If you are new to the world of vinyl records or if you’ve simply come back after being gone for a long time, you may be very surprised to learn exactly how much has changed in a supposedly “dead” and “obsolete” market. In all the years that vinyl has not been in the mainstream spotlight, a dedicated and passionate market has helped fund further improvements to the technology.
The turntables of today sound better and are more reliable than ever before. It also means that even the cheapest modern turntable can trade blows with the most expensive equipment from the 50s, 60s and 70s. What may also surprise you is how many options there are. It’s almost like most companies never really stopped making these products and just started ramping up with new demand.
There are also turntables available at every price-point you can imagine – from $50 players sold en masse at chain stores to $5000 audiophile units that you’ll find gracing the tables of the very wealthy or the very obsessed. Regardless of how much money you have in your budget for a record player, knowing how to spend that money can be a daunting task. So I’ve put together a few price categories based on the budget points most people are searching for. Because these are the budget caps people seem to look for most often, it makes sense to select products that best fit each category.
For each price category, I have selected an overall winner that has a full review linked to from this page. I’ve also highlighted two alternatives to the top choice in each price category in case the product I think is best doesn’t quite float your boat.
Don’t forget to check out both my turntable buyer’s guide and article going over the basic parts of the turntable. If you’ve never used a turntable before you may also want to have a look at my article on how to operate one the right way.
So without further ado, let’s start off by looking at the best budget options you can order right now.
The Best Turntables Under $100
Who would have thought that the 21st century would see the comeback of vinyl? Well, for whatever reason, it’s happening. You’ll have a hard time buying a CD player these days, but the market is overflowing with turntables.
This sub-$100 market space is especially hot, since lots of people want to try out this new old craze, it seems. Which is why this is where we have to be the most vigilant, since the fly-by-night outfits are targeting this the hardest.
Still, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get a great product for less than a hundred bucks. So here I’ve tried to pick out which turntable I think gives you the most for your money, with two alternatives to cover the scope of needs.
Top Pick: Audio Technica AT-LP60BK
You can’t really go wrong with an Audio Technica product, in my experience. They make some of the best audio gear on a per-dollar basis on the market. Their microphones are good enough for the best productions and their mainstream products are rarely unimpressive.
However, you may not know that they actually made a name for themselves as a world-leader in vinyl magnetic cartridge manufacture. Some of the best historical turntables have been equipped with Audio Technica components.
This affordable, entry-level unit looks the business, and most people would have no idea that it was a $100 player. The sound is solid, as we expect from Audio Technica.
This is a unit with a built-in, switchable preamp. This means you can immediately connect it to a component amp or set of active speakers.
This is a fairly complete system with little reason to go for something else at this price point. It is a pity that you can’t play 78 RPM records, but for most people this is not a big issue.
It’s amazing that you can get something with such good numbers for so little; the Audio Technica is a true bargain. The only notable sacrifice is a lack of USB interface and MP3 encoder, which at this price point is a popular feature. Luckily, if that’s important to you, my next choice has you covered.
The Next Best Thing: ION Audio Max LP Turntable
ION may not have the pedigree of Audio Technica, but they were modern providers of turntables long before the current craze hit. I remember how they brought these all-in-one digital converter record players to market for a good price that would let people preserve their LPs as MP3 files.
This is an extension of that original concept, but they have refined their product considerably from those early, plasticky days.
You can have this in woodgrain or piano black, both of which look pretty good. A lot of new record players have a nasty woodgrain mock finish, but this is not overdone and I like it. The two speakers are nicely integrated with those chrome rings just pulling it all together.
This supports all three speeds, so you can play those 78RPM LPs, and of course you can listen on headphones or convert to file with USB.
It’s got RCA outputs, AUX inputs, and of course a USB connector on the back. I can’t find any specs on SNR or other finer details, but reports from people who own these show that the sound is pretty good. You can connect external speakers, as the built-in ones are just passable.
I honestly think that this is the best standalone player you can get for this budget segment.
Something Different: Spectra Studebaker
Both of the products above are excellent, but they are also rather modern in their styling. If you were looking for something that looked like it could be from yesteryear, this may be more up your alley.
My expectations for the sound on this is basically that it should be listenable. It’s just over half as expensive as the other two units on this page and packs in some extras, so quality may not be the top priority.
The looks of this is spot on. If you want something that looks 50s or even older then this is a pitch-perfect interpretation. Of course, back then nothing this small could do as much. This has two built-in speakers, stereo radio, and a 3-speed turntable.
The antique wooden case design is pretty awesome, if that’s your thing. I’ve seen others that have tried to evoke this look, but only end up being deeply unattractive. This is not that.
So how does it sound? Well, as long as you keep the volume down to a reasonable level, the sound is OK. It’s not great, but if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, need that retro look, and would just like to listen privately to some LPs every now and then, this is a pretty decent choice.
The Best Turntables Under $200
Once you move over the $100 dollar mark into the zone below $200, the choices you have to make are more than a little weird.
For the sub-$100 record players the choice is pretty clear – decent audio OR vintage gimmicks. However, at this price point we have the tantalizing possibility of something that both looks vintage and sounds good, but there is no guarantee that this is what you’ll get.
Let’s get to the good stuff. Here are what I think are the best record players under $200.
Top Pick: Electrohome Signature
The Signature immediately caught my eye as a lovely tribute to mid-20th century home audio design. While nothing back then was quite this compact, the Signature manages to capture the spirit of that era. When it came to pure looks I was immediately sold on the Electrohome.
This is also much more than a turntable. It includes the ability to play MP3s, CDs, AUX inputs, and radio – which makes it a perfect choice as a stylish all-in-one solution for a bedroom or study where space is at a premium.
Aesthetics and purity all play into whether this is the turntable for you. I loved it as a total package, but if you are only interested in getting a vinyl player, then my second choice may be closer to what you need.
You can read my full review of the Electrohome Signature here
The Next Best Thing: Fluance High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable
If you are in this budget range and you are not particularly bothered about vintage looks and all the other bells and whistles that products like the Electrohome Signature provides, and if you would rather have something that only focuses on sound quality for the money, then this turntable from Fluance seems to fit the bill.
It has a weighted tone arm, diamond-tipped needle, anti-vibration feet, aluminum platter, and a nice Texas Instruments preamp.
Fluance says their goal is to provide audio as true to the recording as possible. They’ve even included questionable features such as gold-plated RCA connectors.
Interestingly, the cartridge itself is from Audio Technica, which is generally recognized as one of the top phono cartridge makers in the world.
Does all of this Hi-Fi bluster add up to anything? The answer to that seems to be a resounding “Yes”. This turntable is the result of a Kickstarter, it seems, and the mission of that project was to give people the quality they crave without costing the earth. This turntable is cut down to the bone, only providing the minimum you need to listen to your vinyls, but every component has been carefully selected to chase that higher audio fidelity level, and it shows in the high level of customer satisfaction this product has accumulated.
It’s hard to decide whether something like this or the Electrohome should be “best”. Does best mean having the best audio quality at the cost of all else? If that were the case this should be at the top of the list. If that’s your priority then consider this my main pick. If, on the other hand, you are a more laid-back listener and not a budget audiophile, the Signature may be a better overall choice.
Third Place Thrills: Audio-Technica AT-LP60-USB
If you have already read my sub-$100 turntable page then you’ll find this turntable very familiar. Yes, an almost identical and slightly-cheaper product took first place in my budget list. Since both of the other products I have highlighted here are right at the edge of the $200 price point I thought I should reserve some space for the lower $50 in the price range.
This is the same excellent, no-nonsense Audio Technica turntable I reviewed before. Everything I had to say there applies here. This is a solid little record player with an excellent signal-to-noise ratio for the money. It’s not as good as the Fluance, which uses an Audio Technica cartridge, but it does have other better-quality components that elevate the audio further. Just remember that this is about $70 cheaper than the Fluance.
The big difference between this and the $100 version is the addition of USB MP3 capture. As I have said before, this is a great feature if you have old LPs that you want to put on your iPod or something. It’s also a feature that the Fluance does not have.
Overall, between these three options you should have no trouble finding something that balances features with quality for this budget range.
The Best Turntables Under $300
In this price-range we are hitting what I like to think of as “serious” money. Even fairly well-heeled buyers will think twice about spending $300 on, well, anything really. This price point takes us out of the impulse-buy zone and into the “Now I have to think about it” zone.
Choosing the “best” here is pretty tricky. As far as I can tell, most of the vintage aesthetic gimmicks are gone and turntables at this price are more about getting down to business. That’s not to say you can’t find ones that are styled to look like products from years past, just that it’s not that “in your face” anymore.
So let’s see what I think you should buy with three crisp Benjamins in your pocket.
Top Pick: Audio Technica LP-120BK-USB
This choice of turntable may lead you to immediately get a sense of deja vu from further up this page. Yes, this is a very similar turntable to my top pick for the $100 niche, and it’s essentially the same turntable but with several key components upgraded.
It still has that high-end component Hi-Fi look to it, which I personally enjoy. I actually don’t like these hinged dust-covers, but they are very practical and keep everything in better shape, so I shouldn’t complain too much.
This is a great, neat and straightforward turntable. It has all the positive attributes I liked in its little brother, but brings in the ability to also play 78 RPM records. It’s got better pitch control, better wow and flutter control, and a better platter and motor. The signal-to-noise ratio is not much better, but thanks to better tonearm design and marginal improvements across the board, the sum total is something that sounds noticeably better, not than just its $100 brother, but than most other players in this price range.
You can read my full review here
The Next Best Thing: TEAC TN-300 Analog Turntable
TEAC is a name that every audio nerd should know. They may not be as prominent now as they once were, but they are still a major global maker of audio equipment. In the 1970s and 1980s TEAC was one of THE names in high-end audio. These days you are also likely to find really cheap products bearing the name, as they’ve moved into larger markets.
The first thing I’d like to say is that this just looks absolutely lovely. The cherry model in particular is gorgeous, mixed with those shiny chrome parts. For once I actually don’t like the black version of a turntable the most. The TN-300 looks as warm as vinyl is meant to sound.
It’s also able to look classic and modern at the same time, which is quite a feat.
This is a two-speed unit that comes with USB encoding, an Audio Technica cartridge and built-in preamp. Essentially it’s a higher-end version of the sort of all-in-one turntables you get further up this page.
It has to be pointed out that this turntable now comes in at under the $300 mark, but started out at a much higher price. Outside the U.S. I still see it going for more, but in the U.S. it seems to be stuck under that price point, which is great for us.
This is a fully manual table, which clearly sets it apart from cheaper machines and even ones with equal pricing.
In terms of sound quality, people are putting it up against the likes of the Debut Carbon, so on an audiophile level it punches above its price class. The reason that I can’t make it my top choice in this category is the fact that it isn’t as user-friendly as the Audio Technical. At this price point we aren’t accommodating audiophiles, but people who want an easy-to-use record player that sounds good. The TN300 hits one of those. If, however, you are an audiophile with very little money (in audiophile terms, at least) this should be your number one choice.
Last but Not Least: Teac LP-R550USB
You’ll notice that I tend to put these new sort of Hi-Fi all-in-one units as third choices and there’s a reason for that. The fact of the matter is that if you are spending $300 on a turntable that also includes things that are not strictly part of the turntable’s parts, you are buying a cheaper turntable.
And yet, I have to keep in mind that there are people out there that may only have this amount to spend as their total budget and either have to buy an integrated unit like this or nothing at all.
Under those rules I tend to actually like these sorts of integrated systems. As a rule, the actual turntable that you get is going to be one tier lower than the competition. But you get a more complete solution, especially since many of us simply don’t own component systems anymore, sticking with a mobile device coupled to a decent set of wireless speakers.
This unit is classic TEAC and reminds me of some of the best stuff that the company has done. The design is lovely and gives you just about all the play options you could want. Tape, FM/AM, CDs, and USB.
It’s a 3-speed unit that can amazingly burn recordings directly to CD. You really don’t need a computer at any stage here. You can also record from just about all the sources, including radio.
The unit also includes speakers with a bass reflex system, so not a true subwoofer.
I can’t help but think this would be something that I’d love to get as a gift. It’s one of the most completely vintage audio solutions I’ve seen and, while the sound quality may not be astounding, it’s more than adequate. A great third choice.
The Best Turntables Under $500
What is audiophilia? A “philia” is a deep love for something. An audiophile is someone who loves sound so deeply that they’ll spend sums non-audiophiles would consider crazy in order to get the very best experience. We normal mortals may have a hard time hearing the difference those products bring, but for these purists there is no substitute.
The $500 niche is the entry-level for audiophile-class players and this is also where most casual listeners are going to draw the line. In this niche we no longer care much about things like vintage aesthetics and give much more attention to technical issues and design decisions that make a difference to audio quality.
This is where the market narrows and the sales figures go down. This is where many players become works of art in themselves. So welcome to the audiophilia gateway.
Top Pick: Pro-Ject – Debut Carbon DC
I absolutely fell in love with the Debut Carbon before I had even read a single fact about it. There is just something about PRO-JECT’s design philosophy that works for me. It also helps that this is the all-black unit, which means it is slick as all heck.
If you aren’t that cool, there are many other colors to choose from, but no matter the color that you decide on, this is a beautiful, minimal turntable that is designed to give you as much listening pleasure as is feasible at this price point.
The big selling points are the carbon tonearm and Ortofon 2M Red cartridge. PRO-JECT always manages to be very smart about where the money goes and these components are supported by other high-quality parts such as the lovely heavy platter.
The signal-to-noise ratio makes a mockery of those cheaper Audio Technica units and there’s barely any wow, flutter, or rumble. For the average person who really wants to experience the unique warmth of vinyl, this is the point where all the hype begins to deliver for real.
You can read my full review of the Debut Carbon here
The Next Best Thing: Music Hall MMF 2.2LE
Music hall has been around since 1985, but like with most other niche audio brands most people have never heard of it. If you turn a few pages in audiophile-centric magazine, however, you’ll notice that components made by Music Hall feature in many top component lists.
The company focuses almost exclusively on high-end stereo-channel components and do much more besides turntables, which they manufacture themselves.
This MMF 2.2LE is actually quite a way down from the top of their product range, which tells you what sort of market segment these guys are shooting for.
Unlike the RPM 5.1, I would hesitate to use words like “elegant” or “beautiful” when it comes to describing the MMF 2.2, but that’s just personal preference. It also has minimalist sensibilities, but looks more utilitarian to me than artistic. I saw three available color variations, and of the lot the black and white looks best. I just don’t dig that red finish.
Music Hall highlights the fact that the platter on this turntable is dynamically balanced, which means that material has been added or removed after casting to even out any balance issues. I’m not sure this should be a feature, however, since with low-rpm devices such as record players, balancing is only really needed if the casting is of poor quality. I’ll be charitable and assume that music hall does the balancing to improve on an already well-balanced platter.
The platter also runs on a precision-machined axle and bearing, with a precisely adjustable tonearm – all of which point to a system that should give really high-fidelity reproductions.
Music Hall describes this $400+ turntable as “budget”, which explains why this 2-speed unit is so bare-bones. In practice this strategy pays off. It runs with barely any rumble, vibration, or noise, according to owners. The sound is excellent as a result, and overall this is just a great mechanical device. It is, however, fully-manual, so you have to do everything yourself. Given Music Hall’s focus on quality over convenience, that’s understandable.
The Best Thing After That: U-Turn Audio – Orbit Plus Turntable
The Orbit Plus is probably the most unconventional looking turntable in this price niche. It’s also the least expensive, which helps.
You may have to do a double take, but yes, that’s a clear platter you see there. Another interesting thing is the fact that the platter is driven by an above-deck belt that goes around the circumference of the platter itself.
Having an acrylic platter looks awesome, although I always struggle with acrylic picking up nasty scratches over time. If that’s the case here we’ll just have to chalk it up to gaining character.
This is a two-speed unit with a built-in preamp. The counterweight is adjustable and the cartridge is a good one, coming from Ortofon.
The numbers on this turntable are really good for the price. It’s got an excellent 78dB signal-to-noise ratio and very low levels of rumble.
It trades blows with the other two, but my main worry is the reliability of that drive mechanism. It does come with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty. I guess if the drive is going to go off the rails it will do it in that time. There’s nothing in the reviews to support my paranoia however.
On paper and in practice, therefore, this seems like an excellent and interesting choice. A third choice, as it turns out.
The Best Turntables under $1000
When you get to the point where you are looking at shelling out a grand for a turntable, you know things have gotten pretty serious. We are deep into audiophile country here. Although, of course, since the world is a wonderfully ridiculous place, you can still go much higher. Some record players at the extreme high-end go for more than five thousand dollars.
Still, let’s not worry about those, since even for the most hardened music fan the return on investment just isn’t there. Those are millionaire’s toys, for practical purposes this $1000 category is one we can consider to be the practical top of the line. Being an audiophile does not mean you also have unlimited funds.
So for fear of flying too close to the sun, I will go no higher than this, but already at this price point we see some of the most gorgeous machines of any type – built with a level of care and attention to detail you never see anymore.
For a thousands dollars I expect absolute perfection or as near as possible to that mark as we can get. I was not disappointed by what was on offer. So which turntable do I think is the best one you can buy under $1000? Here it is:
Top Pick: PRO-JECT RPM-5.1 SE
The RPM 5.1 SE is such a thing of beauty that it can make you weep just by looking at it. It takes the philosophy of “less is more” to an extreme, providing (on the surface) only the very bare bones of a record player.
This is a supercar of a record player. There are no gimmicks; no money spent on anything that does not somehow directly improve sound performance. Every part does its main job, but also does a secondary job of dampening vibration and clarifying the signal. It’s an amazing piece of design and engineering. It’s almost hard to believe that it has a bigger, multi-thousand dollar brother in the form of the RPM 9.
In my view, for all intents and purposes, this is the pinnacle of vinyl players before we reach the point of insanity. PRO-JECT has pulled off an amazing feat here, and despite it’s hefty price tag the inclusion of the Sumiko cartridge and amazing single-piece carbon tonearm makes this a bit of a bargain, actually.
You can read the full review here.
The Next Best Thing: Pro-Ject Audio 1Xpression
I guess I must seem very predictable since this is not the first time two consecutive choices have been from the same brand, still some brands are just good at dominating a particular price niche. This is another turntable from PRO-JECT which they would consider at the entry-level for the high-end.
The design of the 1Xpression is much more traditional than something like the RPM 5.1 or even the Debut Carbon. It is still an incredibly refined machine and is still virtually devoid of any controls or buttons visible from the top.
I just love how minimalist and pure PRO-JECT is when going about designing these things. Even at the cost of a little practical ease.
This is a 2-speed unit with a carbon arm and very good numbers when it comes to wow, flutter, and signal-to-noise.
PRO-JECT has changed the standard cartridge to an Ortofon Red, so if you buy a new one of these that’s what you should be getting. The Ortofon has performed really well in this niche and the one just below it, so it’s a fine and trusted choice on the part of the company especially since I’ve seen a few complaints about the Sumiko Oyster it used to ship with. Strange, since they generally make amazing products.
Either way, I don’t think that this player can really compete with the RPM 5.1 in terms of sound performance, but the gulf is not huge. If you prefer a more traditional take on design but still want the audio fidelity the PRO-JECT offers, this is a good alternative to the top pick.
Harmony of Thirds: Rega RP3 Turntable
At first glance, this turntable from Rega could be mistaken for the 1Xpression from PRO-JECT. It uses the same minimalist approach, with most of the nicely-textured deck devoid of any controls. The tonearm looks a little more tough and mechanical with its exposed wires, but overall this is a pretty straightforward and highly-professional looking record player.
According to Rega itself, it’s ditched all “unnecessary gimmicks” to focus completely on two things – sound and build quality. The implication is that at about $900 you are still going to get more than you pay for. So far, so good.
The hand-assembled tonearm and low vibration motor are apparently hand-tuned individually in order to get the lowest vibration possible.
According to testing I’ve seen, the 24v motor really is a very low-rumble unit and Rega is rightly proud of it. If you have a previous model you can even purchase a kit to retrofit the new motor, so they really are invested in this unit as their best offer.
One thing that sets this turntable apart is that Rega has a low-mass philosophy. While many makers try to make the platter and plinth heavy to dampen vibration, Rega has the opposite view. Either way, since this and most other turntables lack complex (and expensive) suspension mechanisms, you’ll have to put it on a good dampening stand or rack anyway.
The new RB303 tonearm has received very positive feedback from professional critics and is a evolutionary improvement on the well-loved RB300.
One rather big headache is that you apparently have to remove the entire platter to switch speeds, so maybe you should stick to one RPM collection until you get tired of it.
In terms of sound, however, the RP3 is one of the best in this price class; from an audiophile perspective you can’t go wrong. Honestly, the fact that this is a third choice is a technicality. All three of these units are going to make whoever buys them pretty happy. I just favor the PRO-JECT designs over the more traditional British approach of the RP3. If your tastes lie more in this direction, it is a truly excellent machine.
Vinyl Vintage Audio System Reviews
If you’re completely new to the world of vinyl and vintage audio, I’d recommend to start with the reviews on Turntables, Phone Preamps, Record Cleaners and Speakers. Once you’ve got this covered, make sure to check the menu for more of my reviews.