All turntables have the same basic components: A tonearm holding a phono cartridge and a stylus, a platter to spin your records that turns on ball bearings, some kind of motor, and the base or plinth, which prevents unwanted vibrations from affecting your sound. The cartridge and stylus will have the most influence over the nuance and quality of your music. If you think you may want to change or upgrade these components in the future, make sure to get a turntable that allows you to remove them; if that’s not a concern, models with fixed cartridges are often easier to initially set up.
Below we’ve gathered together the 3 best automatic turntables on the market. Check them out!
Thorens TD 170-1 Fully Automatic Turntable
If your record collection includes 78s, the TD 170 from Thorens is one of the few automatic turntables in its price range that comes with a motor capable of playing them. You’ll still need to purchase a separate stylus and cartridge, but that’s a lot more cost-effective—and more convenient—than upgrading the motor or buying a second turntable.
For all record types, the turntable (see full specs) offers listeners the maximum convenience. It’s easy to operate and doesn’t require any adjustments out of the box, perfect for the vinyl beginner who doesn’t want to worry about making adjustments to the balance or positioning of the tonearm. It also comes with a built-in proprietary phono pre-amp, letting you send the signal straight to your audio receiver.
The design of the TD 170 isn’t flashy but it is well-crafted and sturdy, designed to prevent interference from vibrations, and the sound quality is on par with much pricier turntables. Hands down, it’s one of the best fully automatic turntables you can buy.
Denon DP-300F Fully Automatic Turntable
- Denon DP-300F Fully Automatic Analog Turntable With Built-In Phono Equalizer | Unique Tonearm Design | Hologram Vibration Analysis | Slim Design,Black
- Price: $329.00
- Price as of 08/06/2020 20:10 PDT(more info)
The Denon DP-300F gives you all the features you could want out of an automatic turntable, with a built-in preamp to make sure the signal that comes out is the highest possible quality. The tonearm uses a state of the art dynamic balancing system and has a removable headshell, though once you hear the MM cartridge that comes installed, you likely won’t want to change a thing.
The belt-drive system uses a DC servo motor and has two speeds (33 1/3 and 45 RPMs), and lets you switch speeds automatically along with its push-button stop and start functions, making this product (see full specs) even easier to use than most automatic turntables. Each of the components is built with maximum precision, with a die-cast aluminum platter and a base designed to minimize the vibrations that can affect your sound’s quality. This should be on anyone’s list of the best automatic turntable on the market.
Audio Technica AT-LP60
- Audio-Technica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Stereo Turntable, Silver
- Price: $200.00
- Price as of 08/06/2020 20:10 PDT(more info)
If you’re a beginner in the world of vinyl—or you’re on a beginner’s budget—check out the AT-LP60, a fully automatic, belt-driven turntable. It comes with a built-in preamplifier, along with an option to instead use the line-level output if you’d prefer to add your own external preamp.
The simplicity of the set-up and the operation (see full specs) also make it ideal for the beginner; the counterweight is set at the factory, meaning the assembly out of the box is simple regardless of your experience level. The Cue button on the front panel lets you automatically raise and lower the tonearm, great if you have trouble seeing where to place the needle. The overall combination of sound quality, convenience, and price make this one of the best automatic turntables for the money.
DJ Versus Home Audio Turntables
When it comes to DJ or audiophile turntables, there’s a bit of a square/rectangle situation. A home listener could get a very enjoyable listening experience by using a DJ turntable, but a DJ who tries to use an audiophile’s turntable will be sorely disappointed. There are many differences between the two styles, some more subtle than others, but the key differences is in the motor. The motor in a DJ turntable is able to move back and forth quickly, for when a DJ “scratches” the records. The motor in an audiophile’s turntable uses a belt that is only intended to go one direction—forward, to spin the record—meaning a DJ who tries to spin on this style will likely break the turntable.
Generally speaking, DJ turntables are more expensive than audiophile turntables that produce the same musical quality. They also tend to be more durable, especially when it comes to the tonearm and the needle installed on it, which has to stand up to far more pressure than what is typically applied in a listening application. However, if you can find an affordable fully automatic DJ turntable (no small feat, we admit), they will give you an equally great listening experience in a far more rugged package.
Changing Speeds on the Best Automatic Turntables
Unlike more modern audio formats, records come in a variety of sizes, which are classified by the speed of their rotation on the platter. The most popular formats are 33 1/3 and 45 RPMs (revolutions per minute) and every turntable you buy will be capable of playing these two sizes of record. If you also want to be able to play 78s—which are slightly smaller than a 33 1/3 RPM record and also spin much faster—make sure to check if the turntables you’re looking at are capable of playing records at that speed.
Generally speaking, 3-speed record players will cost significantly more than the standard 2-speed model; some affordable turntables may need to be modified to allow them to play 78s by installing a new pulley and stylus. It is relatively rare to find 78s in general circulation, so for most listeners, a 2-speed model will work perfectly fine. If you’re a casual vinyl listener, you’ll likely find the added 78 RPM capability isn’t worth the extra expense, but if you’re hardcore, it might better to shell out the extra dough for that extra speed on your turntable. Good luck!
Micah Johnson started playing music in high school, when he taught himself the bass to join his friend’s band. He added guitar and drums during his twenties playing in local clubs, and along the way, he picked up unique, hands-on experience from hand drums to studio mixers. On Song Simian, he aims to share this knowledge from 20+ years playing and recording music. When not in gearhead mode, he enjoys photography and travel. Email him