The best record players will help you enjoy music, play with kids and pets, and do other fun things while keeping your collection of records neatly organized.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Record Players

When choosing a new record player, there are many things to consider. For example, how much space is available for storing records? Who will be using the turntable most? What kind of stylus or needle should be selected? How well does it play? And what features would make it easier to use? Read on to find out more about these and other important shopping considerations.

Type

There are four main types of record players: manual, automatic, semiautomatic, and digital.

  • Manual record players require the user to select each record, press play, and then manually adjust the volume with a dial or slider.
  • Automatic record players automatically detect the correct speed of the record and create an optimal amount of friction while playing. These models often feature LED lights that flash when the needle is on the right track.
  • Semi-automatic record players reduce the workload of the operator by allowing them to set the speed and adjusting the friction levels as needed. The user still needs to manually control the volume.
  • Digital recorders store audio files on their hard drives instead of physical records. Users can add music from their computer or stream audio from online services like Spotify or Apple Music. Digital devices do not need a needle; rather, they have a built-in laser light that reads the grooves in the record and creates an image that appears on a screen. Digital recorders typically cost more than manual or automatic models.

Size and Weight

The size and weight of a record player can affect its portability and suitability for certain environments. For instance, if youre looking for a device to take camping or to a tailgate party, a lightweight manual record player might be your best bet. However, those who live in small spaces may want to consider a smaller model.

The smallest automatic record players are usually no larger than a deck of cards, so they can easily fit into a purse or pocket. Digital recorders are the largest, heaviest pieces of equipment around, but fortunately, they’re also the most portable.

Storage Capacity

The average person listens to about 10 hours of music a week. That means if youre not removing old albums or singles and putting new ones in rotation, you’ll soon fill up your record storage capacity. Before selecting a new record player, consider how much space you have for storing records and how many records you expect to own in the future.

For a home with ample space, a large wooden desk, or multiple desks, a rack, or shelves, for example, you could purchase enough space for hundreds of albums. Alternatively, for a smaller office, a cubby here or there could accommodate a handful of LPs.

If youre tight on space and already own plenty of records, it might be better to purchase a device that holds dozens or even hundreds of individual discs. This way you wont fill up your precious storage capacity.

Speed

The speed at which the needle moves across the surface of the record has a significant impact on the sound quality. Generally speaking, slower speeds result in a higher pitch and fuller tones, while faster speeds produce lower pitches and sharper, more treble notes.

Needle position is also important. If the needle is moving too quickly for the groove to catch, the stylus may jump around, creating distortion. Conversely, if the needle is moving too slowly for the groove to grip, the stylus may skip over the record, resulting in clicks.

Stylus/Needle

The stylus or needle is the part of the record player that physically touches the record during playback. Needles come in two varieties: sharp and blunt.

  • Blunt needles create less friction and therefore allow the record to rotate at a slower speed. This results in a higher pitch and fuller tones. Needles that can dig into the record without resistance are considered sharp.
  • While sharp needles create more friction and therefore move the record faster, they dont stay in the groove as long as a blunt needle and can skip around more easily. As a result, they’re not as durable or reliable.

Volume Control

The simplest record players only have one volume control, which generally sits in the middle of the unit. More advanced models feature either a volume knob or a dial that allows the user to set the volume level independently for each channel. Both types of volume controls work by creating or reducing friction between the needle and the record.

A volume knob requires the user to turn the knob until the desired volume is reached, which can be difficult to judge accurately. A volume dial allows the user to set the volume level more easily, though they’re still not perfect. For example, the user might need to turn the volume down when the needle is on the outer edge of the record and up when it gets close to the center.

Programming

Digital recorders can store settings for each song or album, known as a program. Analog tape recorders used to offer this feature, but modern models use digital technology.

Some digital recorders include settings for commonly played songs or artists, making it easy to get started with a new collection. Others, however, dont offer any presets at all, which forces users to manually enter the start time and stop time for each track.

Battery Life

The battery life of a record player depends on the power source and the type of battery used. For example, some digital recorders rely on internal batteries that can drain pretty quickly. Alternatively, models that use USB or AC power can run for several hours.

The latter is particularly useful for those who enjoy listening to music outdoors, since they can leave the unit plugged into a power bank or dock for hours without worrying about battery life.

Additional Features

Many of the best record players feature additional features that can make the experience more enjoyable. For instance, some models might include built-in speakers that reproduce the sound of the original recording.

Built-in headphone amps give the user the ability to enjoy headphones while also increasing the volume without needing to put extra volume knobs on the unit.

LED lights can illuminate the area around the turntable, making it easier to see the status of the needle.