12 Vintage Turntable Brands Worth Your Money
Turntables and vinyl records have been back en vogue for a while now, but that doesn’t mean that you’re limited to only buying new record players. So in this article, I’m going to break down the top vintage turntable brands that you should be most aware of, and we’ll also cover some of the top individual old school turntable models capable of competing with the absolute best modern day record players on the market.
And for those that missed it, we discussed vintage turntables in a previous article, which you can read here: Vintage or New Record Players: Which is Better?
12 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. So let’s find out which turntable brands and models from the 1970s and 1980s are still worth owning today.
Best Vintage Turntable Brands
Today, we will be discussing the following vintage brands (and one or two special turntable models from each manufacturer):
- Linn Products
- Acoustic Research
Now for those looking for vintage Pioneer turntables, you’re going to have a lot of great options. The only problem you might run into is that some of them are quite rare, as they were Japan exclusives when they came out in the 1970s to 1980s.
For example, if you’re looking for an excellent linear tracking turntable by Pioneer, you can’t go wrong with something like the Pioneer PL-1000. The linear tracking capability allows for far more accurate tracking than offset tonearms. In short, you’re now not going to have to deal with horrid tracking errors, or hearing your wonderfully mastered record sound audibly distorted.
Beyond the fact that you’re getting an excellent turntable in the PL-1000, it also just looks cool. These days, with vinyl coming back en vogue and everyone and the mother making cheap record players (like Crosley or Victrola), there’s something impressive (and borderline futuristic) about seeing a tonearm that tracks the groove via sliding horizontally across an embedded tracking system—almost like a train inside a subway station.
It’s really a marvel to see, and best of all, it’ll probably provide some of the best sound you’ve ever heard.
If you want a few other suggestions, no worries—I have you covered. First, for those that don’t want to spend too much money (only a couple hundred dollars, for example), I suggest you look into the Pioneer PL-12D. This turntable comes with a thick, beautiful wooden chassis that will help dampen unwanted vibrations coming up through the floor and into your turntable.
On top that, this is also an automatic record player, so if you want to take a bathroom break without pausing the amazing concert you have blasting in your living room, you can easily walk away with no fear that the motor will endlessly spin its wheels once the record finishes playing side A.
And finally, we arrive at the Pioneer P3a—an absolute beast of a turntable. This thing dates back to the early 1980s and is just a behemoth beauty of a turntable. It was also a turntable that was exclusive to Japan at the time, thus making it hard to find (and if you do find one, be prepared to pay up, as this vintage Pioneer record player is valued between $3,000 and $8,000).
On this turntable, you get a linear torque motor along with quartz PLL control. This direct drive turntable is probably one of the thickest you’ll ever see, so you can play your records free of worry that the stylus tracking of the groove will be interrupted by footfall traffic from kids or pets.
Best Pioneer Turntable Alternatives
If you’re unable to find the right vintage deck from Pioneer that suits your needs, I suggest you try these modern Pioneer turntables for sale at very reasonable prices:
Now while there are some great vintage Denon turntables on the market, it’s true that the labeling of their turntable models can be a bit confusing.
For example, one Denon turntable may end with the letter “M” at the of its model number, while another may end with “L” or “F.” So why is that? Well, let’s break it down.
A Denon model number that ends in “M” means it’s a manual turntable. A Denon model number that ends “F” means it’s going to be fully automatic. And a Denon model that ends in “L” means that’s is essentially a semi automatic player (the “L” stands for automatic arm lift).
So, what that means is that if you buy a turntable like the Denon DP-67L, put a record on, and press the green “33 RPM” button, the tonearm will lift up, move over, and place the stylus into the groove automatically.
However, once we get to the very end of the record, the tonearm will not automatically go back to its arm rest like a fully automatic record player. Instead, the tonearm will lift up out of the groove and bring the turntable motor to a stop—but you will need to manually move the tonearm back to its arm rest.
In terms of the best vintage Denon record player, you really can’t go wrong with the Denon DP-100. Problem is, you’re probably going to have a very, very hard time finding one. Still, this beauty is arguably the crown jewel of the Denon DP lineup, featuring a split platter design. This quartz controlled turntable had a severely limited run in Japan, which means that for anyone looking for high quality vintage turntables for sale, you’ll have to pay out of the nose (we’re talking thousands upon thousands of dollars) for this particular vintage Denon table.
Best Denon Turntable Alternatives
By contrast, here are a few Denon turntables being made today that I really like and would recommend:
Now oddly enough, if you like vintage Technics turntables, Technics is putting out some really impressive modern models of their legendary turntables.
For example, you can purchase the Technics SL-1200 MK7, which maintains that classic look that the Technics SL-1200 is famous for. But this MK7 model, which first debuted way back in 2019, features a coreless direct drive motor for better torque, and comes with the classic S-Shaped tonearm that the SL-1200 is well known to possess.
On top of that, there’s the beautiful Technics SL-1500C, as well. You get a very similar build and look as the Techics SL-1200, but it appears a bit more refined. It still maintains the classic Technics look that everyone loves, but has a bit of a modern aesthetic or sheen to it, which I really like personally.
The SL-1500C comes in a very attractive silver color, and also comes with the Orotofon 2M Red cartridge. It also comes with an auto start and stop button. Often, this is a feature you see on something like the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X–a record player that’s nice for casuals or beginners. But I love that Technics includes it on this audiophile quality turntable.
What I love about going this modern route is that you’re still getting a beautiful vintage turntable design, but you’re also getting a modern day update that gives you better peace of mind to know that your beloved turntable isn’t one failed part away from being utterly useless due to being either older thus not covered under any valid warranty.
- Technics SP-10
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.
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. And why’s that? Well, for starters, Rega has been around since 1973. In fact, their first Rega Planar turntable came out in 1975, followed soon by the Rega Planar 3 (yes, the Planar 3) in 1976 and the Rega Planar 2 in 1977.
Today, you can still buy Rega Planar turntables because they provide some of the best sound and performance on the market. The modern day Rega Planar 1 offers up a flywheel effect platter to ensure that your records spin at a consistent speed. And the Rega Planar 1 Plus provides you with everything that makes the regular Planar 1 so special, but adds a built-in phono preamp to truly make this turntable easy to use due to its “plug and play” capability.
If you want a vintage turntable brand that’s maintaining the vintage look and performance of old, with excellent modern day parts and technology, there’s a great chance you’re going to be very happy with a Rega Planar turntable.
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.
Best Thorens Turntable Alternatives
If you can’t find any of the vintage Thorens turntables that best fit your needs, here are a couple of modern day Thorens turntables that I like:
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.
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 is the last brand on our list, but definitely not the least popular. Vintage Marantz turntables are 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. If you’re looking for Japanese excellence when it comes to turntables, you’re really going to want to look into the Tt 1000.
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.
Best Marantz Turntable Alternatives
If you can’t find the right vintage Marantz turntable that fits your needs, I highly recommend getting a great modern Marantz record player like the Marantz TT-15S1. It’s a beautiful deck, offers an amazing cartridge (the Virtuoso cartridge), and looks futuristic and sleek with it’s frosted acrylic aesthetic.
If you’re on the fence about it, I encourage you to read my Marantz TT15S1 review.
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.
Getting a vintage turntable can be fun, but the prices can be treacherous. 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 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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