Vinyl is the music format that just won’t go away. By the way, did you know that vinyl sales in 2022 beat CD sales for the first time since 1987?
We’re thrilled with the resurgence of vinyl, but what good is vinyl if you don’t have a decent turntable to play it on?
As we celebrate British Hi-Fi Week, we’ve taken a trip down memory lane to admire some of the best turntables from UK audio companies that have made it through our testing rooms.
We’ve reviewed audio equipment for the past 44 years, so while some companies are still thriving, others are sadly no longer with us. Either way, all of these turntables are brilliant examples of British audio engineering that stand the test of time.
And if you like this, check out our article on why the 1970s were the perfect time to start a UK hi-fi company.
Linn LP12 (1973)
And we’ll start with one of the best, bar none. Linn’s LP12 turntable was first introduced in 1972 and immediately proved popular with audiophiles. Thanks to the range of compatible arms and cartridges the company made, it was satisfyingly easy to keep this vinyl player up to date.
Nearly every aspect of the design has been revised over the years, and while the early breed of LP12s had a rounded and rich balance, modern incarnations have evolved to a more neutral, balanced sound. They’ve all been solid Which Hi-Fi? favourites.
Rega Flat 3 (1978)
Since its introduction in 1978, the Rega Planar 3 has been a go-to turntable (and its latest incarnation began with Which Hi-Fi? awards in 2019, 2020 And 2021). A respectable mid-range turntable, the Planar 3 remains an easy-going, inexpensive piece of kit that keeps our vinyl going – and as the company continues to refine the product, we think it will stay that way for a while yet.
Check out our feature making the Rega Planar 3
Michell Gyrodec (1982)
In 1982, the Gyrodec was a combination of great sound quality and artistic design. Bring the clock up to date and this player is still available – it’s a testament to its quality that it’s essentially the same machine.
When it works, it sounds detailed, expressive and graceful, ready to take on other products that cost much more. It’s not plug and play – some assembly is required – but the instructions are clear and there’s a logic to the design that means you’ll have your drives spinning in no time. And when it runsthere is nothing quite like it.
Ariston Q-Deck (1990)
Ariston was perhaps best known for the patent case, Ariston v. Linn, on the thorny issue of the similarities between the Linn LP12 and the Ariston RD11. The patent was opposed, but it led to the two companies going on strike again on their own. Both proved a succession of excellent record players, with Linn still going strong to this day. We were fans of the Ariston RD40, RD80 and this, the affordable Q-Deck, as featured in this April 1990 recap.
System Deck IIX (1990)
The Systemdek IIX became our Product of the Year in 1990 and held that position for the next two years. It is rightly regarded by many as one of the best turntables ever produced – and certainly the best to come out of Troon, Scotland.
The turntable’s sound quality soared far above its closest rivals – the timing was confident and the music sounded melodic and smooth – thanks to a range of innovative design features, such as a three-point sprung chassis.
Pink Triangle Tarantella (1997)
The first time we heard this turntable we gave it a dismal two stars. We couldn’t get vinyl to run steadily at 33 rpm, which, as you’ll no doubt agree, is a bit of a drawback when it comes to playing LPs. But Pink Triangle brought the deck back to us and all the problems were solved – and we were thrilled to hear the Tarantella’s open sound and refreshingly clear dynamics. Although the Pink Triangle company closed in 2003, there is no doubt that the legacy of the London manufacturer lives on.
Wilson Benesch Full Circle (2001)
Founded in 1989 in Sheffield, Wilson Benesch stood out from the crowd by using carbon fibre. The Full Circle was the “pinnacle of the company’s art,” as we called it in this 2001 piece, and used the company’s carbon fiber suspension tech. The sonic result was an accurate, spacious sound, complete with smooth highs and full bass.
Read the full Wilson Benesch Full Circle Review
Roksan Xerxes 20 (2006)
You should never judge a book by its cover, and the same goes for turntables. The Roksan Xerxes 20 looks like your conventional, average wooden turntable, but it’s packed with clever engineering.
A motor that rotates on its axis to compensate for torque fluctuations, a bearing designed to minimize noise, and a rubber suspension tuned to dampen specific frequencies are just some of the little tricks Roksan’s engineers have put into this player built-in. And they worked. The Xerxes 20 gets all the essentials right – this is a player with top-notch dynamics and exceptional timing and rhythm.
Read the full Roksan Xerxes review
Verter DG-1 Dynamic Groove (2019)
This £2750 ‘plug and play’ deck got its debut at the High End 2019 show in Munich. Prior to that, the company’s range of turntables was typically aimed at the higher end of the market, with flagship deck/arm combinations selling for premium car money.
The significantly lower price here meant that the company could not simply reuse the technical solutions in its existing products and find the cost savings where necessary. Instead, Vertere took an entirely new design approach to achieve what it felt were the best solutions for the price.
Despite the DG-1’s extroverted design, it’s the arm that really caught our attention. Instead of using a conventional cylindrical arm tube (which provides stiffness but is also prone to resonance), the DG-1’s arm is made from a flat, three-layer aluminum alloy/polymer sandwich. The bearings are also unusual, ditching traditional metal designs for twisted nylon threads. Even the wiring is unconventional, using a gold-plated flexible PCB instead of standard cables.
Did it work? You could say that. When handing over the DG-1 a Which Hi-Fi? 2020 award, we concluded: “This Vertere is now the one to beat at this level”. It took home another Which Hi-Fi? prize in 2021, but was finally beaten in 2022 – by the improved Vertere DG-1 S.
Read the full Verter DG-1 Dynamic Groove review
Rega Planar 8 (2019)
Our list wouldn’t be complete without another excellent Rega Research turntable. The Essex specialist has been supplying five-star products since its inception in 1973, helping a few other brands with tonearms and turntables along the way. Updated versions of the classic Planar 1, 2, 3 (see above), 6…we could go on…have continued an arguably unparalleled dynasty of great decks.
But we like the latest Rega Planar 8 because it does something different and still delivers top performance. There’s a new main bearing, a new three-piece platter, a new tonearm, and a new look that’s unique. The sound? Stunning and unparalleled at launch, that’s why we have one Which Hi-Fi? award winner in 2019.
Read the full Rega Planar 8 review
SME Synergy (2020)
Take a look at any of SME’s turntables or arms and the obsession with quality is impossible to miss. This measured approach means that SMEs don’t often introduce new products, so when the company decided to launch a complete record playback package called the Synergy, we couldn’t help but take note.
The Synergy package consists of the SME 12 turntable with a special arm that is essentially a rewired version of the highly regarded SME IV, an Ortofon MC Windfeld Ti cartridge and a built-in phono stage from Swiss high-end hi-fi royalties Nagra. Considering that many of Nagra’s products tend to cost a lot more than the complete Synergy package, that’s quite a coup.
If anything, in sonic terms, the Synergy is the sum of its great parts. SMB products usually excel at detail resolution and control, and the Synergy is no different. Everything we played in our exciting review session turned out to be brilliantly detailed and perfectly organized. It’s also tonally balanced, authentic and dynamic, with pockets of grinning energy. In short, this is a modern classic of a turntable.
Read the full SME Synergy review
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