10 super-cool turntables to satisfy your vinyl lust
15th May 2009 | 12:15
From budget bedroom buys to skyscrapingly-priced exotica
Budget and mid-range
The music biz may have been trying to kill it off for years, but vinyl is in very good health.
Sales are up, kids love it because it's cooler than CDs or scrappy MP3s and it still makes men of a certain age go misty-eyed when they recall their misspent youth.
So whether you're a vinyl virgin or nostalgic old fogey, we've lined up some great-looking and, above all, great-sounding turntables for you to enjoy. Team them with a compatible amp and speakers and you'll be in hi-fi heaven. Don't forget to play loud now.
1. Pro-ject Debut MkIII
This is a great place to start. The Pro-Ject Debut III comes with everything you need to enjoy your new (or old) records and is super easy to set up and use. Best of all it delivers great sound quality for the money - all you need to get the best out of it is either an off-board phono stage, or a hi-fi or home cinema amp with a phono stage built-in.
2. Townshend Audio Rock 7
A great step-up from the Debut, this British-made turntable delivers super vinyl sounds that'll keep you dancing well into the night. The minimalist design helps keeps cost down, while focusing on the essentials; in particular, a trough assembly that helps the pickup arm faithfully track the grooves on your 33rpm and 45rpm discs. The Rock 7 doesn't come with a pickup arm as standard, but Townshend Audio offers a range of models to suit your needs and budget.
3. Clearaudio Performance Black Pearl
Clearaudio is famous for producing stunning-looking, great-sounding turntables and the Performance Black Pearl is no exception. What makes it particularly special is a magnetic bearing that literally floats the turntable platter in mid-air - something that helps prevent the deck from colouring the sound of your music. Hi-Fi Choice said of the Black Pearl " It's as fast, dynamic and precise as the record on the platter and as quiet as the phono stage it's hooked to. And that, quite frankly, is high praise indeed."
4. Wilson Benesch Full Circle
A measure of how good Wilson Benesch's Full Circle is its longevity. It's still kicking around a decade after it won Best Buy from our sister mag Hi-Fi Choice. "Full Circle comprises three main components: a stunning acrylic platter, which matches the mechanical impedance of your records, plus an a.c.t. 0.5 tonearm and an carbon-fibre bodied moving coil cartridge. The Full Circle just takes an hour to set up, but a whole lifetime to enjoy," said the mag.
5. Thorens Acrylic Series TD2030
Another great-looking turntable that goes big on acrylic, the Thorens TD2030 has been designed to stop unwanted resonances from assaulting your records with a heavyweight aluminium platter, vibration-free belt drive and special feet. The TD2030 offers a choice of tonearms (a Thorens TP 250 is included as standard), although you're left free to pick a cartridge of your choice. The sandwich construction of the TD2030's plinth is particularly stunning - it looks clear when viewed from the side, but glows cool blue when you look at it from above.
Going more expensive
6. Lumley Heliosphere
Like the Townshend Audio Rock 7, the Lumley Heliosphere is a low-cost alternative to an otherwise wallet-worrying product, in this case the £14k Lumley Stratosphere. It comes with a suitably similar minimalist design, the most notable feature of which is a 74mm deep acrylic platter on which your precious vinyl sits. The turntable doesn't come with a tonearm or cartridge as standard, so you'll also need to budget for these - contact UK distributor Metropolis Music for details.
7. EAT Forte
£12,400-£12,900 (depending on finish)
If you're serious about vinyl, then this is one serious turntable. Designed to eliminate practically all unwanted resonances, the EAT Forte combines a metal sand-filled MDF plinth with a completely separate motor assembly. Magnetic feet effectively decouple the whole thing from its surroundings, while a heavyweight semi-magnetic plinth and insulated tonearm take care of any other vibrations. Phew. All you need to add to get great sounds is a suitable cartridge.
8. DaVinci Audio Labs AAS Gabriel Master Reference
Vinyl wouldn't be vinyl if it didn't have a large dash of idiosyncrasy and eccentricity built-in - and the AAS Gabriel Master Reference turntable has both in equal measure. It comprises three main components, all of which sit on separate sub-plinths. These include a heavyweight aluminium platter that floats on an magnetic bearing; a separate motor drive and speed controller; and a sub-plinth for the optional $12k (£7,881) tonearm. Truly deep-pocketed audiophiles can also opt for up to three additional tonearm boards (with tonearms extra, natch) leaving you with the mind-boggling setup you see here. As you'd expect you also get a choice of luxury finishes including black, Ferrari Red and Lamborghini Orange. There's even a white version with a 24ct gold platter and knobs - one for the bankers then.
9. Continuum Caliburn
The Continuum Caliburn is a money-no-object expression of the quest for audiophile perfection. Every component has been precision engineered to the highest standards to extract every note from your record's grooves. Its heavyweight magnesium alloy platter alone weighs 40kg, although when it spins its weight is reduced to a couple of kilos thanks to the Caliburn's magnetic bearing, which spins the platter in mid-air. Other goodies include a silent vacuum pump that maintains a vice-like grip on your records while they are spinning. At at this price, you'll be pleased to hear that a high quality tonearm and cartridge are thrown in.
10. Goldmund Reference II
Woah. You have a have lot of cash and love vinyl an awful lot to enter the rarified echelons of Goldmund Reference II ownership. For a start you don't really own the turntable at all. You pay a subscription to receive one of just give one of the five Reference II's made each year, with the current Mark II model available in a strictly limited edition of just 25 examples. We haven't got the space to put in all the Reference II's bells-and-whistles here - although words like brass, titanium and metacrylate spring to mind. Needless to say each Goldmund Reference II comes with its own team of engineers who'll deliver, install and setup the turntable for you. Oh, and the price doesn't include a cartridge or even a tonearm. Those cost extra.
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