You are probably here because of one thing and that is your love for that warm, crisp and classic tones that only vintage turntables could offer.
One of the problems that might have hindered you in buying one all these years would be the cost of vintage turntables. Of course, as part of sound recording history, it has made its mark on people and the world because of its signature sound and the eternal love we have for LPs and Eps.
Well, consider this day as one of your luckiest because in this article, we will give you a rundown of the best vintage turntables. Yes, you read that right.
Finally, you don’t need to rip your wallet apart for that most coveted classic tone from turntables. Without much ado, let us have a sift through of the best vintage record players.
4 Best vintage turntables
So what are the best vintage turntables that are out there? It is hard to choose but you can consider the following. They are listed here because of two important things: level of upgrade and functionality. Here are the best vintage record players to help you in your pick and match.
1. Denon DP-400
This turntable is probably one of the few with a consistent top notch review wherever you look. It is considered as one of the best belt-drive turntables at present.
First off, you will be attracted with its slim and sleek design for any house aesthetic. It has S-shape type tonearm and a compact HiFi system which really gives high grade sound quality.
It is made of die-cast aluminum with a weighted platter to achieve that anti-resonance technology for accurate sounds.
Most important of all, it is semi-automatic with a lever that you could lift for the tonearm to move and an auto-stop button that will automatically lift the tonearm after the record is played and will not continue to spin after the record. This helps in preserving your cartridge and in not damaging your record.
- Removable dust cover which also acts as a cover holder and helps in eliminating unwanted vibrations.
- It is built with die-cast aluminum and comes with an isolated, weighted platter to achieve an anti-resonance feature.
- It comes with S-shape type tonearm for that classic, HiFi sound quality.
- Semi-automatic and belt-driven.
- Built-in pre-amp and double speed control with speed sensors (at 33 and 45)
- Modern and sleek design.
- Not that portable because it was built for anti-resonance listening, playback and recording.
- May not appeal for people who are looking for a vintage turntable design.
2. Victrola Navigator
If you are looking for a turntable that looks like a cutout from the 1950s, this is probably it. From the needle to its dust cover, everything is vintage but the build is essentially modern.
First off, it has a built-in cassette player, CD player and stereo speakers. Furthermore, it is built for greater connectivity with its Bluetooth capacity. This allows you to play or stream music up to 33 feet in distance. It also comes with a free 3.5mm AUX for non-Bluetooth devices.
Aside from this, it could also play three speeds (at 33, 45 and 78 RPM) to play various LP and EP formats. Recording using this has also become modernized as it is able to support Mp3 formats and automatic conversion to digital music formats. With its remote control, it truly embodies its 8-in-1 quality as it could play both vintage and modern vinyl formats.
- Built is made of solid wood.
- With its 8-in-1 feature, you could play digital and old formats all at the same time.
- It supports modern recording systems (i.e. from vinyl to CDs).
- Bridges the old and the new with its built-in cassette tape, AM/FM listening and Bluetooth, wireless connectivity and unlimited music streaming.
- Built-in pre-amp is decent.
- Sound quality is commendable.
- Problems with the light tonearm. Reports of record skipping have been rampant.
- Remote control does not really have a power button so switching on and off is done manually.
3. Fluance RT81 Elite
What they say is true; this one both looks and sounds good. Perhaps one of the reasons why is its diamond stylus which makes the grooving perfect and at a HiFi quality.
It also lessens the chances of track skipping and cartridge damage. And speaking of cartridge, it uses the AT81, a double magnetic cartridge that is making a run right now in the modern turntable cartridge game.
It also has a commendable built-in pre-amp which allows you to directly plug-in the turntable to the amplifier which is good and practical because you will not need external devices to make the volume better.
Its tonearm and platter are all built with die-cast aluminum for anti-resonance and to eliminate unwanted vibrations. It also comes with isolated, aluminum feet for more stability and crisp sounds. Moreover, it is a two-speed belt-drive turntable which can play at 33 and 45 RPM.
- Good sound quality and design at a reasonable price.
- Belt-driven with two-speed controls.
- Features the AT81 double magnet moving cartridge.
- Stability is commendable with all of its anti-resonance features from tonearm, platter and more.
- Upgradeable cartridge and external features.
- Cannot sustain sound quality at fast speeds.
- Cannot sustain fast speed at extended lengths in terms of playing and recording.
The most notable feature that this turntable is proud of would be its commendable built-in two-front speakers.
The built-in speaker has been a recurring issue for budget models but you can depend on this one for that.
It has a sleek, wooden finish and a dependable front panel controls for recording and playback. Other than this, it also plays on three-speeds and comes with a 45RPM adaptor for all vinyl types to be accommodated.
Perhaps its most functional specification would be its ability to connect to newer forms of music and sound platforms through its USB port. You can also record directly and convert vinyl to Mp3 formats.
- Vintage looking with modern set-up.
- Convenient to use with three-speed controls.
- Two-front speakers are decent and controls in the front panel are easy to use.
- Supports digital music formats and could auto-convert LP and EP records to Mp3 formats.
- External speakers may still be needed.
- Had reported incidences of skipping tracks when the speed is at 45RPM.
The winning product and why
Of course, we also need to weigh our list and for this round, we are giving it to the Victrola Navigator. We based this verdict on two things: practicality and the purposive functionality.
In terms of practicality, we think that we could get more than what we pay for because first off, it has the classic sound quality of a vintage turntable but with modern set-up and functions. With this alone, it already deserves the win.
Second is its purposive functionality. It has practically been observant with the call of the times and as such, enhanced features in terms of stability and anti-resonance for its immanent recording and playback feature and of course better connectivity and portability through the Bluetooth system.
How to buy a vintage vinyl turntable?
Since we are done looking at the best vintage turntable, it is time to elaborate some things specifically some key points to consider before actually buying one.
Buying guides are important because sometimes, we get easily attracted to certain specifications without actually having a working knowledge if this is a good investment or not. We will breakdown these considerations with five basic items on a turntable checklist namely, price, materials used, drive type, cartridges and tonearms.
Of course, the first consideration should always be the price. At normal ranges, a high-end turntable would cost from $700-1500. Since not all vinyl hobbyists could afford that, budget models of turntables are now on the rise.
It may not be that cheap but it sure is reasonable. These types of models would range from $100-650. But then again, not all budget models would live up to their price and so, you must be aware of the most reputable budget models available for you to take advantage of their comparably cheaper price.
This is the reason why we are featuring the best vintage turntable so that you could have an idea of what to look for in budget models other than the price.
If you’re looking for other turntables in the price range, check out the models below:
- Best turntables under $100- Cheap turntables
- Best turntables under $200
- Best turntables under $500
- Best turntables under $1000
In so far as materials are concerned, here are some of the green flags that you should look for: magnetic and moving cartridges, diamond stylus, stable tonearms, die-cast aluminum built and weighted or isolated platters.
At best, these are the features that you need to be secured of because these are basically the heart and soul of the turntable.
If you mess with this, then there’s no other way but to buy again. And of course, you will be shelling out more than what you should shell out. But it does not stop with the presence of these materials.
You must also look for other convincing specifications that would prove that these materials fit and are appropriate for the turntable.
The compact designs of modern turntables may easily lure us to go for them right away if the price is right, but this consideration should be at the core of your decision making and deserves much of your attention.
#3. Drive type
There are only two types of drives for turntables: the belt and the direct. A belt-drive turntable as the name implies produce sound through the belt that is attached to the motor, cartridge and stylus.
On the other hand, the direct drive has a motor that is directly located below the platter. This makes the turntable speed up automatically without resistance.
Newbie hobbyists and DJs give more preference to belt drive because with it you will really learn spinning, recording and mixing techniques. But for greater convenience, portability and laid-back listening, the direct-drive is more preferred.
At present, studio recordings and on-tour DJs would give preference to direct-drive because they are mostly compact, lightweight and the portability is really a great edge for this type of drive. For this consideration, your need for a turntable is determined by answering the question, for what purpose do you need it?
There are also two types of cartridges: the moving magnet and the moving coil. The cartridge is the one that holds the stylus and its maintenance is directly associated with the maintenance of the stylus too.
The most prominent cartridge is of course the MM or the moving magnet. As a matter of fact, you will no longer hear moving coils for budget model turntables. Cartridges are important parts of the turntables and some modern budget models would even have upgradeable ones.
One of the most prominent cartridges at the moment would be the Audio Technica series or the AT series. They are all MM upgradable cartridges and are known for their double moving magnet type. The benefit of MM cartridges would be more HiFi sound quality which is a big plus for turntables.
There are two types of tonearms used today: the straight tonearm and the S-shaped tonearm. One of the stark differences between the two would be their weight.
The S-shaped tonearm with its accompanying head shell is heavier than the straight tonearm. This is the reason why these times it is more preferred because it adds to the built-in stability of the turntable.
Although equally commendable, the straight tonearm is light and may be prone to record skipping or track skating.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do vintage turntables sound better?
Not necessarily. If this question was asked ten to fifteen years ago, the answer would be a clear yes. But with all the upgrades that have been introduced to modern turntables lately, it may not necessarily be the case.
Modern budget level turntables are upgradeable and recent innovations to them have been focusing on sound accuracy and how to achieve the crisp, classic and warm tones of traditional vinyl. The fact that we are talking about their efficiency in that field would mean that it does not mean that way.
Why buy vintage turntable?
The answer is already given in the previous section and this may be quite subjective but we think that some people invest in turntables because they need it for their recording and DJ jobs and also because they genuinely love the unique sound quality that only vintage turntables could give.
And in terms it being a good investment, we think that we get more than what we pay them for because it just feels better and classier when LPs and EPs are played in vintage turntables. Plus, they are here to stay. There is no harm in actually buying one.
How much do vintage turntables cost?
We only covered how much high-end and budget models cost but not how much vintage turntables amount to.
The first question here however is that, are we talking about vintage turntables or just vintage designed turntables.
Vintage turntables that can no longer be used may still be bought and auctioned in a price range between $50-300 depending if its still working.
If you are looking for vintage designed turntables though, you may just refer to the breakdown we have presented at the previous sections of this article.
Why are vintage turntables still available in the market?
This is the perfect question to summarize everything that we talked about here. The most immanent reason is of course, there is still a growing demand for it.
As time progressed, this demand for it increased because there is a craving for the original tones of vinyl that only turntables could create. So instead of phasing out the vinyl, the market had to update turntables by fusing in the vintage and the modern.
Now, we can have vintage turntables with features such as Bluetooth, Mp3 and other digital formats. Another reason for their ever presence is that, there is an industry, and a multi-billion one for that matter, that it supports.
In conclusion, choosing the best vintage turntable is not a one way street. It does not happen on an I-want-it-I’ll-buy-it basis. You need to make time to start from scratch and be knowledgeable at least to some specific considerations before you plunge deep into the vinyl virus that they talk about.
Making up your mind is also as startling as it could get. You will be faced with a lot of budget models to choose from and everything is better than the last. If such a dilemma happens, you have to go back to your self-talk about why you persevered to buy one in the first place.
When all things are considered, then you are now ready to buy one.
So you see, budget models of turntables are raved over because they perform beyond our expectations of them. If the nagging need to buy comes any moment now, do not forget the pointers you found here.