How to Pick The Right Turntable For Your Vinyl Needs

high-end or vintage?

Whether you’re new to vinyl or you’re regretting your decision to yard-sale away the crates of LPs you lugged around for so many years, if you want to get (back) into tunes in grooves, you’re going to need a turntable. Here are three possible paths to a properly spinning platter. 

Third Man - turntable
The limited-edition Third Man Turntable is a joint effort from two Detroit brands: Shinola and Third Man Records.

>> If price is no object and you want to rep your hometown while reliving your vinyl years, go ahead and spring for Shinola’s limited edition Third Man Turntable. At $2,500, it ain’t cheap (though serious vinyl nuts will drop that much on a cartridge alone), but you’ll get your money’s worth. The table backs up its gorgeous, retro looks with serious audiophile specs. Most of its critical parts are made by high-end U.S. turntable maker VPI Industries, and it’s fitted with both an internal phono preamp and a factory-mouned Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge. You’ll be spinning tunes so soon you won’t have time to think about your depleted bank account.

>> If you’re more about music than material possessions, it’s time to ditch that crapy Crosley. The resurgence of vinyl has brought an explosion of good-sounding, affordable tables to the market. Massachusetts-based U-Turn’s colorful Orbit lineup runs from $179 for a basic model to over $600 for the top-of-the-line table with a built-in phono preamp. Another sure-bet option is the Rega Planar 1. At $475, it’s as much turntable as the average enthusiast/not yet-obsessive-compulsive audiophile is ever likely to need.

dual 1218 - turntable
When properly serviced, vintage tables like this Dual 1218 combine great sound with back-in-time aesthetics.

>> If you’re feeling nostalgic and are up for a little work, there’s no more authentic way to get spinning than to hunt down a turntable from vinyl’s glory years. They abound at yard sales, on Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist for anywhere from nada to $250 or so. You might even have one in your own attic. Look for models from Dual, Pioneer, Marantz, Technics, Yamaha, or Thorens, and steer clear of anything made of cheap, lightweight plastic. With a little cleaning, lubrication, and a new stylus, these tables can sound every bit as good as today’s hi-fi offerings. And there’s nothing like listening to Led Zeppelin II on a platter that very likely spun it when it was hot off the press.