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These Record Players Will Make You Fall Back in Love With Vinyl

Esquire (UK) Logo By Owen Gough of Esquire (UK) | Slide 1 of 10: Want to get the most out of your music collection? While Jeff Bezos would probably try to convince you to pick up a high-tech stereo system to fund his next adventure into space, we recommend opting for a record player instead. A top tier one, mind, that looks and sounds so good that even Keith Richards would think twice about smashing it up. That's where we come in.Speak to any audiophile and they’ll probably chew your ear off talking about the advantages of needles and plates over modern smart speakers, but before you raid your mum’s kitchen for her finest china and try to spin an LP on them, take a second to read up on what all the terminology actually means below. RELATED: The 10 Best Projectors for Live Sports, Movies And GamingWhether you’re a veteran at-home disc jockey or just dipping your toes into the scene, we’re here to help you get the best set up. We’ve researched all the top turntables, and got some killer advice from Neil White, purchasing category manager of hi-fi and AV at Richer Sounds, to find the nine best options for all budgets and tastes. BEST OVERALL RECORD PLAYER: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon (Sonos Edition Walnut)BEST RECORD PLAYER UNDER £400: TEAC TN-280BTBEST RECORD PLAYER UNDER £200: Marley House of Marley Stir It Up Record PlayerBEST BUDGET RECORD PLAYER: AT-LP60XBT Full Automatic Wireless Belt-Drive Turntable BEST WIRED RECORD PLAYER: Rega Planar 2 Turntable BEST BELT DRIVE RECORD PLAYER: Fluance High Fidelity Vinyl TurntableBEST PLUG-AND-PLAY RECORD PLAYER: Project Juke Box E All-in-One Plug & Play Turntable WhiteBEST BASIC RECORD PLAYER: DENON DP-29F Belt Drive Turntable - SilverBEST RECORD PLAYER FOR AT-HOME DJs: Technics SL-1500C Premium Direct Drive Turntable, SilverSo what’s White’s top tip to picking the best player? He reckons the most important thing you need to pay attention to is the build quality, making sure you get something that has a “weighty platter and a solid tonearm, which will reduce any unwanted vibrations, giving improved sound quality”.But what else do you need to think about? Check out our full guide below.Belt Drive v Direct DriveYou've got two options when it comes to how you spin your records. The most common choice is the belt drive turntable which has a small rubber belt powered by a motor to put the music in motion– made for fire-and-forget musicians.Often more affordable, they offer decent audio quality with minimal rumbling vibrations to distort your songs. However, you can’t tinker around with the record and scratch your tunes as you’ll damage the motor. RELATED: The Esquire Guide to the Best Headphones of 2021Direct drives have a motor directly under the platter, which can pose problems for minute vibrations, but will always be the choice of DJs, as you can scratch and mix in real-time without damaging the belt. If you’re stuck for choice and you’re not looking to emulate Marshmello, then best stick to the belt drive.Platter material“But what is a platter?” we hear you ask. Well it’s the plate you put the record on and it’s often made of either aluminium or a type of plastic. Take a trip to any vinyl forum online and you’ll find entrenched battle lines over which material is best, but honestly, it doesn’t impact the musical quality that much. White’s advice is to make sure you get a weighty platter to make sure you reduce vibrations, so go for whichever material is most pleasing to you. OutputsYou might have to hook up a different set of speakers to get the music playing, in which case you’ll need a turntable that has the right outputs. Most record players will have a high-quality phono jack in to plug in speakers, and even Bluetooth models will have one just in case you want to go manual.You’ll want a gold-plated phono jack for the best quality, and you might want to also keep an eye out for players with USB ports that let you hook up laptops, PCs, and even smartphones so you can digitally record your vinyls.BluetoothTrue audiophiles will tell you to ignore Bluetooth turntables, as the switch from an analogue signal to digital data can mean you lose some sound quality.RELATED: 11 Best True Wireless Earphones in 2021However, the advances in modern tech means this drop isn’t as impactful as it once was. In fact, you’d have to have a top-spec set of speakers and a trained ear to hear the difference. Many Bluetooth models use what’s called aptX transfer, which has the same sound quality as a CD. High-end turntables will have aptX HD which increases the quality even further.RPMIt used to be that 78RPM (rotations per minute) was the standard, and all records were developed to play at this speed. Modern records (basically anything released since the ‘40s) all run at either 45 or 33 ⅓ RPM, so all you'll need is a turntable that can play across the three speeds, particularly if you've got a few old records. RELATED: The Esquire Expert Guide to the Best Smart Speakers of 2021Some turntables also have an adjustable pitch-shift slider, but like direct drive, this is more a DJ tool used to get two records playing at exactly the same tempo.StylusThe stylus is important for getting the best quality out of your music. It sits on the record and, by reading the ridges and grooves, converts physical data into sound. The best record players are useless if you've got a crappy stylus (think of it like putting tractor tyres on a Ferrari), whereas even cheap turntables can be improved with decent needles. They're typically made from diamond or sapphire, and are either spherical or elliptical. The former are cheaper, but don't offer the accuracy or sound quality of an elliptical.Manual vs AutomaticSome of the turntables on this list will do a lot of the work for you, automatically lowering the tonearm and playing your record with a press of a button. If you like to play around with records though, you can get a manual option, which will require your gentle touch to lower the arm and adjust the speed. None of the below can flip the record, though.SpeakersThe beauty of Bluetooth turntables is they'll play nice with any Bluetooth speaker, which means you don't need to worry too much about things like amps, pre-amps or line signals. For the rest, a turntable with a built in pre-amp can be plugged directly into speakers, otherwise you'll need a dedicated amplifier to boost the sound so it plays loud enough. Some record players have speakers built in, but these are often tinny little things that destroy all the sound quality gains you're getting from playing vinyl.Best Record Players 2021

Want to get the most out of your music collection? While Jeff Bezos would probably try to convince you to pick up a high-tech stereo system to fund his next adventure into space, we recommend opting for a record player instead. A top tier one, mind, that looks and sounds so good that even Keith Richards would think twice about smashing it up. That's where we come in.

Speak to any audiophile and they’ll probably chew your ear off talking about the advantages of needles and plates over modern smart speakers, but before you raid your mum’s kitchen for her finest china and try to spin an LP on them, take a second to read up on what all the terminology actually means below. RELATED: The 10 Best Projectors for Live Sports, Movies And GamingWhether you’re a veteran at-home disc jockey or just dipping your toes into the scene, we’re here to help you get the best set up. We’ve researched all the top turntables, and got some killer advice from Neil White, purchasing category manager of hi-fi and AV at Richer Sounds, to find the nine best options for all budgets and tastes.

So what’s White’s top tip to picking the best player? He reckons the most important thing you need to pay attention to is the build quality, making sure you get something that has a “weighty platter and a solid tonearm, which will reduce any unwanted vibrations, giving improved sound quality”.

But what else do you need to think about? Check out our full guide below.

Belt Drive v Direct Drive

You've got two options when it comes to how you spin your records. The most common choice is the belt drive turntable which has a small rubber belt powered by a motor to put the music in motion– made for fire-and-forget musicians.

Often more affordable, they offer decent audio quality with minimal rumbling vibrations to distort your songs. However, you can’t tinker around with the record and scratch your tunes as you’ll damage the motor.

RELATED: The Esquire Guide to the Best Headphones of 2021

Direct drives have a motor directly under the platter, which can pose problems for minute vibrations, but will always be the choice of DJs, as you can scratch and mix in real-time without damaging the belt. If you’re stuck for choice and you’re not looking to emulate Marshmello, then best stick to the belt drive.

Platter material

“But what is a platter?” we hear you ask. Well it’s the plate you put the record on and it’s often made of either aluminium or a type of plastic. Take a trip to any vinyl forum online and you’ll find entrenched battle lines over which material is best, but honestly, it doesn’t impact the musical quality that much. White’s advice is to make sure you get a weighty platter to make sure you reduce vibrations, so go for whichever material is most pleasing to you.

Outputs

You might have to hook up a different set of speakers to get the music playing, in which case you’ll need a turntable that has the right outputs. Most record players will have a high-quality phono jack in to plug in speakers, and even Bluetooth models will have one just in case you want to go manual.

You’ll want a gold-plated phono jack for the best quality, and you might want to also keep an eye out for players with USB ports that let you hook up laptops, PCs, and even smartphones so you can digitally record your vinyls.

Bluetooth

True audiophiles will tell you to ignore Bluetooth turntables, as the switch from an analogue signal to digital data can mean you lose some sound quality.

RELATED: 11 Best True Wireless Earphones in 2021

However, the advances in modern tech means this drop isn’t as impactful as it once was. In fact, you’d have to have a top-spec set of speakers and a trained ear to hear the difference. Many Bluetooth models use what’s called aptX transfer, which has the same sound quality as a CD. High-end turntables will have aptX HD which increases the quality even further.

RPM

It used to be that 78RPM (rotations per minute) was the standard, and all records were developed to play at this speed. Modern records (basically anything released since the ‘40s) all run at either 45 or 33 ⅓ RPM, so all you'll need is a turntable that can play across the three speeds, particularly if you've got a few old records.

RELATED: The Esquire Expert Guide to the Best Smart Speakers of 2021

Some turntables also have an adjustable pitch-shift slider, but like direct drive, this is more a DJ tool used to get two records playing at exactly the same tempo.

Stylus

The stylus is important for getting the best quality out of your music. It sits on the record and, by reading the ridges and grooves, converts physical data into sound. The best record players are useless if you've got a crappy stylus (think of it like putting tractor tyres on a Ferrari), whereas even cheap turntables can be improved with decent needles.

They're typically made from diamond or sapphire, and are either spherical or elliptical. The former are cheaper, but don't offer the accuracy or sound quality of an elliptical.

Manual vs Automatic

Some of the turntables on this list will do a lot of the work for you, automatically lowering the tonearm and playing your record with a press of a button. If you like to play around with records though, you can get a manual option, which will require your gentle touch to lower the arm and adjust the speed. None of the below can flip the record, though.

Speakers

The beauty of Bluetooth turntables is they'll play nice with any Bluetooth speaker, which means you don't need to worry too much about things like amps, pre-amps or line signals. For the rest, a turntable with a built in pre-amp can be plugged directly into speakers, otherwise you'll need a dedicated amplifier to boost the sound so it plays loud enough.

Some record players have speakers built in, but these are often tinny little things that destroy all the sound quality gains you're getting from playing vinyl.

Best Record Players 2021

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