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Which turntable under $500 is best?

Vinyl is increasing in popularity, as a new generation has discovered its retro-cool and warm, rich sounds. Sales of vinyl records increased 29 percent to $626 million in 2020 and overtook CD sales, according to the Record Industry Association of America. Accordingly, turntable sales are steadily increasing, and approximately 75,000 turntables sold in the U.S. in 2020, Statista reports.

If you want to explore the vinyl trend but not pay a fortune, you can easily find quality turntables under $500. For example, the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK Direct-Drive Turntable has a reliable design with modern conveniences like a USB port, a preamp and software for converting vinyl to digital. 

What to know before you buy a turntable

Before you buy a turntable, it’s important to know the turntable terminology and gear, so you know you are buying the right product. 

Supplementary gear

To use your turntable, you’ll need to connect it to an amplifier and speakers. You may also need a separate preamp if your turntable doesn’t include a built-in preamp, but a “phono” amplifier serves the same purpose.

Quality specs

For overall quality indicators, check out the manufacturer’s spec sheet for the average speed deviations, wow and flutter, and the ratio between the music signal and background noise, signal-to-noise. The average speed deviation should be as close to zero as possible, but the higher the signal-to-noise ratio, the better the turntable.

Turntable terms

Plinth – The plinth is the base of the turntable, and it is usually dense or heavy to dampen external vibration.

Platter and motor – The platter sits on top of the plinth, and it holds the record and rotates via the motor, which can be belt-driven or direct-drive.

Tonearm – The tonearm sits next to the platter and guides the stylus and cartridge as they trace the record’s grooves.

Stylus and cartridge – The stylus is the “needle” that vibrates as it follows the record’s sound grooves. The cartridge picks up this vibration and amplifies it. 

What to look for in a quality turntable

When looking for a quality turntable, consider its portability and digital recording capabilities.

Portable units

Turntables come in two main categories: models designed to integrate with an existing stereo system, and models that are built as standalone, portable units.

Portable units are a good choice because you can take them with you easily, and they have built-in speakers and are often compatible with Bluetooth or CD players. However, you will need to transport your records to use them, and these models are often hard-to-replace needles. 

Integrated models have a higher quality sound and are generally more durable than portable models, so consider an integrated turntable if you don’t need the flexibility of taking a turntable with you. 

Digital recording

Some turntables offer digital recording through a USB port and some software, allowing you to save vinyl tracks as digital files to a computer. Turntables with digital recording capabilities are great for preserving vintage analog-recorded music.

However, digital recordings can have reduced overall audio quality, and amplified pops or crackles from the original vinyl will be amplified on an MP3 file. 

How much you can expect to spend on a turntable

Affordable turntables range from $50-$250. The higher the price, the more you’re paying for craftsmanship and performance.

Turntable FAQ

What are some of the reasons to buy a turntable?

A. The sound quality of vinyl is superior and uncompressed, offering the rich tones the musicians originally intended. Although digital music is convenient, most streaming services compress audio so the sound quality isn’t as good. You also own your vinyl whereas, with digital music, you’re usually just renting it for a monthly fee. 

How do I care for my turntable?

A. Keep dust and dirt away, as they can hurt your stylus and your vinyl. Gently dust your stylus with a carbon-fiber stylus brush and a bit of cleaning solution.

What’s the best turntable under $500?

Top turntable under $500

Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK Direct-Drive Turntable

Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK Direct-Drive Turntable

What you need to know: Perfect for enthusiasts and deejays, this model is an update of a classic with modern features like a USB port and stereo preamp.

What you’ll love: It’s a manual, quiet model with a great stylus, and it can convert vinyl records to digital files.

What you should consider: Some reviewers say the unit’s materials aren’t as sturdy, the USB setup instructions are lacking and the felt mat attracts dust to vinyl.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top turntable for the money

Victrola Vintage 3-Speed Bluetooth Portable Suitcase Record Player

Victrola Vintage 3-Speed Bluetooth Portable Suitcase Record Player

What you need to know: Excellent for beginners, this affordable, portable and easy-to-use model combines modern convenience with retro looks from a classic, solid brand.

What you’ll love: The unit streams smartphone audio through Bluetooth speakers for excellent sound quality, and it comes in 30 colors.

What you should consider: It lacks some of the rich sound complexity of higher-end models.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Victrola 8-in-1 Bluetooth Multimedia Center

Victrola 8-in-1 Bluetooth Multimedia Center

What you need to know: This model has a vintage look and the versatility to play vinyl, CDs, cassettes and FM radio with Bluetooth at an affordable price point. 

What you’ll love: It plays music in all forms, and it includes an auxiliary and headphone jack for audio streaming from your smartphone.

What you should consider: Buyers say the sound quality isn’t top of the line, and the turntable is a bit wobbly.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Sony PS-LX310BT Belt Drive Turntable

Sony PS-LX310BT Belt Drive Turntable

What you need to know: This affordable two-speed turntable is from a brand-leader in sound technology. 

What you’ll love: It can be connected to wireless devices, including headphones and speakers.

What you should consider: Some reviewers say the sound quality is lacking.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Byron Statics Vinyl Record Player

Byron Statics Vinyl Record Player

What you need to know: It’s an inexpensive portable model that’s sure to stand up to travel with a reinforced wooden cabinet.

What you’ll love: This model is Bluetooth-enabled to stream audio from paired devices, and it plays LPs at 33/45/78 RPMs. It also has RCA jacks on the back to play the sound with separate speakers.

What you should consider: There’s no automatic return of the tonearm after playing.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Jane VanVooren Rogers writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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