Whether you’re a newcomer to the world of vinyl looking to jump in head first, or a more seasoned veteran ready to take the next step up from a beginner record player, the U-Turn Orbit is a highly formidable piece of equipment. U-Turn Audio is an independent, American company that does all their own design and engineering to provide quality audio equipment made by music fans, for music fans, at an inclusive price point.
Getting their start in 2012, the company first launched its flagship product, the Orbit turntable, on Kickstarter amid overwhelmingly positive feedback and has retained popularity among audiophiles worldwide. U-Turn’s commitment to providing a high-caliber product is evident through their rigorous 15-point quality control test that each of their hand-built turntables must pass, along with a listening test conducted by one of their technicians, all before it ever reaches the consumer’s shelf.
In this U-Turn Orbit turnable review, we’re going to dive deep into all of the pros and cons this record players offers consumers. We’ll help you figure out if this is a good turntable for beginners, and whether or not its worth its price tag (approximately $180).
Below, please take a moment to view our interactive guide, which lets you directly compare the U-Turn Orbit to other popular turntables on today’s market:
|U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus||$$||★★★★||Machined Acrylic Platter|
|Rega RP1||$$||★★★||Rega Carbon MM Cartridge|
|Music Hall MMF 1.5||$$||★★★★★||Built-In Phono Preamp|
|Audio Technica AT-LP60||$||★★★★||Fully Automatic|
|Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC||$$||★★★★||8.6" Carbon Tonearm|
|Pioneer PL-990||$||★★★★||Full-Automatic Operation|
|Audio-Technica AT-LP120USB||$$||★★★★||USB Direct Drive|
The Orbit’s Features and Options
With a budget-friendly base price of $179, the U-Turn Orbit basic model offers some impressive features for an affordable record player that are easily customized when ordering, or at any point later on.
The included Audio-Technica CN5625AL moving magnet cartridge with diamond-tipped, conical stylus and aluminum cantilever comes pre-calibrated and installed, cutting initial set up time down to minutes out of the box.
However, U-Turn offers a number of options to upgrade this piece, which typically makes the biggest difference in sound quality, making it the obvious first choice for an upgrade. Additionally, the fact that an upgraded cartridge will be professionally tested and installed makes it even more tempting to do so, whereas if upgrading later, the customer is on their own and this process can be difficult or tedious for a beginner.
Customers have the option to upgrade their cartridge to an Ortofon OM 5E for an added $35, a Grado Black1 for $55, an Ortofon 2M Red for $75 or an Ortofon 2M Blue for $211, each increasing in quality parallel to price.
A low-resonance black MDF, or medium density fiberboard, platter, which rides on an inverted main bearing, provides a stable and consistent bed for records to lay on and spin evenly under the needle. This can be upgraded to an acrylic platter for an added $75 offering a higher density, which allows for more inertia, creating even better speed consistency leading to a cleaner, more detailed sound.
Not to mention a sleek, futuristic look. A simple black, felt mat is also provided with either platter. The base model includes a precision gimbal tonearm, which is defined by a fixed pivot point in the back, allowing the tonearm to pivot laterally and vertically to handle any slight warps in vinyl the user may encounter. U-Turn’s take on this common feature also provides accurate tracking and low distortion via an internal anti-skate mechanism and adjustable counterweight.
The headshell has an ergonomic handle used to manually raise and lower the stylus. However, the tonearm can be upgraded to include a discreet, silicone-damped cue lever for an additional $40, providing smoother tonearm operation that is especially useful when attempting to drop the needle at a particular point on a record with precision.
The base model allows the option to choose between black, blue, green, red and white for the wooden base, or plinth, of the turntable, which measures in at 17 inches by 13 inches. The special model’s most noticeable upgrade is its solid hardwood plinth with choice of flat-cut maple or rift walnut, along with several other upgrades, for a more substantial price point of $459.
The plinth sits atop 3 solid rubber feet ensuring minimal external vibrations and helping to avoid skips and other distortions in playback. The Orbit utilizes an external belt drive that minimizes noise from the AC motor, which is mounted on the back corner under the plinth and provides consistent speeds. The speed can be switched from 33 to 45 RPM by shifting the belt along a groove in the motorized pulley while remaining snugly wrapped around the platter.
Because there are no buttons to switch speed, the only physical button or switch on the Orbit is the on/off switch located on the front left corner of the plinth, surrounded by a crisp metal outline. Each of U-Turn’s turntables includes a thick, clear plastic dust cover that is hinged, removable and stylish, along with an AC adapter and RCA cables to fit the open RCA ports located in the back of the turntable to connect to speakers or an amplifier.
What the base model most notably does not include is a preamp, which may be necessary depending on your setup, but one of U-Turn’s own preamps can be built in for an additional $70.
Below, take a moment to view some of the best-selling turntables on Amazon, and see how well they compare to the U-Turn Orbit:
- Audio-Technica AT-LP60
- Project Debut Carbon DC
- Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB
- Fluance RT81
- Rega Planar 1
The Orbit’s Strengths
The Orbit features some unique qualities that make it a great choice within its price range.
At $179, the U-Turn Orbit base model is significantly cheaper than turntables of similar quality.
U-Turn is a company you can feel good about supporting. They put a lot of care into their product, making most of its components themselves in America and making their product available, inclusive and intuitive to a wide audience.
The Orbit offers an unprecedented amount of options to customize your turntable to your liking before you buy it, and it’s easy to upgrade on your own later if you wish.
When you drop the needle on your record, the record is all you’ll hear. U-Turn meticulously designed the Orbit so that there is virtually no sound that emanates from any other aspect of the turntable.
You can expect the Orbit to last for years and years, with users raving of its durability. If you do run into any issues, U-Turn offers a 2 years warranty, a 30-day return policy and a friendly, helpful customer service team.
Although the positives far outweigh the negatives of the Orbit’s design, the manual, external belt drive is regarded as the most frustrating feature by far. Depending on your collection, you may rarely have to shift speeds from 33 to 45 rotations per minute, or RPM, however, doing so does require some finesse, focus and a steady hand.
In order to adjust speed, the elastic belt that wraps around the platter and pulley must expand to fit a wider radius to increase speed. This step is relatively simple but returning to the more common setting of 33 RPM can be a struggle. Once the belt has expanded to fit the 45 RPM setting, it can be difficult to get it to snugly fit around the platter and can take some concentration, and several attempts, to return it to its original state.
In order to minimize the time it takes for the belt to resume its size, you can return it to the 33 RPM setting as soon as possible once you’ve finished listening to your 45 RPM records.
U-Turn Orbit vs Audio Technica AT-LP120
When comparing turntables within its price range, the Orbit’s budget-friendly price, quality construction and ease of upgradability outshine the competition. In comparison to the AT-LP120-USB, the Orbit’s base price of $179 is significantly lower than the $299 price tag of the LP120, but Audio Technica does offer some extra features that may be tempting, depending on your preferences and intended usage.
In terms of sound quality, reports are generally similar, that both turntables provide high quality playback. Aesthetically, both turntables offer their own unique design- the Orbit utilizing a minimalist, clean approach and the AT a more modern, sleek and futuristic style. However, the biggest difference in features is that the AT-LP120 utilizes a direct drive motor, which allows users to shift between 33,45 and 78 RPM and even play records in reverse with the touch of a button rather than manually adjusting the Orbit’s belt.
The LP120 also includes a selectable internal stereo phono pre-amplifier whereas U-Turn offers the ability to upgrade your turntable to include one, which may or may not be necessary depending on your setup and other audio components, along with a USB port allowing users to convert recordings of their vinyl to Mp3 format. Both turntables are high quality for the price, but depending on your preferences, the extra features the AT-LP120-USB’s $120 higher price tag offers may not be necessary.
U-Turn Orbit vs Pro-Ject Debut Carbon
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon offers a nearly identical design, with a few more color options, to the U-Turn Orbit for more than twice the price at $399, but upon closer inspection, there are some noticeable differences. Again, this turntable features a direct belt drive in comparison to the Orbit’s manual drive, which offers some increased stability and convenience, but can be considered more of a luxury than a necessity.
The Pro-Ject’s most notable feature is the included Ortofon 2M red cartridge, which offers a huge difference in sound quality from the Orbit base model’s included Audio-Technica CN5625AL cartridge, but U-Turn does offer the ability to upgrade to the Ortofon 2M red for $75. The Debut Carbon draws its name from its carbon fiber tone arm, which boasts a fuller and richer sound, but for an additional $220, it can be difficult to justify.
U-Turn Orbit vs Rega RP1
The Rega RP-1 has a design very similar to both the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon and the U-Turn Orbit, but with a much higher price point at $475, nearly $300 higher than the Orbit’s base model. The RP-1 and the Orbit both utilize a manual belt drive. The Orbit’s being external, making it slightly easier to adjust to switch speeds, producing less motor noise and offering more consistency in regard to speed.
The Rega does not offer any options to customize, whereas U-Turn provides several choices for many of its features. When comparing tonearms, the RP-1’s RB101 tone-arm offers maximum stiffness and a three-point mounting system to minimize vibrations and sound distortions. This, combined with Rega’s Carbon MM Cartridge, does provide a sharper sound, deeper bass and more midrange.
However, U-Turn’s upgradeability makes it easy to select a customized cartridge to improve sound quality, any one of which will still be cheaper than the cost of the Rega RP-1.
- You can read our review of the Rega RP1 here.
The U-Turn Orbit’s low price, thoughtful design and numerous options for upgrades make it a smart choice when comparing it to turntables of relative quality and price. There are turntables out there for a similar price that offer options that the Orbit does not, but if you’re just jumping into the world of vinyl for the very first time, I think there’s a great chance that you’ll be incredibly happy with the U-Turn Orbit as your new turntable.
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