Yesterday, we put a Françoise Hardy album on the record player, and turned it up loud while we worked with the kids to clean the family room. As we tidied up, I reflected on the unexpected benefits the record player brought to our house and talked with Ben Blair about how it might be the best teen gift we’ve ever given.

A few years ago, it was originally given to Ralph for Christmas. While he’s been out of the country this past year, the record player has been moving around a bit. First, Olive “adopted” it for awhile, and more recently, it was moved to the family room so we could all enjoy it.

There are 3 main reasons why I think it’s the best teen gift ever and that every teen needs one:

3) It’s one of those gifts that makes future gift giving really easy. Not sure what your teen wants for her birthday? Problem solved: Simply add a new record to her collection. It’s an easy purchase (records are widely available both in-stores and online), records are available at all price ranges, and best of all, records are super cool and she’ll love it! 

2) Record collecting, even casually, is a terrific way for teens to spend time. It gets them out of the house and exploring thrift stores, music shops, and garage sales. It’s easy to find bargains on old records (like $3 at Goodwill), which in turn makes it easy to explore new-t0-them music. Your son might pick up a used album based on a cool-looking cover, or maybe the vague name-recognition of the artist. If it turns out he doesn’t like the music? Oh well, it’s a very low risk purchase.

1) Generational bonding. This is my favorite reason, and the #1 reason why a teen should own a record player. And it’s something I didn’t even consider when we first bought one. Records are an amazing way for teens to bond with their grandparents. For me, it was all about cassette tapes through high school, then DVDs starting in college. But for my parents’ generation, it was all about records. In fact, in my house growing up, my parents always had a large collection of records — the first ones no doubt purchased when they were teens themselves. It’s an easy guess that records were a big part of growing up for anyone in the 60+ range.

And now, records are a really good way to connect with grandkids. Grandparents can gift a record from their own collection, or if the collection is long gone, they can track down old favorites online. They can teach grandkids how to use a record player, and bond over the agony of an unintentional scratch. They can send off a record for birthdays or holidays, and they also make a great anytime gift — hey, I just saw this album at my friend’s tag sale and thought of you!

The nice thing is, the date the music was originally made doesn’t seem to matter — kids seem to be open to a wide range of albums, across decades and genres. They’ll give it listen, and if it’s good, they’re into it.

I think it’s fantastic that record players have made a come back. For awhile there, they were hard to find, but these days there are tons of models available, and many start in the $40 range (much more affordable than a new phone!). These new models feel like a perfect blend of digital and analog — they often come with built-in speakers, USB ports and recording options — making it easy for kids to explore their DJ mixing skills.

Here are some of the best looking ones out there:

  1. JORLAI Belt-Drive 3-Speed Turntable Vintage Style Record Player with Built-in Stereo Speakers, Vinyl-To-MP3 Recording, Aux Input, RCA Output, Natural Wood — $69.99
  2. Jensen JTA-230 3 Speed Stereo Turntable with Built in Speakers — $41
  3. 1byone Belt-Drive 3-Speed Stereo Turntable with Built in Speakers, Supports Vinyl to MP3 Recording, USB MP3 Playback, and RCA Output, Natural Wood — $49.99
  4. Crosley CR6232A-BR Nomad Portable USB Turntable with Software for Ripping & Editing Audio, Brown —$134.99
  5. Victrola Modern 3-Speed Bluetooth Turntable with 50 Watt Speakers, available in 6 Colors — $83.99
  6. Pyle PLTTB3U Belt Drive USB Turntable With Recording & Digital Software — $96.41
  7. JORLAI Rechargeable 3-Speed Bluetooth Turntable with Built-in Stereo Speakers / Supports Vinyl-to-MP3 Recording / Headphone Jack / Aux Input /RCA Output, Turquoise — $67.99
  8. Sony PSHX500 Hi-Res USB Turntable, Black — $330
  9. Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable in Silver — $299
  10. Crosley CR6233U-BK1 Dansette Sterling Portable Turntable with Aux-In, Available in 3 Colors — $164

Do you have a record player at your house? If yes, is it more for you? Or more for your kids? And did your parents have a record collection too? I’d love to hear.