Best Turntables by Budget

Best Turntables by Budget

Last updated on Nov. 19, 2018.

"How much should I spend on a turntable?"  To which we will almost always say: well, what's your budget and what kind of vinyl listener are you? Chances are, if you're an avid listener and collector who can't wait to get home to sit and listen to a record from start to finish and gets goosebumps before the needle even touches down, your interest in the best is going to push your budget higher than a newbie collector who plays the occasional record when friends come over. The reality is, you get what you pay for. 

So, we made it easy for you: We asked the turntable geeks of World Wide Stereo what they think the best turntables of 2018 are and we broke it down into price ranges for every budget. Our pros reviewed turntables from all the best brands and even weighed in on the features a buyer should focus on at every tier.

New to vinyl? Start here first.

Overall, here’s what you can expect:

From a reliable brand, more money gets you better turntable performance. It gets you a better cartridge, better isolation, better consistency with the motor speed, all resulting in an even purer, cleaner sound. (After all, isn’t that what you’re going for when you reach for your vinyl instead of your phone? Exactly.) Now, don’t go mortgage your house to get the McIntosh MT5 table when the Pro-Ject 1Xpression is within your regular budget. Always find the best option within a price range that is affordable for you personally. And that is what we do at World Wide Stereo. We carefully vet all of our brands and gear so that we can match our customers with a table that will give them goosebumps, regardless of price. If it's not good, we won't carry it. Period.

If you’re just getting into vinyl, it might make sense to spend less if you aren’t 100% sure this is a hobby you’ll really want to invest in. Enjoy the fun of playing records at a lower price, and when you fall in love, drop the serious bucks and get the great gear. If you’re already sure you love vinyl, don’t be penny wise and dollar foolish. Get the right stuff, and get it right away. Anything less than the best within your budget, and you’ll regret it the moment the needle hits vinyl.

Turntables between $89-$398

What to look for:

At this price range, go with a turntable that fits your needs. Keep it simple and focus on solid construction, tonearm, and cartridge choice.

What else to consider:

Automatic vs. manual operation. This refers to how the tonearm gets to and from its starting position to place the stylus (needle) on the record to play the music.

An automatic turntable is the easiest to use and sets the stylus at the beginning of the record automatically at the press of a button. At the end of the record, it automatically shuts off.

A manual turntable requires the user to manually move the tonearm and place the stylus on and off the record to start and stop the music. Our pros recommend manual turntables for the purists. Why? Because less internal mechanics will cut down on potential sources of electrical interference or other noise that can muddy the music. (If you do decide to go the automatic route, look for a turntable that has very low rumble, like the Denon DP-300F.)

Our picks:

AudioTechnica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Stereo Turntable System with Two Speeds

Adam's Pick
AudioTechnica AT-LP60

$89   |   Shop now

U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus Turntable

Andrew's Pick
U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus

$309  |   Shop now

Denon DP-300F Fully Automatic Analog Turntable

Ken's Pick
Denon DP-300F

$349   |   Shop now

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Turntable with Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge

Dan's Pick
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC

$399   |   Shop now

Turntables between $399 - $898

What to look for:

In this level of performance, you can start to expect better tonearms and better platters: Tonearms that can accommodate a wider range of cartridges, and heavier, more solid platters that provide a smoother, balanced rotation. Focus on the materials of the build — look for solid construction with quality parts, and start looking for isolation improvements and cartridge upgrades like the 2M series from Ortofon.

What else to consider:

Belt drive vs. direct drive. The motor on a belt drive turntable is isolated away from the platter, which can mitigate unwanted noise and interference that can travel into the stylus and interfere with signal.

Belt drive turntables can take a few seconds to speed up, but not as long as it takes to drop the stylus on the record — and you will need to replace the belt on occasion.

The motor on a direct drive turntable sits under the platter and allows the turntable to achieve max speed almost instantly. It can also be stopped quickly and even pushed into reverse (making them the popular choice for DJs).

Our picks:

AudioTechnica AT-LP1240-USB Direct-Drive Professional USB & Analog DJ Turntable (Black)

Adam's Pick
AudioTechnica AT-LP1240

$499   |   Shop now

U-Turn Audio Orbit Special Turntable

Andrew's Pick
U-Turn Audio Orbit Special 

$479   |   Shop now

Rega Planar 2

Ken's Pick
Rega Planar 2

$675   |   Shop now

Yamaha MusicCast 500 Turntable

Dan's Pick
Yamaha MusicCast 500

$699.95   |   Shop now

Turntables $899 and up

What to look for:

This is for the serious listener and where you start to see (and hear) serious performance upgrades. Expect isolation to come standard at this price point, so look for ultra-isolation and heavy, dense parts like a platter and thick plinth designs that keep everything more stable. Turntables in this territory should also feature major cartridge upgrades (e.g., the 2M silver or better, the Sumiko Blue Point no. 2, Sumiko Blackbird), as well as advanced tonearms or other components. And keep an eye out for unique features, like the McIntosh MT5’s floating platter.

What else to consider:

The suspension system. A better suspension system means less distortion, which = cleaner, clearer sound. Your tipping point for turntables are ones that either have a really good suspension system or ones that use materials that do not resonate…The best do both.

Once you get to about $2K for a turntable, you can get a really good floating suspension system. And above that, you get turntables that are just really heavy and use materials that don’t vibrate at all, so the only sound the turntable recognizes is what the cartridge and stylus are picking up. (A stylus is a like a microphone and will pick up whatever it can…so stopping unwanted noises and sounds is critical to the overall performance of the turntable.

Our picks:

Pro-Ject 1Xpression Carbon Classic Turntable with Ortofon's 2M Silver Cartridge

Andrew's Pick
Pro-Ject 1Xpression Carbon Classic

$999   |   Shop now

Pro-Ject 6Perspex DC Turntable SuperPack With Sumiko Blue Point Special EVO III

Adam's Pick
Pro-Ject 6Perspex DC 

$1,999   |   Shop now

McIntosh MT2 Precision Turntable

Ken's Pick
McIntosh MT2

In store only - Learn more

McIntosh MT5 Precision Turntable (Black)

Dan's Pick
McIntosh MT5

In store only - Learn more

Meet the turntable geeks of WWS

Dan C. Headshot

Dan C.

with WWS for 28 years
Favorite album: Sony Rollins - "Saxaphone Colossus"

Ken headshot

Ken Z.
(aka the Turntable Dr.)

with WWS for 2 years
Favorite album: The Doobie Brothers - "Toulous Street"

Adam D.

Adam D.

with WWS for 9 years
Favorite album: Donald Fagen - "The Nightfly"

Andrew P

Andrew P.

with WWS for 2 years
Favorite album: Rush - "Moving Pictures"

Close up of a turntable
Adam sets a turntable
Ken and a turntable
Adam and a Pro-Ject turntable

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