There was a time not too long ago that people glazed over vinyl record players when they were browsing yard sales, garage sales, and thrift stores. Nowadays, it seems that they have come back in style, and are more popular than ever. As the music scene continues to turn in the digital direction, music enthusiasts of all shapes and sizes are returning to vinyl as a way to enjoy music in a more simplistic way. And of course, there are some people who never stopped listening to vinyl. This review isn’t for them. This review is for people who are getting back into the art of listening to vinyl records after surviving the cassette tape, CD phase, and now the MP3/digital phase. Any music lover will tell you that is almost impossible to replicate the amazing sound vinyl provides musicians and artists alike. But whether you agree or not is irrelevant. Afterall, it’s about the music. So when you are setting out to buy your first vinyl record player, or your tenth vinyl record player, here’s the lineup of the best record players on the market. We’ve also included a buying guide to help you get your feet wet with today’s awesome record playing technology.
Best in-Home Record Player
Best Professional Record Player
Best Vintage Record Player
Best Portable Record Player
Best Economical Record Player
When it comes to choosing a record player that you can set up once and use for years to come, an in-home unit might be a good choice for you. If you want a record player that can add some flare and style to your family room, or that you can enjoy in your music room, the Jensen JTA475B turntable package could be right for you. This is more than just a record player: it is a full stereo system that features multiple inputs and outputs for musical enjoyment. Let’s look at the record player itself first: the turntable is belt-driven and offers 3 speeds at 33/45/and 78 RPM. The turntable has a dust cover so you can keep your record player safe when not in use. We like this system package because it reduces the need for multiple electronics in your space. It offers input jacks for all your audio and mobile devices including Apple and Android products, MP3 players and more. It also has a front loading CD player, AM/FM radio tuner, and even a cassette deck. If you are any kind of music fan, you definitely have some old cassettes lying around that are dying to be heard again. This record player can help you bring more than your vinyl back to life. It has bass boost and it includes 2 wooden speakers that match the design of the audio system. There is a blue LCD display, and the system has a programmable memory. It comes with a remote control for convenience as well. While this system has lots of features, it does lack a few other things, not related to the quality of the record player. For instance, it’s unusual that a modern audio system doesn’t offer Bluetooth technology, but other than that, this is a great option for someone looking to have a permanent record player in their home.
If you are looking for a record player that focuses more on the technology, rather than the style, you might consider a professional grade turntable. The Audio-Technica AT-LP120 offers multiple functions and professional sounding performance. It is a 3-speed turntable with 33, 45 and 78 RPM. The platform is powered by a direct-drive motor that includes professional cartridge and dust cover for when not in use. You can also adjust the pitch on this record player which is often important for professional musicians or DJs. Additional features including adjustable tone arm, adjustable counterweight for just the right sound, anti-skate adjustment dials, and more. This professional record player is compatible for use with a laptop, either PC or Mac, and it connects to your electronic devices using a USB cable. It’s also compatible with Audacity software, which is a free music and recording software package available online. There are also RCA outline cables so you can connect to amplifiers and speakers of your choosing. It connects quickly and easily to audio outputs and is compatible with components that don’t have a dedicated turntable input, which makes this a great record player for on-the-go music performers who might not know what speakers are waiting for them at their destination. Audio-Technica is a professional’s dream. This record player comes with all the cords and adapters you need to get started, including software to mix your music. What’s more, you can record your vinyl records from this record player into digital audio files right on your PC or Mac. The shell of the device is sturdy and well made and the platform that turns the records is made from die-cast aluminum. It is easy to use, provides excellent quality sound, and is built to last.
When it comes to choosing a record player that not only looks beautiful, but sounds great too, consider investing in a vintage style turntable to make the most of your listening experience. Vintage style turntables come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and from a variety of manufacturers, but we like the vintage history that goes along with the Victrola Nostalgic Classic Wood Turntable. This is a complete entertainment system and offers many modern features, despite looking old. Victrola has been in business for over 100 years, and they delivery premium products and craftsmanship in all their work. This aged looking record player includes a CD player, cassette deck, FM radio, and the ability to connect your Bluetooth devices to it so you can listen to much more than just your records. The record player turntable features 3 speeds: 33, 45, and 78 RPM. This model also features an aux cable so you can use devices that don’t have bluetooth. The stereo speakers offer dynamic, full sound that can fill a room quickly and easily. The classic wood look lends well to the nostalgic feeling of this turntable and it’s perfect for family rooms or music connoisseurs alike. It’s ready to go out of the box; you just have to plug it in. Some vintage style record players allow you to record your own music from your vinyl collection, but this model doesn’t do that. It’s probably the only disappointment of this entire product. This old looking radio tuner is the highlight of this model and draws your attention to this furniture-looking record player. It’s great for music lovers of all types.
Whether you are in the market for a portable record or not, you can’t deny these record players have loads of style and function to boot. The CMC portable Bluetooth record player offers built in speakers so you can listen to your favorite tunes anywhere the road takes you. Packed in a suitcase style case, and made from durable materials, this vinyl record player is sure to please even the most discerning music lover. This funky record player offers you the option of listening to your favorite digital music tracks on SD card or by USB connection to your laptop, PC or Mac. Because it is Bluetooth enabled, you can connect any smartphone device or mobile tablet and enjoy hours of music on the go. You shouldn’t expect concert hall sound from a portable record player, but you can expect a great sound at a great price, in a great package. The record player works on the most popular sized records including 33, 45 and 78 RPM sizes. This entire record player is super portable, weighing in at only 7.2 pounds. You can also listen to your favorite music using headphones connected to the headphone jack. The color of this turntable lends to the vintage style and playful nature of a suitcase record player. It features an aged-finish handle for easy transportation, and the edges of the case are finished in aged brass as well. It looks old, but it works like new. The only drawback of this record player is that you can’t record vinyl to digital, but where it’s a portable version, that might not be important to people on the go anyway. Finally, this portable record player has got you covered when you need to replace the needle of the turntable: it comes with an extra need as part of the purchase price.
Choosing your first record player might be a bit overwhelming when you start to look at all the options. That’s why we have included an economical and practical record player on this list of the best record players. Because not everyone is going to need a DJ set up, this record player offers a great option for people looking for a little something to listen to their favorite old records. It is portable and comes in a suitcase style case. It will play 3 speeds of records, like most expensive record players, including 33, 45, and 78 RPM. It does have a USB power outlet that allows you to convert your vinyl records to digital files, but it is not Bluetooth compatible. It has two good sized speakers for listening to your records, and it has a rechargeable lithium battery for when you are on the go. It plugs into a power source to recharge using the AC adapter that comes with it. Weighing less than 10 pounds means you can grab this economical record player and take it anywhere you want to go.
Most buying guides related to vinyl record players start by going over the anatomy of what a record player is made up of. Do you really care, though? Seriously, most record players have the same components, such as the needle or stylus, the tonearm, and the platter. In other words, all record players have a needle, an arm to control the needle, and a platform on which to rest your favorite records. And yes, these components do vary in quality and consistency across record players, but most new record players have decent sound and provide the quality of sound you are looking for. There, now we can get on to the good stuff.
Something a little more important than what kind of needle your record player sports is whether or not the record player you want to buy has speakers. When you first start researching about record players, you might assume that they all come with speakers. Nope. This is not true. Some record players, like portable ones or ones that come in their own neat little suitcase, do come with speakers, but professional grade record players, or turntables, usually come with some audio wires and cables to connect your turntable to an outside speaker source. This one little piece of information could make a big difference in the kind of record player you buy, so if you don’t have speakers to hook your record player up to, you’ll either need to buy some or opt for one that comes with speakers.
A neat feature that some more modern record players offer is the ability to record your vinyl records into digital formats. This is a great feature for people with large vinyl collections you might want to start transferring their vinyl to a USB or smart device so they can take their favorites with them on the go. You might ask yourself why someone wouldn’t just download those tracks, but a diehard fan, or someone who has collectible vinyl knows you can’t get certain tunes on Pandora or Spotify. The other thing a USB port does in some record player models is that it allows you to play your digital music on your record player. Some vintage-style models, as well as modern models, come with this feature. If you want your record player to be multifunctional in your home, this is something to consider in your purchase. Something to consider, however, is what you want to use your turntable for – if you prefer quality of sound over convenience, then you might opt for a higher end record player without all the bells and whistles. Sometimes, manufacturers distract customers with lots of options, but they aren’t built well in the end.
Manual Record Players vs. Automatic Record Players
If you had a record player as a kid, or if your family had one, you probably had a manual turntable. Manual turntables require you to actually lift the arm of the turntable and place it on the record itself. This means that sometimes you have to adjust where the needle goes in order to get the song you want to listen to. Automatic record players, on the other hand, will do all the work for you once you place the record on the platform and hit the play button. Some people like to do the work, and others don’t care. If you want that nostalgic feeling and a bit more control, you might opt for a manual record player. Some record players offer both options, so that is something to consider as well. There are pros and cons to both manual and automatic record players. For example, some people think that manual record players provide better sound and balance overall, while others think that manual record player are a disaster waiting to happen: what if you scratch the record? Automatic record players seem to be more convenient and less intimidating for people who might be nervous of scratching valuable or important vinyl records, but if one electronic component is off or not working in the automatic system, the whole thing is thrown out of whack. In the end, it will be a personal choice.
If you are buying a professional grade turntable, you’ll find out quickly that there are a number of add-on features that can really increase the cost and functionality of your record player. If you are buying an all-in-one record player, having the ability to add features onto your record player later might not be as important to you. Something to consider, however, is if you want the ability to add extra components later. For professionals, the answer is always yes. For most homeowners, or music enthusiasts, the answer is going to be no: they just want to enjoy their vinyl records without a lot of hassle.
Because technology is always changing, you will want to consider buying a record player that either comes with some replacement parts with it, or the replacement parts are easy to get. How many people do you know that have a record player in their basement and they can’t use it because the turn dial is broken? Or they can’t find the right kind of arm to fit it? When you buy a record player, be sure it comes with replacement parts; at the very least, look for a model that comes with an extra needle.
One final thing to consider when purchasing a record player is the style you want. If you are looking for something to set up in your family room and leave on permanent display, you might consider a larger stereo-style model with lots of features. If you are looking for something that you can use for your party business, you might consider a portable or professional record player. If you are just looking for something to keep in your rec room and play records on from time to time, you might opt for a basic economic record player that doesn’t offer too many bells and whistles. As with anything, the style ranges a great deal between vintage, professional, and in-home units, so knowing how you will use your record player will help you decide which style to buy.
Choosing a record player is as personal as the kinds of records you listen to: everyone is different and wants something different. With today’s busy lifestyles, it’s nice to have a portable record player, but if you are more of a homebody, setting up an in-home system is a great idea. Our pick for the best record player overall is the Jensen JTA475B. We like it for it’s multi-functionality, as well as the large speakers that come with it. It’s ready to go out of the box without having to wonder what extra parts or components you might need to enjoy your favorite records.
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