What Are The Best Audiophile Turntables? (REVIEW)

Listening to music on vinyl is a far superior experience than on other formats. The method used to record sound onto vinyl keeps the nuances of the music, unlike MP3 and other compressed formats, which take the subtleties out the sound.

In the world of turntables, avoid budget models if you can. They don't sound as good and in some extreme cases will even damage your vinyl. You don't want that.

So, in a word, its worth forking out for a more expensive bit of kit if you can afford it.

At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Audiophile Turntables 

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Buyer's Tips: What to look for when buying the best audiophile turntables

  • The thicker and heavier base, the better. The more mass in the turntable itself, the more it can dampen any vibrations. Any other features designed to minimize vibrations are also absolutely crucial, as they will have an enormous effect on the sound quality
  • Adjustable tonearm weight and height, plus anti-skate, will allow you to set up the needle correctly so that it doesn’t damage your records or skip
  • The cartridge type needed should be a standard-mount rather than a P-mount for better sound quality
  • All parts should be replaceable
  • If it has a built in preamp, it should ideally accommodate a low-output moving coil cartridge for the best sound and transparency
  • Can play at all three speeds

Depending on your budget, you may not be able to get a turntable that has all of these elements. The important thing is that what does come with your turntable can be upgraded later if necessary, and that as many of the components are of good quality.

Ok let's look at each product in more detail.

5 Best Audiophile Turntables​

1. AUDIO-TECHNICA AT-LP120-USB (Budget Choice)

Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable (USB & Analog), Silver

A good entry point for audiophiles new to turntables, but not without a few problems. It’s got a few ‘cute’ features that don’t rely improve the sound quality. Overall, it’s not a bad turntable, but it isn’t great either.

  • Doesn’t require phono inputs on your speakers. It can use aux, phono or USB inputs
  • The USB output and included audacity software allows you to digitize your vinyls yourself, so you can take your music with you without relying on the low quality sound files that come with downloads and streaming
  • Can play at all three speed settings, as well as shifting the pitch up and down, and has reverse playback.
  • Doesn’t support MC cartridges
  • The anti-skate isn’t perfect
  • A common problem is a warped platter, so that the record will wobble when played

Let's take a look at this product...

2. PRO JECT 2Xperience SB Turntable

PRO JECT 2Xperience SB Turntable (Piano Black)

The PRO JECT 2Xperience SB Turntable is a high-end turntable, and has an appropriately high price tag. There are two reasons to be excited about this turntable. It’s got extremely high audio quality, and your records will be completely insulated from any harm.

  • Low resonance due to the materials, thickness and a number of other features
  • The platter is made from the same material as your records, so there is no possibility of them being damaged just from everyday use
  • Comes equipped with a 9CC Evolution Tonearm, made from carbon fibre it dissipates any unwanted vibrations before it reaches the cartridge and impacts on your music
  • If the tonearm needs replacing, they are very expensive by themselves, so you will absolutely need to take very good care of your equipment
  • The low end frequencies are slightly overstated, especially if the clamp isn’t adjusted just right
  • Uses a MM cartridge

Let's take a look at this product...

3. Clearaudio Concept Turntable

Clearaudio Concept Turntable with Pre-Mounted MM Cartridge

The Clearaudio Concept is one of the easiest turntables to set up and start listening to vinyls with - as just about everything is taken care of before shipping out to the consumer.

  • Plays all three speed settings
  • Everything is adjusted by the manufacturer before sending them out, so you’ll only need to perform maintenance every few months or so to keep the audio quality at peak levels
  • Comes with the Clearaudio Verify tonearm, a high end standard-mount tonearm that’s seen growing use as an aftermarket upgrade for other turntables
  • The price is pretty high, so unless you’re a serious audiophile with the budget to back it up the Clearaudio Concept will probably be out of your reach
  • The pre-installed cartridge is MM, but there is an MC option
  • The Concept is highly sensitive to vibrations, so proper placement is key

Let's take a look at this product...

4. Rega Planar 3

Rega RP3 Turntable with Dustcover, Elys2 Cartridge, RB303Tonearm (Cool Grey)

The Rega Planar 3 is one of the best audiophile turntables, presenting excellent value-for-money and stellar audio quality through a couple of clever little design approaches that differ from the usual strategies used for other turntables.

  • Audio quality is enhanced by using extremely light-weight parts in conjunction with a resin that reduces resonance
  • Very transparent, well-balanced sound
  • Equipped with the highly regarded RB303 tonearm that reduces friction and has high stability
  • Very little isolation apart from small rubber feet, so positioning will be an important factor
  • Speed changes must be done by manually adjusting the drive belt
  • Without using the Elys 2 Cartridge, the Rega Planar 3 loses some of its shine

Let's take a look at this product...

5. Marantz TT-15S1 Turntable

Marantz TT-15S1 Reference Belt Drive Turntable with Cartridge (Transparent White)

If you’ve upgraded your turntables a few times and are looking for an end of the road turntable that’ll keep you satisfied, the Marantz TT-15S1 just might be the one you’re looking for.

  • High signal to noise ratio due to the excellent resonance-reducing materials
  • Height adjustable feet for better isolation
  • The cartridge included is a very high-end MM, and the Clearaudio Satisfy tonearm is likewise of superb quality
  • Doesn’t play 78s, and speed changes must be done by manually moving the belt drive
  • Doesn’t come with a turntable cover, so you’ll need to buy your own
  • Setup can be quite difficult to get right with a high level of precision

Let's take a look at this product...

So what are the best audiophile turntables?

Clearaudio have been the leader of the pack when it comes to audiophile turntables for a long time, and with the Concept turntable they have demonstrated exactly why. One of the most important factors is the immense quality it imparts to your listening experience right out of the box thanks to the excellent tonearm and cartridge - which can be upgraded even further by replacing it with an MC.

If your budget won’t stretch that far, then the Rega Planar 3 is a good mid-range option. With the right positioning, ideally a wall-mount, you can get a turntable that punches far above its class.

Image credits:
Featured image source: Adam Yoblon / CC BY-SA 2.0

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