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Vinyl isn’t dead. Which turntable gives records the most life?

In our test we look at regular turntables that might make part of your home entertainment system, USB versions that can connect to your computer, and a few models that do both.

From our test

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USB turntables

USB turntables allow you to record albums to your computer.

Sometimes the USB connection is the only one they have, meaning they can’t be connected to a regular home audio system. We encoded the records as MP3s with a bit-rate of 128kb/s and a sampling frequency of 44.1kHz, which is standard CD quality. USB turntables are often smaller, cheaper and more portable than their regular counterparts (though all models we tested needed an external power supply).

Three of the five USB models had built-in speakers, making them all-in-one systems. Because of this two listening tests were done, one using the MP3 file through a computer and our reference speakers (60 percent of overall score) and the other playing the record directly through either the in-built or reference speakers, which didn’t contribute to overall score.

Become a paying Consumer member or log in to see which turntables came out on top.

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Record store day

Record Store Day is an event held on the third Saturday of April each year to celebrate independently owned record stores. Every year, a number of limited-edition records are pressed and released to the public through participating record stores. If you’re a vinyl fan, you’ll need to line up early to get the exclusive records.

Turntable essentials

The stylus and the cartridge are the most important parts of a turntable as they pick up information on the record and convert it into electronic signals, which are then amplified and sent to the speakers.

The stylus is the “needle” that sits in the record’s grooves. The shape of the stylus is important, an elliptical stylus picks up more information than a conical one because more of its surface touches the record. Audiophiles claim conical styluses are better for old worn records.

The cartridge holds the stylus, converting its movements into electrical signals. Moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC) cartridges are the two most common cartridge types.

Tracking force is the amount of downward pressure exerted by the tonearm, which the cartridge is attached to, through the stylus on to the record. Your turntable will likely come with a suggested tracking force.

It can be a delicate operation to adjust the tracking force but worth it for sound quality. There’s also less chance you’ll damage your records from too much downward force.

A turntable produces a “phono” output signal. The phono signal is weak and needs to be converted to a stronger “line” level signal (sometimes referred to as AUX signal) to work with audio equipment. A pre-amp converts phono to line level. If there’s no built-in pre-amp, you’ll need to purchase a separate one or use an amplifier with a dedicated phono line in.

Switchable pre-amps can be turned on or off. You can do this if you’re plugging the turntable into an amplifier with a phono line in.

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