Best record player 2024 with top turntables for all budgets

The best record players bring you sumptuous vinyl sound in style, no matter whether you're just starting or want a serious hi-fi upgrade

Best record player 2022, image shows a close-up of a turntable arm playing from a record
(Image credit: Pixabay)

Nothing will ever sound quite like vinyl, and the best record players just keep growing in popularity. Actual sales of vinyl might not be quite at the same peak as it was decades ago, but it's still huge for physical music sales today, and just keeps getting bigger. Groovy. Unfortunately, not every newcomer to vinyl realises that the best record players make a huge difference to the quality of the sound, perhaps because many weren't alive the first time around. Dirt-cheap turntables might be destroying your records, and would certainly use a sub-standard cartridge, meaning detail is lost and at that point, why are you even using records? Just go to Spotify instead. 

But that doesn't mean that buying one of the best turntables requires spending huge amounts of money. There are excellent cheap record players that are ideal for beginners – you just need to buy one from a reliable brand where they've made the right changes to keep the cost down. We've got some in this list – and don't forget to check out our list of the best turntable speakers, if you're building your first record collection and record looking to get the perfect set-up, whatever your budget. Of course, having records is important too, but with vinyl's resurgence (even today's pop stars release vinyl now) that shouldn't be too hard.  

We've also got record players that are a great step up from a beginner system, and some more elite options that offer huge sound fidelity that will reveal new nuance from your vinyl no matter whether you're using them with something smaller, like the best wired headphones or the best bookshelf speakers, or going for a bigger and bolder speaker setup.

The best record players we've tried

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Pro-Ject Essential III on blue backgroundT3 Best Buy badge

(Image credit: Pro-Ject Essential)

1. Pro-Ject Essential III

Best record player for most people


Weight: 5kg
Speed: 33/45
Output: Analogue with pre-amp
Dimensions: 415 x 335 x 112 mm

Reasons to buy

Solid sound reproduction 
Fancy styling in multiple colours
Optional pre-amping
Fantastic price

Reasons to avoid

Slightly awkward setup procedure

The mid-market for record players is certainly not empty – there are a host of other turntables, such as the Rega Planar 1 and Audio-Technica's AT-LP5 that work plenty hard in the space – but the Pro-ject Essential III hits the high notes for us. Setup isn't that easy, requiring you to monkey with two individual counterweights on the tone arm, and fit the turntable's drive band yourself.

After that, though, it's joy all round. The Pro-Ject Essential III sounds superb given the asking price, with a poised and wide soundstage producing an enjoyable sound across a range of genres and volume levels. 

It's not unkind on the eye either, with a variety of high gloss finishes that will slot into most surrounding decor. 

There's a Bluetooth version – Pro-Ject Essential III BT – on the market too. It's not the best Bluetooth turntable going, only carrying SBC Bluetooth, but it sounds remarkably good all things considered, and the lack of cables means you're flush with options on where to put it in the room.

Please note that the Essential III has now been usurped by the Pro-ject T1. It's a similar and similarly priced deck to the veteran Essential, and we will have a replacement review very shortly. 

Technics SL-1210GR on blue backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Technics)

2. Technics SL-1200GR

The best premium record player is an update of THE classic DJ deck


Speed: 33/45/78 plus multi-speed
Output: Analogue
Dimensions: 453 x 372 x 173mm
Weight: 11.2kg

Reasons to buy

Tough as old boots
Brilliant sound output

Reasons to avoid

It really does look very 'DJ deck'
Supremely expensive

Technics reinvented and revitalised its SL-1200 DJ decks with the launch of the SL-1200GR and SL-1210GR – the former silver, the latter black; they are otherwise identical. 

With rock solid build quality, easy set-up by record player standards, immense bass, and a hugely exciting and involving sound, this is much more than just a DJ deck. In fact if you are a DJ, you might be better off scouring eBay for a second-hand SL-1200 from the 90s – these decks last forever.

For home listening, there are few turntables that are more enjoyable to own than the Technics SL-1200GR. Just make sure you have enough space, and that you're strong enough to lift it – these things are hefty.

• Read our full Technics SL-1200GR review

Pro-Ject Primary E on blue backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Pro-Ject Primary)

3. Pro-Ject Primary E

Best cheap record player


Speed: 33/45 (manual)
Output: Analogue
Dimensions: 420 x 330 x 112mm
Weight: 4kg

Reasons to buy

Extremely tidy
Very competent playback

Reasons to avoid

Three-footed design
Manual speed change

You can get cheaper record players than this, but realistically we would not suggest paying less than £150/$175 for a turntable, unless you just want to use it as a room accessory.

You get what you pay for, and Pro-ject's entry-level player hasn't seen the company going the route of tacking on nice-looking mod cons while skimping in other areas. No, this is the record player stripped down to its most basic form, and that's no bad thing.

Its mains-fed motor runs at a constant speed, for example, so if you want to change from 33 to 45rpm you'll need to manually move the platter-looped belt to a different spindle. There are only three feet on the bottom, which means you'll need to take care lifting the lid if it's attached.

Instead of cramming in the features, Pro-ject has gone heavy on the design – this is clean, attractive stuff – and on creating a very credible playing experience. Everything comes pre-adjusted and pre-installed (apart from that belt), so it's ready to go right out of the box with the perfect tracking force. 

Elipson Chroma Carbon RIAA on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Elipson)

4. Elipson Chroma Carbon RIAA BT

Best Bluetooth record player


Weight: 5.8kg
Speed: 33/45
Output: Analogue with pre-amp, Bluetooth, USB
Dimensions: 450 x 380 x 120mm

Reasons to buy

Super-rigid tone arm
Decent wireless audio output
Solid pre-amp 

Reasons to avoid

Still not cheap

Elipson's top-line turntable pulls down a lot of features from the truly high end and puts them in the affordable price bracket, things like the super-stiff carbon fiber tone arm, which cuts down on arm resonance for a truer, tighter sound. It also packs a newly rejiggered digital belt drive motor, both quieter than Elipson's previous engines and, in conjunction with the two-part platter, made for consistent speed and accurate pitch.

On the end of the tone arm is a not-too-shabby Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, not a cheap item in itself, which uses an elliptical stylus that should (if you get the balance right) prevent your records from wearing out too quickly. 

And yes, there's Bluetooth; it's aptX, meaning a much higher resolution than some other record players, and there's USB connectivity too if you're looking to back up your records to a PC. All of this digital tomfoolery is backed up by a RIAA pre-amp, which pulls double duty by enabling you to hook up to any auxiliary connection – handy if your amp doesn't have a phono stage of its own.

Audio-Technica AT-LP5X on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Audio-Technica)

5. Audio-Technica AT-LP5X

Best USB record player


Weight: 7.3kg
Speed: 33/45/78
Output: Analogue with pre-amp, USB
Dimensions: 450 x 352 x 157mm

Reasons to buy

Perfectly neutral design
Remarkable sound quality for the price
USB output is a neat extra
Not over-expensive

Reasons to avoid

Plastic body

You do not have to spend the world to get a record player that sounds like it knows exactly what it's doing. AT's freshly-upgraded AT-LP5X is evidence of this: even with its plastic base it's built well, sounds tremendous, and handles itself with precision and grace. 

It's bundled with Audio-Technica's newest generation of its AT-95 cartridge, the AT-VM95E, a moving magnet tucked inside a more rigid housing which apparently gives a higher output and better frequency response, and it's on the end of a J-shaped tonearm that allegedly helps minimise tracking errors. Whatever the science, we know this: the AT-LP5X sounds great.

You have the choice of line or phono level output, along with USB if you fancy transferring your vinyl so something more accessible. Its direct-drive motor can now play 78s, and it's even less prone to interference than before since Audio-Technica has pulled the power supply out of the chassis of the record player and moved it to the plug. This is a turntable that will run and run. Treat it well and it'll stay consistent for years to come.

How to buy the best record player for you

There's a whole lot of choice in the turntable world, but if you're new to vinyl and want something that's going to get the job done and give you as many options as possible there's certainly hardware out there to suit. 

We've chosen a record player with direct drive, meaning the motor spins the platter directly rather than transferring power through a belt. This vastly simplifies setup, and adds a definite bump to longevity – there's much less maintenance required.

You can go belt drive if you like, but our choice also has a bunch of output options, a built in pre-amp so it can be connected to any hi-fi, and a cartridge good enough that you're not going to feel the need to upgrade after five minutes of listening.

It even has a USB output, so you can digitise the sound of your vinyl, if you like. It really is a do-everything unit, for a great price.

Hardcore vinyl enthusiasts may get a little squeamish about using a turntable with Bluetooth; taking that beautiful analogue sound and crushing it into a digital datastream no doubt feels a little sacrilegious. To you, we say you're quite right. You'll hate listening to vinyl that way even if it sounds brilliant, and that's OK. There are countless phono-only options. 

For everybody else, Bluetooth offers convenience: routing to different speakers, and even straight to wireless headphones, is easy, and you can put your record player wherever it's convenient (vibration willing) rather than being forced to slot it into an existing hi-fi setup.

You'll notice that the Technics SL-1200GR ranks high in our list. That isn't because we use it for mixing and scr-scr-scr-scratching – although you certainly good use it for that. No, it's because the qualities that made the SL-1200 line of DJ decks so essential in nightclubs also make it a great choice for the home. And that's especially true if you are nostalgic for your rave days, of course…

The Technics also marks the last price point at which record players could be described as 'affordable'-ish. After that, as with any branch of the hi-fi tree, it's possible to spend just about any amount on a record player if you really want to. The law of diminishing returns does rear its ugly head, of course – the difference between a player costing many thousands and one costing around £1,000/$1,500, as the Technics does, is not going to be night and day, to a lot of peoples' ears.

But climb that tree and you'll find its branches contain a whole lot of incredible design, beautiful sound, and turntables deserving of hosting your precious vinyl collection. 

Duncan Bell

Duncan is the former lifestyle editor of T3 and has been writing about tech for almost 15 years. He has covered everything from smartphones to headphones, TV to AC and air fryers to the movies of James Bond and obscure anime. His current brief is everything to do with the home and kitchen, which is good because he is an excellent cook, if he says so himself. He also covers cycling and ebikes – like over-using italics, this is another passion of his. In his long and varied lifestyle-tech career he is one of the few people to have been a fitness editor despite being unfit and a cars editor for not one but two websites, despite being unable to drive. He also has about 400 vacuum cleaners, and is possibly the UK's leading expert on cordless vacuum cleaners, despite being decidedly messy. A cricket fan for over 30 years, he also recently become T3's cricket editor, writing about how to stream obscure T20 tournaments, and turning out some typically no-nonsense opinions on the world's top teams and players.

Before T3, Duncan was a music and film reviewer, worked for a magazine about gambling that employed a surprisingly large number of convicted criminals, and then a magazine called Bizarre that was essentially like a cross between Reddit and DeviantArt, before the invention of the internet. There was also a lengthy period where he essentially wrote all of T3 magazine every month for about 3 years. 

A broadcaster, raconteur and public speaker, Duncan used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."

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