One of the main reasons why there aren’t even more people listening to vinyl these days is the fact that most people feel that record players are either too complicated, the technology is too old, or turntables are just too freakin’ expensive.
And let’s face it, if you fall into the first two categories, you’re probably not all that interested in vinyl to begin with. But, if you or someone you know feels that turntables simply cost too much money, then this is article is dedicated to you.
Below, please use our interactive table to compare some excellent low budget turntables against popular record players on the market:
|Audio Technica AT-LP60X||$||Plug and Play via Built-In Phono Preamp|
|Audio Technica AT-LPW30||$$||Built-In Phono Preamp|
|Audio Technica AT-LPW50||$$||Manual Drive Belt with Speed Control|
|Pioneer PLX-1000||$$||DJ Turntable Similar to Technics 1200|
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC (Yellow)||$$||Yellow Gloss Finish|
|Pro-Ject Debut III RecordMaster USB (Walnut)||$$$||USB Output; Built-in Phono Preamp (Walnut version)|
|MoFi StudioDeck||$$||Pre-mounted StudioTracker MM Cartridge|
|Music Hall MMF 1.3||$$||Built-in, switchable phono pre-amp|
|Pro-Ject RPM 1 (Red)||$$||Sumiko Rainier Cartridge|
|Pro-Ject T1 (Black)||$$||Features Ortofon OM5e Cartridge|
In this article, we’re going to examine the topic of budget turntables. More specifically, we’re going to examine a variety of different budget or cheap record players and jump head-first into the very popular debate of the following: is acquiring a lower budget turntable a good idea? Can you find an affordable turntable that—quite frankly—isn’t a piece of crap? Can you find a record player within your budget that’s decent, works reliably, and won’t harm your records?
So if you’re interested in discovering the answers to these questions, then sit back, relax, and let us help guide you.
Low Budget Turntable—Yay or Nay?
There are numerous things that will dictate the price of a turntable. It doesn’t have to be related to the quality of sound, although that is naturally a big factor.
For the most part, affordable turntables are lacking key features or more quality construction. These absences help keep costs down for you, the buyer. For example, a more expensive turntable might have a carbon tonearm, like you’d find on the aptly named Pro-Ject Debut Carbon. A cheaper or budget turntable might have a tonearm made of plastic or some other material that’s similar in price to manufacture.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to what your intentions are with your turntable and sound in general. If you intend to get more involved in vinyl and high-quality audio in the coming years, you might want to invest a bit more money into a turntable that will be able to support your future ambitions.
If not, or if you’re just interested in trying out this vinyl hobby (or are simply on a strict budget), then going with a cheaper record player is just what you need.
|Best Selling Turntables|
|1) Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO|
|2) Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT|
|3) Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB|
|4) Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC|
|5) Audio-Technica LPW50 with Sonos Speakers Bundle|
What defines the price of a turntable?
Turntables come in various shapes and forms, with different levels of possible customization. High-end turntables will be designed in a way where you can add an amp of your choice, customize the tonearm, change the stylus and more.
Naturally, good turntables will also feature a quality drive system paired with a good platter. An affordable turntable will most likely be limited when it comes to these abilities. More often than not, with a cheaper turntable, you will get a record player comes with its own amp. This can be a good and a bad thing.
It’s a great thing for those that want simplicity with their turntable—just turn it on, press play, and get sound through connected speakers. It’s less of a great thing because you cannot upgrade or “swap out” the built-in amp.
A budget turntable will also come with a locked stylus and cartridge, as well as a nonadjustable tone arm. However, all of these things come in a distant second place to a good drive system and platter. If these two components are low quality, no amount of professional aftermarket parts can help you get a decent tone out of that turntable.
If you have already decided to go for an affordable solution, we recommend that you get something that is strongest where it matters the most. Everything else should be secondary.
While some people will try and tell you that getting a cheaper turntable is not a great idea, I think that’s crazy advice. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend you not jump into the vinyl hobby just because you cannot (or do not want to) buy a $500 or $1,000 record player.
At the end of the day, you won’t be disappointed as long as you are aware of the limits of your system, and what kind of experience it is capable of delivering. Most casual vinyl users own simple systems that take little to no effort to use, anyway.
First and foremost, if you are not sure whether or not vinyl is something you’re going to be interested in the future, you are not committing a large investment by going the cheaper route. On top of that, choosing an affordable model leaves you with more maneuvering space to get the rest of the necessary equipment such as the speakers, slip mats and similar.
And remember, you can always upgrade sometime down the line.
Top 5 Budget Turntables
Believe it or not, there is actually a pretty good number of turntables you can get for under $300. Going below $100 is generally not recommended because that is the territory where you will find some of the worst products on the market.
We say that even though we’ve included one sub-$100 model on our list, just in case that’s all you can afford. However, that specific turntable is a very rare exception to the rule.
Here are our top picks for great budget turntables worthy of your consideration:
- Audio Technica AT-LP120
- Akai Professional BT500
- Electrohome EANOS501
- ION Audio Vinyl Motion Deluxe
- Audio Technica AT-LP60
Let’s break them all down.
This Audio Technica model has been considered the best thing since sliced bread for a long time now. Audio Technica is known as a brand that delivers high-performance audio equipment at a price point that is hard to beat, but even they couldn’t have anticipated this kind of popularity for this turntable. In short, this an affordable record player that packs the heat of a mid-range unit, both in terms of features and performance.
People who had a budget large enough to cover more expensive models, in some instances, chose the AT-LP120 instead. When it comes to features, this is almost a fully customizable turntable. While the components that come with it are of decent quality, the room for improvement is one of the best things LP120 has to offer, aside from its raw performance of course.
We can’t recommend this model enough.
- You can read our review of the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 here.
Akai Professional BT500
Akai is not really a brand that is usually related to vinyl or record players in general. With that said, they do offer one of the most balanced affordable turntables on the market at the moment.
The BT500 comes with a great selection of features which aren’t often found in this price range. Before we get to that, we need to mention its sleek design. This thing looks like a proper record player that will go great no matter what your interior design looks like. It’s simple, clean and very intuitive to use.
As for features, you get a decent switchable pre-amp, a solid tonearm with an adjustable counterweight, removable stylus and cartridge design, and so much more. All things considered, it’s a more advanced model. The belt driven platter is well isolated along with the motor which propels it. The quality of sound is at a level where it punches a bit above its weight class.
Compared to the first two record players we have listed, this Electrohome is a bit different. It features a vintage design that some might find a bit tacky, but that aspect of this turntable wasn’t our main concern.
In terms of key features, everything is pretty much integrated (no real upgrades can be done here).
It even comes with speakers of its own, which is a common occurrence in the sub-$200 range. As for upgrade paths, sadly there are none. What you see is what you get.
The quality of sound is acceptable, but again, you’re essentially getting a turntable and set of speakers all for less than $200. Make sure you have managed expectations here.
ION Audio is one of the first brands to catch on to the portable turntable trend. This model is among the better ones they offer.
The design of most of these mobile turntables is fairly simple—it’s a record player in a suitcase. Whether or not that is something that has any practical value to you is something you have to decide on your own, we were more interested in what kind of sound this thing was capable of delivering.
Performance-wise, you definitely hear the cheaper quality at work here. Not to say it’s bad or unacceptable, but it’s definitely not something you can compare to the first two entries on our list.
Just like the EANOS501, this is a fully integrated model, meaning that pretty much no upgrades are possible nor available. Still, this ION is a good value for the money.
Last but not the least, we have one dirt cheap Audio-Technica wonder to show you. Compared to its older brother, the LP120, this model is limited in numerous ways. However, the core performance is there, and that is the only thing we were really interested in. It’s a belt drive automatic unit, which means that the arm is engaged and disengaged with a press of a button.
There are limited upgrade options, but at this price, everything that is not bare bones configuration is a gift. Will this record player last you for years to come? Probably not. Chances are you will outgrow it within a year or two. However, considering just how cheap it is, the LP60 is a bargain in every sense of the word.
- You can read our review of the Audio-Technica AT-LP60 here.
Going affordable is definitely worth the money. Naturally, you will get a better return on your investment if you go a category or two higher in price, but that is not something everyone can do.
The models we’ve discussed today are all pretty much capable of giving you a great listening experience. In fact, the AT-LP60 was my very first turntable. And while I have since moved on to a new record player since that time, the AT-LP60 was a more than capable turntable for me when I was looking for a quality, budget record player.
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