The majority of the population has moved towards streaming music, but the world of music CDs and vinyl records is still in full swing. While most technology and business experts believed that physical products were dead, vinyl returned with a bang. You could literally find a vinyl version of soundtracks from famous movies, pop albums and special edition game soundtracks available in stores today.
So what prevents you from buying one? It is the price, of course, because investing big in retro technology may sound absurd. A sensible alternative is simply to opt for the best record players of less than $500 that are economical, that reproduce discs with reasonable quality and that may lack some elegant features, but that allow you to enter the world of vinyl without having to worry about Spend a fortune. These are some of the critically acclaimed, cheap but good turntables you can buy now.
The best cheap turntables
Under $200, a turntable can lack quality in its speakers or more generally in terms of sound.
Nevertheless, many models of this price have a nice look and are easily manageable.
Crosley Cruiser: the best price
- Compatible with three different formats
- Elegant design
- Easy to carry
- Speakers lack punch
If you are a lover of vinyl records and have only a small budget, this device is very interesting. This board is designed to be easy to transport.
It is built as a wooden case covered with faux leather to bring a dose of elegance. It exists in several colors “flashy”. Equipped with a carrying handle and designed to be as light as possible, it can be taken wherever you want and so accompany your parties!
On the front of the case are two dynamic stereo speakers that are somewhat deplorable sound quality, so it is better that you have external speakers that offer better reproduction. As such, be aware that an RCA audio jack is available on the back of the turntable so you can connect the speaker of your choice.
In contrast, if you want to enjoy it alone, a jack is available to connect a headset. That said, it is also used for connecting a smartphone, tablet or MP3 player.
After playback, the platen arm will come back on its own, so there is no need to get up to stop the unit. As for the control of the speed, it is enough to press a button which adjusts this one. Another circular button is used to turn on / off the machine and manage the volume of the speakers.
This deck is compatible with 33, 45 and 78 rpm. An adapter is also provided to switch from one to the other.
Despite improved speakers, the Crosley Cruiser is suitable for those seeking compatibility with multiple vinyl formats as well as those who need more of a transportable device rather than an infallible listening quality.
The best mid-range turntables
In the mid-range, there are gradually models that have additional features such as the ability to convert or scan vinyls, while maintaining good sound quality.
This is Audio-Technica who has imposed the most in this section according to us, by offering two models of the same series but with slightly different characteristics.
Audio-Technica AT-LP60: the best midrange
- Digitization of vinyls possible
- Good quality of sound
- Light and compact format
- Autonomous reading arm
- Sometimes too marked in the treble
Audio-Technica is a Japanese brand that makes its place in the design of sound equipment (earphones, turntables, microphones, etc.).
The Audio-Technica AT-LP60 has dimensions (36 x 9.75 x 35.6 cm) that allow it to be installed anywhere. Its weight (3 kg) makes it easily transportable and you can take it to your parties with friends.
Level design, it is not the most beautiful visually since it includes a professional aluminum tray and a double Stereo Audio-Technica cell with replaceable diamond. As for the dust cover, it is detachable if necessary for maximum ergonomics.
The sound quality provided by the speakers is good, although the sound is a little too marked treble at times. The stereo preamp provides access to two alternative modes (phono and line), allowing you to connect the turntable to most stereo systems including speakers.
Connectivity side, you get a USB cable to a reliable computer (PC or Mac) but you can also connect a pair of headphones. This unit comes with the free software Audacity, compatible with PC and Mac, which converts your vinyl records to MP3, WAV and many other digital formats while maintaining a good sound quality.
Reading is well thought since when your song stops, the tonearm goes back to its original place without requiring any action on your part. Its speed fluctuation is less than 0.25% ensuring a faithful reproduction of the sound.
This USB disc player is fully automatic. It has two playback speeds, for 33 and 45 rounds. You can read albums and singles without problems.
In the end, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60 is offered at an affordable price and is suitable for digitizing vinyls. Beyond these assets, it delivers a convincing and fluid quality of sound, and is easily transported thanks to its light and compact format.
Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB: the mid-range alternative
- Elegant design
- His faithfully reproduced
- Conversion to digital format possible
- Small engine noise at low volume
- Plastic cover sensitive to scratches
The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB is a newer model than the AT-LP60 but is designed in the same line. The small difference in price is explained by the fact that it offers more modernity from a conversion point of view but this is not justified in our eyes.
Its design is successful with a mixture of sobriety and elegance, in shades less joyful but more serious (it exists in black or silver). The tray is aluminum while the tonearm has beautiful finishes and is adjustable. Everything is protected by a plastic cover that prevents dust from entering but is sensitive to scratches.
Its dimensions are 450 x 352 x 157 mm for a very high weight (10.7 kg). If this last criterion can hinder its movement, it has the advantage of offering better stability.
The sound is faithful and comparable to that of the AT-LP60. There is not too much vibration but the engine makes a little noise when the volume is low, thus somewhat disturbing the sound harmony.
You can also convert recordings to digital format (MP3, WMA, Flac …) via a USB port. As for the AT-LP60, the Audacity software accompanies you to fragment your sequences. If Jack is not included, there is a built-in preamp.
To manipulate the device, know that you can move forward or backward manually, simply by contacting the disc like a DJ. Nevertheless, the music does not stop alone and the tonearm requires your help to get back in place.
Finally, know that this turntable is compatible with LPs, 45 laps or 78 laps.
In summary, this device in an elegant design serves you to listen to records but also to convert them to digital format. It reproduces the sounds with a lot of fidelity and offers a nice compatibility in terms of speed of reading. It is especially suitable for DJs.
The best high-end turntables
In this price range of over $300, the models are often more focused on sound quality through a sound and sound design that prevents resonances and vibrations.
On the other hand, it is often necessary to expect bigger and heavier decks which reduce their mobility.
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon: the best high-end
- Excellent sound quality
- No resonance or vibrations
- Solid design
- No built-in preamp
- Larger size and weight
The Austrian brand Pro-Ject was born in 1990 and was one of the first to reinvent the turntable, placing it today number 1 worldwide in the field. She is known for her undeniable sound quality.
Level design, the manufacturer has opted for a simple look but available in several colors (black, flashy red, green, blue, yellow, silver or white) to blend in the best in your interior. The size and weight were revised upwards with 415 x 320 x 118 mm for 5.6 kg hindering its transport somewhat. However, the insulation of this machine is non-existent so please pay attention to where you want to put it.
The sound quality has been further improved over previous models, including the inclusion of a more rigid carbon tube in the arm to avoid resonance problems.
Nevertheless, its design is marked by the absence of an integrated preamp that aims to amplify the audio signal, but you can still buy an external preamp. Be aware that a phono cable is provided when the device is delivered.
The AC motor in the machine makes little noise and maintains a fluidity due to a stable speed without vibration.
It is compatible with the 33 laps as well as the 45 laps. At that price, it would not have been too much to offer a speed 78 rpm.
Ultimately, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon has a solid construction designed to deliver the best sound possible without resonance and vibration, including a stiffer arm. However, its design is more attractive for its transport and we regret the lack of integrated preamp.
Sony PS-HX500: the high-end alternative
- Its natural and authentic
- HR Registration
- Neat design
- Larger size and weight
- Fragility of the lid
- The tonearm does not return automatically
The famous Sony brand offers here a model whose design has been designed to offer you a sound worthy of the name.
The Sony PS-HX500 has a sleek design in a larger format (420 x 95 x 360 mm) and heavier (5 kg) than the average of the turntables in this comparison.
Its construction is made to stabilize the device to ensure natural sound reproduction. The high-quality 5 mm rubber mat, for its part, prevents the risk of resonance. Especially since the tonearm is durable and takes the role of stabilizer thanks to its new integrated shell. In addition, there is a lid that isolates the machine but it is a little fragile.
The delivered sound is very natural, due to its advanced technology integrated into the MDF case. It brings out the heat of the discs under a high definition.
This deck is also designed for recording in high resolution mode to switch to digital format. This backup is via a USB port and is effective with the native DSD 5.6 MHz conversion system. You can enjoy the authentic sound of vinyl anywhere with your mp3. DSD is the best file format to reproduce and record the sound of vinyls as accurately as possible.
The device comes with the free application “Hi-Res Audio Recorder” for PC (Windows and Mac OS X compatible). It allows you to make sound montages to take only the pieces that interest you.
Compatibility level, it can rotate discs in two speeds: 33 rpm and 45 rpm, just like Pro-Ject Debut Carbon. On the other hand after stopping the disc, the tonearm does not replace itself automatically.
In short, the Sony PS-HX500 is equipped with various technologies that aim to reproduce the most natural sound vinyl. It is also interesting if you want to record your files in digital format to enjoy anywhere from another audio device.
Audio-Technica AT-LP3: with this model, we find the Audio-Technica elegance with a subtle combination of black and white. It has two rotational speeds (33 rpm or 45 rpm). It also incorporates a preamp to effectively connect the device to a speaker. By cons, editing may seem difficult to find the right balance but especially, the sound lacks a little clarity compared to the other two of its range.
Rega Planar 1: available in black or white, this board has one of the most beautiful designs on the market (despite a rather cheap design) with carefully crafted finishes, a shiny base, which by the way, is easily scratched . Two speeds are compatible (33 and 45 rpm) and you enjoy good sound quality, without being bothered by the vibrations. Nevertheless, we note that its stop at the end of reading must be done manually, and that the arm is not adjustable.
Technics SL-1200 GR: This sleek machine features an aluminum arm and motor that can turn at 33, 45 or 78 rpm. Its high weight (11.2 kg) testifies to its stability. It delivers a good sound quality and if you wish, an RCA phono output is at your disposal. However, its use is rather reserved for professionals (DJ, composer, etc.). It must be said that its price gives some cold sweats.
In conclusion, which turntable to choose?
It is the Audio-Technica AT-LP60 that wins our preference. It digitizes your vinyls while delivering a convincing quality of sound for a smooth experience. In addition, you can take it everywhere with you thanks to its light and compact size.
For a cheaper model, it will be satisfied with a less powerful sound. So, the Crosley Cruiser is a great product if you are not too demanding but want to carry it. It comes in a pleasant modern design and rotates at three different speeds.
Finally, with a larger budget, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon provides you with an even more advanced sound dropping resonances and vibrations. It is less mobile but its solid design offers good stability.