A lot of blogs that guide you to a new turntable will tell you that sometimes buying vintage is the best bang for your buck. If you have a few hundred dollars to spend on your first table, going vintage likely gets you a better turntable, sometimes even accompanied by speakers or a few records if you find one on Facebook or eBay.
If you have a bit more to spend, however, some vintage turntables have stood the test of time and reigned supreme for decades. There’s a subset of the vinyl community that buys vintage turntables exclusively, and you’d be surprised to know that something as small as vintage cartridges or a stylus from 1970 could cost an insane amount of money.
And that’s why, in this article, I’m going to present you with my list of the best vintage turntables under $1,000 on the market (well, in my opinion, of course). And, to better help you compare vintage turntables to modern record players, please take a look at some of the best record players on the market today (in the table below) and see how well they stack up to the vintage players we’ll discuss throughout this article.
|Marantz TT-15S1||$$$||Solid Plinth Belt-Drive Design|
|Music Hall MMF 1.5||$$||Built-In Phono Preamp|
|Music Hall MMF 2.3||$$||8.6" Carbon Fiber Tonearm|
|Clearaudio Concept Black||$$$||Black Trim|
|Music Hall MMF 5.3SE||$$$||Dynamically Balanced Alloy Platter|
|Music Hall MMF 7.3||$$$||2-speed (33/45 rpm) pulley|
|Pioneer 990||$||Full-Automatic Operation|
|ProJect 1Xpression Carbon Classic||$$$||Low Noise AC Motor|
|ProJect Classic||$$$||Metal/MDF Chassis|
|Project Debut Carbon DC||$$||8.6" Carbon Tonearm|
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB||$$$||Pro-Ject Speed Box Built-in|
|U-Turn Orbit Special||$$||Solid hardwood plinth|
|Audio-Technica AT-LP120USB||$$||USB Direct Drive|
|Audio Technica AT-LP1240-USB||$$||USB Direct Drive/DJ Table|
Why Buy a Vintage Turntable?
There are a lot of reasons to consider vintage when buying a turntable. First and foremost, listening to vinyl is very much a time-honored tradition for music consumption. Owning records puts to mind the decades in which records were the only way to listen to music other than the radio.
There weren’t iPods or Spotify, only polyvinyl on a turntable, and you can feel that history when you listen to physical records. The nostalgia level is even higher if you’re listening on a table from the actual time period where vinyl thrived, and a lot of times, they can look great too.
The style of vintage turntables are imitated in modern creations, but there’s something about the 70s and 80s rigs that can’t be matched in newer designs. The history of vinyl is what draws many people into the hobby, or if you’re serious, the lifestyle. I pursued a record player because I kept seeing cool album artwork on records from the 70s and 80s and, once realizing records were still being made, wanted the music of my formative years to be displayed physically as well. I grew up in the iPod age, where digital music reigned supreme.
Now, things are changing. Digital is convenient, but it doesn’t beat taking an album out of its sleeve, reading the liner notes, and throwing it on and hearing that gentle scratch and hum.
New turntables can help get you that nostalgic feeling, but a table from the days of vinyl does the job much better. For less than $1000 you can be the owner of a great turntable that, if taken care of before your ownership and during, could last the rest of your life.
The cartridges and styluses can add up in costs, but if you find one in a good condition, you may not need to change a thing about these turntables. So let’s get to it!
Here are 5 vintage turntables you should check out under $1000. A few things to keep in mind as we go are these important points of focus when buying vintage tables:
- Ease of finding parts
Thorens TD 124
The Thorens TD 124 is known well in the vintage turntable community, mostly because of the availability of its parts. The TD124 is still fairly easy to find complete, but if you can only grab the basics, you won’t have too hard of a time finding everything to complete the turntable. When it released in 1957, I could imagine that the TD 124 turned heads.
The table itself has a large base, thicker than anything you’d find nowadays. Where modern tables like to flaunt their thin, portable cases, the TD 124 is a monster of a thing, and it looks great. The wooden cabinet holds together a black faceplate that looks as if it could survive another 100 years, maybe more with some TLC.
A 4 pole motor is hidden underneath a cast iron platter, and the reinforced body helps keep distortion to a minimum. If anything in your table that you come across is missing, be careful; when this table was gaining notoriety, Thorens was being tossed around by owners and distributors, so the parts you need may be slightly different than one made a few years before or after.
Luckily, most sellers are good about keeping track of what parts came from when and where, meaning that if you’re careful, you can find everything you need for this table. The heavy-as-stone table means durability, and once you get everything you need, you’ll be happy you did.
The Thorens TD 124 varys in price, especially depending on what is included (you’ll see that trend throughout this article). Restored tables could be anywhere between $500-$700, with some price gaugers asking over $100. I’d think that somewhere around $800 for a good looking TD 124 would be fair. People asking less may not have everything you need, or maybe the exterior has taken a beating over the years.
The Thorens is a great table, and the brand is time tested. Some bloggers may argue that it can be hard to get one running correctly, but with more people selling their old turntables that collect dust to newcomers and vinylheads alike, it’s easier than ever to come across the TD 124. It sounds great when set-up, and looks like you could have time traveled from the 1960s, bulky hardware and all.
Some barebones Garrard 301s may only cost you $400, but that doesn’t do this great table justice. A price tag of around $900 is more than fair for a good quality, great conditioned 301, and even if you have to grab a few parts yourself, it’ll be worth it in the end. The cherry-like wood casing of the 301 is gorgeous, and one of my favorite looks. Glossy and smooth, hinting to the trends of the 1960s and 1970s.
The Garrard was being produced at its highest quantities in the 1950s, beginning in 1954. With turntables slowly growing as a medium for listening in the home, drawing some crowds away from the radio, the Garrard was a great example of the suave style that one could achieve with a beautiful turntable in their living room or drawing room.
The 401 would go on to replace the 301 in 1965, but there are a few reasons that I favor the 301 if you can find one that plays well and looks great. First things first, the Garrard design of wooden cabinet silver, chrome-like platter would go on to influence hundreds of companies for decades.
They weren’t necessarily the first to do it, but Garrard was great at what they did: make quality tables that could be afforded by families. A lot of people older than 65 years old may recognize the 301 or 401, and if you’re familiar with retro-looking tables being made today, you’ll recognize the Garrard design and style that has been copied endlessly.
A company, Loricraft, is a main reason why obtaining a 301 or 401 isn’t a pipe dream. Loricraft sells parts needed to run a 301 or 401 in the 21st century, and even has the rights to produce a 501 using Garrard’s name. I would still go vintage here, and for something around $800-900, you could have a great sounding table.
I rely heavily on user reviews when researching new tables I’ve never owned, but I was surprised to see so many people think the 301 was too popular to be en vintage vogue nowadays. My mentality is that if something has lasted and been relevant for this long, there’s a reason. Once you hear the Garrard 301, you’ll know why they’re still highly coveted in the vinyl community.
If you keep up with the popular brand Technics, you might think I’m crazy to put the SP-10 on my vintage list. That might be because the Technics brand is recreating the SP-10 to celebrate its popular turntable that, to this day, is still one of the most popular searches for vintage tables. The silver body of the SP-10 is something that, like the Garrard, has been copied endlessly by mass-market brands like Sony and Toshiba.
The silver cabinet and body of the SP-10 is cut by a rubber slip mat, making this turntable sleek and futuristic. When searching for the SP-10 if it sounds like it might be the table for you, you’ll find lots of SP-15s and SP-25s for sale. While those are roughly the same, with minimal changes to design and mechanics, the SP-10 started it all, and should be the table you strive for if you’re looking for a piece of history.
The SP-10 was highly popular because of its design, but it also made waves for its quality playback. Coils holding together the motor made this table impressive in its start-up and shut-down speedieness. Something to note about the SP-10 that’s different than the first two entries in the article is that this turntable is more of the modern look in terms of thinness and slim figure. Toroidal transformers in the power supply help to keep the noise of the SP-10 down, which is something to remember about turntables back in the mid to late 20th century.
The noise a turntable that is 20 or 30 years old makes can be distracting, just like an old record. The age of a table can be problematic, but the reason so many people continue to seek out SP-10s is because from the day they were manufactured, they’ve been consistently reliable.
The SP-10 plays great and looks good too. The best part? You can find some for resale at a price tag of sub $500. Some who have taken the time to rework the tables to modernize them or refinish them to look brand new may charge more, but these are affordable tables that you can buy that are ready for you to throw on a record and enjoy the style of the SP-10 that sits comfortably between the past and the future.
The 1200 was being made up until 2010, and to be honest, I’m surprised they ever stopped. It makes sense; they’ve been producing the 1200 for decades now, and have much more opportunities to create if they’re not stuck in the design and configuration of the past. That being said, hip hop heads should know the 1200 well. So should anyone familiar with DJ house music, or EDM, or really any sort of music that has utilized a turntable over the years. For quite some time, the 1200 has been reliable and an absolute go-to for a long time now, and its durability goes a long way.
To DJs, there is no table that compares to the Technics 1200. The ability to set two up and connect them for scratching was so easy when it released, a lot of companies stopped designing tables like the 1200 because there was no comparison. While not ever a hi-fi “holy grail” turntable, the 1200 was first produced in 1972. The direct drive mechanism was revolutionary because you didn’t have to rely on a belt, which was more likely to break when you spent your time scratching your records. The 1200 was also known for a wide range of pitch control which was perfect for remixes.
An isolated platter means that feedback or stylus jumping is limited, so even if you’re not scratching, you don’t have to worry about faulty playback. The 1200 was built to last, and if you’re not an audiophile, it’s a pretty easy choice to pick up a 1200 and know that you’re good to go for a long time. DJs love it, and so have people for 40+ years. You will too.
The Sansui SR-838 is well known out of its main country of Japan for a few reasons. First and foremost, the table looks like it could have been designed today. Originally released in 1979, it’s insane to think that the visionaries at Sansui could have predicted what would be timeless almost 40 years before nearly every table made today at a budget price looks like this one.
Getting an SR-838 can be hard to do, but if you watch eBay or your local shop, you might stumble across one. It’s easier to find them now than it was 5 or 10 years ago because in Japan, since they were so popular, many are selling them now rather than just letting them collect dust. The SR-838 isn’t as high quality as the 839, but it’s more common to come across the 838 because of how popular they were in the 1980s, and many argue that the 838 looks better. The futuristic design of the turntable is hard to match even today, and the sound quality of the 838 brings back nostalgia to anyone who grew up in the 80s.
Finding one in complete condition could be hard, but it’s worth it if you can pull it off. Grabbing one for under $1000 isn’t hard, but expect to pay just a little less than $900 on average. The important thing to remember is that you’re buying something that was built to last. That being said, you can’t know everyone who owned the table before you. Be wary, but buying vintage is worth it if you find one for the right price.
A vintage turntable is worth the hunt, and these five are great ways to embody the retro aesthetic of vinyl records. Happy hunting!
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