The 8 best turntables to upgrade your vinyl listening experience

The 8 best turntables to upgrade your vinyl listening experience

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A comprehensive guide to that difficult second turntable.


Words: Paul Rigby


Do you own a budget turntable, are happy with its performance, but have your eye on upgrading to something a little more substantial? Do you think it’s time to take your vinyl listening experience to the next level? Then this is the list for you.

On that basis, what we’d like to present to you is a list of good quality turntables covering a wider array of budget needs from around £400 or so to somewhere in the £2,000 area. This band of turntable designs tend to produce a welcome combination of design excellence, innovation and value for money.
To say that any turntable is ‘ideal’ or ‘recommended’ or the ‘best’ in terms of an upgrade is a bit wooly. After all, what might be ideal for one person might not be for another. Hence, we have tried to cover a variety of subjects that address different criteria.

So what might this criteria be? Well, you might be the sort of music fan who only buys quality. Hence, we’ve selected a deck which offers top quality engineering in every part of the turntable’s construction.

Maybe the engineering area is not quite as important to you? Maybe the fact that the company offers an attractive ‘hand-holding’ policy, guiding you slowly along an upgrade path as funds allow, giving you both advice and easily upgradable components is what you’re looking for.

No? How about true value for money, then? A turntable that really should be worth a lot more but the manufacturer has found a way to circumvent the usual costly construction practices.

How about pure tradition and reputation? There are some buyers who want security from their purchases and like to buy from manufacturers who maintain a consistent and secure performance over a long period of time. The type of buyer who tends to veer towards bigger brand names with a long business history. Yes, we have examples from that sector too.

Whatever, your needs and requirements, there should be something in this list to attract you. Of course, there are just eight slots in this piece so we will not be able to include all of the turntables that we would like. So please tell us what we’ve missed and what favourites you have. It might just help to fill in any gaps we have left open.


Project Carbon

PRO-JECT DEBUT CARBON ESPRIT SB
Price: £425
www.henleydesigns.co.uk

If you have the company’s Essential II budget design then this deck is sensible upgrade option. It is, in itself, an upgrade from the previous Carbon. On top of the new 8.6CC carbon fibre tonearm, new power supply method, improved motor isolation, pre-installed Ortofon 2M Red and new cable junction box found on the standard Debut Carbon, it arrives with an easier to use speed changer.


rega

REGA RP3
Price: £475
www.rega.co.uk

If you don’t want to take chances with new kids on the block, if you are the sort of person who goes for reliable brands, if you want a turntable that has been used by, well, generations of analogue fans, then this deck, which first saw the light of day in 1977 – yes 38 years ago – is for you. Solid, reliable, great sound quality, cracking price, the RP3 is the nearest the hifi industry has to an icon.


td206

THORENS TD 206
Price: £750
www.thorens.com

One of the most recognisable turntable brands on the market and an ideal model if you have looked towards the company’s TD 309 but have been defeated by the price. This German deck is in no way inferior, though. You get a good quality arm with a very nice belt tension feature for the platter.


Avid Ingenium 9 inch SME

AVID INGENIUM
Price: £800
www.avidhifi.com

This small footprint turntable is unique because it can draw upon a direct lineage with the company’s own super-deck, the £10k Acutus. That deck has been simplified over time to create a range of Avid turntables. The Ingenium is the essence of the Acutus is its simplest form. The only deck here to be created from a top-down design.


Inspire questclrlge

INSPIRE QUEST CLEAR
Price: £875
www.inspirehifi.co.uk

The great thing about this deck is that it is basically an upgraded Rega turntable. That is, certain components of a typical Rega turntable have been replaced by enhanced Inspire components. Hence, you can buy the bits and upgrade your Rega for a few hundred pounds (the final cost depends on how many parts you might want to upgrade) or you can purchase this deck as a completed, finished item from Inspire.


Clearaudio Concept

CLEARAUDIO CONCEPT
Price: £995
www.soundfowndations.co.uk

Another German construction, this ‘high end’ brand recently released this ‘budget’ deck including the rather nice Concept tonearm and Moving Magnet cartridge. This is a plug’n’play deck as the company set up the arm and cartridge in the factory for you. For those who want the quality without the fuss.


gyrodec

MICHELL GYRODEC SE
Price: £1,350
www.michell-engineering.co.uk

The Gyrodec is a phenomenon. The design was released in the early 80s but don’t think that age equals tired and haggard because the Gyrodec is one of the best engineered turntables in existence with sound quality that not only blows away many direct competitors but worries decks twice its price. A quite remarkable turntable.


wilson

WILSON BENESCH FULL CIRCLE
Price: £2,150
www.wilson-benesch.com

This deck offers two things. Firstly, it provides a tiny footprint. The ‘circle’ bit of the name says it all, really. Secondly, with it’s carbon fibre arm (designed by an aeronautics engineer) you are given another slice of innovation. Finally, this deck gives you a taste of what owning a super-deck is all about. Comes with a free cartridge too.


  • Brad Barnett

    The RP3 was released a few years ago.

    • Paul Rigby

      Many, many years ago, Brad 🙂 Still does the business too.

      • Brad Barnett

        somewhat semantics. the current player is only a few years old. planar 3 predates it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rega_Planar_3

        • Paul Rigby

          I seem to have become incredibly ‘thick’ all of a sudden, Brad. I’m missing your point here I think.

  • BD

    Have you had much listening on the
    MMF-7.1?

    • Paul Rigby

      Why do you ask BD? Are you considering one?

      • BD

        Considering a new deck, reviews seem few and far between on the 7.1.

        • Paul Rigby

          Ah, I gotcha now. Must admit that I have yet to see one. The company are not terribly forthcoming in offering review samples. Why have you set your sights on that particular one? Got a budget?

    • Kittysafe

      I owned a 7.1 for about two years, loved it. Living in an old home, the built-in level and adjustable feet was mandatory. The design, the independent motor, carbon fiber tone arm, oh ya, it’s a fantastic turntable. You can get them now for about $800 which is perfect.

  • johntoste

    I had the amazing SME 10 and loved it but when I built a house, I “downgraded” to a VPI 19Jr. No shame there. If I were to buy a table from this list, it would be the Gyro SE with an SME arm and live happily ever after.

  • Michael Oliver

    Who needs a new BMW 3 series when you can by this instead: http://www.kronosaudio.com/kronos-pro.html