Retro is classic, and vinyl record players are the perfect combination of style with performance. The decision to have one will certainly count as a great one. However, the million dollar question is ‘picking the right one’, and that involves making sense of the terms used to describe the electromagnetic device.

Fret not, this review will help you check out vinyl records players like a pro, before you zero in on the most suitable one. This is more like a little interesting handbook that will tell you what’s ideally got to be in your model, so that you can do away with models that have a lot of bells and whistles without much functionality attached. So let’s start with a little background about turntables – after all you intend to own one, so you better know a little about it.

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What are vinyl record players? How does it fit in the era of digital music?

While turntables belong to a different era, the quality of music reproduced from the vinyl records is definitely rich and superior. The combination of advances in mechanical electromagnetic technology with the classic style of vinyl records gives an unbeatable audio experience to music lovers. With that little background, let’s get into the nitty gritty of vinyl record players. Let’s first answer a few questions.

Jargon decoding – what are the parts of a turntable?

It’s better to be aware of the parts of a turntable – this will help you decipher a lot of the jargon used in descriptions.

  • The part of the turntable on which the vinyl record is placed is called the platter. This spins on a spindle/bearing assembly that turns the platter smoothly and quietly.
  • The base on which the whole player is put together is called the plinth.
  • The arm which tracks the grooves on the vinyl records is called the tonearm.
  • The core is the cartridge which transforms the tracked grooves from the vinyl records into electrical signals – this is the cartridge.
  • In a belt drive model, you will also find a motor/pulley that creates the torque required by the platter to turn on the spindle/bearing.


Different categories that you will come across in turntables

There are different categories of turntables that basically refer to the type of operation and the functionalities or features supported. Here’s a look at some of the categories that you are likely to come across in your search for the right vinyl record player.

Weighing your options

Now, which one is a better option? Belt driven or direct driven? Well, this will entirely depend on you. We are now speaking in a relative context – this is purely on a comparable basis between the two models. If you need a model that delivers relatively better sound, then you need to go for the belt drive turntable. If you need a model that is more durable, and can be used for longer stretches or frequently, without replacement of spares, then you need the direct drive turntable. If you are a music lover and are not interested in a tradeoff as far as the quality of music is considered, then a high end belt driven turntable should do the trick.

Head-to-head model comparison

We are profiling five different best-selling models with an easy to understand comparison. This will help you pick one as per your preferences.

Top Pick

Audio Technica LP 120

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The AT-LP 120 boasts of a high quality tonearm which delivers optimized sound output and helps users to reduce the wear on the record. The manual three speed selection gives you a choice to pick the desired RPM speeds. This is a model that makes listening to vinyl records in the digital era enjoyable. You can connect the output to a computer through USB cable and convert the music to digital formats in Mac and Windows OS. The heavy aluminum platter ensures greater stability while spinning, supported by a felt mat. The easy to use controls give you greater flexibility in handling the turntable, and the thoughtful stylus target lighting helps when you are playing records in low light settings. The accessories that come with the model are simple to set up and use – RCA cables, AC adapter, and USB cable.

What could make this a better product?

Well, the tonearm does not automatically move back to its resting place after the record concludes, and that could have made a difference to the user experience.

  • Direct drive turntable

  • Adjustable S shaped tonearm

  • Built in preamp

  • Plug and play – USB, AUX

  • 3 speed controls – 33 RPM, 45 RPM, 78 RPM

  • Vibration absorption

  • Aluminum platter – greater stability

  • Mac/PC compatible recording

  • Choice of turning off preamp to connect external preamp

  • Detachable RCA cables, light stylus

  • We rate this : 4.5/5

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Top Pick

Victrola VTA-600B

best turntable

This is the ultimate retro look model, in an all wood finish. It packs in quite a lot for the rice range, offering 8 different uses in a single compact model – a CD player, a cassette player, USB, Bluetooth, radio, apart from vinyl records. Two distinct features make this standout among other models. The first is the full function remote, which gives you complete control over the features. The second is the music rip option. You can easily rip the music from the vinyl records onto your favorite MP3 formats without the need for additional software or hardware. The compact turntable weighs 20 lbs and the sound quality is impressive – the stereo speakers work in tandem with the amplifier to belt out superior sound quality.

What could make this a better product?

The CD player seems to have an issue, with many customers reporting that the CD player is not upto the expected quality. This definitely needs action from the manufacturer.

Tech Specs

  • 8-in-1 model

  • Bluetooth for music streaming, plus 3.5 mm aux

  • Rip music option

  • 5W + 5W amplifier

  • Full function remote

  • 3 speed turntable – 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM, 78 RPM

  • CD player, cassette player, FM radio

  • Mac/PC compatible MP3 recording

  • Built in stereo speakers

  • RCA output

  • We rate this : 4.4/5W

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Top Pick

Crosley Cruiser Deluxe

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The unusual design will get your attention easily. The suitcase model is attractive and compact. The 3W amp and the inbuilt stereo speakers give decent output and the belt driven model ensures that you are spared the vibrations experienced in direct drive models. The sub 100$ model is a good buy, offering you three speeds. With Bluetooth connectivity you get to pair your devices and stream music directly to the speakers. The headphone jack, aux and RCA analog output help you to elevate your listening experience through convenient options. The absence of USB cable has been compensated with Bluetooth and aux therefore that should not work against the model. Overall, a good budget choice for a compact and retro styled model.

What could make this a better product?

The sound volume is suitable for use at home and in small outdoor gatherings, where you are gathered around the turntable. A little more power would have helped increase the experience.

Tech Specs

  • Belt driven model

  • Classic vintage suitcase model, compact

  • Bluetooth receiver for music streaming, plus Aux in, headphone jack

  • RCA analog output to external speakers

  • Full range stereo speakers inbuilt

  • 3 speed turntable – 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM, 78 RPM

  • Plug and play – easy to quickly start your music

  • 3W Amp for enhanced sound quality

  • We rate this : 4.4/5

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Top Pick

ClearClick Vintage Suitcase Turntable

good record player

In appearance and retro styling, no other model gathers as much attention as this one. The all wood and leather combination design in a circular shape is adorable. By virtue of belonging to the compact models, the sound quality is good enough. The ability to quickly convert music to MP3 formats on Mac/Windows OS makes this a great option. The added advantages are the Bluetooth streaming option, the USB out and the aux-in options. The three speed direct drive model is a good option for use indoors and in small settings. It is ideal for small spaces and is packed with advanced features model that belie the retro finish.

What could make this a better product?

The turntable speed needs to be under better control, as at times there are reports of fluctuation from a limited number of customers.

Tech Specs

  • 3 speed turntable – 33 RPM, 45 RPM, 78 RPM

  • Compact, handmade classic vintage suitcase model

  • Bluetooth, USB and aux

  • MP3 conversion – Mac/Windows compatible

  • Direct drive model

  • Circular design in real wood and leather

  • We rate this : 4.3/5

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Top Pick

Audio-Technica AT-LP60X-BK

top rated record players

This is the second Audio Technica model on the list. This low priced model is reviewed to give you options in the 100$ category. Like the other model, this has a heavy aluminum platter which gives greater stability with minimal vibration. The in-built preamp, and the RCA analog output combine with the efficient AC/DC conversion outside the chassis to give noise free, clear, high quality sound. While this cannot replace the high end models, it is a good buy for use in compact spaces. You can play both 7 and 12 inch records on the two speed turntable and enjoy the benefit of a belt driven model for better sound quality.

What could make this a better product?

The dual magnet phono cartridge is fixed, and buyers have no options of changing it/upgrading to a better one. This needs to be fixed.

Tech Specs

  • Belt driven model

  • 2 speed turntable – 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM

  • Heavy aluminum platter for greater stability

  • AC/DC conversion outside chassis, reduces noise

  • Built-in preamp

  • RCA analog output

  • Replaceable diamond stylus

  • Play 7 inch and 12 inch records

  • We rate this : 4.3/5

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Round of features of the five models

This roundup of the features of the five models will give you a better picture at a single glance, and help you with a purchase decision.

The above five products have been arranged in no particular sequence. The ratings given for each product are for the products within the category and not for comparison with products of a different category. For instance, product 1 and product 5 belong to different categories and are intended to present you with reviews of models in various categories.

Vinyl sizes and speeds that you should know

You need to be aware of standard vinyl sizes and speeds, which will help you choose the right turntable as per your collection or intended collection.

  • Vinyl records come in two sizes 7 inch and 12 inch.

  • There are three different speeds at which turntables operate – 33 1/3, 45 and 78 RPM.

The 7 inch records play at 45 RPM, while the 12 inch records typically play at 33 1/3 RPM. However, there are EP and maxi singles that also play at 45 RPM. 78 RPM vinyl records are more of an audiophile’s collection and may not be very commonly used.