Quality and cheap aren't usually two words that work well together, and with turntables that holds true in most cases.
If you're an audiophile, you won't find superior sound in this article. However: There are actually some decent to quite good cheap record players out there for people on a budget.
Be careful buying the ultra cheap turntables
If you're thinking about acceptable sound, and convenience, perhaps something like the Pioneer brand could be what you're looking for?
Pioneer does make a decent turntable for the price. I used the now discontinued PL-990 Model for years. It still sounds good to my ears, now that my step son is using it... and yes, the newer Pioneer's are plug and play too.
Here's a big list of quality cheap record players if you'd rather get right to it. If you are completely new to turntables, you should read further on for tips on basic things you should understand before you buy a starter record player
Do expectations meet your needs?
- If you're more concerned with style regarding cheap record players, or the look of the turntable against your room decor, perhaps one of the new vintage style turntables is what you're looking for?
- If you are shopping for children, one of the cheaper options makes more sense. If they are fickle, at least you are not out much when they change their mind about vinyl.
- Some of these reviewed below also have other capabilities, like Mp3 conversion or sharing, and even cassette and CD playback as well. About the only thing I haven't noticed, is 8-track playing ability...give them time. Let me know if you see one.
Deciding on higher fidelity will cost a little more... then a lot more as you upgrade down the line
You can get a markedly better sound experience if you just plug directly into your receiver. The convenience of those small colorful Crosley cheap record players are hard to beat, audiophile sound is not what you'll get.
If you plan on daily use, you will surely need to replace the needle quickly as well. As mentioned above, Sony and Pioneer to name a few make quality turntables that do not need a separate phono amp.
You also don't need a phono jack on the receiver, you can plug straight into the tape/DVD/ or Aux. jack. You might be surprised to learn that many of these units are priced well below 150 dollars, some are found on the secondary market for 1/2 of that.
Personal preference is the rule when considering a turntable
If you have a trained ear, for detail in sound, and you're used to super audio CD's and audiophile experiences, no way would plug and play make sense; you will need an audiophile quality set up. Most audiophiles I know, wouldn't even consider lowering themselves to a cheap record player like many of the ones on this page.
I knew when I started though, I was not going to spend 500 dollars on my first record player. My philosophy is, you have to start somewhere? You can always upgrade as your "hearing" becomes fine tuned, and then you can upgrade to more expensive audiophile quality equipment later.
Sony PSHX500 Hi Res USB Turntable
When I saw the price tag on this one I was shocked. $399.00 is what I paid for my current table, the Project debut.
This Sony though, has Vinyl to USB capabilities and pays attention to high resolution digital transfer. Some of the other LP to mp3 units really were lacking. The digital copy would not sound so good, so I thought I'd give this Sony a shot. You can always return it if it isn't good enough for you. First off, it has a fully manual tone arm. I
t wont put its self back after the record ends. Which is OK if you're transferring vinyl. Don't forget skips and sticks are going to be heard too, so it is wise to stick around and enjoy your music while transferring. It does not turn its self off at all, it is fully manual, not automatic.
The Verdict on Sound:
There are some very cheap vinyl to mp3 units out there, the difference in sound was shocking and worth it if you can afford it.
Using as your primary turntable?
Well, I will stick with my Project Debut, but honestly if this was all I had, I could live with it. The sound is above average, but I am not a nit picker.
I do like the clarity of the digital copies I have made from this. While listening on my Ipod the sound seemed much bigger and matched to other music I listen to.
The other vinyl to digital copies I've made in the past seemed like they had a muffler on them. I would have to turn up the music and then it gets distorted a lot at times, I was disappointed in those other players, that does not happen from copies made from the Sony PSHX500 Hi Res USB Turntable. I think it is a solid overall record player.
Ion Audio Max: Convert vintage vinyl to mp3
The conversion software included, can be used both with PC and Mac. You can actually plug a tape deck up to this using the auxiliary input.
You can then make mp3 files of cassettes. I see cassettes all the time in the thrift store at crazy cheap prices, sometimes as low as .25 cents a piece.
I find all kinds of classic rock albums, country, and jazz on cassette, the same titles on CD seem to have at least $1.99 on them. The Ion Audio Max would be worth buying just for the savings on the vintage cassettes.
You will have to expect a learning curve using the software that is supplied for the conversion to the mp3 files. Just read the directions carefully, and don't forget to double-check that the first files have transferred properly.
Here's a list of affordable USB turntables.
Turntables and vinyl are a labor of love
As mentioned above, I think it is important to find out exactly what it is you are looking for. If sound quality is the most important issue, then an audiophile turntable that requires a phono amp extra purchase could be what you need.
Cheap Turntables under $250 that you might get a kick out of
In other words, buying used. I am of the mind now that the ultra cheap record players should be only purchased as an absolute beginner turntable, something for a 10-year-old perhaps. They do usually look nice, and come in many different colors ranging from teal to hot pink.
If decor is the main concern, they certainly do you very nice. Some of these Crosley record players can be had for under $90 actually, and I am sure cheaper than that used. Just remember, sound quality should be considered secondarily with these units.
Good sound quality will cost more, depending on your ear, a LOT more! I see a lot of people not fully understanding what they are getting for a very low price. Others however, are just fine with the price and sound quality, they understand what starter sound quality is, and do not expect much.
Dirt cheap record players for beginners with built-in AM FM radio
You can plug this up to an auxiliary speaker if you want to boost the sound. These Jensen models that I have seen must have the dust cover left open to play LP's.
You can also play 45's with the cover down, But keep that in mind, that the 33 1/3 rpm LP will need the cover left up.
Also the Jensen record player should be thought of as an absolute beginners turntable sound wise, perhaps as a second record player for the game room or even on the patio. My dad had something like this, and used it outside on the porch to listen to baseball games and occasionally spin a record.
Buying a starter record player on the secondary market
I would be very worried about taking a chance on an auction where the listing doesn't mention specifically that the turntable has been tested.
Do make sure what the seller's return policy is.
The sad fact is, it probably wouldn't be worth returning it in that case. Sometimes they'll tack on a restocking (up to 20%) fee as well, the good sellers won't usually sell you junk, but just because you read the description wrong or assumed something that was not in the listing, that's not a good reason for a return.
The buyer does have to live with a little penalty if they didn't do their homework. The restocking fee usually just pays a portion of the sellers original shipping, so ultimately they'll lose money on the transaction too, so just double-check the description so it you absolutely know you want it.
- Make sure that photos match up with what you're buying. Double check, if you have any doubt about the listing; make sure the listing isn't just for vintage parts
- Also you should see mention of a stylus/cartridge being included. Find out how old the needle is, you might have to buy a new one. You may also need to purchase a separate phono amp on a vintage table.
An affordable audiophile quality turntable: U-Turn Audio's Orbit
The idea behind the U-Turn Orbit being, you do what you can with the design to keep internal noise levels at a minimum. U-Turn has a slogan they've coined "The Quiet Revolution". Indeed the only noise you want to hear coming from your speakers is the music embedded in the grooves.
The Orbit has a low voltage AC synchronous motor, which keeps wow and flutter at a minimum. The decoupled plinth from the motor also keeps vibration down to incredibly low levels.
I prefer a belt driven turntable, I really like how you can see the exposed drive belt too, they are not hiding anything here. You can put this thing together so quickly, it's very easy to deal with. You can have your pick of cartridges too, Audio Technica, Ortofon, or Grado Labs.
Of course the price rises from the Basic, to the Orbit, and then the Orbit Plus, which has the best cartridge. With true fat bottom end bass, and crisp and clear highs, you won't find a better beginner record player with this quality of sound for the price.
Fluance turntables: A new entry into the budget audiophile turntable market
Judging by the offerings and reviews on Amazon they are doing just that. Offering turntables with craft wood, aluminum platters, and sound isolation feet, that offers a quiet audiophile style experience. What about the price? $199-249 is an incredible deal for a audiophile attention to detail turntable.
They even use Audio Technica for their stock needles and a curved S type tone-arm with an adjustable counterweight, sounds impressive to me. Fluance is a Canadian business that has been around since 1999. They also specialize in the entire home theater and music system experience.
*Photos used with permission via Amazon.com or are my own photos or free use from Pixabay.com* Intro Photo used with permission: GNU Free Documentation License. Creator: Moehre1992