Streaming music services like Spotify and Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Apple Music are driving the current record label renaissance. But, when it comes to music sales, the big performer is vinyl and that means turntables are also hot.
Last holiday season, the decade-long consumer love affair with turntables saw vinyl outsell digital downloads for the first time since Apple launched its iTunes store in 2004.
That’s right. Some 35 years after CD players and digital audio marked the apparent end of the turntable, record players are back in a big way. Amazon.com Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) top selling home audio product in the 2015 holiday season wasn’t a Bluetooth speaker, or headphones — it was a turntable.
Demand for records is so strong that Sony Corp (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) is not only making turntables again, but it’s set to open a new vinyl-pressing plant to keep up with record demand. The company shuttered it’s last record factory in 1989…
If you’re late to the vinyl party — or considering getting back into it after years of digital music — we’ve put together a list of 10 turntables that should cover just about any budget, style preference or level of audio performance.
Turntables for Every Vinyl Enthusiast: Technics SL-1200
When talking vinyl resurgence, it makes sense to start at what might be the ultimate symbol of the growing popularity of record players.
The Technics SL-1200 was manufactured from 1972 to 2010 and was the turntable of choice for many deejays and audiophiles.
In a sign of just how much demand is there for premium turntables, Panasonic Corporation (ADR) (OTCMKTS:PCRFY) began making the Technics SL-1200 turntable again in 2016. If you want one of these, be prepared to drop $4k on it, though. So, you’d better be pretty serious about your records…
Turntables for Every Vinyl Enthusiast: Crosley Cruiser Deluxe
From one extreme to another, next up is the Cruiser Deluxe from Crosley.
If there’s a single company that’s been behind the surge in record player sales, it’s Crosley. The company’s most popular model is the Crosley Cruiser Deluxe.
Available for less than $100, it packs a turntable and speakers in a vintage-look suitcase form factor that’s portable and offered in a range of bright colors. The Crosley Cruiser is the record player that’s found in malls across America, gracing the shelves of Urban Outfitters, Inc. (NASDAQ:URBN) and other lifestyle stores.
Turntables for Every Vinyl Enthusiast: House of Marley, Stir It Up
House of Marley is an audio brand that’s built on the legacy of Bob Marley. The company offers affordable gear with a focus on use of sustainable materials. And this year (on Record Store Day), it officially launched its first turntable.
The Stir It Up is a $229 turntable with a design that features solid bamboo and recycled materials: aluminum, silicon rubber and fabric.
It offers a unique, warm look. The belt-drive turntable ships with a decent cartridge, includes a built-in pre-amp and offers USB-to-PC recording — in case you want to digitize your record collection… Want to learn more about the Stir It Up? I reviewed the turntable earlier this year.
Turntables for Every Vinyl Enthusiast: 808 TT100BK
808 Audio isn’t known for producing audiophile-grade stereo equipment.
But, it has built a following by appealing to a younger demographic with inexpensive streaming solutions and lights. Lots of LED lights…
It shouldn’t be a surprise that 808 Audio now offers a turntable — or will shortly. I got my hands on a pre-release 808 TT100BK and it is everything I expected. The $149.99 price is affordable and the turntable has a built-in pre-amp, Phono out, and supports wireless streaming via Bluetooth. So, it will connect to virtually anything, including wireless speakers and headphones.
Sealing the deal, it’s equipped with a full complement of LED lights for putting on a visual show as you spin your records.
Turntables for Every Vinyl Enthusiast: Hym Seed
The Hym Seed is a successfully funded Kickstarter project that aims to deliver a stylish all-in-one turntable audio system, with high quality integrated sound and a premium appearance. It’s received nearly 10 times its $40K fundraising goal, showing just how much demand there is for something like this.
The $735 Seed features retro-look, bent wood construction with a silver front grill. The turntable is mounted on top, and beneath are four drivers and a 70W amplifier. It also supports streaming audio — including Apple AirPlay — so you can play your vinyl and still listen to Apple Music.
If you want to learn more about the Seed turntable, I had one for several months and reviewed it in June.
Turntables for Every Vinyl Enthusiast: Electrohome Signature Sound System
If you’re a fan of the wooden, all-in-one stereo-with-record-player concept, but you want to go really vintage — like the kind of console system your grandparents might have had — then you’ll want to check out the $199.99 Electrohome Signature Sound System.
Inside the substantial dark walnut-finish cabinet is a three-speed turntable. Completing the vintage look are a patterned mesh grill cover, bronze-look dial volume, and tuning and input controls with amber backlighting.
Unlike your grandparents’ record player, however, this one also includes a CD player (in case you didn’t toss out all your compact discs), AM/FM radio and a built-in MP3 encoder with USB port.
Turntables for Every Vinyl Enthusiast: Crosley C20
Crosley doesn’t just make entry-level record players. Last year, the company began to sell a line of premium turntables, appealing to customers who’d graduated to serious vinyl collector status and needed a turntable to match.
My favorite to date (you can read my review here) is the C20, a $559.95 turntable that will appeal to those who don’t want to spend four-digit money for an audiophile-grade turntable, but want something that still looks and sounds just as great.
The Crosley C20 is equipped with premium components, including a very good cartridge (that can be user-upgraded for even better performance), an acrylic platter and an aluminum S-shaped tone arm. It looks as good as it sounds, thanks to genuine Zebrano wood veneer covering its solid MDF plinth.
Turntables for Every Vinyl Enthusiast: Rega Planar 1
UK-based Rega Research is another name with a long history of producing high-quality turntables.
The Rega Planar 1 was one of the most popular and highly regarded “budget” premium turntables back in 2010 — when records were just starting to show signs of taking off in popularity again.
The revised Rega Planar 1 was released in 2016. Priced at $475, it’s another solid choice for record collectors who want a turntable that combines ease of use, high-quality sound and upgradability with modern style.
Turntables for Every Vinyl Enthusiast: Sony PS-HX500
Last year, Sony decided the time was right to get back into the business of selling record players, announcing the new PS-HX500.
The $399.99 turntable looks slick and will do an excellent job of playing your record collection.
But, Sony decided to make the PS-HX500 stand out from the pack by incorporating a high-resolution audio converter. If you want to export your vinyl as digital music files, this turntable can do so at greater-than-CD quality.
Turntables for Every Vinyl Enthusiast: Fluance RT-81
Finally, here’s one of the best turntables for those who want something better than the record-player-in-a-suitcase approach, but who also don’t have a fortune to spend.
The Fluance RT81 was introduced by the Canadian speaker manufacturer last year. It’s a very appealing combination of high-quality components, attractive design and affordability.
Priced at just $249.99, the Fluance RT81 is a great way to step up your vinyl listening game, while still having enough money left over to actually buy records. Want to learn more about why I like the Fluance RT81? You can read my 2016 review here.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.