There’s never been a better time to rediscover vinyl. All of the best record players you can buy in 2021 are worlds away from the clunky old turntables that you might have stored away in a cupboard somewhere gathering dust.
Over the years, we’ve reviewed many of the newest and best vinyl record players – and we can confidently say these are all incredibly versatile and modern devices, which come in a range of styles to suit any type of home, budget and music fan.
So whether you prefer the classic, retro look of vinyl players from the past or your tastes are more clean and contemporary, there’s something here to suit you.
Many of the top turntables in this guide also come with new features built-in that you’d never find with old record players, including Bluetooth connectivity and USB ports, which are there so you can record your vinyl to your computer.
Some of these decks can be quite expensive (see: the Marantz TT-15S1 below) but if you’re trying to save some cash, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT is a solid entry-level record player that won’t break the bank.
Plus, Black Friday deals are coming up very soon, with the sales event officially kicking off on November 26. However, turntable deals usually start rolling in before then, and you’ve also got Cyber Monday on November 29 to give you another chance to save on your next record player.
If you’re a music lover and can’t get enough of the warm sound of vinyl, investing in one of the best record players from this list is a no-brainer – they’re a must-have for your at-home audio setup. Be sure to check out our how to set up a turntable guide first if you’re new to the world of record collecting.
Our top picks
What’s the best record player?
Want to be entertained in the inimitable vinyl manner, and be sure you’re not missing a scrap of information at the same time? You’ll want to turn your ears in Pro-Ject’s direction, then.
Pro-Ject introduced its first Debut record player at the end of the last century, and it’s been refined, upgraded, and become increasingly expensive ever since. This Debut Carbon Evo is the most refined and upgraded model so far – and it’s also the most expensive.
But don’t let that put you off. This is undoubtedly one of the best turntables you can buy today, offering a detailed and revealing listen, with the ability to focus on the minutiae even as it describes the complete picture very convincingly.
Read more: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo review
At first glance, the AT-LP120XBT-USB vinyl player looks the part – it owes more than a little to the legendary Technics SL1200/SL1210 where aesthetics are concerned. But as well as all the DJ bits and bobs (like pitch control and super-responsive direct drive motor), this Audio-Technica turntable has an integrated, switchable phono stage, a USB output and wireless aptX Bluetooth connectivity. All of which makes it a fair bit more adaptable than your average record player.
It’s very nearly a plug’n’play arrangement, making it perfect for beginners. All you need to do when it first comes out of the box is put the aluminum platter on, fix the cartridge to the tonearm and the hinges to the dust-cover, and you’re good to go.
Read more: Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB review
The Fluance RT81 is an excellent starter turntable. It’s simple to set up and use for newbies but you can switch out the cartridge to squeeze out more performance later on. Newbies also won’t have to worry about getting a separate phono preamp, as one is built in. However, you can turn it off if you want to use a better external preamp.
The only downside is that Fluance’s advertised “auto-off” feature simply turns off the platter, preventing excessive needle wear but you’ll still have to return the arm to its resting place yourself. You’ll also have to manually queue records, which isn’t a deal breaker by any means but is something to consider for those looking for a fully automatic record player. The Denon DP-300F is a great choice for those looking for a fully automated record listening experience.
Read more: Fluance RT81 review
The Denon DP-300F is a gorgeous turntable that sounds just as good as it looks. The included DSN-85 cartridge isn’t the most accurate but it nevertheless manages to make your music sound airy and reasonably detailed, especially for it’s price.You’ll need to spend a lot more cash to hear more detail.
While the DP-300F lacks the USB outputs of some of the best turntables listed here, it’s still a great starting turntable for anyone who doesn’t want to manually queue their albums or have a habit of falling asleep while listening to music. The Denon’s automatic start/stop feature means your needle won’t be worn down at the end of the record as the arm immediately returns when an album is done.
Build quality is decent for an all-plastic record player, but its buttons feel cheap – a minor problem but shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for you. If the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB doesn’t fit your aesthetic, consider the Denon DP-300F instead.
Read more: Denon DP-300F review
With a budget-friendly price, easy assembly, and the convenience of wireless playback, the AT-LP60XBT could make a fantastic first turntable for any fledgling vinyl enthusiast.
While the plinth does feel somewhat insubstantial, and the sound might not be detailed enough for some, it’s brilliant price more than makes up for that – and the inclusion of Bluetooth connectivity makes the AT-LP6XBT record player feel like very good value for money.
Audio-Technica is known for producing high quality cartridges, and the one used on this vinyl player is no exception; the ATN3600L conical stylus fits perfectly into the grooves of the record and reveals details in songs you may have never noticed before – in short, it makes your music an absolute joy to listen to.
Read more: Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT turntable review
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is still one of the best entry-level hi-fi turntables you can buy, even though it has been usurped by the record player at the top of this list.
While vinyl newcomers may cringe at the price, the Debut Carbon is really an incredible bargain. For the money, you get an very well made deck that’s damped properly for fantastic sound quality. The carbon fiber tonearm is lightweight and stiff, and is usually reserved for turntables costing much more.
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is for the budding enthusiast that’s committed to the record collecting hobby and because of that commitment, it doesn’t feature niceties like an auto-returning tonearm, buttons for changing speed or an included phono preamp. Newbies may be turned off by the manual changing of the belt position to change speeds and the lack of an included preamp. However, if you want to extract more detail and resolution from your records than the cheaper options on this list, or if you want to get started on the path of being a true vinyl collector, the Debut Carbon is probably your best bet.
Like the Pro-Ject Debut III, but want a subtler look? Check out the Crosley C10, which features a chic wooden-look plinth combined with a Pro-Ject tonearm.
Read more: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon review
There’s a lot of debate whether the Rega Planar 1 or the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is the best entry-level hi-fi turntable. It’s a close match and there are no clear winners, each providing an excellent starting place for audiophiles on a budget.
While the Rega may lack the fancy carbon tone arm of the Pro-Ject, the Planar 1 still sounds excellent and is well damped with its phenolic resin platter. And for newbies, the Rega Planar 1 is still easy to setup, though you’ll have to provide your own phono preamp.
Ultimately, the Rega Planar 1 record player just sounds so good that it’s hard to fault it too much. Vocals are revealing and you can hear the texture from instruments like the violin. The included Rega Carbon cartridge isn’t anything special but manages to be a great match for the turntable. It’s a tough choice between the Planar 1 and the Debut Carbon but you can’t go wrong with either.
The Marantz TT-15S1 costs a serious bit of change, but you’re actually getting a killer bargain. The Clearaudio Virtuoso included with the turntable is $1000 when purchased separately. Additionally, you get a killer tonearm and gorgeous turntable at a price that’s definitely an investment, but not unreasonable.
So what does the Marantz TT-15S1 get you over the competition? Attention to detail. Just about every part of the record player has been poured over to be the best it can be for the price. The fit and finish are excellent and it’s a pleasure to handle the high-quality components. This is a record player that’ll leave you admiring its visual and audible qualities.
Newbies should not get this turntable as it requires more knowledge to set up properly than the entry-level turntables on this list. But if you’re ready to take your record collecting and listening to the next level, the Marantz TT-15S1 is the perfect place to start.
Read more: Marantz TT-15S1 review
If the Clearaudio Concept and Marantz TT-15S1 seem familiar, that’s because the Marantz was built by Clearaudio to Marantz’s specifications. This means everything about the excellent build quality of the Marantz carries over to the Clearaudio Concept (i.e. this is a turntable that is as gorgeous as it sounds).
One small but notable difference between the Marantz and the Clearaudio turntables is the ability to play 78 rpm records. While most people will never come across 78s, it’s nice to know that the Clearaudio Concept is capable of playing them. The Concept also has a handy speed dial on the plinth, meaning you don’t have to swap the belt position manually.
As for negatives, the Clearaudio Concept has no notable flaws. Yes, it’s expensive but you’re still getting a bargain in this price range. The included Clearaudio Concept moving-coil cartridge costs $1,000 by itself. Yep!
Read more: Clearaudio Concept review
Meet the budget-friendly Technics SL-1500C that will only set you back £899 / $999 / AU$2499. It’s still not the most affordable turntable on the market, but it’s first the reborn Technics has so far delivered really remind listeners of what they loved about the brand in the first place.
Sound-staging is impressive, with recordings given plenty of elbow-room for individual instruments to make their presence felt. There’s depth and height to the Technics’ stage, as well as width, but despite all this breathing-room there’s no lack of unity to the sound the SL-1500C record player delivers.
Read more: Technics SL-1500C Turntable review
How to choose the best record player
How do I choose the best record player?
Navigating the market for the best record players can be confusing. But there are some key details you need to consider when choosing the best turntables for your listening needs and budget.
One of the most vital components to look for when you’re shopping for a new vinyl player, is how well damped it is.
Damping is essentially the method by which manufacturers combat vibrations – whether internal or external. They do this through the use of different motor configurations, and through the use of various components.
Belt-driven turntables are going to be a lot quieter and offer higher fidelity than their direct drive brethren, as direct drive turntables have a motor that is directly connected to the platter. However, there are some great direct drive turntables out there, so don’t write them off quite yet.
If you’re just starting out, you probably don’t need to be fooling around with a complex turntable with an adjustable vertical tracking angle, anti-skate and azimuth. You may even want a turntable that connects to your speaker wirelessly over Bluetooth. Do you want to rip your vinyl to your digital library? If so, look for a turntable with a USB output and reliable software to get the job done.
Budget and style are important considerations, too. Turntables can cost anything from $50 / £50 to well over $2,000 / £2,000, it’s a good idea to have a price in mind before you start your search. Think about how your new record player will fit into your home, as well. Do you have the space for an external amplifier? If not, look for a turntable with a built-in preamp.
Do I need to buy speakers for my turntable?
Aside from your new turntable, there are some other bits of kit you might want to invest in.
First off, you’ll want to check out the best stereo speakers; after all, a turntable is only as good as your speakers you hook it up to. Or, you might want to look into the best over-ear headphones and wireless earbuds to go with your record player.
If your record player of choice doesn’t have a built-in amplifier, you’ll need to buy one – check out our amplifier reviews for more information.
How we test our record players
We’ve tested a lot of record players over the years, and the best way to find out whether they live up to their specs is simply to dust off our vinyl collection and get playing.
From beginner and budget-friendly turntables, we’re looking for simple setups, built-in phono stages, and wireless connectivity options like Bluetooth.
When it comes to audiophile record players, we spend more time looking into the quality of the build, the playback speeds it offers, how well-damped it is, and extra features like USB ports.
With all vinyl players, though, the audio quality is the most important thing. To earn a spot in this guide, a record player has to offer lots of detail and clarity from your records, and produce that warm, rich sound that turntables are so well known for.