The Best Turntable for Audiophiles: The Top 8 Picks in 2019

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What’s the best turntable for audiophiles on the market right now? How do these turntables differ from entry-level options? Our latest guide looks at all the best options on the market right now for answers.

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  • 18 products analyzed
  • 12 hours of research
  • 47 reviews analyzed
  • 4 expert contributions

An “audiophile” turntable is something of a misnomer. For one, turntable users, by virtue of their niche nature, are audiophiles by default. You won’t find a lot of Bieber-listening, $10 earpod popping users browsing through classic turntable classifieds.

But even within this group of audiophiles, there is a clear hierarchy. There’s the “casual” audiophile group that starts off with an entry-level Audio Technica turntable and maybe graduates to an entry-level Rega.

Then there are the serious audiophiles who scour eBay for refurbished Thorens turntables and obsess over Apheta and Exact cartridges.

This article is meant for this latter crowd.

Below, we’ll look at some of the best turntables for audiophiles on the market and what makes them so good.

The Best Audiophile Turntables in 2019

Need quick answers? Here’s our list of the 4 best turntables for audiophiles right now:

Name and Features
Product Image
Rating
Price
Best OverallPRO JECT 2Xperience SB

Pricey, but superbly crafted turntable for stupendously good audio quality

93
Best Entry-LevelThorens TD 203

Affordable – for an audiophile turntable – with classic Thorens performance

88
Best Mid-RangePro-Ject 1XPression Carbon Classic

An entry-level Pro-Ject with the brand’s proven performance, minus the $1500+ price tag

82
Best PerformanceMusic Hall MMF 9.1

Expensive but knocks everything out of the park when it comes to sheer performance.

81

 

The Best Turntable for Audiophiles: Detailed Overview

We looked at some of our top picks for audiophile turntables earlier.

Let's look at these mixers in more detail below:

Best for Beginners: Rega Planar 2

Key features:

  • Belt Driven Turntable
  • Rega Carbon moving-magnet cartridge
  • Glass Platter
  • Dust Cover
  • 33/45 revolutions per minute

Rega is one of the first names you think of when you think of "audiophile turntables". The brand has a storied history and a loyal following among serious musicians and music purists.

So when there's Rega on the market for under $1,000, you can bet it's going to feature right at the top of our list.

Although the Rega Planar 2 is an entry-level turntable, it has a glass platter and a surprisingly complex tonearm. Let's look at it in more detail.

Design

This turntable features a rectangular plinth that is available in black, red, or white laminated finishes.

It also features a removable dust cover, a main brass bearing, an off/on switch on the underside, and a 24v motor.

The platter is made of 10m thick glass that gives it a premium appearance. It has a RB220 tonearm which is 9” in length and is made of aluminum.

The Cartridge is fitted to the tonearm and is from Rega’s line of Rega Carbon cartridges.

Performance

During testing, we found this turntable to produce quite an impressive sound quality. The sound is rich and delivers snappy timing as is expected  from Rega. For testing, we used Yamaha HS10 studio monitors and Pink Floyd's Animals.

We found that the is quite good, and the bass is tight.

What we don’t like

You cannot upgrade to push-button speed changing, which is quite a bummer. Aside from this minor blip, this is a very solid turntable.

We observed noticeable motor noise.

Recommended for: Entry-level audiophiles who want a bass-friendly, high resolution turntable and can live with a bit of motor noise.

Pros

  • Solid sound production
  • Sleek design
  • Delivers rhythmic sounds

Cons

  • No electric speed change
  • Anti-skating issues
  • Requires well-isolated support

Best Mid-Range: Pro-Ject 1XPression Carbon Classic

Key features:

  • 33/45 rpm
  • Belt driven system
  • 5.5 Kg
  • Aluminum Platter
  • Ortofon 2M Silver Cartridge

Pro-ject is known for the high-quality of its turntables, and this turntable does not disappoint. This high-end turntable ticks almost all the boxes when it comes to delivering incredible audio performance. For the price, it is one of the best turntables any audiophile can grab.

Design & Features

Pro-ject delivers a turntable with a clean and very appealing design. The tested model comes in a Piano black hue that makes it look incredible.

It is built to last as high-quality materials are used all-round. It comes with an acrylic platter and an Ortofon 2M silver cartridge attached to the arm.

The overall design and build make it look worth more than its price.

It comes with an advanced belt drive system to make for an incredible turntable.

Sound Quality & Performance

During testing, this turntable shattered expectations. Although listed as an entry-level model, it delivers quite impressive performance.

It delivers a high level of detail and fast, controlled sound.

What we don’t like

It is not easy to set up. The instructions manual is rubbish, and we had to revert to YouTube to find how to assemble it. We also didn't like the counterweight calibration and anti-skate mechanism.

Recommended for: Anyone looking for a premium looking turntable at a terrific price.

Pros

  • Looks so classy
  • Great sound quality
  • Comes with supplied cartridge

Cons

  • Difficult to assemble
  • Counterweight calibration is messy
  • Anti-skating mechanism

Best Performance: Music Hall MMF 9.1

Key features:

  • Triple Plinth Construction
  • Isolated 50HZ motor
  • 9CC Carbon Fiber Tone Arm
  • Goldring Eroica LX Cartridge

Music Hall employs the trademark triple plinth construction in this turntable. It has a good design that isolates and amplifies the sound quality. A two-speed belt driven turntable, it is one of the best turntables we have tested at this price range.

Design

It comes with a triple plinth design. The 3 levels of the plinth are demarcated by 4 Sorbothane hemispheres. These hemispheres suspend and isolate the plinths.

The belt is wrapped around the 25mm acrylic platter.  A Goldridge Eroica cartridge is pre-mounted and aligned, which makes it very convenient to install.

It comes with a Plexiglass dust cover that will stay upright when you want to place a disk on the platter.

Sound Quality & Performance

The turntable provides sound with a low detail level, deeper sound stage, and relatively low background noise.

The isolation of the plinths obviously contributes to the great sound it produces. The sound is more neutral than other turntables at this price, and the transients are fast.

What we don’t like

We observed that the factory setup doesn’t really bring out the best in this turntable. It requires some fine tuning and extra alignment.

Recommended for:If you are an audiophile looking for a turntable with an amazing level of isolation, this turntable is for you.

Pros

  • Simple assembly as all tools are provided
  • Excellent value for the price
  • Sound isolation is incredible

Cons

  • Factory default setup could be better
  • Expensive – even for audiophiles

Best Overall: PRO JECT 2Xperience SB

Key features:

  • 9cc Evolution tonearm
  • Carbon Arm Tube
  • Belt-driven two-speed turntable
  • Ortofon 2M Silver Cartridge
  • 33/45 rpm speed change

This is the second turntable from Pro-Ject featured on this list. It features Pro-Ject’s popular 2Xperience belt-drive concept. This concept has been around for close to 20 years and sparked a revolution of sorts in turntable performance.

Design

The turntable comes in a heavy, compact design that jettisons unwanted vibrations. It comes with a 9cc Evolution carbon-fiber tone arm that greatly improves its sound quality compared to the Pro-Ject 1XPression Carbon Classic.

It also comes with a Sumiko Blue Point MC Phono Cartridge. Coupled with a moving coil design, an alloy cantilever, and standard ½” mounting, this turntable delivers quite stunning performance.

You can choose 3 finishes in either a matte finish or high-gloss finish.

Sound Quality

The turntable offers smooth, rich, and less aggressive highs compared with its closest rivals. Overall, the sound is rich and impressive.

What we don’t like

Compared to higher-end turntables, we observed that the sound is not as pure, focused, and refined.

However, considering the disparity in price, this is not surprising.

Recommended for: Audiophiles that want a luscious midrange will find this turntable quite endearing.

Pros

  • The tone is rich
  • Full-bodied midrange
  • Simple operation

Cons

  • Sound is not as pure or focused as we’d like
  • Relatively poor rhythmic discipline

Best Entry-Level: Thorens TD 203

Key features:

  • 33/45 rpm
  • Electronic speed change
  • Belt-driven
  • Servo-controlled DC Motor
  • Uni-pivot Tone arm design

The Swiss manufacturer Thorens has a sterling reputation among audiophiles. Part of this can be attributed to history - Throens has been around as a company in some shape since the late 19th century. But mostly, it's because of the sheer quality of their turntables.

And if you're looking for your first "grown-up" audiophile turntable, you can't go wrong with the Thorens TD203.

Design & Build

The TD203 has a solid build and design. The turntable is made of high-quality materials that make it look and feel premium. For example, the main bearing is made from 100% real bronze.

Nevertheless, it looks good, and it features a TP-82 arm and a Thorens TAS 257 cartridge. It comes in 3 different colors: red, black, and white high-gloss lacquer.

You can rest assures you will use the turntable for a long time.

Unlike other turntables, like the Music Hall MMF 9.1 for example, it does not have much going for it in terms of suspension.

Since it lacks active protocols against resonance, it might be smart, placing it away from the speakers and on a surface with low resonance. The innovative uni-pivot design gives this turntable a unique competitive advantage and contributes to durability.

Sound Quality & Performance

The sound quality is decent. We won’t say it is great because it delivers better in some aspects than others.

For example, the highs are not especially memorable. Overall, the sound seems a tad flat and does not deliver the punch we’d expect. With regards to sound quality, it does not sound different from most other turntables.

What we don’t like

As stated above, the sound quality falls a tad flat.

Recommended for: The reliability and durability of the build make it great for those looking for a turntable that will last through the ages while not burning a hole in their pockets.

Pros

  • Uni-pivot design
  • Durable, sturdy design
  • It is easy to assemble

Cons

  • Sound quality is average

Best High-End: Rega RP-8

Key features:

  • Belt-drive
  • 9” tonearm
  • 33/45 rpm
  • Dust cover

The Rega RP8 is one of the best and most intriguing turntables we have tested. It is a high-end offering from Rega. It looks and sounds expensive too.

Design & Build

It comes with a light-weight plinth made of closed cell polyolefin foam. The plinth is actually 2 pieces. Despite the appearance, it’s actually 2 decoupled pieces. The inner plinth has the bearing, tonearm mount, and the motor.

Phenolic resin skins are designed for the top and bottom surfaces to deliver a glossy black coating that looks simply stunning.

The skeletal design of this turntable enhances the premium look and helps to reduce the natural resonance of the turntable.

Sound Quality & Performance

Just as most Rega turntables, this turntable deliver wonderful performance.

The treble is snappy, the bass is joyfully bouncy, and the mid-range is simply incredible. Get ready to be as blown away as we were. Sound is tight and controlled, and you'd be hard pressed to find a flaw.

What we don’t like

The single problem we have with this turntable is that, for the price, the soundstage sounds a tad muffled. It isn’t as expansive as we hoped it’d be.

Recommended for:For audiophiles who don’t mind a skeletal looking turntable but want a great sounding turntable. And of course, you need to have the budget to afford one.

Pros

  • Mid-range, treble, and bass are stunning
  • Impressive rhythm
  • Tight bass

Cons

  • Skeletal design
  • The soundstage is not as expansive as we’d like

Best for Digitizing Vinyl: Denon DP-450USB HiFi Turntable

Key features:

  • Dust Cover
  • Belt-driven
  • Standard Denon Cartridge
  • Anti-skating Controls
  • Tone arm lift lever

As the very first company to commercially produce CDs, Denon has always been big on digital. With the Denon DP-450USB HiFi turntable, they incorporate a digital option into a turntable - a true game changer, especially for casual users.

Design

The Denon DP-450 features a modern looking turntable. The shape is quite appealing with its rounded corners and a gloss finish.

It is a semi-automatic turntable. After a record is done playing, the tone-arm lifts up just like a normal turntable. However, it is possible to switch off this feature. The tone arm is "S-Shaped."

Overall, the design is simple yet appealing. The dust cover can be used as a stand for album covers.

Performance

We love the fine details of this turntable. It combines sound admirably to give a great sound. The sound is clear, vocals stand out, and the bass plays out with enthusiasm.

Despite the sleek appearance, the turntable is solid and heavy, which helps mitigate vibration. Considering the price, the sound is decent.

With the USB option, you can digitize your vinyl records.

What we don’t like

There is obviously room for the sound to get better.

Recommended for: It is great for anyone who wants to digitize vinyl tracks and whoever wants a modern design turntable.

Pros

  • Modern design
  • Digitization of vinyl records is great

Cons

  • Sound could be better

Best for Casual Use: Audio-Technica AT-LP5

Key features:

  • AT95Ex stereo cartridge
  • 33/45b rpm
  • J-curved Tone Arm
  • Direct Drive Method
  • Recording Software

Audio Technica is easily the best known brand on this list. It's also a brand that dominates the low-end of the turntable market.

Despite its popularity, Audio Technica isn't really the first name you think of when you think of 'best turntable for audiophile'. And that's true - as good as AT's turntables are, they don't pass the test for "audiophile" gear (high-finesse performance).

But what if you wanted a turntable that just...works? That doesn't require audiophile knowledge to get 95% of audiophile performance?

Then this AT-LP5 turntable is for you.

Design

The AT-LP5 has a simple but elegant appearance. At first glance, it appears worth more than its actual price. The platter is aluminum cast, and the tone arm is perfectly weighted.

It is a modern looking turntable. Although bigger and bulkier than other turntables, for example, the Rega Planar 2, it looks solid and durable.

Sound Quality

This turntable works well with almost any song you throw at it.

The treble is clear, the bass is solid, and it overall sounds great. It delivers a punch that will leave you tapping your toes.

Considering the price, it offers better sound than expected.

What we don’t like

Despite the great overall sound, we found the tone to be a tad too bright at times. Another bother is the lack of a dust cover.

Recommended for: Audiophiles searching for a sober looking turntable that delivers good sound without any fuss. The price is also a massive plus.

Pros

  • Powerful sound
  • Durable build
  • Can be upgraded

Cons

  • The design doesn’t have a “wow” factor – looks “affordable”, not “audiophile”
  • No dust cover
  • Tone is a bit too bright

Final Words

This brings our list of the best turntable for audiophiles to a close. Based on your requirements, pick any of the models above and you won't be disappointed.

Just to recap, here's the complete list  again:

  1. Rega Planar 2 (Best for beginners)
  2. Pro-Ject 1XPression Carbon Classic (Best mid-range)
  3. Music Hall MMF 9.1 (Best performance)
  4. PRO JECT 2Xperience SB (Best overall)
  5. Thorens TD 203 (Best entry-level)
  6. Rega RP8 Turntable (Best for true audiophiles)
  7. Denon DP-450 (Best for digitizing vinyl)
  8. Audio-Technica AT-LP5 (Best for casual user)

Questions, suggestions, or doubts? Send us an email!

Experts referenced for this article:

The following writers, DJs, producers, and audio engineers contributed their suggestions for this post:

Ryan Harrell
Producer, Founder – MIDINation

Henry Huff
Audio engineer

Jack Dressler
Producer, Owner – Thumbtack Studios