The true vinyl enthusiast is one who sees vinyl as the pinnacle of audio. No matter how you look at it, listening to music in that form is a different experience.
Listen long enough, and you find that it will push you into a depth of appreciation for music that can no longer be fed by the midrange turntables. This is where the high-end equipment comes in.
To get the very best, you need to think big. High-end turntables are audiophile-grade. You will be able to tell by looking at their specifications and components. Of course, this means that the price tag on these is just as large. But that’s the price to pay for the highest quality.
Even at the very top of the record player food chain, no product is perfect. However, some get pretty darn close to that. They all have pros and cons but a lot of the time you will have to nitpick to find something not to like.
If you are finally ready to reach the ultimate height of vinyl appreciation, then you are in the right place. This article will show you 5 of the best from the highest priced turntables you can get right now.
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- Solidly weighted platter
- Multiple design options
- Audiophile-level performance
- No built-in phono stage
Pro-Ject is a company that is all about the audio experience that they can bring to you, the consumer. With the Pro-Ject X2, you get one of the brand’s top-end turntables. At well over $1,000, the price does not hesitate to reflect that. Then again, the budget likely isn’t an issue when shopping for the best of the best.
With the X2, you get an electronic speed changer to set your record player to 33, 45, or 78RPM. It operates with a belt-driven platter. The platter is made of acryl, which weighs 2kg and is 3cm thick.
Looking at the X2, you realize how much class this record player exudes. It is such an elegant design and the satin black color only improves it. The tonearm and plinth adopt the black, while the platter’s translucency gives a crystalline feel. There is also a satin walnut as well as a white finish available.
The tonearm here is made of a composite of aluminum and carbon fiber, which translates to a lighter yet stronger build. Along with the damped counterweight and the improved design of the gimbal, it is clear that the arm had no corners cut. The Sumiko Moonstone cartridge on the end is no slouch either, with a frequency response of 12Hz to 33kHz.
Over the company’s Debut line, the X series turntables represent a massive upgrade. Even areas like the motor and the feet found significant improvements. The goal is the same – make the audio playback as smooth and high-quality as possible. There’s not much I can say. You need to hear this. But yes, it is exactly as good as you think.
Marantz TT-15S1 Manual Belt-Drive
- Very modern design
- Details in the sound are top-notch
- Speed change is manual
- No 78RPM option for playback
- No dust cover included
There’s an image of modernity that is frequently conjured in our minds that is exemplified by homes filled with glass and steel. Gone is the wood or plastic. In that kind of home, the Marantz TT-15S1 is the turntable of choice, purely by design.
To say this record player isn’t an eye-catcher would be dishonest. With a single solid piece of frosted acrylic, the plinth almost looks cold to the touch. The tonearm and other parts of the body incorporate more metal and silvered components, which makes it look absolutely stunning.
Look away from the price and towards the quality that Marantz has managed to squeeze in here. The tonearm looks amazing and doesn’t need any complex assembly, seeing as it comes out in one piece. Marantz opted to detach the platter motor from the plinth due to the vibrations it causes. Connected to the platter by its belt, the plinth takes a lot less resonance from vibrations.
Speed changes are manual here, which is a little irksome, and even though switching takes no time at all, 78RPM is not supported with this. That’s a major bummer considering how much this record player costs.
Audio performance in a turntable is a sum of all the components; everything is built to provide the best audio experience. Paired with the Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood cartridge, the sound quality on this is exceptional. The sound reproduction is rather neutral, however, so the bassier elements don’t get toned up in any fashion. There may be few people who would like it a bit heavier.
Music Hall MMF-5.3
- Price is attractive for the class
- Dual-plinth design improves the quality
- Has only 2 speeds which must be manually changed
- Design isn’t as elegant as other options at this price point
When budgeting for audiophile-grade record players, it is typically very safe to budget well over a thousand dollars. The work that goes into these turntables tends to demand such a price tag. Unfortunately, this frequently makes these inaccessible to many people.
The Music Hall MMF-5.3 manages to undercut the competition in that regard, selling at under $1000. This makes this a good way to enter into the realm of premium vinyl performance without as heavy an effect on the wallet.
While it may seem like it is purely aesthetic, there is intelligent reasoning behind the design of this turntable. The layered plinth is made up of two flat segments separated by a dampener. The top layer holds the components most responsible for producing the sound. This includes the tonearm, platter, and main bearing. The bottom layer holds the motor, wiring, and other components. This helps reduce the effect that these have on the production of sound.
The MMF-5.3 is a 2-speed turntable that has to be manually adjusted to switch between the two speed options. The tonearm is constructed of carbon fiber which translates to lightweight performance. And with a stainless-steel main bearing coated with Teflon, it will move smoothly without affecting the sound.
If you’re looking for a design that oozes sophistication, this might not be the one, however. It doesn’t look bad, understand that. It just doesn’t have the same kind of looks that its competitors do.
Music Hall MMF-9.3
- The turntable’s construction is excellent in function and aesthetic
- The audio performance is heavenly
- Setup is straightforward
- Price is high (though worth it)
- Only 2-speed
The moment I set my eyes on the MMF-9.3, my first impression was “Wow.” In terms of design, this is more like it for me. The construction of the MMF-9.3 is exactly as you’d expect from an audiophile-grade turntable. Class and simple sophistication. I say this when looking at the black version, though the walnut is also beautiful.
The construction of the MMF-9.3 is well thought out and is as functional as it is visually pleasing. Going a step beyond the amazing dual-plinth design on the 5.3, you get a triple-plinth here. Similar to the dual-plinth, the platter, main bearing, tonearm, and cartridge are on the top layer. The feet and wiring reside in the bottom. The motor is isolated from the plinth on its own platform which further improves vibration isolation.
78RPM gets no love here, but at least the speed controls for the two speeds available are electric. The timing for both speeds is precise too. A Goldring Eroica LX is the cartridge working the magic. To get one of those on its own, you’re looking at nearly $800. Clearly, this is of high quality. It reflects in the price tag north of $2000.
And when it comes to the sound. Oh, the sound. It is hard to get better than this. I can’t imagine how good a turntable has to sound to be miles above what the 9.3 pushes out. I could go on and on and on, but I’ll just tell you that it is perfection.
Pro-Ject Signature 12
- Audio performance is perfect
- Starts up in a flash
- The touch screen makes operation easy for anyone
- The price!
- Touch panel placement is inconvenient
The Signature 12 was launched in celebration of Pro-Ject and its 20 years in the business. In their own words, it is a “non-compromise high-end turntable”. That means they stopped at nothing to ensure that this is the best record player you can get from them.
$12,000. That’s at least how much the Signature 12 will set you back. The price tag is high. In fact, prohibitively high. Very few people, even the purest of vinyl audiophiles, will be willing to pay that much. But if you actually plan on purchasing this, or if you’re curious, I’ll tell you what you get.
The plinth is a solid block that comes in veneered wood finishes or plain black. Several silvered components sit on top of this. This includes the tonearm, platter, and flywheel belt-drive motors. There is also a small touch panel as well. It looks different, that much is certain.
The steps taken to ensure premium audio in this turntable are unlike any you can see below the price point. You get a heavy alloy platter weighing over 10kg, which uses an inverted ceramic ball bearing. Two magnets help in taking the weight off the platter, which reduces friction and allows for a smoother and noiseless spin.
The flywheel drive makes use of two motors, so this starts up very fast. It supports two speeds only, and while the motors were not absolutely silent, they did not affect performance. The tonearm is single-pivot and can be adjusted in numerous manners.
Now. On to sound. What do you really expect me to say? This is honest audiophile quality and it does it so effortlessly. The bass lines are so much more prominent without being overpowering. The dynamics and the timing are so precise that it was honestly a transcendent experience. If not for the price, I’d recommend it to absolutely everyone.
High-priced turntables abound in the market. Most of them give you your money’s worth, but the bar gets set higher and higher with the more money you put on the table. If you need the absolute best quality you can pull from your records, then any of these should be exactly to your taste.