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7 Turntables That Don’t Suck

7 Turntables That Don’t Suck: Photo by j_arlecchino/Flickr

Photo by j_arlecchino/Flickr

So you want to listen to records. You Google “turntable,” see thousands of results, get lost in audiophile forums, decide that you hate humanity, and give up. Come back. It doesn’t have to be like this. You don’t need that expensive DJ turntable your cool nephew recommended, nor do you want one of those cheapo units sold at hipster stores where they sell Radiohead re-issues. There’s a middle ground of solid turntables, and I’m here to help. Whether you just want to listen to dad’s jazz records or transfer your music to digital files, the following gear will get it done.


STRAIGHT-UP TURNTABLES

01

REGA RP1
$345
If you like a minimalist design without too many bells and whistles, the RP1 direct-drive turntable could be for you. You won’t find USB out or even a speed change knob or dial on this unit. In fact, to change record speeds (say from 33 to 45-RPM), you’ll have to pull off the platter and change the belt to another wheel. Rega claims they went super minimal on this unit in order to put all their money in quality components, and they’re right. This is the turntable for those who just want to listen and not bother with much else.


02
Music Hall MMF 2.3
$449
If you fancy yourself more of a jazz-listening audiophile who wants a more no-nonsense turntable, the belt-driven Music Hall MMF 2.3 could be a good choice. Like the Rega RP1, the MMF 2.3 is a handsome, minimal design that will look good in any living room. It includes a moving-magnet Spirit cartridge, which some audiophiles argue producers a warmer sound. Like the Rega, you’ll have to move the belt between pulleys to change speeds, but if you’re an album listener (as opposed to a single fan), this won’t be an issue for you, and some say it even adds to the novelty of record listening.
03
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon
$399
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is a modern (well, if you count the 90s as modern) mainstay in the vinyl-addict community. In fact, many credit it with being partially responsible for vinyl’s resurgence as it came out just in time to cash in on all the hipster swap meets of the 90s. Its beautiful design, available in multiple colors, matches a belt-drive motor to a vibration-eliminating carbon tonearm. Like the Rega and Music hall, you’ll be doing speed changes manually, but don’t let that stop you. This thing is already an industry favorite, and you can’t go wrong with the Debut Carbon.
04
Onkyo CP-1050
$499
If you’re looking for that classic turntable design without actually buying used gear, the Onkyo CP-1050 direct-drive turntable could be for you. It’s basically a rehash of one of their original units from more than a half century ago, sporting direct drive, wood and aluminum construction, and basic line outs. You’ll need a preamp or a receiver with a built-in phono preamp for this one, but don’t let that stop you.

USB-ENABLED TURNTABLES

05

Sony PS-HX500
$599
This attractive belt-drive unit from Sony may cost a bit more, but you’ll get a handsome, well-built turntable that also includes an analog-to-digital converter with USB output so you can take your vinyl recordings with you on your smartphone or MP3 player. It also comes with Sony’s software to make the transfer process easy. The PS-HX500 also includes a phono EQ amp so you can use its onboard pre-amp or use an external one if you’re into that kind of thing.


06

Pioneer PLX 500 USB
$349
If your vinyl aspirations might include some mixing and scratching down the line, the Pioneer PLX-500 direct-drive turntable could be the unit for you. While it’s not as minimally handsome as some of the other turntables in this list, the Pioneer is well outfitted with USB output, a built-in pre-amp, and even a handy cover-art display stand in the dust cover (just beware of curious cats if you’re leaving your records playing without the cover down). It’s a complete setup, including dust cover, cartridge / stylus, and even support for 78-RPM records if you happen to have some.


07

TEAC TN-400S
$399
This direct-drive unit from Teac is a solid mix of classic and modern. A direct-drive motor is wedded to a beautiful wood-constructed MDF body. A built-in preamp will make connecting to just about any system easy, and a USB output will allow you to archive your vinyl for mobility. Bonus: the TN-400S also comes with the critically-approved Audio Technica AT100E moving-magnet cartridge mated to a more classically designed tone arm. If you can’t decide between classic and high-tech, this turntable is a great middle ground.

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