Vinyl’s biggest selling point isn’t the sound. It’s the physical experience: shiny, delicate records; liner notes writ large; covers you want to frame and hang on your wall; and the way the stylus spins across the jagged surface, reproducing your favorite artists’ music as if by magic.
Maybe you’ve always been interested in building a setup for listening to LPs and 45s, but you don’t know where to start. Maybe you’re like WIRED reviews editor Julian Chokkattu, who owned a record but no turntable to play it on. Maybe you’re just looking for an upgrade. No problem: There are tons of great record players to choose from, and most of them will easily connect to whatever audio system you already own. I’ve tested quite a few options, and these are my current favorites—from utilitarian, budget-friendly classics to more luxe options for those seeking audiophile-grade sound.
Be sure to check out our other audio guides, including the Best Gear for Learning Music and the Best Podcasting Gear.
Updated July 2022: We’ve added the Monolith by Monoprice 600045.
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Photograph: Audio Technica
For BeginnersAudio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB
The LP120 is the most iconic entry-level turntable for a few reasons: It sounds great, the build is extremely durable, and it can be easily upgraded with fancier components down the road. I like this USB-enabled model because it allows you to plug the device directly into your computer so you can rip your records to MP3 files—great for preserving the playing condition of rarer vinyl finds while still getting to enjoy the music.
It also comes with a built-in phono preamp. This is a necessary component that raises the output signal of a record player so it can be listened to on a modern stereo system, a pair of powered speakers, or a set of headphones. Vintage stereo systems from the 1970s and ’80s often came with phono amps on board, but that feature is rarely found on modern-day audio equipment like digital stereo systems and smart speakers. So the inclusion of a preamp here makes the record player compatible with the majority of stereos from every era right out of the box. Just plug it into anything with standard RCA (red and white) inputs or a USB port, and you’re good to go.
Photograph: Audio Technica
For Tight BudgetsAudio-Technica AT-LP60XBT
If you plan to spin records only occasionally, or if money is really tight, you’ll like this cheaper Audio-Technica turntable with Bluetooth. It easily pairs with your favorite Bluetooth speakers, which makes it great for setups where wires might be an issue. You can plug it into an actual stereo (it has a built-in phono preamp) to get the best analog audio, as anything sent over Bluetooth has been digitally converted and may not sound its best. But even running wirelessly, the LP60 does the job for most people who are just (ahem) scratching the surface.
For Classy LooksFluance RT81 Turntable
The Fluance RT81 sounds great, but I like it for a more shallow reason: It’s beautiful. The wood-grain body and shiny metal components absolutely ooze class, even though it sells for a still-manageable price. The last place I saw one? In a lawyer’s house. Like the two turntables above, this one also comes with a built-in phono preamp, making plug-and-play listening very easy no matter what type of stereo you’ve got.