Where can I find an inexpensive turntable and amplifier?
March 7, 2008 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Help my family find a decent turntable + amp in the $100-$300 range. We just want to listen to records!

We have a good set of speakers, but an amplifier and turntable that date back to the 1970s and desperately need replacing. Given our small budget, is it possible to buy a new turntable with a built-in amp (that would connect directly to the speakers) or a turntable AND amp that would fall within the price range? Price is the biggest issue - we're certainly not hardcore audiophiles. It would be nice to have a USB output or similar CD-converting options, but those aren't necessary.

(I've seen this question, which was helpful, but didn't specifically answer my amplifier question.)
posted by punchdrunkhistory to Technology (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Are you sure they need to be replaced? What's wrong with the amp? An old turntable can fixed most of the time by replacing the stylus and belt. These are common fixes and aren't hard to do, with maybe a screwdriver for the belt change. A can of compressed air will get it a ways toward shiny and clean as well. Lots of things can go wrong with amps/receivers, but if it sounds OK it'll be fine.

Beyond that, Craigslist? Here in SF I see both turntables and receivers for $75 or so. If you decide to go this route, make sure you can use the piece before taking it away, and always ask if they've ever been fixed or used at a party. Pawn and junkshops are hit or miss. I've gotten things that worked for a month before I find out one channels amp has been soldered for something. Which broke. That's what you get for $20-40.

There's a bunch of different USB turntables, you can see that it's pretty much just a matter of picking your price level. You can plug the computer into the receiver and drive the speakers that way. The Audio Technica one looks decent at $129.

As a regular turntable, this Technics is from a family of stone cold cheapskate classics, going on 20 years or more. Not that you'll care about the history of the line, but you'll probably always be able to get parts for it.

A receiver will be $150 or so, but you can find ones for less. If you feel lucky, just buy the cheapest one with a phono input. I'm sure it'll last awhile if it's going to a person who uses their equipment lightly.

I don't benefit from J&R in my links, it's just a convenient catalog for this stuff.
posted by rhizome at 7:42 PM on March 7, 2008

I take it you live in SD still. There should be TONS of nearby thrift stores|goodwill|Salvation Army stores. Those are sure bets. Especially in small town areas.
posted by humannaire at 8:01 PM on March 7, 2008

Seconding rhizome, but do consider thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales. Good 70s audio kit gets junked or sold off cheaply all the time because it took up space, or because the owners passed away and the inheritors don't want it. (Is there a local Freecycle group?)

If you get your kit cheaply, then there's a USB pre-amp with phono stages for ripping.
posted by holgate at 9:51 PM on March 7, 2008

denon does one with built in amp. This way you just plug it in anything and it works. I think its around 150$. I bought one for my mum for listening to old records.
posted by FidelDonson at 1:07 AM on March 8, 2008

If you can say with absolute certainty that you'll never become an audiophile or a DJ, and you don't wish to buy something secondhand (which would otherwise be my advice), just buy something cheap and belt-drive, with a built-in preamp, from a company you've heard of.

Rhizome's Technics would work just fine, or here's an Audio-Technica one on Amazon. Or this Sony, which is, I'm told, available in most Best Buys.
posted by box at 5:07 AM on March 8, 2008

If you just want to listen to records, no fuss no muss, check out ebay for the old school Califone turntable set-ups. For under 60$ you can have a somewhat portable all-in-one and let the vinyl spin!
posted by tingting at 6:14 AM on March 8, 2008

Seconding humannaire. I found a Bang & Olufsen beogram RX2 with an MMC 4 cartridge at my local Salvation Army store for $40.00. There are a LOT of turntables at these places that can be had for cheap :)
posted by jtoth at 8:05 AM on March 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you all so much! I don't know if anyone will still read this, but this has been a huge help. rhizome, your recommendations for both player (the Technics) and receiver were perfect - I've put in an order with J&R for both. We live in a tiny apartment and mostly only listen to records on the weekends, so it's unlikely the amplifier will get too abused!

This was a great collection of recommendations - thank you all.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 7:13 PM on March 11, 2008

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