Finding the best turntable under $100, $200 or more is not that difficult. There is only a number of really great models out there. If you know what you are looking for, you should find the one for you in no time. This article will help you with deciding on what you need and choosing the best record players for you.
If you are in the market for turntables, you should consider buying bargain rate models instead of making a big splash. Turntables can get quite expensive and you just don’t know if you’ll be fully committed to this hobby for the long haul. So go for a cheaper model to test the waters. It will give you some time to determine whether you want to invest more money in the hobby. It will also provide you with the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of turntables so that you can determine exactly what you’d like to hone in on when you go shopping for more expensive models in the future. Let’s take a look at some of the best choices in today’s market.
Image used under Creative Commons from David Lenker
Table of Contents
- Best Turntables under $100
- Best Turntables under $200
- Best Turntables under $500
- Turntables – What You Need to Know
- Additional equipment
Best Turntables under $100
This price range seems best for anyone looking to start their journey in the world of vinyl records. Buying one of the devices listed below isn’t a huge commitment yet it’ll allow you to listen and enjoy vinyl records. If you’re not sure yet if turntables and vinyl are your thing, this price range is ideal. If you’ll find yourself buying more and more records and listening to vinyl on a regular basis, you can always buy a better device later on and give this one to one of your friends or colleagues so they can start their adventure too.
Audio Technica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Stereo Turntable
- quick and easy setup
- really great music quality for the price
- just connect your speakers and you’re good to go
When it comes to the best turntable under $100, many people would vote it’s Audio Technica AT-LP60. It’s a belt-driven turntable with the automatic cueing mechanism. It runs at 2 speeds: 33 1/3 RPM and 45 RPM. AT-LP60 comes with a whole set of cables and adapters. When it arrives, you need to set it up (which is easy and takes only a few minutes), connect it to your stereo or computer speakers and you’re ready to enjoy your favorite tracks. It has a built-in switchable preamp, so if the volume seems low, make sure the preamp is switched on. Customers love the fact that the setup is quick and easy and you only need a power source and speakers to get started. The quality of music that comes from this device is really good (especially considering the low price) and overall it seems like a great turntable for starters.
Here’s what reviewers wrote about this turntable on Amazon.
Love this turntable. So easy to use, attractive and sounds great. What a find! All of my 33LP albums have new life.
You really can’t get a better turntable for this price. It wasn’t broken or cracked when it arrived, it was easy to assemble, and it sounds great. For under 100 bucks that is more than I expected.
Here’s a short video presenting AT-LP60:
Jensen JTA-222 3-Speed Turntable
- ready to use out of the box
- features built-in speakers but also allows to connect your own stereo system
If you’re looking for an inexpensive and ready to use out of the box turntable, Jensen JTA-222 might be the one you’re looking for. It supports all 3 turntable speeds so you’ll be able to use it to enjoy all your old records. It features built-in speakers but it also has external RCA speaker output jacks so if the built-in speakers aren’t enough for you, you can use your own stereo system. A headphones jack is there as well in case you’d like to listen to music privately. It has a very classic and antique feel – the antique wooden case will fit well with wooden furniture. When it comes to additional features, it has an AM/FM radio included.
While the sound quality it offers is really good for the price, few reviewers complained about it. Please note that it’s a model meant for people who are just starting out with vinyl records, so expecting it to be as good as devices that cost 3 or more times more is simply unrealistic. If you would like to get more out of this turntable, consider buying a replacement needle and using external speakers.
Here’s a quote pulled from Amazon from reviews of this turntable.
Overall this is a great little system. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves to hear their old records in a nice simple fashion. Obviously if you’re an Audiophile you’ll use a more proper turntable (Audio Technica, Pro-Ject, etc.) to fully enjoy the richness and depth of vinyl, but for those wanting to hear their old 45’s and those classic garage sale LP’s in a basic no-frills manner, this is a quality choice.
Jensen JTA-230 3 Speed Stereo Turntable
- allows vinyl to MP3 convertion
- supports 3 record speeds
- stylus for 78 RPM records not included
The JTA-230 comes with built-in speakers, software that converts vinyl to MP3, pitch control, volume control, tone control and an RCA line out. It is a 3-speed belt driven stereo turntable with speeds of 33, 45 and 78 RPM. The auxiliary input jack lets you connect to your digital audio players, iPod and MP3 without a problem. You can also connect headphones to the stereo headphone jack. Other features include an auto stop switch, power indicator, and a dust cover.While there are plenty of diminutive and affordable record players available, the JTA-230 is the sole player with tone control and pitch adjustment. It is smaller than it appears in photos that you’ll find on the web and vinyls actually jut out of its sides as they are larger than the actual player itself. It has built-in speakers that sound excellent even though they are extremely small. Yet they don’t get as loud as most listeners would like, even when turned up to maximum volume. Some have stated that that the audio is a bit tinny and the bass isn’t as powerful as it should be. Buyers have also complained that the 3 mil stylus to play 78 RPM records is not included with the original package. Some have complained that it plays too slowly and at times it will skip and distort. Still, these are not common complaints. The JTA-230 is a solid beginner’s turntable.
Here are some quotes from reviewers on Amazon:
This thing is awesome. It’s like the old record players most of us probably had in our bedrooms to listen to records. About the only thing it doesn’t have is the ability to put a stack of records on and let them automatically drop, and the arm doesn’t automatically reject and go back to rest on the home position. You can switch it to either keep going in the end-groove, or for it to stop once it gets there.
As a music lover and a vinyl collector, this is one of the best record players I have ever owned. Jensen is a reliable brand. The speakers are great for what they are. They are not the loudest, but they get the job done. I recommend getting some bigger speakers if you want to make the neighbors mad. If you listen to rock and guitar wailing records then the pitch adjust is a life saver.
Spectra Studebaker Wooden Turntable
Spectra Studebaker is another one of those antique-looking all-in-one turntables. It has everything you need to get started built-in: support for all three record speeds and built-in speakers. In case you wanted to listen to the radio, there’s an AM/FM stereo radio in it as well. The speakers aren’t that great, but that’s not that big of a deal. If they aren’t enough for your needs, consider using external speakers, as the device has RCA plugs ready to go. As mentioned, this turntable is pretty much ready to go when you receive it – just unpack it, plug it in, remove the needle cover and put on your favorite record. And enjoy the music.Here’s what other people have written about this turntable:
This is great though, for total vinyl beginners (like myself) who, having just started buying records, are intimidated by talk of pre-amps and terrified of Crosley turntable horror stories, or for, er – vinyl veterans who have been collecting longer than I have been alive.
There are more expensive turntables out there that would probably blow this one away as far as sound quality goes, but this one really isn’t bad for the price. So if you’re someone who is just looking for a simple and decent turntable to play your old vinyl collection, this is a good choice. This probably won’t satisfy an audiophile though, or anyone who is looking for superior sound quality.
Best Turntables under $200
There aren’t that many good choices when it comes to turntables in the $100 – $200 price range. If none of the mentioned turntables seems like a good choice for you, you will probably have to choose whether you would like to go with a less expensive one or maybe invest in a new device a little more and get an even better device.
Audio Technica AT-LP60 USB
The AT-LP60 USB comes with a USB port so that you don’t have to deal with special drivers to connect it directly to your computer. There is a built-in stereo phono/line level pre-amplifier that is switchable. You can use the turntable with the stereo systems utilizing either of the magnetic phono inputs. The turntable will work with either Mac or PC computers. It has a fully automatic operation that prevents your albums from becoming scratched. It operates at two speeds: 45 rpm and 33 and 1/3 rpm. You’ll be transferring your classic albums to MP3 format in no time with this turntable. It has a very simple user experience design thanks to its advanced recording software known as Audacity.Other features include an integral dual-magnet Audio Technica phono cartridge, adapter cables, and a USB cable. Although this player is on the cheap side, it really steps up to the plate and hits a home run. Users have few complaints. Some have said that they wished that it came with a counterweight so that a more precise tone arm balance could be achieved. It could also benefit from anti-skating control to reduce distortion and pressure on the interior grooves of records, specifically the tracks nearest to the center hole. Yet the table still does a fantastic job of tracking just about every recording. Most have stated that it does a better job than the industry leader’s (Stanton) equipment.
Other criticisms include the fact that the RCA plugs are actually connected to the table, which irks many users. There are no ports on the turntable and the wires are quite short (about 3 feet). This means that if your turntable isn’t positioned by the receiver, the cords won’t reach. Others have complained that the “stop” button doesn’t consistently work. While this is not a common problem, if it happens to your unit, it can be fixed. You’ll have to unhook the player, flip it, remove the bottom section and realign the rods.
Here’s what reviewers wrote about this product:
For under a hundred bucks the quality seems great. The manual for setup of the system and software is well done with step by step pictures.
I have mine connected to both the computer and external speakers. I’m able to listen to the music while recording thru the external speakers and listen to playback of the downloaded music thru head phones on the computer.
I was a little concerned about buying it because one user complained of a humming noise from not being grounded properly, but it worked great. I’ve recorded a dozen albums and am very happy with the purchase. Lots of options on the software that I am still figuring out, but overall, I am very happy with this.
Electrohome SignatureTM Retro Hi-Fi Stereo System
- all-in-one type of device
- great vintage feel
- built-in speakers you can use to play music from MP3 players, smartphones, etc.
- can’t attach external speakers
This player comes with all sorts of bells and whistles. It can play records, MP3 CDs, and traditional CDs. It has a 3.5mm auxiliary input for MP3 players, Tablets, and Smartphones. The table has AM/FM capabilities and can covert vinyl music to the MP3 format. In terms of aesthetics, it has a retro style that fills the room with beautiful sound thanks to its four speakers and the impeccably tuned acoustic cabinet. The unit is built with superior craftsmanship that is shown in its real wood cabinetry’s deep walnut finish. Electrohome has been in the analog audio system market for over a century and it shows with this player’s beautiful vintage design.You’ll especially love its diamond-tipped ceramic needle. It creates lovely natural tones without compromising the integrity of your most valued albums. You’ll be able to transfer music from vinyl to MP3 without even using a computer thanks to the USB port that comes installed in the table. All you need to do is plug in the USB drive, hit the record button and the table does all of the work.
Those who’ve purchased this turntable are quick to point out how unique its retro style appears. It doesn’t look tacky like many other players that attempt to pull off the vintage aesthetic. Some even compare its sound to that produced from Bose audio systems. If you are looking for a trustworthy and affordable player, look no further.
In terms of complaints, there aren’t that many to note. A handful of shoppers has stated that their units arrived in non-working condition. Some have mentioned that certain records skipped and that the AM/FM radio does not work. Others have stated that the player loses its proper speed and that records eventually play too slowly. Yet these are scattered complaints that aren’t representative of the typical buyer.
Let’s read what buyers wrote about this turntable:
It is an absolutely lovely piece. This player caught my eye because it is styled differently than most of the “retro” players that are out there. It looks like a vintage piece…not like some of those cheesy all in one record players that you typically see. The player has a wonderful warm sound..
The turntable, as mentioned by others, is NOT going to have the same performance level as a $400 Teac turntable, so let’s talk reality. I play mostly 78s from 1900 through 1955 (10″ and 12″), some 45s from the 60’s and 70’s and once in a while a 33rpm album from the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s. I have had NO SKIPPING at all since I bought the unit. Although I would, at times like a little more low end out of the speakers (bass) when I play records..
Pioneer PL-990 Automatic Stereo Turntable
Another choice in the under $200 price range is Pioneer PL-990. It’s a belt-driven turntable with the automatic cueing mechanism. Pioneer PL-990t also automatically stops when the record is finished so you can start enjoying your favorite tracks in the evening and fall asleep without having to worry about stopping the turntable. It supports two most popular speeds: 33 1/3 RPM (for long-playing records) and 45 RPM. To play the music you need a receiver with AUX input – either an amplifier plugged to speakers or a stereo system with speakers. Please note that it has a built-in preamp, which means you can’t connect it to phono inputs. So if you only have speakers, make sure you buy an amplifier as well. When it comes to setting up the player, it’s quick and easy, even for a total newbie. And what’s most important, the music quality it provides is really great for the price. Many people mentioned that it’s as good as the quality that much more expensive players provide.Here’s a quote pulled from Amazon about this turntable.
Quality entry-level turntable. I am just getting back to vinyl after a 30 year hiatus, so naturally I am rebuilding both my library and my equipment. I just needed a decent turntable for low-hassle set-up and play experience while I eventually aquire better gear, and this turntable fit that bill.
Best Turntables under $500
Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable
- great quality for a good price
- plays all three speeds
- hardwired RCA cables that are quite short
This turntable is built with an internal stereo phono preamplifier, a high torque, direct drive motor, a headshell and a professional cartridge. It comes with a USB connection and Audacity software you can use with your Windows or Mac computer. Speeds include 33 and 1/3, 45 and 78 RPM. Pitch adjust options include +/-10 percent and +/-20 percent with the high accuracy quartz controlled pitch lock. There’s also an S-shaped tone arm with an adjustable counterweight, tone arm height adjustment, and anti-skate adjustment.So this turntables has pretty much everything any turntable enthusiast might think of. Once it arrives you need to do some assembly, connect it to an amplifier or a stereo system that has one, calibrate the tonearm and you’re good to go. Everything is documented so setup shouldn’t take long.
In terms of criticisms, some have said that the audio cables are too short, the assembly is a bit of a hassle and the tonearm adjustment can be tedious. A handful has reported that their units arrived with faulty tonearms and platters. Yet these are the exceptions to the standard for Audio-Technica players. It’s a high-quality turntable that most will love.
Here’s what people wrote about this device:
Couldn’t be happier with this turntable. So far it has performed perfectly and seems to have great build quality. I won’t go over everything that’s been stated by other reviewers. It’s simply a fine piece of equipment and looks awesome on the shelf. We actually purchased two as my son also bought one.
Overall I’m fairly satisfied with this turntable. It has a nice strong motor, a decent solid metal platter, and an okay factory cartridge.
Take a look at the AT-LP120 in use
Go to Amazon
TEAC TN-300 Analog Turntable with Built-in Phono Pre-amplifier & USB Digital Output
When it comes to great turntables in the under $500 price range, TEAC TN-300 is one of great choices on the market. It’s a belt-driven turntable with manual cueing, so you have to lift the tonearm and lower it onto the record yourself. Also, you have to pick it up at the end of the record. It supports 33 1/3 RPM and 45 RPM vinyls. It has a built-in MM Phono equalizer amplifier and features both phono and line (AUX) outputs so you get to choose which one fits your needs better. It also has a USB output so if you would like to digitalize your record collection, with TEAC TN-300 that shouldn’t be an issue. As with almost all turntables, the setup process is simple. When it comes to the most important thing, which is the quality of sound that the device produces, pretty much all customers have found it really great.Here’s what one of the reviewers on Amazon wrote.
I do really like the build quality of the TEAC and the look…all parts are aluminum and feel solid. The sound is great and utilizes the AT95E cartridge which is pretty much a standard in the industry. It is warm with surprising good bass and tight highs.
Turntables – What You Need to Know
Here you can find the basic knowledge about turntables. If you’re new to record players reading this section is a good idea as it’ll give you most of the knowledge needed to read and understand specifications and customer reviews. If you have some experience with turntables feel free to skip this section and proceed to lists of best devices in given price range.
Here’s a list of the most common components of a turntable. Descriptions are fairly short so you won’t get caught in technical details yet you’ll understand everything when reading reviews online.
- Plinth – the base of a turntable, often with feet that provide stability to the base (and therefore the turntable itself too).
- Platter – that’s the spinning part that you put the record on. Often there’s a mat between the platter and the record to reduce friction, better the grip and overall make the sound quality better.
- Motor – causes, directly or indirectly, that the platter spins.
- Needle (stylus) and cartridge – the stylus (often referred to as the needle) is the part that touches the record. The cartridge supports the needle. To get the best sound quality you need a turntable with a good cartridge. In most cases, both components can be replaced with a new/better model.
- Tonearm – the arm that holds the cartridge with the stylus over the record.
Turntable speed is measured in the number of spins that the platter with the record does in a minute’s time. When reading a turntable specification, you will find its speeds with the RPM (revolutions per minute) symbol. There are three basic turntable speeds – 33 1/3 RPM, 45 RPM, and 78 RPM. The first two are the standard speeds that pretty much all modern turntables support while the 78 RPM is an older one and only some of the turntables support it. Please note that some devices don’t support 78 RPM out of the box but sometimes you can find instructions online on how to adjust them so they could. The speed at which the platter spins has to match the cut of the record for the turntable to play the track correctly so when buying records make sure your record player will support them.
Belt-Driven vs Direct-Driven
Drive system is an essential part of the turntable as it controls the speed of the turntable (discussed above). The speed needs to remain consistent at all time so the music is played at the right pace. Modern turntables utilize belt-driven or direct-driven systems. A belt-driven system (as the name suggests) uses a belt made from elastomeric material to connect the motor to the platter. A direct-driven system doesn’t use any intermediate components to drive the platter. Generally speaking, you can get great sound quality from both belt and direct driven turntables. Cheaper models often utilize the belt-driven system as it allows the turntable to use a cheaper motor and still do its job.
Manual and Automatic Cueing System
Cueing system is the way lifting the tonearm and lowering it onto the record is done. In a manual system, you do that by hand yourself (preferred way by seasoned turntable users) while an automatic system does that for you. While obviously, the automatic system is more convenient, it also requires a sophisticated machinery to do that properly, without any scratches across the record. So sometimes you will find people complaining that the cueing system of their device damaged the record. That’s why audiophiles choose manual cueing as they don’t have to worry that the cueing machine will scratch their records.
To read more about turntable construction please visit Wikipedia.
Choosing Your First Turntable
Since you’re likely searching for your first turntable, here are a few things you need to know. The first thing to remember is that if you’re just starting out your adventure with turntables and vinyl record, start small. There’s no need or reason on splurging on your first record player. Plus I’m pretty sure you don’t know yet if turntables are something you’ll be interested in a long time so it’s not really worth paying top dollar for a device for an audiophile. If record players turn out to be your thing you’ll have plenty of time to buy a better model.
That brings another thing – don’t get caught up in technical details. Spending a dozen hours reading about various technical aspects isn’t really worth it if you’re just starting out (unless you’re a huge geek who loves that kind of stuff then, of course, feel free to do a ton of research). Just check out a few products and read a bunch of reviews. that will help a lot with making the first choice. Later on, you’ll have time to learn about the technicalities and in case you decide to buy a more powerful device you’ll have the knowledge to make an informed choice.
Last thing important for first-time buyers – choose a ready-to-use turntable. Many turntables out there need a bunch of other equipment to be able to use them, things like preamps, speakers, etc. That’s okay but for starters, I’d choose something that I can just connect to the power supply, find a vinyl I want to play and be ready to go. Keep it simple.
Oh, and don’t forget to buy a couple of your favorite albums on vinyl when buying your first record player. You don’t want a brand new device that sits on the shelf and gathers dust. If you’re buying a turntable for someone else, make sure you learn what kind of music they enjoy and what are their favorite bands so you’ll be able to buy a couple vinyl to get them started.
As far as upgrades go, everything will depend on the type of turntable you purchased. For instance, basic turntables are meant to be used right out of the box, no upgrades needed. On the other hand, higher end systems feature more components that you can expand or upgrade. Below are some of the most common turntable components that you can upgrade:
The platter can be upgraded especially if the original platter is lighter. Lighter platters are more susceptible to vibrations or movements that affect audio play. A heavier platter ensures a steady surface for the record to turn.
The tonearm swings across as the record rotate. At some point, it requires an upgrade or a replacement. If you’re set to replacing your old tonearm, we suggest opting for high-quality components. Fact is, the quality of the tone arm will affect the turntable’s accuracy and the consistency to play records.
Stylus or Needle
Because the stylus makes direct contact with the grooves on a record, it can affect the accuracy of the audio. Over time, the stylus will wear out and will need a replacement. Good thing the needle is one of the easiest turntable components to replace! You have to replace the needle once every 1,000 hours for better sound quality.
Setting Up Your Turntable
Setting a turntable for the first time might seem daunting for the uninitiated but it’s actually quite easy! The key to better sound reproduction is support. You must set your turntable in a place where the surface area is completely level. Any deviation will affect the audio play. As far as internal resonances go, the support has to be rigid, it shouldn’t move when the turntable is turned on.
Some systems work better when placed on heavy supports while others work best using lighter alternatives. To determine what type of support your system needs, experiment until you get an idea what level of support and/or leveling your deck needs.
Different turntable manufacturer offers a variety of arm board option. The arm board is needed for decks without an arm. You can install the arm board on your own but we suggest letting a professional handle it for proper installation. The tone arm comes with different adjustments and the key to efficient operation is the right tonearm height. The tone arm must be parallel to the record’s surface so the needle is perfectly in contact with the record’s grooves. You can adjust the tone arm or alter the angle of the stylus tip to achieve the perfect height.
A turntable’s tracking weight can be adjusted by simply moving a counterweight near the rear of the tone arm. A tracker weight that’s set too high causes the audio to sound dull and slow and if it’s set too low, the cartridge won’t track the groove properly. To know the appropriate downforce, check the cartridge manufacturer’s recommendation.
You can also adjust the sideway force of the cartridge to balance out the inward pull of the record groove using the bias setting. Usually, the sideways force is set to the same amount as the tracking weight. To achieve perfect audio balance, don’t be afraid to experiment with the tracking weight and bias setting. Check to make sure the tonearm isn’t stressed and get it to align properly to prevent excessive hum or audio distortion.
Here you can find a few things you should consider buying when you’re buying a turntable.
SPIN-CLEAN – Starter Kit Record Washer System MK2
If you’re just dipping your toes into the world of record players, you need to know that you need to take care of your vinyls. To make sure your records are in great shape you should clean them regularly. No matter how cheap or expensive your turntable is, if your records are scratched, stained, dusted or have fingerprints on their surface, they won’t sound good (or as good as they could). That’s why buying a vinyl record care system is really important. This care system includes a washer basin and lid, washer fluid, two drying clothes, one pair of brushes and one pair of rollers. It’s designed to clean record quickly so it’s a great choice for someone with a big collection of vinyls. With the Spin-Clean there’s really not much effort required – you set it up with brusher and rollers, put the vinyl record into the tank and roll it. Brushes take care of scrubbing both sides of the vinyl at the same time while rollers make sure the record won’t get damaged. The washer fluid helps with pulling dirt off the vinyl. Quick and easy, even if you have a really impressive collection of vinyl records.Here’s what one of the reviewers wrote about it in a review on Amazon.
In my experience, the Spin Clean removes all visible dust and dirt and leaves the record surface looking clean. It also reduces static, even after you put the LP away and take it back out again. With very dusty LPs, I notice a nice reduction in noise. The Spin Clean doesn’t remove anything really challenging – the kinds of things I’ve successfully removed with a sponge and warm water – so you may want to clean those spots before [..]
Turntable Toys TC-8 Cork Audiophile Turntable Mat
Many mats that are being sold with turntables aren’t of that great quality, especially in inexpensive turntables. Mats are used to improve traction and prevent slippage. They reduce static that often causes these well-known crackling noises. So overall, a mat helps with both the quality of the playback and the longevity of vinyl records being played. When you’re installing a new mat, depending on the thickness of the old and new mat, please remember that you might need to adjust the VTA (Vertical Tracking Angle) of your tonearm so the stylus won’t damage the record. TC-8 Cork Audiophile Turntable Mat is, as the name suggests, a cork mat which does everything a good slip mat should do and its price doesn’t break the bank.Let’s read what one of the reviewers on Amazon wrote about this mat.
Worth the money. Cork is a wonderful surface for your vinyl. It helps reduce static and vibration. In addition, it looks great. I replaced the thin felt mat that came with my Pro-ject Debut Carbon 2M-R turntable with this 1/8″ mat and it’s a drastic improvement.