Though listening to vinyl records makes up a small percentage of how music is enjoyed today, the “vinyl revival” has brought renewed interest in this vintage format. This, in turn, has brought more attention to turntables (also known as record players or phonographs) and how they, too, affect the listening experience of these phonograph records.
Since turntables are such an essential part of the vinyl record listening experience, it makes sense that there are plenty of options on the market. With so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to find the perfect record player for your system. In this article, I’ll share my take on the top brands to produce phono cartridges.
Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I’ve done my best to list out these brands based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Company reputation
- Performance of the turntables
- Accessibility of the turntables (how easy they are to find/buy)
- The company must currently be in operation
With all that being said, let’s list out the brands.
The top 11 best phonograph/turntable brands in the world are:
Let’s get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 11 best turntable brands. I’ll share their country of origin, a bit of history, an example of a notable turntable, and a link to their official website.
Since day one, Linn’s main concern has been to exceed the expectations of the most discerning audiophiles in the world. The company’s first product, the world-known Sondek LP12 turntable, is, to this date, a benchmark for the industry.
Being one of the first Hi-Fi brands to embrace lossless digital audio, Linn’s growth has been meteoric while retaining its reputation for making some of the best-sounding turntables in the world intact.
This company always seems to be a step ahead of the competition with great sound, cutting-edge technology, uncanny reliability, and impeccable design. If you’re looking for the best turntable and can afford a Linn, trying one is a must.
Notable turntable: Linn Klimax LP12 (link to check the price at Linn)
Linn’s quintessential flagship product is also one of the best turntables in the world today. Indeed, the current design and specs are the result of over 45 years’ worth of research, development, trial and error, and critical acclaim. Moreover, the modular design makes it possible to keep it updated with the company’s latest achievements without ever changing the whole unit.
The LP12 is a legend (always) in the making; if you are looking for the best, you have to check it out.
Linn Products was founded in 1973 by Ivor Tiefenbrun in Glasgow, Scotland, where the company headquarters is still located today.
Official website: linn.co.uk
This Austrian brand was founded in 1991 by Heinz Lichtenegger. Although all product design is done in-house in their 1,200 square meters facility near Vienna, it also owns factories in Slovakia and Czech Republic. Pro-Ject products are sold to huge acclaim in more than 80 countries around the globe.
For most audiophiles in Europe, Pro-Ject is a benchmark in the industry for mid-priced, great-sounding turntables. Moreover, the company created a niche to call its own with many different colours and modern designs.
Nowadays, you can’t think of buying anything in their price line without trying their products; 30 years of impeccable trajectory back them up.
Notable turntable: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo (link to check the price at Turntable Lab)
From the stunning colour palette to the newly-designed motor suspension for increased performance, the carbon fibre arm, and the gold-plated sockets, this is one serious turntable by Pro-Ject. Furthermore, the new and improved damped feet with adjustable height and the 1.7kg heavy steel plate make this a great-sounding, utterly stable, and reliable turntable to play your favourite records consistently day after day.
If you want the best design without compromising sound, check one of these out; they are entirely made in the EU.
Pro-Ject was founded in 1991 by Heinz Lichtenegger and is headquartered in Mistelbach, Austria.
Official website: project-audio.com
Pro-Ject is also featured in the following My New Microphone article:
• Top 11 Phono Stage/Preamplifier Brands In The World
Audio-Technica is a world-renowned Japanese brand that got its start in the 1960s, manufacturing only state-of-the-art phonograph cartridges such as the AT-1 and AT-3.
Soon after its foundation, the reception of Audio-Technica products was so positive that they opened a US subsidiary and branched out to other niches, including, for example, the microphones you can see in presidential debates since 1988.
Although the company manufactures a plethora of products and successfully sells them worldwide, the quality craftsmanship and the decades applied to vinyl reproduction make this one of the go-to options for audiophiles around the world today.
If you need a turntable, Audio-Technica is a brand you ought not to overlook.
Notable turntable: Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB (link to check the price at Turntable Lab)
If the past met the present and took a sneak peek into the future, the outcome would be something similar to this turntable. Indeed, you can utilize it as a regular, analog turntable via RCA connectors, connect it using a USB cable, or even go wirelessly to a Bluetooth-enabled speaker.
Needless to say, this turntable will keep your music sounding at its best regardless of the connection. Finally, it does look stunning in a black matte finish as well.
Audio-Technica was established in 1962 in Tokyo, Japan, by Hideo Matsushita. The company is headquartered in Machida, Tokyo, Japan.
Official website: audio-technica.com
Audio-Technica is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• Top 13 Best Headphone Brands In The World
• Top 11 Best Microphone Brands You Should Know And Use
• Top 11 Best Phono Cartridge Brands In The World
An audiophile and music lover, Deepak Jain created the Fluance to fulfill a gap he noticed in the industry: affordable, great-sounding music equipment capable of making an album sound like a live performance.
With this goal in mind, he founded the company he would have liked to purchase his audio equipment from when he was younger and developed all elements producing sound: state-of-the-art turntables, amplifiers, and speakers.
Such passion-driven performance awarded Fluance a legion of die-hard fans around the globe. If you want amazing-sounding equipment you can afford, you have to give Fluance a chance.
Notable turntable: Fluance RT81 (link to check the price on Amazon)
This Fluance turntable is a no-frills approach to great sound. It utilizes the Audio-Technica AT95E cartridge, which houses a diamond elliptical tipped stylus and a balanced aluminum S-Type tonearm that grants great sound and superior record tracking. Besides, this unit features a bypassable auto-stop option and a belt drive attached to a precision DC motor for increased stability.
Finally, the ground terminal and the evenly weighted aluminum platter round up an amazing combo from Fluance you have to check out.
Fluance was founded in 1999 by Deepak Jain in Niagara Falls, Canada, where the company headquarters is still located today.
Official website: fluance.com
Arguably, Technics is to turntables what Roland is to drum machines. This is also a Japanese company founded in 1965 in Osaka as a branch of the Panasonic Company dedicated to Hi-Fi audio exclusively.
In the break of hip-hop and DJs, the Technics SL-1200 was the absolute go-to turntable in the world (just like the 808 was THE drum machine). Moreover, the scratching and non-stop groove that shaped the seventies were invented on a pair of SL-1200s.
This rich heritage was ended by Panasonic in 2010 when they discontinued the brand but brought back into action in 2015 by critical acclaim with several improved turntables ready for a new millennium of history.
You can’t overlook Technics when looking for an amazing record player for your collection.
Notable turntable: Technics SL-1500C (link to check the price at Turntable Lab)
One of the main attributes of this state-of-the-art turntable by Technics is its coreless direct-drive motor which allows for endless high-precision, stable rotation of your favourite records.
Also, this model comes equipped with a built-in phono equalizer and cartridge and an auto-lifter function to make the listening experience even more enjoyable. Finally, it is one of the best-looking, best-sounding, most reliable units on the list.
Technics was founded in 1965 as a brand of the Panasonic Company in Osaka, Japan, where the company headquarters is still located today.
Official website: technics.com
Parent company: Panasonic
To talk about the beginnings of Thorens, we have to go all the way back to the century before the last one since it was founded in 1883 in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland, by Hermann Thorens.
By 1903, the company was already building Edison-type phonographs. In 1928, they introduced their first electric record player with a motor drive. Some decades later, after relentless innovation and hard work, the turntables made by Thorens in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, are still highly sought-after audiophile equipment today.
Nowadays, the company still enjoys its reputation as being among the best audiophile options in the market, almost 140 years after its foundation. Since 2018, CEO Gunter Kürten moved all operations to Bergisch Gladbach, Germany.
Is Thorens the best turntable money can buy? It surely has a spot in that argument.
Notable turntable: Thorens TS 1601 (link to check the price at B&H Photo/Video)
This model by Thorens won the 2020/21 EISA Award as the best turntable. One of the reasons behind its reputation is the quintessential Thorens suspended design on three conical springs for ultimate stability and the cleanest sound. Also, the polished precision belt with adjustable belt tension, the electronically-controlled motor, and contactless auto shut off make it as modern as it is great-sounding.
Finally, the balanced XLR outputs, unbalanced RCA outputs, and Thorens precision tonearm TP29 round up an amazing turntable that is ready to amaze the most discerning audiophiles in the world.
Thorens was founded in 1883 by Harmann Thorens in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland. Today the company headquarters is located in Bergisch Gladbach, Germany.
Official website: thorens.com
Alastair Robertson-Aikman founded The Scale Model Equipment Company (SME) in 1946 to make scale models and parts. During the 1950s, the company’s aim shifted towards precision engineering (aircraft instruments and business machines mainly), capitalizing on the years of building miniatures.
After successfully designing their first tonearm in 1959, the company started building precision-engineered parts for turntables as well as Formula 1 cars, aerospace endeavours, and medical equipment industries.
Nowadays, SME Audio is a synonym of impeccable craftsmanship with an attention to detail that goes well beyond human frontiers and resulting audio that can convince even the most demanding audiophile in the world.
SME Audio products are the result of 75 years of non-stop innovation and an unbreakable commitment to excellence.
Notable turntable: SME Model 30/12 (link to check the price at Acoustic Sounds)
Perhaps one of the models in the market with the highest pitch stability, this SME Model 30/12 is the bigger version of the utterly famous 30/2 turntable. Moreover, the improved dynamic range covers the entire sonic landscape printed on any LP. The pristine, utterly precise groove reproduction is among the best you can find in the market today.
Although the price tag is on the high side, if you have a matching sound system to plug this unit into, you won’t have a better experience with any other turntable made today. Those in search of the best of the best have to check this unit out.
The Scale Model Equipment Company (SME) was founded in 1946 by Alastair Robertson-Aikman and is headquartered in West Sussex, United Kingdom.
Official website: sme.co.uk
Rega is known worldwide for the outstanding quality of its turntables, tonearms, and cartridges. Indeed, they manufacture their own while also producing them for other high-end audio companies such as Rotel and NAD.
Since the 1980s, Rega manufactures all the equipment audiophiles need to play their favourite records. This means amplifiers, phono stages, speakers, and even DACs and CD players. This holistic approach to tone allowed the company an uncanny understanding of sound. The result is one of the most respected turntables lines in the world, ready to make each record a memorable experience.
In the search for excellence, Rega is a must-check before buying.
Notable turntable: Rega Planar 2 (link to check the price at Turntable Lab)
Rega believes it is possible to set up this turntable to perfection in less than a minute. This is because of its handmade RB110 tonearm and factory-fitted Carbon cartridge that require virtually no set time.
Also, the high-quality, 24V synchronous low-noise motor featuring the company’s own EBLT technology and the phenolic resin, flywheel effect platter make this a high-end turntable capable of delivering sounds well beyond its price range. Finally, the lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects rounds up an amazing product you have to check out.
Rega Research was founded in 1973 by Tony Relph and Roy Gandy in Essex, England, United Kingdom.
Official website: rega.co.uk
Since the late 1970s, Clearaudio has been building its reputation as one of the best turntable brands in the world. Its first product was the (now legendary) fully symmetrical moving coil cartridge which continues to be a benchmark for manufacturers to this date.
Due to critical acclaim and high demand, the company decided to grow its product range. Soon, other products followed, such as the Delta and Sigma speakers, turntables, tonearms, and, very recently, a record company remastering re-releasing old German classics that were the property of Deutsche Grammophon.
Clearaudio German-made products have succeeded in every niche of the music industry, becoming synonymous with superior craftsmanship and reliability. Before you buy your next turntable, you have to check them out.
Notable turntable: Clearaudio Concept (link to check the price at Turntable Lab)
This turntable by Clearaudio is the pinnacle of their work. To begin with, the DC motor is fed by a voltage-stabilized power supply that is completely external. Being entirely decoupled from the turntable’s body ensures the listener no mechanical interference.
Another top-notch feature of this exceptional turntable is the concept tonearm which features a friction-free magnetic bearing, ensuring extremely low distortion and impeccable performance time after time.
Finally, the package is completed with a Concept MM or MC cartridge.
Clearaudio was founded in 1978 by Peter Suchy in Erlangen, Germany, where the company headquarters is still located today.
Official website: clearaudio.de
Clearaudio is also featured in the following My New Microphone article:
• Top 11 Best Phono Cartridge Brands In The World
Marantz started in 1953 as a small endeavour focusing only on high-end audio components. The company enjoyed the reputation of the best-sounding hi-fi equipment of the 1970s and was purchased by Philips in the early 1980s.
Later on, Marantz CD players became the benchmark for the industry and established subsidiaries in several countries, including Japan.
Today, Marantz’s vintage and new equipment are sought after by audiophiles around the planet because of their impeccable craftsmanship, obsessive attention to detail, and uncanny performance.
Notable turntable: Marantz TT-15S1 (link to check the price at Turntable Lab)
Marantz’s combination of classic specs and state-of-the-art minimalism create a piece of equipment ready to take the center of your living room.
Besides being visually very appealing, this turntable works with a floating motor over a low-resonance, high-density acrylic chassis that makes it one of the most silent, better-performing turntables in its price range.
Plus, the asynchronous AC motor delivers great accuracy and reliability to round up a product that is up to the expectations of a brand like Marantz.
Marantz was founded in 1953 by Saul Marantz in Kew Gardens, New York, USA. After several buyouts, the Marantz brand found itself in Japan. D&M Holdings Inc. was created in May 2002 when Denon Ltd and Marantz Japan Inc. merged. On March 1, 2017, Sound United LLC completed the acquisition of D+M Holdings. Today the company is headquartered in Kanagawa, Japan.
Official website: marantz.com
Parent company: Sound United LLC.
Marantz is also featured in the following My New Microphone article:
• Top 11 Best AV Receiver Brands In The World
Robert, Peter, and Benjamin were high-school friends in Lexington High who decided to raise money via a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and an incubator program at Northeastern University. With the money gathered through those channels, they created their first prototype and began manufacturing operations with parts sourced from American suppliers and assembled in Woburn.
Since the original prototype, U-Turn has designed and manufactured great-sounding turntables at competitive prices with appealing looks and great reliability. For those searching for great sound and a minimalistic approach at an affordable price, trying U-Turn is a must.
Notable turntable: U-Turn Orbit Plus (link to check the price at Turntable Lab)
The first thing that hits you about this turntable is its transparent acrylic platter. That being said, looks are not the only reason the company chose it. This turntable also provides improved stability and speed and acts like a dissipater for unwanted resonances.
Also, the turntable comes with an Ortofon OM5E cartridge, a precision OA2 gimbal tonearm (with counterweight), an external belt operation with an asynchronous, low-noise AC motor, and a dust cover. Finally, the turntable bears a 3-year warranty.
U-Turn Audio was founded in 2012 by Robert Hertig, Peter Maltzan, and Benjamin Carter in Woburn, Massachusetts, where the company headquarters is still located today.
Official website: uturnaudio.com