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Best Record Players for Beginners

Discogs has developed a list of the best beginner turntables that will faithfully play your records without breaking the bank.

There are few things more fun than buying a turntable, but if you’re new to vinyl, finding the best record players for beginners can also come with a lot of questions. The list of features, terms, and options can seem overwhelming. That’s why Discogs decided to make a list of the best budget turntables, priced from $149 to $600, that offer everything you will need.

All of the models come with a cartridge pre-installed and most have a built-in phono preamplifier. If anything about that sentence didn’t make sense to you, read the glossary of definitions at the bottom of this article before exploring the list.

Any of these record players will get the job done, so just get the one you like best. If you’re shopping but not in a hurry, then definitely consider saving enough money to get into the under $400 range. Once you hit that price point, you’ll benefit from better parts and quality control.

In any case, just remember to have fun as you pick out one of your first turntables!

Discogs believes these turntables are the very best within the beginner budget. However, when you purchase something through our affiliate links, Discogs may earn a commission.

Featured image by Mauricio Guardiano.

Best Record Players Under $200

Audio-Technica AT-LP60X turntable

Audio-Technica AT-LP60X

Audio-Technica sells more entry-level turntables than any other manufacturer and the company’s budget line starts here. The LP60X is largely made of plastic and only marginally outweighs a bag of sugar. But for the price, it will definitely play your records all day long.

The tonearm base has been upgraded to better reject vibrations, which can cause skipping. The internal power supply is now external, meaning less electronic noise pollution. The looks have been significantly spiced up with a redesigned body and several color options.

This fully automatic, two-speed, belt-drive turntable has a built-in phono preamplifier and can be used with powered speakers or with a traditional receiver and passive speakers.

PriceWhere to Buy
$149Turntable Lab
U-Turn Orbit Basic turntable

U-Turn Orbit Basic

U-Turn made a splash in 2013 with these affordable turntables assembled in the United States that have lifestyle looks, are easy to set up, and have very good sound. They look very much like Rega or Pro-Ject turntables (more on those later) and come in a variety of increasingly insane colors (that purple is really something).

If you’re on a budget and already have a phono preamp, you can’t go wrong with this version, which comes with an Audio-Technica AT91 cartridge. The more expensive option with built-in preamp will cost a bit more, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better preamp for the price. Both are manual and spin at 33.3 and 45 rpm.

U-Turn is famous for its customer service, so any problems or questions will be handled quickly.

PriceWhere to Buy
$199 without phono pre-ampU-Turn Audio

Best Record Players Under $400

Fluance RT-81 turntable

Fluance RT-81

Canada’s Fluance makes perhaps the prettiest entry-level turntables. The beefy MDF body of the RT-81, the company’s second least expensive model, is covered in a glossy veneer made of real walnut. It’s gorgeous.

The RT-81 offers two speeds, automatic stop, a belt drive, and comes with the ubiquitous AT95E cartridge. The black aluminum tonearm has an adjustable counterweight and adjustable anti-skate control.

All of the Fluance turntables are nice and top out at about $500, but the public has anointed the RT-81 as the most popular model due to its price and features.

PriceWhere to Buy
$249.99Fluance
Audio-Technica AT 120XUSB turntable

Audio-Technica AT 120XUSB

The big brother to the LP60X, the LP120 series of turntables are perhaps the most-owned turntable in the world. It sports a classic DJ design based on the Technics SL-1200 family of turntables and comes in silver or black with a nice AT95E cartridge included. It also adds a third speed, 78 rpm.

Everything about the 120XUSB is bigger, better, and more brawny than the LP60X. It weighs 20 pounds, has a direct-drive motor (no belt), a far better tonearm, and offers a host of adjustments. It, too, has a built-in phono preamp but is fully manual, which isn’t a big deal for most users.

As you get deeper into the hobby, one cost-effective way to dramatically change the sound of your system is to get a different cartridge. This is where the adjustments are crucial because the ability to change the counterweight or tweak anti-skating is important when you switch cartridges.

PriceWhere to Buy
$349Turntable Lab
Audio-Technica AT LPW40WN turntable

Audio-Technica AT LPW40WN

Something about the LPW40WN is just right. It sounds very good and looks great, with an MDF body that has a faux walnut wood veneer. It has two speeds, is belt-driven, and is fully manual with a built-in phono preamp.

It’s probably the carbon fiber tonearm that accounts for the LPW40’s refined sound. It’s an arm that wouldn’t embarrass itself on a more expensive turntable and effortlessly plays well with cartridges that cost twice what the LPW40 costs.

PriceWhere to Buy
$379Turntable Lab

Best Record Players Under $600

Pro-Ject T1 SB turntable

Pro-Ject T1 SB

EISA, which stands for the Expert Imaging and Sound Association, has been handing out awards for achievements in audio since the early 1990s. Based in Europe with a global profile, its annual awards are objects of desire.

At the 2020-21 awards, Pro-Ject’s T1 won the EISA Best Value award, noting its “wonderfully weighty and detailed sound”. We’re going with the SB model, which adds a built-in phono stage and electronic speed control for only a bit more. There’s also a glass platter, a one-piece aluminum tonearm designed specifically for the T1, and an Ortofon OM 5E cartridge.

PriceWhere to Buy
$499Turntable Lab
Yamaha TT-S303 turntable

Yamaha TT-S303

Yamaha is one of the great names in Japanese audio and its vintage gear is highly collectible. In recent years, the company has gotten back into the game at both the entry level and high end, and the TT-S303 represents great value. This was the first turntable Yamaha brought back to market and they didn’t skimp on quality.

It could come with a better cartridge — the Audio-Technica AT3600 is fairly low-rent — but damn does this thing’s glossy piano black finish look good. Customer reviews have been stellar across the board. It’s a two-speed, belt-driven model and has a built-in phono preamp.

PriceWhere to Buy
$499.95Crutchfield
Rega Planar 1 turntable

Rega Planar 1

Rega, in business since 1973, is one of the world’s most respected makers of turntables. Co-founder Roy Gandy is still in charge and he was a champion of turntables and vinyl throughout the dark years.

The Rega Planar series is the company’s bread and butter, with eight models that top out with the RP10. The RP1 comes with the Rega Carbon cartridge pre-installed and its anti-skating force is preset. All you have to do is slide the counterweight on until it reaches a specified mark and you’re off. Well, almost off. You need a phono preamplifier of some sort in order to use it.

The P1 isn’t just an entry-level turntable, but an entry into audiophile gear with its simple construction and excellent sound. It can be upgraded by changing the platter, sub-platter, belt, cartridge, and even the motor, so you can drive yourself crazy for years to come.

PriceWhere to Buy
$595Turntable Lab
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO turntable

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO

Pro-Ject’s Debut Carbon series of turntables have proven extremely popular and have always offered a lot of bang for the buck. The brand new EVO costs a bit more, but every cent is being spent where it matters.

The motor, motor suspension, and platter have all been reworked with the intention of reducing resonances, which are the enemy of good vinyl playback. The included cartridge has also been updated to a Sumiko Rainier, a $149 value. This is a belt-driven, two-speed turntable that now has electronic speed control. This means that changing from 33.3 rpm to 45 rpm only requires the touch of a button instead of moving the belt like older models.

This record player does not have a built-in preamp. Repeat: does not. If your receiver or integrated amp already has a phono stage, or if you own a standalone phono preamp, you’re good to go.

PriceWhere to Buy
$599Turntable Lab

Definitions

  • Anti-skate control
  • Belt drive vs. direct drive
  • Cartridge
  • Counterweight
  • Phono preamplifier or phono stage
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