Best turntables to buy in 2021: 10 top record players for home listening

From entry-level to god-tier.

Top record players for home listening

Never mind the recent high-tech moves into lossless audio – the allure of vinyl records shows no sign of slowing down.

While DJs and turntablists have specific requirements when it comes to record player selection, the average home listener has very different needs – connectivity, upgradeability and aesthetics are chief among them. Here, we’ve listed some of the very finest turntables for home use right now, which are all fully equipped to get the best out of your discs, and more besides.

What to look for in a turntable for home listening

Durability: It’s massively important that you get a turntable that has solid build quality. You won’t find any plasticky ‘suitcase’ turntables in this list – their cost-saving designs are often unstable (which may affect sound quality) and their cheaper cartridges can scratch up your record’s precious grooves. Avoid them.

Drive type: The drive which spins the central platter for the majority of turntables is attached via a rubber pulley – also known as a “belt-drive”. The fact that the belt-drive is offset away from the motion of the central platter is a neat way of avoiding hum or interference.

DJ-oriented direct-drive turntables, on the other hand, have a motor which is directly attached to (or underneath) the platter, giving them the ability to scratch, manually adjust speed and creatively manipulate the turntable. It’s unlikely you’ll be performing these moves as a home listener.

Phono preamp: Record players have traditionally only been able to output a weak phono signal that needs to be boosted up to the standard ‘line’ level by a phono preamp. Many of the modern turntables on this list have this in-built, while others will require a separate preamp – whether it’s a standalone unit or integrated into a stereo amplifier. A phono stage is an absolute must to play your records.

Connectivity: In addition to the old-school turntable-to-amp-to-speakers chain, many modern turntables are able to output line-level sound via Bluetooth to your smart speakers. Many even sport USB connections that allow you to convert your precious old records to digital formats.

Belt-drive vs direct-drive turntables: which is best for home listening?

Well, there are some great examples of direct-driven turntables which can be used for music listening, but the general consensus among the vinyl-listening community is that belt-drives are the superior choice.

For one, they are more vibration-resistant; the elasticity of the connecting belt is a natural shock-absorber. Furthermore, belt-drives are usually quieter than direct-drive turntables, which can audibly overpower quieter frequencies. Though this is less of a problem for DJs, you don’t want competing hum when trying to closely listen to your records at home.

The best turntables to buy in 2021 at a glance

  • Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB
  • Denon DP-300F
  • Sony PS-LX310BT
  • TRNTBL Wireless
  • Pro-Ject Debut Carbon
  • Rega Planar 3
  • Technics SL-1500C
  • Cambridge Audio Alva TT
  • Clearaudio Concept Active
  • McIntosh MT5 Precision Turntable

Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB

Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB

Considered by many to be one of the industry’s best entry-level turntables, Audio-Technica’s LP120 (first released in 2009) has recently been bolstered by the addition of Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

The LP120 might appear to be something of a jack-of-all-trades, but it performs admirably as a central listening source. For its price, the plethora of pro-level features – such as an adjustable anti-skate control – make it a strong contender for the first record player beginners should own. It’s even Bluetooth 5.0-compatible, so you can cast your audio to smart speakers.

The LP120’s DC servo motor-driven platter doesn’t suffer from much additional hum, and makes for an equally appealing practice model for aspiring turntablists, particularly with its design taking cues from the legendary Technics SL1200 MK II.

  • Price: $300/£299
  • Drive: Direct
  • Phono Stage: Yes
  • RPM: 33 1/3, 45, 78 RPM
  • Outputs: RCA, Bluetooth, USB

Denon DP-300F

Denon DP-300F

Keeping within the budget range, Denon’s DP-300F has been a reliable recommendation for the last four years. With a simple, elegant design and gloss black finish, the 300F features a 4mm-thick cabinet, a sturdy aluminium platter and a sublime Moving Magnet cartridge in one belt-driven package.

Simple buttons enable you to specify the record size and speed, and automatically queue the plastic tonearm once the start button is pressed – no manual belt changing required. Sound quality is consistently good, though to get the best out of the vinyl format, you’ll probably want to look a little harder and spend that bit more.

  • Price: $329/£299
  • Drive: Belt
  • Phono Stage: Yes
  • RPM: 33 1/3, 45 RPM
  • Outputs: RCA

Sony PS-LX310BT

Sony PS-LX310BT

A stellar choice for the budget-conscious, Sony’s PS-LX310BT is a minimally designed, Bluetooth-equipped turntable that can hold its own against significantly more expensive competition.

The fully automatic tonearm keeps things very straightforward while that Bluetooth connection is as stable and clear as they come. Selecting speeds and sizes is as simple as hitting a pair of buttons located on the plinth. The integrated phono stage means there’s no confusion for newcomers, too.

Sound quality is consistently tight across a range of different genres and volumes. While there are undoubtedly more feature-packed turntables out there, you won’t find one at this price.

  • Price: $198/£200
  • Drive: Belt
  • Phono Stage: Yes
  • RPM: 33 1/3, 45 RPM
  • Outputs: RCA, Bluetooth

TRNTBL Wireless

TRNTBL Wireless

One of the most unique turntables we’ve seen, the hand-crafted TRNTBL bills itself as “the first wireless record player” – meaning it has no physical outputs such as RCA. Instead, it relies entirely on WiFi to transmit audio from the player to smart speakers such as those produced by Sonos, a company with which TRNTBL has a special partnership. Yes, that means you can place the turntable anywhere around the home.

It’s no slouch on the sound front either, with impressive performance across the frequency ranges.

The device even allows you to share the records you’re listening to, based on a clever track identification algorithm, on Spotify. And it certainly looks the part of a modern player, too, with its stylishly muted pastel colour.

  • Price: $499/£300
  • Drive: Belt
  • Phono Stage:Yes
  • RPM: 33 1/3, 45 RPM
  • Outputs: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon

The latest design of the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is equipped with – as indicated by its name – a carbon fibre tonearm tube, which is generally found only on much higher-price turntables. This makes the tonearm sturdier, lighter and able to deliver a more balanced sound. The coupled Ortofon 2M Red cartridge is also one of the better stock cartridges on this list.

Otherwise, the Debut Carbon is a no-frills (or you might say, “purist”) belt-driven record player for home listening. It has a single control: on/off. Changing speeds is a bit of a hassle – you’ll need to remove the platter and manually redeploy the elastic belt. But what we especially don’t like about the Debut Carbon, however, is the fact that it doesn’t come with an in-built phono preamp.

  • Price: $449/£299
  • Drive: Belt
  • Phono Stage: No
  • RPM: 33 1/3, 45 RPM (manual adjustment needed)
  • Outputs: RCA

Rega Planar 3

Rega Planar 3

One of the most respected turntables of the past five years, Rega’s Planar 3 is squarely aimed at the audiophile market and those who want to use the player as the bedrock of a full home hi-fi system.

The Planar 3’s lack of internal phono preamp may seem like a big drawback, but to that aforementioned demographic, it leaves plenty of room for future customisation and upgrades.

With regards to its performance as a turntable, the Planar 3 is difficult to fault. The acclaimed RB330 tonearm is equipped with an Elys 2 Moving Magnet cartridge that, like the Ortofon 2M Red, is one of the best stock cartridges on this list. And its build quality is second to none.

If you’re new to the vinyl world, the Planar 3 may represent too little for too much cash, especially if you have nothing to compare it against. But if you want to start your journey with a high-quality player, this Rega turntable will not disappoint.

  • Price: $800/£685
  • Drive: Belt
  • Phono Stage: No
  • RPM: 33 1/3, 45 (manual adjustment needed)
  • Outputs: RC

Technics SL-1500C

Technics SL-1500C

Technics is considered among DJs as the true turntable king – but the company has got equal form when it comes to consumer-focused record players. Like the SL-1500C.

The SL-1500C is a stylish re-imagination of the classic SL-1210. It maintains the latter’s premium drive mechanism (as well as the brand’s iconic ‘S’-shaped tonearms), but dispenses with the bells and whistles that performing turntablists might require. This emphasis on high-quality listening is further underlined by a specially adjusted direct-driven motor which features a ‘coreless’ design. Technics claims this eliminates pitch imbalances and the usual unwanted distortion.

  • Price: $999/£899
  • Drive: Direct
  • Phono Stage: Yes
  • RPM: 33 1/3, 45 RPM
  • Outputs: RCA, Phono

Cambridge Audio Alva TT

Cambridge Audio Alva TT

Cambridge Audio is one of the more revered brands in consumer audio, and its flagship turntable is expectedly flawless – take note, however, that with the Alva TT’s price tag of $/£1,500, we’re firmly in audiophile territory.

Aside from serving as a sublime conventional record player – with built-in phono stage and a fixed Moving Coil cartridge – the Alva TT is the only player on this list that can transmit your analogue signal through the high-end aptX HD Bluetooth codec. Without going into the technicalities, this means the Alva TT is capable of high-res wireless audio – provided you have speakers capable of playing back that codec, of course.

  • Price: $1,700/£1,500
  • Drive: Direct
  • Phono Stage: Yes
  • RPM: 33 1/3, 45 RPM
  • Outputs: RCA, Bluetooth

Clearaudio Concept Active

Clearaudio Concept Active

The magnificent Concept had been turning heads for years as a dynamite turntable before Clearaudio refined the model even further with the addition of an internal phono stage. Besides that, the Concept Active has many of the qualities which made the original so exalted, one of which is its wonderful sound quality produced via its MM V2 cartridge-equipped tonearm.

Some satisfying flick-switches on the back of the unit allow for finer gain control and a useful subsonic filter – these are features you won’t find on a sub-$1,000 turntable. But cost aside, the Concept Active is a remarkable player that looks beautiful and will go the distance for decades.

  • Price: $2,600/£1,900
  • Drive: Belt
  • Phono Stage: Yes
  • RPM: 33 1/2, 45, 78 RPMOutputs: RCA

McIntosh MT5 Precision Turntable

McIntosh MT5 Precision Turntable

If you feel like investing into a god-tier turntable that will bestow as much delicate love on your records as the most ardent collector, then the McIntosh MT5 is what you’re looking for.

With a stunning black and green design, the MT5 is loaded with the highest-quality parts you’re likely to find in one unit. McIntosh’s partnership with Clearaudio has resulted in a robust, anti-skating dural-aluminium tonearm, which supports a cartridge from Sumiko that retails for $/£200 on its own. All that adds up to sound that’s truly peerless – perfect for listening to your records on those long nights in, as you try to save your cash back up again.

  • Price: $7,000/£8,200
  • Drive: Belt
  • Phono Stage: Yes
  • RPM: 33 1/2, 45, 78 RPM
  • Outputs: RCA