I’ve looked at pictures that my mom has of me, from when I was four years old at the turntable. I’m there, reaching up to play the records. I feel like I was bred to do what I do. I’ve been into music, and listening to music and critiquing it my whole life – Dr. Dre
The most astute academics who spend their professional and personal lives tuned into the vagaries of popular mainstream culture will happily tell anyone who wants to listen that every facet of music is cyclical.
From the genres that rise and fall, through to the way that we listen to them, everything about music comes in waves that wash in, wash out and wash it again. And that steadfast rule that the noted experts adhere to might actually make sense if it wasn’t for a particularly stubborn fly in the ointment.
Vinyl is, was, and always has been the chosen carrier format for the true audiophile and despite the major record labels’ attempt to kill the humble plastic platter off at the beginning of the nineteen nineties, it has endured.
Having emerged from the shadow world of independent labels and limited pressings, thanks to its hipster-led resurgence, the format that was once the sole purview of the audiophile, has once again become the premier physical music format.
Which means that if you want to listen to music the way that the artist who wrote, recorded it, and released it intended it to be heard, you need to listen to it on vinyl. But if you want to lose yourself in the warm, luxuriant sound of vinyl, you’ll need a turntable to play it on. And that’s where you can, and often will run headlong into a musical brick wall.
Trying to find the right turntable without having to wade through an endless field of technical jargon, that won’t empty your pocketbook and leave an irreparable scratch on your bank balance isn’t exactly straightforward or simple. With thousands of potential options to choose from, it could take you half a lifetime to find the turntable that flips all of your vinyl switches. That’s where we come in.
We’re vinyl junkies, and we firmly believe that the only way to listen to our favorite songs and bands is on record, and that’s why we’ve put together a list of the best turntables you can add to your stereo setup for less than five hundred dollars, so that like us you can listen to music the way it was meant to be heard at a price that won’t leave you broke and scrambling around to find next month’s rent check. It’s time to find your new turntable…
Traditionally, we had to rely on mass-produced OEM turntables, all of which had very similar design elements and sounded the same. The industry has come a long way and there is a lot more diversity in terms of quality and producers of turntables.
We have therefore compiled a list of the best and most affordable audiophile turntables to give you the best from around the world to satisfy even the most ardent vinyl enthusiast. Without further ado here are the best turntables under USD500.
U-Turn Audio – Orbit Plus Turntable
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A company that wholeheartedly believes in fully immersing the listener in the musical experience, U-Turn Audio’s Orbit Plus is a manually operated turntable that requires dedication and patience to operate, but rewards both with a rich, deep clarity of sound that submerges the listener in a tsunami of musical ecstasy.
The Orbit or better known as the orbit special is equipped with an OA2 gimbal arm that’s fitted with precision bearings, so it’ll follow the grooves of a record freely and easily, which makes distortion a thing of the past, and as its anti-skate is preset, and the counterweight is easily adjustable, the needle won’t skip and it won’t jump.
And while we’re talking about the needle, we should probably mention that the Orbit Plus also uses an Ortofon cartridge which has been specifically designed to create a perfectly balanced sound, so regardless of your genre of choice, the Orbit Plus will serve up your songs the way that you want, and need to hear them.
We know, you’re transfixed by the clear platter, we were too when we first saw it. It isn’t just about looks either, as U-Turn engineered their heavyweight acrylic platter to deliver constant speed response, and as it’s made from a low resonance material, all you’ll hear, with crystal clarity, every single time you drop the needle, are the songs that you want to listen to.
- Hand Made In The USA – Every single Orbit Plus is made in U-Turn’s Massachusetts factory by hand and tested by their technicians before it leaves the facility.
- Balanced, Precision Sound – The gimbal arm and cartridge are made to work in harmony, so all you need to worry about is lowering the needle and adjusting the volume and the Orbit Plus will take care of everything else.
- Two-Speed Turntable – It’s a simple to adjust two-speed turntable, that’ll let you alternate between seven-inch friendly 45RPM and twelve-inch dedicated 33RPM. Whatever you want to play, the Orbit Plus has got it covered.
- Adjustable tonearm and internal anti-skate
- Manual Only – There’s no automatic arm return, so as well as lowering the needle, you’ll have to raise it by hand when the music stops, or it’ll just keep n spinning and as you probably know, that’ll wipe out your stylus in next to no time and could leave the kind of grooves on your records that no music fan wants to see, let alone hear.
- The Swap-Over – Switching from 33 to 45 RPM and back again can be a pain, as you need to move the belt from one flywheel to another, which means that the belt will either end up slipping, or wear itself out much more quickly than you, or U-Turn would like it to. It isn’t exactly novice-friendly and is probably better suited to music lovers with a little more turntable time under their collective belt – we know, it’s a terrible pun but we couldn’t resist it.
Denon DP-400 Semi-Automatic Analog Turntable with Speed Auto Sensor
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Denon was the first Japanese electronics manufacturer to make its mark on the world and with over one hundred and ten years of experience in crafting and creating the technology that has helped to shape and guide the music industry, they were bound to secure a place on our list.
They were, after all, the company that made the CD player an affordable reality back in the nineteen-eighties, and now that they’ve shifted gears and upped their turntable ante, they’ve become an even bigger audio fish in a relatively small record playing pond.
Okay, take a deep breath, because we’re about to plunge headlong into why the DP-400 should feature on every audiophile’s turntable list. With an easy-to-use three-speed (33, 45, and 78RPM) selection switch and a purpose-built S-shaped gimbal arm that cuts distortion to zero, tracks freely, and returns automatically when it reaches the end of a record, it was designed to make life easy for you. All you need to do is lower the stylus, and let Denon take the musical wheel.
The DP-400’s weighted platter and heavy construction were made to last and erase distortion and its built-in phono equalizer helps it drag analog sound kicking and screaming into the digital age without losing any of the original depth and texture that was pressed into the grooves of whatever record you’re spinning.
- Three-Speed Selection – With the flick of a switch, as it can jump between 33, 45, and 78RPM the DP-400 can travel through time and play any record, no matter how old it is. Age is just a number that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying every single album in your, your parent’s or your grandparent’s record collection. And with Denon on your side, you’ll be able to spin and play any album you want to.
- Auto-Return – As soon as your record finishes, the gimbal arm will return, so you don’t need to worry about lifting the stylus. The DP-400 will do it for you.
- The Future And The Past – Thanks to its built-in phono equalizer, it’ll transport the vinyl of the past straight into the future. The DP-400 is where analog and digital collide.
- Included Cartridge: Lastly, the included cartridge is a tier above the RT83’
- Budget Busting – It’s right at the top end of our budget and there’s absolutely no wiggle room. It’ll squeeze almost every last cent out of your pocketbook.
- Platter Wobble – Some users have reported that the platter can wobble, which is more than enough to ruin any audiophile’s day.
Fluance RT85 Reference High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable Record Player
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I consider this one of the best record players in the world and If you want to know what a top-quality turntable is, look no further. Fluance believes that everyone should be able to experience audio in its truest form, and to make that belief a reality, they set out to revolutionize the home audio industry.
Everything that this Canadian manufacturer makes is designed to ensure that the music that pumps out of your speakers, sounds exactly the way it’s supposed to, and the way that the artists who created it, intended it to be heard.
They believe that vinyl should be a purely analog experience and that it should sound like it was meant to. That’s why the heavy acrylic platter that the RT85 uses was designed to wipe out vibration, boost the mid-range response, and enhance the bass response on any record that you want to spin, and the isolated motor that drives guarantees consistent speed, so you won’t be plagued by quality drop off.
And the best news of all? The Fluance uses an Ortofon Blue cartridge to deliver an optimally balanced, and almost flawless sound. Oh, and did we mention that it has a very nice slipmat?
It would be the best thing about the Fluance if it didn’t look as good as it sounds. Made from solid mahogany, the RT85 captures the retro aesthetic of the turntables of yesteryear and imbues it with the epitome of analog technology, and in doing so creates an incredibly simple, and easy to use, elegant vinyl experience that every music lover can, and will enjoy.
- Simple Speed Control – Put your record on the platter, select the speed you want using the RT85’s two choice switch, drop the stylus and you’ll be catapulted into a universe of vinyl comfort and joy.
- Auto-Return – And when you reach the end of your vinyl road, the gimbal arm will return automatically, preserving your stylus and your vinyl.
- Platter And Cartridge – A heavyweight acrylic platter and an Ortofon cartridge? What more could any music fan ever want? It’s an almost perfect audio pairing
- Stylish Good Looks – Don’t worry, it’s not just you. We can’t take our eyes off it either. It’s a thing of rare beauty that sounds and looks good. The Tone arm in an S-shape for increased quality.
- Nice Dust Cover: As part of the finishing, protenction and visual enhancement of the overall look, the item includes is a thick felt covering mat and a removable hinged dust cover.
- Asthetics: aesthetically pleasing and Ideal for DJ’ing or easy listening. It is also Available in Piano Black, Piano White, Bamboo & Walnut.
- It’s A Budget Thing – It’s right at the top end of the budget that we set, and once you’ve paid the Fluance Piper, you’ll have precisely one cent left from the price we set. It’s a lot of greenbacks, but then it’s an awful lot of turntable.
- No Pre-Amp – And it would be even better if it came with a phono preamp. Which it doesn’t.
Audio-Technica At-LP60X-BW Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Stereo Turntable
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Let’s bring things a little bit more down to Earth and put the brakes on the budget a little with the fourth choice on our list, the Audio-Technica LP-60X.
Audio Technica is truly one of the most respected and iconic brands in the world when it comes to audio gear, and as they’re about to enter their fiftieth year as a brand that dedicated music lovers all over the world have fallen in love with, we figured that we need to include at least one Audio-Technica turntable on our list. This is it.
Arguably the best starter turntable in the market. Everything is made in-house, so Audio-Technica doesn’t pass any additional costs on to their customers. The LP-60’s die-cast aluminum platter that eliminates vibration and distortion? It’s manufactured by Audio-Technica.
In addition to producing high fidelity sound, the high-quality cartridge guarantees crystal clear, neutral, and balanced sound reproduction. That was designed and made by Audio-Technica too. It’s an all-in-one, purpose-engineered turntable that was built to satisfy the musical demands of the most exacting audiophile.
It’s also fully automatic, and as soon as your record choice is on the later and you’ve chosen a speed, the tonearm (or gimbal if you want to get slightly more technical), will lift and lower itself onto the record and when it’s finished playing, it’ll lift and return by itself too.
And that’s what Audio-Technica does better than anyone else. They make turntables better and simpler to use. For such a moderate price, including all key features you would expect from a quality turntable, this is some great value and a truly grate option.
- Budget-Friendly – You probably knew that we were going to go straight here and make a big deal out of the price, didn’t you? And why wouldn’t we, as it costs a third as much as the second and third place options on our list do.
- Fully-Automatic – A turntable for the twenty-first century, you just put the record on the platter, hit the speed switch, and the LP-60 does absolutely everything else for you.
- Warranty – And it comes with a twelve-month, just about bulletproof warranty, so if anything does go wrong, you can send it back and get your hard-earned moment back.
- It Might Not Be Tough Enough – It doesn’t feel as durable or as hardy as the other turntables in our list, and we kind of think that it might not last as long as they will. But that price tag makes it seem like a mighty affordable, and, ultimately, replaceable option.
- That Synchinging Feeling – The tonearm can develop syncing issues, and might start dropping ten to twenty seconds into a song rather than at the beginning. There are a number of easy fixes for the issue on YouTube, but it’s a hassle that you might not want to have to think about or deal with. Is it a deal-breaker? You’re the only one who can answer that question.
Sony PS-LX310BT Turntable
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The future of vinyl just got a little brighter, and a little technologically advanced with Sony’s PS-LX310BT. It’s the whole vinyl enchilada that embraces the digital age with one hand and holds on tightly to the analog past of vinyl with the other. Are you ready to find out what a turntable can do? Then let’s begin…
It’s another fully automatic turntable that’ll start and stop as soon as you flick the speed switch, and has a die-cast aluminum platter that’s engineered to be stable and eliminate distortion or vibration.
But that’s par for the course, and where other turntables stop, Sony’s just begins. It’s also fitted with a USB output so you can hook it up to your laptop and transfer your favorite vinyl to MP3, and is Bluetooth enabled so you can connect it to wireless headphones or speakers.
Turntables don’t have to be dependent on archaic music technology to work, and Sony has pushed the envelope of what they can and can’t do with this model. And as much as we love the warmth and depth of analog sound, we love this future-proof turntable even more. This is the best value for money.
- Bluetooth Enabled – You don’t need a full stereo set-up to join the vinyl renaissance, as this turntable will connect directly to your Bluetooth-enabled headphones and speakers.
- Take Your Vinyl With You – And if you connect it to your laptop via USB, you transfer your vinyl to MP3 and take your entire record collection with you wherever you go.
- It Won’t Break Your Bank Balance – As it lies somewhere in the middle of the budget we set, you’ll have enough left over to buy a set of Bluetooth headphones and speakers. Which is nice.
- Build Quality: Exceptional build quality
- Customer Service – If your turntable does develop a problem, dealing with Sony’s customer service department can be a nightmare. Honestly, we imagined that a company like Sony would have an efficient and effective customer complaints department, but if the online reviews are anything to go by… Well, we were wrong. We were very, very wrong.
Not sure what to look out for? Our buyer’s guide will provide you with all the information on what you need to look for when buying record players.
Whilst we have included turntables at various price ranges, if you want great sound you may have to spend upwards of or in the region of USD 500.
Which Turntable Under 500 Dollars Is The Right One For Me?
That depends entirely on what you’re looking for a turntable for. If you want to add a turntable to your existing stereo set-up, then we would recommend the Fluance as it’s an incredible piece of audio kit. But if you’re a first-timer looking to leap into the vinyl world, then you need to arm yourself with the Sony. It’s the only turntable that you’ll ever need.
In the world of vinyls then the principle of the more you play the more you get certainly applies. You can easily double the price and get a significant boost of sound quality.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A Turntable?
A turntable, more commonly known as a record player is a device used to play vinyl records, usually as part of a stereo set-up. The central platter is driven by a belt, and the stylus and needle on the end of the gimbal or tonearm travel over the surface of the record and translates the pits and grooves in the vinyl it moves over into a signal that a preamp and an amplifier can then read and translate into music.