I've made many mistakes throughout my life, but the ones that really keep me up at night relate to the various record players that I've owned and abused over the years.
Nobody advised me to be gentle and as a result, I treated them like an iPod. But needles, as it turns out, are as fickle as fuckbois.
Record players have stood the test of time for a number of reasons: a) some don't just play music, they double as turntables, which assist DJs in running a business, b) they look vintage and sound kind of shitty, which is great when you're drunk and attempting to hookup with someone, and c) you know you want one.
But which turntable is best for somebody who's never owned one before?
Personally, I've owned the four following record players: The Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable, the Crosley CR6017A-MA Player Turntable, the Audio Technica AP-LP60 Fully Automatic Stereo Turntable System, and the Crosley CR8005D-TU Cruiser Deluxe Portable 3-Speed Turntable.
Below, I offer my personal analysis of the functions and drawbacks that make these machines what they are.
Become profesh for $299.00.
I got the Audio Technica AT-LP120 as a Christmas gift a couple years back, and I hated the looks of it from the start. Its aesthetic belongs in Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. But believe it or not, this pricey chunk of metal is actually one of the most durable turntables on the market, and it's probably your best bet if you're aspiring to become a professional DJ.
You'll want to buy a good amplifier to go with it, but the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 comes with software that can allow you to burn records onto your computer directly. That direct drive has a quartz lock (e.g. relaxed timing control), manual pitch adjustment, reverse direction (if you like hearing records from end to beginning), multiple features for playing on a stereo (with or without a photo input), and it comes with a knox carbon fiber brush and an additional AT95E Cartridge. This thing takes care of itself.
If you're more interested in brains than looks, the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 is your best bet. You can also get its little brother, the AT-LP60 (lovingly referred to as 'The 60' by Audio Technica fanboys), for $109.
Get hip for $75.57.
I've owned a couple of these over the years, both in mahogany. As a fairly affordable turntable, the Crosley CR6017A-MA is much like a 3-year-old. They're cute and are generally worth it for the family photos, but one wrong move can scar them for life.
The Crosley CR6017A-MA is extremely sensitive, and its fully automatic return tone arm is particularly prone to damage. On the flip side, the Crosley has built-in speakers, a productive portable audio input for an MP3 player or a smartphone, as well as a belt driven turntable with three speeds.
If you're a generally careful person with electronics, this player will get the job done—and look good doing it. Unlike a three-year-old, it's also easy to replace.
Audio Technica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Stereo Turntable System
Buy it, without speakers, for $99.
This Audio Technica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Stereo Turntable is not the younger brother of The AT-LP120 mentioned above; it's a different beast altogether. For a dramatically cheaper player, the sound is surprisingly indiscernible from that of the big boy Audio Technica's.
However, there's one major downside: It has no built-in powered speakers, so you'll have to purchase some of those on your own to get it to play music.
Otherwise, the table does have its high points for novices: it's a simple setup (literally five seconds; by comparison, I paid somebody from Craig's List to help me setup my Audio Technica AT-LP120), it has two speeds, a switchable phono preamp, and an extra stylus. And it's not a Crosley.
Crosley CR8005D-TU Cruiser Deluxe Portable 3-Speed Turntable
Make people think you're headed for work for $62.99.
Last but not least, we have the infamous Urban Outfitters "briefcase Crosleys." And much like the clothing giant itself, this brand of Crosleys is usually considered perfect for people who strive to be hipster without doing any of the work.
The Crosley CR8005D-TU Crusier may be a drive-thru record player, but it comes with about as many colors or designs as there are iPhone cases in the world. And frankly, the sound quality is not what you would get with an Audio-Technica, but at least you won't need external speakers.
The bright side: The Crosley CR8005D-TU Crusier comes with Bluetooth, which is a huge plus as you can stream music wirelessly. Additionally, there are three speeds and adjustable pitch control. And of course, since they look like luggage–they're probably among the most mobile turntables on the market.