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The 5 Best Audiophile Turntables

In this article, we’ll review 5 audiophile turntables that are considered best in their class.

I will also reveal which one that is my personal favorite. My dream turntable if you will. The one I would choose if I were to replace my Rega Planar 2 with something even better.

What is an audiophile turntable?

Before we dig into the top 5 list, let’s define what an audiophile turntable actually is.

What qualities or features distinguish an audiophile turntable from other turntables?

To answer that, let me try to visualize how the different turntable categories could be placed on a price spectrum. As a guideline for our discussion.

I have put audiophile turntables between mid-range and high-end. With a indicated price range from $700 to $2000.

Audiophile turntables have better sound quality and cost more than mainstream turntables. Audiophile turntables will sound more detailed, engaging, authentic and dramatic.

But a turntable doesn’t need to be crazy expensive to be categorized as audiophile. Audiophile turntables are still reachable for many dedicated vinyl enthusiasts, and cost less than high-end turntables.

I personally think that we can extract at least 90% of the sonic performance in a vinyl record if we invest in a turntable that cost between $700 and $2000.

This is a great price range to look for an audiophile turntable.

Top 5 audiophile turntables

Below are the 5 audiophile turntables I would consider top candidates if I should replace my Rega Planar 2.

All these are acknowledged audiophile turntables with the ability to deliver a highly enjoyable and engaging music listening experience.

Which one to pick is likely a decision for the heart more than the brain.

#1 – Clearaudio Concept

It is more or less impossible to have a conversation about audiophile turntables without mentioning the Clearaudio Concept. It is likely the most obvious turntable on this list.

The Concept has been with us for a very long time and every major Hi-Fi publication has had the time to test it properly. With a great review as the usual outcome.

It can be bought with a MM or MC cartridge fully set-up, or without a cartridge. To utilize its fully plug and play possibility, most people choose to include a cartridge.

A valid route is to start with the affordable MM cartridge and upgrade to a MC cartridge down the line if you fancy even higher fidelity sound.

It has a very distinct design language that differentiates it from about every other turntable on the market.

KEY FEATURES

  • Belt drive
  • Concept tonearm
  • Available with Concept MM or Concept MC cartridge
  • Plays 33, 45 and 78 RPM records
  • Automatic speed change
  • Available in black/silver, black/black, black wood and black/dark wood finishes

Click here to check current price on Amazon (MM version).

#2 – Pro-Ject The Classic EVO

The Pro-Ject Classic EVO is the latest iteration of the award-winning The Classic and has many improvements over its legendary predecessor.

It is a modern and highly advanced turntable in an elegant classic design.

The main improvements from previous iterations includes new TPE bushings, a brand new 9″ tonearm and new sub-platter with increased rotational mass.

If you fancy the vintage looks, you will not go wrong with the Pro-Ject Classic EVO.

KEY FEATURES

  • Belt drive
  • EVO 9″ tonearm
  • Ortofon Quintet Red cartridge (optional)
  • Plays 33 and 45 RPM records (and 78 RPM with belt swap)
  • Automatic speed change
  • Available in Satin Eucalyptus and Satin Walnut

Click here to check price on Amazon.

#3 – Rega Planar 3

The Rega Planar 3 is simply the best value record player on the market.
– What Hi-Fi

I said earlier that it is impossible to put together a list of audiophile turntables without including the Clearaudio Concept.

But this list couldn’t exist without including the Rega Planar 3, either.

The Rega Planar 3 is hand made in the UK by what I consider the world’s leading turntable manufacture, Rega Research.

It replaces the multi award winning and five times What Hi-Fi product of the year, the Rega RP3. What Hi-Fi simply state that this is the best value for money turntable you can buy today.

It comes with the same RB330 tonearm and 24V motor that is also used Rega’s more expensive models. The NEO power supply can be added as an upgrade.

KEY FEATURES

  • Belt drive
  • RB330 tonearm
  • Factory fitted Elys2 MM cartridge (optional) 
  • Plays 33 and 45 RPM records
  • Manual speed change
  • Available in black, white and red

#4 – Pro-Ject X2

If you fancy a modern looking audiophile turntable from Pro-Ject, then the X2 is a great choice.

Pro-Ject probably have the most comprehensive model range of audiophile turntables, and it is actually hard to select which one to choose for a modern looking alternative to the Pro-Ject The Classic EVO that we reviewed above.

The X2 has many of the same features as the classic, in a modern looking design. And it is definitely one of the better audiophile turntables on the market.

KEY FEATURES

  • Belt drive
  • 9” carbon/aluminium sandwich tonearm
  • Pick it 2M Silver or Sumiko Moonstone cartridges (both optional)
  • Plays 33, 45 and 78 RPM records
  • Automatic speed change
  • Available in walnut, black and white

Click here to check price on Amazon.

#5 – Rega Planar 6

The Rega Planar 6 might look very similar to the Planar 3, but the engineers at Rega Research have tweaked about every aspect of the Planar 6 to make it worth the extra money compared to the Planar 3.

It comes with the NEO power supply as standard (optional on the Planar 3). The Planar 6 also comes with feet, plinth, bearings, platter and motor that are slightly tweaked compare to what you find on the Planar 3.

One advantage the Planar 3 has over the Planar 6 is that it comes in several finishes. For the Planar 6, the only option is matte grey.

  • Belt drive
  • RB330 tonearm
  • Available with the Exact MM, Ania MC or Ania Pro MC cartridges
  • Plays 33 and 45 RPM records
  • Manual speed change
  • Available in matte grey

Conclusion (my favorite)

All 5 turntables on this list are great and if you have a strong preference for how one of them looks you can easily select that one and enjoy great sonic performance.

Personally, I have a very clear favorite.

And that is the Rega Planar 3.

I love the way it looks, and I believe very strongly in the work of the engineers at Rega Research.

It share many key parts and innovations from the more expensive Rega turntables and can be upgraded with a NEO power-supply at any point to perform even better.

And it is the turntable in the Rega range that looks the best in my opinion.

I would buy a Planar 3 and fit the Rega Exact cartridge that is currently mounted to my Planar 2. Then I would buy the NEO power supply and be very happy!

That setup is probably my dream turntable setup.

What makes a turntable good?

I have a complete article on what makes a turntable good that I wrote a while ago. It can be summarized in four key elements.

  1. A low vibration chassis and motor
  2. A motor/drive with stable speed and low noise
  3. A low resonance tonearm that moves freely
  4. A high-quality phono cartridge

The three first elements essentially work together to give the cartridge ideal working conditions.

And when the cartridge has ideal working conditions, it is down to the quality of the cartridge itself to reproduce music with high fidelity.

When you buy an audiophile turntable, there has been put much more engineering and money into perfecting all the 4 key elements above compared to a lower-priced entry-level turntable.

Related questions

What is the best cheap/affordable turntable?

If you are looking for a cheap turntable that will sound decent, have good build-quality and won’t destroy your records, then the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X is my top recommendation.

It could easily be the best selling turntable in the world.

Pair it with a set of Edifier R1280T powered speakers and you will have a perfect low-cost setup. It won’t be audiophile for that money, and we don’t expect it to be either.

What is the best entry-level turntable?

If you want a DJ-style turntable, then the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 is a great choice.

If you want to go for a listening style turntable, then I highly recommend the Orbit U-turn Plus with preamp.

What is the best mid-range turntable?

There is a lot to choose between. My personal favorites in this category is the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, the Rega Planar 1 and the Rega Planar 2.

These are very good turntables from well established manufacturers with lot long histories of making great turntables.

What is the best high-end turntable?

I am not going to bite off more than I can chew and try to give good general tips for turntable in the High-End spectrum. I have to refer you to Stereophile for expert advice in this price range.

One tip tho. You might get almost as much enjoyment from your vinyl records and save a truckload of money of you shop for a audiophile turntable.