September 25, 2022

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. “Integrated turntables” or “all-in-one turntables” come with this equipment inside, so all you need are speakers to go with.

There are trade-offs. Having multiple components in a tight spaces risks adding extra noise and vibrations to the system, keeping all-in-ones from reaching the true pinnacle of quality that hardcore audiophiles tend to crave. Integrated preamps can also limit your ability to upgrade your system with aftermarket parts down the road, unless your turntables explicitly supports external preamps.

That said, the trade-offs are more than worth it for folks who are just getting into vinyl, so here are the best all-in-ones to help you start your journey.

What to Look Out For

Automatic or Manual: There are two main ways you can interact with a turntable. A manual turnable requires you to drop the stylus on the record and then lift it up when the record is done. An automatic turntable does that work for you. Most vinyl enthusiasts prefer manual turntables as they are most nostalgic and they say that dropping the stylus is part of the joy of playing vinyl.

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Belt-drive or direct drive: There are two primary types of turntables: belt drive vs direct drive. Direct-drive turntables have a motor that’s positioned directly underneath the platter, which allows the turntable to start up quicker but it also causes more vibrations. Belt-drive turntables have a motor that is located away from the platter. The motor is connected to belt, which wraps around the platter causing it to spin. The isolated motor and belt mean help belt-drive turntables create less vibrations, but they’re a little slower to start up and more fragile. Most higher-end turntables are belt-driven.

Switchable preamp: All integrated or “all-in-one” turntables by definition have built-in preamps. This is required to prep the audio signal for the amplifier or powered speaker (which is just a speaker with a built-in amplifier). However, a lot of integrated turntables come switchable preamps, meaning you can turn them off and use an external preamp (which is often higher quality) if you want to tinker and upgrade your hi-fi system over time. Most high-quality integrated turntables will have a switchable preamp.

More Hi-Fi Guides

• The Best Integrated Amplifiers of 2022
• The Best Phono Preamps to Upgrade Your New Turntable
• How to Set Up a Turntable System, 3 Ways
• The Best Turntable and Speaker Combos That Make Vinyl Easy
• 5 Affordable Turntables That Even Audiophiles Want

Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB

The Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB is one of the company’s newest mid-range turntable. It’s not quite as “audiophile-grade” as the Essential III (which Pro-Ject is phasing out), as the T1 has a lighter overall design (by about three pounds), a slightly lesser cartridge and a few less anti-vibration features. But the T1 separates itself by having a more striking design — thanks to tempered glass platter — and a more affordable price tag. It’s a great option for people who have a Sonos speaker with a line-in connection (like a Five or Play:5) and want to start playing vinyl.

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(The T1 can be bought with or without a phono preamp, or with a Bluetooth transmitter.)

  • Turntable: Belt drive
  • Automatic or Manual: Manual
  • Switchable preamp: Yes
  • Connectivity: No

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 essentially an upgraded version of the RT80. It has the same built-in preamp (which can be switched on or off), but includes a rubber mat, a solid body plinth and an Audio Technica AT95 cartridge.

  • Turntable: Belt drive
  • Automatic or Manual: Manual
  • Switchable preamp: Yes
  • Connectivity: RCA

Rega Planar 1 Plus

Rega is a well-loved British audio company that has been making audiophile-approved turntables for over 40 years, and its the Planar series of turntables are considered a benchmark for affordable high-end design. The Planar 1 Plus includes a Rega Carbon cartridge, internal phono pre-amplifier based on their excellent FONO stage and RB-110 tonearm. It’s one of the best integrated turntables you can buy for under $1,000.

  • Turntable: Belt drive
  • Automatic or Manual: Manual
  • Switchable preamp: Yes
  • Connectivity: No

U-Turn Orbit Plus (w/ Preamp)

U-Turn is one of our favorite American hi-fi companies who makes beautiful handmade turntables in Massachusetts. The Orbit Plus is the company’s mid-tier turntable that comes with a striking transparent platter, precision OA2 gimbal tonearm and a Ortofon OM5E cartridge. It’s available in a number of fun colors (including violet and bright green) and can be configured with or without a preamp.

  • Turntable: Belt drive
  • Automatic or Manual: Manual
  • Switchable preamp: Yes
  • Connectivity: No
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Audio-Technica AT-LP60X

The Audio-Technica AT-LP60X is the company’s most affordable entry-level turntable. It’s an automatic turntable so you don’t have to worry about placing the stylus (which you may or may not like). And it comes with switchable preamp and a replaceable stylus, so you can upgrade it down the road. It lacks USB and Bluetooth connections, so it’s a fairly dimensional option. It also has a lightweight and aluminum design and isn’t going to soak up vibrations like more expensive options. That said, if you’re just getting into vinyl and want a cool-looking turntable that doesn’t cost a lot, this is a solid option.

  • Turntable: Belt drive
  • Automatic or Manual: Automatic
  • Switchable preamp: Yes
  • Connectivity: No

Fluance RT80

The RT80 is the of the company’s most entry-level turntable. It still has a built-in phono preamp, so all you need is to connect it to a pair of powered bookshelf speakers. That said, it’s essentially just a lower-end version of the company’s RT81, with a hollow body plinth and an Audio Technica AT91 cartridge.

  • Turntable: Belt drive
  • Automatic or Manual: Manual
  • Switchable preamp: Yes
  • Connectivity: RCA

Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB

First things first: this is a USB turntable, meaning you can play and record records at the same time; which 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 Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB has a built-in phono preamp, so all you need is some passive or powered bookshelf speakers to hook up to it. The kicker is that, well, it’s just a really cool-looking turntable.

  • Turntable: Direct drive
  • Automatic or Manual: Manual
  • Switchable preamp: Yes
  • Connectivity: USB (compatible w/ Mac and PC), Bluetooth