Top 10 best looking vintage record players (that also sound great)
You got us. We care as much about aesthetics as we do about performance. Maybe more. Call us shallow. Tell us we’re dilettantes. Shout “you’re missing the point!” at us from a passing car. It doesn’t change the fact that we think record players should look great. Half (or more) of the fun of this hobby is the look and feel. For us anyway. So, with that in mind, here are 10 record players that we love to look at AND listen to. From vintage turntables to modern players, there’s something in here for almost any aesthetic.
Photo by Aly Whitman
This is a vintage jewel with great sound and fantastic mid-century modern styling, featuring a real wood frame and heavy-duty metal platter and body. The vibe is similar to the turntables Shinola is putting out with VPI (more on that later). We love the look, and we love the sound. We got ours from a refurbishment specialist, and it’s been keeping us warm through these Minnesota winters. But good luck finding your own. We can barely find anything on the Internet about this company (apparently they make commercial audio products now), let alone their old record players.
Photo by Dave DiNuzzo
We love Dual’s here at Deep Cut. We own three and are in the market for more. The 621 features all the convenience and style that was possible in 1978. It is fully automatic, with a platter pattern that allows you to monitor the speed of the platter directly. The wood veneer frame and boxy angles are just our style. And we’re sentimental about this particular model; it was originally purchased and used by a Grandfather-in-law. It still has the original hand-written price tag on it ($398 in 1978, if you're curious).
U-Turn Orbit Special (in walnut)
If you have ever typed “turntable” into your search bar, you’ve probably come across U-Turn at some point. If you haven’t, head over there now. This company, founded in 2012, did as much as anybody to help bring vinyl back into the mainstream. Their minimalist design and high-quality components create a deck that sounds as good as it looks. They are surprisingly affordable to boot.
Photo by Aly Whitman
We’re partial to the Orbit Special with a walnut base (as you may have noticed from some of our photos), but U-Turn offers a wide variety of wood and acrylic bases with colors from neutral to loud, so you can be as subtle or as ostentatious as you want.
SpinBase + SpinDeck stack
This one is more about the package than the turntable itself. Andover Audio’s SpinDeck is a fine turntable, but it’s hard to say why it’s any better (or worse) than any other decent turntable at the pricepoint. But, pair it with a SpinBase speaker, and you’ve got something interesting.
Photo by Aly Whitman
The SpinBase is a compact speaker that doubles as a platform for the record player. Unlike most speakers, which sound best when they face you directly, it features a 270º sound stage. Which means it sounds great regardless of where in the room you’re standing. Which is really handy if you want to, you know, get up and do stuff while listening to a record. It is awesome sound from the smallest footprint imaginable.
Like the last of the dinosaurs, this magnificent beast was a marvel of its species when it debuted in the early 1980s, just before Compact Discs became the dominant audio format. It is big. Its angles are harsh. Its wood veneer is a bit too lacquered. It is pure 80s ugliness… and we love it. It works and sounds great too. Its audio quality was one step below commercial grade at the time. It is a smooth fully automatic turntable that is easy to use an fun to watch (no jerky robotics here, just smooth, mechanical precision). And we’ve got a special soft spot for it, as our model was a hand-me-down from a parent.
Shinola Runwell Player
We’re a sucker for a simple meets elegant, and for American-made equipment (see also: U-Turn). The Shinola Runwell (produced by VPI) player is another low-frills turntable that focuses on doing a few things exceptionally well. (As Bob Hazelwood of Andover Audio told us, fewer features means less stuff that can malfunction.) There are fewer, higher quality components. And that big solid wood plinth is gorgeous.
By the way, this is inline with VPI’s entry level turntables. Some of their higher end models might be able to make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.
A triumphant imagining of days of future passed. Nobody would make these choices today. The thick plinth. The giant feet. The mechanical housing that looks like a big aluminum racing stripe. And So. Many. Buttons. We’re not sure if we should play a record or pay that parking ticket we got on Newbury Street
But that’s what makes it so cool. It is different from what you’ll see being made today. But it’s not as if the designers lacked taste. The model is proportional and we dig that pale color pallet.
Of course, it’s a Marantz, so it sounds great too.
DUAL 1245 (custom)
We’ve already mentioned we love Dual turntables, especially vintage models from the 1970s. (We’ve got three, and are in the market for more.) The combination of the boxy, analog vibe and terrific sound really do it for us. And, unlike the Bogen we referenced earlier, it’s not too hard to find one. There are a decent number of vintage units available on eBay or in your local hi-fi shop.
But you won’t find this one anywhere. This is a Deep Cut custom. Head maker Rob brought home a Dual that turned out to be in rough shape. When he pried open the deck to de-gunk the workings, the plinth collapsed. So he did what anyone would do; build an entirely new casing out of rich walnut hardwood, get a new dust cover, replace the cartridge, and get the whole thing purring (actually silent) like new. This lucky deck got the makeover of its life. We think all the other Duals out there are feeling pretty jealous.
Another vintage (1976) turntable featuring a wood(ish) base. (Perhaps we have a type?) This chunky butcher block features a cummerbund of brushed aluminum and a chunky platter with that “timing pattern.” What’s not to love? It is a statement piece. That statement is “my turntable looks really good”. Plus it is fully auto, and we love that.
Photo by Ritual Hifi
First introduced in 1972, this classic turntable was a hi-fi staple for the following two decades. The thick platter, deep base, and boxy contours make it feel almost brutalist by today’s standards. But we love the proportions. And, as with the Marantz, we love the pale colors, matte aluminum against the cherrywood trim, with faded black accents.
Needless to say, it sounds great. Thorens was the gold standard of vinyl hi-fi in its heyday. But again, just look at it...
So those are some favorites. We want them all even though we absolutely do not have need or room for them. What's that got to do with anything though?? What are your favorite turntables to look at / listen to? Seriously, we want more things to ogle...
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