Best retro record players 2021: Rekindle nostalgic sounds with top picks for every budget

2 weeks ago 8
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(Pocket-lint) - Our Top Pick for retro record players is the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK Direct-Drive Turntable. Other great options are the Udreamer Vinyl Record Player, SeeYing Record Player with Speakers Bluetooth Turntable with FM Stereo Radio, Wockoder Record Player Turntable, and Kedok Belt Driven Suitcase Vinyl Record Player.


Speak to any diehard music lover and you'll always get the same answer: there's nothing like vinyl. Forget about the new trends of getting the purest form of music, this is it.

It's something about the ambient sounds, the quality of the acoustic recording, or perhaps just the nostalgia that comes with propping that pin that makes records a choice listening experience. There's a process to go through that's just a bit purer than shouting to Alexa to play your favourite album, and that can make all the difference.

The record players the Pocket-lint team have tested are modern in approach but retain a sense of retro style. You'll find a lot of the old-style options out there complete with wooden finishes and maybe even a suitcase aesthetic, just like the handmade ones of yesteryear. 

As a result of this blending between old and new, many are able to handle playing your parent's vinyl record while still connecting to a Bluetooth speaker, as well. If you're in the market for a pure Bluetooth speaker, though, then there are loads of options to choose from that we've tested. You could even pair one up to your new record player.

Our Top Pick

Audio-Technica

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Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK Direct-Drive Turntable

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For

  • Superb build quality
  • All the features you could ask for

Against

  • Not cheap
  • Not speaker or amp included

Not all record players are made alike, and the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK Direct-Drive Turntable is one that stands out among the crowds.

It has a classic look and is packed with features. It'll play 33 1/3, 45, and 75 RPM records, and, while it doesn't come with speakers, it can be connected to your favourite speakers through RCA cables or USB.

If you want to dig a little deeper, an amp and speaker pair can also be set up to complement the system.

If you're a die-hard turntable enthusiast, then Audio-Technica's fantastic reputation and the long list of features on this record player make it a worthy option.

Best record players

Here are some more retro record players that we think you might like.

Udreamer

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Udreamer Vinyl Record Player

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For

  • Multiple inputs
  • Speakers built-in

Against

  • Probably best for beginners
  • The power cable is fairly short

We love the fact that the Udreamer Vinyl Record Player delivers a retro look, but still maintains an ageless class. It wouldn't be out of place in any living room.

It's able to play in 33-1/3, 45, and 78 RPM, as well as 3 sizes of record: 7'', 10'' and 12''. The spring and belt-driven design in combination with the wooden build help it absorb any vibrations and deliver a warm tone, and we can attest to this.

If you're out of vinyl to play for the evening, then switch over to your phone with its Bluetooth functionality and get your phone out. The ability to use it for more than its record playing functions makes it more useful too.

SeeYing

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SeeYing Record Player with Speakers Bluetooth Turntable with FM Stereo Radio

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For

  • Replaceable needles
  • RCA jacks allow for nicer speakers to be connected

Against

  • Sound quality could be better
  • Materials are a bit cheap

The SeeYing Record Player with Speakers is a bang-up-to-date turntable. It's got speakers on its sides that you can even connect a Bluetooth device to when you run out of records.

We like that you can connect your high-end speakers via the RCA jacks. This means you don't need to rely on the built-in speakers.

No matter if you have 7, 10, or 12-inch records, or need 33, 45, or 78 RPM playing speeds, this record player has you covered.

The sedate styling will make it work in most spaces, too.

Wockoder

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Wockoder Record Player Turntable

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For

  • Good sound for the price
  • Wood finish offers nice styling

Against

  • Overall finish could be better
  • Light needle results in some skipping

The Wockoder Record Player Turntable brings back the 70s in style and does so in a compact package.

The belt-driven player and spring on the turntable base make sure vibration is kept to a minimum, which is great for sound quality.

It's simple to use with little fuss needed to get going. And it's also got Bluetooth in case you're keen on something not yet released on vinyl.

Kedok

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Kedok Belt Driven Suitcase Vinyl Record Player

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For

  • Attractive retro styling
  • Portable

Against

  • Speaker quality could be better
  • No Bluetooth output

Retro styling meets modern tech. The Kedok Belt Driven Suitcase Vinyl Record Player is a great looking turntable that allows you to listen to your records wherever you go, thanks to the suitcase design.

It's capable of playing three different-sized records at three speeds, and has built-in speakers so you don't need anything more to play your classics.

While it is portable, it's hard to say how often you would be travelling with it based on the need to take all the records along with you. But the option is there if you like.

Other products we considered

The Pocket-lint editorial team spends hours testing and researching hundreds of products before recommending our best picks for you. We consider a range of factors when it comes to putting together our best guides including physically testing the products ourselves, consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. Many of the devices we consider don’t make our final best guides.

These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top five picks:

How to choose a retro record player

The retro record player is the most classic of music players. It is known to provide the pinnacle of music listening enjoyment, with quality that trumps even the highest digital formats. For the most part, the retro designs mimic those of the record player's heyday, with wooden finishes, plastic covers, and large volume control knobs. They generally look great. But one aspect that makes them different from all other music players is the size, as they are far bigger than most Bluetooth speakers.

So, what should you be looking out for?

Why should you buy a retro record player?

If you're looking for the best quality auditory experience, then a record player should be on your list. Many of us have a collection of records from family members, painstakingly accumulated over the years. And it's a huge waste to let those sit and gather dust. For those of us not lucky enough to have such a library of joy, the vinyl world has picked up significantly once again, with many of the best albums being released on vinyl too. Now is a great time to develop your own collection and truly appreciate each and every recording your get.

What will you use the speaker for?

Simply enough, you'll be using the record player to play records. One of the other aspects of a record player - especially a retro-designed one - that other kinds of speakers can't compare with is aesthetics. When not playing music, it can be an ornament in itself, as who doesn't like the look of a record player in the lounge? It definitely maintains a presence.

Most of these options are also Bluetooth compatible. So, if you want to play something that isn't on vinyl, then just connect your phone or other device and hey presto.

What should it look like?

When you hear retro, you get a certain image in your mind. And these retro record players basically hit the nail on the head. Some have an 80's style look with a flat black plastic casing, while others embrace the wooden veneers of the '60s and '70s. Many have a plastic covering that is synonymous with record players. All in all, they all look good, and it's just down to which would fit best in your lounge.

Do you need anything else?

As audio quality is the mainstay of record players, you want to embrace this to the max. Many of the retro record players on this list have speakers built-in, which means you can use them immediately. But if you want to get the most out of them, it's worth investing in an amp and external speakers. This will increase the cost, but if you want the best, it's all worth it. Make sure it comes with RCA jacks, too.

More about this story

Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life.

In the case of retro record players, we got the chance to pull out our vinyl and enjoy the classic sounds we've been missing. Each record player was tested for all the record sizes and speeds it offered.

When we could, we hooked up an amp and speakers to see how easy each was to use with a full system. And of course, the ones with Bluetooth got tested for their ease of use with other devices.

We aren’t interested in pointless number crunching or extraneous details - we just want to provide an easy to understand review that gives you an idea of what it's going to be like to use. And don’t for a second think that the products aren't tested fully because the reviews are concise.

We’ve been covering tech since 2003, and, in many cases, have not only reviewed the product in question, but the previous generations, too - right back to the first model on the market. There is also plenty of models we've considered that didn't make the cut in each of our buyer's guides.

Writing by Claudio Rebuzzi. Editing by Conor Allison. Originally published on 21 May 2021.

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