Are you looking to get an intermediate turntable on a reasonable budget? Perhaps your budget is specific, and you are looking for the best turntables under $500.
Well, look no further, for here arrayed are 8 of the best turntables under $500 available on the oft-over-saturated analog recording market today!
Table of Contents
- What to Look For in the Best Turntables Under $500
- 1. Audio Technica AT-LP3 (Best Balanced)
- 2. Sony PS-LX310BT (Best Minimal)
- 3. Pioneer PL-30-K (Best Custom)
- 4. Music Hall USB-1 (Best USB)
- 5. Crosley C200A (Best Cartridge)
- 6. Gemini TT1100-USB (Best Aesthetic)
- 7. Crosley C100A (Best Classic)
- 8. Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB-BK (Best Best)
- Final Tones
- FAQs Best Turntables Under $500
|Buy Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK
|Buy Sony PS-LX310BT
|Buy Pioneer PL-30-K
|Music Hall USB-1
|Buy Music Hall USB-1
|Buy Crosley C200A
|Buy Gemini TT-1100USB
|Buy Crosley C100BT
|Buy Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB-BK
What to Look For in the Best Turntables Under $500
Sure enough, everyone’s circumstances will be different, but there are a few key things that every audiophile will want to heed before making a big purchase like this.
Plinth & Platter
Though it might not seem like so big a deal, the materials from which the plinth and platter are individually constructed can bear on the overall sound quality produced by the turntable.
This also has to do with what kind of drive a turntable is working with. A turntable in this price range might either be a direct-drive turntable or a belt-drive turntable. Whether one opts for either direct drive vs belt-drive turntables will depend on individual circumstances.
Playing such a central role in an example of the best turntable, the tonearm is still regularly neglected. You can rest assured that a turntable in this price range is going to boast a tonearm that is more than capable of fulfilling its responsibilities.
While turntables in lower price ranges are likely to come with a built-in preamp as standard, turntables at this price range are a little more boutique and thus might require the user to purchase their own separate preamp.
This can be advantageous for those who really like to get down to the nitty-gritty of customizing their sound.
Arguably most important for record players is the cartridge, certainly more important than whether or not you have powered speakers or a USB port.
This is one of the only parts of the turntable that is actually going to touch the record itself, translating the sensitive vibrational data set within the grooves into sound, and so it stands to reason that the better the cartridge that the turntable comes with, the better the overall sound will be.
1. Audio Technica AT-LP3 (Best Balanced)
Audio Technica is a now ubiquitous audiophile brand that is somehow able to offer the best and most balanced sound responses from their products at prices that they hope everyone can afford.
Audio Technica’s journey as an audiophile manufacturer began in earnest at the turn of the 1960s. It was then that Hideo Matsushita – curator of Tokyo’s Bridgestone Museum of Art – would host listening concerts at his place of work where music lovers could experience vinyl listening in the highest possible fidelity with a quality cartridge.
Moved by the positive reactions these listening parties received and, in turn, stirred by the fact that not all could access these record players, Matsushita founded Audio Technica in 1962 so that he might bring this vision of high-quality audio for everyone to some sort of fruition.
And, there have been other turntables besides the ever-present AT-LP60!
- This is a budget-friendly option for those who do not want to skip any of the frills (i.e. Bluetooth connectivity and the ability to connect via USB) while saving a bit of cash.
- With the kind of rich and balanced tonal response that all should be used to from Audio Technica.
- Replete with options to customize the preamp and cartridge to your own liking.
- The tonearm is hydraulically damped, eliding all those frustrating moments of interrupted listening.
- Design can feel a little flimsy in places.
- Lack of customization on the design or appearance.
2. Sony PS-LX310BT (Best Minimal)
Multimedia entertainment monoliths offer this fully automatic turntable designed in the kind of minimal look that will fit just about any interior decoration.
The built-in phono preamp is fully capable of doing justice to the records of your choosing, working alongside the patented Static Balance tonearm to make sure that each listening is as sacred as possible; extraneous vibrations are elided through this ingenious mechanism that can bear the brunt of a whole host of drastic movement outside its shell.
As arguably the most wealthy companies in Japan, the guys over at Sony clearly know a thing or two about the kinds of products they are manufacturing, beginning the manufacture of sound products in the middle of the 20th century.
Their name even comes from the Latin word ‘sonus’, the root for sonic and sound!
- The USB audio output that works alongside the phono capabilities ensures that the discerning millennial ear is not left out of being able to convert their phono files into digital facsimiles.
- This turntable is fully automatic and works with the Static Balance tonearm to deliver two speeds of devastating coverage, as well as with the built-in phono preamp to do some serious damage at any function.
- The tonearm is a little stuff and not so adaptable to the warbles of a warped record.
- The plastic from which this turntable is constructed can feel rather cheap, unlike a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, for instance.
3. Pioneer PL-30-K (Best Custom)
For those looking for an analog sound with a modern touch that can easily fill out every crenellation of a music hall, then look no further than Pioneer, who are doing the turntable justice in the 21st century.
Equipped with a high-torque motor and belt drive capable of keeping up with even the busiest spinning fingers, this is not just a turntable. This is, rather, a vehicle for taking the crowd wherever their hearts seem to desire.
A vehicle that is simultaneously perfectly open to customization, with a universal-type cartridge connector as well as a phono equalizer section included on the turntable.
This means that, even if you have to take just your decks to an event, you will not be left short-changed and will still be able to customize the overall sound to your liking.
- The straight tonearm offers a direct route from the turntable to the sound out front, with no circuitous routes allowed!
- The motor is precise and no-nonsense and will likely hold up for a considerable period of time before needing a service.
- At the behest of a belt-drive that will make light work of a whole series of requests on behalf of the DJ
- The inclusion of a phono EQ on the turntable itself emphasizes the extent to which customization is at the forefront of Pioneer’s ideals.
- Arguably spreads itself a little thin.
- Could offer three main turntable speeds, seeing as it is so bent on offering a custom experience.
4. Music Hall USB-1 (Best USB)
From the great heights of Pioneer and Sony, we are met with a relative newcomer to the turntable game, though one that is no less able for its inexperience.
With an adjustable pitch control, this turntable really is one for the millennial who has fallen in love with a song via the slowed + reverb trend and wants to come as close to recreating it as possible via their own analog technology. Though not altogether so powerful, this pitch control will turn every record collection into a DJ Screw epic.
Best of all with this particular turntable is its innate ability to convert those analog sounds into digital files via its eponymous USB capabilities. This is the domain of many modern turntables, but this one does it a bit better than the rest of them, you see.
- The tonearm’s detachable headshell means that even in the event of damage done to it, the whole turntable will not have to be dispensed with.
- Fully capable built-in preamp.
- Eponymous USB capabilities are a slight cut above the rest, with an MP3 encoder that can do a surprisingly good job of encoding and transferring songs to a computer.
- The adjustable pitch control is a safe haven for DJs everywhere.
- Only two speeds at which to play contrast starkly with other more customizable capabilities of the turntable.
- The simple setup belies the complexity of the software for the uninitiated or inexperienced.
5. Crosley C200A (Best Cartridge)
Another offering from those nostalgiac titans over at Crosley, perfectly able to mimic another classic offering from bygone years of yore, when vinyl was vinyl, and it was spun all night long.
Sidestepping a lot of the issues that have been known to plague some of the other Crosley models – especially their cheaper suitcase-type models of all-in-one record players – this turntable makes use of a cartridge by another brand that we have already come across today.
Audio Technica is well known for its manufacture of audiophile equipment, and this would not be the first company besides Audio Technica to use a cartridge manufactured by Audio Technica.
Many audiophiles even encourage users of Crosleys to replace the cartridge that comes built in from the factory with another, often namely an Audio Technica, so Crosley has cut out the middle man here!
- Inclusion of an Audio Technica cartridge cuts out the middle man and lets the professionals get the job done, providing a moving magnet cartridge that is more than capable of getting the job done.
- The phono preamp that is already installed into the turntable is very easily turned off if you are the kind of listener that likes to more significantly customize the sound of your setup with a separate preamp.
- Crosley is hardly the most trustworthy brand from which to purchase this kind of analog audio equipment, so any acquisitions made from them should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.
6. Gemini TT1100-USB (Best Aesthetic)
This brand, though relatively unknown within the audiophile industry, presents here for us an offering that is more than up to the task. Its aesthetic is firmly planted in the 90s, reminding me even of the turntable my parents would have had back before they pawned their stereo for good times.
Do not let these 90s aesthetics fool you, though, for this is a turntable set firmly in the modern day, offering (as its name suggests) USB connectivity like a lot of the other offerings on this list, and even going so far as to include a copy of Audacity for anyone who does not already have it.
Seeing as this is already free software, it is not exactly the most amazing gift, but it is something to consider for the listener whose boon is convenience in all its guises.
- A classic belt-drive turntable is more than able to get the job done without any questions asked.
- The USB connectivity is decent for this price range
- And the fact that Audacity is included for free will certainly turn the heads of those for whom convenience is king.
- The base of the turntable also features an enclosure that attempts to eradicate and face off the effects of strong external vibrations as much as possible.
- The design, though it might be appealing to some, might not be so appealing to others.
- Likewise, the build quality will not be to everyone’s liking.
7. Crosley C100A (Best Classic)
Slightly less able than the Crosley previously listed, this offering is still a capable piece of kit and one that seeks to replicate the look and feel of classic Marantz turntables from the original vinyl era.
With a needle and cartridge that are manufactured by Crosley themselves, you might want to be careful where you tread with it.
The advice of many audiophiles is to replace a Crosley cartridge as soon as you can, for they are often not properly equipped to do the job and have been known to do some serious damage to people’s record collections when exposed to them for too long; whenever I have heard them playing a record, it has sounded more like an industrial remix.
- Adjustable pitch control makes for an interesting touch for this turntable, one that is scarcely found on a lot of the others in this price range.
- Likewise, the adjustable tonearm weight ensures that the experience can be customized to every living space so that the individual vibrational circumstances of each user are catered to.
- The AUX and phono outputs are important for those who wish to hook their turntable up to multiple different speaker setups.
- Crosley, as ever, is not exactly a brand to load all of your trust into
- And the cartridge is a prime example of this.
8. Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB-BK (Best Best)
Finally, we find ourselves back where we began, with the tried and tested audiophile brand that is simply way ahead of the curve.
For anyone already familiar with the AT-LP60, then you are not going to be too surprised by this offering. Here, Audio Technica simply attempts to expand on what made that original model so great, upgrading all the different features for maximum entertainment profit.
The range of connectivity is exquisite, allowing for Bluetooth, aux, and RCA outputs of all kinds, boasting USB and analog outputs in perfect harmony.
As with the first offering on this list, this turntable plays host to the kind of cartridges that made Audio Technica such a strong and trusted household name in the first place, with their patented Dual Magnet Phono Cartridge doing bits on the decks.
- Firm and robust multimedia connectivity offers everything spanning the entire spectrum of USB and analog output.
- Can play each of the three main record speeds: 33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm, and 78 rpm.
- The AT-VM95E Dual Magnet™ Phono Cartridge does justice to just about any style of music you put to it, offering forth a rich yet balanced frequency response guaranteed to turn heads.
- Offers light sensor pitch adjustment, so that you can be sure that the platter is spinning at the right speed whenever.
- Easily the most expensive turntable on the entire list.
So, there you have it!
Hopefully, you have left here today with at least a vague idea of where you want to go with regards to buying your own turntable with a reasonable budget.
FAQs Best Turntables Under $500
What’s a good entry level turntable?
For an entry-level turntable, you cannot really go wrong with a turntable by Audio Technica, especially their AT-LP60. Coming in at only $150 (or thereabouts), this is an affordable turntable that will offer considerable bang for your buck. And it is tried and tested – just try to find a college dorm room without one!
What is the best record player to get?
Choosing the right record player for you depends on your unique circumstances and budget. If you’re looking for a record player that costs under $100 and functions well, then the ION Audio Max maybe your top pick. However, if you have a larger budget, purchasing a turntable and all the other necessary components for a complete stereo setup might be more worthwhile.
Is Crosley record player good?
Crosley is the brand that manufactures record players, and the record players that they do manufacture are not very good, no. With some adjustments, they can be made to be as good as a competitor record player like the ION Audio Max, though that is not really saying much. Arguably the two most important parts of a record player, the cartridge and speakers, tend to be sub-standard on Crosley record players, so unless you are ready and willing to replace this cartridge and outsource the audio to a set of external speakers (and simply use the Crosley as a turntable cum intermediary of sound) then a Crosley is not going to be a good record player.
What is the difference between a record player and a turntable?
The difference in terminology might not seem all that important, especially since both terms get bandied about interchangeably without much clarity, but knowing the differences between them could save you a hell of a lot of trouble in the long run. So, where a turntable is that which spins the record and reads the data imbibed within the record’s grooves, the record player is the entire unit itself. A record player will include the turntable as part of it, whereas a turntable is simply part of the record player as a larger concept. Of course, a lot of people do not really pay heed to this distinction these days, so I suppose it is worth taking it with a pinch of salt.
Are cheap record players any good?
I suppose it depends where you go and from whom you purchase them, as well as what you expect to get out of owning a record player. If you are looking for a listening experience that is going to expand how you hear a piece of music or album, then you can do better than simply using a cheap all-in-one record player.
Is vinyl really better?
Presumably this is an attempt to get a comment about the dichotomy between vinyl technology and digital technology. Neither is inherently better than the other, both offering different things. Digital technology is better for a more wide frequency response, though it can sound clinical and is literally made up of binary 1’s and 0’s converted into sound.