The Best Turntables of 2021
Last updated on September 9, 2021
All Hail the Return of the Turntable.
Although some people thought the return of the turntable was no more than a passing fad, we’re proud to present our own carefully vetted list of the best turntables for 2021, 11 different models in all, culled by price, features and performance.
Premier audio brands all over the world have stepped up their turntable game, offering turntable product lines for every budget. And, regardless of price point, all of the turntables we carry are high quality - because we're serious vinyl lovers at heart. From manufacturers like Pro-Ject, Rega, Audio-Technica, McIntosh, Denon, and more, our pros weighed in on the features you should focus on at every tier.
The good news for newbies: if you’re not sure you’ll fall in love with playing records, you can opt for a turntable as low as $100. That way, you get the same tactile experience so many others rave about (and surprisingly good sound) without a major $ commitment. Then, if you do fall in love vinyl, you can drop serious bucks on a serious set-up and start enjoying the kind of goosebumps only vinyl can make happen.
However, if you’re a serious music lover who already appreciates the difference quality gear brings to the table, welcome to what many consider the industry’s finest repository of all-things music playing: World Wide Stereo.
Whether you are new to the world of turntables or a lifelong fan, we offer a standing invitation to any of our turntable clinics as well as complimentary time – as little or as much as you want – to consult with any of our World Wide Stereo audio technicians.
Here Are Our Picks for the Best Turntables of 2021:
The Best Beginner Turntable:
U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus
The Best Automatic Turntable:
The Best Budget Turntable with a Preamp:
U-Turn Audio Orbit Special Turntable
The Best Wireless Turntable:
Yamaha MusicCast Vinyl 500
The Best Turntable for the Money:
Rega Planar 3 Turntable
The Best Audiophile Turntable:
The Best Turntable Under $400:
The Best Turntable Under $500:
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evolution
The Best Turntable Under $1000:
The Best Turntable Under $2000:
The Best Premium Fully Manual Turntable:
Rega Planar 10 Apheta 3
We’ve made it easy to find the best deals on turntables from brands like Audio-Technica, Pro-Ject, and more. Our deals update daily so you don’t miss a beat, and we’ve got your back through with our price match guarantee, 60-day returns, easy financing, and free shipping. Don’t see what you want on sale? Give us at 1.866.961.7781 or chat with an expert.
Shop This Guide
1. The Best Beginner Turntable:
The U-Turn Orbit Plus was a fan favorite before it even hit the market thanks to a 2014 Kickstarter campaign. The reason: there’s a lot to like, starting with build options that let you pick the base color, platter material (acrylic in the photo), cartridge, and more. U-Turn’s minimal, plug & play design is ideal for beginners and we had ours up and running in less than 5 minutes. There’s no short-cutting when it comes to sound; even our most finicky audio pros give the new Orbit Plus a thumbs up.
U-Turn not only builds every Orbit Plus by hand in their Boston plant but they also assign an audio technician to listen to each before sending it along. (Impressive for this price range.) The only button on the Orbit Plus is for power – there’s no speed switch; you have to manually switch the belt from one groove to another to change RPM speed. If you’re a hands-on type, no biggie… but if you’d prefer a switch that changes speed for you, the Orbit Plus isn’t for you. (Do you really listen to that many 45s?)
A straight, understated tonearm glides on a pivot-style bearing positioned close to the record, which allows for more accurate groove tracking. One detail to note is that this does not come with a cue lever built-in. U-Turn offers a cue lever as an optional attachment which you can find here. Each Orbit does ship with the cartridge already installed and tracking force perfectly calibrated, which is great for beginners.
P.S. U-Turn makes a special version of the Orbit with a pre-amp built-in, called “The Orbit Special.” Check it out.
2. The Best Automatic Turntable:
Denon’s DP-300F picks up where turntables left off after CDs took over in the 1980s. At the time, most consumer turntables were fully automatic. People listinening to would put a record on the platter, push a button, and they were done. From there, the turntable picks up the tonearm, places it over the beginning of the record, gently puts it down, and voilà, music. At the end of the record, the turntable automatically lifts the tonearm, gently puts it back in its holder, and then turns itself off. Convenient, yes, but fully automatic is more about not accidentally scratching your records.
What’s more, given the DP-300F’s preamp (included) can be turned on or off, you can plug it into almost any integrated amp or receiver – even those without a phono input port. This allows the DP-300F to work with almost every home music system. Switching out the cartridge is easy too, should you ever decide to upgrade for something with a bigger range. Do that, and the Denon DP-300F is easily on par with record players that cost two or three times as much. As for looks, the DP-300F is attractive yet unassuming, a classic look built on 4mm thick cabinet walls made of die-cast aluminum. (We love the gloss coating.)
So: good-looking, built like a tank, fully automatic, compatible with almost everything, easy to upgrade, made by Denon – an industry legend. What’s not to like?
3. The Best Budget Turntable with a Preamp:
Somewhere on this page, we gave “Best Beginner’s Turntable” to the Orbit from U-Turn Audio. Now, we’re talking about the Orbit “Special" and what makes it so special – the fact that it comes with a Pluto Phono Preamp already built-in. (Watch us take the Orbit Special for a spin in a World Wide Stereo video product review here.)
In addition to the Pluto preamp, U-Turn added a cue lever to the Special (thank you) as well as an acrylic platter. The Special also comes in one of two gorgeous, solid hardwood, plinth finishes: flat cut maple and rift walnut.
The advantage to having a preamp already built-in? For starters, since a preamp does what an external amp or receiver does, you have one less piece of equipment to deal with. You can quite literally plug your Orbit Special into any speakers in the house and get up and running in seconds.
For the money, Orbit is hard to beat. And, for an American consumer electronics company, that’s saying something.
- Drive: Belt Drive
- Automatic or Manual: Manual
- RPM Speeds: 33 1/3, 45
- Cartridge: The award-winning Ortofon 2M Red cartridge
- Built-In Phono Pre-amp: Yes, Pluto Phono Preamp
- USB Output: No
- Other Outputs: RCA
4. The Best Wireless Turntable:
Yamaha is out to set the gold standard for wireless audio with their own wireless multiroom audio technology, MusicCast, now years in the making. And by gold standard, we’re talking lossless, 24-bit audio streaming throughout the house to up to 10 connected devices. Impressive, to be sure. This year, Yamaha added a turntable to the MusicCast mix – the Yamaha VINYL 500 Wi-Fi turntable – and it’s a beast. (Note: though MusicCast can accept a Bluetooth source, Wi-Fi is far more robust and far better suited to authentic high fidelity.)
The VINYL 500 weighs in at a little over 12 pounds, and heavy is good in turntable land. It comes in Steinway gloss black and sets it up in 10/15 minutes. And with both line and phono outputs (RCA jacks), you can hardwire everything like it’s 1973, or download the MusicCast app and start streaming literally anything from anywhere. (Your favorite Internet radio stations, your digital collection, whatever.) But, the real magic happens when you put an album on the VINYL 500. We did exactly that with a pair of stereo MusicCast speakers hooked up, and the experience was everything one would hope for with a top of the line turntable: incredibly warm with deep, round lows and crisp, clear highs. All in all, very human.
So to the question: is the analog turntable experience – the one everyone is raving about – even possible in a wireless environment? With the right turntable, definitely.
5. The Best Turntable for the Money:
The Rega Planar 3 story begins in the UK in the late 70s and continues to this day. It’s about an ever-evolving turntable conceived and built by two devoted lovers of music, Tony Relph and Roy Gandy, and how they keep finding ways to extract every bit of fidelity out of treasured LPs – essentially perfecting a much-beloved product over the course of 40+ years.
Highlights include: a high-gloss acrylic laminate plinth designed for low mass and high stiffness. A “floating-glass” flywheel platter with Optiwhite polished rim, topped with a felt mat, and a low-mass, low-friction tonearm with precision bearings and steel counterweight – the result of 40 years of research and experimentation. Rega’s own Elys 2 moving magnet cartridge will come factory fitted with this version of the Planar 3. The Planar 3 really sings with the Elys 2 MM cartridge onboard.
The Planar 3 is hailed the world over as the highest-value, entry-level, audiophile record player since its original introduction back in 1977, and it’s as much a conversation piece as it is a true high-fidelity component. Hi-Fi named its predecessor “Product of the Year” three years running. Herb Reichert of Stereophile magazine said, “I love the way it honors musicians.”
All this for less than $1,150. Need we say more?
6. The Best Audiophile Turntable:
If turntables in the $2k price range and up are like high-end sports cars, then maybe turntables in the $5K and up range are like high-end jet aircraft. If that’s the case, then the semi-automatic MT5 from McIntosh – the world’s undisputed amplification champion – is a show-stopping F/A-18 Hornet. (The tonearm is made of Dural-Aluminum, often used in fighter jets, so the analogy fits.)
The MT5 weighs in at 31.5 pounds, making it the heaviest turntable on our list. (Turn it up. It won’t vibrate.) It integrates with ease, especially when mated to a 2-channel McIntosh preamp. It comes with McIntosh’s precision tonearm and the much-loved Sumiko Blue Point No.2 MC cartridge, though some customers swapped-out the Sumiko for something they felt was better suited to the MT5. (Call to discuss.) The sub-platter, made from anodized aluminum, sits beneath the silicone acrylic outer platter. The combination rests on a ceramic bearing using magnetic suspension, so it literally floats on a cushion of air above a lit green platter, which is easily dimmable. There’s so much to talk about here – see our MT5 product page for the full story.
The MT5 is a favorite among Grammy winners, audiophiles, and music lovers the world over, and our ears agree: this is the best turntable humans have ever created thus far. Very expensive, yes, but this is next-level awesome, or as Rolling Stone called it: “The McIntosh MT5 is the turntable of the Gods.”
7. The Best Turntable Under $400:
Pro-Ject set out to build a
true audiophile grade turntable at an entry-level price. The result: Pro-Ject’s T1 line – affordable / handsome / no-nonsense turntables that are both
extremely affordable and, compared to most audiophile turntables, plug &
play easy. If you’re looking to get into high-quality vinyl music without all
the fussing around with anti-skate and vertical tracking adjustments, etc.,
the T1 is an ideal choice – especially at our price. (The T1 also comes without a pre-amp, or with both pre-amp and Bluetooth built-in.)
The T1 plinth is a thing of beauty, and Pro-Ject was quick to remind us that no plastic parts were used in its design. (Plastic is more likely to vibrate.) The platter is heavy, made of high-density glass designed for zero resonance. Pro-Ject also developed a new, more accurate, 8.6-inch, 1-piece, tonearm for the T1, and the cartridge included is a high-end Ortofon OM 5E Moving Magnet cartridge with an elliptical diamond stylus tip. If the goal was to lessen or remove the high price barrier to audiophile-level vinyl sound, Pro-Ject’s new T1 line gets it done, nicely.
8. The Best Turntable Under $500:
Welcome to the land of entry-level audiophile gear and the best-selling turntable in the $300 - $500 price range. Like any good, forward-thinking company, Pro-Ject modifies every model, every year, with the latest and newest materials and upgrades. It's no surprise that the Debut Carbon Evolution - or EVO as it's referred to as - makes our list. (Pro-Ject’s Debut was the first mass-market turntable to dominate in the turntable comeback. Interested in reading about the differences between the Debut and the Debut Carbon Evo? Check out our full product review here.)
The Pro-ject Debut Carbon EVO features a one-piece carbon-fiber tonearm, premium gold-plated RCA jacks, and a hinged adjustable dust cover. It's super stable, height-adjustable, and damped aluminum feet ensure level positioning on every surface. The EVO also includes a suspension system borrowed from the higher-end X1 and a hefty aluminum platter, weighing in at about 3.7-pounds, and has electronic speed selection via a simple rocker switch on the bottom. A factory-mounted Sumiko Rainier phono cartridge (a $150 value) is also included for an easy setup.
Bottom line: For a mid-range price point, this turntable is a solid choice for even the most discerning record collector but also for someone just starting their collection. Technical specs aside, the Pro-ject Debut Carbon EVO would look right at home on a pedestal at the Museum of Modern Art. This is a great looking record player and comes in 9 colors, which makes finding a turntable to match your style and decor so much easier. Current color options include: gloss black, black, gloss red, green, blue, yellow, gloss white, white, or walnut.
9. The Best Turntable Under $1000:
The 2020 version of the Pro-ject X1 pays homage to the very
first X1 built some 29 years ago, and like its grandfather, it’s a fully
manual, hand-assembled thing of beauty. Unlike its grandfather, however, the
new X1 takes advantage of everything Pro-Ject learned in its three decades. To
start, the materials are better. The plinth is made from a denser – and thus
less resonant – MDF material. Under the
plinth’s hand-polished gloss finish, eight layers of paint. The platter is
heavier, too, by a little over 3 pounds. A DC/AC generator now powers the
motor, affording better isolation versus direct power. The one-piece, 8.6-inch
tonearm and its TPE-damped counterweight are easily adjustable from the unit’s
aluminum base. It comes with a Kardan ultra-low friction, four-pin point,
precision bearing – and Sumiko's Olympia cartridge. And on and on…
You can see all the specs on our X1 product page, and yes – there’s a lot to talk about, but the real reason we’re giving Pro-Ject’s X1 our 5-Star rating? It’s sounds incredible – as in spoil-you-for-life incredible. Or now-I-listen-to-music-all-the-time incredible. Or what-it was-like-hearing-both-sides-of-Seargent-Pepper-for-the first-time incredible. We even think the Pro-Ject X1 would sell well at 2 or 3 times the price, but we won’t say anything if you don’t say anything.
10. The Best Turntable Under $2000:
Within this unassuming exterior lives a beast of technology that makes this one of the most advanced turntables we’ve ever seen. The age-old complaint of added features like auto-lift is that the extra mechanisms and motors can put a hard ceiling on performance, limited by the extra noise and interference of those mechanisms. Don’t expect a ceiling with the SL1500, though. The secret? A high-tech core-less direct drive motor that drives not only the platter, but the auto-lift on the tone arm as well, all while limiting interference. By embedding the Auto Lifter function in the base portion of the tonearm, it eliminates impacts to the tonearm. With simple design that doesn’t use motor power, there is no electrical or vibrational impact.
Don’t think Technics got lazy after accomplishing that feat though! They made sure to include an excellent phono preamplifier, so the SL1500 is perfect for any system, even if that system doesn’t have a phono preamp or phono stage (some of our favorite applications include wireless speaker systems or powered monitors for a more compact setup).
SL1500 has a no-frills design. It might not win a turntable beauty pageant, but that’s only because every aspect of this table is built meticulously for the best performance we’ve ever heard in a turntable with an auto-lift.
- Drive: Direct Drive
- Automatic or Manual: Manual with auto-lift
- RPM Speeds: 33 1/3, 45, 78
- Cartridge: Ortofon 2M Red
- Built-In Phono Pre-amp: Yes
- USB Output: No
- Other Outputs: Phono, Earth Terminal, Line
11. The Best Premium Fully Manual Turntable:
For the vinyl purist, your turntable has got to be manual. While turntables like the SL1500 are changing our minds of what an automatic turntable can be, the Planar 10 reminds us of why we love dropping the needle by hand. If you’re a high-fidelity afficionado, the Planar 10 is the best of the best. Dramatic design ideas, like isolating the power supply in a separate unit, ensure the performance of this record player is second to none.
Plus, this version comes with an upgrade to the famed Rega Apheta 3 moving-coil cartridge. We put on two records in our testing: Led Zeppelin IV, and an original Telarc recording of Madame Butteryfly. The result? We heard nuance and depth unlike anything we listened to.
According to the team at Rega, “Mass absorbs energy - lost energy equals lost music”! To combat that, the plinth for the Planar 10 is built out of ultra-lightweight materials, constructed in an anti-resonant design so the platter is still isolated and impervious to undesired input.
- Drive: Belt Drive
- Automatic or Manual: Manual
- RPM Speeds: 33 1/3, 45
- Cartridge: Apheta 3
- Built-In Phono Pre-amp: No
- USB Output: No
Still not sure? We got this.
If you're still not sure which turntable is the best for you, give us a call or send us an email. Tell us about your system, what kind of music you like, and your budget. We’d be more than happy to help you pick the ideal turntable for you.
One more thing:
Once you pick out your turntable, a last word of advice: buy it from a trusted dealer, and the more experience / the longer the track record, the better. A good dealer will take care of you in the event anything happens. Until then, check out longer-form turntable reviews and videos in our “fun reads” blog, and if you’re ever in the neighborhood, come to one of our turntable clinics. They’re fun (we do a lot of laughing at ourselves), and some of the demonstrations are outrageous. The crowd is typically equal parts audiophiles / newbies.
Speaking of trusted dealers...
World Wide Stereo is home to some 90+ industry-leading audio/video professionals who love what they do, and talking about it, too. We opened our doors in 1979, gained a small yet diehard following, won a slew of national awards for everything from killer car audio installations to customer service, grew the business online… and today we enjoy a faithful following of like-minded TV-watching, music-listening, gear-loving defenders of fun for the whole family. Our only rule: no one leaves unhappy. We’re brutally honest when it comes to this stuff. Want to know if something is as good as advertised? Even if you're shopping somewhere else? Call us or stop by one of our showrooms — we’ll give it to you straight. We love what we do, and we love sharing that love.With us, you get our guarantee, which includes perks like free shipping, 60-day returns, and support even years after the sale — always. Hence our rule: "no one leaves unhappy." Ever.