Find the best record player with our

Buyers Guide

In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about getting started so you can find the best record player to suit your needs. We’ll explain the different features available as well as the importance of each. As we go through item, we’ll point out which of our turntables has these features so you can find a player that suits your individual requirements.

We’ll also give you an understanding of what you need for a good vinyl setup. Some things have changed since the 60s but the basics remain the same, sound quality is important but so too is style! We’ll go through the list of essentials you need to get your vinyl collection started.

Why vinyl?

Vinyl is back and it’s here to stay. No, it will never replace digital music but it’s becoming obvious that it’s not meant to. Why? Because they’re not competing in the same field. Digital streaming gives us to access to vast amounts of music and makes it easy for to find new artists.  

Vinyl, on the other, hand is a completely different genre. It’s about music as an experience, in the same way that a concert or gig are. An album held in the hand is tangible, it has weight, it’s a piece of art both in the imagery found on the cover and the carefully selected songs that have been crafted into an album by the artist.

The act of placing a record on the platter and dropping the needle is so simple, yet undeniably intentional. It’s a decision to listen to an album from beginning to end, just as the artist intended. It’s a rare act of mindfulness in a world where everything happens at breakneck speed.

Person holding vinyl record to chest
vinyl-player-on-floor-1

The basics

The first thing you need to know is that vinyl doesn’t need to be complicated. To the millennial, who’s only ever had to swipe or click for music, talk of pre-amps, belt drives and cartridges can be overwhelming. But getting set up with a vinyl system doesn’t need to be tricky.

Turntables work by producing a phono output signal which needs to be converted by a phono preamp to a line level signal in order to work with audio equipment. While this sounds a bit complicated, all you need to know is that all the turntables sold on our store have a built-in preamp. This simply means you can play a record either directly from the built-in speakers (if it has them) or through external speakers, if it doesn’t. You won’t need to purchase an external preamp to make your record player work.

Many of our turntables have built-in speakers which means all you have to do is plug the turntable into a power source, put a record on the platter, select the right speed and lower the needle and your record will start playing. A few of our turntables don’t have built-in speakers and for these you’ll just need to connect your turntable to a set of external speakers using an RCA cable, but more on that later. For now, we’ll start by taking you through the different features found on turntables and explain how they each work and why they are important.

Playing Speeds

When entering the world of vinyl, it’s important to understand the different speeds that a turntable can play, and for this a little history lesson is in order. Records come in 3 different sizes: 33s, 45s and 78s, and each size needs to be played at a different speed. For a turntable to play a 33 for example, the turntable drive must spin the platter at 33RPM (rotations per minute). 45s must to be played at 45RPM and 78s at 78RPM.

The 78s were the original record and remained standard for the first half of the 20th century. They hold one song per side and need to be played at the fastest speed. In 1948 the 33s were introduced. These records play at a slower speed and can hold much more music, an entire album in fact. They generally store about 20-30 minutes worth of music on each side and you’ll need to manually turn the record over to hear the B side.

Due to the increased play time, the 33s became known as ‘long-plays’, which was shortened to ‘LPs’. One year later 45s were created. These records are smaller in size, hold one song per side and are affectionately known as ‘singles’. Even now, decades on, this language is still being used in the music industry.

3 Vinyl record albums shown with different sizes and speeds they play at compared to cassette and cd

The majority of turntables play all 3 speeds. You simply need to adjust the control on the turntable to match the size of the record (ie if you’re playing a 33 then set it to 33RPM). For some turntables, you might need to use an adaptor to play 45s or 78s but these will clearly come with instructions. Some turntables such as the Crosley Bermuda only play 2 speeds (33s and 45s), although this won’t be a problem if you don’t have any 78s.

The easiest way to determine what speeds you need your turntable to play is to consider your existing record collection and/or your collecting intentions. Are you planning on playing singles? If not, you only need to be worried about one speed, the 33s. If you plan on collecting singles then check the specifications to see if your turntable plays 45s and 78s.

Speakers

Speakers are a serious consideration because they will make the most difference to your vinyl experience. Some of our best record players come with built-in speakers which make them extremely easy to set up. All you have to do is take them out of the box, plug them into a power source and you can instantly play a record.

Blue attache briefcase record player with built in speakers

Built-in twin speakers

The majority of entry level turntables come with built-in twin speakers. The GPO Attache and Crosley Cruiser are the classic examples of these. The speakers provide about 2-3 watts of sound and are an excellent option if you’ll be listening to your records in a bedroom or small lounge room. You’ll get a reasonable level of sound considering the space limitations inside these units. The Crosley Lancaster is an exception to this. It has twin 5 watts speakers so you will get a louder sound from this machine compared to the smaller suitcase-style players.

Dansette single speaker record player in blue

Built-in single speaker

The next level up in built-in speakers is the single speaker. These players are usually designed to provide maximum space for the speaker. A good example of these are the GPO Bermuda, Crosley Bermuda and the Crosley Dansette Junior. As you’ll see from the design, these machines hero the speaker and place it front and centre for maximum amplification. These speakers provide about 5 watts of sound, which is a step up from the twin speakers. Once again, these speakers are built-in so all you have to do is plug them into a power source, put a record on and you’re good to go.

3.5mm line out to RCA cable

No speakers

There are also many record players that come without speakers such as the HolySmoke Turntables, Ion Compact LP player and the Crosley 100. In order to get sound from these you’ll need to connect your turntable to a set of external speakers using an RCA audio cable. These cables sometimes come with the turntable but if they don’t you can pick them up cheaply from your local electrical store or online. For this vinyl setup, you’ll need to plug the power adaptor into a power source and then take the RCA cable and plug the red and white end into the turntable and the other end into a set of external speakers.

Rear side of black speaker showing connections and knobs for sound quality

External speakers

Even if your turntable comes with built-in speakers, we recommend investing in a set of external speakers if you want to get the most out of your records. You’ll be amazed at the difference between the largest set of built-in speakers at 5 watts (eg the Bermudas), compared to our smallest external speakers, the GPO Westwood, at 25 watts. You might already have a set of external speakers at home that would work fine so check out this option before investing. However if you do need a set of external speakers to complete your vinyl setup, then you can read more here, or check our bundle deals for discounted prices.

Manual vs automatic tonearm

The tonearm is the movable arm that swings out over the platter and allows the needle (or stylus) to be placed on the record as it spins. The cueing device is the mechanism that holds the tonearm and allows it to be lifted over the record and lowered down. It ensures smooth contact between the needle and the record and prevents the vinyl from getting scratched.

Tonearm of record player shown up close

Turntables either have an automatic or manual tonearm. With automatic tonearms, the needle will be automatically lifted onto the vinyl at the beginning of a record and returned to its cradle at the end. Alternatively, the tonearm can be manual, meaning the user gets the honour of lifting the tonearm and placing it on the record.

This shouldn’t be a big decision for you. An automatic tone arm is a ‘nice-to-have’ without being a ‘must have’. Many audiophiles actually prefer a manual arm as they retain full control.

Vinyl to digital recording

If you have a stack of records from the 50s and 60s that you’d like to digitise then this next feature will be important to you. If you’re keen to transfer your vinyl music to digital format then there are a number of ways to go about it.

Direct to USB recording

One of the easiest ways to transfer music is through a USB stick. The GPO Attache, Ambassador and Bermuda as well as Ion’s Mustang and mbeat’s USB Turntable all come with a USB slot and built-in recording functionality. All you need to do is plug in a USB stick, start playing a record and use the record function on the machine to record the sound direct to USB. If you’d like to create individual files for each song then you’ll need to stop and start the recording after each song, otherwise they will all appear as one large file on the USB. This is a simple way to transfer analogue music to the digital world without needing to download software.

Close up of black USB stick
Hand using laptop trackpad

Recording via software

The other method to record your music is via a connection to your computer and through software. Some turntables, such as the HolySmoke turntables, Crosley Executive, Crosley Nomad, Ion Photon and Ion Audio Max LP will allow you to connect your turntable to your PC or Mac via a USB cord. To set up the vinyl to digital recording functionality, you’ll need to install the software that comes with the turntable to your computer. You can then connect the turntable to your computer via a USB to USB cord and manage the recording directly on your computer through the software. Turntables that have this functionality will come with a manual to show you how to set this all up.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is currently the best way to connect different devices without the use of wires. Bluetooth is a wireless technology that allows electronic equipment to exchange data over short distances. For us music lovers, bluetooth makes it possible for music devices such as smart phones, stereos and record players to send or receive audio to/from other devices including speakers. But there’s a catch. Some bluetooth enabled record players can only receive Bluetooth audio (Bluetooth In) and others can only send Bluetooth audio (Bluetooth Out).

Bluetooth In

Some record players are built with bluetooth ‘In’ functionality. This simply means that you can play your digital music through the speakers of the record player. To do this you simply need to connect your smartphone or mp3 player via bluetooth to your turntable using the settings on your device. Once connected, you’ll be able to play music from your device through the built-in speakers of your record player. Examples of turntables with this functionality include; Crosley CoupeCrosley Cruiser DeluxeCrosley Executive and mbeat Vintage Wood.

Image showing mobile device connecting to record player via bluetooth

Bluetooth Out

This is where technology is making a big splash in the analogue world! A few turntables have bluetooth ‘Out’ functionality which means you can connect via bluetooth to an external speaker and play your records without needing any wires. The GPO Ambassador is a gorgeously retro-styled player that has bluetooth out functionality. It comes in 2 and 3 piece bundles with a bluetooth speaker. The Ambassador also also a rechargeable battery so these bundles will allow you to take advantage of an extra 25 watts of sound without the fuss of connecting wires.

bluetooth-out-1

battery Power

Over the last few years, many of the best record player brands have brought out turntables with built-in battery functionality to allow vinyl enthusiasts to listen to records without needing to be plugged into a power source. This provides the listener with a great deal of freedom. A picnic in the park, a visit to a mate’s place or an afternoon in your backyard can now be accompanied by the sweet sounds of your vinyl collection. When it comes to battery-powered turntables, there are two different versions, each with its own advantages.

Rechargeable battery

The GPO Attache Go and GPO Ambassador turntables have a built-in internal battery. When your turntable is plugged into a power source, the machine automatically recharges the internal battery. When the battery is charged, you can simply unplug the machine, take it wherever your little heart desires and play a record. The battery will last for around 2-3 hours before needing to be recharged.

Replaceable batteries

Crosley took a different approach and created the Crosley Cruiser II which can be powered by 6 x AA batteries. You simply open the battery pack on the back of the machine, add your batteries and switch the player to battery mode. While this format is not as environmentally friendly as the internal rechargeable battery, it does allow you to replace the batteries when they run out instead of needing a power source to recharge them.

Headphone Jack

Some record players come with a headphone jack allowing you to listen to your vinyl records directly with headphones. This feature is important to those who enjoy listening to music on their own and becoming completely immersed in it. If you’re living with your parents, this could be a very good option for you! Pair your turntable with a decent set of sound cancelling headphones and you’re golden. Turntables with a headphone jack include the Crosley Cruisers, mbeat Woodstock, Ion Mustang, and Ion Audio Max LP.

headphones-used
Radio dial showing frequencies

Bonus Features

There are a few other features that don’t warrant their own category but we’ll give them an honourable mention instead! A few turntables such as the Ion Mustang, mbeat Vintage Wood, Crosley Player II and Crosley Lancaster have AM/FM radio functionality allowing you to make use of the built-in speakers to listen to your favourite radio station. If you’re particularly attached to the past then the Crosley Lancaster features both a CD and Cassette tape player, making it our most versatile option! While mbeat’s USB Turntable allows you to record old cassette tapes to digital format using a USB record functionality.

Now that we’ve covered all the features, it’s time to discuss styles. Just as it’s important to find a turntable that has all the features you need, you’ll want to find something that suits your individual style. Lucky for us there are a number of awesome brands working hard at developing classic retro styles right through to more modern designs.

The Suitcase

One of the most popular styles over recent years has been the suitcase. These designs are usually bound in a leatherette material and are a stylish briefcase when closed. Open them up and you’ve got yourself a retro-style record player. These turntables always have built-in twin speakers so they appeal to the market who want a simple plug-and-play setup. The sound they produce is reasonable given the size restrictions of the unit, but they can easily be plugged into a set of external speakers for a higher quality listening experience. Almost all of the big brands have a version of these. Some even have a built-in battery so you can take advantage of the portable briefcase style. Check out the table below of the current briefcase style record players on the market and their features.

Two crosley cruiser turntables stacked

Feature list of suitcase style record players

the-dansette

The Dansette

Dansette was a British brand of audio machines that were hugely popular in the 1950s and 60s. A Dansette record player was a common sight in most British households and they were portable enough to be taken to and from parties and the like. This style is wonderfully iconic of the 1960s and both Crosley and GPO have made modern versions of these. The Bermuda is the larger model and comes with a set of optional legs so you can have it as a standalone piece or remove them if you wish. The smaller styles such as the Dansette Junior model were made with a handle to be a more portable version but with the same classic style. They feature a built-in single speaker. which has a larger surface area than those from the suitcase styles so they produce a slightly better sound. Here is a list of our current Dansette-style turntables and the different features they each have.

Feature list of dansette style record players

Contemporary Styles

For those that are happy to leave the 1950s and 60s firmly in the past there are also plenty of modern turntables to choose from. Ion and HolySmoke have created a sleek range of turntables that are packed full of features. The vast majority of these come with vinyl to digital recording software, which allows you to record your old vinyl records directly onto your computer.

contemporary-player

Feature list of contemporary style record players

Wooden record player Crosley lancaster

Wooden Styles

There are also a small range of vintage style wooden record players that are loved by many. The most popular of these are the Crosley Lancaster and the  mbeat Vintage Wood. Both make a delightful addition to a living room and ooze classic retro style. On top of that, they both come with some very decent features, making them an excellent choice for many. Check out the table below for our wooden styles and their features.

Feature list of wooden style record players

If you’re serious about vinyl then you’ll want to get a good setup to ensure you get the best sound from your records and that they are kept in good condition. There are a range of accessories to help you do just that. From record storage to external speakers, needles and record cleaning systems, the list of accessories is rather long.

Record Cases

Storing your records is important to ensure they are protected and you continue to get the best sound from them. To keep your vinyl in top condition it’s best to store them vertically, so if you have a cabinet or large bookcase then this could work perfectly. If you don’t, then a case or storage system might be a worthwhile investment.

If you plan to transport your records around then it’s important that they’re protected during transit. A record case is the best way to do this as they are built with a velvet inner lining to ensure your vinyl is not in contact with hard surfaces. The GPO record case comes in a range of colours, all with a soft velvet inner lining and reinforced stainless steel handle. Crosley has another option which is the vinyl crate. This one is more suited as a stationery storage option and can be the perfect way to get your vinyl collection started.

2 vinyl record cases one with leatherette finish the other a crate

External Speakers

If you’re looking to achieve the best quality sound from your vinyl then you should consider plugging your turntable into an external speaker. This is simply because the size restrictions within a turntable mean that you can’t get much more than a 5 watt speaker into them. And if you’re keen to blast the sweet sounds of your vinyl throughout your home than 5 watts just ain’t gonna cut it.

This problem is easily fixed by using an external speaker. To connect a speaker to your turntable you will need an RCA audio cable. Some turntables, such as the GPO range, come with these in the box but if you don’t have one you can pick them up cheaply from your local department store or online.

Once you have the RCA cable, you simply need to plug the red and white plugs into the back of your record player and the other end will plug straight into the aux-in socket of your speakers. Once you’ve done this the turntable will bypass the internal speakers and play through the external ones instead. You’ll then be able to turn up the volume and really get the most out of your vinyl. Some speakers even come with bass and treble control meaning you’ll be able to adjust the sound to your suit your taste.

GPO Westwood Speaker – 25 watts

GPO has made the Westwood speaker as the perfect accompaniment to their range of turntables. It features vintage style with a cloth style grill and retro metal corners. It also ticks a lot of boxes in the technical specifications. The speaker will add 25 watts of sound to your records and you can also use the treble and bass controls to adjust the sound to your liking. Best of all, it has Bluetooth capabilities meaning you can connect  your computer or smartphone when you want to listen to digital tunes. Or, if you purchase the GPO Ambassador, which has Bluetooth Out functionality, you can connect this turntable to the Westwood wirelessly. These speakers come in vintage brown, pillarbox red, sky blue, cream or black.

Because this speaker is such as excellent extension of the GPO Attache, we decided to bundle it up in 2 piece and 3 piece options. The bundles are the perfect gift for a vinyl beginner, while the speaker alone is a great way to upgrade your vinyl setup if you don’t yet have an external speaker.

Brown and red westwood speakers
Black and white holysmoke speakers

HolySmoke Speaker Range

If you’re looking to achieve an even greater quality of sound then the HolySmoke range is the place to look. This range combines classic vintage charm with superior modern features, including bluetooth technology, to allow you to stream your music wirelessly. HolySmoke have developed a range of speakers that will suit all tastes.

Their range starts with the Newnest speaker, at a modest 45 watts, then there’s the Birdwood with 80 watts and finishing with the cream of the crop, the Joy Street which offers an extra 100 watts of sound to your vinyl! If you really want to get the best from your records then the HolySmoke range will go a long way to achieving that. Each of the three speakers comes in both black or white and rose gold designs.

Once again, we’ve seen the value in adding a quality speaker to your vinyl setup so we’ve bundled up some products to help you get started. All these bundles start with the Newnest speaker as the base level and you can upgrade to the Birdwood or Joy Street on the product page. These bundles will instantly set you up with the sound system worthy of any vintage record, even the Beatles!

Needles

One thing you’ll need to keep in mind when owning a record player is that the needle will need to be changed every so often. The best time to change the needle is when the sound quality is affected. If you’ve noticed that the sound quality is not quite right then it could be the needle, but you’ll want to rule out a few other things first.

Firstly, if you’ve noticed the sound quality isn’t quite right or the turntable is skipping, first check if the record has dust or scratches on it. It might be worth checking a few different records to see if the problem is consistent over each of them. If the problem is consistent then check if the turntable is level. Is it on a stable surface that is 100% level? If not, move it somewhere that is and test again. Lastly, check if the power cable and the RCA cables (if you’re using them) are plugged in tightly and not distorting the sound in any way. If you’ve checked all these three things and you still have a consistent distortion in sound then it’s time to change the needle. Crosley has created a video to help show you how.

Wrap Up

As far as hobbies go, vinyl is a wonderful way to spend your time. It’s easy to get setup with a basic plug-and-play record player and vinyl music is once again becoming easy to find. We hope this guide has helped you with the information you needed to get started and we’re excited that you’ll be soon experiencing music at its best! If you have any questions about what you have read in this guide or would like some additional help with finding the best record player for you, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help!