The Best Vintage Turntables for Audiophiles

Marc HenshallBuyer's Guides37 Comments

Buying a vintage turntable can offer many advantages over shiny new decks fresh off the production line.

First and foremost, going vintage can make obtaining a higher-quality turntable more affordable.

The potential to grab a bargain will undoubtedly appeal to many record collectors, as, let’s face it, HiFi audio and record collecting isn’t exactly the cheapest of hobbies.

When choosing a used turntable, we want to look for decks that stand the test of time. The best vintage turntables are classics for a reason, so it’s important to do your research before snapping up any old deck on eBay. 

We also need to be meticulous in checking for signs of wear. If you’re very lucky, you’ll find a vintage turntable that’s well maintained and looked after. Needless to say, that’s not always the case, and buying vintage audio gear can be fraught with potential problems. 

Ideally, check the turntable condition in person to ensure it’s in good working order. Where this isn’t possible, be sure to ask plenty of questions and request additional images (or even a video) to reduce the chance of disappointment.

As a starting point, it helps to understand which vintage turntables are worthy of your attention. Below, we’ve compiled our summary of the best vintage turntables to help you focus your search.


Goldring/Lenco GL75

In the 1950s, British Hi-Fi legends Goldring teamed up with Swiss turntable manufacturer Lenco. They produced many very sought after decks, including the acclaimed GL75. 

With a little searching on eBay, it’s fairly easy to find this simple deck in very respectable condition. If you’re willing to do a little servicing, the GL75 is a superb later 60s/early70s workhorse that could be just the ticket. 


Thorens TD-125

Produced in huge qualities during the 1970s, the Thorens TD-125 is one of the best vintage turntables on the market, with plenty of spare parts available for servicing. 

Unlike its predecessor, the TD-124, the 125 is a fully suspended turntable design and introduced an electronic speed control. This eliminated the mechanical speed control elements and was one of the first decks to include a motor control board. Combined with a substantial machined platter that creates a flywheel effect, the TD-125 became revered for its speed consistency. 

Thanks to the removable tonearm board, users could specify a pre-fitted Thorens tonearm or supply their own. A popular upgrade for audiophiles refurbing TD-125 turntables is to fit an SME tonearm as a simple upgrade. 

Check out this restored and customized model by Vinyl Nirvana below:


Linn LP12

First introduced in 1972, the legendary LP12 is still in production to this day. The higher price in recent years has driven many vinyl lovers to seek the Thorens TD-125 as an attractively priced alternative as the two decks share quite a few similarities. 

The price of a new or used LP12 depends greatly on the spec, as a baseline LP12 is actually surprisingly affordable; it’s the many upgrade options as part of the deck’s modular design that can seriously add up. 

When you consider that a new, fully souped-up “Klimax LP12” model starts from $30,000 (£23,000), seeking out a vintage model for refurbished starts to look far more attractive. Even the base model, dubbed “Majik LP12” will set you back over $4000, so it’s worth hunting around for a vintage model of what many vinyl-lovers regard as the pinnacle of audiophile turntables. 


Acoustic Research XA/XB

Acoustic Research turntables from the 1960s represent an amazing piece of turntable history if you can find a vintage model worthy of restoration.

The company founder, Edgar Villchur developed a suspended turntable platter design that greatly reduced acoustic feedback. This method influenced later designs by Linn and Thorens, as already mentioned. 

AR decks remain in high demand among collectors and hold up remarkably well for 60-year-old designs. AR released further turntables in the 1980s that are also very popular among collectors for their highly modifiable design.

Here’s an interesting overview from Chris Barker at DIY HiFi Life who recently restored an old AR turntable. There’s also an interesting clip at the beginning from Edgar Villchur himself.


Technics SP-10

In the 1970s and 80s, Technics were best known for their SL-1200 deck, which became the go-to direct-drive turntable favoured by DJs.

In an effort to create a reference quality turntable aimed at radio stations and studios, Technics also released the SP-10. In fact, the SP10 was actually released before the SL-1200 and set the world on fire with its performance as the world’s first direct-drive deck.

The SP-10 was extraordinarily expensive and featured an entirely separate motor and motor control unit to keep unwanted interference at bay. If you can locate a restored vintage unit with an appropriate plinth at a reasonable price, they’re regarded still by many as one of the best reference turntables ever made. 

Even better, the components of Technics’ new re-issued SP-10 (first released in 2017) are backwards compatible with older units for an easy upgrade path. 

Check out this video of an SP-10 restored to its former glory:

The Bottom Line: Best Vintage Turntables

Buying a vintage turntable comes with challenges and complications, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. There’s a joy that comes with saving and restoring a little piece of music and HiFi vinyl history. 

There are many specialist companies that will help enthusiasts source parts and restore vintage turntables. Some, like the renowned Vinyl Nirvana in New Hampshire, US will take vintage AR and Thorens turntables, repairing and customizing them from start to finish.

We’ve highlighted some of the best vintage turntables available, but there are many others of note. For example: 

Rega Planar 3 models revolutionized the turntable market with their glass platter in the 1970s. It was unusual at the time but is now considered a great approach for resonance control. 

Japanese manufacturers, such as Yamaha have vintage models of note. The YP-701 is one example; thanks to its suspended design, it became compared by some to the Thorens and Linn models of the same era. Some call it a “poor man’s Thorens”, but I think that’s a touch unfair. 

Garrard 301 and 401 Transcription Turntables from the 50s and 60s are interesting pieces of history that were heavily used by radio stations across the UK and mainland Europe. Both models are idler-drive designs.

Keep your eyes peeled when you next search eBay or visit your local used or antique store; you could pick up a very reasonably priced audiophile deck and create a nice project for yourself in the process.

Now over to you: What’s the best vintage turntable? Let us know your pick in the comments below.

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Keshav Setaram

This is a very tricky subject to try and tackle, naming only a handful of turntables. The level of quality in turntables built around the 70s were abundant. Names like Luxman, Micro Seiki, Sony, Denon, Pioneer and JVC produced some outstanding top of the line tables too. I own about 25 turntables including the AR and Linn. The AR Xa and Xb are for sentimental reasons only….the tonearm is very basic and lack fine adjustments.
I wish you you would have titled your article differently. The tables you mentioned are generally over priced and not worthy because of this. For example, of all the turntables Technics/ Panasonic made, there are several that could be had for less than a used SP 10 complete with tonearm and audiophile grade. My Linn had to have the power supply board components replaced…..common with Linn

Bino

Pioneer PL 61

Colin Powell

I agree with Ferdinand Brink – the Thorens TD147 with its auto lift is an exceptional turntable. I also own a TD125 and Linn Sondek both with SME 3009 series 3 arms

Tom DeKoster

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Tom DeKoster

Luxman PD-441

Ernest ladeau

In keeping with my appreciation of all things Marantz , my 6350 plays my collection of vintage vinyl at a level that satisfies my nostalgia. Just did a little maintenance on it coming out of storage for 23 years.

George Anastasopoulos

My best vintage turntable that works well is a used harman kardon T25 semi-automatic turntable, is belt drive that I bought in good condition; from the 1980s era. My favourite music is from the 1960s, 1970s to nineteen eighties; mostly rock, pop, rhythm and blues.

I’ve replaced the stylus on the Audio Technica AT70 MM cartridge; and I re-aligned the cartridge because previous owner had not done so. I tried to install new turntable isolation feet, but no screws are the small size thread; but I cleaned it up a bit inside.

Then soon afterward I upgraded the phono cartridge; I was fortunate, bought a used Denon DL-80A Moving Magnet cartridge.

Very recently I removed the spindle bearing assembly, then poured a couple of drops of oil to bottom – underneath the spindle bearing; there is a small hole that reveals the ball bearing. After I re-assembled it, I added a couple of small drops to the side of the bearing spindle, sleeve, too. Lubricating oil is called Synthetic Oil, Sintered Bronze Safe by Audio Vault.ca bought on ebay.ca, by the way. Now it’s in great condition.

I also bought an Odd, used Rega Planar 3 Turntable – actually a Plinth. I say “plinth” since it came without a tonearm, drive belt, and no dust cover; and I had to replace the motor suspension belt. I say “odd” because the previous owner of this Rega Planar 3 drilled a large hole, and three small holes alongside it closer to the spindle bearing hole! Therefore the mounting distance was not correct.

I had to hunt around for a tonearm that is not a Rega RB! Finally I found a used Linn Basik Plus; then I had to search my town for the longer hexagon machine screws! I finally found them, then I had to buy a new capacitor, so I’ll solder it soon to the motor assembly. Now I’ve got to bend the U shaped platform straight upward a bit from the tonearm lift; at end of play the tonearm remains at the end of record.

Anyhow, I’m not going to make this story any longer, but to say that I gave that HK T25 a 4 out of 5 star rating on vinylengine.com. Although I’m proud to say that I’ve accomplished a semi-diy, or refurbished, repaired a turntable – for the most part – I’m not giving the Rega Planar 3 a very high rating.

I’m also going to make two other turntables that are actually very close to DIY. One home project is a Rega turntable DIY from a Rega Plinth Upgrade bought from Moldova; but that’s going to be another long story.

George Anastasopoulos

I made a posting mistake. I meant to say Moving Coil for the Denon DL-80A MC phono cartridge; that is fitted with an elliptical stylus.

Martin

You missed the Pink Triangle Anniversary. One of the very best vintage designs, with its then innovative honeycomb sub-platter and dc drive it provides exceptional resonance and feedback rejection

Ferdinand Brink

Thorens TD 147 should undoubtedly be in this list

Mike Moore

I am restoring a Technics SL1350. It is missing on foot pad and I am still trying to find the stacking spindle. Help!

Bill Bennett

A good article. There are really so many good “vintage” turntables still available. I have 3. PS-X6, I bought new, my main unit.TD-165, Yard sale, backup unit. SL-5 for the livingroom, it keeps guests away from a tonearm.

Stefan Månsson

I´m a big fan of Thoréns turntables. I own a nice 162 MKll and a Ortofon 2M blue take care of the signal from the Moving Magnet. It has a elliptical needle and it sounds wonderful: Clear, threedimensional sound, with lots of details I never heard before. The Thoréns trademark is Swiss high quality and have manufactured “music boxes” AKA “phonographs” since the late 1800´s
In modern times they are famous for having affordable and also very expensive models. And everything in between.

BARRY JAMES SLIM

No mention of these?!! I have a passion for Japanese turntables and own both a JVC QL A5 and Sansui FR D3. Both are quite superb! I use the Audio Technica VM95 EN and Goldring E3 cartridges on the JVC and the Grado Prestige Black cartridge on the Sansui. No complaints whatsoever and I’ve been using turntables since the early eighties! [In that time I’ve also owned a Panasonic, Dual, Technics Linear Arm, Rotel, Kenwood, Project and Rega, and a few others I can’t recall!] I dare say it’s all about preference and status [to some extent], but no mention of any turntable on my list?

Richard Sanders

I’ve relied on my JVC QL-A220 direct drive, semi-automatic turntable since 1991. According to references, the model was produced between 1983 and 1985. I have upgraded cartridges and replaced the stylus over the years, most recent being the VM540ML from Audio Technica. I’ve been tempted to try another turntable, but this one works like a charm. I might get another 30 years from it!

Stephen Peak

I have recently had my Garrard 401 completely refurbished
by the Classic turntable company in the UK
They do other turntables it’s worth contacting them

Ian

How about the Ariston RD11. The original RD11 preceded the Linn LP12 with many believing that the Linn was basically a copy. This was the subject of a lawsuit until the complaintent suddenly died. Both decks owed a bit to the Thorens TD125. I have an RD11 Superieur which is still going strong.

Fred

I doubt my turntable is in the same league as those mentioned in this article, but I bought a 1973 Rotel RP1000 used back around 1985, the guy had it at a garage sale and I paid $20. I took it to a shop that repaired turntables and he replaced the belt and adjusted something, I don’t remember what, I paid $20 for the service, and it has worked wonderfully since.

About 5 years ago I replaced the original cartridge with a Empire 400TC that opened up the soundstage dramatically and increased the frequency response for the original cartridge; a phono/electronic repair shop had that cart brand new in a box that he had for years and sold it to me for $70 which included installation. That shop had a whole bunch of NOS/NIB cartridges from all sorts of brands; he told me that since I like to listen to mostly classic rock that the Empire 400tc was the best that he had in stock for that kind of music, not sure if he was telling me the truth or just trying to get rid of a cart that had been setting around for years, but it does sound a lot nicer than the old one even with a newer needle on the old one.

Last year I replaced the mat with a Hudson HiFi acrylic mat, that mat made the sound richer and quieter background noise. I tried a rubber mat that came with the turntable, a cork mat and a leather mat, but this acrylic mat sounded the best in my opinion.

David Adamson

I had a Denon DP33F for more than 40 years and eventually wore it out. I replaced it with a MoFi

Paul C

I have a Yamaha YP-B4 & a Dual 506-1 There both great!! I also have Technices SL-B2 & a Toshiba SR-F451 those play well but I’m more of a fan of the Yamaha & the Dual..

Robert Dore

I’ve had a Rega Planer 3 since it was brand new – at least 30 years – and absolutely love it.

Michael Swan

I have both of the Acoustic Research turntables and a few of the British Sogden Connoisseurs and was well pleased with them all once you got used to their quirks. But, I now have two Empires, a 398 and a 698 and have stopped looking for anything better. They are quite old but built like tanks and use German motors that look like they could start a riding lawnmower. I use Empire cartridges also and have found no reason to buy something newer.

Manuel

Following you guys every week!

Paul

My favorite vintage turntable is actually the one I currently own, a Philips 777. It’s a fantastic table with a floating platter and arm (like the AR and Thorens models), belt drive, removable headshell and auto start and stop. Some time ago I upgraded my cartridges to a MM Audio-Technica and one of their mono carts so I can swap depending on the record. While I still dream about getting a new turntable, a listen to the 777 cures of me of that. It has everything I need and sounds amazing. Here’s a little spec sheet of sorts about it:

https://stereonomono.blogspot.com/2013/03/philips-af-777.html

Louis

I have a rega planner 3 since 1986. Upgrade with a preamp phono ear 834. That is build last.

Robert Dore

I absolutely love mine too…

Doug Hogg

I have a Transcriptor Reference Hydraulic T/T with SME arm which has recently been refurbished by Michael Gammon – son of the founder and designer of the turntables – the late David Gammon. This is, to me at least, still a fantastic piece of real British Engineering at its best and sounds as wonderful now as it did when I got the T/T more than 40 years ago.
What a wonderful job Michael has made of what had become a very sad looking piece of history and meeting him was a very special treat. Its great that he is still looking after these and is now hand building some wonderful new models I believe.

Paul Bernstein

I’m curious as to why there was no mention of Dual turntables among the classic vintage turntables. I use a Dual 721 direct drive turntable that was professionally cleaned and lubricated and had cables replaced a few years ago and am quite happy with it.

Richard Birch

No Dual Turntables?