Top 5... TURNTABLES
There's nothing technical about this top 5 listing and I fully realise that there are loads that could have been here that aren't... but these are decks that I've bought, sometimes owned and sold over the years. They are all, in my humble opinion, great decks within their price range... for the reasons outlined below... Read on.
1. Linn Sondek LP12
There's more than enough written online regarding Linn's genuinely iconic LP12 and it has its detractors as much as its diehard fans. Personally, I've always enjoyed the ones that have come through the shop and they've sounded great. The example here is a later example (non-fluted plinth) in basic entry level set-up. Prices for a complete LP12 with arm typically start at around £800 for a tidy example such as this, but can then vary hugely depending on specification.
2. JBE Series 3
A personal favourite. A plinth made from Welsh slate, direct drive and manufactured briefly from around 1978 to 1982. Came up against the rising enthusiasm for belt drive, but often compared with the top decks of the day. You'll find they come up for sale surprisingly frequently, but often without the SME arms almost all of them were designed for. Look out for chips to the edges of the slate plinth, missing off-deck control unit and cracked lids.
3. Technics SL-150 Mk2
There are a myriad of Technics decks that you can choose from, from basic entry level to top end and in my experience they are usually reliable and easy to service and maintain. The direct drive SL-150 is something a little rarer and could be specified with a non-Technics arm... in this case an SME 3009 Series III. This is a really substantial deck with an obviously high build quality. As you might expect, it also sounds sublime and is a great left-field choice if you are after something a little different.
4. Thorens TD-160B
Thorens has made a number of great decks and the TD160 seems to be one you can consistently pick up for sensible money. Usually you'll find yourself looking at the TD160B Mk2 which typically has a black plinth and a Linn inspired armboard. But here is the earlier TD160B and to me this feels a far more substantial product than its later incarnation... it has a higher build quality and seems nicer to use in every way. Not that the later deck is one to avoid - far from it - but if you can find this earlier version you'll love it.
5. AR Legend
Much under-rated deck (and therefore great value), but great build quality and a sub chassis design very much along conventional sprung belt-drive decks.
This example has an AR badged Jelco arm, but others came with Rega and Linn Basik arms. All are worth consideration and perform well. Look out for damage to the heavy wooden plinth and typical wear and tear to the lid. Lid hinges are, from memory, identical to the Linn LP12.
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