The Best Turntable Under $500: From Audio-Technica To The Pro-Ject T1
Looking for the best turntable for under $500 dollars? You are in the right place. We’ve picked out one record player above the many we’ve owned and used over the last several years.
So whether you’re an audiophile or vinyl collector. Swipe down to see our top pick or read on for some juicy facts (swipe down for videos).
Why Buy A Vinyl Record Player?
Is it the sound quality of the needle on vinyl or the deep-rooted desire to actually hold an album again?
It is after all the one thing digital content truly lacks. Physicality. Sadly, we don’t have a definitive answer as to why vinyl is so popular today.
For me, it’s about collecting:
However. what we can say with certainty is that since 2012, vinyl record player sales have constantly grown year-on-year:
FACT: In the U.S., according to Statista, 49k turntables were sold in 2012. In 2019, it was 72k, and that number has kept on growing throughout 2022.
A Cheap Record Player Versus A Good Record Player
To play a vinyl record you only need a turntable.
It doesn’t have to be the best new audiophile record player money can buy. Any cheap turntable costing $100 or less will get the job done.
However, a good record player gets the job done right.
There are two key considerations to remember:
- A turntable must give the vinyl record the depth it deserves.
- A turntable should not cause damage to the record.
There’s nothing worst than having a cheap Best Buy record player tearing up a 1977 original pressing of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors (a mistake I’ll never repeat).
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5. Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK Direct-Drive Turntable. $349
FACT: The Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK is one of the most popular turntables on the market.
Also a fact, we loathed it. It is our personal opinion that this record player looks like a DJ turntable. However, this is the perspective of a set-in-his-way old vinyl collector, not a clubber. Yet my wife decided this was the turntable I wanted (memo to myself, be specific when dropping gift hints).
However, despite my aesthetic taste, the record player is technically amazing:
And if you want total control over your record when it is playing, this is the vinyl record player for you!
Out of the box, it offers a comfortable listening experience, with a hydraulically dampened lift control, die-cast aluminum platter, and removable dust cover that’ll add longevity to the turntable.
These features make it perfect for daily use in a household environment.
Reviewers praise the product’s sound quality, compatibility with a range of devices, and simplicity of use.
It is all of the above and worth the $349, that is if its style doesn’t make you wince.
4. Pioneer PLX-500, $299+
Like with the Audio-Technica above, the Pioneer PLX-500 has the look of a DJ mixing turntable. With its volume slider and clunky plinth feet.
Heck, it’s even advertised as a DJ turntable hybrid. So the question you’re wondering is why did we have this and the Audio-Technica?
The answer: We traded the mint Audio-Technica for it:
And as that trade is now more than three years back, we’ll admit to the fact we got the better deal.
FACT: This record player includes USB and DVS compatibility, allowing the user to rewind, speed up, scratch, and record their mix on a PC.
However, none of the above made us want this turntable:
What did, was that the version we traded for had an off-white finish and a neat record sleeve stand built into the dust cover (it’s the simple things in life).
The real question is whether the sound is better than the Audio-Technica, and the truth is, not really.
They’re equally good. Both deliver rich and vibrant sound via speakers that cost around $150. The only difference for us, beyond those extra DJ features, was the aesthetic elements.
Whether that’s worth the $50 difference is for you to decide.
3. Sony PS-LX310BT Belt Drive Turntable, $198+
To be honest, it’s difficult to find a genuinely bad product manufactured by Sony. And in the few years, we’ve spent together, the PS-LX310BT has not disappointed:
Amazingly, you can find these turntables for under $200 today and at that price, we’d say that it’s the best turntable on the market that we have ever owned.
Actually, it is the best turntable so far on this list. It features a sleek, modern design that is perfect for almost any living space. Plus, the PS-LX310BT is convenient.
The product offers three different methods of connectivity to external speakers. Including Bluetooth, for those wishing to listen wirelessly, RCA ports, and USB (Bluetooth and vinyl don’t mix in our opinion, but it’s an option if you want it).
Via USB, you can even connect the turntable to a PC and convert vinyl into digital HD music. It is a nifty feature if you want to protect your vinyl.
Best of all, the sound quality was the same as the Pioneer and Audio-Technica turntables we had previously. This could be down to the speakers, but unless you plan to spend big, you can’t beat this option.
2. Pro-Ject T1 Turntable, $399
The Pro-Ject T1 is our current go-to turntable. Taking pride of place on a reclaimed wood vinyl record unit in the living area. It looks expensive. It sounds expensive. And we love it.
It is the perfect companion for the Sony record player. The Pro-Ject T1 is for listening. The Sony is for digitizing expensive-old vinyl (and for those wondering, the Pioneer went on eBay).
At $399, the quality is amazing. For starters, no plastic rubbish. Included as standard is a diamond stylus tip. Plus an aluminum low friction tonearm, and a bead-blasted glass platter.
It also comes fully set up by experts at the factory, so all you’ll need to do is plug it in. In addition, the minimalist, modern design of this record player stands out in any room.
What’s most amazing is that the sound is always on point. So if you’re after an audiophile turntable for around $400, this is it.
Yes, we’re fanboys of this turntable. Yet, we’re looking to cheat on it (can’t help but look at the next turntable in envy).
In our opinion, the best turntable under-$500 is:
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We don’t own the U-Turn Orbit Special turntable and we’re unlikely to ever take the plunge because of the expense (hard to justify buying a second $500 turntable).
However, we’ve heard this turntable in action and been with it up close and personal. It’s a sexy bit of kit. And it’s undoubtedly the best $500 turntable.
This is what you need to know:
- Modern design with a hardwood base.
- Handcrafted in the U.S.
- A low-resonance acrylic platter.
- The award-winning Ortofon 2M red cartridge is standard. A highly regarded cartridge that produces dynamic sound across all music genres.
- It is super easy to set up.
There’s only one turntable we want more than the U-Turn and that’s a restored Thorens TD150 MKII. However, we couldn’t put the Thorens on this list as it’s a retro turntable and things can get expensive quickly if something goes wrong.
If we were picking between our beloved Pro-Ject T1 or the coveted U-Turn Audio, we’d pick the U-Turn. It’s just sexier (hence the reason it is #1 on this list).