Vinyl records have come back in a huge way. Though still a niche, vinyl records account for about 6% of all music sales. They’ve even surpassed digital sales in some markets.
It’s the crackle of the needle, the superior sound, and the fact that you actually own the music that makes vinyl so appealing. But many people don’t have space for a full turntable. That’s why many look toward the new wave of portable record players.
Best Portable Turntables – Records on the Go
Finding the right portable turntable comes down to a balancing act between portability and sound quality. I’ve examined the 6 best portable record players according to me to narrow things down for you.
Table of Contents
- Best Portable Turntables – Records on the Go
- Things to Consider in Portable Turntables
1. Numark PT01
Another three-speed record player, the PT01 has the added advantage of running off a battery. It needs six D batteries, which don’t come included with the turntable. You also get an AC power adaptor, so you can conserve the batteries until you take it out with you.
Beyond that, it’s a simple package. The turntable is a small block with a platter and stylus. It does come with a lid, which you unclip whenever you want to play your records.
It also has a speaker built into the top of the record player. You can’t expect too much quality due to its size, but portability is the main selling point here.
I also like the USB port, which allows you to connect other devices to the record player. You can also use this to convert your vinyl records into a digital format.
Unfortunately, it has a sapphire-tipped stylus, rather than a diamond one. As a result, the needle wears out faster, which means more money spent on replacements.
A more modern-looking record player, the JTA-230 offers three speeds and has its speakers built into the sides. This may seem like a small thing, but it means there are fewer limitations on the speakers. As a result, they put out a higher quality sound.
I like how it has both an aux and RCA port. The former allows you to connect other devices to the turntable, though you’ll need an aux cable. The RCA port lets you plug your own speakers into the turntable.
It also has a USB port, so you can convert your records into a digital format. The record player comes with the software you need for this too.
There is a strange issue with the built-in speakers though. Plugging headphones or external speakers into the turntable doesn’t deactivate the inbuilt speakers. As a result, you get a doubled sound.
The needle is also a touch on the sensitive side. While this usually won’t be an issue, it does mean that the player skips when playing records with fairly small scratches.
With its gorgeous vintage design, this record player looks the part when you’re playing 50’s and 60’s era music. The light blue suitcase design also means it folds up when not in use. A handle allows easy carrying, plus folding it protects the base, platter, and stylus from dust.
You have a choice of playing records at 78rpm, 45rpm, and 33rpm, so you can use it for albums and singles. The turntable also has two small speakers built into the front. They’re a little tinny though, so the vinyl purist may want to use their own speakers.
It also has an aux port and RCA output, so playing music from another device shouldn’t be a problem. It also has a port that you can use to connect it to your PC. With the included software, you can use this feature to turn your records into digital files for use on more modern devices.
The instructions keep things simple, as you can essentially plug and play with this record player. It also comes with a 12-month warranty, which protects you in case something goes wrong. You also need to plug it in to play it.
This follows the suitcase design of some of the other record players on my list. Wrapped in PU leather, it has a wooden base that folds in on itself. This protects the player’s internal components from dust, while also making it easy to carry around.
It plays at all three speeds and comes with a 45rpm adapter. You also get aux and RCA ports, so you can plug external speakers in or play music from other devices. The PC port also allows you to convert records into a digital format, with a choice of WAV and MP3 files.
The great thing about this turntable is that it comes with a rechargeable lithium battery. When fully charged, the battery powers the turntable for about two hours. This is fine for occasional play, but it does mean you can’t play records all day using the battery alone.
On the plus side, the battery kicks in the event of a power cut.
It has two speakers built into the front. The sound quality is a little tinny though. You also receive a 12-month warranty on your purchase.
The biggest advantage that the Cruiser Deluxe has over the competition is the inclusion of Bluetooth. This allows you to stream music directly from a mobile device without the need for any wires.
Having said that, you’re not out of options if your device doesn’t have Bluetooth. The record player also has aux and RCA ports, so you can connect with wires if you need to. You will need to buy the cables separately though.
I also like how it comes in several colors, including blue, black, and red. There are even variants with Disney designs, which mean the turntable makes a great present for kids.
The turntable plays all three speeds, plus there’s a pitch control knob for more minor adjustments. It also has a pair of small speakers built into the front. They’re a touch on the weak side though, so you may want to get external speakers if you plan on holding parties.
I will note that the lid is a little cumbersome. You have to prop it back over 90 degrees, else it will rub against the record and cause some delay.
Another turntable with a suitcase design, this folds up after use. It also has a bulky handle attached to the front.
You can play records at all three speeds with this turntable, plus you get an adapter for 45s. I also like that it stops playing when the tonearm reaches the end of the record. You still have to lift the tonearm manually, but stopping the record means less wear on the tip.
It also has a pair of speakers built into the front, though the RCA ports offer you more options here. You may need them too, as the speakers don’t offer much bass. Still, they can reach high volumes without any sound distortion.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a USB port or Bluetooth connectivity. You can still play music from your mobile device using an aux cable. However, this also means you won’t be able to convert your records into a digital format.
Things to Consider in Portable Turntables
Most portable turntables come with their own speakers. Some fold out from the sides, whereas others have speakers built directly into the record player.
While this is great for ease of use, I generally find that portable turntable speakers aren’t of the highest quality.
Ideally, your choice will give you the option of plugging in some high-end speakers for when you really want to improve your listening experience.
Despite the surging popularity of vinyl, there’s no denying that most people still have a lot of digital music. Your iPod and Spotify accounts are probably filled with songs that you like, but may never buy in vinyl.
A good portable record player will offer you some option to plug in your other devices. As well as playing records, it should allow you to play digital music, essentially using the turntable as a speaker.
The Base and Platter
You place your records on the turntable’s base and platter before playing them. Any issues with either have the potential to damage your records.
Both need to be straight, with the platter also rotating smoothly. Any skips or unevenness can lead to the record player’s needle digging into the record. This creates scratches that get deeper each time you play the record.
Eventually, those scratches lead to the record skipping, ruining the vinyl in the process.
This is the part of the record player that physically touches the record. Also known as the needle, it should be sharp and ideally have a diamond tip, or similar.
As you play more records, the stylus gradually wears out. Make sure that you can buy replacements before purchasing a portable record player. Otherwise, you’ll have to shell out for another when the stylus wears down.
You can play records at one of three speeds – 78rpm (revolutions per minute), 45rpm, and 33rpm.
78rpm is the speed you need for 12-inch vinyl albums. This is needed for playing old records (made till about 1960).
The 45rpm and 33rpm speeds are for modern records, which are more common in today’s market. The best portable turntables offer all three, but you can also go for one that only offers 45rpm and 33rpm, if you don't plan on playing vintage pre-1960 records.
Very few modern portable records have automatic tonearms. As a result, you’ll usually have to lift them manually to start and stop your records.
What you’re looking for it a straight arm that maintains its balance while the record plays. Any warping or bouncing can damage the record. Ideally, it will also balance lightly on the record, as a tonearm that drops all the way done leads to more wear and tear.
The Final Word
All of the portable record players on my list offer something different. Many allow you to convert records into a digital format, or to plug your device into the turntable to play digital music.
But it’s how the turntable plays records that really matters. Each of these options come with inbuilt speakers of varying quality levels. Think about how much bass and volume you need before making a decision.