The journey into turntable and vinyl fandom is a slippery slope, and if you started off with what some would consider a “beginner’s turntable”, chances are you’re already looking to upgrade to a better turntable. Many look to find the best new audiophile turntable, and this list is going to break down the top 8 options for this specific subset of turntables.
First, we’ll define what an audiophile turntable is, and go ahead and suggest some for your purchasing pleasure. We’ll be looking at each turntable with these criteria in mind:
- Ease of Use
- Sound Quality
Before we get started, check out our interactive guide below showcasing some of the most popular higher end turntables on the market:
|Marantz TT-15S1||$$$||Solid Plinth Belt-Drive Design|
|Music Hall MMF 1.5||$$||Built-In Phono Preamp|
|Music Hall MMF 2.3||$$||8.6" Carbon Fiber Tonearm|
|Clearaudio Concept Black||$$$||Black Trim|
|Music Hall MMF 5.3SE||$$$||Dynamically Balanced Alloy Platter|
|Music Hall MMF 7.3||$$$||2-speed (33/45 rpm) pulley|
|Pioneer 990||$||Full-Automatic Operation|
|ProJect 1Xpression Carbon Classic||$$$||Low Noise AC Motor|
|ProJect Classic||$$$||Metal/MDF Chassis|
|Project Debut Carbon DC||$$||8.6" Carbon Tonearm|
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB||$$$||Pro-Ject Speed Box Built-in|
|U-Turn Orbit Special||$$||Solid hardwood plinth|
|Audio-Technica AT-LP120USB||$$||USB Direct Drive|
|Audio Technica AT-LP1240-USB||$$||USB Direct Drive/DJ Table|
What is an Audiophile Turntable?
An audiophile is a person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction. For simplicity, we’ll break it down like this. To enjoy a high-fidelity sound experience, you often need the original source music needs to be recorded in a high quality fashion. The recording needs to mastered and pressed, whether CD or vinyl, to very high audio standards.
When you play your recording, you should use a high quality audio system that plays the music cleanly and accurately that is faithful to that original high quality recording. Basically in layman’s terms, you want both high quality process, ingredients and equipment to get the most out of your audio experience.
Over the years, “HiFi” has become more to mean quality audio components that are a couple levels above consumer audio or what you’ll find at a big box retailer.
This can be subjective, but for the purposes of this article, an audiophile turntable is a turntable that is designed to optimize sound quality and sound character of the vinyl record. These turntables are generally a step above in quality and price of the mass-produced, usually plastic bodied turntables. Audiophile turntables are designed to operate as accurately and smoothly as possible.
The platter and motor will spin with minimal to no variation in speed or platter position The technical term for this is reducing wow and flutter. The tonearm will operate with the lowest amount of friction possible and be adjustable to best work with your cartridge. The turntable motor will operate creating a minimal amount of vibrations / resonance.
The turntable will have built-in mechanisms to dampen / absorb unwanted vibrations created by the motor. What is referred to as a “pure” environment allows the needle to pick up the grooves in the record most accurately with minimal outside interference.
Audiophiles prefer their speakers to be on a separate unit to reduce resonance and feedback. If your speakers and turntables are combined or even on the same piece of furniture, the vibration from the speakers will negatively affect sound quality. That’s why many serious sound systems utilize speaker stands or wall mounts. In terms of pricing, audiophile turntables range widely and don’t fit into real world definitions of “cheap” and “expensive.”
Since when is a $400 turntable cheap? In the audiophile world it is. In general terms, entry level turntables range between approximately $300-$500. Mid-range turntables go for approximately $500-$1500. High end audiophile turntables are often assumed to range from $1500 to over $100,000, but this article will point out 8 great audiophile options for under $1000.
Below, take a moment to view some of the best selling turntables on the market, and see how well they stack up to the ones we’ll discuss today.
And now, let’s begin this list with the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Esprit SB.
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is a bestselling entry-level / intermediate audiophile turntable. It features easy setup, quality parts, high quality engineering and Pro-Ject quality. This turntable will sound much better than your typical plastic-based, entry level turntable. The Debut Carbon features a carbon-fiber tonearm with integrated headshell and pre-mounted Ortofon 2M Red cartridge (a very popular cartridge for audiophiles).
The MDF body, or medium density fiberboard, is the same material used in high-end turntables and features a decoupled motor, which is a motor that is connected to the body by a suspension system. All this equates to an environment that produces little resonance / vibration to interfere with your listening experience. The Debut Carbon will deliver consistent and rich sound. Highly recommended.
The DC model is a new upgrade that was released in late 2014 to the already popular Debut Carbon turntable. The DC model features a new DC motor which offers a more stable speed playback and uses less energy when in idle. The motor suspension has also been upgraded using a new TPE construction, or thermo-plastic elastomer, a material found in Pro-Ject’s high-end models. The Esprit SB model adds two additional features.
The Esprit SB features a built-in Speed Box which gives you button control of 33/45rpm playback. The standard metal platter is replaced by the popular Acrylic platter which is known to improve sound quality and aesthetics.
Recognizing the critical role a cartridge plays in reproducing high-fidelity audio from vinyl, AT designed this fully manual, belt-drive turntable around their VM cartridge line, incorporating the finest materials and structures in support of the cartridge’s performance. The AT-LP7 comes with a VM520EB Dual Moving Magnet Cartridge with a 10 g AT-HS10 headshell and 0.3 x 0.7 mil elliptical bonded stylus. That stylus can be replaced with any of the other six styli available in the VM line, giving users an easy means of upgrading the stylus without buying a whole new cartridge.
The headshell attaches to a J-shaped tone arm that takes its inspiration from the classic A-T models of the 1960s and ’70s. The tone arm features a metallic gimbal suspension system and precision bearings to mitigate tracking errors, and includes an adjustable counterweight and anti-skate control. The height of the tone arm can be adjusted from 0 mm to 6 mm to accommodate a wide variety of cartridges.
The turntable chassis is constructed of 40 mm-thick MDF, or medium density fiberboard, an excellent anti-vibration damping material that limits low-frequency acoustical feedback. The anti-resonance platter is made of 20 mm-thick polyoxymethylene and is driven by a sensor-monitored motor that ensures a continuously accurate platter rotation speed of 33-1/3 or 45 RPM.
The AT-LP7 also includes a built-in switchable phono/line preamp for connection to components with or without a dedicated phono input, and a selector switch to designate operation with a moving magnet or moving coil cartridge.
Digitize your favorite vinyl records with the walnut Teac TN-350 Stereo Turntable. Its USB output will allow you to connect it to your compatible Windows or Mac computer to convert the records to digital audio files for storage. The turntable will also connect to nearly any RCA audio input on a receiver or amplifier with its phono/line level switchable audio output.
It includes a stereo RCA cable and 45 rpm adapter for convenient connectivity and playback. The aluminum die-cast platter is driven by a DC motor with neoprene rubber designed to achieve a precise and stable rotation. In addition, the polished stainless steel spindle and bronze spindle holder are engineered for reliable music listening.
The MDF cabinet is designed to minimize unwanted resonance. The TN-350 supports both phono and line outputs, allowing you to play vinyl with or without a phono equalizer. The onboard analog-to-digital converter allows you to transfer music via USB to your computer to digitize your vinyl collection. For enhanced-quality analog signal transfer to your audio system, a pair of gold-plated RCA connectors are employed for connection to either the Line or Phono input of your amplifier.
The gold-plated terminals are designed to prevent oxidation of the head shell connectors and provide an easily customizable platform for those who wish to employ an after-market cartridge.The TN-350 uses an S-shaped tonearm designed to provide increased mass for more accurate tracking. It is coupled to an adjustable anti-skating mechanism and features a manual arm lifter for analog playback. The sound on the TN-350 is no joke.
VPI Cliffwood Turntable
Named after the city that has served as VPI’s manufacturing base for three decades, the Cliffwood turntable exists as both a tribute to made-in-the-USA superiority and proof entry-level high-end analog is still done best without any inferior outsourcing. True to VPI’s storied heritage and simplified to strictly focus on sonics, the plug-and-play Cliffwood exudes value and plays vinyl LPs with engaging, dynamic sound.
It comes complete with a pre-mounted cartridge exclusively designed for Cliffwood by Brooklyn-based Grado Industries. The Grado Green MI complements a nine-inch gimbaled tonearm with a lateral bearing, damped machined-aluminum armtube, and pure copper wiring. Cliffwood’s 1.25-inch-thick non-resonant MDF chassis, hearty aluminum platter, 600RPM motor, and PEEK thrust disc bearing with graphite-impregnated brass bushings further speak to the engineering prowess of a ‘table whose sub-$1k price point strives to bring front-to-back audiophile quality to a much wider audience.
Craftsmanship aside, Cliffwood’s greatest overall achievement is really what matters most. It serves as immediate entry point into the warm, organic, and downright addictive experiences that only come from hi-fi vinyl. If you are looking for an upgrade to any of the sub-$500 turntables on the market, or simply want own a great sounding turntable for under a grand, Cliffwood deserves your attention.
Meet the turntable that plays records and lets you convert tracks to portable, Hi-Res Audio for the authentic sound of vinyl that goes with you. Sit back and enjoy superior quality analog sound or plug it into your PC to digitally capture the music at its best for personal listening on compatible Hi-Res Audio players.
The integrated shell improves durability and stabilizes the cartridge for superior focusing and dimensionality of sound, while its lightweight structure improves traceability. It also supports both phono and line output so you can play through integrated amp or external phono EQ.
Breathe new life into analog masterpieces with Hi-Res audio up to DSD quality. Just hook up the PS-HX500 turntable to your PC via USB, play a record and digitally archive the music from your favorite vinyl recordings in Hi-Res. The HX500’s supplied software lets you use a PC or Mac to conveniently edit tracks from both sides of an album and transfer them in high resolution to a compatible portable player or device for playback-anywhere and anytime.
Overall, the Sony brand is one many people know and love, and this turntable will only feed that adoration.
The DJ quality PLX-1000 direct drive analog turntable is designed for DJs who enjoy the look, feel, and performance of vinyl for music playback. The model offers a highly familiar, user-friendly control layout, high-torque direct drive mechanism, and exceptional audio playback quality.
Combine the PLX-1000 with a Pioneer professional series DJM mixer for an ideal system for true vinyl enthusiasts.The PLX-1000 provides a user friendly layout familiar to top DJs of the past and present, providing quick tempo control capability on the right side of the player, start/stop button on the left side, and a high-torque platter with a lighted speed guide.
The direct drive mechanism of the PLX-1000 provides high-torque resulting in stable rotation and exceptional control. The turntable can achieve a starting torque of at least 4.5kg/cm and can reach its fixed rotation speed within 0.3 seconds at 33 1/3 rpm. To create an extremely stable player and prevent vibration, Pioneer utilized a heavy-mass zinc die-cast chassis for the top section of the player, reinforced with a bottom section made of 8-mm thick resin.
The base of the unit was further enforced with 9-mm thick vibration-damping material that results in extremely stable playback. The tone arm also received great attention in build quality and design to maximize performance, using rubber insulation to minimize howling effects during audio playback. The RCA jacks feature gold-plated machine-cut parts for low impedance for excellent sound quality output.
Part of an improved line that better meets the demands of vinyl enthusiasts and exposes the unique joys of spinning LPs, the budget-priced Music Hall MMF-2.3 turntable is plug-and-play nirvana. This two-speed belt-driven table comes equipped with a preinstalled Music Hall Spirit MM cartridge, a $100 value specially built by the experts at Audio Technica, an upgraded and pre-mounted carbon-fiber tonearm, and separately isolated DC synchronous motor.
Everything about MMF-2.3 – from the rock-solid construction to the high-grade parts – focuses on the critical components responsible for playing music with involving dynamics, absorbing detail, and sought-after analog warmth. Such worry-free simplicity means you’ll be placing a record on the ‘table and hearing excellent sound within minutes of unpacking MMF-2.3.
Not that MMF-2.3 overlooks anything essential for engaging listening. A full-size alloy platter and felt mat help provide requisite speed stability. The high-precision, stainless-steel and bronze bearing assembly delivers quiet, fluid operation. The tonearm supplies great tracking of your LP grooves, and adjustable vibration-damping feet cancel out footfalls. You even get a dust cover and 45RPM adaptor so you can easily spin both 33RPM and 45RPM records. MMF.2-3 also looks snazzy, with several available high-gloss finishes.
The Denon DJ VL12 Prime is a professional high-torque turntable that features a functional steel and carbon glass design.Designed and built from the ground up by Denon DJ to be the ideal professional DJ turntable, the VL12 Prime features heavy-duty all-metal construction and adjustable torque, made to fit any DJ style.
It cuts, scratches, and blends any music to perfection. Under the turntable are 4 specially-made isolation feet, enabling it to resist vibration from practically any environmental source, even in very loud settings.
Pitch is adjustable over a very wide range, all the way from +/- 8% to +/- 50%, so the DJ can achieve the absolutely ideal tonal effect. Switchable Low- and High-torque settings ensure an exceptional start-up with any record, and its precise S-shaped tone arm precisely tracks any record, extracting every last bit of detail for musical impact.
And as a great finishing touch, RGB lighting rings the platter, with custom control of brightness and color. It’s a one-of-a-kind turntable with striking looks that match its remarkable performance and build quality.
When choosing a new audiophile turntable under $1000, it’s likely that one of these options will come up as a recommended option if you search around online and in stores. Use this list to pinpoint exactly what you want and need, and enjoy the Hi-Fi experience! Happy spinning!
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