While the rest of the planet seemed to lose its collective mind in 2019, we’re pleased to report it was business as usual in the wonderful world of hi-fi engineering…
It was impossible to ignore the existing giants of the turntable industry in 2019, notably Rega, who consolidated their position as heavyweight champions with notable additions to the range such as the sublime Planar 10.
But it wasn’t all about the veterans this year, with AVID HiFi upping the stakes with their range of brilliantly engineered turntables and amps that challenge the status quo – and with the excellent entry-level Ingenium P&P deck, a genuine masterpiece from Conrad Mas and his team that we mere mortals can conceivably afford. So if your’e looking for a new turntable for Christmas, look no further. Here are the best decks that money can buy at four different price points, plus a few alternatives to audition. True audiophile listening has never been more affordable than today.
Rega Planar 1
Rega has long dominated the turntable market at higher price points, while Pro-Ject et al have swept up the budget dollar. In 2019, there was only one answer to the question “Where should I spend my money if I want a new deck for less than £250?” The RP1’s handsome aesthetics, minimalist plinth and simplified RB101 arm, coupled with a pleasingly straightforward setup left us asking, “How the hell do they make it so cheap?” An emphatic winner.
The Canadian company wowed us with its upgrade on the already-impressive RT81 this year. It sports a striking walnut veneer, Ortofon 2M Red moving magnet cartridge and mature, refined sonic performance. If you want an alternative to the crowd, look no further. Also try Pro-Ject Primary E (£159), Sony PS-HX500 (£219), Audio-Technica LP5 (£249), Audio-Technica LP3 (£169).
You may well know NAD for its famous 3020 amp, but the company is fast developing a reputation for stellar turntables that won’t break the bank. The NAD C588 has a meaty MDF plinth, high-quality tonearm and Ortofon 2M Red cartridge contributing to its superb tonal balance and strong but never flabby bass performance. A deck that punches well above its price point.
Rega Planar 3
Pushing the original 1970s design dangerously close to perfection, the Planar 3 is yet another superlative piece of hi-fi engineering. Just about every element of what was already a clear market leader has been tweaked for the better – from the reassuringly stable acrylic laminate plinth to the RB330 tonearm. You can’t go wrong with a Rega.
Also try Rega Planar 2 (£399), TEAC TN-4D (£579), Pro-Ject RPM3 Carbon (£599)
AVID HIFI Ingenium P&P
There is life away from Rega at this price point, and nowhere is that life more vibrant and audiophile-friendly than at AVID Hifi. What a turntable this is, taking the world-class engineering Conrad Mas applied on the top-end Acutus Reference deck and somehow squeezing it into an easy-to-assemble package affordable to the likes of you and I. With fluid, weighty bass, clear detailed treble and supreme musical insight, this is the real deal. A proper audiophile turntable that you won’t need to be a Russian oligarch or Premier League footballer to obtain. Go find one.
Three decades of high-end turntable manufacturing were poured into this heavyweight contender that is the German brand’s entry-level option. Your money gets you a beautiful glass-like chassis, opaque matt acrylic platter and Rega-derived R250 tonearm. The sum of those parts is a finely crafted deck delivering rhythmic and fluid sound, tuneful bass and deeply impressive vinyl replay. Also try Clearaudio Concept (£1,320), EAT B-Sharp (£1,200), Rega Planar 6 (£1,400), Gold Note Valore 425 Plus (£1,250)
VPI Prime Scout
£2,500 http://www.vpiindustries.com, http://www.renaissanceaudio.co.uk
Harry and Matthew Weisfeld’s VPI Industries have been turning out high-end turntables since the 70s, and all of that expertise positively sings from the Prime Scout, the company’s ‘entry-level’ deck. Build quality is typically rock solid, with a JMW 9 unipivot arm, sturdy MDF plinth wrapped in a vinyl skin and a steel plate and Delrin feet. What that means is weighty, well-measured bass, astonishing levels of detail and an overall presentation that’s pretty close to musical nirvana.
Rega Planar 10
Drawing upon innovations from Rega’s money-no-object Naiad and refining the already pretty bloody hard to beat P10 and P8 models, the Planar 10 is designed to extract as much of the intended sound of your records as possible from the grooves and add imperceptible levels of its own vibrations to the picture. It’s an exceptionally revealing turntable, akin to listening to the original mastertapes of your favourite music. Buy one and you’ll be up all night going through your record collection all over again. Genuinely awe-inspiring. Also try Rega Planar 8 (£2,439), VPI Prime Signature (£6,000), Avid Acutus SP (£13,500), VPI HW-40 Anniversary (£15,000).