Unpack that box labelled ‘charity shop’, vinyl is back. And after thirty years stuck in the loft, it’s got a point to prove.
That point? That there’s a whole lot of life left in the physical medium yet, and the boom in turntable sales only helps to back that up.
Whether you’re looking for a new turntable or buying your first, we’ve pulled together six of the best turntables available under £350 that prove you don't need to spend a fortune to get a great sound.
Want to get involved in the vinyl revival but not sure where to start? Our handy FAQ should get you well on the way to analogue awesomeness.
1. How much should you spend?
All the decks in this buying guide come in under £350, and as you’ll see, for that money you can get a very good turntable indeed. Many at this more entry-level price come with phono stages built in (see below), but if they don’t, you’ll have to factor that into your budget as well. It’s wise to start at this end of the market and then work your way up if your vinyl curiosity grows – generally speaking you’ll get better sound and better build quality the more money you spend, but be sure to do your research first.
2. Do you need a phono stage?
A phono stage is basically a pre-amplifier that allows an amp and a turntable to talk to each other, and you’ll need one to play your vinyl. There are a few ways you can do this. Many more affordable turntables now come with one built in, as do many amps, but you can also buy one separately too. The quality of a phono stage will affect how good your music sounds, so it’s worth some consideration.
3. What else do you need?
Your turntable setup will depend on your budget, interest and space. A traditional system will consist of a turntable, phono stage, amplifier and stereo speakers. A more modern (and compact) one might be a turntable with built-in phono stage hooked up to a pair of powered speakers. Either can sound great if picked well.
4. What about Crosley?
Crosley’s one-box turntable solution has done a lot for the vinyl revival, but their performance isn’t the best. If you’ve only got a very small budget of around £50-£100, they’re worth a look, and are about as plug ‘n’ play as you can get thanks to their built-in speakers. If you can spend the extra though, you’ll get a much, much better performance from one of our picks here.
5. Do you want to rip your vinyl?
Some turntables come with a USB output, which will allow you to rip your vinyl into digital files for taking on the go. Be sure to check what quality it’s capable of recording in if that’s important to you – some will do MP3 only while others are capable of 24-bit high-resolution ripping.
1. Rega Planar 1 (£250)
PROS: Stacks of detail | Expressive | Rhythmic & dynamic
CONS: Nothing of note
With over 40 years of practice, Rega knows a thing or two about making a good turntable. And as its most affordable deck, the Planar 1 is proof you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a stellar performance. You’ll get detail in spades, stacks of energy and a level of authority and solidity we don’t expect at this price. This might be an entry-level turntable, but you might never feel the need to upgrade.
2. Audio Technica AT-LP5 (£330)
PROS: Very detailed | Wide, open soundstage | Strong built-in phono stage | Good build quality
CONS: Nothing at this price
There’s a lot to love about this Audio Technica. For a start, the build, look and feel of the AT-LP5 could easily pass for something double the price. Secondly, it throws a built-in phono stage and a USB output for ripping your vinyl into the deal. But most importantly, it sounds fantastic. No matter your music tastes, you’ll be treated to impressive amounts of detail, a wide, open sound stage and a beautifully balanced sound. A real all-rounder.
3. Pro-Ject Primary (£170)
PROS: Exciting, precise sound | Well built | Easy to set up
CONS: Nothing of note
If you want hi-fi quality without the high-end price tag, the Pro-Ject Primary is an excellent place to start. There are very few bells and whistles here, but with a performance as good as this, you won’t miss them in the slightest. It delivers all the balance and insight that has become Pro-Ject’s brand signature, and manages to be both detailed and precise while still retaining plenty of drive and excitement. A hugely engaging deck that will steal hours from your day before you know it.
4. Sony PS-HX500 (£275)
PROS: Crisp, insightful sound | Big soundstage | Can rip vinyl to hi-res digital files
CONS: Sound could have more body
TSony PS-HX500rings together the old and new of the company’s extensive audio knowhow into a single product. Not only does it sound excellent when used as a traditional deck, but it also includes the ability to make hi-res audio copies of your vinyl to play on the move. Its character is the same however you use it, with a crisp, precise sound that works particularly well with acoustic tracks. Considering it was released at £450 too, its recent price drop makes this multi-talented deck seem like a bit of a bargain.
5. Audio Technica AT-LP3 (£200)
PROS: Expressive | Spacious and detailed for the money | Fully automatic tonearm
CONS: Nothing of note
Their similar monikers aside, you’d know the AT-LP3 was the little brother to the pricier AT-LP5 just by listening to them. That’s great news for the LP3 – for £130 less you’re getting the hugely likeable character of its sibling, albeit with a touch less detail, space and dynamic range. That’s to be expected at this price though, and against its competition it more than holds its own, thanks to its bold and exciting sound. There’s a decent phono stage built in too, so just add a pair of powered speakers and you’re set.
6. Lenco L-85 (£110)
PROS: Clear, enjoyable sound | Good features | Easy to use | Value for money
CONS: Plastic-y design | Not the most insightful
It might not look like much, but beneath the L-85’s rather plastic-y design, there’s a very decent turntable for not much money at all. It’s a really likeable performance – surprisingly so – with a well-balanced sound that does particularly well with vocals. It’s not as detailed or rhythmic as some pricier competition but it’s hard to grumble at its abilities for the money. Its plug ‘n’ play convenience makes its perfect for turntable newbies too, plus there’s a USB output for ripping your vinyl to MP3.