Top Turntable Brands, Then and Today

In the heyday of the turntable, there were many great brand names. The turntable was the next step from the Hi-Fi (made by folks like Zenith and Philco Ford), and a turntable and receiver perfectly matched the era of the LP, when audio quality began to be an issue when you listened to music on a “stereo.”

Some brands:

  1. In the 1960s, Garrard was the legacy brand. I had one in the 1970s, but it was, by then, the cheap end, and was lots of plastic.
  2. By the 1970s, Technics by Panasonic had the quality cheap end. Technics was upscale from Panasonic (which made transistor radios and cassette players), but it was still among the cheaper ones at places like Circuit City. Still, they were good quality and design for their price. They are apparently bringing it back.
  3. Pioneer had the middle. Other brands in the middle were JVC, BSR, ADC and Marantz.
  4. Yamaha was a bit better than Pioneer, and it had the advantage of being quite stylish. Plus, Yamaha also made tuning forks and pianos so that made them “high cred” with snobby audiophiles.
  5. Kenwood had many followers; can’t recall why though.
  6. Fisher was well regarded for a time, as was Sansui.
  7. The top was defined by the likes of Denon.
  8. Dual tables had a mystique.
  9. Fancy but a bit prissy and aesthete were pricey brands like Bang & Olufsen.

Today, there are more and more brands of turntables available..

But the top seller was and is the Audio Technica AT-PL60. It’s automatic, and has a belt drive. Somewhere in the audiophile argument drawer is the old belt driven/direct drive issue. But today, you just can’t be picky. The Audio-Technica name (it’s a Japanese company) was all about cartridges and headphones, and was not known until recently for its turntables.

Love to get some reader perspective on turntable brands, and which were the best and what the brands symbolized.


10 Comments

  1. I bought a Pioneer PL-12D stereo turntable around 1974 or ’75. It was rather expensive at that time and Stereo Review gave it high marks. I still own it and it has given me trouble free service all these years. I’ve replaced the cartridge a couple of times with upgraded Audio Technica green or gold cartridges and it sounds incredibly beautiful.
    Back in the early 1970s I remember a friend being a big fan of Marantz which I also remember as getting very good reviews in stereo magazines. Kenwood was extremely popular but I’m also not sure why. Kenwood made an attractive product with good workmanship at a decent price but I always felt that my Pioneer was on par with Marantz and a step above Kenwood.
    Kenwood.

  2. I have to disagree about Fisher. By the late-1970s Fisher was trading on their reputation and quality had suffered. All the serious R&D was being done by other companies.

    Also, belt drive turntables sound great when they’re new. It doesn’t take long for the belt to stretch a bit, degrading the sound.

  3. Totally agree about Fisher. Great point. I had forgotten that.. I think the ones I remember were old ones and not made in 1970s.

  4. Still have my AR (Acoustic Research) model XA turntable from circa 1973.

  5. I have to disagree with the low ranking of Technics. They made some nice ones in the late 70s. Even the cheaply-made SL-1900 is a pleasure to use and gorgeously designed. I find the sound of the Pioneer PL-200 to be “tinted”. Lenco makes great turntables for 78s. Some of the old Dual models can give a great sound. I find some of the Thorens to be overrated. I love my Linn Axis. I recently scored a Toshiba SR-255 that impressed me. I recommend yard sales rather than anything new from today.

  6. I’ve owned a Sony PS-LX150 turntable since the early 1990’s. It’s been highly dependable and very gentle on my records. Coupled with a Kenwood amp and tuner bought at a garage sale and a set of Zenith Allegro speakers salvaged from an old hi-fi, maybe it doesn’t have much cachet for audio snobs, but I think it sounds great.

    1. This is great to hear. Actually, what thrills me most are the Zenith Allegro speakers. My grandparents had an Allegro set (they may well have called it a Hi Fi) and I spent many hours listening to them loud when they werent home. Sometimes, we could get the James Taylor album out and all could enjoy the fun.

  7. I have a Bang and Olufsen that was given to me by my father.

  8. Has anyone heard of a German made turntable called P E Impro? I may be mistaken on the exact brand name but I purchased it from Clark Music in Syracuse NY in 1973.

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