The record player is around 130 years old and is based on the Grammophone that was introduced by German inventor Emile Berliner. Refinements came in the 1920's when electronic signal amplification replaced mecanical or acoustic amplification giving way to a more accurate tonal and dynamic balance, and furthermore in the late forties when microgrove records came into use, giving us a more robust medium and longer playing times. The modern LP is a microgroove record made out of PVC that utilises RIAA eq. curves, so to use a record player with a modern system you need a preamplifier with a built in RIAA correcting equaliser (sometimes called a phono stage or a phonographic preamplifier). While these are often built into standalone amplifiers it's almost unheard of seeing them on a Mini or a Midi system, so you will either need to have a record player that has a built in preamp or to buy a standalone amplifier (a few manufacturers of those are listed on the RIAA preamplifiers page).
And if anyone thinks that the LP is dead here below are listed no fewer than 116 brands currently selling turntables with prices ranging from less than 50 € to over 90k €, and there are more to come.
The decks below are classified roughly by price and application, this may at times seem a bit artificial since after all they are all designed to do more or less the same thing. e.g. play records, and it may appear that there are only so many ways you can do that but in actuality what people are trying to archive when they are considering buying a record player can be a bit complex so this classification is the simplest thing I could come up with. And since the question has come up, the difference between a Record Player and a Turntable is simple, a record player is something that plays records, a turntable is something that has a round platter that turns, in practice any turntable that presents you with difficulties in changing a tonearm is a record player and conversely anything that is expressively designed to have easily interchangeable tonearms is a turntable.
Decks capable of playing 78 RPM records are not listed separately but noted alongside in brackets, if you are interested in suchlike take a look at the 78 Rpm. page. With the exception of Midi decks that integrate a RIAA preamp as a rule, decks that feature a correcting preamp are noted by (phono) after their name.
Please note that this list is neither complete or up to date at this moment.
Integrated units This is basically any record player that is integrated with other audio devices in the same box, be that simply a tiny amp and speakers to make a self contained record player or a full music system capable of utilising other sort music carriers such as a CD, MP3 or radio. If you are looking at buying an integrated unit you are basically interested in playing records and other format without any fuss or serious costs and with a minimum of room space allocated to the unit with sound quality being of a secondary concern. You might want to take a look at the midi record players listed below the quality of many of them is considerably better than what any of the integrated units can offer with the exception of some of the systems from TEAC and apart from the ultra low budget units almost all music systems have an auxiliary audio connector of some sort that will allow you to connect a record player to it, an iPod connector will do if nothing else can be found. Midi music systems represent much better value than integrated players since the choice of integrated systems is limited and will remain so. It should also be noted that a number of these systems are the same except that the casing has been mildly modified, however the Asian OEM suppliers that make the bulk of these systems have numerous options available and one of the is the pickup and amplifier subsystem, the price difference is minimal but the sound quality difference is quite striking even on something as low cost as this, so choose a system with an MM over a cheramic.
Portable Record Players These are self contained battery driven units with a built in small amplifier and speakers, the main target market is education, DJ's and, all have a RIAA correcting preamp built in.
Automatic and semiautomatic record players These are full size record players that have convinience features such as fully or semi automatic operation, the difference betwwen the 2 is that a fully automatic player will take the tonearm from its resting position and place the needle at the start of the record and when the record has finished it will return the tonearm to its resting position (e.g. you put the record on the deck, the machine handles the rest), a semi-automatic on the other hand simply means that the arm is lifted off the record at the end of each record although in some cases you will get a damping mechanism that . These are typically a step up in quality and price from the Midi decks listed above and some of the semi-automatic models are actually audiophile decks with an added automatic arm lift.
Budget Audiophile decks These shed all convinence features in the search for a better mechanical integrity and thus a better sound but are still built to a budget. This sector has seen a lot of action lately primarily through the , the budget audiphile deck is noting new but what has happened is the, they are in other words almost all record players rather than turntables although some models do not ship with a cartridge.
Mid price Audiophile decks This is where things get serious, quiet, however this requiers a pickup this sector of the turntable market is almost totally dominated by the Germans and for a very simple reason, this market setor simply died in most of the world in the latter half of the 80's while it remained resonably healty over there, this menat that technical innovations, and German technical educational establisheents where and the inferiority of the CD while in the English speaking world this was done on a subjective basis and the oppositte was while you where being peddled the same old suspended technology from the 1940's or clones of Japanese hot rods from the 70's by the Americans, unlike the budget audiophile decks most of the mid price decks do not come with a tonearms but in actuaiity the note also that the difference between low and mid price decks is blurry and the .
Acoustic Signature Makes 4 decks, their main deck is the Analogue One Mk II a high end deck that has been selling well in Germany for the last few years but they have a somewhat cheaper model called The Final Tool that has been getting a lot of interest across the atlantic and great reviews on both continents, you can read a review by Stereotimes of that model. The company recently introduced a "budget" model called Samba that comes with a Rega tonearm as standard, note that the company also has 2 upgrade kit's for that model if you want to improve it at a later date, and finally for those with a love of analogue sound reproduction they have a 3 motor monster called Impact, that model appears to be slightly cheaper than the Analogue One. All those model share the same custom bearing system that is considered to be one of the most succesfull in the business, and are cheaper than most other high mass tables.
Acoustic Solid German maker of high end players, although it has recently been moving in other directions introducing both mid price players and decks that are in or near the reference class (and price range). Their mainstay is the One to One deck it's a heavy platter deck with a freestanding motor, for those that want a deck that can take more than one tonearm there is the Solid One it's their reference class design, similiar im many ways to their other decks but comes in at a whopping 37 kilos. A version of that deck that can only take one arm is the Solid Edition and at "only 30 kg's" probably easier to get into the house, but there is also a slightly cheaper version called Solid Machine that also can accomidate 3 arms, it has all the design features of the more expencive decks but is smaller and lighter.
The Solid Machine Small is my personal favorite, a high end performance deck at a really good price (relatievly), and as it's made out of polished aluminium damn good looking to boot. The Solid Vintage it the only deck from the company that resembles a normal turntable with a cover etc, its also the only deck from the company that does no not have the motor seperate from the chassis and is Acoustic Solid's entry into the mid range market. Finally there is the Solid Round a deck made out of antiresonant high tech materials rather than the alumuinium that their other decks feature, high end table that can be fitted with 2 tonearms.
Agile Makes the Swift a mid price deck, the Verve a high mass deck. The visually stunning Blue Moon has an acrylic platter, unsuspended chassis, belt driven transport and a Rega derived tonearm and as such is in itself a fairly oridinary deck for the price range which is in the lower reaches of mid price decks or in the upper reaches of the low price audiophile dependig in what country you are, what makes it interesting is the shape which is like a half moon, the possibly the most beutiful record decks ever made, ;assymetrical shape more info here.
Altmann Industrie Elektronik This company has recently introduced a very interesting turntable called the 776 that is like a cross between a lightwheight brodcast turntable and a consumer desk. It's based around a Technics SP10 MKII motor and subsystem and features a SME ltd. arm and an Ortofon pickup, noticably the deck supports 16 and 78 rpm in addition to the usual 33 and 45.
Althea Música Makes or is about to start production of the high end Cardinale Reference, this is a heavy platter deck driven by a dc motor with the motor assembly and armboard are indepenednt from the truntable itself, the platter is acrylic and more inf can be had here.
Amazon Well regarded maker of mid to high end turntables.
Atma-Sphere Makes a turntable called 208 that is built around the old Empire turntable.
Audiolabor Makes the high end Konstant turntable, this was one of the first heavy platter turntables on the market and has become something of a classic (it's basic design is close to 20 years old, although it has seen some updates).
Audiomeca Has the high end J-1 turntable that comes with their SL-5 linear tracking arm and the more rationally priced Romance deck that uses the more conventional Romeo tonearm.
Audio Note UK Ltd. Makes the TT-1, this is an updated version of the old Dunlop Systemdeck IIX, in other words a 3 point suspended sub-chassis deck with an synchronus AC motor in the classic British fashion, this table has been reviewed by Hi-Fi choice, they also have the TT2 wich is an improved variant of of the TT1 with 2 motors for increased speed stability, torque and less interference, the TT2 model also has a much better power supply but appears otherwise to be identical to the 1. Note that unlike the TT1 the TT2 is only available in Black and that there is no information on it on the companies homepage, nor is there any info on their new TT3 Reference model, this is based on the Audio Note UK TT-3 turntable and features the same 3 motor arrangement but eschews the plinth in favour of an open arrangement and the motor subsystem has been improved with the addition of Flywheel and an independent power supply for each motor.
Audio Technica Makes the AT-PL30, it's a keenly priced model intended to integrate with a midi system, apparently features a built in RIAA preamp and comes with an AT-N3600L MM pickup.
Audio Tekne Makes the ACP-8801 high end turntable that sports a seperate motor, this model is only made to order and has seen a lot uf updates recently.
Avid Hi-Fi An English company that has recenlty introduced the Acuts turntable with a seperate powers supply and the Volvere deck.