There are a lot of articles out there about your first turntable, maybe even what to upgrade to after you have been in the game for awhile. But what about those of us that have a little extra green to spend? Well, we’re going to take a look at the 5 best turntables under $1000, and a few things are going to go into that list.

These characteristics are what we’re looking for in a new turntable under $1000:

  • Design
  • Ease of Use
  • Features and Specs
  • Sound Quality
  • Bang for your Buck

And below, please take a moment to view the interactive guide that will allow you to directly compare some of the best turntables on the market against one another.

PhotoModelPriceKey Feature
Marantz TT-15S1Marantz TT-15S1$$$Solid Plinth Belt-Drive Design
Music Hall MMF 1.5$$Built-In Phono Preamp
Music Hall MMF 2.3Music Hall MMF 2.3$$8.6" Carbon Fiber Tonearm
Clearaudio Concept Black$$$Black Trim
Music Hall MMF 5.1SEMusic Hall MMF 5.3SE$$$Dynamically Balanced Alloy Platter
Music Hall MMF 7.3Music Hall MMF 7.3$$$2-speed (33/45 rpm) pulley
Pioneer-PL-990Pioneer 990$Full-Automatic Operation
Pro-Ject-1XPression-Carbon-ClassicProJect 1Xpression Carbon Classic$$$Low Noise AC Motor
ProJect Classic$$$Metal/MDF Chassis
Project Debut Carbon DCProject Debut Carbon DC$$8.6" Carbon Tonearm
Pro-Ject - Debut Carbon Esprit SBPro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB$$$Pro-Ject Speed Box Built-in
U-Turn Orbit Special$$Solid hardwood plinth
Audio-Technica-AT-LP120-USBAudio-Technica AT-LP120USB$$USB Direct Drive
Audio-Technica-AT-LP1240-USBAudio Technica AT-LP1240-USB$$USB Direct Drive/DJ Table

ProJect Debut Carbon DC

I think the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC is a really great turntable that will easily fit into the under $1,000 budget, while also being a record player that’s great for beginners and vinyl enthusiasts alike. 

This turntable comes in a variety of colors and comes priced at about $400.  Now, the Debut Carbon DC is the successor to the regular Debut Carbon.  And while there’s no major changes on the surface, one of the criticisms of the popular Debut Carbon (a turntable I had and used quite frequently) was that it wasn’t the most quiet record player on the market.

ProJect has fixed this problem, as the Debut Carbon DC not only has more stable speed but quieter operation, as well.

I’m also a big fan of the Ortofon cartridges, as the Debut Carbon DC comes with the Ortofon 2M Red—a very nice cartridge that’s going to provide you with very warm, appealing sound. 

And should you ever want to upgrade—say to the 2M Blue—it’s super easy to do so and doesn’t even require you to remove the entire cartridge body (something you’d have to do if, for example, you decided to one day buy the 2M Bronze or Black).

This turntable is to set up and operate and, for less than $500, provides you with excellent value for the money.

Rega Planar 2

The Planar 2 was developed as a next-step sort of table from the Planar 1. While the Planar 2 features the same ease of use, it does pack a bit more of a punch than its entry-level contemporary. Like all Rega turntables the style and quality are impeccable, but for those looking to step up their vinyl game a bit, the Planar 2 is a wonderful way to do so without completely breaking the bank.

The Planar 2 was the first Rega table to feature the RB220 tonearm. Rega is big on zero play ball bearings, and have since put it in every table they’ve produced. The tonearm is held by a lightweight bearing with automatic bias that allows the user to ignore manual adapting completely. Other than balancing the tonearm as the user sees fit, this table is also plug and play. The 11mm brass bearing allows for the transfer of potential energy to be controlled, meaning no hums or bumps.

A 24v low noise low vibration motor allows for less distortion and the PCB is one of the smoothest in the market. The platter is a float glass, and at 10mm in optiwhite, it looks fantastic. This is an accurate turntable, which might sound silly, but to be honest, a lot of turntables miss the mark in terms of playback in ways that a casual listener wouldn’t catch. The Planar 2 is a wonderful move for someone starting out that wants a table they won’t feel the need to upgrade in a few years.

In black, white, and a bright blood red, the Planar 2 looks amazing. Redesigned feet and a carbon cartridge make it easy to use and sound great. This turntable is a favorite of many who love the seasoned Rega brand, and to be honest, for many vinylheads in the UK, Rega is a household name for hi-fi turntables and audio. If people catch on in the US, it is likely that there will not be any stopping the Planar 2 from taking over many homes and listening areas.

Project Essential III

The Essential III is honestly my favorite design of any Pro-Ject turntable. Your eye is caught immediately by high gloss coloring, which comes in black, white and red. The price is as attractive as the finish, and it’s a great place to start if you’re not trying to break the bank but want the Pro-Ject experience.

The Essential III offers a variety of enhancements compared to its successful predecessor, the Essential II, and the improvements are worth an upgrade if you own the earlier edition of this line. A diamond-cut aluminum drive pulley signifies stability, whereas the resonance-optimized MDF main platter and MDF chassis help playback stay uninterrupted. The refined, high-precision platter bearing is the largest improvement over the II, and ensures that this table will last you quite a bit of time so long as you care for it.

The Essential III is the audiophile turntable for an entry level price. Setup for playing records is kept very simple, utilizing an included Phono RCA cable, that sounds as if you spent double on the table. The OM10 pickup is created by the phonographic cartridge pioneer Ortofon, ensuring a lively, natural experience when you spin your favorite record.

Vinyl lovers rejoice, we have a high quality table for under $1000, and even under $500. It’s impressive to see such a low table on a list with a threshold of $1000, but if you’re looking for the same qualities in the other tables for a lower price, I’ve included this one as an option that gives you what you need for the price you want. Just because you have $1000 to spend does not mean you have to spend that much to get the quality you would find at the price point.

U-Turn Orbit Plus

This is one of the most affordable record players on this list, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be one of the better options on the market too. 

If you’re somebody that cannot afford a $500 turntable—let alone one that costs $1,000—look no further than the U-Turn Orbit Plus!

Coming in at just a bit under $300, this turntable comes with an acrylic platter that improves speed consistency and playback.  It also comes with a Ortofon OM5E cartridge.  Ortofon is one of my favorite brands when it comes to cartridges, and it’s great to see the Orbit Plus give its entry turntable a cartridge made by this particular brand.

And if you’re somebody that doesn’t solely collect LP’s, you’ll really be able to appreciate the fact that the Orbit Plus records at speeds of both 33 RPM and 45 RPM.  And while some LPs do indeed spin at 45 RPM, the bigger news is that you’ll be able to buy 7” records that require you having a turntable that spins it platter at 45 revolutions per minute. 

Built by hand in Boston, Massachusetts, the Orbit Plus comes in a variety of colors, including white, red, green, black and blue.

Pioneer PLX1000

The DJ quality PLX-1000 direct drive analog turntable is designed for DJs who enjoy the look, feel, and performance of vinyl for music playback. The best part? If you’re not into DJing, this also happens to be one of the easiest tables to use and one of the finest looking tables from the trusted Pioneer brand.

Pioneer PLX-1000

This model offers a highly familiar, user-friendly control layout, high-torque direct drive mechanism, and exceptional audio playback quality. Originally, the PLX-1000 was intended to be combined with a Pioneer professional series DJM mixer for an ideal system for true vinyl enthusiasts. That being said, your sound system will work just fine, and thrive with this state-of-the-art turntable.

The PLX1000 is one of the most stable turntables on the market. The direct drive mechanism of the PLX-1000 provides high-torque meaning you are expected to have peace of mind relating to stable rotation and exceptional control. It’s incredible how this is achieved.

To create a stable experience and prevent vibration, the PLX uses a heavy-mass zinc die-cast chassis for the top section of the player, with a bottom section reinforced for strength and reliability. The base of the unit features a 9-mm thick vibration-damping material that results in extremely stable playback, and to be honest, one of the smoothest listening experiences imaginable. The tone arm also features an impressive build quality and is designed to maximize performance.

The tone arm uses rubber insulation to minimize howling effects during audio playback, so if you have ever heard a hum that sounds like wolf, you will not catch that on the PLX. With an RCA jack for your choice of speakers, you have all the ability to choose how you want to manage your new set-up with this incredible table.

Something I love about the PLX1000 is that it is not only under $1000, but it is also under $800 if you catch it at the right price. For this cost, you need to jump on it as soon as possible. The Pioneer name is one that I love, and nothing exemplifies their incredible craftsmanship more than the PLX1000. That even leaves you a few hundred for some more records!

Denon VL 12

The work that went into designing the Denon VL 12 is very much geared towards DJs, but all fans of exemplar vinyl equipment should be aware of this incredible rig. In many ways, the Denon DJ VL12 attempted to set a new bar as the most superior turntablist technology available today.

From its inception, Denon launched featuring the most optimal acoustic isolation capabilities, able to handle any loud, bass-heavy environment. In the company’s eyes, there’s no classic or control vinyl-based environment or situation the VL12 cannot handle. I’m inclined to agree with them. The design of the VL 12 is futuristic yet somehow harkens back to the golden age of vinyl. Some would argue, however, we are in the golden age.

The VL 12 features state-of-the-art isolation feet that eliminate unwanted vibration and feedback, coupled with one of the highest-in-industry torque ratings. For DJ minded listeners, the table features an innovative easy grip and easy break platter that is meant to redefine what it means to scratch. If you’re looking to avoid scratching, you are in luck as well. With an isolated motor design for an optimal signal-to-noise ratio, the sound is crystal clear from vinyl to speakers, and that might sound like a no-brainer at this price point, but it truly sounds like the table could cost double.

The VL 12 features an S-shaped tone arm for accurate tracking that allows for reinterpreted tone arm support with dual-function lock or rest feature, meaning if you are accidentally leaving your table on, there’s actually a way that it can rest rather than put pressure on your record or the table itself.

The rugged, all-metal tone arm base and high-quality brushed metal controls help your record spin at 33 and 45 rpms. The VL 12 also features a built-in RGB lighting system that illuminates the platter’s edge with user-friendly color selection and brightness controls. The VL 12 is an amazing system for DJs and vinyl heads alike, and it is likely that if you pick this turntable up, you will not be looking for another table for quite some time.

SQ CS-455

German-designed, and German crafted, the SQ brand is one that does not offer a multitude of options from their company. That being said the CS-455 makes it clear that you might not really need multiple tables for customers to choose from if you get it right the first time.

The SQ CS-455 features a Cardan bearing with a jaw-dropping zero-mass tracking force setting. This is possible through a high-precision torsion spring that holds everything still as night. The table includes a removable audio head with 1/2” system mounting, built in a solid wooden frame that is classy and also visually pleasing. With an adjustable tracking force and anti-skating as well as a floating sub-chassis, the insides of this turntable are as impressive as the design and outer looks. The vibration-damped aluminum platter on the CS-455 comes with an antistatic felt mat that eliminates the need to worry about your records while they’re spinning.

A DC motor with electronic speed control allows the viscosity-damped tone arm lift to start and stop at the drop of a pin, or a needle in this case. The CS-455’s automatic tone arm cueing mechanism means that you don’t have to do any work to hear your favorite records, especially in thanks to an auto stop with tone arm return on an Ortofon OMB 10 moving magnetic cartridge. The SQ line is one that might be a bit harder to find in the states, but if you can, it’s worth every penny.

Conclusion

Spending money like this is risky if you do not know what you are spending your money on. This list hopefully serves as a guide to the brands and tables best known for being killer while also costing less than $1000. For some of us, money is a bit more flexible, and we can go above and below that threshold, but if you have a tight budget you cannot break, this is a list you can trust for quality and bang for your buck when searching for a turntable under $1000.

This list is also a great place to reference if you are looking for brands you might like. The tables on this list are of a quality unmatched by most, and it is likely that if you purchase one of these, you will be happy for some time to come. Happy spinning!

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