How we test record players and turntables
By Oliver Trebilcock
Only the best record players are worthy of Best Buy status. Read our expert guide to find out how we test record players.
We’ve independently tested a range of big-brand record players so you can be sure the one you’re buying is worth the money. Watch the video above to find out what we're looking for in a Best Buy record player or turntable.
Each record player is put through the same rigorous testing to give you impartial and comparative reviews you can trust. Our reviews answer the most crucial questions about record players to help you make the right choice, including:
- What is the sound quality like?
- How easy is it to set up and use?
- What additional features does it have?
- How good is it at digitising my records?
- Does it meet the claims of the manufacturer?
- Should I buy it?
Find out which record players outshine the rest in our record player reviews.
What's the sound quality like?
The superior sound quality of a record is probably one of the main reasons why you’re looking into buying a record player. So we want to make sure you get one that is music, rather than screeching, to your ears. That’s why we use a panel of five audio experts to listen to each record player and give it their verdict. Our experts have years of audio experience and are tough to impress. That’s why you can be sure if they think it’s a Best Buy, it’s worth purchasing.
With each record player, the panel listen to a selection of tracks, from jazz to pop to classical, in order to find out which is the best overall record player and which record players are best suited to different genres.
We connect every turntable to the same passive lab reference speakers via a preamp so all are tested under an identical set-up. For turntables that have built-in speakers, we test them both in this set-up and then separately with their own speakers.
How easy is it to set up and use?
Our testers rate each turntable on how easy it is to get the turntable up and running, as well as how easy it is to set up the speakers and preamp if needed. They then score each turntable on the ease of putting a record on, adjusting speed and tracking force, and aligning the cartridge. We also look at maintenance, giving a rating for how easy the turntable is to clean and how easy it is to install replacement parts.
What additional features does it have?
We look at what useful features each record player has so you can decide which one is best for you. We look for additional audio outputs, giving you more options for how to connect your record player. We also test USB connections, used to connect to a computer and make digital recordings of records. Other features make the record player much easier to use, such as automatic tonearm operation.
How good is it at digitising my records?
If you’re looking to listen to records on your phone, computer or mp3 player then how well each record player converts your music will be vital. That’s why our expert panel not only score the sound quality from the record player itself, but also the sound quality from the digitised version. This is to make sure we've tested manufacturer claims about being able to digitise records so you won’t be left disappointed.
Our experts also take a look at the software each record player suggests to use, usually Audacity, and puts it to the test. They look at how easy it is to do as well as how much background noise is left on the track.
It’s important to remember though that a poor record player will never convert well, whatever software you use. So check our Best Buy record players if you’re keen to use this feature.
Does it meet the claims of the manufacturer?
We do a series of technical tests on each record player to make sure each one does exactly what the manufacturer has claimed it should do. These tests include looking at the wow and flutter speed. Wow (slow) and flutter (fast) are the audible effects of varying the turntable pitch in real time. We also look at things such as the tracking force and stylus pressure to make sure these are what you'd expect to find. Interestingly, not all the ones we tested were accurate when it came to our technical tests - find out which ones missed the mark by looking at our record player reviews.
Should I buy it?
Every test we do to answer the questions above are used to create a final score for each record player we review. We know some factors are more important than others though, so we give each one a weighting depending on its importance.
- 65% sound quality
- 30% ease of use
- 5% technical testing
A record player has to achieve 70% or more to earn Best Buy status, and anything scoring below 45% is a Don’t Buy that you should definitely avoid.