The Best Vinyl Players in the UK

Vinyl fans say that nothing beats the sound of cared for records on a well-maintained turntable; CDs simply can’t compare and MP3s … bah! The thing is vinyl is undergoing a revival, which means more and more people are becoming converts and extolling vinyl to the skies. According to James Stables, vinyl was officially declared dead in May 1991, but in 2006 vinyl sales started to seriously pick up with current annual sales at around £12 million.

Who’s doing all the buying?

Well, it’s not baby boomers on a memory trip. Stables cites an ICM poll conducted in April 2013 which found that 18 – 24-year-olds are the biggest vinyl buyers. Clearly the CD/digital generation sees the same benefits of vinyl that their parents and grandparents saw. Interestingly, 27% of the new vinyl generation don’t own a turntable.

Reasons for the “revivyl” include the tangible and emotional nature of records. Buying and listening to records is an event, as opposed to the clinical downloading and playing of digital music. And, aside from the “best sound”, the imperfections give it charm, integrity and authenticity, at least according to Stables.

What turntable should you buy?

Given that a significant number of vinyl fans don’t actually have turntables, we thought we’d round up some of the best turntables in the UK, from budget to high-end buys and even portable players.

  • Rega RP1 Turntable

In December 2013, Paul Rigby assessed some of the best turntables for home listening. The Rega RP1 made the list for its mid-range price (£229/£300) and clear sound. It’s a great system if you’ve never had a turntable before, as it’s easy to set up. Vinyl noobs won’t have any problem putting needle to track and kicking back to their favourite sounds.

  • Michel Gyrodec SE

Gyrodec has been a respected name in turntables since vinyl’s heyday. The modern versions are no less notable for their sound quality and aesthetic appeal. At £1449, the price tag is perhaps a little intimidating for first-time buyers, but the fact that it outshines many higher-end turntables makes it excellent value and a must-have for the getting-serious vinyl fundi.

  • Avid Acutus SP Reference

Rigby is a big fan of this very high-end record player. At £15,000, it is not cheap and so is better suited to those with big budgets and big passion. Even though the price tag is high enough to take away your breath, Rigby says that it still offers “superb value for money” with mature, detailed sound, delicate upper midrange and big, bold bass.

  • Marantz TT5005

In March 2014, Rigby turned his attention to better budget turntables. He warns that the truly cheap kind is likely to ruin your records, let alone the music, so if you are looking for affordable record players, you need to resign yourself to spending at least £150, which is the price tag on the Marantz. It’s simple, easy to use and produces quality sound, which exactly what you want from a budget machine.

  • Pro-Ject Elemental USB

This turntable combines old school with new school, so you get the magic of vinyl sound with a USB port thrown in. The port allows you to record from your record onto your computer, so you can get the best sound on your iPod or MP3 player. It costs around £219.

  • Thorens TD 170-1

Modern Thorens models are as renowned for the value for money and quality as their vintage models, which are still in great demand. The TD 170-1 has three speeds, so you can play all your (and your dad’s) 33rpm, 45rpm and 78rpm records. It retails for around £385.

  • Numark PT01

The delicate needle and finicky grooves make turntables the least likely of portable devices; however, there are some versions that take portability in their stride. The prices for decent portable turntables vary widely, but if you want to start at the lower end of the market, you’re looking the Numark PT01 for £95. It’s battery-powered (of course) and comes with a 12V adaptor and USB port. You’ll have to look quite hard for one because, according to Rigby, the model has been discontinued, but you might be lucky on Amazon, eBay or Gumtree.

  • Vestex Handy Trax USB

For a relatively low £155, you get a lightweight turntable with a basic amp, mono speaker and up to 65 hours of battery life. There is a USB port and can play 78rpm records. All in all, it’s not bad value for money.

  • Braun PCV 4

Rigby calls the Braun PCV 4 a piece of art. It’s a tad vintage, which goes some way towards explaining the price. But it’s the sound quality that sets it apart from most other portable players. It has a built-in amplifier and speakers and closes up into a handy suitcase-type carrier. If you’re lucky enough to find one, you’re looking at about £600.

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