For audiophiles and vinyl junkies, turntables are more than just a reminder of the good ol’ days. These nostalgia-inducing music players deliver exceptional audio, even better than more advanced players. That being said, turntables are not made equally, some are better than others.

The price, performance, and construction of turntables vary greatly between brands. If you’re on the hunt for a quality turntable, you have to choose a product that offers the best value for the money. The last thing you want is to buy an expensive record player only to ruin your precious vinyls!

In this guide, we are outlining our top recommended turntables as well as a shopping guide to help you find the right product that suits your needs and budget.

The Best Turntable for the Money

1byone 3-Speed Stereo Turntable

1byone 3-Speed Stereo Turntable

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Good audio quality
  • Built-in speakers
  • Vinyl-to-MP3 Recording

CONS

  • Prone to skipping
  • Prone to distortion

The 1byone 3-Speed stereo turntable is a belt-driven record player that comes with basic features all wrapped up in a stunning vintage design. The base of the turntable is made from wood while the moving components are made of rigid plastic. It comes with practical features such as a protective dust cover and front panel for the controls.

The 1byone 3-Speed stereo turntable also boasts of a vinyl-to-MP3 recording. With it, you can record your favorite records to any plugged-in USB key and transfer it to a computer. You can also play MP3 tracks via USB.

The built-in speakers are not there to knock anyone’s socks off but they do a great job of producing decent audio. You might need a separate set of speakers if you really want to give the audio a boost. Thankfully, you can hook the 1byone 3-Speed stereo turntable to your home sound system via the RCA input.

The 1byone 3-Speed stereo turntable has been a consistent top seller thanks to its gorgeous design and decent audio. However, it is prone to skipping. Since it’s prone to skipping, you can expect slight distortion during play. Also, the 1byone 3-Speed stereo turntable is not as gentle to the records as other turntables.

The 1byone 3-Speed stereo turntable is a budget-friendly record player that suits newbies. It offers decent audio and all the essential features you need for an enjoyable listening experience.

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Fluance RT81 Vinyl Turntable

Fluance RT81 Vinyl Turntable

PROS

  • Great audio quality
  • Good phono preamp
  • High-performance Audio Technica cartridge
  • Balanced aluminum S-Type tonearm

CONS

  • Non-auto returning tonearm
  • Prone to vibration

The Fluance RT81 is a starter turntable that newbies and advanced users will appreciate. This user-friendly turntable features a standard design in a beautiful lacquered wood finish. As far as aesthetic goes, the RT81 has a strong vintage design but it’ll sit right at home in contemporary setups too!

We love how the RT81 eliminates the need for a separate phono preamp. The built-in phono preamp is a welcome addition although you have to turn it off if you want to use an external preamp. The audio quality is great, especially at this price point. The tonearm is balanced, allowing for great audio clarity without damaging the record.

We just wish the RT81 comes with a USB port for added flexibility. Also, the tonearm doesn’t return automatically to its resting place. It’s only the platter that stops automatically. This means you have to put the tonearm where it belongs manually, something that worth considering if you’re looking for a fully automatic turntable.

Overall, the Fluance RT81 is a great turntable. It offers the best value for the money and the audio quality is terrific. The system isn’t perfect but if you’re looking for a quality, mid-range turntable, this product is highly recommended.

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Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Turntable

Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Turntable

PROS

  • Great audio quality
  • Suitable for newbies and pros alike
  • Fully automatic with USB output
  • Direct drive high-torque multi-pole motor

CONS

  • Plastic construction
  • Prone to wobbling
  • Not upgrade-friendly

The AT LP120 offers an impressive balance of great performance, excellent features, and outstanding price point. This is a direct drive, manual turntable with a built-in stereo preamp. The AT LP120’s boxy yet solid base ensures a stable performance with minimal vibration. The chrome-plated finish gives the AT LP120 extra oomph.

Setting up the AT LP120 is easy as can be. It’s one of the most user-friendly turntables there is. It presents an array of options, adding flexibility to an already impressive set of advanced features. You can, for instance, dial in the vertical tracking angle, replace the headshell or play your favorite MP3 tracks.  The AT LP120 can handle straight analog or analog to digital audio. It has a built-in pre-amp, phono and line level RCA outputs. It also comes with a USB output so it is compatible with MAC and PC.

The AT LP120’s internal pre-amp is quite handy because it works with any type of powered speakers. The overall construction is nice although there are plastic components. We wish the AT LP120 is a little upgrade-friendly, though. RCA cables, for instance, are harder to replace because they are hardwired into the turntable. Some users also claim that the AT LP120 is prone to wobbling although we did not experience this issue with our test unit.

Overall, the AT LP120 brings together an impressive performance, great audio and terrific price point in one compact, high-performance turntable. It’s a consistent top seller thanks to its excellent features.

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Pro-Ject – Debut Carbon DC

Pro-Ject - Debut Carbon DC

PROS

  • Excellent audio quality
  • High-fidelity performance
  • User-friendly, easy to set up

CONS

  • Manual speed change
  • Requires a phono preamp
  • Basic features

We are rounding up our list of the best turntable for the money with the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon. This sleek, contemporary turntable delivers high-fidelity sound and a terrific listening experience. The overall design is quite eye-catching. The clean, simple lines and compact carbon fiber construction will look right at home in any home entertainment system. The unit itself is lightweight enough that it’s portable but substantial enough that it doesn’t wobble. The carbon fiber tonearm is just as well-made. It’s lightweight, stiff, and gentle on the records.

The setup process is straightforward; it only takes a matter of minutes to complete. Since this turntable doesn’t come with an isolating suspension, you have to set it somewhere stable for a vibration-free operation. As for the performance, the audio is always clean and crisp. It delivers a great level of rhythmic precision. The clarity is great but there is, of course, room for improvement.

As for the drawbacks, we wish the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon came with more extra features. Sure, it’s a well-made piece of hardware but it doesn’t really come with niceties such as an auto-returning tonearm or a built-in phono preamp. The manual changing of the belt position could put off some users, particularly newbies. But if say, you want to become a vinyl collector, this turntable makes a great investment.

Overall, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is a real eye-candy with impressive audio performance to match. The stripped down features may be off-putting for newbies but the performance is something that true blue vinyl lovers will appreciate.

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Tips and Buying Guide

What Makes a Good Turntable?

Shopping around for a turntable for the first time? What factors should you consider during your search? Apart from delivering high-quality audio and a bevy of extra features, a good turntable should come in a durable yet stylish design, among other things. To find the right turntable for the money, consider these important factors:

Tonearm

The tonearm holds the cartridge and the stylus that moves onto the record to generate sound. You want a turntable with a well-made tonearm that generates less friction. The less friction the tonearm generates, the better the sound will be. The tonearm should be high in quality so your precious records won’t sustain any damage while in use.

Playback Speeds

The playback speeds of turntables will vary from product to product. However, the majority of turntables are able to play 33 1/3 or 45-RPM records. If say, your collection is comprised mostly of 78s, these turntables do not suit your needs at all. Go for a turntable that could play a wider variety of records. 3-speed turntables are perfect for collectors with a massive range of records.

Speed Deviation

The speed deviation of a turntable refers to the rotational speed of the platter. The listening experience will be affected if the rotational speed of the hardware is beyond the ideal speed. The pitch of the audio could become distorted, for example. You want a turntable with as close to zero speed deviation for better audio.

Cartridge

This is a mechanism found at the end of the tonearm. It holds the turntable’s needle or stylus. The cartridge could affect the overall audio quality of the turntable so it is important to choose a product that comes with a high-quality cartridge. The price and quality of turntable cartridges will vary greatly so choose wisely!

Design

Does design matter? While aesthetics will not affect a turntable’s performance, it makes an impact on the overall look and impression of the product. Portability, durability, and pleasing aesthetics are some of the most important factors you need to consider when shopping for a turntable. You want a turntable that suits your needs and lifestyle.

Direct Drive or Belt Drive?

A direct drive turntable has the motor installed directly to the platter. This setup creates a higher torque while keeping the rotational speed stable and consistent. Direct drive turntables have no belt to fuss with so it’s a great choice for newbies. Since the platter can be spun forwards and backward with great accuracy, direct drive turntables are perfect for DJs. That being said, direct drive turntables are prone to vibrations that could distort the audio. You need to invest in a set of shock absorbers to minimize the vibration.

On the other hand, a belt-drive turntable’s motor is not installed near the platter. This turntable has a belt that stretches between the platter and the motor to rotate the platter. Belt-drive turntable offers minimum motor, reducing vibrations or distortion. However, the belt will require changing every now and then. The belt could also slip off during play, which might be bothersome for some users.

Manual or Automatic?

A manual turntable has a tonearm that does not set itself back to its resting position after the record has stopped playing. This means you have to lift the tonearm and set it to its resting position every time the record stops playing. A manual turntable has less moving components so it’s much easier to use. However, setting the tonearm manually could be bothersome if you’re not sitting near the turntable as you listen to your favorite tracks.

Automatic turntables have tonearms that lift itself back to their resting position after the record stopped playing. This is a great feature if you’re not keen on a more hands-on approach to music listening. There is no need to reposition the tonearm manually so enjoying your records is a carefree affair. That said, automatic turntables have more moving parts so they’re quite delicate.