Buying the equipment that you need to get started with making or producing music is one of the toughest things to do. It can all get pretty expensive as you start to need and buy more. One of the first things that you might need to buy is a turntable. However, this is one piece of equipment that doesn't have to cost too much. There are plenty of options to help you find the best turntable under 500 dollars. A decent turntable is possible to find, and you don't have to compromise on quality. Let's take a look at some of the best options for affordable turntables.
Audio-Technica is a leading brand for turntables, especially because many of their products are on the more affordable size. Despite the lower prices, they offer quality products that are great for starting out with. This USB option is a decent entry-level turntable that has a good range of features.
- This turntable has a useful selection of features, including a built-in pre-amp, anti-skate adjustment and pitch control to make it a multifunctional turntable that delivers a smooth experience.
- The USB output makes it easy for you to make your tunes digital – it's handy to have the in-built option for quick and simple output.
- Powered with a DC servo motor to give it plenty of power, with quick start and quick brake.
- Ideal for DJs, with some ideal features such as quartz-locking pitch control, stroboscope, target light and anti-skate adjustment – helping you perfect your performance whether you're at home or in the club.
- Minimize vibration with the professional-grade anti-resonance, die-cast aluminum platter with felt mat.
- Features a AT-HS6 universal ½”-mount headshell and AT-VM95E Dual Magnet phono cartridge with 0.3 x 0.7 mil elliptical stylus, giving you great quality for the price.
- The lack of outright bass control is a little disappointing, making it difficult to have complete control over the deck.
- The quality of the digital copies is average, so if that's one of the main features you're looking for in a turntable, you might want to consider other options.
- There's no reverse function, although there was on the previous model – not that big of a deal on an entry-level turntable but some people might miss it.
Stanton STR8.150 MKII Professional Direct Drive DJ Turntable
This turntable is designed to meet the needs of professional DJs, and it still comes in under $500. It looks good and has some useful features for musicians, including adjustable brake speed and removable target light. Thanks to selectable phono and line RCA outputs, you can be flexible about the audio equipment that you use.
- This is a super durable turntable, with the world’s strongest torque motor and heavy-duty steel construction.
- The powerful motor is super quiet but can still deliver 4.5kg torque to the straight tone arm and dampened platter.
- The heavier than average weight reduces resonance and feedback for smoother operation and better sound.
- You get great control with adjustable brake speed, pitch control with quartz lock and three speeds, as well as a reverse function.
- The tonearm is ideal for DJs and the height is adjustable.
- Pre-mounted and easy to set up so you can get started quickly.
- It's very heavy, weighing more than 40 pounds, which means it's not exactly the most portable option to take to shows or anywhere else.
- While the tonearm is good for DJs, it's not so good for listening to music at home.
- The straight tonearm could damage records unless you use a conical/spherical stylus.
- It doesn't come with a built-in pre-amp, which means you will need to buy one separately – that could put your total spend over your budget.
- Doesn't come with a hard cover so you will need to buy one separately if you want one to protect the turntable.
Crosley turntables are a great choice if you're really on a budget. Their affordable turntables will help you save plenty of money, often available for less than $200. The C200 is a solid choice for DJs and for using at home. It features parts from trusted turntable manufacturer Audio-Technica and it's pretty easy to use too.
- A very affordable turntable that has a similar look to Audio-Technica and other brands.
- Features an Audio-Technica magnetic cartridge for excellent sound quality, plus pitch adjustment and two playback speeds.
- The needle can always be updated at a later date if you want better performance.
- Includes a built-in switchable phono pre-amp with detachable RCA output cables to make setup easier.
- There's an option to buy Bluetooth speakers in a bundle with the turntable, and it still comes in at well under budget.
- The damped die-cast aluminum platter with felt slip mat improves stability and reduces vibrations.
- This turntable has a functional design with minimal fuss, which makes it a good choice for a beginner who needs to get to grips with what they're doing.
- Only two playback speeds (33 rpm and 45 rpm), whereas some other more expensive models offer three speeds.
- The phono pre-amp has small amounts of distortion at higher volumes.
- The RCA cables that come with the turntable aren't very long – although it's possible to replace these if you want to.
- Some set up is required, but it shouldn't be too difficult if you follow the instructions. Installing the tonearm's counterweight is a little tricky.
For another option from Audio-Technica, this turntable is compact and affordable. It's easy to get started with this entry-level turntable, and it even has built-in Bluetooth to make connecting with modern tech simple. If you're looking for something that balances the traditional tactile feel of using a turntable with wireless connectivity, this is a fantastic option.
- This is a small turntable, which is excellent if you want something compact that won't take up too much space and doesn't weigh too much either.
- It's super easy to set up, with clear instructions to follow so it wasn't difficult to begin using it.
- The Bluetooth wireless connectivity is a bonus for anyone who wants to make their setup a bit more modern. You can remove the need for a few cables and the Bluetooth connection is stable and strong.
- You get high quality sound with this turntable, which is great for an entry-level turntable.
- Full automation means that the tonearm returns to its resting point once the record has stopped playing and when you press the stop button, which can save you some time and effort.
- Includes a diamond stylus and phono cartridge with dedicated stereo amp for clear and crisp sound.
- The small size makes the turntable feel pretty fragile. The buttons don't feel particularly solid, but they are responsive.
- The cartridge is also a little fragile, with the whole stylus sometimes coming off and fiddly to get it back on.
- There aren't that many stylus options if you want to replace the stylus, which means it's not so easy to upgrade.
Many audiophiles choose the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC turntable as their first turntable, and it's easy to see why. This turntable has a sleek look and it's easy to get started with, plus it's well within budget and offers excellent quality. It might not be your first choice of turntable to take to shows, but it can be a great one to have at home.
- The turntable has a beautiful design, which might not matter to some but is definitely a plus point. It's sleeker than some of the more rugged and technical looking turntables geared toward DJs.
- It has excellent damping to prevent vibrations, which lends it better sound quality.
- The Ortofon 2M Red phono cartridge and lightweight and rigid carbon fiber tonearm also make it sound great and create a reliable performance.
- It's easy to set up, with a manual offering clear instructions to show you where to put everything.
- The carbon fiber tonearm delivers amazing performance and gets the most out of an already excellent cartridge.
- Modular components are good quality but can also be upgraded whenever you want to make any improvements.
- DC power supply with ultra precision frequency DC-driven AC generator gives ultimate speed stability.
- No phono preamp so you need to buy your own, but a cable is included so that you can connect your preamp right away.
- Balancing the tonearm and setting anti-skate during setup is a little tricky and the most difficult parts of setup.
- Possibly not enough bass for people who prefer lots of it.
The Best Turntable Under 500
When you're on a tighter budget, you might feel like you don't have much choice if you're looking for a quality turntable. However, DJs, producers, audiophiles and anyone else can actually find plenty of options for under $500. In fact, many of the best turntables under that price can be found for half as much. The options above give you a range of choices for different budgets and for various needs. Whether you need a turntable that's mostly for your own listening pleasure, something to produce with or something to take to shows, you can discover something suitable.
However, if you want to choose the best option out of the possibilities above, you should pick the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB Direct-Drive Turntable. This turntable has a little bit of everything, and it doesn't have too many downsides. It's a direct-drive turntable, which makes it suitable for DJing and it has a built-in preamp so you don't need to buy a separate one. Its USB connection means that you can digitize your music with ease, and even though the quality isn't perfect, it's still pretty good. Audio-Technica is a reliable brand, and you won't need to pay too much too get started with one of their turntables. While the others on this list offer good options, the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB Direct-Drive Turntable is the one that will work for a range of needs. However, some of the others could be more suited to your specific requirements. Knowing what you're looking for is important before you choose which turntable you want to buy.
How to Choose the Best Turntable
Buying a turntable for the first time can be pretty daunting. Before tapes and CDs came along, most people would have known how to set up a turntable and start playing a record. However, now it can some like another language if you're not familiar with how turntables work. It looks like you can simply put some vinyl on and get going, but there's actually a lot more to setting up and maintaining a turntable. If you don't know where to start, a few tips on what you should be looking for can help you to untangle the jargon and find the right turntable.
The first thing you should do is decide what the turntable is for. As a producer, musician or DJ, you might be looking for a turntable that is specifically geared toward that purpose. On the other hand, as someone who likes music, your main concern might be sound quality and how suitable the turntable is for listening to music at home. Another thing to consider might be how much you care about looks. Do you want your turntable to look a certain way, or are you more concerned about its performance than what it looks like?
There are some key things to look for in a turntable, and it can start to sound pretty technical. However, one you know what's what, it's not too difficult.
The Key Features to Look for in a Turntable
When you're getting started on your turntable search, the first thing to think about is the system. Some turntables are “all in one” setups, which have all you need in one system. That means they have the turntable, amplifier and speakers all packaged into one product. These are generally cheap and don't have great sound quality, but some people may think they're fine for casual listening at home.
If you don't have an all-in-one system, you need to have the right components to create your own setup. The turntable is one part, and you also need an amplifier and speakers. The amplifier will plug into the turntable, but only if it has a phono preamp built in. This is one of the important things to check when making your purchase. If there is no phono preamp, you will need to buy one. This means you will have your turntable connected to the preamp, which can then plug into an amplifier and then your speakers, or can sometimes go directly into the speakers if your hi-fi system has an amplifier.
Modern Turntable Features
There are some specific features that you might look for on modern turntables. These include USB connections and Bluetooth connectivity. USB connections can allow you to digitize your music, while Bluetooth connectivity means you can pair your turntable wirelessly with speakers and headphones that also have Bluetooth. Some other types of digital output may be available too. Many people won't see these features as being essential in any way, but they can be useful. It's up to you whether you think it's worth looking for a turntable that has either one of these features.
Top Features for DJs and Producers
If you're a DJ or a producer and that's what you want a turntable for, there are some features that you might want to consider. One thing to look for is a direct-drive, which means that the platter of the turntable is spun directly by the gears from the motor. This is as opposed to a belt drive, which uses an elastic belt to connect the platter and motor. A direct-drive turntable is favored by DJs because they can use it to get records spinning automatically.
Torque is another important thing to look at when you're looking for a professional turntable. Higher torque means that the turntable will get to is proper speed faster after you have pressed start and won't slow down. A pitch control slider is another must if you want a turntable for producing and DJing. You want to be able to adjust it smoothly and for the turntable to respond to your adjustments as quickly as possible. An adjustable pitch range can be useful for some too, especially for scratch artists.
A reverse function can also be a good thing to look for. It allows you to move the record in reverse, as the name implies. This is another feature that's really designed for scratchers. If you're not one, you'll probably find that you check it out once or twice and then never use it again.
Other options that you might look for on a turntable include master tempo, adjustable torque, BPM counter and an interchangeable tonearm. However, keep in mind that many turntables on the lower end of the price range may not have a large range of features such as these.