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The 14 best turntables – Tech – Mixmag

What is the best turntable to buy? The Mixmag guide to turntables in 2021
Alongside the vinyl resurgence, the turntable market has bloomed in recent years with a broad range of decks hitting the shelves. There was marked turnaround across the last decade, which started with Panasonic discontinuing its famous Technics DJ turntables in 2010, before a revival in 2015 saw many new editions hit the shelves, alongside many more competitors refining and releasing their own decks. So what is the best turntable to buy? The options vary depending on what you want to get out of it and how much you want to spend. Whether you want a turntable to DJ on, scratch with, that works with Sonos, one that’s portable, or a record player to get audiophile sound quality from your favourite vinyl records, we’ve picked out some of the best options in the guide below.
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Technics SL1210 MK7, £799
Technics’ SL1200 and SL1210 range has long been the industry standard for DJ turntables, so Panasonic relaunching the turntable series in 2015 and the ensuing release of the state-of-art MK7 edition in 2019 were cause for celebration in the dance music community. Especially considering the formerly favoured MK2 edition dates back to1979, and other editions in the series were pretty difficult to get a hold of, largely reliant on a second hand market. That is unless you had pockets deep enough for the pricy revamped SL-1200G which came out in 2016 and retailed for £2,799.
The SL-1210MK7 arrived at a much more affordable price of £799, with a bunch of fresh features and improvements that make it ideal for DJs. These include a magnetic coreless direct drive motor that is highly reliable and does not require parts replacements, providing powerful torque and precise rotation over an extended period of time, and a two-layer structure of the platter that cuts out unwelcome resonance and detrimental vibration with vibration-damping rubber across the breadth of the back surface. One stamp of quality assurance that makes Technics decks stand out is their sturdiness and reliability; knowing it will work well in pretty much all settings are why DJs depend on them.
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Pioneer PLX-1000, £599
Before Panasonic announced its planned revival of Technics in 2015, tracking back on its discontinuing of the series in 2010, Pioneer looked set to make a strong claim for the new industry standard turntable with the release of the PLX-1000 in late 2014 – A-Trak bought a pair. It’s a fantastic turntable that runs Technics close, and is cheaper too.
Key features that help set it apart are its tempo control, which is adjustable to +/- 16% and +/- 50% as well as the standard +/- 8% range and flexible connectivity, with stereo RCA jacks rather than hardwired cables, making maintenance an easier issue to deal with.
It also includes a high-torque direct drive to maintain stable rotation and tight control, a weighty zinc chassis that suppresses interference from resonance and vibrations, and a rubber-insulated S-shaped tonearm that absorbs external vibrations and reduces howling effects.
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Audio-Technica AT-LP1240 XP, £399
Audio-Technica’s AT-LP1240 is its flagship turntable designed for club DJs. The company was founded in Tokyo in 1962 to design and manufacture phono cartridges, and over more than half a century has built its expertise and refined its designs to achieve premium quality. Features include a high-torque direct drive motor with speed stabilisation; a sturdy, anti-resonant chassis; adjustable anti-skate control; high-fidelity audio; an S-shaped tonearm with hydraulically damped lift control, height adjustment, and lockable rest; adjustable pitch across the ranges of +/-8%, +/-16%, and +/-24%, and a removable hinged dust cover. It’s not quite up to the very top of the range standards as Technics and Panasonic, but in terms of value for money, it’s a very tempting alternative that is undeniably a well made, durable deck that’s primed for DJ functionality.
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Read this next: 100% vinyl: Why Sven Väth will never abandon turntables
Pioneer PLX-500, £299
If you’re looking to get into vinyl DJing but don’t want to shell out for the top of the range kit, the Pioneer PLX-500 is a capable alternative at half the price of the PLX-1000. It’s built sturdily, produces high-quality sound, and is compatible with Pioneer’s rekordbox dvs Plus Pack which makes it possible to play and scratch MP3s via a DJM mixer and the RB-VS1-K Control Vinyl, which will suit anyone who’s still building their record collection and wants the option to play digital files.
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Stanton T.92 M2 USB, £299
The Stanton T.92 M2 is a versatile turntable, with three playback speeds, a +/- pitch control range of 12%, and a DSP Key Lock that allows you to change the tempo without affecting the pitch. It’s also sturdily made and durable, has a USB connection for digitising vinyl files, and RCA stereo outputs for easy external link-ups. One slight letdown is the chunky design, meaning it’s not the best-looking turntable on the market. But if you’re after features over aesthetics, this is a solid budget option.
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Denon DJ VL12 Prime, £599
The Denon DJ VL12 Prime’s key selling point upon release is its adjustable “highest-in-industry 5kgf/cm torque” making it tailored perfectly for DJs looking to mix, scratch and cut with their turntable. The adjustable +/- 8%, 16% and 50% pitch range and ‘easy grip/brake’ chamfered platter also give it great record manipulation versatility and a tactile touch. Plus, the multi-coloured glowing LED platter ring looks great, and as scratch DJing is an aesthetically appealing style, that’s an added bonus.
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Reloop RP-8000 Mk2, £549
The Reloop RP-8000 Mk2 is an analogue and digital hybrid that’s designed for compatibility with Serato DJ Pro. As well as the vibration resistant construction and the adjustable torque and pitch control you’d expect from a good scratch turntable, the digital aspect brings a whole new raft of capabilities to the deck. It has eight large and colourful LED pads along the side that can control every MIDI compatible DJ software and even MIDI keyboards so you can “play” your turntable; it’s both a turntable and an instrument in one!
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Numark PT01 Scratch, £119
The Numark PT01 Scratch is suitable for people without permanent DJ setups in their home who just want to play around with their vinyl records and aren’t looking for serious club-ready kit (or the expense that entails). It’s portable and light, and some handy features like the Adjustable Scratch Switch, an on/off crossfader that’s perfect for quick chopping. It’s best suited to 7” records due to its size, but full-size 12” vinyls do fit. It’s also digitally compatible, so you can connect external audio sources such as a phone and scratch along to those, and it can be used to rip vinyl via USB to a computer. As well as coming with a wall adapter plug, it can run on batteries and has a built-in speaker, so it can be used outside cordless or taken to parties. Perfect for showing off your turntablist skills outside of the club.
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Read this next: The 10 best DJ scratch battles of all time
Reloop Spin Portable Turntable System, £199
Reloop SPIN is a great turntable for anyone seeking an all-in-one portable option with a range of useful features. It can be powered by batteries or a USB power supply, with skip-proof rubber feet making it stable wherever it’s set down; the +/- pitch control stretches a range of 20%; there’s tone control for adapting the sound of the lows; and the 45-mm crossfader is sturdy thanks to two-rail technology.
Scratching fans will be pleased to know it also comes with an exclusive 7” scratch vinyl that contains specially mastered scratch samples and beats, which are ideal for experimenting with scratching, and purchasing the deck entitles you to a free download of the SUPER SPiN Duck Looper app which is full of beats for scratching and cutting. What’s more: the turntable also has Bluetooth Audio Streaming technology allowing for the wireless streaming of music, so it can also be used as a speaker for your phone or computer.
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Victrola suitcase player, £99
There’s light and portable turntables, and then there’s a turntable that is modelled on a suitcase with a carry handle. This style of record player was originally popular in the 1950s, and Victrola’s take on the classic has a nice vintage look to it, but with modern upgrades. It has three speeds (33 ⅓, 45 and 78 RPM), built-in speakers that sound remarkably good as well as RCA stereo outputs; Bluetooth compatibility for playing digital tunes; and a bunch of different colours to choose from.
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Pro-Ject Carbon Debut Evo, £449
The Pro-Ject Carbon Debut Evo is undoubtedly one of the best-looking turntables on the market, and it backs up its classy design with classy sound quality. The moving-magnet cartridge helps produce a broad, dynamic sound, and the Carbon tonearm is simultaneously rigid and lightweight to ensure the sound quality deliverance is impeccable. It sounds as luxurious as it looks.
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Clearaudio Concept, £1390
With a four figure price tag, the sleek Clearaudio Concept is an expensive option, but the sonic performance is exquisite. If you’ve got the funds and value sound quality above all else, it comes recommended. The German-designed and manufactured turntable includes a moving magnet cartridge that is meticulously measured and analysed to achieve incredibly detailed and clear sound while minimising distortion, and a magnetic bearing in the tonearm that makes for completely frictionless movement. The DC motor is decoupled from the chassis and powered by an external voltage supply, meaning records are isolated from mechanical interference. There’s also no complex set up required, just fit the platter and drive belt, plug it in, and you’re good to go. It’s no wonder this turntable has won a bunch of awards, from outlets such as reddot, Plus X, the analog Awards, and more.
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ION Audio Max LP, £69
If you don’t want to shell out for a turntable and a hi-fi system to play it through and want an all-in-one that can do pretty much anything you require of a home record player, the ION Audio Max LP is the complete package. It has built-in stereo speakers that produce sound strong enough to fill a room, RCA outputs if you do want to connect to external speakers, three playback speeds (33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM), a USB output for converting vinyl to digital, a protective dust cover, and it looks great, with a premium wood finish. At just £69, this is a fine option for the more casual vinyl customer.
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Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB Turntable, £299
If you’re looking for a turntable that’s easy to hook up to a Sonos system, picking one that has built-in phono preamps is recommended. This means it can be connected directly to a Sonos system with no external phono preamp necessary. The Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB Turntable is a good option offering that: it’s a well manufactured turntable, with no hollow spaces inside reducing vibration interference, a low-friction aluminium tonearm, a pre-adjusted Ortofon OM 5E Moving Magnet cartridge, and an adapter for playing 7” singles among its features.
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Patrick Hinton is Mixmag’s Digital Features Editor, follow him on Twitter

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