If you’re relatively new to the world of vinyl records, then you’re probably in search of the best turntables under $300. If so, in this article, I’m going to share with you my top picks for record players that fall under this price point, and discuss what it is about each one that’s worthy of your time and money.
In the table below, take a look at some of the top cheap turntables that we will discuss today. You can compare each record player based on everything from price to key features.
|Audio Technica AT-LP60XBT|
|Audio Technica AT-LP60XBT-USB|
|Audio Technica AT-LP3XBT|
The Best Turntables Under $300 (TLDR)
I think one of the top record players under $300 is the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X. I’m a big fan of this turntable for anyone that’s interested in jumping into the vinyl hobby, but doesn’t want to commit too much time or money initially.
For just $100, you get one of the best fully automatic record players available. It provides a relatively hands off experience, and because it comes with a built in phono preamp, it’s essentially a plug and play record player.
If you have a little more money to spare, I recommend the U-Turn Orbit. Coming in a variety of colors, as well as an awesome glass platter (if you splurge on the U-Turn Orbit Plus), you get a taste of what the affordable audiophile vinyl experience is all about—without having to break the bank.
|Best Selling Turntables|
|1) Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB|
|2) Sony PS-LX310BT|
|3) Audio-Technica AT-LP3|
My very first turntable was the original Audio-Technica AT-LP60 back in 2013, so I have a soft spot for this particular record player. In my eyes, this is a great turntable for beginners because its efficient for the price (about $100), but is also fully automatic record player.
On top of that, it comes with a built in phono pre-amp, which means this beauty is plug and play right out of the box. It’s not the best record player on the market, of course, but I do think it’s one of the best turntables for beginners.
The Audio-Technica AT-LP-60XBT offers the same amazing features and quality as the record player I just discussed above, but the added bonus of the LP-60XBT is its bluetooth technology. Now, you don’t have to be feel beholden or constrained by your traditional wired speakers.
Instead, with the LP-60XBT, you can pair your turntable with a bluetooth speaker and enjoy listening to your vinyl records being played through your wireless speakers.
The great thing about turntables priced under $300 is that they’re going to pack in a lot of convenient operation into the package. And that’s again what we have here in the Sony PS-LX310BT.
Similar to the first two turntables we’ve discussed today, the Sony PS-LX310BT is an automatic record player. It’s also a bluetooth capable player, so whether you have wireless speakers or wireless headphones, you’ll be able to listen and enjoy your vinyl records with ease.
The simple design is ideal for minimalists, and this record player has a built in phono preamp so you can get started spinning your records in no time.
Coming in at roughly $330 on average, the Audio-Technica LP3XBT just might be the best Audio Technica turntable on the sub-$500 market.
Like the previous record players, you get things like automatic operation, bluetooth connectivity and a built in phono preamp. You also get the AT-VM95C cartridge, as well as the AT-HS3 universal headshell.
This Teac turntable comes pre-mounted with the Audio-Technica AT-3600L cartridge. Selling for a little over $200, the TN-180BT gives you a semi-automatic record player that’s plug and play thanks to the built-in phono stage.
|Audio Technica AT-LP60XBT|
|Audio Technica AT-LP60XBT-USB|
|Audio Technica AT-LP3XBT|
Music Hall MMF 2.2
At $299, Music Hall Audio’s most popular rig is strikingly attractive, particularly in gloss black. A very basic, two-speed, belt-drive table, it’s designed for unusually quiet operation and comes pre-packed with a fine Magic 2 cartridge made by Ortofon.
It has a stainless steel and bronze bearing assembly, and its adjustable damping feet do a terrific job of isolating the machine from external vibrations. A bonus is that it nearly comes “plug and play,” so that even a true novice can get it up and running in just a few minutes. No gimmicks or add-ons here: just a true, audiophile-quality table at a price that won’t empty most people’s wallets.
Pro-Ject Debut III
This two-speed, belt-drive Pro-Ject, at a cool $299 street price, comes out of the box with a better-than-decent cartridge, the Ortofon OM-5E, and its steel platter bests the platter in the Music Hall and Pioneer. It also takes a jolt as well as any machine in this price class.
Otherwise, it’s an appealing, no-nonsense, thoughtfully designed, and well-built table that doesn’t put on any airs. It does just what it’s supposed to, and that’s get pleasing and punchy sound out of records – all while treating them gently. A cinch to set up, it’s available in a total of six colors.
This direct-drive table, which can be sniffed out at a low street price of $279, is hugely popular for a number of reasons. For one thing, in silver (it also comes in black), it has a unique, industrial look and includes DJ-style features like pitch control.
For another, it plays at 78 RPM as well as at 33⅓ and 45. For yet another, it comes out of the box with a superior Audio-Technica T95E cartridge. Adding to its value are the presence of a preamp and USB connectivity. Its looks won’t please the eyes of many, but it’s a solid and hefty machine that absolutely means business.
Another two-speed, belt-driven rig, the PL-30-KJ, at $296, is the only automatic record player on our list. It also has a built-in preamp, so it’s clearly aimed at buyers with certain preferences and needs. Sonically, it competes fairly well with the Music Hall and Pro-Ject.
Construction-wise, with its dual-layered chassis, it’s heavier and overall more solid than most tables in its class, a definite plus for listening rooms that have a lot of foot traffic. Obviously, if you have to have automatic and/or the preamp, this is the turntables to buy. Setup is a breeze, aided by an unusually clear and well-written instruction manual.
U-Turn Orbit Plus
The price of this neat little two-speed, belt-driven, made-in-Boston table from the upstarts at U-Turn Audio was substantially cut not that long ago, putting it less than 10 bucks above our ceiling at $309.
Those “extra” few dollars would be well-spent – the Orbit Plus is an attractive and competent machine that includes a very nice cartridge from another all-American company: the Grado Black 1.
It comes in a choice of five colors, but otherwise, it’s nothing fancy: a solid, well-built table that makes pretty music every time. There’s only one slightly sour note: You have to pay extra for a cueing device that raises and lowers the tonearm.
The Ins and Outs of Top Turntables
Since all turntables, irrespective of price, do essentially the same thing, many of them also look about the same. In fact, some can literally appear to be cloned from another model. Regardless of appearance or other considerations, there are some basic and necessary pre-purchase considerations you must make:
Construction. Does the plinth (base) of the rig feel solid? It should be made of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or some type of metal–- no plastic at this price. Give it the knock test – how does it feel? The whole idea here is to minimize resonance and vibration while a record is playing. What about the “feet” the table sits on? Are they going to absorb vibration, or will footsteps in the listening room cause skipping?
The platter: The heaver the platter (the round thing you actually put the record on), the better the record-playing experience will be. The platter also serves to help reduce vibration and ensure a solid link between tonearm, stylus, and record.
Direct or belt: Turntables can be direct or belt-driven. In a belt-driven table, the platter sits on a bearing, and a motor is located to the side; it rotates the platter via a belt.
In a direct-drive rig, the platter is perfect on the motor’s shaft, which means that the machine will start and stop faster. Some say direct-drive units have more consistent speed, but that’s not true in all cases, and the jury is still basically out.
Hands on? Most turntables these days (especially within our price parameter) are operated manually. This means that the user is responsible for making sure that the stylus is placed on the record correctly. The tonearm also has to be lifted at the end of a record side.
Fully automatic means that, by either flicking a switch or pressing a button, the machine does it all – starts the motor, lifts the arm, deposits the needle onto the record, then raises the arm and shuts the table off. Most “audiophile” grade turntables are manual ones; the general belief is that in order to include the automatic mechanism, there has to be scrimping elsewhere.
Cartridge considerations: Virtually all turntables in this price range come with a pre-installed cartridge, the little electronic device that’s fastened to the front of the tonearm. In some cases, the new user might be required to manually balance the arm and set the proper stylus pressure.
Naturally, some turntable makers keep the price down by including a bare-bones cartridge. But, budget-level or not, they typically sound adequate or better, and they can most always be upgraded later on. We recommend looking for a well-known, brand-name stock cartridge.
Extra features. Many tables nowadays include built-in preamplifiers for use with receivers that don’t already have one. Further, a growing number of enthusiasts enjoy converting vinyl record tracks to digital files. To do that, a turntable must have a USB connection. Make sure the table you choose has either or both of these features, depending on need and preference.
Ready, Set, Shop!
“Look it’s a real turntable!”
Buy any of the above machines, and that’s what friends might be saying (or you might be saying to yourself) the first time you cue up and spin a favorite LP. And all five of the machines on our list are indeed the real thing. Can they be considered “high end”? Not quite. Move up the price ladder, and you’ll always find something more pleasing. Music will sound more authentic; the listening experience will be more akin to actually having the musicians in the room, particularly on delicate, mainly acoustic material.
This is why audiophiles are notorious for suffering from a condition informally known as “upgrade-itis.” No matter how much you’ve spent, there is always something newer, something better—a component that will solve a problem, fill in a crack, or repair a perceived defect. But we have to start somewhere, and owning a good-quality turntable that does a solid, reliable job of playing records is an excellent jumping-off point.
Any of the above units will satisfy your initial vinyl cravings and provide a cost-effective gateway to the endlessly delightful world of phonograph records.
Wrapping It Up
As you can see, there are virtually no bad options when it comes to finding some of the best turntables under $300. These entry-level record players strive to remove the complicated barriers to entry that some turntables posses.
Instead of you having to worry about where to drop the needle or how to hook up your speakers, turntable manufacturers provide automatic record players that take a lot of the guesswork and stress out of playing vinyl—allowing you to focus most on the music itself.
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