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29 October 2021

Best cheap record players and turntables for 2021

We’ve discovered these great record players for well under £200 – proof that you don't have to spend big to get the most out of your record collection.
Oliver Trebilcock
Lifestyle 3

Cheap doesn’t necessarily mean you have to compromise on quality. We’ve discovered Best Buy record player and turntable that won't cost thousands, or even hundreds, of pounds. In fact, the test results below show you great record players for around £200 and even less.

Although the price may be small, they’re all easy to use and produce good sound quality, so listening to your records will be a delight rather than disappointing.

But, beware, we've tested plenty of cheap Don't Buy record players and turntables that don't live up to these bargain models. Pick the wrong one and you'll be fumbling around to start your records, before being subjected to horrible sound. We've rounded up the worst-offending cheap record players and turntables we've tested too.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which? today. 

Best cheap record players for £250 and even less

  • 72%

    Despite its attractively low price, the manufacturer boldly claims this is an ‘audiophile’ turntable. In recent years, it’s had the odd pop at manufacturers offering 'plastic' players with 'low quality and cheap prices'. It claims the turntable’s streamlined design allows it to maintain high quality and give customers the very best quality sound. And it certainly has delivered – it may be no-frills, but its sound quality is up there with the very best around, and the build quality’s exceptional too.

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  • 67%

    This model proves stylish looks and good sound quality don’t have to cost the earth. It’s a fully manual player with a particularly easy-to-use design. It has a beautiful, sturdy MDF plinth with teak-effect veneer finish and aluminium tonearm, built-in preamp and sound has nice clarity and detail. It’s suitable for advanced users too, with plenty of tinkering options and you can even change the cartridge (which houses the needle) yourself.

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  • 65%

    This is a sturdily constructed turntable from a well-known brand. Its turntables are solid-performers, and this model has an attractive wooden base and plenty of features, including a USB connection to save digital copies of your vinyl records to your computer and a built-in preamp. It’s semi-automatic, so you set the needle down yourself, but it returns automatically at the end of the record so you get the vinyl experience without it being all manual.

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Pricing and recommendations correct as of November 2021.

Not found the product for you? Browse all of our record player and turntable reviews.

And here are the record players and turntables to avoid

Some of the record players and turntables that pass through our test lab are nothing short of dreadful. We've seen models with sound quality so bad your records will sound like they're being played down a dodgy telephone line. 

While price is of course no guarantee of quality, with record players and turntables it's unfortunately often the cheapest models that are the worst made. 

To avoid making a real error with your next purchase, make sure you steer clear of the models below. 

Cheap record players to avoid

  • 43%

    The rough and muddy sound quality of this popular low-cost turntable is the least of its issues. There’s substantial background buzz throughout playback, and there’s wobble and pitch instability too. And it’s even worse on digital recordings – which are far too quiet with even more background noise. It’s also awkward to use, so avoid an expensive mistake.

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  • 35%

    This turntable sports a premium-looking interior. But does the sound quality match the looks? Our expert lab tests cut through the style and hype to find out whether this turntable is worth going for - or if buying would be an expensive mistake.

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Are record players with built-in speakers any good? 

Many of the cheapest record players you can buy come with built-in speakers. In theory this sounds great - you don't even need to plug them into a hi-fi to start enjoying your records. However, having speakers built in to a portable record player is actually a pretty bad idea for sound quality. 

Record players work by dragging a stylus (commonly called a needle) through a groove in the record. Tiny vibrations in the groove are turned into an electrical signal by the stylus. This powers the music you hear through the speakers. The stylus has to be very sensitive to pick up these tiny vibrations - the best turntables are very good at stopping external vibrations from reaching the stylus or they'll ruin the signal. By putting built-in speakers in record players, manufacturers are introducing lots of unwanted vibrations. 

This also means that built-in speakers can never be very loud. If they vibrated too much, they'd run the risk of causing the stylus to jump right out of the groove. Not only are built-in speakers generally bad for sound quality, you generally can't even turn them up to a volume you'd want to listen at anyway. 

How does Which? test record players and turntables?

Our record players and turntables tests go further than those carried out by other organisations and, because Which? is independent and doesn't accept advertising or freebies, you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about a product. 

We use an expert listening panel to review the big brand record players and because we’re independent we only work for you, the customer, so you know our recommendations are only influenced by our test results.