Vinyl Reviews: The Best Budget Turntable for 2017
5 Good Turntables To Buy on a Budget | Affordable Options
Despite claims that vinyl is dead, LP culture continues to live and breathe, and enthusiasts can be found in virtually every corner of the world. The experience is different from a CD, but listening to a great record on an equally great turntable can be a phenomenal experience. Finding the best budget turntable can be a tricky thing, but it's rewarding if you get a big budget sound for not a lot of money.
With the advent of digital music, there is a lot of competition for your attention. Many different types and models will claim to be the best turntable, and reviews conflict with one another. You'll see many types that contain dual function, able to handle CD and MP3 as well as vinyl, along with some purist devices that are for vinyl only.
This article is written with the intent to point you towards a smart purchase. We'll be outlining some of my favourite budget turntables, reviewing each one and giving a summary of the pros and cons from my perspective. I encourage you to not only read this lens, but also to branch out and read personal, genuine customer reviews to get a sense of what works for you, your budget, and your dream home audio setup.
What to Spend on a Good, Budget Turntable:
What is the best budget-priced turntable to buy?
People often have differing definitions of what constitutes as a bargain, and in the case of good quality budget turntables, it's no different. There are different 'tiers' in almost any product range, so I'm going to list a few different "best" price ranges here to give my definition of a great deal.
I always encourage people to look at these sort of purchases as an investment. A little extra is hard to part with at first, but my father still has the turntable he bought many years ago, and it works great. You'll want to look for a bargain, but avoid bargain basement!
"I'm looking for..."
- "The best turntables under $100":
In my experience, there's not a whole lot of value in this range. This isn't to say there's not the occasional great find, but if you've only got a budget of $100 it's better to look at second hand rather than compromise on value. When the price is this low they have cut corners somewhere, whether that be in the electronics, wiring or pre-amp. Some things you can live with, others are more tricky.
- "The best turntables under $200":
Some purists disagree with me, but I think there are numerous excellent turntables under $200, and there is little in the way of audible compromise. Especially if you shop online, you can find excellent models and brands for a lot less than you'd get in a bigger store. This range starts to include excellent features like vinyl-to-MP3 software capability.
- "The best turntables under $500":
If your budget is around $500 for a good turntable system, you'll find a lot of great stuff. This is the best range to shop in, in my opinion, because many of the mid-level brands fit nicely within it. Unless you're a total audiophile, you'll probably be 100% happy with the quality of sound and the flexibility that these systems provide. There will be a great deal of micro adjustments available, and the individual component quality will resist nasty stuff like resonance and provide the truest form of audio reproduction.
Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB: A wonderful, cheap, direct-drive turntable
A fantastic, inexpensive, Entry-Level turntable with good reviews
Audio-Technica's AT-LP120-USB is an extremely popular product, and kind of a unique item in many ways. It incorporates a lot of great, classic elements, including a direct drive system and extremely high audio fidelity, along with modern features like the USB capability (compatible with both Windows and Mac), anti-skate, adjustable RPM (33 1/3, 45, 78) and software.
The nice thing about this one is it's a great budget priced turntable with a powerful direct drive motor. It doesn't suffer from the same noise transmission issues that most direct drive turntables do, because of superior construction and motor technology.
It also comes with a hard, clear plastic headshell, a selectable pre-amplifier, and of course a compatible cartridge. This model has legions of fans, check out those reviews.
Jensen JTA-230: A budget-friendly turntable with MP3 encoding system
One of the best low budget turntables, very versatile
If you're someone who enjoys vinyl on your stereo, but also wants to convert your records to MP3 format, this is a nice one to consider. It's sort of an 'all in one' stereo setup. It works great as a standalone record player, it comes with a hard plastic dust case, a remote control, and the belt-driven table is good for 33 1/3, 45 and 78 RPM. This unit even includes built in stereo speakers, so you don't have to hook it up to anything if you don't want to. It's very versatile, which is why I like it.
The nicest feature? It will quickly convert your audio to MP3 format, allowing you to have a digital copy for your portable music player. All you need is a flash drive and the record you want to capture. It's certainly one of the best budget priced turntables for your vinyl.
Pyle: A retro-style vinyl turntable with an affordable price
A 'vintage look' record player with stroboscope light
This product from Pyle is one of the best inexpensive turntables, and it has a really nice look to boot. The 80s throwback inspired record player has great looks and great sound, with a belt driven table and both manual and automatic start capability.
It's set up to play 33s and 45s, and it comes with all the cables you'll need to get going. Its fun looks bely the great sound this unit produces, and it has nice features like the plastic dust cover and auto return functionality.
It also has a stroboscope light, which helps you to adjust the speed more precisely.
Audio Technica AT-LP60: A good, fully automatic belt driven turntable
A belt drive turntable on an affordable budget, great value.
I know, another Audio Technica? I had to include this one too because of the great value involved. Unlike the other one I reviewed, this turntable is a belt drive, so the motor isn't as powerful. However, it's still a great turntable in its own right and great for anyone seeking an inexpensive turntable system that reviews nicely.
One thing I really like about the AT-LP60 is the fact that it's attractive, low profile and small, but still has that total vintage charm to it. It comes with a magnet cartridge and a replacement stylus for when it wears out, and it has a pre-amp built in that's ready to connect to your computer or audio system. The aluminum platter construction is seamless, and it also has a clear acrylic headcase.
It's basic, but automatic and produces excellent sound quality for the price. Has speeds of 33 1/3 & 45 RPM. It's one of the best affordable turntables to start out with if you're new to the vinyl scene.
Aluminum turntable, heavy and solid construction, fully analog, removable cartridge.
Denon DP-200USB: A good, fully automatic analog turntable
One of the best turntables for the money
When I'm asked by people with a lower budget what is the best turntable to buy, this is one of the first ones that comes to mind. The Denon DP-200USB is a solid, high performance device with fantastic features that even a purist will appreciate.
The solid construction is a major plus. It's heavier and steadier, reducing both vibration and resonance. And it has nice MP3 features, including a function that searches for the meta data (artist name, etc) automatically by recognizing the music for you. It's not feature packed, so the audiophile might want something a bit pricier, but if you want nice sound, good quality and handy MP3 features this is a nice one.
This one is belt driven, and can support 33 1/3 and 45 RPM. It has modern features like the removable cartridge, and it comes with a MM cartridge so you're ready to go as soon as it arrives.
Things to Look Out For: Considerations and Cautions
Here are a few things to consider when reading budget turntable reviews and weighing your options. There is a lot of information and it can get confusing, so focus on the basics and be aware of the following things:
- Does it come with a cartridge? What kind?
The cartridge is the part on the end of the arm that contacts and picks up sound from the record itself. It's often called the 'needle', though this is just a component of it (the stylus). The cartridge is usually separate, removable and replaceable, and not every turntable comes with one. Even the better budget turntables sometimes don't come without cartridges. You should check to make sure that yours does, and if not plan to pick up one along with the turntable itself.
- Size and Shape:
Some of the best turntables review nicely and have excellent sound quality and features, but they're impractical because their 'footprint' is too large for your home audio space. They come in different shapes, sizes and weights, with the one constant being that they usually require a solid, flat surface to sit on. Even some small and light ones are pretty good, don't discount them.
- Direct Drive or Belt Driven?
There are two types of drives you'll find on a budget turntable; which is best is debatable, but each has its own merits. Direct drive typically has a stronger drive, and allows you to start the record with the needle down from a standstill. However, they are known for resonance issues and excess noise transmission. Belt drives are quieter in the noise department, but require you to drop the needle while it's spinning, requiring more skill and patience.
Most decent modern turntables for sale have this feature, but anti-skate prevents the stylus from skipping grooves and makes sure that the left and right channels have more or less equal strength. The anti-skate mechanism will need to be adjusted from time to time (depending on the turntable), but they are good to have.
- USB Turntables, Reviews:
The USB turntable is another term for a turntable with digital conversion capabilities, allowing you to hook up to a computer, transfer the analog signal of a record into the digital form of an MP3, and connect with modern, computer driven audio systems. Many modern turntable systems utilize USB functionality, and it's really quite handy to have.