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The 11 Best Turntables for Your Vinyl Collection (2023)

The 11 Best Turntables for Your Vinyl Collection (2023)

Vinyl’s biggest selling point isn’t the sound. It’s the physical experience: shiny, delicate records; liner notes writ large; covers you want to frame and hang on your wall; and the way the stylus spins across the jagged surface, reproducing your favorite artists’ music as if by magic.

Maybe you’ve always been interested in building a setup for listening to LPs and 45s, but you don’t know where to start. Maybe you’re like WIRED reviews editor Julian Chokkattu, who owned a record but no turntable to play it on. Maybe you’re just looking for an upgrade. No problem: There are tons of great record players to choose from, and most of them will easily connect to whatever audio system you already own. I’ve tested quite a few options, and these are my current favorites—from utilitarian, budget-friendly classics to more luxe options for those seeking audiophile-grade sound.

Be sure to check out our other audio guides, including the Best Gear for Learning Music and the Best Podcasting Gear.

Updated September 2023: We’ve added the Fluance RT81+ and Rega Planar 8.

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KEF R3 Meta Review: Solid Bass, Premium Sound

KEF R3 Meta Review: Solid Bass, Premium Sound

Pulling the hefty speakers from their packaging, you’ll find a pair of port bungs, microfiber speaker grilles, and rubber feet. At the back of each speaker is a pair of rugged terminals allowing for discretely bi-amping the bass and upper drivers. I asked KEF about the need for bi-amping, as I only planned to connect to the lower terminals, and was told there’s no real company “voice” on the subject but the implication is that there’s minimal sonic benefit in doing so.

The speakers’ 4-ohm nominal impedance means they’ll likely be harder to drive than 6-ohm or 8-ohm speakers, but impedance is a complex subject and it varies by frequency. KEF claims the speakers can be powered by as little as 15 watts per side, but for best results, I still suggest a relatively brawny amp with good clarity, like the Naim Uniti Atom I employed.

Let It Glow

As gleeful as these speakers are to play, it’s no easy task to tell a story as rich and expressive as what the R3 Meta tell your ears minute by minute, beat by beat. You’ve just gotta hear these things. They’re incredibly nuanced, dynamic, and transparent, offering power and lyrical musicality on a level that few speakers their size can accomplish. Every song you play is a new chapter, as their chameleonic sound signature sets the stage for each new mix.

That’s not to say the speakers don’t offer their own distinctive sonic flavor; they certainly do. But what the R3 bring to the table is so clean, so sweet, and so effortlessly expressive—especially when powered by a transparent amplifier like the Uniti Atom—they lend themselves to every subject with sympathetic delivery. This means they’ll find all the flaws in your music, of course, but more often than not, it’s presented more as a stylistic choice. That lets your ears separate the production wheat from the chaff in everything you play, while still enjoying lo-fi recordings.

Older Beach Boys songs can sound a little thin and even tinny on many speakers, but songs like “In My Room” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” soar with the R3 Meta, with well-struck percussion that pops out from the immersive soundstage, satiny harmonies, and smooth guitar tones that seem to pull you to the warm Pacific beaches. Flipping to topflight modern production like The Weeknd’s “Starboy” resets the stage completely. The R3’s magnified clarity provided the best performance of the song I’ve heard yet, with laser synths, columns of bass, and swelling effects echoing out the sides and skimming past my face for an almost surreal experience.

The word “luminous” kept coming up again and again as I moved through dozens of compressed and hi-res tracks over several days. Every string and horn player, every synth effect, vocal, or guitar tone seems to bloom with its own intrinsic light when passed through the R3, for chill-inducing performances. When cymbals sparkle, the speakers light that sparkle with an extra shot of vivid shimmer. When reverb trails hang, the speakers extend and draw them out, letting them fade only just in time for the next musical entrance. And when bass bumps, it hits with marble-hard authority and musical energy.

9 Best Smart Speakers (2023): Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri

9 Best Smart Speakers (2023): Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri

Even if you’re not listening to spatially mixed audio, the speaker still sounds fantastic. It has big, confident bass and details up top, and it can tune itself to your room using iOS or built-in microphones on the speaker. It’s a bit harder to place than the Era 100 above, and is also nearly double the price, but this is still worth considering if you have a larger space or a modern home with a more open floor plan.

Honorable Mentions

Bose Home Speaker 500

Bose Home Speaker 500

Photograph: Bose

There are tons of smart speakers. Here are a few more we like:

  • Amazon’s Echo Studio ($200) is the best-sounding Alexa speaker. Don’t buy it for music quality alone, but the Echo Studio is right up there with the Google Home Max in terms of bold bass and room-filling soundstage. Its odd shape keeps it from the top of our list.
  • Bose’s Home Speaker 500 ($379) has Alexa, and a bit extra. It’s certainly not cheap, but this Bose speaker does sound pretty good (not as clear as the Sonos One, but great on the whole), and it gets loud. It has hands-free Alexa, Bluetooth, a 3.5-mm auxiliary port to connect directly to your phone or MP3 player, and six useful preset buttons you can assign to open a specific playlist or album from Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, and TuneIn. The display on the front shows album art and a few other prompts but isn’t nearly as effective as those on true smart displays.
  • The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Level ($1,649) is a gorgeous speaker that’s built to last. The company has designed the high-end model to be repairable and upgradable over time. It’s made of natural fabric and wood for a truly sustainable “cradle to grave” experience. It’s a gorgeous flat speaker that comes with Google Assistant onboard—or you can buy it without a smart assistant for the same amount of money.

What About Siri?

Apple HomePod Mini

Apple HomePod Mini

Photograph: Apple

It’s cool looking, but Apple’s HomePod Mini ($99) (6/10, WIRED Review) has the same issues as the original, larger HomePod speaker (5/10, WIRED Review), including a higher price than much of the competition, and muddy midrange. It doesn’t have anywhere near the level of third-party smart home support you’ll find with Amazon or Google. You can get a full-sized Nest or Echo speaker for the same money, and you should.

Why We Prefer Google Assistant Speakers (for Now)

There are a lot of reasons to love Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, and it works pretty well. If you want to use your voice assistant to shop or use Amazon services like Prime Music or Prime Video, chances are an Alexa-powered speaker is best for you.

Google Assistant has fewer skills and is compatible with fewer smart home devices than Alexa, but it can do enough to qualify as truly useful, and Google is adding new skills at a rapid pace. Speakers with Google Assistant work better when you network them together, and they’re compatible with a wide variety of Google apps and services. Google is better at answering random questions and telling you where to go out to eat since it can access and send information to your phone through Google apps.

Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube Music are the main ways to play music with Google Assistant, covering most of your bases. The service can also send Netflix shows and movies to your TV if you have a Chromecast attached.

Should You Wait to Buy?

Now is a good time to buy Apple and Google-made models. Both released new speakers not too long ago, and they should remain useful for several years since many of the improvements have to do with the services powering each digital assistant rather than the speaker hardware itself.

It’s worth noting that none of these smart devices will last forever. Like every product with a computer inside it, eventually, every smart device will be made obsolete. Stick to things that are made by major brands and support the big ecosystems, and you’ll generally get more life out of your purchase.

12 Best Amazon Echo and Alexa Speakers (2023): Earbuds, Soundbars, Displays

12 Best Amazon Echo and Alexa Speakers (2023): Earbuds, Soundbars, Displays

Amazon’s family of Alexa-enabled devices is vast. From the spherical Echo to the swiveling Echo Show 10, you can get Alexa into your home in many ways. These devices can answer your questions, help you order essentials, set timers, play all sorts of audio content, and even function as the control hub for your growing smart home. These are our favorite Echo- and Alexa-compatible speakers for every home and budget.

The best time to buy any Amazon speaker is during a major sale event like Black Friday or Amazon Prime Day, as there usually are steep discounts. If you’re trying to decide which smart devices might be best for you, be sure to check out WIRED’s picks in our roundups: Best Smart Speakers, Best Smart Displays, and Best Bluetooth Speakers. We also have guides on setting up your Echo speaker, creating Alexa routines, and Alexa skills that are actually fun and useful to help you get started.

Updated June 2023: We’ve updated pricing throughout this buying guide.

Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.

Sonos Era 300 Review: Stunning Spatial, Superior Sound

Sonos Era 300 Review: Stunning Spatial, Superior Sound

No, of course you don’t buy a speaker to look at it. But should your gaze fall upon your speaker while you’re enjoying its sound, ideally the sight of it shouldn’t make you wince. So it’s just as well that Era 300, the latest Sonos wireless speaker and the company’s first foray into spatial audio (except for its Dolby Atmos–enabled soundbars, of course), is such an impressive and accomplished performer—its physical appearance is easy to overlook. Unless you somehow find it in your field of vision unexpectedly, anyhow, in which case it never ceases to be startling.

It’s fair to say Sonos’ ubiquity has, until now, been established as much on its utterly painless ownership experience as on the sound its products actually make. “Reasonably competitive” sound quality is plenty good enough for many listeners if it’s accompanied by class-leading ergonomics, an impeccable control app, and the simplest, most straightforward multi-room audio ecosystem around. 

With Era 300, though—and with the smaller, more affordable Era 100 stereo speaker that launched at the same time—Sonos has retained all its established virtues and added audio performance that’s a match for any price-comparable, size-adjacent alternative. And in the case of the Era 300, spatial audio performance to boot.    

Homepod Humbling

Spatial audio (which basically means “more than two channels,” and is almost always based on Dolby’s Atmos format) has been gaining significant traction outside its original home in the cinema, thanks in no small part to evangelical support from the likes of Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, and Tidal music streaming services. 

Sonos doesn’t support Tidal’s catalog of Dolby Atmos content (boo!), but it does at least support Amazon’s and Apple’s spatial audio offerings. And though Apple, thanks to its Homepod smart speaker, is a full-service provider of spatial audio music, it’s safe to say that when it comes to the hardware, the Sonos Era 300 wipes the floor with the Apple Homepod. Yes, it’s more expensive—but it’s worth it, and then some.  

The Era 300 uses six speaker drivers to create an impression of immersive, enveloping sound. There are four tweeters: one facing forward, one left, one right, and one loaded into a horn and firing upward to reflect sound from the ceiling and create a sensation of sonic height. Then a couple of mid/bass drivers are angled out to the left and the right to generate some width (and offer separation when the speaker is playing stereo content). Each driver gets an individual block of Class D amplification—this being Sonos, though, the amount of power that’s available is privileged information.

Paragraph Four now ends: “And the Era 300 represents, among other things, the end of an era for Sonos. The company used to have the clearest, most logical naming convention for its speakers—but now we’re in the Era era, where a pecking order is much less straightforward to discern.”

On the top of the cabinet—so unhappily angular and wonkily proportioned that my youngest daughter physically recoiled at the sight of it—there are a few physical controls. Touch-surfaces cover play/pause, skip forward/backward, and voice-assistant interaction (the Era 300 is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Sonos Voice Control), and there’s an indented (and very nicely implemented) volume slider. Aside from a brand logo and a defeatable tell-tale LED, the front of the cabinet is featureless. The bottom has a couple of little rubber feet and fixings for the cost-option stand. And at the rear, there’s a socket for mains power, a switch to kill the mics, a USB-C shaped auxiliary input (unforgivably, the bespoke line-in adapter for use with this input is a cost option, too) and a button for Bluetooth pairing.

Sonos Sees the Blue Light

Oh yes, Bluetooth. After who knows how many years of dismissing Bluetooth as an inferior technology fit only for its portable speakers, Sonos has undergone a Damascene conversion. So in addition to using its exemplary control app, into which any number of streaming services can be integrated, it’s possible to stream to the Era 300 using Bluetooth 5.0 with bog-standard SBC and AAC codec compatibility. Apple AirPlay 2 is also available, as is streaming via Wi-Fi—Wi-Fi 6 is supported.

As well as grouping all your preferred streaming services together, the app offers some EQ adjustment and the latest version of Sonos’ admirable Trueplay room calibration software. Newly available for Android (although in somewhat truncated form) as well as iOS, Trueplay doesn’t take long and proves brilliantly effective at tuning Era 300 to your specific environment. 

The app also offers multi-room and multi-channel possibilities (if you have a couple of Era 300, they can act as rear speakers in a home cinema system along with, say, the Sonos Arc Dolby Atmos soundbar). The app remains the paradigm, the gold standard … and it makes Sonos ownership seem a profoundly sensible option regardless of any other considerations.