The best turntable for 2021
We have tested the following decks for this update:
the U-turn Orbit Special offers very attractive wood finishes and comes with an Ortofon Red cartridge, upgraded platter and selector lever. It produced some of the best sounds in our tests, but it wasn’t as easy to use as the Denon DP-400, and the differences in sound quality were very small. Still, the Premium is the prettiest and one of the best turntables we’ve tested.
the Audio-Technica LP120 was our pick for many years, but it’s much bigger than our new picks, has a lot of features you don’t need for non-DJ use, and didn’t sound as good as our newer picks.
the Audio-Technica LP3 is fully automatic with start and stop buttons, but it was one of the less precise turntables we tested. In addition, some reviews indicate possible problems with the motor during long-term use, which makes the speed unreliable.
the Fluance RT82 and RT85 The turntables are easy to install, feel well built, and include cool features like a bubble level and easy adjustable feet that other companies should emulate. But they had loud background noise no matter what we tried; other decks using the same preamp had much lower background noise levels. The RT85 with an Ortofon Blue cartridge offered the best bass recovery and definition in our test.
the Rega Planar P1 is easy to set up, and we love the sound, but it’s not as easy to use as other models, with the shifting belt located under the chainring. It also worked about 1% fast when we measured it, while our picks were 0.04-0.10% off.
For previous revisions of this guide, we also tested the following decks:
the Crosley C200 looks like a very light and cheaper version of the Audio-Technica LP120. It lacks some of the Audio-Technica’s features, including USB output, and its cartridge is not as good.
the Crosley C10 sounds and looks good, but in our opinion its price is too high compared to the Pro-ject Debut Carbon which has a better tonearm and a better cartridge.
the MMF-2.2 Music Room has many similarities to Pro-ject Carbon. In fact, they come from the same factory. But the MMF-2.2 comes with what it feels like the most, and that is a lower quality tonearm and cartridge.
In previous versions of this guide, our upgrade choices were the Pro-ject Debut Carbon and Carbon DC debut. These turntables sound great, but the Denon is much easier to set up, just like the Rega Planar P1, and both sound just as good.
the Primary project sounds great for its price, and the gearshift is easy to do, but it has the second worst measure of wow and flicker in our tests and no phono preamp.
the Elementary project line is the most affordable in the business, but online reviews show a large number of complaints about the speed accuracy, so we left it out of our testing.
the Pro-ject Essential II lies between primary and carbon. It has a more flexible tonearm than the primary while using the same cartridge, but it doesn’t offer the Carbon fiber tonearm or the Ortofon Red cartridge from the Carbon. It also has the boring counterweight that the primary doesn’t have, so we decided to test the primary instead.
Pro-ject also manufactures the RM series, which includes the RM-1.3 that critics loved when it was released in 2010. But these days it lacks the value Carbon offers and is more difficult to use.
Sony PS-HX500 turntable is the only turntable known to us capable of recording your recordings to a PC in DSD format, Sony’s preferred high-resolution audio format. Unfortunately, it had the worst speed accuracy of any turntable we tested despite its high price tag, playing recordings at 33 RPMs almost 2% too fast and 45 RPMs at 1.5% too fast. Although some of the other turntables were about 0.5% fast, this little inaccuracy was not noticeable to us. The 2 percent on the Sony was pretty easy to hear.