You are probably looking for a turntable if you’re interested in what we have to say in this article. But if you’re not looking for one, maybeyou will after reading this.
A turntable is also known as a record player because you’ll need it to play vinyl records. And the reason that you’d want to play records is because they sound better in a few critical areas than CDs, MP3, and other digital formats.
Records are analog which is why this is the purist’s approach. Audio signals have always been analog. The analog signal has to be converted to digital for storage on a CD (or in a computer file), and when you want to play it, you have to convert it back to analog before it can be handled by amplifiers and speakers. These conversion processes always have a lot of error correction and jitters reduction built-in. The result is a harsher, more in-your-face but clearer sound than records.
It’d be wrong to say that records are totally better than CDs. They are simply more musical. They don’t have the sterile clarity or showboating dynamic range of CDs but you can listen to records all day. In comparison, if you blast digital music all day, even if it’s your favorite genre, your ears will ring and fatigue after a while. Records are closer to real music, or unamplified musical instruments. This is why you will not find a record album titled “Relaxing Music”, “Just Chill”, “Grandpa Music”, etc. like you’d with CDs, because the musicality of records is already relaxing.
There is no need to restrict yourself to grandpa music or some such. All you need is a turntable and a few favorite records. We’ll show you how a good turntable doesn’t even have to be expensive.
The Nostalgic Aviator Wood by Victrola not only looks like a 40s turntable console, the mahogany version is priced as if there’s no inflation. The other available finishes are oak, black, white, and espresso.
A closer look would reveal that this is way more than a turntable. It’s marketed as an 8-in-1 entertainment center. The company didn’t bother to explain the 8-in-1 but we’ll try our best to interpret:
1. Turntable at speeds of 33-1/3, 45, and 78 rpm.
2. Powered speakers
3. CD player
4. Cassette player
5. AM/FM radio
6. Preamp with phono equalization and analog inputs (3.5mm and RCA)
7. Bluetooth wireless input
8. Record to USB
So you see, this is an all-in-one stereo system. You don’t need anything else to play records. Pop a record on the platter, cue the needle, and music will play through the speakers. There’s a volume control on the front, and this thing also comes with a remote control. In addition to CD, cassette and radio, you can connect your smartphone to it via Bluetooth to play streamed music.
How’s the sound? It’s like a fairly good boom box. You can’t expect high fidelity with so much on tap, but the sound should satisfy most people except those who wish to build a stereo system. Read on for stereo component-grade turntables.
Fluance is a home audio company known for its affordable bookshelf speakers and turntables. The Fluance RT80 turntable is available for just a hair under $200.
This is a hi-fi component so the design is minimalist. The aluminum platter is stable and thick for this price range. Like all good turntables, it is belt-driven for better noise isolation. The tonearm is also made of aluminum. It is S-shaped which the company claims to help placing the needle deep into the groove of the record – but in our experience, this is all about adjusting the counterweight on the back of tonearm, and this one is easy to dial in.
The RT80 weighs 10lb, partly from its MDF wooden chassis. It is quite well-built overall. The moving magnet (MM) cartridge included is an Audio-Technica AT91. The built-in Texas Instruments RIAA module equalizes and steps up the phono signal from the cartridge to regular line-level signal. To play music, just hook up this turntable to the line-level RCA inputs of your preamp or receiver.
The sound is full-bodied and mellow with well-rounded bass extension. The high end is a bit rolled off which is the case with most MM cartridges. The good news is the RT80 can be upgraded. You can upgrade to a moving coil (MC) cartridge later and send the phono output to an outboard phono preamp that has enough gain for an MC cartridge. There’s a toggle switch in the back for line or phono output, bypassing the internal preamp if the latter is selected.
The Audio-Technica LP60 is the undisputed king of sub $100 turntable. The LP60 is so good that it is in the running for the best turntable under $200 as well, except in this case we can afford to step up to the LP60-BT which adds Bluetooth connectivity.
You can connect the LP60-BT wirelessly to Bluetooth speakers, headphones, or stereo systems. Use the line outputs in the back if you’re using it in a traditional hi-fi system. The cartridge included is an OEM Audio-Technica MM cartridge. Audio-Technica is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of phono cartridges.
The LP60-BT has a streamlined look. It is light at 6.6lb. Its die-cast aluminum platter helps to stabilize theflimsy plastic chassis.This is a fully automatic turntable which means you only have to hit a button for the tonearm to move and lower the needle onto the beginning of the record, and it will automatically lift the tonearm at the end of the record. What if you want to skip to the second track? No problem, just hit a button to defeat the automatic mode and lower the needle yourself.
The sound is way more seductive than any CD players. It is just so slightly noisier and less open-sounding than the Fluance RT80 above. The appeal of the Audio-Technica LP60-BT is its low barrier to entry. You don’t need a serious stereo system to enjoy the sweet analog sound of vinyl records. Just connect the LP60-BT to a pair of Bluetooth speakers or headphones.
By virtue of its sound quality and low barrier to entry, our best turntable under $200 is the Audio-Technica LP60-BT. You only need a pair of Bluetooth headphones or speakers to experience the joy of flipping vinyl records all day, not to mention the much more musical sound than digital audio.
On the other hand, the Fluance RT80 is best for those who are looking to add a turntable to the stereo system. You can also upgrade the cartridge and phono preamp in the future.
If you don’t have a sound system, it’s about time that you get one. The Victrola Nostalgic Aviator Wood is an 8-in-1 sound system anchored by a turntable on top. Turntables can add an air of sophistication to an interior spacelike nothing else in life. And the price is a no-brainer.