Anyone who's unwittingly found themselves in an Urban Outfitters lately knows that vinyl records have made a full comeback from musical antiquity. Digital music sales are on the decline, and a new generation of crate collectors are embracing LPs for their richer sound quality, physicality, and undeniable cool points.
But once you score an original pressing of a Led Zeppelin masterpiece on eBay, you'll need the proper hardware to experience it the way it was meant to be heard. Here’s a look at 10 models worth tuning your ears to.
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VPI Classic 1
Price:$3,000 "Classic" has pretty much lost all meaning these days, but VPI's turntable might live up to its moniker. It ditches many of the advanced features found on more expensive models and instead focuses on speed stability to maximize the realism of your LPs. Hardcore vinyl collectors should give this one a pass based on its fast, clean, and wide open sound.
U-Turn Orbit Plus
Price:$310 Most turntable-cartridge combinations lack audio detailing, but this minimalist turntable manages to achieve well-balanced high frequencies and great dynamic range. The precision-machined acrylic platter accounts for an insane amount of speed consistency and tighter, percussive bass that makes Dr. Dre’s Compton worthy of spinning.
Floating Record Vertical Turntable
Price:$400 This Kickstarter phenomenon puts a unique spin on the record player with its cutting-edge design. The developers crafted this self-contained audio system with a polished acrylic platter, record clamp, and silicon belt drive that can spin at 33⅓ and 45 RPM. Use the built-in headphone jack for intimate listening sessions or the RCA outs to integrate it with your existing system.
Price:$230 Beautifully engineered with dynamic sound and a sturdy design, this ultramodern vinyl spinner also happens to be easy on the wallet. The turntable’s killer feature is its central gravity mass point, which is constructed from artificial stone and absorbs motor vibration for clearer playback.
Audio Technica AT-LP1240-USB
Price:$400 Audio Technica’s record player uses a specialized three-phase motor to generate high-quality music reproduction, not to mention speed stability and reliable back-cueing for mixing. It’s capable of quietly operating 33⅓, 45, or 78 RPM records. Rounding out its immense features set are an S-shaped counterweighted tonearm, anti-skate adjustments, universal removable cartridge system, and an adjustable pitch control.
Rega RP3 Turntable
Price:$895 Handcrafted from special components straight from Britain, the RP3 skips the gimmicky mechanics and relies solely on exceptional audio quality to attract the audiophile crowd. The RB303 tonearm contributes to increased clarity and resolution, while the precision bearings and lightweight plinth make for excellent complements.
Clearaudio Ovation with Clarify Tonearm
Price:$5,000 Clearaudio’s most ambitious project yet delivers jaw-dropping audio unmatched by most turntables in its price class. The system boasts a rich sound signature and the ability to run 33⅓, 45, and 78 RPM records. Adding to its awesomeness is the accompanying Clarify arm, which uses a magnetic bearing to reduce noise and friction.
Electrohome Signature Retro Hi-Fi Stereo System
Price:$200 Combining every vital component from your stereo system into an all-in-one vintage machine, the Electrohome leaves no audio stone unturned. It comes equipped with a CD player, AM/FM radio, USB drive for MP3 playback, auxiliary input for smart devices, and the true centerpiece—a vinyl turntable capable of spinning any format 12-inch LPs, to 78s. Perfectly tuned acoustic speaker chambers welcome optimal clarity and detail to your entire catalog. The built-in MP3 encoder even lets you convert vinyls to any USB storage device, PC-free.
Crosley CR6232A-BR Nomad USB Portable Turntable
Price:$195 Old school vinyl addicts never got the luxury of portability, but Crosley has answered the call with its own briefcase-inspired record player that sports a headphone jack, onboard stereo speakers, RCA outputs, and a three-speed turntable. You can also convert your favorite tracks into digital files via USB transfer.
Music Hall MMF 2.2
Price:$450 Made from high quality components, the MMF 2.2 bears the versatility of a premium turntable—only with a much cheaper MSRP. In addition to offering great sonic performance, the system tacts on other useful features like an adjustable tonearm, belt-driven motor, and tractable feet to stabilize sound when played on bumpy surfaces. It's not made for DJing, but it fits the bill for easy listening and recording.
Alex Bracetti is a contributor to Supercompressor, Complex, HOOP, Man of Many, and several other popular lifestyle outlets. Follow him on Twitter @AlexBracetti.