The Best Turntable Under $500: From Audio-Technica To The Pro-Ject T1

best turntable under 500
Credit: Yarenlen / Flickr

Looking for the best turntable under 500 U.S. 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.

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 vinyl:

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.

What’s more impressive is that the market’s audience are dedicated genuine consumers.

FACT: According to Quartz, by August 2020, 11.1 million vinyl records were sold in the U.S.

And that’s with a COVID-19 lockdown nationwide:

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A Cheap Record Player Versus A Good Record Player

To play a vinyl record you only need a turntable.

Simple.

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’s two key considerations to remember:

A). A turntable must give the vinyl record the depth it deserves.

B). A turntable cannot cause damage to the record.

FACT: There’s nothing worst than having a cheap Best Buy record player tearing up a 1977 original pressing of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors:

We should know, it’s what happened with our original $100 Victrola turntable:

That album deserved better.

CHECK OUT: Vinyl records make for a fantastic investment alternative.

5 Amazing Turntables Under 500 U.S. dollars are below:

#5. Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK Direct-Drive Turntable – $487

Best Turntable Under $500 - Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK
Photo: Amazon.com

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 when close-up, this record player looks like a DJ turntable.

This is the perspective of a set-in-his-way old vinyl collector, not a clubber. Yet my wife decided otherwise.

(Memo to myself, be specific when dropping gift hints).

However, despite my aesthetic taste, the record player is technically amazing.

(However, you can find it cheaper than $487 elsewhere).

If you want control, 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 $249 if its style doesn’t make you wince.

#4. Pioneer PLX-500-W – $349

Best Turntable Under $500 - Pioneer PLX-500-W
Photo: Amazon.com

Like with the Audio-Technica above, the Pioneer PLX-500-W has the look of a DJ mixing turntable. With it’s 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 two 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 PC.

However, none of the above made us want this turntable:

What did, was its off-white finish and the 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:

The truth is, not really.

They’re equally good. Both delivering rich and vibrant sound via speakers that cost around $150 in 2017.

The only difference for us, beyond those extra DJ features, was the aesthetic elements.

Whether that’s worth the $100 difference is for you to decide.

#3. Sony PS-LX310BT Belt Drive Turntable – $348

Sony PS-LX310BT

Be honest, it’s difficult to find a genuinely bad product manufactured by Sony.

In the year-or-so we’ve spent together, the PS-LX310BT has not disappointed:

However, in late 2020, you could find these turntables for under $200. 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.

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#2. Pro-Ject T1 Turntable – $349

Best Turntable Under $500 - Pro-Ject T1
Photo: Amazon.com

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 $349, 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 under 500 U.S. dollars, this is it.

Yes, we’re fanboys of this turntable.

Yet, we’re looking to cheat.

In our opinion, the best turntable under 500 U.S. dollars is:

#1. U-Turn Audio – Orbit Special Turntable – $479

U-Turn Audio
Photo: Amazon.com

We don’t own this turntable (yet) and have been in a tug-of-war for months (with the wife) over the expense.

However, we’ve heard this turntable in action and seen it up close and personal:

It’s a sexy bit of kit.

It’s undoubtedly the best $500 turntable.

This is what you need to know:

1. Modern design with a hardwood base.

2. Hand crafted in the U.S.

3. A low resonance acrylic platter.

4. The award-winning Ortofon 2M red cartridge as standard. A highly regarded cartridge that produces dynamic sound across all music genres.

5. It is super-easy to setup (relevant when compared to the other record player I’m coveting currently).

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 was picking between our beloved Pro-Ject T1 or the coveted U-Turn Audio:

We’d pick the U-Turn. It’s just sexier.