At a time when streaming platforms reign supreme and the CD industry continues its inexorable decline, vinyl has been enjoying a real second wind in recent years. A resurgence in popularity can be explained by multiple reasons, as we will see in this article.
More than the LPs themselves, it is today on the best turntable under 300 that we focus our attention, and more particularly on the best models of the moment. As with each of our selections, we will nevertheless limit ourselves to plates not exceeding 500$. For the pickiest audiophiles, wishing to invest a higher budget in their installation, we will always recommend that you get information directly from professionals in the sector, and especially to test before buying.
In practice, today it is possible to equip yourself correctly without necessarily breaking the bank. For less than 300 €, excellent vinyl turntables allow you to enjoy pleasant and warm listening. In addition, some models include a USB connection making it easy to record your favorite tracks on your PC or Mac. Other models even have a Bluetooth connection, enough to stream the sound of its discs to a wireless speaker or Bluetooth headphones. Speaking of which, feel free to check out our pick of the best WiFi speakers.
Which Turntable To Buy In 2021?
No time to read our full comparison? For those in a hurry, here is a short summary of our favorites.
If you want to get into the world of vinyl without breaking the bank, the ION Audio Max LP turntable is an interesting model. Compared to the other products of our selection, the turntable directly integrates speakers and it is therefore not necessary to buy speakers in addition to its turntable.
Admittedly, the sound quality is far from incredible, but for less than 100 € the product remains interesting in our opinion.
For users wishing to set up a more “serious” installation, the recent Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT is one of our favorite turntables around € 180. It has a solid design, remains easy to handle for beginners, and comes with a very practical Bluetooth connection.
At the top of the range, the Yamaha MusicCast Vinyl 500 is one of the few turntables that can connect to your network. Combined with the brand’s connected speakers, you can enjoy your vinyl in any room of your house. A real little revolution!
The Best Turntables In 2021
ION AUDIO MAX LP
If you want in the world of vinyl, without necessarily spending several hundred euros for a complete installation, the ION Audio Max LP turntable should perfectly suit your needs.
Unlike the other products listed in this selection, this is an “all-in-one” product, consisting of a vinyl turntable and its own speakers. Clearly, no need to invest in an amp and a speaker kit to enjoy your favorite vinyls.
Obviously, one should not expect miracles in terms of sound reproduction with these integrated speakers, but it is a good basis. If you then want to invest in real speakers, the turntable has an RCA output. There is also a 3.5 mm input and output, to connect other sources or enjoy your vinyls directly with your headphones.
Another strong point of the product for its price: the possibility of digitizing its vinyls by connecting the turntable to a computer via USB. For less than 100 €, hard to find more complete!
Available around 120 €, the Lenco L-85 turntable is an excellent candidate if you have a tight budget.
Available in several colors, we appreciate its sober and minimalist design, adapting perfectly to modern interiors. Able to read vinyl in 33 and 45 rpm formats, the turntable has a phono preamp for easy use of external speakers.
The training is carried out by belt and an automatic return system is included. Another interesting point of this model, the possibility of digitizing your vinyls directly on a USB key, without going through a computer and specific software. Rather practical!
The Audio-Technica ATH-LP60XBT is the latest generation of a turntable now famous for its reliability and ease of use.
The model follows in the footsteps of the previous LP60 unveiled in 2016 and improves its design, with better quality plastics and a better overall look. The tray is designed in aluminum, bringing a real feeling of confidence in the durability of the whole.
The LP60XBT is a turntable with a belt drive mechanism. It is compatible with vinyls in 33 and 45 rpm formats and has a line output as well as a phono output. The diamond cell can easily be replaced if necessary.
This BT version has the particularity of being able to operate in Bluetooth. It then becomes possible to enjoy your vinyls directly on a Bluetooth speaker or Bluetooth headphones, via a double analog-to-digital then digital-to-analog conversion. We lose a bit in quality in passing, but we must admit that it is very practical to use!
If you don’t necessarily need this wireless listening option, you can go for the LP60XUSB model, which in turn allows you to easily digitize your vinyls. Count 139 for this version against 179 € for the LP60XBT.
If you don’t necessarily need additional features like USB scanning or wireless transmission, the Audio-Technica AT-LP3 is positioned as an interesting alternative.
Also available around € 200, this turntable focuses above all on sound quality and you can feel it when you listen to it. With quality materials, the LP3 has forged an excellent reputation while remaining accessible to most users thanks to its automatic playback facilitating its use.
Why Buy A Turntable?
Hi-Res Audio, FLAC, audiophile portable players … Do turntables really have their place in 2018? While it is now possible to access millions of titles from your smartphone or to store the majority of your albums on a single microSD card, how can we explain the renewed interest in turntables?
One of the main reasons for this success is quite simply the sound reproduction offered by vinyl records. Far from the precision offered by lossless files, the rendering of vinyls presents a certain roundness and particularly appreciable warmth. A heat which can be accompanied by certain crackles and breaths making all the singularity of listening on the turntable.
In addition to this unique charm, readers can once again enjoy certain vinyls unearthed in their attic or at a flea market. What to rediscover real nuggets. The vinyls themselves contribute to the experience, and we must admit that a box full of 45s will always have more charm than an innocuous USB key.
HOW DOES A VINYL TURNTABLE WORK?
At first glance, the operation of a vinyl turntable does not seem very complicated. A platter spins the record at a constant speed, and a stylus leans on the reliefs of the vinyl to generate an electrical signal at the level of the phonocaptrice cell. The signal is then sent to the preamplifier and then to a speaker for example.
If on paper the operation is fairly basic, we quickly understand that each element of the chain may have its own specificities. Cell, needle, arm, chainring, motor, or even anti-skating system, the science of vinyl turntables get complicated quickly when you want to go into details.
Manual, Semi-Automatic, Or Automatic Stage?
Here, nothing very complicated. An automatic vinyl turntable, as its name suggests, incorporates mechanical elements meant to facilitate its use. Clearly, we will select its playback format (33 rpm or 45 rpm for example), then the tonearm will automatically position itself on the first song. Once the end of the disc has been reached, the arm rises and automatically returns to its initial position.
Some models also allow repeat playback X times. Note however that despite their practicality, automatic turntables are rather rare on the market, and both beginners and purists favor manual models.
Representing a major part of the market, manual vinyl players lack any support mechanism. Here, it’s up to the user to come and position the tonearm, remove it or even activate the rotation of the plate. Many users favor this system, considered it more reliable.
Finally, note the existence of so-called semi-automatic turntables. Here, once arrived at the end of the disc, the head will automatically raise and the platter will stop. One way to avoid the particularly unpleasant noise generated by a tonearm at the end of its travel.
Direct Or Belt Drive?
Turntables with direct drive are generally appreciated for their perfectly stable playback and their robustness. Here, the motor is directly linked to the axis of the plate, and we can therefore manage instantaneous starts and stops. You will probably have understood it, these models are also intended for DJs since it will be possible in particular to achieve certain scratch effects. Obviously, many direct-drive models also offer excellent sonic performance.
For music listening, we prefer vinyl players with a belt drive. This is all the more true when one goes upmarket, where the belt drive brings a finer and more qualitative listening. Any noise pollution generated by the motor of the direct-drive turntables is eliminated, and the reproduction will be even more faithful.
What Is A Vinyl Turntable With USB For?
USB turntables allow you to digitize your vinyl records, so you can keep a digital record of your favorite tracks and albums. Models with this feature include a phono preamplifier with USB output. All you have to do is connect the board to your computer (PC or Mac) and then use specific software to perform the encoding. The most common is called Audacity, and you can download it for free here.
Note that it is still possible to digitize your vinyl with a classic turntable. To do so, however, you will have to come and connect a phono preamplifier with a USB port.
How To Connect A Vinyl Turntable?
You have just found an old box overflowing with 33 rpm records and a turntable at the back of your attic. A boon! But how do you connect all this to your current Hi-Fi system?
First of all, it is good to point out that the very operation of the turntables requires special treatment, different from that presented when you want to read a CD or enjoy your music from a NAS. The classic RCA inputs, positioned at the back of your HiFi system or your amplifier cannot be directly connected to a turntable.
To enjoy the warm sound of your vinyl, it is necessary to apply a treatment called RIAA correction as well as a particular amplification, otherwise, the sound reproduction will be both very low and above all degraded. To overcome this problem, it will be necessary to connect your turntable to a specific RCA input, the phono input.
Here, several solutions:
Phono input: If your playback device has its own phono input, you can connect your vinyl to it in the blink of an eye.
Preamplified turntable: Some turntables incorporate their own phono preamplifier. This is generally the case with USB turntables, which can be connected directly to their amp or chain.
Phono preamplifier: The majority of turntables do not integrate a preamplifier, and it will therefore be necessary to insert it between your record player (best crosley record player) and your amp. It can be found in most brands, and it will take between 50 and 200 $ depending on the model. Remember to take this additional cost into account when doing your research.