Best Record Players – Reviews
While dropping a needle is a little more finicky than using a touch screen, the benefits and pleasure of listening to vinyl far outweigh the modern alternatives. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself that it’s “too much work”, and “the sound can’t really be that much better.” Well I’m here to tell you, friend, you’re wrong. Playing records and starting a collection is great for a number of reasons:
• We’ve always loved the romance of collecting: if you love music, nothing beats heading down to your local record shop, rifling through the collection, and stumbling across a hidden gem. Not to mention you can find any album you want online (reviews to follow)
• Record shops are a bastion of the ‘70s and the guys who work in them are universally awesome
• New records now come with download codes as well; you’re getting the best of both worlds
• They age beautifully. Do you know what doesn’t? CDs. I have hundreds in an awful canvas case wasting space in my closet
• Frankly, they sound better. Sure, it’s a cliché, but it’s true. Vinyl is certainly a little “warmer” as the professionals say. It’s a little more wholesome and I think this is part of the romantic relationship we have with it
Now, all those reasons to own vinyl are well and good in their own right, but you’re going to need something to play them on, pal. When looking to purchase a new unit, it’s best to decide beforehand what it is you need and want. You’ll want to narrow the field as there are myriad options, many of which you would be better off avoiding. Record players, like all items, can differ greatly in price and quality and I agree, the one that looks like an old jukebox does look good; but is it going to fit inside your studio apartment?
We’re here to guide you through this strange and exciting world by offering not only our technical insight, but that of aesthetics and practicality as well. Are you looking for your something more affordable; perhaps making your first foray into the world of vinyl? Are you looking to upgrade your current model? Looking at moving into the 21st century? Or maybe you’re looking for the be all/end all; something that would make your local classic rock radio disc jockey fly into a fit of jealous rage.
No matter what you have in mind, we’re here to help you find the right unit. Bear in mind all of these are record players under $300. You don’t need to spend a fortune to have something that looks and sounds great. While we love vinyl here, we’re not the types to inundate you with technical jargon and bog you down with unnecessary details. Records, after all, are about the listening experience. We chose to focus on affordable and simple options, because that’s the type of benevolent and caring people we are.
Best Record Player Under $100
The first model we chose to look at, and what we have determined to be the best record player for under $100, is the Audio Technica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Stereo Turntable System. The LP60 is great model for someone who is looking for a modest, affordable upgrade. Conceivably, your current model is a classic and you’re looking for something a little more compact and contemporary (my own record player has wood paneling, and is accompanied by an 8-track and cassette player, if you need an example of why one might want to go contemporary).
What we like about the Audio Technica is its no frills approach: a fully automatic and belt-driven unit capable of playing 33s and 45s, and can be plugged in to your computer or home stereo for sound. A great compact record player that is great for someone looking to upgrade, without breaking the bank. Looks good, sounds good.
- Recommended listening:
Singles, Future Islands
Run The Jewels 2, Run The Jewels
Rumours, Fleetwood Mac
Best Record Player Under $300
The second model we decided to spin some hot wax on was the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable. For a record player under $300, it’s a whale of a machine. While doing everything one would expect a record player to (you know, play music), the LP120 has the added bonus of being able to convert your record collection to digital files. This process allows you to modernize and digitize your collection and add it to your listening device of choice, saving you those costly download dollars (Apple has enough money).
This is a player for someone with an established collection looking to, begrudgingly, move into the modern era by making his or her collection a little more mobile.
- Recommended listening:
Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin
Kid A, Radiohead
Best Record Player for Beginners
Lastly, we chose to look at something entry-level and very affordable: the Jensen JTA-230 3 Speed Stereo Turntable with Built in Speakers. This is a great model for the burgeoning young hipster whose record collection starts and ends with Scrillex’s most recent work purchased from Urban Outfitters. While indeed this is a dubious start to one’s collection, it’s a start. We can’t all be audiophiles from the beginning, and I’m not too proud to admit that I own three(!) Neil Diamond records (go ahead, tell me Cherry, Cherry doesn’t make you want to dance.)
What makes the Jensen so great is it’s an all-in-one unit: it offer the 3 speeds you need (33 1/3, 45, 78), the software to convert your vinyl collection to digital, and built in speakers. Coming in well under $100, it’s a great and affordable way to introduce yourself to the world of vinyl.
- Recommended listening:
Abbey Road, The Beatles
Raw Power, Iggy and The Stooges
What's Going On, Marvin Gaye
In addition to the recommended listening, we would like to add a reviewed record that’s guaranteed to be perfectly matched to the record player you will be purchasing. How could you doubt someone that owns three Neil Diamond records? You can’t.
Let’s get started with the record best suited for the best record player under $100, the Audio Technica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Stereo Turntable System. This record should be something for the person with a growing collection, who has a discerning eye but is open to new things. To that person I present: Nirvana: MTV Unplugged in New York. Of all Nirvana did, this is the album best suited to be listened to on vinyl. It’s a tremendous piece of work. It’s features interesting covers (David Bowie, Ledbelly), great guests (the Meat Puppets), and unique reworking of their own classics. It’s been described as Kurt Cobain’s suicide note. Melancholy, I know, but really a must have for anyone who appreciates Nirvana’s contributions. That, and Dave Grohl plays the brushes with his hair in a ponytail and a turtleneck. Pull out the red wine and that pack of Marlboro Reds you’ve been hiding. You’ll need them both.
The second record we want to recommend is for the truly discerning individual; the purchaser of the best record player under $300– Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable. What we have chosen doesn’t fall into the classic rock category, but is certainly a classic record in its own right: Nas’ Illmatic. Released in 1994, it perfectly encapsulates what was taking place in New York City at that time. Rampant drug use and high crime had befallen the city and Nas put these influences to great use on his debut record. For a hip-hop record, it’s extremely lean, coming in at only 10 songs and a shade under 40 minutes. Nas cuts the fat and delivers 10 tremendously engaging songs that truly give the listener a sense of what was taking place at that time.
Finally, we come to the record we would like to recommend to the purchaser of the best record player for beginners, the Jensen JTA-230 3 Speed Stereo Turntable with Built in Speakers. To us, this is a player that’s fun. It has everything you would ever need in a turntable with a few more bells and whistles. This is the description I would give to our last record recommendation: Taylor Swift’s 1989.
I get it: Taylor Swift is an affront to your indie sensibilities. You really need to get off your high horse. I was going to describe this record as a guilty pleasure, but I don’t think there’s anything to feel guilty about. A great pop record, as this is, should be enjoyed in all its splendor: loudly, with enough space to dance enthusiastically. If you don’t like “Shake it off” then there is something wrong with you. There, I said it. It’s got a little of that ‘80s pop sound without being pretentious or dour. It’s a really fun record, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and would be a lovely addition for someone getting his or her feet wet in vinyl. And don’t fret it someone gives you a hard time, you know what haters are gonna do.