Turntables and are coming back in style—that much is apparent by now. Those who were involved with vinyl for a while are probably sitting on the sidelines and observing the newly interested masses as they scour the market for modern turntables.
I’m sure they’re giggling to themselves while doing so. Or maybe shaking their heads.
What most newcomers don’t even consider is the fact that many in the vinyl community not only love vintage turntables, it’s all they use. From the reliability they possess to the sound quality to the strong build and construction, longtime listeners of vinyl absolutely adore their vintage gear.
And today, that’s exactly what we’re going to discuss in detail. Whether you’re a beginner or a vinyl veteran, this article will recommend you ten vintage turntable brands that are worthy of your consideration. We’ll then further go into detail about some vintage record player models you can attempt to track down online if you’re really interested in acquiring them.
And below, please take a look at some very popular modern turntables and then see how well they compare to some of the vintage greats we will discuss today!
|Technics SL-1210Mk5||$$$||4.3/5||Adjustable Stop Break|
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC||$$||4.5/5||8.6" Carbon Tonearm|
|Audio-Technica AT-LP120USB||$$||4.5/5||USB Direct Drive|
|Thorens TD 190-2||$$$||3.0/5||Fully Automatic Turntable|
|U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus||$$||4.6/5||Machined Acrylic Platter|
|Rega RP1||$$||3.7/5||Rega Carbon MM Cartridge|
|Pro-Ject Essential II||$$||3.8/5||Low-resonance MDF Platter|
|TEAC TN-300||$$||4.0/5||USB Audio Output, Phono Pre-Amp|
And also, we discussed vintage turntables in a previous article you can read entitled Vintage or New Record Players: Which is Better?
Why a Vintage Record Player?
To be fair, new technology is attractive in a number of ways. First and foremost, you are getting something that was made recently and features all the latest and greatest tech available.
However, the core performance of a new turntable can be costly.
Used record players are more than capable of delivering that same performance, if not a better one, for a much cheaper price. They are tried and true machines, often made with better materials, and therefore can (though not always) allow your record to sound better due to its superior production.
With that said, it’s important to know that getting a vintage turntable isn’t all rainbows and lollipops. Vintage gear means old gear. And old gear means the possibility of said gear breaking down. And, if that happens, it could either be expensive to replace certain parts or perhaps almost impossible to find the part you’re looking for because, well, the turntable has been discontinued for decades.
So, like anything in life, there are tons of positives and negatives. If you’re really excited about a vintage table, don’t let that discourage you from tracking one down. Just know what you’re getting into.
As a helpful comparison to vintage turntables, please take a moment to view some of the best-selling modern record players currently available on Amazon:
- Jensen JTA-230
- Audio-Technica AT-LP60
- 1byone 3-Speed Turntable
- Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB
- Denon DP-300F
10 Great Vintage Turntable Brands
Every industry is filled with a large number of brands, each of them competing to achieve market dominance. During that time, some completely fade out of existence while others reach a level that secures them an everlasting reputation.
That is also the case when it comes to record players. So below, check out these 10 brands that we think made excellent, vintage record players. We will be discussing all of these brands, and one or two special turntable models from each brand, all throughout this article.
- Linn Products
- Acoustic Research
For the most part, Linn Products from Glasgow did their best to keep up with the current heavy hitters they were competing with. The real turnaround happened when they designed the legendary Linn Sondek LP12.
The importance of this particular model comes from its unique chassis design. They’ve created a single bearing suspended sub-chassis that simply offered a better performance than what the competition had to offer. This bearing was very precisely machined, essentially delivering super smooth operation.
That’s the technical side of the LP12. The practical one is much more important here. People quickly recognized the quality of this record player, which made it popular basically overnight. Today, LP12 is still going strong and is favored among audiophiles around the world.
The main appeal comes from the fact that you can get one of these for about $700-$800 in its basic configuration. However, this is only the beginning. You see, LP12 has impressive upgrade potential, meaning that you can spend thousands of dollars by getting better power supplies, tone arms and other components. It’s the Miata of record players.
Acoustic Research was one of the brands that was always planning their next move. If you wanted to see some of the most advanced technologies in the record industry, all you had to do was knock on AR’s doors and see what was cooking at the moment.
Their XA/XB line of turntables was impressive, to say the least.
In terms of sound quality and customization, both the XA and XB stack rather poorly against the LP12, but that is because they were made some 10 years before the LP12 was even in the works. With that in mind, both of these turntables represent a valuable piece of history that can still give you hours of great listening experience. Depending on what you find at any given moment, you can expect to drop anywhere from $300 to $1000 on one of these models in good condition.
Here’s another legendary name that is still around today. Thorens is a Swiss-based turntable manufacturer that has always delivered models that featured impressive build quality and performance. You could pretty much single out any component on any of their record players and you would see a finely engineered and machined piece of gear.
Among the most interesting models is Thorens TD-124. This is a belt driven unit that was first launched in the mid-’50s. The way Thorens designed the belt drive is exactly what gives this turntable the high definition it is known for. Lots of torque being linked to a very heavy platter certainly allows the TD-124 to get you an impressive level of performance.
These are a bit outdated today, but are still more than capable of keeping up with the younger models. If you’d like to have this vintage icon, be prepared to drop north of $1000 for a decent one.
When the whole debate about direct drive vs belt drive was happening, the industry became polarized. Both sides had strong arguments, but the belt drive crew was slowly taking the lead.
That is until Technics walked onto the scene with their SP-10 and just laid down the law. We are talking about pure engineering excellence delivered in a somewhat unattractive format, which didn’t really matter at the time.
What did matter was that their direct drive system was hard to counter even by the best belt-driven models of that time. It didn’t take Technics too long to become a name every audiophile had to learn.
A decent SP-10 will cost you north of $2000, which is an arm and a leg compared to most other models on this list, and most new ones.
With this name, we are already entering the classic territory of timeless turntable designs and high dollar collector pieces. This company opened its doors back in 1915 and closed them in 1992. While they were in business, they’ve managed to create one of the most iconic record players known today.
We’re talking about the famous Garrard 301/401.
These two designations represent two models which were nearly identical. At the time, these were the epitome of elite Hi-Fi, which is why they are still in high demand today. The cost? Let’s just say you are going to be very lucky if you find a decent one under $5000.
You can’t have a Hi-Fi list without having at least one Japanese brand on it. Sansui was the go-to manufacturer of turntables in that part of the world, showing us what Japanese engineering is all about long before some other brands inherited that duty. Sansui’s specialty was direct drive turntables that were both precise and organic in their performance.
One of the notable models that come to mind is the Sansui SR-838, as it defined everything this company was about. These were, and still are, some of the finest direct drive units you can get.
Good luck with tracking one down, though. An SR-838 is a unicorn even for those who are well connected. Used markets are only rarely graced with one of these models, and the prices are volatile.
Any audiophile will tell you that if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck, Rega is the brand you want to check out first. That unwritten rule applies both to their modern products as well as their vintage stuff.
When it comes to worthy vintage models, the Planar 3 is a perfect example. It wasn’t the best performing turntable on the market then, and it definitely isn’t one now. However, the type of performance it did offer was a steal considering its price.
Even today, you can get this classic for around $600.
This German Hi-Fi manufacturer was building various audio devices since 1907, and they are still doing so today. When you wanted to get the most precise and clinical turntables, Dual was the brand to go to.
Dual 1229 is among the most popular models this brand had to offer, and it’s still in high demand despite it being rather old by most standards. You can get one of these for $400 or so in good working order.
For most people who ever stepped into the world of audio in any way, shape or form, Kenwood is no stranger. This company is still one of the leading authorities in the industry, covering a whole variety of audio equipment.
However, long before they were producing awesome 1000 Watt monoblock amps, they were making equally as awesome turntables. L-07D is one such model that deserves a lot of praise.
The performance it had to offer is still capable of going against some of the modern giants with ease. Direct drive, combined with a triple layer platter, are just two features you can count on seeing on of these. L-07D is so popular that you will have to set aside at least $2000 for a decent one.
Marantz Tt 1000
Marantz is the last brand on our list, but definitely not the least popular. They’ve created some of the most iconic turntables we had the fortune of dealing with, and Marantz Tt 1000 comes to mind as one of the most important. This was a direct drive unit that was in production from about 1980 to 1990.
Even to this day, it’s one of the most wanted vintage turntables. This is especially true for the older units. If you want to get a well kept Marantz Tt 1000, that experience will cost you about $4000.
And that’s only if you’re lucky enough to track one down.
Getting a vintage turntable can be a fun, the prices can be fickle. Depending on the vintage record player brand you select, and the model you choose, you can find yourself spending well within your budget or far, far over it.
But if you get the right vintage turntable, and it’s in good condition, you might just find that it enhances your vinyl listening experience ten-fold due to the quality manufacturing of yesteryear.
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