Vinyl records are making a comeback, and with it, the demand for turntables. But with so many options available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one.
Audiophiles and music lovers alike have their own opinions on what makes a great turntable, but what is the best turntable ever made?
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most iconic and revered turntables in history, from the Thorens TD-125 to the Rega Planar 3.
Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a newcomer to the world of vinyl, you won’t want to miss this exploration of the best turntables ever made.
What Is The Best Turntable Ever Made
The question of what is the best turntable ever made is a highly debated topic among audiophiles and music enthusiasts. While there are many great turntables on the market, some stand out as truly exceptional.
One of the most iconic turntables in history is the Thorens TD-125. Produced in the 1970s, this fully suspended turntable design introduced an electronic speed control, which eliminated mechanical speed control elements and was one of the first decks to include a motor control board. The TD-125 became revered for its speed consistency and is still highly sought after today.
Another legendary turntable is the Linn LP12. With its wooden exterior providing a warmth characteristic of vintage turntables, the LP12 has a reputation as one of the best turntables ever made. While there are many different set-ups for this turntable, it’s the upgrade paths that attract many audiophiles to it.
The Audio Technica AT-LP120 is another exceptional turntable that offers direct-drive capabilities and an exclusive AT95EX cartridge fitted to a J-Shaped tonearm that reportedly helps minimize tracking errors. Packed full of features, this record player is sure to elevate your entertainment game to the next level.
The Rega Planar 3 is also considered one of the best turntables ever made. When it first appeared in 1978, it represented a significant advance for mid-market record players and has remained one of the most appealing choices for audiophiles ever since. Rega has consistently updated its most popular pieces, and the Planar 3 still exists today as the RP3/Elys 2.
While these turntables are all exceptional in their own right, what makes them the best is subjective and depends on individual preferences. Some may prefer the warm sound of vintage turntables like the Thorens TD-125 or Linn LP12, while others may prefer the modern features and capabilities of turntables like the Audio Technica AT-LP120 or Rega Planar 3.
Ultimately, the best turntable ever made is one that meets your specific needs and preferences. Whether you’re looking for a vintage or modern design, high-quality sound or advanced features, there’s a turntable out there that’s perfect for you.
The Thorens TD-125: A Classic Turntable
The Thorens TD-125 is a classic turntable that was produced in the 1970s and is still highly sought after today. This fully suspended turntable design introduced an electronic speed control, which eliminated mechanical speed control elements and was one of the first decks to include a motor control board. The TD-125 became revered for its speed consistency and is still highly regarded for its pitch accuracy and musicality.
The turntable has a visually attractive design with a custom smoked acrylic arm board and a Teak wall-mounted shelf. The whole affair is supported on a Teak wall-mounted shelf, which adds to its aesthetic appeal. The turntable system images extremely well, suppresses record noise well, and has pitch accuracy/consistency which is as good as if not better than the best turntables ever produced.
Thorens used a “Wein Bridge Oscillator” circuit to set the speed of this model, which was very progressive for its day. Almost every good turntable today now incorporates an advanced or upgrade speed regulation circuit, and the good news is that some of them even approach the excellent performance of this quarter-century-old Wein Bridge Oscillator circuit.
The bass performance of this LP playback rig was superb with old Grado Signature 8 MM Cartridge, but newer cartridges like the Sumiko Alchemist HO MC and BPS HO MC have traded away some of the deepest bass for improved imaging and airiness. However, the TD-125 is still very competitive with 24/96 DVD-Audio and good HDCDs with the exception of deep bass, which is just a little light because of cartridge compromise.
The Technics SL-1200: The DJ’s Choice
When it comes to turntables, there is one that stands out as the DJ’s choice: the Technics SL-1200. First released in 1972, the SL-1200 was a game-changer for DJs, with its direct drive turntable motor and removed belt drive system. This allowed for versatility and immediate use, as well as accurate playback with reduced wow or flutter during playback. The turntable unit was also designed to properly adjust the playback speed to account for poor calibration and speed adjustment to match songs and song beats with one another.
The SL-1200 was built to be a workhorse for DJs, with high-quality construction featuring mostly metal parts. Its high torque, direct drive motor (magnetically driven) and responsive pitch control made it perfect for scratching and beat matching. Additionally, its durability meant that it could withstand the rigors of frequent use with little maintenance required.
Although the SL-1200 was not designed to be the best sounding turntable that Technics could build (that honor goes to the SP-10), it quickly became the industry standard for DJs around the world. Its iconic design and beautiful look have made it a favorite among collectors, while its high re-sale value is a testament to its enduring popularity.
In 2010, Panasonic made the decision to stop producing the Technics SL-1200MK2, leaving many DJs without their go-to turntable. However, in response to the recent growth in vinyl sales, Panasonic has decided to bring back the legendary SL-1200 turntable under the Technics branding. The new models promise DJ-level reliability and audiophile-grade sound quality, with a heavy-weight brass, aluminum, and rubber construction to reduce resonance and a new aluminum tonearm (magnesium on the limited-edition model). While it may be overkill for a typical living room setup due to its focus on DJ performance, scratch DJs who swear by the reliability of the Technics’s tonearm design will undoubtedly be pleased with its return.
All-in-all, while many turntables have come and gone since its release in 1972, the Technics SL-1200 remains a favorite among DJs and collectors alike. Its design, performance, and durability are legendary and have completely changed the way DJing is done.
The Rega Planar 3: A Modern Classic
Among the best turntables ever made, the Rega Planar 3 stands out as a modern classic. This British-made turntable has been a popular choice for audiophiles since its introduction in 1978. The original Planar 3 broke from convention by employing a solid plinth instead of the compliantly-suspended chassis or sub-chassis used in many quality turntables at the time. This innovation made the Rega 3 highly influential and has made its small British manufacturer’s name synonymous with hi-fi turntables.
The Rega Planar 3 has undergone several guises and name changes over the years, but it has remained a bedrock of analog playback for well over 30 years. In 2016, Rega released its fifth generation of Rega 3 turntables, returning to its original name, Planar 3. This redesign features almost all new parts but still shares its basic engineering with its older siblings.
Rega’s team worked tirelessly for two years to improve every aspect of the Planar 3, offering improved ergonomics and ease-of-use, as well as an upgrade in sonic performance. The platter is made from glass and features an ‘Optiwhite’ polish on the rim, which improves tolerances and balance. The motor housing has also been redesigned to improve cooling and a new motor control PCB has been added.
The most significant rework involves the arm, which has now become the RB330. This new arm makes use of a new armtube, bearing housing (and bearings), as well as a new counterweight. Rega also revised the antiskate adjustment and the quality of the output cabling to further improve the feel of the arm.
The Clearaudio Innovation Wood: A High-End Option
For those looking for a high-end turntable that delivers exceptional sound quality, the Clearaudio Innovation Wood is a top contender. This turntable features a dual-tier chassis made of bulletproof wood and aluminum, with precision CNC-machined surfaces that optimize resonance. The turntable feet are finely adjustable, ensuring stability during playback.
The Innovation Wood boasts a 2.75-inch POM platter that is dynamically balanced and high-density, providing a virtually friction-free environment for the platter to rotate. The platter is mated to a half-inch thick stainless steel sub-platter and Clearaudio’s patented CMB (ceramic magnetic bearing) technology, which levitates the platter magnetically on an inverted bearing attached to a low-friction ceramic shaft.
This turntable is powered by a high-torque DC motor that is exclusive to Clearaudio and equipped with an optical speed control (OSC) circuit controlled in real-time via an infrared sensor. The result is exceptional speed stability, ensuring optimal listening experiences.
The Innovation Wood is also dual-tonearm capable and plays at 33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm, and 78 rpm speeds. It comes standard with a silver or black plinth with woodgrain accents, but it’s also available with piano black Panzerholz trim for a $1000 up-charge (special order only). The Universal 9″ tonearm is standard, but other tonearms are available as well.
The Linn LP12: A Revolutionary Turntable
The Linn LP12 is a revolutionary turntable that has stood the test of time. First introduced in the 1970s, this iconic turntable has undergone several upgrades and iterations, making it one of the most sought-after turntables in the market today. The LP12’s wooden exterior provides a warmth and vintage appeal that many audiophiles find appealing, while its upgrade paths attract those who are looking for a customizable experience.
One of the LP12’s standout features is its tiered upgrade system, which provides two distinct upgrade paths that make it easier to navigate the bewildering amount of choices available. While the entry-level Majik package is the best value, upgrading to Akurate or Climax options can significantly improve the sound quality. However, this upgrade path can be expensive and requires careful consideration.
Compared to its rivals, the LP12 sits somewhere in the middle between the Technics SL-1200G and Origin Live Calypso Multilayer/Silver. The LP12 offers a more relaxed and sophisticated sound that’s silkier and more enjoyable, while the former is crisper, tighter, and more propulsive. The latter is more expansive and tonally natural but fiddlier to use.
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon: A Budget-Friendly Choice
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly turntable that still delivers exceptional sound quality, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is a great choice. Starting at just $399, this turntable offers clear upgrades over entry-level models and is considered by many to be the best-selling turntable under $400 on the market.
One of the standout features of the Debut Carbon is its 8.6 inch carbon fiber tonearm and Ortofon 2M Red cartridge. This combination provides exceptional tracking and reads every musical nuance within the grooves of your records. The tonearm is also designed to be stiff, reducing unwanted resonances and leading to a clearer sound.
The Debut Carbon also includes an updated DC power supply that provides reliable speed stability, as well as a hefty platter with a felt mat, a low-noise motor with effective decoupling, and stable isolation feet that protect the turntable from vibrations. All of these components work together to ensure that your music is not affected by external factors.
While the Debut Carbon may not have all the bells and whistles of more expensive turntables, it certainly delivers above its price point. It’s a great choice for those just getting into audiophile-style audio gear or anyone looking for a high-quality turntable at an affordable price. Overall, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is an excellent value and a top contender for the best budget-friendly turntable on the market.