I’m the type of person who always needs some background music, and I’ll usually reach for my record player for casual listening when I’m cooking, cleaning or simply existing at home. Several of my friends already had record players they loved when I started looking for my own, and I’ve seen them all over social media over the last few years (vinyl sales hit $1 billion in 2021, their biggest year since 1986). A few TikTok videos and Pinterest photos later, I gave in and bought my own turntable at the start of last year: the Crosley Cruiser Deluxe. A year later, I’m still just as obsessed as when it first came out of the box.
I knew going into the shopping process that a record player is a worthwhile investment for many people, but I wasn’t willing to spend hundreds of dollars (or perhaps even thousands) on a device I’d be using for background noise. (Realistically, I also couldn't.) I wanted something stylish, functional and affordable, and I wasn’t overly concerned with perfectly crisp sound. The Cruiser Deluxe fit my criteria to a T: It’s a very basic record player that sounds good, looks great and costs under $100.
The Cruiser Deluxe is a semi-automatic record player — in our guide to turntables, experts told us these are great for beginners (like me) since they stop automatically once they reach the end of the record. I can play an album and forget about it without the risk of scratching the record — a manual record player, on the other hand, forces you to carefully lift the tonearm or else it continues spinning. I do have to manually position the tonearm where I want the record to start playing, but it manages to go down smoothly using a small lever (and gives me the freedom to start my album at whatever track I want).
My favorite part about this record player is that it’s completely portable — it’s not only more compact and lightweight than other record players I’ve seen on the market (weighing in at only 5.5 pounds and fitting nicely atop my dresser), but it also features a stylish briefcase design that I can easily carry around via the handle. The portability paired with the all-in-one aspect of the record player makes it a convenient option for me — it has built-in features like speakers, pitch control and a cartridge that I may have needed to purchase separately otherwise. Its built-in Bluetooth function also adds some versatility since I can play any music wirelessly from my smartphone through the speakers of the record player as long as the player itself is plugged in (and the included RCA outputs let me hook it up to any external speaker, too).
Admittedly, the Crosley record player isn’t one that our experts recommend. In fact, they explicitly advised against purchasing an all-in-one record player, noting that it can damage your records and typically lacks good sound quality. But as a newbie, I’ve found it to work great for my casual listening experience: The speakers are loud enough to hear throughout my entire apartment without any additional accessories and it fits all of my standard size records ranging from 7 inches to 12 inches in diameter (all of which are still in good shape a year later). The sound quality might be lacking compared to more expensive models, but the price makes it worth it for a beginner, in my opinion.
Other turntables to shop
Whether you’re looking for a higher quality turntable or a more budget-friendly record player to shop, these are a few highly rated options, including ones we’ve previously recommended.
If you’re serious about your vinyls and looking for a higher quality option, this manual turntable from Audio-Technica equips a built-in preamp, an adjustable S-shaped tonearm and a USB function that helps you convert your records to digital audio files. It’s a direct-drive turntable, which means it’s powered by magnets with the motor lying right underneath the platter (where the record sits), causing it to reach the intended speed quickly, experts previously told us. However, our experts suggested buying a new cartridge if you go with this model, since the one that comes with it is lower quality.
This record player from Victrola is a lot like the Crosley one — it features a similar suitcase design, a Bluetooth function and an auto-stop switch that stops spinning records once they’re finished playing. Select writer Zoe Malin said her brother loves this budget-friendly record player because it’s small enough to fit on his desk and connects to any speaker using the stereo RCA outputs.
The Denon DP-300F Turntable is a fully automatic turntable that both lowers the tonearm and stops running at the end of the record on its own — all you have to do is load your record onto the platter and let the machine do the rest. It’s slightly heavier at 12 pounds, which can help prevent the vibrations of the turntable from becoming audible, Thomas Rasmussen, the owner of Rasmussen Turntable Repair, previously told us in our guide to record players. Select editor Morgan Greenwald owns this record player and said that though she had to buy the speakers separately, she’s a fan of the sound quality and sleek design.
If you’re looking to splurge on a high-quality model, experts told us the Technics Turntable System is one of the best turntables out there — like the Audio Technica, it’s a manual model with a direct-drive motor, but it includes an Auto Lifter function that automatically raises the cartridge when the tonearm reaches the end of the record. It’s a heavier turntable option (weighing in at 21 pounds), which increases its “rumble rating,” which means it’s less likely to pick up vibrations from external movement, according to Rassmussen.