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Best Turntables For People New To The World Of Playing Records

For new vinyl collectors, scouting for record players can seem a little intimidating thanks to all the different choices that are available. This is because the gear that playing records require (preamps, amps, receivers) can make it seem like an expensive, overly complicated hobby. But that’s not true at all, New York Magazine spoke with six experts — including DJs, record-store owners, and general vinyl geeks — on the best turntables for people new to the world of playing records.

The turntables below are best suited for those new to playing vinyl, but not necessarily entry-level, because even the least expensive of the lot contains quality parts and will last for some time with regular care. Most models on this list contain a built-in preamp, as the experts have said that such turntables are the easiest and most straightforward to use. Check out the list below.

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1. Audio-Technica LP 120

The Audio-Technica LP 120 is a popular one with half of the experts citing it by name. It’s modeled after what is probably the most iconic turntable of all time. The discontinued Technics 1200. Mark Steinberg, the chief technologist, and turntable specialist at B&H Photo and Video, stated that he’d recommend the LP 120 to any customer. Especially to those newer vinyl collectors who want something a little nicer to play their records on. According to Steinberg, the player’s key feature is the magnet-powered “direct drive,” which is usually only found in professional-grade turntables or other, more expensive units. Unlike turntables with a “belt drive” (a motor powered by replaceable belts that wear down with use and may need to be swapped depending on the type of record you play), a direct drive will rarely, if ever, need service, explains Prestige. It can handle records of all sizes without any fiddling under the hood. It has a built-in preamp, so the only other thing you need to use it is a powered speaker, and it features a USB output that allows you to connect it to your computer in case you want to archive your vinyl. at just over $200, the LP 120 is the best bang for your buck.

Head here for more info and to buy the Audio Technica LP 120.

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2. Audio-Technica AT-LP60X-BK Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Stereo Turntable

Steinberg states that this lower-priced Audio Technica model, which features a belt-drive, is the first one he shows people. He describes it as the bread-and-butter piece for most people. Adding that he thinks of it as “an entry-level serious turntable. It’s not a toy. It’s not going to damage your records.” The $99 model also has a built-in preamp.

Unlike the LP 120 and most of the other record players on this list, the LP 60 does not feature a replaceable cartridge (the part of the turntable that holds the needle), which means you won’t be able to upgrade that part if you get more serious about your hobby down the line. Steinberg emphasizes that this is “fully automatic,” meaning the push of a button moves the tonearm in place to start the record and that the arm lifts off on its own at the end. This feature could be great if you’re new to vinyl and want to make things a little easier, but purists will likely prefer the feel and ritual of manual operation.

Head here for more info and to buy the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X-BK Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Stereo Turntable.

3. Sony PSLX300USB Fully Automatic USB Stereo Turntable

Music journalist Jessica Lipsky suggests this Sony belt-drive turntable for record collectors starting out. She says she received one ten years ago and still uses it. “I’ve stuck with this because it’s simple,” she says. It comes with a handy dust cover and it’s easy to plug into any system you want in the future. Steinberg also recommends it, saying it’s one of his favorites for the price because Sony is a trustworthy brand and this model is so straightforward. Like the LP 60, it’s also fully automatic, but unlike that model, this one comes with a USB output at no extra cost.

Head here for more info and to buy the Sony PSLX300USB Fully Automatic USB Stereo Turntable.

4. Music Hall mmf-1.3 Stereo Turntable

If you’re in the market looking for something a little sleeker, this minimalist Music Hall turntable is recommended by Steinberg. The brand’s roots are in the audiophile-grade market. Music Hall’s entry-level model is very well regarded. “This would be a great place to start if you’re looking for something more serious,” Steinberg says, noting that a lot of people love Music Hall for its more “stripped down” and “bare bones” approach. This turntable is powered by a belt-drive, includes a built-in preamp, and can play 78s, while most belt-driven turntables (including all the others on this list) can only handle 33s and 45s. “For a better turntable, that’s a rarity,” explains Steinberg.

Head here for more info and to buy the Music Hall mmf-1.3 Stereo Turntable.

5. Audio-Technica AT-LP3 Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Stereo Turntable

Steinberg recommends this Audio-Technica model as a more stylish version of the brand’s LP 60 or LP 120. While it does have a cover, it’s less technical-looking than its sister turntables but still includes a built-in preamp. The LP3, however, does not feature USB or Bluetooth connectivity.

Head here for more info and to buy the Audio-Technica AT-LP3 Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Stereo Turntable.

6. Pro-Ject Audio Systems Essential III Turntable

Pro-Ject “pretty much only makes turntables,” says Steinberg, who notes that many of its models are priced “in the thousands,” making something like this a great choice for someone who wants to get into the higher-end market. Pro-Ject turntables are known for their minimalist build, streamlined look, and high-quality materials like a cartridge made by Ortofon, a company that Steinberg says “has a long history” of producing audiophile-approved components. Listeners who are more particular about their sound systems may prefer it to others on this list because it does not come with a preamp built-in, giving them more flexibility when it comes to the sound system they hook this turntable up to. Nor does this have USB or Bluetooth, which vinyl purists may also appreciate.

Head here for more info and to buy the Pro-Ject Audio Systems Essential III Turntable.

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7. Technics SL-1200MK7 Direct Drive Turntable System

As all six experts noted that the discontinued Technics 1200 is something of an icon in the turntable world. Eilon Paz — a photographer and the author of Dust and Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting — agrees, calling the Technics 1200 a “workhorse.” After it was discontinued, there was a big outcry in the record-collecting community. The above model — which is only available for preorder right now — is Technics’ answer. It features slightly updated parts than those in the original 1200, but not too many changes, according to our experts (none of whom have tried it out due to its limited availability before officially debuting). Like other high-end turntables, this one doesn’t have a built-in preamp.

Head here for more info and to pre-order the Technics SL-1200MK7 Direct Drive Turntable System.

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