6 Best Automatic Turntables to Get in 2018 – Keep Your Records Safe

Vinyl record players have made a significant comeback in recent years thanks to the unparalleled sound quality they offer. However, unlike digital music or CDs, vinyl players require careful handling, particularly when it comes to placing the stylus onto the record or taking it off at the end of the record. Automatic turntables are a more beginner-friendly option for record players since they automatically drop the stylus onto your record with the required force and lift them off at the end of the record. That way, there is no need to worry about damaging your vinyl or having to watch carefully for the end of the record.

To find the best automatic turntable on the market today, we considered a number of features that affect everything from sound quality to usability to durability. Among the factors we took into account were the rotation speed of the turntable, which affects what sizes of records the turntable can play, and whether it is belt-driven or direct-driven, which affects how long the player will last. We also considered the materials of the stylus and platter and the shape of the tonearm, all of which are important in determining the quality and fidelity of the sound playback.

Top 6 Automatic Turntables Review 2018

We spent tens of hours reading through technical specifications for the most popular automatic turntables and poring through customer reviews. The result is a list of the six best automatic turntables, the best features of which are highlighted in the table below. Continue reading for detailed reviews of each turntable, complete with the pros and cons of each. Our buying guide and FAQs cover everything you need to know about choosing the turntable that is right for you. Finally, we sum up what we loved about our top three favorite automatic turntables.

Name and Features Image Rating Price
1. Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK (Editor’s Choice)
High-quality yet upgradeable turntable that accepts both MM and MC cartridges, reduces vibrations perfectly, and features a well-balanced tonearm
Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK
2. Denon DP-300F (Best Value for Money)
Solidly built automatic turntable with an elliptical stylus and an extra-heavy platter
Denon DP-300F
3. Thorens TD 170-1B (Best for 78-RPM Vinyl)
Plays 78 RPM vinyl in addition to 33 1/3 and 45 RPM, and comes with or without a phono pre-amp
Thorens TD 170-1B
4. Sony USB Stereo Turntable (Best for Digitizing Vinyl Collection)
Features an integrated USB port and record software to digitize your records
Sony USB Stereo Turntable
5. Thorens TD 295 MK IV (Best Semi-Automatic Turntable)
Comes with a high-end AT-95E cartridge and a counterbalanced TP 41 tonearm for perfect playback
Thorens TD 295 MK IV
6. Audio Technica AT-LP60BK (Budget Pick)
Inexpensive turntable with a switchable pre-amp and an option for integrated USB port
Audio Technica AT-LP60BK
Features
  • Speeds: 33-1/3, 45 RPM
  • Type: belt-drive
  • Stylus: diamond
  • Cartridge: AT91R Dual Moving Magnet phono cartridge
  • Tonearm: straight
  • Platter: anti-resonance, die-cast aluminum platter with 4 mm thick rubber mat
  • Pre-amplifier: included

More features: switchable pre-amp modes for moving magnet and moving coil cartridges

OVERALL RATING: 9.8 out of 10

This sleek and stylish belt-driven turntable from Audio-Technica is a favorite among customers thanks to its incredible audio playback quality. The turntable is able to handle both 33 1/3 and 45 RPM vinyl and comes with a diamond stylus and a basic-level moving magnet phono cartridge made by Audio-Technica. Although some users would have liked to receive a more advanced cartridge given the price of this turntable, they did appreciate the ability to switch the pre-amp to use either a moving magnet or moving coil cartridge. Users also appreciated the universal headshell that makes it easy to switch out cartridges.

The platter is made from die-cast aluminum and is constructed with a 4.5-mm topsheet of rubber to further reduce vibrations, which is one of the main reasons for the high-quality audio from this turntable. The player also has rubberized feet to help keep it steady when playing vinyl. Users also liked the straight tonearm, which requires balancing when you first get the turntable but is relatively easy to calibrate to the proper force.

The only minor issue that users had with the turntable is that the buttons on the front feel cheaply made compared to the rest of the unit and the white text can get scratched and faded over time.

PROS:
  • Accepts both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges
  • 5-mm rubber topsheet on platter
  • Tonearm is well balanced

CONS:
  • Cartridge could be higher quality for the price
  • Buttons feel cheaply made

Features
  • Speeds: 33 1/3 or 45 RPM
  • Type: belt-drive
  • Stylus: diamond
  • Cartridge: Moving Magnet
  • Tonearm: straight
  • Platter: rigid die-cast aluminum
  • Pre-amplifier: Included

More features: 5mm thick turntable sheet, built-in phono equalizer

OVERALL RATING: 9.5 out of 10

This solidly built belt-drive automatic turntable from Denon is a great value given the high quality of its audio playback. The moving magnet cartridge with diamond stylus is constructed with a removable headshell, making it easy to change out the cartridge as you wish. Plus, the diamond stylus itself is elliptical rather than conical in shape, which improves the tracking and allows your stylus to last longer.

The die-cast aluminum platter is built with an extra heavy base to reduce vibrations from the motor and from movement in the room. In addition, the 5-mm thick topsheet on the platter further reduces vibrations, and Denon included hologram vibration reduction analysis to provide the best playback quality possible.

One major issue that users noted with this turntable is that the speed adjustment is slightly off, so that the 33 1/3 and 45 RPM settings on the turntable are not quite accurate relative to the vinyl it is playing. Although the exact cause is unknown, it appears to be related to issues with the belt drive rather than the platter. Customers have had mixed support from Denon with this issue, which can lead to significant frustration if this issue happens to your turntable.

PROS:
  • Removable headshell on cartridge
  • Elliptical stylus
  • 5-mm thick topsheet on platter and hologram vibration reduction

CONS:
  • Issues with belt drive in some cases
  • Mixed customer service results

Features
  • Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 RPM, 78 RPM
  • Type: belt-drive
  • Stylus: included, type not specified
  • Cartridge: included, type not specified
  • Tonearm: straight
  • Platter: die-cast aluminum platter
  • Pre-amplifier: included

OVERALL RATING: 9.4 out of 10

This belt-drive automatic turntable from Thorens is the only turntable in our top six that plays 78 RPM vinyl in addition to 33 1/3 and 45 RPM vinyl, so it’s the perfect choice for those who have a large number of these faster records in their libraries. Note, however, that you will need to purchase an additional stylus and cartridge separately to play back 78 RPM records.

The tonearm is relatively gentle when touching down on your records and an easy to use slider control allows you to fine tune the weight of the tonearm on your vinyl. Another important thing to note with this turntable is that Thorens offers this model both with and without a phono pre-amplifier, which is essential if you do not plan on purchasing and installing an external pre-amplifier between the turntable and your speakers. Be sure to ask your vendor which model they are selling before purchasing to avoid confusion.

The die-cast aluminum platter is built with a heavy base to reduce vibrations, although Thorens did not add additional vibration reduction mechanisms to this platter to further increase playback quality.

PROS:
  • Able to play 78 RPM vinyl
  • Fine-tuning controls for tonearm
  • Upgradeable

CONS:
  • Stylus and cartridge for 78 RPM vinyl must be purchased separately
  • Availability without pre-amp causes confusion

Features
  • Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 RPM
  • Type: belt-drive
  • Stylus: diamond
  • Cartridge: not specified
  • Tonearm: S-shape
  • Platter: not specified
  • Pre-amplifier: included

More features: USB output for direct connection to PCs, iPod, and other compatible USB audio devices

OVERALL RATING: 9.4 out of 10

This automatic belt-drive turntable from Sony is perfect for those who want to digitize their vinyl collections thanks to the integrated USB port. In addition to being able to play back vinyl on your computer, the turntable comes with Sony’s Audio Studio software to help you easily and quickly record and optimize your vinyl records. While the turntable can play 33 1/3 and 45 RPM records, note that it cannot be used to play or digitize 78 RPM vinyl.

However, this turntable also performs well as a standalone vinyl player thanks to features like the quality S-shaped tonearm and diamond stylus. The platter is slightly raised to reduce vibrations and the turntable itself is heavy enough to keep the sound quality from being affected by motion in the room. The turntable includes a pre-amplifier as well as a 100-foot copper speaker wire, although it is worth noting that the pre-amplifier cannot be switched off if you want to connect to a broader audio system. In addition, the RCA cables are hardwired into the turntable, which makes them difficult to impossible to replace or upgrade.

PROS:
  • Integrated USB port and recording software
  • Comes with 100-foot speaker wire
  • S-shaped tonearm

CONS:
  • Pre-amp cannot be turned off
  • Hardwired RCA cables

Features
  • Speeds: 33-1/3, 45 RPM
  • Type: belt-drive
  • Stylus: included, not specified
  • Cartridge: AT-95E
  • Tonearm: TP 41 tonearm
  • Platter: not specified
  • Pre-amplifier: included

More features: elegant appearance

OVERALL RATING: 9.4 out of 10

If you are determined to get an automatic turntable but don’t want to sacrifice anything on sound quality, this high-end turntable from Thorens is a spectacular – if expensive – choice. The turntable comes with the 95E cartridge from Audio Technica, one of their higher quality cartridges that you won’t find standard on less expensive turntables. Also, Thorens equipped this turntable with their TP 41 tonearm, which is extremely lightweight and counterbalanced so that it sits perfectly on your vinyl for the best tracking and playback quality.

The turntable is able to play both 33 1/3 and 45 RPM vinyl and includes a phono pre-amp to make it easy to hook the turntable up to a set of speakers. However, note that the pre-amp cannot be easily switched off, which might disappoint more serious audiophiles looking to upgrade the pre-amp to something more substantial.

The die-cast aluminum platter is somewhat raised above the base of the turntable in order to help isolate it from any vibrations that are caused by the motor. In addition, the turntable base is constructed with rubberized feet in order to reduce vibrations and further improve sound quality.

PROS:
  • Counterbalanced TP 41 tonearm
  • High-quality AT-95E cartridge
  • Vibration isolated platter

CONS:
  • Expensive
  • Pre-amp cannot be easily turned off

Features
  • Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 RPM
  • Type: belt-drive
  • Stylus: diamond
  • Cartridge: integral Dual Magnet phono cartridge
  • Tonearm: automatic, straight
  • Platter: anti-resonance, die-cast aluminum platter
  • Pre-amplifier: included

More features: noise ratio: >50 dB (DIN-B)

OVERALL RATING: 8.7 out of 10

This inexpensive belt-drive turntable from Audio Technica is a great option for those who want to be able to play an old vinyl collection but don’t care to spend hundreds of dollars or more for incredible sound quality. The turntable is able to play both 33 1/3 and 45 RPM vinyl and uses a diamond stylus mounted on a dual magnet phono cartridge. The included pre-amp can be switched between RCA cable and line out modes, making it easy to connect to either a large audio system or simple powered speakers. Plus, Audio Technica offers another version of this turntable, the AT-LP60BK-USB, that has an integrated USB port to allow you to connect to a computer to digitize your vinyl collection.

The playback quality on this turntable is so-so, since there is relatively little vibration reduction beyond the die-cast aluminum platter itself. Users note that people walking around in the same room as the turntable can cause the stylus to jump and skip, although this can be partially alleviated by placing the turntable on a vibration-isolated table with a rubber mat. Note also that the tonearm on this turntable is not counterbalanced, so it is relatively difficult to control the weight of the tonearm on your records compared to more advanced automatic turntables.

PROS:
  • Inexpensive
  • Option for integrated USB port
  • Switchable pre-amp

CONS:
  • Little vibration reduction
  • Tonearm not counterbalanced

Buying Guide

Now that you’ve read more about our six favorite automatic turntables currently on the market, how do you choose among them to find the right turntable for you?

Turntables can be difficult to differentiate at first because of the highly specific parts, but taking a closer look at each of the essential components of a turntable can reveal some of the hidden differences between models and help you to understand how you record player functions. In addition, knowing more about these components can help you better recognize when a turntable is a great value for the quality and when a turntable is overpriced for what it delivers. In addition, we’ll cover some questions that beginners commonly ask when they are interested in buying an automatic turntable so that you can be sure you are getting a model that is right for you.

Why buy an automatic turntable?

Automatic turntables make operating a vinyl record player a cinch, especially for beginners. Traditional manual turntables require you to place the needle arm onto the record with the right amount of pressure in order to start playing a record, and then to carefully take the arm back off the record when it is finished playing before it starts scratching. If you place too much pressure on the record, or leave the room right before the record finishes, you risk damaging both the record and the stylus of your turntable. Automatic turntables eliminate this problem by automatically regulating the pressure of the stylus on the record – all you have to do is press a button to have the player arm lower itself – and automatically lifting then arm when the record ends.

Automatic Turntable

This convenience comes with an important caveat, however. You won’t find automatic player arms on higher-end turntables because they do slightly impair the audio quality of the record player. The reason is that the platter must leave extra space for the mass of cogs and other mechanical parts involved in actually moving the player arm up and down, which can introduce more vibrations as the record is spinning. In addition, the electrical circuitry in the motorized arm can actually interfere, however slightly, with the current running through the cartridge that reads the record.

While there are some devices that you can place on your player arm to automatically lift the arm at the end of a record, without an automatic turntable you’ll have to know how much pressure to place when applying the arm onto the record. While manual turntables might provide a slight edge in sound quality, for many beginners the risk of damaging decades-old vinyl by misapplying the player arm is a more important consideration.

Features to consider in an automatic turntable

Rotation speed

The rotation speed of a turntable is one of the most essential features to look at when considering a new player and your preference may depend on what vinyl you already have in your collection. Most turntables are designed to play vinyl that are 33 1/3 or 45 RPM and these are the most common sizes of vinyl sold. However, only a few turntables, such as the Thorens TD 170-1B turntable, are capable of playing those vinyl as well as larger 78 RPM vinyl. If you have 78 RPM records in your collection or prefer the slightly better audio quality of these records, then you will want to search for a turntable that can play at this speed.

Type

Turntables can be split according to whether the motor spins the platter via a belt – known as belt-driven turntables -or whether the motor sits directly underneath the platter – known as direct-drive turntables. The differences between these types is relatively important for DJs using turntables, but when it comes to using an automatic turntable to listen to music there is relatively little difference between them. Belt-driven turntables typically have a slight advantage in music quality since there is less vibration in the platter as compared to direct-drive turntables where the motor is whirring directly below the platter.

Stylus and platter

The stylus and platter are two of the most important components in any turntable since they will largely determine the sound quality you get when playing back vinyl records. The stylus is the needle that actually tracks through the grooves of your records and is typically made of diamond, although other stylus types are available. It is often worth investing in the best stylus and cartridge that you can afford, and thankfully most turntables can be easily upgraded by changing out the cartridge.

The platter is the part of the turntable that, driven by the motor, actually spins the record. The platter is the point at which your turntable is most susceptible to vibration and noise within your record playback, so having a heavy, solid platter is important for the best sound quality. The majority of modern turntables use platters made from die-cast aluminum, but these platters vary in their weights and whether they have additional vibration reduction features like a rubber mat included.

Tonearm

Tonearms come in a variety of different design configurations because they are another part of every turntable where sound quality can be affected. Some tonearms are straight to provide a uniform movement of the stylus through the record, while others are curved to allow more flexibility in the stylus – like the S-shaped tonearm found on the Sony USB Stereo Turntable. Both styles can introduce some vibration, so there is no single best tonearm style. In general, it is best to opt for a high-quality tonearm when purchasing a new turntable, although you can typically replace the tonearm later if you wish to upgrade your record player.

Sony USB Stereo

Pre-amplifier

The pre-amplifier is a component that is built into most turntables, including all of the automatic turntables in our review. The purpose of the pre-amplifier is to lift the audio signal from the cartridge to audible levels, which can then be listed to via a set of speakers or headphones through an auxiliary cable. Although pre-amplifiers can be purchased separately from the turntable and connected externally, most amateur vinyl listeners will not want to deal with the hassle of running their turntable through an external pre-amplifier.

Extra features

The most important extra feature to consider when looking at automatic turntables is whether the turntable offers a USB port for connecting to a computer. This is important if you want to record audio playback from your vinyl records, for example to digitize your music collection, or to run the audio line through your computer speakers.

Also be sure to look at whether you like the appearance of the turntable you are getting – after all, it is likely a piece of audio equipment that will be displayed prominently in your home. A dust cover can be helpful for protecting the vinyl player when it is not in use and extend the life of your turntable.

FAQ

If you would like to play music directly from a computer, you will need a turntable that has both a pre-amplifier and a USB output to connect to the computer. All of the turntables in our review come with a pre-amplifier, which makes connecting to external speakers or devices relatively straightforward. However, since your PC or iPad is not designed to work as a set of speakers, you will need a USB cable rather than a simple auxiliary cable in order to have your computer recognize the audio signal coming from the turntable and play it back.

Almost any turntable can be made portable, although turning your vinyl collection mobile is always a serious risk to its longevity. If you do plan on moving your turntable from place to place, consider whether it comes with a dust cover over the platter and whether it has numerous wires needed to connect to a set of external speakers.

Unfortunately, not every turntable can play every vinyl – different speeds of turntables are designed to play different sizes of records. Most turntables that are able to play 33 1/3 RPM vinyl are also capable of playing 45 RPM vinyl, although this is not always the case. 78 RPM vinyl will not play on a large number of turntables and usually require a three-speed turntable – if you have 78 RPM records in your vinyl collection, make sure to look specifically for a turntable that can play these in addition to 33 1/3 and 45 RPM vinyl like the Thorens TD 170-1B player.

Our Verdict

Our overall favorite automatic turntables were the Audio Technica AT-LP3BK, the Denon DP-300F, and the Thorens TD 170-1B. All three of these turntables featured heavy-duty platters, and the models from Audio Technica and Denon were constructed with topsheets for additional vibration reduction and higher audio quality. We felt the Audio Technica AT-LP3BK was the overall best automatic turntable on the market today in part because it is one of the few turntables that can use either moving magnet or moving coil cartridges and because it comes with nearly perfectly counterbalanced tonearm. The Denon DP-300F suffers from speed issues related to the belt drive, but otherwise offers terrific playback quality. Meanwhile, we liked the Thorens TD 170-1B because it is one of the few automatic turntables that is capable of playing 78 RPM vinyl in addition to 33 1/3 and 45 RPM vinyl.

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