$1095 (with Elys 2 MM cartridge)
With a phenolic-resin “double brace” creating a “stressed beam” between the main-bearing hub and tonearm mount, Rega’s RP3 is a significant step forward. Thanks to a phenolic-resin skin and upgraded particulate core-material, the plinth is also lighter than its predecessor, while the RB303 arm features a newly designed tube said to increase rigidity at the bearing housing, arm carrier, and headshell mount. The result is deeper bass, lower noise, more dynamic pop, increased detail, and improved staging. Things get better yet with the optional TT PSU power supply ($375).
$1400 ($1600 with Concept mm cartridge; $2200 with Concept mc cartridge)
The Clearaudio Concept turntable package does everything but unbox itself. Preset at the factory, this spinner features a svelte belt-drive chassis, a stunning friction-free, magnetic-bearing Verify tonearm, and the Concept moving-magnet cartridge. The build and finish of this German-made ’table are superior. For sheer musical engagement and superb speed stability, it’s the one to beat in this price range.
GEM Dandy PolyTable
If you’re an analog lover who doesn’t have a massive living space and/or a massive budget, this high-value, small-footprint, belt-driven turntable could be just your ticket. From setup to playback to overall musical enjoyment, JM found this American-made ’table to be user-friendly in every way. It comes with a Jelco tonearm of your choice, which allows for VTF, VTA, and azimuth adjustments. For the past few decades, George E. Merrill—whose initials make up the GEM name—has steadfastly been designing and small-batch-manufacturing turntables that offer high performance at a friendly price. With both the mm and mc cartridges JM tried, the PolyTable delivered serious analog pleasure worthy of far bigger bucks.
$1495 ($1990 with Exact 2 MM cartridge)
Rega’s RP6 offers the same phenolic-resin “double brace” found in the RP3, the same RB303 arm, and a whole lot more. Replacing Rega’s traditional glass platter/felt mat is a two-piece, 16mm-thick flywheel/platter made of two joined pieces of float glass. Moreover, the RP6 comes standard with the TT PSU power supply, a must for top performance. Note the large improvements in dynamic nuance and explosiveness, tonal and textural detail, size and depth of stage, and sheer musicality. Reviewed with Exact 2 mm cartridge at $1990.
Funk Firm Flamenca
Funk Firm has been innovating for a long time, and the new Flamenca paired with Funk’s new F6 tonearm is about as good as it gets for $1600. No, it’s not a Well-Tempered Tonearm; it’s actually a thread-bearing “pickup” arm, which sounds airy when playing your favorite vinyl. Though setup is a little tricky with a thread-bearing ’arm, patience will be rewarded with glorious analog sound, and at an affordable price. Definitely a contender for best turntable under $2k.
SOTA Comet IV
$1600 with S303 tonearm
SOTA uses internal damping to isolate the Comet from vibration; the bearing cup is made from a Teflon-impregnated self-lubricating polymer; the platter assembly consists of a high-density polymer main platter sitting atop a polymer-based sub-platter driven by a 24-pole AC synchronous motor. The result is an easy authoritative presentation that’s warm, rich, and solid, with wide nuanced dynamics and a large 3-D soundfield.
VPI Aries Scout w/JMW-9
If you want to experience a huge taste of analog heaven without the hellish price tag, the VPI Aries Scout deserves your attention. This simple, affordable ’table uses an inverted bearing with a Teflon thrust plate and a scaled-down version of the JMW unipivot arm to create an exceptionally quiet background and high signal-to-noise ratio. Music leaps out of silence into the room.
Acoustic Signature Wow XL
$1995 with Rega RB202 tonearm
If you’re looking for a solid foundation upon which to build your analog front end, the German-engineered and built Acoustic Signature Wow XL is about as rock solid as you get in this price range. Precision bearings and speed control, technology from Acoustic Signature’s flagship Ascona, and handmade in Germany are what make this turntable one killer setup. Choose your favorite tonearm and cartridge combo, and you’re ready to go. The possibilities are endless when you have a solid base for your vinyl, and the Wow XL is it.