plinth as the deck which is much more user-friendly, don’t you think?
Choosing the Best Vintage Turntable
So, now that you have the basics down, it’s time to consider what features you want when you purchase the best vintage turntable.
Manual or automatic
Turntables are either manual or automatic. Manual means you do the work of lifting the tonearm and placing the needle on the record. It also means you have to remove it once the record is done playing.
On the other hand, an automatic turntable does all the work for you. All you have to do is push a button for the tonearm to lift and drop the needle on the first track of the record. It’ll also return back to its rest position once the record is done playing. Plus, it automatically shuts down the motor.
It doesn’t matter which type you choose. What matters is how involved you want to be in your vinyl listening experience.
How sturdy is your deck?
As we learned, the deck is the cabinet that holds all the components of the turntable. Back in the day, the best vintage turntable was usually made of wood or steel. Sturdier materials meant less chance of vibration, which affects the quality of sound.
However, the best vintage turntable of today can be made of many sturdy materials, including plastic. So, what you choose is entirely up to you. And today’s turntables have some sleek and gorgeous designs.
Phono preamps are an available output for you to listen to your records on external speakers or headphones. Some turntables have preamps built-in, but others do not.
If they don’t, then you’ll have to purchase a separate amplifier. However, if that’s something you want to do, you still need to make sure the turntable has output connections available.
Plus, not all turntables with built-in phono preamp will let you upgrade or change it out.
All turntables play records at 2 different speeds. 33.5 RPM plays 12-inch records while 45 RPM plays 7-inch records. So, when you see “two-speed” on the specs, that’s what it means.
Some turntables play at 78 RPM, which is what you’d need to play your great-grandparent’s 10-inch record collection. However, you’d probably have to purchase a vintage before vintage record player or at least a different kind of needle to spin those gems.
Some turntables — even the best vintage turntable of today — include a USB port so you can make digital copies of your favorite albums. So, if you want to take the music with you, this is an option to consider.
However, remember that if you’re looking for the “vintage experience,” listening to a record on your phone isn’t anywhere near “vintage.”
In addition, other turntables have Bluetooth, which is a convenient option to control your music from anywhere in the house.
How We Found the Best
We conducted extensive research to find recommendations for the best vintage turntable from sources like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Devoted to Vinyl, Playback.fm, hiconsumption.com, Crutchfield, and Mixmag.
Our research included learning about the various features that make the best vintage turntable the best. We also checked manufacturer websites for product specifications for these recommended turntables.
From that information, we picked a list of turntables as near to vintage as we could get based on the quality of sound, design, and customer reviews.
Once we had a preliminary list, we checked user and professional reviews of each turntable from YouTube, Analog Planet, techradar.com, Forbes, and CNET to choose our final list.
The Best Vintage Turntable: Our Top 6 Picks
Although we’ve numbered our picks, it does not signify a ranking.
1. Audio-Technica AT-LP60X Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Turntable
The Audio Technica AT-LP60X Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Turntable is a belt-driven record player that delivers vintage-quality sound in a sleek design.
The tonearm features an integrated cartridge, so all you have to change is the stylus when needed. Plus, it comes with a built-in phono preamp that is upgradeable. In addition, it’s fully automatic so just press a button, and you can enjoy your favorite album
Amazon customers gave this turntable 4.1 out of 5 stars. Most users enjoyed the sound quality and ease-of-use. However, other users reported skipping and skating issues.
Watch this review for more:
2. Fluance RT81 High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable
The Fluance RT81 High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable is a two-speed belt-driven turntable that offers a rich sound in a solid and attractive-looking cabinet. This turntable features an S-type tonearm with a calibrated counterweight and anti-skate dial which makes it easy to set up and use.
Plus, it has an Audio Technica AT95E cartridge with a diamond-tipped stylus for smooth tracking and sound.
Amazon customers gave this turntable 4.6 out of 5 stars. Most reviewers were impressed with this turntable’s sound quality and limited to non-existent vibration. They agree it’s a solid turntable for the price.
The only issue seems to be speed consistency with longer playing times.
Check out this review below:
3. Pioneer PL-30-K Turntable
The Pioneer PL-30-K Turntable makes this best vintage turntable list because it’s designed to do one thing: play records. There are no fancy features on this turntable, but what it does have is the ability to play music the way you want to hear it — a rich and clean sound.
This fully automatic turntable has a balanced tonearm complete with an upgradeable.cartridge to produce a rock-solid sound. Plus, the die-cast aluminum platter is center-weighted so you can groove to your favorite album without worrying about skipping.
This turntable received 4.4 out of 5 stars from Amazon customers. Most customers were pleased with the sound quality and minimalistic design. However, some customers said it had speed issues.
Check out the review below:
4. TEAC TN-300 Turntable
If you’re looking for a fully manual turntable, then the TEAC TN-300 might be the one to end your best vintage turntable quest. This turntable is not only gorgeous to look at, but it also sounds great right out of the box.
It features a straight tonearm equipped with an Audio-Technica cartridge for a smooth sound. And the adjustable feet help reduce vibration, which means you can rock out without missing a beat.
Plus, you can transfer your favorite albums to a USB so you can listen to them whenever and wherever you want.
Amazon customers gave this turntable 4.1 out of 5 stars. Customers raved about the build and sound quality and loved its budget-friendly price. However, some users noted that the turntable had tracking and skipping issues at times.
Watch the review below:
5. 1byone Belt Driven Bluetooth Turntable with Built-in Stereo Speaker
Vinyl snobs might sneer that the 1byone Belt Driven Bluetooth Turntable is on this best vintage turntable list, but it’s a quality turntable that produces quality vintage sound. Plus, you can even play your grandparents’ old 78s on this 3-speed deck.
In addition, it even looks vintage with its wood finish, and it’s built solidly enough to reduce vibrations and skipping. However, features are limited, including the fact it has no built-in preamp.
Amazon customers gave this turntable 4.5 out of 5 stars. Most customers were happy with their purchase, noting that the turntable was easy to use and performed well. However, other customers said the Bluetooth feature was difficult to use.
Check out the review below:
6. House of Marley Stir It Up Turntable
The House of Marley Stir It Up Turntable might be the most eco-friendly turntable on the planet. This two-speed belt-driven turntable features a bamboo plinth which gives it an exotic and unique look. Plus, most of the other parts of this turntable are made from recyclable or upcycled materials.
And if you think this turntable only looks good, you’ll be glad to know it sounds good, too. The metal tonearm features a changeable cartridge as well as an anti-skating dial. And it also has rubber feet on the bottom to reduce vibration.
This turntable received 4.0 out of 5 stars from Amazon customers. Most customers were happy with this turntable’s performance, design, and sound quality. However, some customers had speed inconsistencies as well as issues with the right-side channel.
Watch the following review for more details:
Get an Authentic Sound and Feel with the Best Vintage Turntable
The best vintage turntable doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Vintage means different things to different people, and you can get the vintage feel and sound you desire with a modern turntable that is much lighter on the wallet.
Plus, modern-day “vintage” turntables are a lot more stylish and much easier to maintain than the turntables of old. But the most important thing is that you enjoy the look, feel, and sound of your new vintage turntable.
What do you think is the best vintage turntable? Share your thoughts below!
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