The best vintage turntables you can (maybe) still buy
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We’re in a vinyl renaissance, there’s no doubt about it. Vinyl sales continue to break year-on-year records (and have done so since 2005); its popularity has grown so much that more and more vinyl pressing plants are opening up. Audio companies are also returning to analog, making new-age hi-fi components like amps, preamps, receivers and, of course, turntables.
But they don’t make them like they used to, do they? At least not with the same charm and nostalgia.
If you were to ask a true hi-fi enthusiast or audiophile, they would probably tell you that the golden age of vinyl was in the 70s and 80s. It was a time before cassette tapes, CDs and to the digital audio revolution, when a vinyl record was the easiest and most popular way to listen to an album. It was a time when there were also an abundance of turntable manufacturers, such as Technics, Luxman, Acoustic Research, Linn, JVC, Denon, Pioneer and Sony (to name a few).
Today, some of these hi-fi names are no longer in business. Others have shifted their focus elsewhere, such as headphones or home cinema. And some, well, they’re coming back into hi-fi and vinyl, releasing new audio components as well as reissued and reimagined versions of their classic models. An example of this is the Technics SL-1200 series of turntables.
Why buy a vintage turntable?
There are definite pros and cons to buying a vintage turntable. The main reasons you would want a vintage turntable are its aesthetics, nostalgia, and (most likely) price. Most modern turntables don’t have the same texture and charm as their predecessors, and you can usually get a pretty good deal on vintage turntables.
The main reason why vintage turntables are generally more affordable is that they are usually not in working condition. So after buying one, it will most likely be a project to put it back in place and groove it. This is going to take time as many of these parts are not so easy to find. And repairing the turntable will cost you much more than what you originally paid.
It’s also worth pointing out that a vintage turntable, even if you restore it to its former glory, probably won’t be able to play records as well as a good modern turntable. There’s been quite a bit of progress in just about everything, and most modern turntables sound warmer and more focused.
How to buy a vintage stereo
Buying vintage hi-fi equipment, including vintage turntables, isn’t as easy as buying something modern. It will take finesse, perseverance and a bit of luck to find the vintage component you are looking for. Keep in mind that these turntables are no longer made and are not often available. Especially if they are popular among enthusiasts.
When shopping for a vintage audio component, third-party sites like Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace will be your best bet. Reverb.com is another great option. The thing to note is that many of these turntables will not be in working order. In fact, it will most likely need to be refurbished to at least some extent. It’s common for vintage turntables to have their belt stretched or their tonearm broken, for example, or even need a new power supply.
This is why we recommend that you have a long chat with the seller so that you know exactly what you are buying. It’s also worth contacting a hi-fi store near you to see if, once you buy it, they’ll be able to restore it to its former glory. And if so, how much will it cost and how quickly they can do it.
A note: This is not a definitive or exhaustive list of the best vintage turntables – there is too much subjectivity and room for debate. Instead, here’s a list of some of the most beloved vintage turntables that were first released in the 70s and 80s and are still in demand. If you have any suggestions for additions, please leave them in the comments and we’ll potentially update this post in the near future.
Planar Rega 3
Original release date: 1976
Rega is one of the biggest names in modern turntables, but its origins date back to the early 1970s. The Planar 3 (or RP3) is one of the British hi-fi company’s most iconic and beloved turntables. – in fact, a modern version of this original classic is still in production (see here). The original was immensely popular as it was one of the first turntables to have a glass platter. It was also quite affordable at the time and was therefore widely considered an entry-level turntable for budding audiophiles.
Thorens TD-125 MKII
Original release date: 1972
Thorens is one of the oldest and most respected turntable manufacturers, with a history dating back to the late 19th century, and the Swiss hi-fi company (now relocated to Germany) continues to manufacture turntables today. today. The Thorens TD-125 MK II is one of his most iconic turntables. It was one of the first turntables to have electronic speed control (just like its predecessor, the Thorens TD-125). And today it is still popular among enthusiasts.
Linn Sondek LP12
Original release date: 1972
The Linn Sondek LP12 is one of audiophiles’ most beloved turntables – and its original model is still highly sought after today. It was introduced in the early 70s and became iconic for its suspended sub-chassis design, which is also quite modular and upgradable, but it’s just known for delivering really accurate and realistic sound. Linn now makes modern interpretations of this turntable (see here). The wrong side? These are enough Dear.
Original release date: 1970
The Technics SP-10 is one of the most important turntables on the market. It was the world’s first direct-drive turntable, and when introduced in the early 1970s, it was considered the pinnacle of hi-fi. It’s obviously a highly sought after turntable, but it also paved the way for the SL-1200, which was essentially a more affordable model and one of the best-selling turntables in history.