The heyday of the turntable’s popularity came in the second half of the 20th century: from the 60s to the 80s, almost all successful musicians released their music on vinyl records. Then, despite the advent of CDs, vinyl records suddenly became popular again at the beginning of the 21st century: more and more artists release their songs on both CDs and vinyl records. This way the vinyl players became much more accessible, making it possible to get the best turntable under 500 dollars that will give you almost everything for listening to your records in high quality.
However, why does an analog sound still remains popular among both audiophiles and usual music lovers? The analog sound differs from the digital by its warmth, lightness, and naturalness, providing a sound that is closer to the originally recorded. Buying a turntable under $500, you will get a good-sounding piece of equipment that will give you not only basic features but also some advanced ones like wireless connectivity, onboard controls, etc. In some cases, you can even get an audiophile sound quality.
The turntables are complex devices that are assembled from components of a different quality that are designed for different tastes and needs. That is why it can be hard to choose the best turntable under 500 dollars. We have reviewed 10 turntables in our article so anyone could find a suitable model from this price range. Read about features they can offer, compare their pros and cons, and make your choice. Additionally, our buyer’s guide will inform what you should look for when choosing a turntable.
Turntable under $500 Reviews
The Audio-Technica AT-LP120 is a turntable with a fully manual control. It can be one of the best turntables under 500 dollars in terms of universality as it’s suitable for both usual home use and DJing.
This record player is available in two colors (black and silver) and goes with a transparent dust cover. The external design looks sleek and classic, so will probably go well with most decor ideas. The turntable has a plastic base while still being sufficiently sturdy, having 23.5 pounds of weight. It stands on four rubber feet that are adjustable for leveling the turntable. In total, the AT-LP120 is 17.72 x 13.86 x 6.1 inches.
To minimize vibrations, the turntable is equipped with an anti-resonance, cast-aluminum platter with a cloth slip mat. This model also features dual-magnet phono cartridge with a 0.5-inch headshell and diamond stylus. The S-shaped tonearm has a counterweight adjustment feature which is aimed to help you in keeping the right amount of pressure on your records. Besides, it’s also supplied with hydraulically-damped lift control, lockable rest, direct-drive, and high-torque motor.
The platter speed buttons, along with the pitch adjust slide control, allow varying the platter’s rotational speed (33/45/78 RPM). There is a pitch selector indicator (turns green for standard/locked RPM setting, red for a pitch-adjusted setting). The direct button is useful for DJing as it allows controlling platter’s rotational direction. With quartz speed lock control you can toggle between internal quartz-locked reference and variable pitch. You can select the range of pitch variation with the help of a dedicated pitch button. The popup stylus target light illuminates the stylus position, so you can work with the turntable in a poorly lit environment.
The AT-LP120 offers only wired connectivity. It has a switchable phono pre-amplifier and USB port, so you can connect the speakers to the PC, audio system, or speakers. The USB port also gives the opportunity to digitize your records (with the help of Audacity software).
The turntable goes with a bunch of accessories: an AC line cord, two (male and female) dual RCA 3.5 mm mini-plug stereo adapter cables, 45 RPM adapter, USB cable, and recording software.
- The headshell is removable which makes it easy to fit different cartridges.
- The turntable comes with a large and detailed manual with step-by-step instruction on how to assemble/use the turntable, how to replace the stylus, etc.
- The high-performance cartridge gives an impressive clarity of sound.
- The motor is a bit noisy.
- The RCA cables are fixed, so it will be hard to change them.
Video Audio-Technica AT-LP120
The Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK is a slightly upgraded version of Audio-Technica AT-LP120. The AT-LP120XUSB-BK is designed only for home use and can be bought in black/silver color. The turntable is quite light (17.6 pounds) and compact (17.80 × 13.86 × 5.57 inches). It stands on four vibration-absorbing feet.
Except for start/stop button, you will also find a lot of customizable options on turntable’s body: platter speed buttons (33/45/78 RPM), quartz button to turn the pitch function on/off, pitch adjust slide control along with pitch selection indicator (glows red for standard or locked RPM setting), and tempo range button which allows selecting 8 or 16% tempo range.
The AT-LP120XUSB-BK also has a removable stylus target light which helps you find the starting groove. It also can be plugged into a jack on top of turntable’s deck.
The turntable is equipped with a professional-grade anti-resonance cast-aluminum platter and felt mat. It works with the help of direct-drive, DC-servo motor, and provides fully manual operation. The tonearm is S-shaped and has an adjustable anti-skate control, being also supplied with hydraulically-damped lift control and lockable rest. The turntable uses a universal 0.5-inch-mount headshell and dual-magnet AT-VM95E phono cartridge with an elliptical stylus.
In terms of connectivity, the turntable is equipped with a switchable phono pre-amp and USB port. The provided Audacity software allows you to convert your LPs into digital format (you can also use any other software for this).
The package includes USB cable, detachable RCA output cables, AC and 45 RPM adapters, counterweight, and removable transparent dust cover.
- The improved stylus provides clear and bright highs.
- Both the platter and the motor work silent.
- The AT-LP120XUSB-BK features damped base construction which reduces sound coloration.
- The digital LP copies are of average quality.
- The cartridge makes the sound a bit tough on the high end.
Being known for its high-end audiophile-quality turntables, Pioneer managed to create the PL-30-K— a record player that can possibly be the best audiophile turntable under $500
among the Pioneer’s non-expensive models thanks to the usage of high-quality components.
It goes in black matte color with transparent dust cover and has a very minimalist design which doesn’t claim to stand out from your interior. With 12.3 pounds of weight, the turntable is very light. Being 17.1 x 4.3 x 14.6 inches in size, the unit is also quite compact and portable.
The PL-30-K provides many controls to customize the turntable’s operation. Along with the start/stop buttons, there are also the button to change the speed, anti-skating dial, stylus pressure adjustment ring, and the adapter for EP records.
This turntable is belt-driven. It’s equipped with an aluminum die-cast platter with a thick rubber mat and high-torque DC motor (33/45 RPM). The straight tonearm with static-balanced design features an anti-skating mechanism. The turntable uses a high-performance MM-type cartridge with a detachable headshell.
This model from Pioneer is equipped with its own built-in phono equalizer with an on/off selector. This way, the turntable can be connected directly to an amp that doesn’t have a phono terminal. If an amp has a phono equalizer, the built-in phono equalizer can be turned off.
This model also can be the best automatic turntable under 500 dollars for beginners as it provides fully automatic work and is very easy to use: all you have to do to set the record for playing is select the record size and press the start button.
In the kit, you will also find the turntable sheet and spare lead wires.
- The low center of gravity chassis contributes to stable record playing.
- The turntable has a thick and sturdy metal base.
- The power cord is detachable which makes it easier to move the turntable from place to place.
- The turntable’s feet don’t seem stable.
- The audio cables are not included in the kit.
Video Pioneer PL-30-K
This model from 1 By One can be one of the best turntables under 500 dollars for those searching for a unit that will provide as much as possible for the money as it goes with its own pair of speakers and vinyl-to-MP3 recording feature. Additionally, there is also Bluetooth support which allows wirelessly playing music from smartphones, tablets, PCs, and MP3-players through the turntable’s speakers.
Both the turntable and the speakers provide a retro vibe, having a light-toned wood color design. The included 36W Hi-Fi speakers have solid MDF enclosure, paper cones, and alnico magnets which ensure a stable magnetic field.
On the turntable’s housing, you will find a small control panel with volume knob, 33/45 RPM selector, play/stop button, and function switch button (turntable/Bluetooth). On the rear side of the unit, there is a phono line to connect the turntable to any active/powered speakers via an RCA cable. There are also a phono-line out switch, USB port, and dedicated speaker jacks to connect the turntable to the included speakers.
This belt-driven turntable features solid iron platter (with slip mat) which provides good stability. The tonearm has an adjustable counterweight and anti-skating force which prevents scratches on the record’s surface. The MM-type Audio-Technica AT3600L cartridge and stylus work great in producing rich, clear, and warm sound.
The turntable size is 16.34 x 14.17 x 5.51 inches and weighs 20.9 pounds, being quite heavy.
The turntable goes with transparent dust cover, speaker grills, USB cable, and audio cables for speakers.
- You can save your LPs on your PC in CD-quality.
- The universal headshell makes it easy to change cartridges.
- The included speakers have an impressively clear and crisp sound quality.
- The auto-stop feature is too sensitive and may be triggered for no reason.
- The provided dust cover is very fragile.
This turntable from Fluance has a minimalist vintage design and is available in two color options: piano black and walnut. The cabinet is made of solid MDF. The turntable stands on four isolation feet which prevent unwanted vibrations. Its size is 16.5 x 5.5 x 13.75 inches and weighs 14.1 pounds.
Except for the speed selection knob (33/45 RPM), there are no other controls on the top panel. The power LED light is located near this knob. On the rear side of the unit, you will find gold-plated RCA audio outputs, ground terminal, preamp switch, auto-stop switch, and power input.
The RT81 can potentially be the best turntable under $500 for you if you are searching for the purest analog sound: despite being a budget model, this belt-driven record player uses premium components to reproduce the sound as close to the originally recorded as possible. The high-performance Audio Technica AT95E cartridge with diamond elliptical stylus tracks record grooves with accuracy to provide high-definition audio. To ensure that the stylus makes tight contact with the record’s grooves, the turntable is equipped with solid aluminum S-shaped tonearm with an anti-skating system and has an aluminum platter that is covered with rubber slip mat. The RT81 also has built-in Texas Instruments preamp.
The RT81 kit includes a tinted dust cover, 45 RPM adapter, RCA cable with ground wire, and AC power adapter.
- The tonearm is impressively stable and the anti-skating system works great.
- The turntable has an accurate and gentle cueing lever.
- The RT81 is suitable for both professional use and amateur music mixing.
- It may be hard for beginners to balance the tonearm on this turntable.
- It doesn’t keep consistent speed after long hours of work.
Video Fluance RT81
The Debut Carbon DC from Pro-Ject is among the best turntables under $500 in terms of design versatility: to be suitable for any decor, the player is offered in eight different colors: blue, piano black, purple, silver, gloss white, red, walnut, and yellow. Plus, its design is as minimalist as possible as it features no controls at all. The power supply and phono output sockets are located on the rear of the unit.
The present turntable is belt-driven. It’s equipped with 8.6-inch tonearm which uses a carbon fiber arm designed to increase stiffness and decrease the unwanted resonance. It’s also supplied with premium-quality Ortofon 2M cartridge with an anti-skating system.
The turntable’s AC motor uses an effective motor decoupling and precise DC-driven AC generator which work to ensure speed stability and eliminate vibrations.
This record player is equipped with a metal platter with a felt mat. The increased platter size and weight work for smoother rotation and improved sound quality. Plus, the combination of damping feet and heavy platter provides much better isolation from external vibrations. The height of the feet is also adjustable.
The dimensions are 16.3 x 4.6 x 12.5 inches and 12.3 pounds. Among the included accessories, you will find 15V DC/0.8A power supply and transparent dust cover.
- The setup is really straightforward, so even the beginner can handle it quickly.
- The turntable provides a truly detailed sound.
- Despite being lightweight, the turntable is very sturdy and stable.
- The speed should be changed manually: you will have to remove the platter and move the belt manually to change the speed from 33 to 45 RPM.
- The motor produces some hum during work.
The AT-LP1240 is among those turntables under 500 dollars that are primarily designed for demanding DJ use. It goes in black color, has a modern design, and stands on 4 adjustable feet. Note that this turntable is very large and heavy: its size is 17.72 × 13.90 × 6.56 inches and weighs 27.6 pounds.
The turntable has a great variety of controls located on its top panel which allow for highly-customizable capabilities. So, on its top panel you will find: platter speed buttons that allow switching between 33, 45, and 78 RPM; start control knob which works to increase/decrease platter start time between 0.2 – 6.0 seconds; brake control knob works to increase/decrease platter brake time between 0.2 – 6.0 seconds; reverse control button that changes platter’s rotational direction; speed range button (+/- 10 or 20% speed range); quartz button to turn the pitch function on/off; pitch adjust slide control. There is also a removable stylus target light.
The AT-LP1240 is a turntable with fully manual operation and professional anti-resonance cast-aluminum stroboscopic platter with a DJ-style slip mat. It’s also equipped with strong, direct-drive, high-torque, multipole motor which works especially great for DJing. The S-shaped tonearm features hydraulically damped lift control, anti-skate, height adjustment and lockable rest.
Thanks to the USB port and provided Audacity software, you can convert your LPs into MP3 format. The built-in switchable phono preamp allows connecting the player to different receivers, powered speakers, and other AV systems.
In the box, you will also find dual RCA output cable, two output adapter cables, USB cable, 45 RPM adapter, counterweight, and dust cover.
- The platter features a speed indicator.
- The turntable has all-steel heavy-duty construction which can withstand rough use.
- The record player features a great noise-dampening feature.
- This turntable will be very confusing for beginners.
- The unit goes without phono cartridge so you will have to purchase it separately.
Video Audio-Technica AT-LP1240
The Crosley K100 goes with a pair of 2-way powered 30W Bluetooth speakers. The turntable is silver with black bottom. The speakers are black and have rounded edges. They are supplied with silver 4-inch woofers, 1-inch tweeters, and a class-D amplifier.
On top of the turntable, you will find a start/stop button, speed control buttons, and pitch adjustment. There is also an adjustable strobe pitch with a strobe light. The turntable features switchable phono pre-amp and AUX input.
The K100 is a belt-driven two-speed (33/45 RPM) turntable with fully manual operation. The S-Shaped tonearm has hydraulic lift control, anti-skate, height adjustment, and lockable rest features. The die-cast aluminum platter is also equipped with a felt slip mat. Besides, the unit uses the Audio Technica MM-type cartridge.
The item size is 17.75 x 13.7 x 5.75 inches and weighs 12 pounds. It comes with a 45 RPM adapter and two RCA cables.
- This turntable can be used for scratching.
- The K100 spins steadily and constantly.
- It comes with solid protective dust cover.
- The sound may be too harsh at some pitch levels.
- The built-in preamp is not of great quality.
The reviewed turntable features all-black design and included 2-way 30W powered Bluetooth speakers which use class-D amplifier rated at 15W per channel.
The turntable’s direct-drive, high-torque motor playbacks records at two speeds: 33 and 45 RPM. Balanced S-shaped tonearm is equipped with such features as an adjustable counterweight and anti-skate, and lockable rest. The cast-aluminum platter is covered with an included felt slip mat which reduces vibrations and jolting. The Audio-Technica MM-type cartridge performs great, but you can easily change it.
The K200 has a fully manual operation, featuring start/stop button, adjustable pitch control, as well as speed control buttons. In terms of connectivity, the Crosley K200 offers switchable phono pre-amp (you can use this one or connect your own) and AUX input to connect the turntable to other devices.
The turntable (7.75 x 5.75 x 13.75 inches) is compact enough to even be placed on a bookshelf. It weighs 10 pounds and goes with a couple of RCA output cables.
- The turntable’s motor works great, moving the records quickly and smoothly.
- This model is very convenient for mixing/mashups.
- The included speakers provide true stereo sound.
- The cartridge requires frequent adjustment.
- The sound skips at times.
The Orbit Plus is a hand-crafted turntable. It’s available in one of five colors: green, black, blue, white, or red. If you appreciate turntables with acrylic platters but have never thought that you can afford one, this model from U-Turn Audio can be the best turntables under 500 dollars for you. It does feature a low-resonance dense acrylic platter which is mostly used in very expensive models, providing better speed consistency and detailed sound with increased clarity.
The Orbit Plus is a belt-drive turntable equipped with a low-noise motor that also works great in providing speed consistency (33/45 RPM). The turntable uses the Ortofon OM5E cartridge that features an elliptical diamond stylus. The precision OA2 gimbal tonearm is enabled with anti-skate and adjustable counterweight features for more accurate tracking and low distortion level.
On the rear of the unit, you will find two RCA jacks and a preamp bypass switch.
There are an AC adapter, two RCA cables, transparent dust cover, and felt mat in the package. Its dimensions are 6.75 x 12.5 x 4.25 inches and weighs 12.5 pounds.
- The acrylic platter provides a lifelike tonality and mighty bass.
- The Ortofon OM5E cartridge works great with a wide variety of music genres.
- It’s very easy to change the speed thanks to the external belt.
- The stylus can be replaced only with the one from Ortofon’s Super OM Series.
- There is some static distortion at high volume levels.
Video U-Turn Audio – Orbit Plus
The Most Important Basic Parts of Turntables
Turntables differ greatly when it comes to features that they are able to offer. Some of them are minimalist and give you only basic features. The others offer built-in speakers, USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, etc. They also feature different design ideas: from classic and vintage to modern, fashionable ones. However, all turntables come equipped with the same parts: the platter, the tonearm, the cartridge, and the stylus.
The platter is the base of the vinyl player. It’s a disc-shaped part that holds the record. Since the records are very sensitive to vibrations because of their nature, the main task of the platter is to uniformly rotate the record at an equal speed and protect it from vibrations. Typically, most record players also feature rubber, cloth, or felt slip mat which is placed on top of the platter.
The platter usually has a large mass which allows stabilizing the rotational speed, gives firm support to the record, and prevents feedback, giving you a more pronounced low end. A thin platter is bad in avoiding vibrations, causing feedback and skipping.
There are two types of platters: belt-driven and direct-driven. The belt-drive is based on the transmission of rotation from an electric motor to the platter with the help of a belt which connects spindle and platter. In the direct-drive, the platter is mounted on the rotor of the motor, so the motor moves the platter itself. It accelerates the plate to working revolutions almost instantly. Today, it’s the most common type of drive, but audiophiles still prefer belt-driven turntables as their motor adds less noise.
The cartridge of the turntable is attached to the tonearm. The main purpose of the tonearm is to ensure an accurate and smooth movement of the cartridge. The overall sound quality provided by the turntable depends on the tonearm it uses.
Cheap turntables usually have plastic tonearms which provide a low-quality sound. Metal tonearms give out the much better sound quality.
The tonearms also have different shapes: straight and S-shaped. However, it’s mostly an aesthetic issue as it’s hard to say which one is better in terms of sound quality: for a usual listener, it won’t make a difference. However, some listeners consider that the records wear out less when the turntable uses the S-shaped tonearm.
It’s recommendable to get a turntable where the tonearm has an adjustable counterweight feature. If the counterweight is too light, the tonearm will be skipping; if it is too heavy, you may damage the stylus or the record.
Cartridge and Stylus
The cartridge has a big influence on sound quality. It works by converting modulations of the record grooves into an electrical signal. That is, the task of this part is to turn mechanical energy into electrical and transfer it to speakers.
There are various types of cartridges. However, the most popular of them are MM (moving magnet) and MC (moving coil) cartridges. The MM-type cartridges are more affordable for most users and are equipped with the removable stylus so you can change it when it wears out. However, it’s generally accepted that the MC-type cartridges sound better: they are more vibrant, natural and detailed. Although the MC-type cartridge doesn’t feature a removable stylus so you will have to change the whole cartridge when the stylus wears out.
The stylus tip is the only part of the cartridge that comes in direct contact with the record. The shape of the stylus is important as it directly affects its contact with the groove. The better is the contact between the stylus tip and the record grooves, the better and more accurate the sound is.
There are two types of stylus shapes: conical and elliptical. The conical styluses are the most low-priced ones while being more durable and easy to use. However, they don’t demonstrate the same level of performance as their elliptical analogs.