What's the best turntable I can buy for under/near $500
July 21, 2017 11:25 PM   Subscribe

I have a good stereo setup (with phono preamp). Ideally I'd like a turntable that's pretty easy to set up and won't require a ton of tinkering. I'm not an audiophile or designer, but I'd like it to sound and look purty good.
posted by Joseph Gurl to Technology (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The House of Marley Stir It Up turntable is pretty darn nice or $200 or so. Nothing fancy but it looks pretty, sounds good and is made from sustainable materials.
posted by fshgrl at 11:35 PM on July 21, 2017

Audio Technica makes a Bluetooth turntable that works pretty well. You can set it up with a cable if your speakers don't have Bluetooth though. I'm not sure what your budget is but it's an option to consider.
posted by cp311 at 11:39 PM on July 21, 2017

Oops, I see your budget now. These are under $500, definitely.
posted by cp311 at 11:40 PM on July 21, 2017

I like Stanton for this. Dependable while sounding good and looking fine. They even have models with usb so that you can rip your vinyl.
posted by quince at 11:40 PM on July 21, 2017

UPDATE: Sorry, I think I left some things out. I have no use or need for USB, and I don't want a turntable with a built-in phono pre-amp (mine's better).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:46 PM on July 21, 2017

What is your current turntable? Because for your price range, it may be more worthwhile to just invest in an upgraded cartridge.
posted by nightrecordings at 12:00 AM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I haven't had one for a coupla years, sadly.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:07 AM on July 22, 2017

Pro-ject makes nice ones in your range.
posted by destructive cactus at 1:11 AM on July 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have an AudioTechnica LP-120, which is basically a part-for-part clone of the Technics SL-1200. It works well for my gear (headphone amp, decent-but-not-amazing speakers, and records that aren't super rare). Its tone arm weight and anti-skate are adjustable and it takes standard carts. However, it does have a USB port—that I sometimes use for making digital versions of some of the songs I own solely on vinyl—and a pre-amp that's allegedly switchable but the Internet tells me that turning it "off" still runs the output through the "cleaning" part of the circuit. That might be a deal-breaker for you.

Were I buying one today, and I'm considering it because I want something that's automatic, I would go for the Denon DP-300F and replace the stock cartridge. Conveniently for you, but not for my wallet at this time, Turntable Lab has such a package in stock and at roughly half price. (The Denon also has a built-in pre-amp but I can't find any complaints about pass through versus actually off.)

If automatic doesn't appeal to you and style does, my next choice would be the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC. Belt-driven, no pre-amp, looks amazing, and a carbon tonearm which, my audio-listening friends tell me, is an improvement over the regular one on my LP-120. (I'd do a U-Turn Orbit for more aesthetics but not having a lift arm doesn't please me.)
posted by fireoyster at 1:12 AM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've got a Pro-Ject Essential II and it's very excellent. It's a little bit fiddly to set up (you'll have to balance the tone arm yourself and the anti-skating weight is kind of a pain) but there's good instructions to help you and once you've got it set up, you shouldn't have to fiddle with it.

It's also under your budget, so if you want to spend a bit more, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon mentioned above is the obvious next step up.
posted by parm at 3:25 AM on July 22, 2017

I did a fair amount of research when I was in your position. Very happy with my Audio Technica LP120. I don't use all the bells and whistles, but it's nice to know they're there. It's a classic-looking turntable with all the fine adjustments you need.

I can recommend Turntable Lab for shopping as well. They were very good when the first turntable they shipped me was defective.
posted by gnutron at 5:54 AM on July 22, 2017

Why not a used technics-1200? They're built like a brick shit-house. You could drop it down a flight of stairs and it would still sound as good as new.
posted by empath at 6:01 AM on July 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

Both Pro-Ject and Music Hall make great turntables within your budget.
posted by Ber at 6:26 AM on July 22, 2017

It's a very, very good time for budget-audiophile turntables--you're kinda drowning in choices. Pro-Ject, Music Hall, Rega, and U-Turn (you can get a cue lever now) all offer good potential options.
posted by box at 7:26 AM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not totally familiar with them but I think almost all the ProJect models are supposed to be good, so picking one within your budget should be fine. My friend has the Uturn Orbit and really likes it. The basic model is well under $500 but you can order it with upgrades like an acrylic platter and better cartridge so there's room within your budget to make it really nice.

I've been using a Rega RP1 for the last 3 years now and it's pretty great. You should have no problem finding one for under $500 and there's always upgrades you can do down the line but I haven't found the need to on mine just yet.

I don't really recommend the LP120. It's an okay budget table and definitely a step up from the LP60 but you can spend a little more and get a much nicer turntable, or spend the same amount or less on a Uturn and still get a much nicer table.
posted by Venadium at 7:27 AM on July 22, 2017

The only reason I ended up not recommending Rega is that their latest tables at this price point have something they call 'preset bias' which literally means "you cannot adjust the tracking force" which I find pretty unacceptable. Just a warning!
posted by destructive cactus at 12:37 PM on July 22, 2017

A custom U-Turn Orbit with upgrade to acrylic platter, Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge, and cue lever comes in at $505. Downgrading to the Ortofon OM5E, which IMO is still a damn good cartridge for short money, gets you to $329.
posted by in278s at 2:32 PM on July 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

1200s are becoming increasingly more expensive, but you may well find one under $500. It can be the last record player you will ever own.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 2:48 PM on July 22, 2017

(As a general tip, the weak point in turntables in this price range is often the cartridge. Keeping an eye out for this, and budgeting money for an upgrade if need be, might be a good idea.)
posted by box at 6:27 AM on July 23, 2017

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