The 8 best high-end turntables to aspire to

By in Features, Turntables & Tech

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Following our guides to the best budget and mid-range turntables, we rundown 8 of the best high-end decks that will make your vinyl sing.

Why bother with high-end turntables at all? Are you merely throwing money away? You’ve heard of diminishing returns? Do high-end turntables suffer in the same way? No, actually, they don’t. Generally speaking, the better the design, the better the materials utilised in that design and, hence, the more expensive it then becomes, the better it performs.

That doesn’t mean, if you bought yourself a spanking £10,000 turntable, plugged it in on the kitchen table and sat it on top of your amp and speakers, that it would blow your mind. In this configuration, it’d probably sound a bit rough, to say the least. You need to treat your hi-fi with due care and attention to get the best from it.

OK then, if properly and carefully installed, what does ‘high end’ give you? In conjunction with other complimentary hi-fi components, many things. A sense of realism is just the beginning. Trumpets sound positively brassy, a sax player’s breath can be heard moving across the reed, wooden piano hammers can be heard hitting the metal strings where the wood sounds ‘wood-y’ and the metal sounds ‘metal-y’. There’s more, though. How the instruments are arranged in front of you changes. The instruments appear to be moving backwards, in a 3D-like space. But also to the left and right and even upwards. Entire new instruments (previously masked by noise or a lack of insight) might now appear in the song, seemingly arriving from nowhere, the music will have a new focus, extra precision and on and on. In short, the experience can be thrilling and scarily addictive in terms of searching for ever better sound quality.

Pin-pointing a high-end price point is tough. For this article on this website, though, I’m going to put a spike in the sand and say that any turntable valued over £800 is ‘high end’. After all, if you are going to spend that sort of money on a turntable then you must be pretty dedicated. Don’t forget you might have to spend more on the arm and the cartridge. Then there’s the amp and speakers, of a similar quality, to think about.

With that in mind, the eight turntables listed below are merely a varied sprinkle of what’s out there. There’s plenty of other top quality designs that I will leave out due to space. This is where you come in. Please tell me about your favourites and why they are just that, in the comments below and, if you need any advice, by all means fire away with questions. I’ll be glad to answer them.


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

Price: £995
www.soundfowndations.co.uk

A German construction, this high-end brand recently released this (for it) low cost 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.


Origin Live Aurora Mk.3

Price: £1,370
www.originlive.com

One the best but least known turntable companies in the world and it’s situated in the UK! The price stated here is for the turntable only. You’ll need to spend out on the arm (Origin’s own Alliance at £250 is excellent) and a cartridge (the Benz Ace at £695 is superb). Origin Live doesn’t get the press it deserves: I have its top of the line Sovereign as my own reference turntable, for example.


Michell GyroDec SE

Price: £1,600 (without an arm or cartridge)
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. The company’s own TecnoArm can be had for around £660.


Roksan Radius 5.2

Price: £1,700
www.roksan.co.uk

Replaced now by the ‘7’ which is more expensive still, you can still find the 5.2 in the shops and its worth hunting down. An all-acrylic, semi-suspended turntable, it sits on three compliant rubber mounts. The arm, included as standard, is the Nima unipivot. An attractive sound that excels in imaging, bass performance and detail retrieval.


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 its 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.


Eat C-Sharp/C-Note

Price: £2,500
www.euroaudioteam.com

In a way, you could describe the EAT as a posh Pro-Ject. EAT boss, Jozefina Lichtenegger, is married to Pro-Ject’s founder, Heinz Lichtenegger. She runs EAT from the top floor of the Pro-ject factory in the Czech Republic. The C-Note is a hybrid Cardan/unipivot made from carbon fibre with copper internal cable. The C-Sharp turntable is constructed by a sandwich of carbon fibre and MDF. The suspension features a series of seven conical thermoplastic elastomer pieces to remove vibrations and is made by Ortofon, would you believe.


VPI Prime Scout

Price: £2,650
www.vpiindustries.com

VPI is based in the USA and makes a range of expensive turntables. This is one of its lower priced models. The Prime Scout uses the VPI JMW 9 tonearm plus an external motor in a substantial housing to minimise vibration. A thick and textured vinyl covers the MDF plinth. That is bonded to a 12-gauge steel plate with an aluminium platter.

Comments (30)

  1. buchansmiles53 6 months ago

    Hum….given the British bias here, no Rega in that list? And I know your price of entry is low but if you want the best of British, should SME not have a mention here too? And old SME20 on the used market will compete with almost anything out there in my experience. Still, all good choices here, and it’s nice to have the options in 2017!

    • Rian Van Der Merwe 6 months ago

      Yeah I’m also surprised to not see any Rega here…

    • Author
      Paul Rigby 6 months ago

      Any bias in not conscious and I apologise if you see it that way. I tried to spread the prize points (which I had to restrict a tad which meant that SME were excluded but you’ve corrected that).

  2. Simon C 6 months ago

    So many other stunning turntables went amiss on this list. It’s like looking at a supercar list with just Porsches and Ferraris. What happened to the others? To list a few which I can recall of the top of my head, manufacturers like Kronos Audio, Acoustic Signature, Brinkman, Continuum, Walker Audio, Thorens, SME… and that’s just the tip of the ice berg.

    • les 6 months ago

      No mention for Linn. My Linn is far superior to anything on their list of best decks.

      • Glenn Read 6 months ago

        Right on the money Les. There can be no doubt that the Linn Sondek LP12 is the greatest turntable on earth. Every demonstration room I’ve ever walked into over the decades spruiking the newest, fangled space age looking invention has always had the LP12 sitting next to it wired up and ready to go for an A/B comparison test, not to mention the countless magazine reviews I’ve read over the years that always state…”so we compared this against the Linn Sondek LP12 and…” or “…but does it actually out perform the Linn Sondek LP12? You be the judge…”. Cheers!

    • Author
      Paul Rigby 6 months ago

      Just eight slots, Simon and I tried to vary the list plus I didn’t want to concentrate on very high end decks because of the nature of the readership on this site. This area is to give you the chance to ‘fill in the gaps’, though, which you’re doing nicely 🙂

  3. Tim M. Brown 6 months ago

    lawd i need these

  4. Andy Napster Nappey 6 months ago

    I’m sorry but anything belt driven shouldn’t even make it!

    • Marie Claire Wolf 6 months ago

      And I’m “sorry” for you too!

    • Tor Arne Moltubakk 6 months ago

      A turntable most also look like one

  5. Peter 6 months ago

    I’ve got the Concept, because it was perfect for my budget, it fit perfectly with my needs then and I wanted to upgrade my old Rega, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

    Last year, I replaced the original cartridge and moved up to the Clearaudio Maestro v2 Ebony, and the experience is even better now, specially if you listen all kind of jazz (the bass is deeper, the sound richer) and music with female vocals, of which this cartridge takes all the nuances.

    Yeah, is a MM cartridge and some people could think it is overpriced, but I assure you won’t regret it and it performs better than others MC in this range o even higher.

    I thoroughly recommend this turntable, Clearaudio just consistently delivers.

    • Author
      Paul Rigby 6 months ago

      Thanks for that, Peter.

      • Tor Arne Moltubakk 6 months ago

        Not mean this can be better than SONY PS-X9 who are also today some of the greatest SONY made but also many other have learning in 1970-1990 what they most do to get a perfect turntable.And that is weight and death material.And belt drive can never be better than direct drive if them have made it good.See them here go for 1100 Euro and that is the smallest model I have so most it be new are not ekspensive tt but 8 models who are cheap but give a sound like the big guys.And WHY MOST 6 look like a UFO who also are important for the look of a good too.I mean big normal models are a real turntable even how many floor the rack have and build in like a oil plattform.

  6. J Yu 6 months ago

    Setting your sights rather low, I’d say.

  7. Peter Goldsbrough 6 months ago

    Think you missed one of the finest Turntables in the World – Bergmann Sindre

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/92e042074955dcef6099e268386044521160da61ea2a787a6e02d20c9dac32e6.jpg

    • les 6 months ago

      Good deck but compared to my Linn Akurate LP12 it’s its second division. My original LP12 was bought in 1976 but is now retired to the lounge and the Akurate takes its place in the music room. I suppose we all have differing opinions

      • Peter Goldsbrough 6 months ago

        Yes, we do have differing opinions. And yes the Linn is truly second division.

        • les 6 months ago

          Not forgetting my opinion is the correct one and yours is discounted as worthless. LOL

          • Peter Goldsbrough 6 months ago

            Oh, I’m still laughing at that.

  8. Peter Goldsbrough 6 months ago

    Bergmann available in the UK – thethoughtprocess.com

    • Author
      Paul Rigby 6 months ago

      Thanks Peter.

  9. mark 6 months ago

    Isn’t it fabulous that you had such a hard time choosing just eight players for a medium that digital music was meant to have killed long ago. Low, medium and high end choices abound, it’s like being a kid in a sweet shop all over again! Please move onto tonearm and cartridges soon.

    • Author
      Paul Rigby 6 months ago

      Absolutely! Carts are on my list soon.

  10. Chiwai TANG 6 months ago

    Nottingham analogue?!?!

    • Author
      Paul Rigby 6 months ago

      Noted! 🙂

  11. Author
    Paul Rigby 6 months ago

    A list of amps is on my ‘to do’ list, Trevor.

  12. Ian Docherty 5 months ago

    Wot no Rega? 🙂

    • Author
      Paul Rigby 5 months ago

      Space issues, Ian – which one would you recommend?

  13. Paul Carter 5 months ago

    I couldn’t agree more on your Origin Live comments. I also have a Sovereign along with the Enterprise tonearm, absolutely outstanding! Mark Bakers creations at Origin Live shouldn’t be under estimated.

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