Blog // December 09, 2019
(Originally published onJun 16, 2015)

Best new turntables under $500

Best new turntables under $500 cover

With the significant increase of vinyl popularity in the last few years, more and more companies try to capitalise the resurgence of vinyl, by flooding the market with a wide range of cheap reproduction turntables and modern "retro" record players, that are often aggressively advertised in lifestyle magazines.

While they are suitable for an introduction to the world of vinyl, we strongly advise against buying one of these if you plan get the best sound quality out of your record collection and don't want to damage your vinyl. Often, these are designed only to rip off the average consumer who doesn't know better. They sound bad, component upgrades are rarely possible, they're made of cheap materials sensitive to vibrations and the needles are poor quality that can slowly ruin your records. You can only understand how amazing turntables are and really appreciate the sound of vinyl when you're willing to spend at least a few hundred dollars on a good turntable. Its a simple device but needs very demanding, delicate parts.

So, if you decided to leave the plastic models behind, you have two choices: new or used. We would recommend buying used as it's much cheaper, but the problem with this is that it takes more research and patience to find the right one in good working condition without having to change some of it's components. If you're committed and willing to spend more money on a new turntable that will last you quite a while you have a few options to choose from. There are brands turning out excellent entry-level, audiophile-quality turntables that can be a solid foundation to any vinyl enthusiast's hi-fi system.

While more advanced professional turntables run over $1000, the ordinary vinyl lover seeking the warmth and true dynamic range of the vinyl, can find turntables of similar quality under the four-digit price tag. Here's a list of 16 recommended turntables under $500 that will give you much satisfaction.

 

Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB

The T1 Phono SB is the middle model of Pro-Ject's new T1 series of budget-orientated turntables, that sits under their popular Debut Carbon DC series. It's a manual, belt-drive model, with a built-in switchable phono preamp and electronic speed switch between 33 and 45 RPM. The basic T1 lacks both of these features, while the T1 BT adds Bluetooth connectivity but removes electronic speed control. The turntable is built around a CNC-machined composite (MDF with a foil wrap) plinth that features no plastic parts and is carefully constructed to eliminate any hollow spaces inside.

The heavy blasted glass platter sits on a newly designed sub-platter which is mounted into a precise 0.001mm main bearing with a hardened stainless-steel axle and brass bushing. This is belt-driven by a motor that uses an advanced electronic control system to ensure a constant speed. The motor is mounted to the plinth with isolation material in between. It features a straight, 8.6" aluminum one-piece tonearm, pre-set with the optimal downforce and anti-skate for the factory mounted Ortofon OM5E cartridge. The tonearm also features an improved gimbal bearing assembly with low-friction components. The turntable comes complete with a dustcover with adjustable hinges and shielded, semi-symmetrical, low-capacitance phono cables purpose-designed by Pro-Ject. The T1 series is available in high-gloss black, satin white and walnut finishes.

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Rega Planar 1

The Planar 1 is Rega's new entry-level turntable which replaces the British company's widely popular RP1 model, featuring numerous improvements over its predecessor. The only parts kept were the drive belt, sub-platter, and dust cover. It has a brand-new thermoset gloss laminated plinth with the power switch positioned on the front-left underside and improved feet to increase stability and minimize vibration transfer. The new, higher mass phenolic platter is thicker and heavier around the outer edge for improved flywheel effect and speed consistency. The re-designed brass main bearing offers a tighter fit and removes stress on the bearing itself whilst minimizing the transfer of energy.

The Planar 1 is the first entry-level Rega with a 24v, low noise synchronous AC motor with a new motor PCB and aluminum pulley, providing low noise and better speed stability. It also uses a new motor cover tray with integrated cooling. The turntable features a new RB110 hand-assembled tonearm built with Rega designed, bespoke, ultra-low friction bearings and comes pre-fitted with a Rega Carbon moving-magnet cartridge. The tonearm assembly includes automatic anti-skate adjustment, integrated arm clip, and re-designed headshell for improved usability and appearance. The Rega Planar 1 is available in gloss black or gloss white.

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Sony PSHX500

Designed to extend Sony's range of premium Hi-Res Audio products, the PS-HX500 features a built-in A/D converter that lets you rip your vinyl with audio quality of up to PCM 192kHz/24-bit or DSD 5.6MHz. The turntable has a 1.18" thick, vinyl-coated MDF plinth supported by four damping feet, and comes with a dust cover. The top panel features a four-way dial that doubles as speed control (33 1/3 & 45 RPM) and on/standby switch. On the bottom back side of the unit there is a little box of electronics, housing the switchable phono stage and analog-to-digital converter. The aluminum die-cast platter is slightly recessed into the plinth and is driven by a small DC motor via a rubber belt. A supplied 5mm thick rubber mat almost doubles its mass and provides effective damping and fantastic adherence to the vinyl's surface. The newly designed straight tonearm features a distinctively shaped integrated headshell with a chunky finger lift and comes with a pre-mounted moving magnet cartridge. It also includes a built-in arm lift, adjustable counterweight, and anti-skate control.

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Denon DP-300F

Denon's belt driven, full-featured listening turntable with automatic operation, built-in preamp, great speed accuracy, a sophisticated tonearm and a balanced aluminum platter.

The DP-300F's platter is made of rigid diecast aluminum to achieve high inertial mass for stable rotation and smooth flutter-free operation. The vibration-resistant turntable sheet is about 5mm thick and uses hologram vibration analysis to improve its ability to hold a record. Its straight tonearm with fine adjustments for anti-skating and zero balance has a standard mount removable headshell and comes with a stock, moving magnet cartridge. The automatic startup feature allows the turntable to begin play with the touch of a button, and once play has been completed, the tonearm will be returned to the armrest gently so that the stylus and record are not damaged or scratched. It's also equipped with a manual arm lifter mechanism that allows you to place or remove the needle from any location on the record. Since the DP-300F includes a built-in phono equalizer, it can be connected directly to an integrated amp or receiver that does not have a phono input. The turntable is powered by a DC servo motor and belt-drive system and has rotation speeds of 33 and 45 RPM.

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Pioneer PL-30-K

Pioneer Electronics (USA) Inc. recently launched the PL-30 full-automatic, stereo turntable featuring an aluminium die-cast platter, tone arm and exchangeable headshell with high-performance MM (moving magnet) cartridge.

The PL-30 features a dual-layered chassis with a 4mm-thick metal plate for increased mass and rock-solid stability. Its low center of gravity further provides stable playback and audio reproduction with little feedback and resonance. It provides easy hands-off operation, while the stable precision DC servo motor ends spindle wobble for smoother and more accurate platter rotation. It also comes with an original 5mm-thick rubber mat, which suppresses external vibration while firmly gripping the record. The built-in phono equaliser with 'On/Through' selector lets you select 'On' for connecting amps without phono terminal, or 'Through' when using an external phono equaliser. This turntable comes with a low-mass straight tone arm and anti-skating dial for accurate tracking of the record. The tone arm is highly sensitive and resistant to resonance, while the dial applies a small counter force to make sure that the rotating disc doesn't distort the sound balance.

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Rega RP1

Rega, a high-end audio equipment manufacturer based in the UK started out as an audiophile turntable company in 1973. Their multi-award winning turntable is designed and engineered to achieve outstanding performance way beyond the expectations of a product at this price point. The minimalist design of the Rega RP1, excellent build quality and the use of extremely high quality components ensure that this turntable will last for many years.

Rega has revised its entry-level P1 turntable (introduced in 2006) adding a lighter, hand assembled RB101 - a simplified version of Rega's highly acclaimed RB300 - tonearm and a new platter molded from phenolic resin, similar to Bakelite. The tonearm uses a three point mounting platform and comes with an Ortofon OM5e moving magnet cartridge fitted and aligned and the ideal counterweight position already marked on the arm. The MDF plinth carries a precision main bearing and a high quality low-vibration motor with a stepped pulley. This allows a manual speed change where the drive belt is moved by hand between the pulley steps. Using a manual speed change rather than an automatic mechanism eliminates speed inconsistencies and reduces wear of the drive belt. The RP1 is available in three colors: black, silver and white.

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U-Turn Orbit Plus

Funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 "to make great vinyl listening simple and more affordable", U-Turn Audio is now selling two complete, belt-driven turntable systems: Orbit Basic and Orbit Plus. One difference between the two models is that the Orbit Basic comes with an Audio-Technica AT91B cartridge installed and the Orbit Plus, with a higher-end Ortofon OM5E. The other key difference is that the Orbit Plus has an acrylic platter while the Orbit Basic uses an MDF (medium-density fibreboard) one.

By redesigning classic audiophile components and leaving out non-essentials, U-Turn Audio created a beautiful, simple, all-analog turntable that provides warm and detailed sound. The Orbit's low-voltage AC synchronous motor provides excellent speed consistency and minimizes pitch variation (wow & flutter). The motor is decoupled from the plinth using a unique rubber suspension that prevents unwanted vibrations from seeping into the sound. The Orbit's CNC machined pulley turns an exposed drive belt and plays both 33 1/3 and 45 RPM records. The platter rides on an inverted main bearing, providing superior stability and reduced bearing noise (rumble). Its innovative unipivot arm turns effortlessly on an inverted pyramid of precision ball bearings, and works with the arm's low center of mass to provide accurate tracking. Every Orbit comes pre-fitted with your choice of an Audio-Technica, Ortofon, or Grado Labs moving magnet (MM) cartridge, which is balanced by an adjustable stainless steel counterweight. Cartridges come pre-installed with tracking force properly adjusted. The Orbit's silver-plated wiring is housed within an aluminum armtube, ensuring faithful signal transfer from the cartridge.

Parts are interchangeable so you can upgrade down the line and tailor your turntable to your needs. Both the Orbit Basic and Orbit Plus come in black, white, green or blue. You can use U-Turn Audio's Orbit Builder to customize your turntable. U-Turn offers a great variety of accessories and replacement parts that go with their record players. Unless you have a receiver with a dedicated phono input, you will need a separate phono pre-amp. U-Turn recently introduced its dedicated low-noise phono preamp for moving magnet (MM) cartridges, Pluto, that combines high-quality components and elegant circuit design to accurately boost your turntable's signal at this crucial stage of amplification. Also you can take a look at our list of the best budget phono preamps you can match with your turntable.

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Audio Technica AT-LP5x

The fully manual AT-LP5x turntable is a direct successor to Audio-Technica's highly popular and award-winning AT-LP5 model, with a series of upgrades and improvements. Its chassis, constructed of anti-vibration damping materials with heavy-mass metal inserts, is designed to minimize any performance-effecting resonances. The machined, die-cast aluminum platter is powered by a new quick start, low-noise quartz-locked DC servo direct-drive motor, with 33, 45 and 78 RPM speed capabilities. A new external power supply handles the AC/DC conversion outside of the chassis, further reducing signal chain noise.

The turntable comes with the same J-shaped tonearm as the AT-LP5, using a metallic gimbal suspension system and precision bearings, with adjustable counterweight and anti-skate control. The cartridge pre-mounted on a lightweight AT-HS6 headshell is the new AT-VM95E Dual Moving Magnet with upgradeable stylus, a next-generation model of the renowned AT95E. Like its predecessor, the AT-LP5x also features a USB port for direct connection to a computer and a built-in switchable phono pre-amplifier, which now supports both MM and MC cartridges. Weighing 7.3kg (16.1 lbs) it comes in an elegant matte black finish and is supplied with a removable dust cover, a 5mm damping platter mat, and RCA cables.

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Denon DP-400

The semi-automatic DP-400 is Denon's first turntable model since the introduction of the popular DP-300F, with a strong construction and elegant design to match the visual look of the company's Design Series. The weighted belt-driven metal platter can play at 33 1/3, 45 & 78 RPM and is controlled by an integrated auto sensor which avoids speed fluctuations and ensures pitch accuracy during playback. The turntable features a newly engineered S-Shape curved tonearm with a universal headshell and a pre-mounted moving magnet cartridge. An Auto-Stop function automatically lifts the tonearm and stops the platter at the end of the record, but doesn't return the tonearm in the arm-rest. This function can be disabled with a switch on the back of the unit. The integrated phono pre-amp works with both MM and MC cartridges, and can be bypassed, allowing the turntable to be used with external models. Built on a heavy, well-damped plinth with rounded corners, the DP-400 comes in a black or white high-gloss finish and features a removable dual-purpose dust cover which doubles as a display stand for record covers.

As a separate model, Denon's new turntable is also available with a built-in analoge-to-digital converter. The DP-450USB allows you to record vinyl directly to a USB drive as MP3 or WAV, via a front-mounted USB port, without the need for a computer.

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Fluance RT85

The Fluance RT85 is the top model of the Canadian hi-fi company's Reference range, featuring an Ortofon M2 Blue cartridge and an acrylic platter. The high density and greater mass of the acrylic provide increased inertia to achieve a consistent speed and damp unwanted vibrations. The platter is belt-driven by a two-speed (33 1/3 & 45 RPM) servo-controlled DC motor, featuring a speed-regulating optical sensor designed to continuously measure and adjust variances in linear velocity and acceleration. To maintain an accurate rotational speed, this system measures platter speed 500 times per second. The drive system is decoupled from the plinth using an under-mounted, 7-point silicone isolation ring, suppressing motor vibrations and preventing noise from reaching the stylus.

The RT85 comes with a balanced, S-shaped aluminum tonearm with smooth, high-precision stainless steel bearing system, anti-skate, counterweight adjustment, and an auto-stop function that automatically stops the motor the end of the record. You can turn off this feature via a switch on the turntable's back panel. The turntable has a mass-loaded multi-layered MDF plinth which comes in high-gloss piano black or real walnut veneer and sits on three rubber, spike-shaped height-adjustable isolation feet. A hinged plastic dust cover is also included.

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Onkyo CP-1050

Onkyo, a world leading Japanese Hi-Fi and home entertainment components manufacturer, re-entered the turntable market in 2015 with its new CP-1050 direct drive model, aimed at music lovers looking to discover or rediscover the magic of analog sound. It has an attractive design with clean lines, a solid construction and classic straightforward features, providing good value for the money.

The CP-1050's body is constructed from thick, vibration-damping MDF (medium density fiberboard) used in most audiophile turntables and it features a smooth, low-torque direct drive motor combined with a precision quartz-lock system and quality bearings to ensure the die-cast aluminum platter's stable rotation. Its S-shaped aluminum tonearm, similar to the Technics 1200, features an anti-skate control, adjustable counterweight and a removable headshell that comes with a pre-installed with an Audio-Technica moving magnet cartridge and supports most aftermarket cartridges between 5-10 grams. It also features a rubber slipmat, vibration dampening feet, removable RCA cables and dust cover to protect the turntable when not in use.

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Numark TT250USB

Numark is considered one of the leading DJ equipment manufacturer producing an entire spectrum of DJ equipment for both hobbyists and professionals. The introduction of Numark's new TT250USB budget turntable was announced in August 2015 at DJ Expo in Atlantic City NJ, and was scheduled to hit she shelves later this fall.

Marketed as a professional, heavy-duty DJ turntable and designed to look like the classic Technics SL-1200, the TT250USB features a die-cast aluminum platter driven by a high torque, quartz controlled direct-drive motor that is claimed to deliver perfect speed accuracy with 0.09% wow & flutter. An S-shaped tonearm with anti-skate control and damped cuing makes sure that your records are precisely tracked, producing a clear sound. The tonearm is pre-fitted with a standard headshell and a perfectly aligned high-quality magnetic cartridge, making the turntable ready to use straight out the box. It has a 33 and 45 RPM speed setting and a pitch control that spans +/-10%. The TT250USB has a built-in preamp with a USB output allowing you to record vinyl straight to your computer. It also features adjustable height support feet, a 1/8-inch input for remote start with compatible mixers. While it's not a game changer, for a suggested retail price of just $299.99, it's worth taking into consideration when shopping for a good budget turntable.

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Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB

The Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB is the redesigned version of the AT-LP120USB, which has been one of the most popular and highly praised entry-level turntables for a long time. Unlike the AT-LP120USB, the new model was not designed for DJ use and offers several improvements for home listening, while also lowering its price point. The overall design has been streamlined, now having a sleeker shape and a more consistent finish across the components. The body is also lighter, but that's because the 6.5 lbs metal ballast weight used in the AT-LP120USB was removed.

The AT-LP120XUSB features a new, more efficient DC servo direct-drive motor, which has lower torque and no reverse function as it's no longer meant to be a turntable for DJs. While tonearm height adjustment has been removed, Audio-Technica completely redesigned the adjustable anti-skate mechanism, which was known to be faulty in pre-2017 versions. The balanced S-shaped tonearm has been fitted with a new AT-HS6 universal headshell and a matching AT-VM95E cartridge, compatible with any VM95 series replacement stylus. The built-in phono preamp has also been upgraded with stronger output and improved with a cleaner bypass when turned off.

Additional enhancements include an external AC adapter, detachable dual RCA cable, a removable plug-type stylus target light, and selectable quartz-controlled pitch lock and pitch control with +/-8% or +/-16% adjustment ranges. Available in black or silver, the new model still plays 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM records and is equipped with a USB output that allows direct connection to your computer.

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Music Hall MMF 2.2

A 2-speed belt driven, audiophile turntable at a budget price. Its design is simplified to bring the cost down to an affordable entry-level, but it retains many of the innovations that have made Music Hall a competitor in the high-end market.

The MMF-2.2's MDF plinth rests on special vibration damping rubber feet, with the asynchronous motor decoupled from the plinth by a rubber ring. Its heavy steel alloy platter runs on a high-precision, stainless steel and bronze bearing assembly that provides excellent speed stability and smooth, quiet operation. To go from 33 to 45 RPM, simply remove the platter and loop the drive belt around the motor pulley's larger diameter rim. The turntable comes complete with a Music Hall Tracker moving-magnet cartridge mounted on a one-piece, high-quality alloy tonearm. It's important to mention that the tonearm is a substantial upgrade from 2.1 models. These features combine to ensure that the MMF-2.2 delivers superior audio performance that will provide years of enjoyment. Unless you have a receiver with a dedicated phono input, you will need a separate phono pre-amp. Music Hall offers two finish options beyond the stock high-gloss piano black found on the basic model. For some extra money, you can get the 2.2 LE in high-gloss white or Ferrari red finish.

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Pro-ject Debut Carbon DC

The first Debut turntable, introduced in the late 1990s by Pro-Ject, was a revolution for the hi-fi industry. The new Debut Carbon was designed to set new standards in the entry-level turntable category. It features easy setup, quality components and high quality engineering.

The most obvious improvement is the inclusion of a carbon fibre tube for the tonearm, which increases stiffness and decreases unwanted resonance. This material normally is extensively used in high-end tonearms, but because of cost reasons was never used in products at lower price levels. The fixed headshell comes pre-fitted with a high-end Ortofon 2M Red moving-magnet cartridge. Together with other improvements like an increase in platter size and weight to realize even smoother rotation, the overall sound quality is greatly improved. The DC model, introduced in late 2014, is a new upgrade to the already popular Debut Carbon turntable. The approved belt drive design offers low noise AC motor with effective motor decoupling (utilizing TPE-damping) and ultra precision frequency DC-driven AC generator for ultimate speed stability without unwanted vibration. Speed change is manual, you'll have to take off the platter and move the belt by hand to go from 33 to 45rpm. The Debut Carbon DC is a well made turntable, and is offered in seven high-gloss colors: black or shiny red, green, blue, yellow, silver and white. A less expensive turntable from Pro-Ject, is the Debut Carbon's little brother, the Pro-Ject Essential II which features an 8.6" aluminum tone-arm with a pre-fitted Ortofon OM 5E cartridge.

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Teac TN-300

The Japanese audio equipment company, TEAC recently introduced its new hi-fi turntable. The Teac TN-300 is a 2-speed, belt-drive analog record player with a stylish chassis containing an MM phono amplifier with USB output.

The heavy MDF plinth, contributing to an overall unit weight of 4.9 kg (10.8 lb), is used for mass damping and minimizes the unwanted external vibrations. Its high inertia, aluminium die-cast platter topped by a heavy duty rubber mat is driven by a high-torque DC motor with durable Neoprene belt which achieves a stable rotation. The high accuracy of the spindle is maintained by the polished stainless steel spindle and the highly durable bronze spindle holder, that minimizes friction for smooth, silent rotation. The TN-300's straight, balanced tonearm with manual lifter comes pre-fitted with an Audio-Technica AT-95E moving magnet cartridge with a reputation for highly accurate reading and uses anti-skating technology for optimum tracking accuracy. The tonearm's metal construction, low resistance bearings and adjustable weight make this a proper audiophile grade record player. The turntable has a built-in pre-amp, called the Phono Equalizer, so it supports both phono and line output that allows you to connect it directly to almost any audio system, even one without a turntable input. The TN-300 also has an included USB port and TI analog-to-digital converter that makes vinyl digitizing easy. Its multi-layered coating and glossy finish give a sophisticated polish to a durable exterior. The TEAC TN-300 is available in glossy black, red, cherry or white.

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