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5 Best All-in-One Turntables that Simplify the Vinyl Experience

When shopping for an entry-level turntable, make sure it has a built-in preamp.

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Henry Phillips

Listening to vinyl isn’t as simple as asking Alexa or opening Spotify on your smartphone, and that’s part of the reason why people love it. The act of choosing a record, placing it and dropping the stylus, that requires more attention. And as a result, you’re more likely to appreciate the music more. For those just starting out, building your own hi-fi system can be intimidating — we’re here to help.

Most entry-level hi-fi systems require more than just a turntable and a pair of speakers. In the past, most turntables needed a separate component, a phono preamp (or phono stage), to amplify the turntable’s normally weak signal. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be powerful enough to drive the speakers. According to Audio Advice, a turntable’s signal “is about 1,000x lower than the signal coming from a CD player or a streaming device.”

Today, it’s common for turntables to have their own built-in amplification, meaning they have a built-in preamp and don’t require you to have a separate component; you can hook the turntable directly up to passive speakers and it’ll just work. We call these “all-in-one turntables” and you really just need a pair of speakers and speaker cables to listen to music.

There are different kinds of “all-in-one” turntables. Most entry-level options have built-in Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, either of which affords you the option to stream music from services like Spotify or Apple Music to your system, without actually having to play a vinyl record. It combines the best of analog and modern streaming. Some all-in-one turntables even have speakers built right into them, but we probably wouldn’t recommend them.


The Best All-in-One Turntables of 2020 (So Far)

Buying Guide

    Turntable 101: What Else You Should Know

      Buying Guide

      Best All-in-One: Pro-Ject Juke Box 3

      Pro-Ject’s latest vinyl turntable, the Juke Box E, is really a terrific entry-level hi-fi system; if you’re willing to spend a little more, this is probably the best option for most people. It has a power amplifier and phono stage built right into its body, plus a Bluetooth receiver (which is a rarity) so you can stream music without actually playing any records. All you need is some cables and a pair of bookshelf speakers.

      Key specs

      Turntable: Belt drive
      Automatic or Manual: Manual
      Tonearm: 8.6″ aluminum
      Preamp: Yes
      Connectivity: Bluetooth

      Buy Now: $449 Buy Now: $499

      Budget Pick: Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB

      First things first: Audio-Technica’s LP120XUSB is a USB turntable, meaning you can play and record records at the same time. This is a great way to turn your vinyl into digital music files, so you can listen to them without a turntable or record nearby. More importantly, the LP120XUSB has a built-in phono preamp, so all you need is some passive or powered bookshelf speakers to hook up to it.

      Key specs

      Turntable: Direct drive
      Automatic or Manual: Manual
      Tonearm: S-shaped tone arm with hydraulically damped lift control
      Preamp: Yes
      Connectivity: USB (Mac- and PC-compatible)

      Buy Now: $249

      Editor’s Pick: Fluance RT81

      Fluance has always specialized in home theater systems and hi-fi speakers, but it wasn’t until 2016 that the Canadian-based audio company got into turntables when they introduced the Fluance RT81 and RT80. The RT81 is the higher-end model and features a solid wood body, as opposed to the RT80’s hollow one, and it’s a really beautiful –yet still affordable – turntable. It has a built-in Texas Instruments preamp that you can turn on or off, enabling you to buy upgraded external pre-amp and further customize your setup.

      Key specs

      Turntable: Belt drive
      Automatic or Manual: Manual
      Tonearm: S-shaped tonearm with an adjustable counterweight
      Preamp: Yes
      Connectivity: RCA

      Buy Now: $350 $210 Read the Review

      Best USB Turntable: Sony PS-HX500

      Like the Audio Technica LP120, this is a USB turntable that’s capable of playing and digitizing your vinyl records. But Sony’s PS-HX500 is more bespoke and is a direct-drive turntable – probably the better option if you don’t plan on spinning the record like a DJ. And, of course, it has a built-in phono preamp, which you can turn off or on depending on if you want to upgrade to better external preamp.

      Key specs

      Turntable: Belt drive
      Automatic or Manual: Manual
      Tonearm: straight tonearm
      Preamp: Yes
      Connectivity: USB (Mac- and PC-compatible)

      Buy Now: $298

      The Grail: Symbol Audio Modern Record Player

      The Modern Record Player by Symbol Audio is admittedly different from everything else on this list. That’s because it’s not just a turntable. It’s a true all-in-one system with an integrated turntable, a custom class AB amplifier and custom-engineered, built-in speakers. It’s designed with a unique three-phase isolation system to eliminate distortion. The feather in its cap is that by request Symbol Audio can add Bluetooth, Chromecast, Sonos Connect or Airport Express so you can wirelessly stream music the way you want. (It just looks classy as hell, too.)

      Key specs

      Turntable: Belt drive
      Automatic or Manual: Manual
      Tonearm: RB110 tonearm
      Preamp: Yes
      Connectivity: Bluetooth, Chromecast, Sonos Connect, Airport Express (add-ons)

      Buy Now: $3,295+

      Turntable 101: What Else You Should Know

      The Downside of All-In-One Turntables

      The big advantage of purchasing an all-in-one turntable is that it’s simple to use. You just get some cables, hook it up to your favorite bookshelf speakers and it’ll just work. As far as disadvantages, there are two that jump out.

      First, an all-in-one turntable might sacrifice a little bit of audio quality. Since all of the components are built into the turntable, it could add extra noise and vibrations to the system, thus preventing the stylus to read the record as accurately. That said, a high-quality all-in-one turntable will be able to mediate this problem, with a sturdier platter and other higher-quality components.

      Second, upgradeability. Most all-in-one turntables are designed to be the finished article, not to be tinkered with, and this kind of eliminates the fun of building out a system. This is especially for audiophiles who like to add separate components to the system, upgrading over time and improving/refining the sound signature. On the flip side, some all-in-one turntables actually allow you to turn off their built-in preamp and add your own. This way you can upgrade your system down the road without having to replace your turntable.

      Passive vs Powered Bookshelf Speakers: Which to Choose?

      When it comes to bookshelf speakers, you’re going to encounter a few different types — but not all are designed to work with an all-in-one turntable. Passive bookshelf speakers are your best and safest bet. These speakers have no built-in amplification and don’t need to be connected to a power source. You connect them to your turntable with its built-in preamp, and that’s basically it. It’s a pair of speakers that you can just plug into your all-in-one turntable (via RCA cables) and it’ll just work.

      Powered bookshelf speakers are the other option, but we don’t really recommend them. They won’t work with most all-in-one turntables because these speakers have their own built-in phono preamp and amplification and they work with the turntable’s built-in preamp. The loop-around is that some all-in-one turntables allow you to turn off their built-in phono preamp. If your turntable does, then you’ll have to turn its preamp off in order for it to work properly with your powered speakers.

      A Manual or Automatic Turntable?

      You’re going to also decide whether to buy manual or an automatic all-in-one turntable, which simply refers to how the turntable operates. A manual turntable requires you to “manually” lower the tonearm and place the stylus, then pick it up when the record is over. While an automatic turntable does this “hard” work for you (after pressing a button).

      The advantage of an automatic turntable is that it makes playing records even easier. It also eliminates any issue of placing the stylus incorrectly, which can then scratch and potentially ruin the record. The advantage of a manual turntable is that it makes listening to music feel more deliberate. It also requires you to pay more attention — picking tracks and then lifting the tonearm when the record is finished — which many people think is the point of listening to vinyl in the first place.

      There shouldn’t be any difference in the sound quality of a manual and an automatic turntable.

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