There's been a lot of change in many areas of audio entertainment, but turntables have remained remarkably the same since the 1970s. In fact many of the same brands, such as Denon, Rega, Thorens and NAD which were considered the top in their class at the time, are still dominating to this day.
CHOICE can't score the level of nostalgic satisfaction achieved when a record, fished from a milk crate at the back of the attic or garage after half a lifetime, is pulled out to reveal the liner notes and lyrics that are still remembered word for word. But we can see how the latest models stack up.
Our expert testers and listening panel put the latest models through rigorous testing to rate sound quality, ease of use and how well the turntables work in real life – so you'll know exactly what to expect. We also measures the rotational accuracy of the turntable, tracking force of the cartridge and ease of use.
- Our testers have years of expertise in testing audio equipment and, unlike most reviewers, we don't rely on one individual's perception to rank products.
- Instead we use a listening panel of three people with expertise in sound appraisal who have shown that they can consistently rank products for their sound quality.
- We selected most of the turntables to test within a price range of around $150 to $1000 to ensure we get a price-point to help deliver a reasonably good level of quality without breaking the bank.
- We also selected a model for around $1500 to see what you'd get for the extra money.
Since our first turntable test in 1975, we have used the same Technics SL-1200 mk II as our reference system.
To test sound quality we use a listening panel of experts.
- They assess each turntable using classical and rock/pop music passages.
- The speakers are positioned about two metres away from the listeners, with the panel assessing overall quality of the sound.
Ease of use
We focus on ease of use because using a turntable is very hands-on compared with other music-playing devices.
- We assess the initial set-up of the turntable out of the box, including attaching the platter, belt, and any adjustments that were needed before operation.
- We also look at the thoroughness of the instruction manual.
- Operational aspects assessed include speed selection and cueing a track.
Our tester assesses the difference between the claimed and measured figures for tracking force and frequency response using calibrated reference LPs. He also measures the rotational speed for accuracy.
We give every turntable a CHOICE test score so you can see at a glance which are the best and worst, plus how each model compares for features and specifications. You can make your own assessment on how important you consider each area of testing, however we've weighted the scores accordingly:
- Listening quality 60%
- Technical score 25%
- Ease of use 15%