Those who love it say there’s just nothing like it. The sound of the arm lifting. That gentle, whispering hiss, emanating from the speakers as the needle slowly lowers and makes contact with the surface of the record. The warmth of the vibrating sound as the record spins along. Even the deliberate act of choosing a record and putting it on the turntable is part of the enjoyment—as opposed to the far less visceral experience of just turning on an algorithm-generated playlist from Pandora or Spotify.
Yes, vinyl is back in vogue, and if you’re interested in purchasing your very first record player, there’s a good chance you want to get one that’s affordable. And, if your budget is tight, you’re probably looking for an all-in-one turntable—meaning, a record player with built-in speakers.
Below, please use the interactive table that showcases a variety of the most affordable record players with speakers on today’s market.
|Audioengine HD3||$||aptX Bluetooth connectivity|
|Edifier R1280DB||$||Powered Bookshelf Speakers w/Bluetooth|
|Kanto TUK||$$$||Built-in USB DAC + headphone amp|
|Edifier R1700BT||$||Bluetooth Powered Speakers|
|Kanto YU2||$||Built-in USB DAC|
|Kanto YU4||$$||Integrated Bluetooth w/aptX Technology|
In this article, I’ll break down what you should most be looking at feature-wise in finding a quality record player with speakers, while also factoring in a modest budget. I’ll then recommend a few record players that I think fit the bill, and provide you with what I think their pros and cons are in terms of what they offer you value-wise.
Finding an Affordable Turntable Today
Pronounced “dead” in the late eighties/early nineties (obsoleted by the far more sexy and “advanced” digital formats like CDs and later MP3s), vinyl has made a dramatic and unexpected come back in recent years. Storefronts as diverse as Urban Outfitters, Target, Amazon and eBay reflect this surging customer demand, each filled with a wide variety of choices for both nostalgic audiophiles and a new generation of newcomers to the hobby.
But while the pleasures of the vinyl may be fairly easily understood, the process of choosing that first record player can be considerably less pleasurable. Indeed, the sheer number of options can be daunting to the uninitiated, leaving many entry level record player buyers bewildered and intimidated. With an alphabet soup of vaguely confusing terms (what’s a pre amp? USB outputs? Bluetooth inputs? Is a record player different from a turntable?) at hugely varying price points, ranging from $25 up to many thousands of dollars, its hard to know even where to begin in this crowded space.
The good news is that its not actually that complicated to know what to look for, and there are a variety of affordable options under $150, and even $100, that will have you singing along to your favorite songs in no time.
|Best Selling Turntables|
|1) Denon DP300F|
|2) Audio Technica AT-LP3|
|3) Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO|
Good Beginner Record Players
Generally speaking, “all-in-one,” plug and play solutions are some of the best beginner record players if you’re looking for convenience. These systems integrate the basic elements of a home audio system, which can play records, so you don’t have to buy each part of the system individually, nor do you have to worry about dealing with complicated setups.
But buyer, beware—you can’t have everything and there are certain inherent downsides to the all-in-one concept in general. While they may have the advantage in being turnkey solutions that can save you both time and money, it also brings sacrifices in other areas, primarily sound quality and overall reliability/expandability.
There are a few basic elements to an all-in-one system and a couple of variable elements:
The turntable + tone arm, which holds the cartridge/stylus (i.e. the record needle). This is the component mechanism for actually playing the record.
Pre-amps/amplifiers. This is the central component, which takes the sound from the turntable (and any other component mechanisms) and feeds them to the speakers.
The speakers are the place the sound actually comes out, of course.
Other component playback parts can integrate into the overall system in varying degree, either directly or by means of an additional input. This might be AM/FM radio tuners, CD or cassette players or a 3.5 inch auxiliary jack for your iPhone, but also “smart” digital inputs like USB or Bluetooth.
Different output options, which might include a simple headphone jack, support for additional external speakers or the more advanced digital recording to the PC or USB.
What To Know Before You Buy
Much of what makes a model “the best” depends on what is important to you as a music consumer and how you plan on using your system.
Here are five good questions to ask yourself as you start researching your purchase:
- How important is sound quality to me?
Is this a first record player for your teenager who isn’t too particular about high fidelity nuances (yet)? Or is this a record player for the living room, where you may be more likely to be playing jazz records for guests after a dinner party, and you are seeking a little more high quality sound?
- What else do I want listen to besides my records?
Are you more likely to listen to FM radio alongside your records? Do you have a big CD collection you still want to keep in the mix as you branch out to vinyl? Or maybe you listen to a lot of podcasts and it would be nice to be able to stream from your phone or computer.
- Where will the record player “live”?
Is this going to be in one stationary spot? Or is it something you’ll be pulling out for backyard parties? Different models will be able to cater more to the different settings.
- Is expandability important to me?
Do you want to have a system you can “build on” as technology and your needs evolve? Do you think you might want to add speakers down the road? Are you someone who likes new gadgets that you may want to integrate with your home audio/turntable system?
- Will I want to digitize my collection?
Do you have a lot of old albums you want to convert into the digital format, like an MP3? Most vinyl coming out today already includes some kind of free digital download, so you may not need this ability.
Comparing the Models
This overview rates five of the top selling, budget, all-in-one turntables, from some top manufacturers, to get a sense of what you can get for your money at the entry level, and how the players stack up against each other. As discussed above, this is a case where “the best” is truly a subjective measure. Still, this should give you a good footing to start doing your own research and choose the best model for your needs.
There are five key areas used to assess the relative merits and drawbacks the various model:
- Feature Set
- Sound Quality
These combined factors yield the ultimate star rating, with 1 star being terrible and 5 stars being the best.
Recommended Affordable Record Players
Overall, you can divide the affordable, entry-level models into two categories: either under $100, or $100-$150. The main difference between the two categories is the ability to digitize your records and have advanced input/output features like a USB, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
But this is not always the case—with some models offering a greater feature set, though sacrificing overall quality and reliability.
In general, you can see the different models of player appealing to different niches of use. This means the right model for you depends on accurately identifying your needs as a user, then comparing how the top brands stack up in those areas.
Here’s how the models fared:
1. Pyle Bluetooth PTCD54UB
An extremely full-featured, all-in-one system with some of the best sound quality—while still retaining the budget price. One of the few to include cassette playback (itself a growing trend), Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (bringing an immediate level of interesting possibilities for future “connected home” options), as well as the more “standard” basic all-in-one options like AM/FM radio, CD/Cassette, USB output, RCA line in for IPhone and MP3 playback, headphone jack–also the only system that includes Wi-Fi compatibility.
This record player also has these other notable attributes:
- Pyle is known for its excellent sound quality in general.
- Pleasant retro vintage design suitable for a living room environment.
- Higher relative price point than other models.
- More components offer more potential for things not working.
- Not good for the portable environment.
- Basic no-nonsense design suitable for many environments.
- Many advanced digital extras like MP3 and USB compatibility not usually found at the sub-$100 price point.
- Offers battery operation, though this requires 8 C batteries.
- Turntable + digital options only; no radio or CD options.
- Sturdy housing for the system offers secure portability at a low price point.
- Feature rich with integrated AM/FM/CD/Cassette, USB output for recording to digital, RCA line in for IPhone and MP3 playback and headphone jack. Also includes Bluetooth playback capability.
- Some of the very best sound quality due to its higher end speakers.
- No support for external speakers.
- Classic Victrola retro vintage design
- Not suitable for the portable environment.
4. Innovative Technologies Victrola Aviator 6-in-1
- A slightly cheaper model of the 8-in-1 which does not include USB or AM radio
- Still some of the very best sound quality due to its higher end speakers.
- Includes USB and MP3 playback as well as support for external speakers.
- Classic Crosley retro vintage design.
- Maximum suitability for the portable environment.
You can also read our article entitled: Ranking the Best Crosley Record Players on the Market
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