Vinyl is back in business. After technical advancements from records to Cassettes, CDs and MP3s, we are back to craving that feeling of having a large vinyl record in our hands, to put the needle on the record and to play that atmospheric sound. Or maybe you have always kept your old record collection in the attic and you would like to blow the dust off and reclaim those memories from the past. Now you might have seen some nice record players already, but with all the choices out there it might be hard to know where to look for. And indeed, there are quite a few things to keep in mind when buying one so we have made this list of what exactly to look for when buying a record player.
It might be obvious but it is good to know your budget before doing a lot of research. As prices range from just 60 dollars for a Denver VPL-120 to 1200 for a high-end model, so it might be good to pick your budget so you know what to look at. One of the best ways to determine your budget is taking one brand such as U-Turn audio and looking at at the difference between their models. What exact features do you want like a branded cartridge, Bluetooth or USB and what price tag are attached to those features. That should give you a good direction of what to look for.
Most beginner will start looking in the budget price range for a decent models that gets them started at a modest price. After a lot of research we found out that there is a clear tipping point around 100 dollars. Models below 100 dollars are often suitcase record players that use low quality components that do not only produce bad sound (mostly from their bad internal speakers but also won’t last long and can even damage your records over time.
If a low budget is important to you, please read our buying guide first on what to avoid when buying record player before you make the same mistakes I did as a beginner. If you want to find a budget record player that is still of decent quality and keeps your vinyl in decent quality (No Crosley or Denver suitcase models). Then read our guide on the best cheap Turntables. Or take a look at our guide on the Best Turntables within different price ranges.
2. Sound Quality
Often the most important aspect, the main reason why you would buy a record player, listening to beautiful vinyl music. The quality of the sound of a record player is determined by the choice of the needle (the stylus), the audio components and the materials used. Record players with greater power often also have a larger body. This is reflected in the Auna Record players and the Soundmaster record players. Great if you are you looking for a record player who can give a lot of sound to fill a large room. More premium models often feature high quality materials such as an acrylic platter in the U-Turn Audio Special (One of our top picks) or one piece wooden casing such as with the Pro-Ject Debut Recordmaster III.
3. Portability / Wireless
Is it important for you that you can easily move a record player? Sometimes you like to listen to those records in one room and sometimes in the other. Or do you enjoy taking a record player to your friend’s house for a party? Then opt for a portable record player. Portable record players come with a handle and foldable locks so that they can easily be taken as a suitcase.
The wireless record player should not be confused with a portable record player. A wireless record player is also a portable record player but comes with the option to use the record player via batteries or its rechargeable battery. Are you looking for a record player that you can take to the park? Then go for a wireless record player. If you prefer a wireless record player on a rechargeable battery, which makes a difference in the long term cost, go for the GPO Ambassador Record Player.
4. Bluetooth, in or out?
With a Bluetooth record player it is important to pay attention to whether it is a Bluetooth-in record player or a Bluetooth-out. A Bluetooth-in record player means that the signal goes into the record player, which gives you the option to connect your smartphone or MP3 player wirelessly and to play your digital music through the internal speakers of the record player. A Bluetooth-out turntable means that the signal is sent out so you can connect it to Bluetooth speakers. Do you have Bluetooth speakers in your house that you want to use to give your record player an extra sound boost? Then we recommend one of the newer and only model with Bluetooth from Audio Technica, we reviewed the Audio Technica AT-LP60X in this article.
5. USB connectivity?
A USB record player gives you the possibility to convert your records into digital audio files. There are two ways for doing this. Some record players must be connected to a Mac or Windows PC via a USB cable and by using software it converts the analog signal to a digital one. Other record players simply use have USB port where an USB stick can be inserted into the record player to convert vinyl. You can find more information in our article on the best USB turntables and how to digitize your records.
In addition to recording, it is also sometimes possible to play MP3 files via the USB input so that you can listen to them over the recorder’s speakers. Not to be confused with a USB output, which only gives you the possibility to record vinyl on MP3.
6. Fully Automatic, Semi-Automatic or Manual
A record player can come with a fully automatic, semi-automatic or manual tone arm. A fully automatic tone arm is when the tone arm moves towards the record without the intervention of a person, and therefore fully automatically also moves back to the beginning stops playing. A semi-automatic tone arm is a tone arm that you have to place manually on the record, but automatically returns to the beginning when the LP has finished playing.
A manual tone arm is a tone arm that you must manually move both towards the record and back to the beginning when the record is finished. Almost all retro record players in our collection come with a manual tone arm, a pair with a semi-automatic tone arm and none with a fully automatic tone arm. Red more about the differences between an automatic and manual turntable.
7. Audio Inputs and Outputs
Do you like to listen to music with headphones? Would you like to immerse yourself? Then an option would be to choose a record player with a headphone input.
Do you find it important to also be able to play MP3s on your record player? Then choose a turntable with an aux-in function. This allows you to connect your record player with any device that plays digital audio. This allows you to easily listen to your favorite digital music collection and get a nice boost in music quality.
An aux-out, also called line-out, gives you the possibility to connect your turntable to external speakers. Please note that an external amplifier must also be placed in between expect when you have called Active speakers. Fanatic vinyl lovers will always go with this option as external speakers and an external amplifier can not only bring more power but also improve sound quality.
8. Design; Does it fit in your interior?
Of course, it is also important to choose a record player that not only looks nice but also fits well in your living room. Retro record players come in the most unique designs and can be a true eye-catcher. Or maybe you have a more industrial interior? Then you might want to look into our guide on the best wooden record players. Or if you want a more clean or modern look there are many models available that are one color in a shiny or matte look. Do you have a vintage style interior? For example, go for a Bermuda record player with its special Mid Century Modern design. If you are looking for a more minimalistic feel that comes in many different colors to lighten up your room the U-Turn Orbit Plus is a great option.
9. Record Player Accessories
While choosing your record player you could also do research for some additional accessories. For example, it can be really handy to have spare parts such as an extra needle in hand, should the needle suddenly break.
In addition to having a spare needle, it is important that you keep your records dust-free. What helps, for example, is a dust cover that can protect your record player. Some even have the option to protect records, a simple blanket will also help of course. Cleaning vinyl is also a necessary part that needs to be done with care. There are several handy vinyl cleaning sets available on the market that are perfect for the job.
Another thing to consider is where you are going to place your turntable and store your records. Most vinyl lovers prefer to see their records and don’t want it put away behind closed doors. You might want to go for a piece of turntable furniture such as the Soho furniture from Crosley where you can neatly organize your entire vinyl collection. Record player furniture comes with special compartments for placing your vinyl so that you have everything easily at hand. Or opt for a handy record case, which gives you a nice place to store your plates and take them with you.
If you would like to more what accessories are out there, which ones are must-haves and which ones are nice to haves? Read our guide on what accessories do you need for your turntable.
10. Vinyl Records
And last but not least, without some great records a record player is nice to look at but pretty useless. A good thing to keep in mind if you are planning to play a lot of old/second-hand records, go for a record player of high quality. The tonearm, counterweight, and needle are really important to play these records fluently. Low-quality components will likely have your music crackling and stuttering. Not only that but a bad or worn out needle can even damage your vinyl, pretty terrible to do that to records that are over 50 years old.
Now you know what to look for in a record player!
You now know the basics, it is time to dive into your personal preferences such as in design, drive type, connectivity, preamp and much more. In order to get you started, we have covered a wide range of models to help you on this adventure. Because whether you are a beginner or an expert looking for a specific feature. we have got you covered. Take a look at one of our guides below: