Top 10 Turntables For The Money – Going Back To The Roots

There was a time not so long ago when many said that vinyls, as well as turntables, are dead. Fortunately for the fans, vinyls have actually skyrocketed in sales in last few years, completely bringing record players into the mainstream. Direct result of that is a market that is full of all kinds of models. Today we are going to help you narrow down your choices and show you our picks. We've chosen these from a variety of price ranges, allowing you to find a model that best fits your budget as well as needs.

Top 10 Record Players and Turntables To Consider

Denon's VL12 Prime is promising to push the boundaries when it comes to DJ turntables. It is a smooth looking model that comes in a sleek, quality made chassis which definitely fits its nature. Denon has done a great job ensuring that VL12's new quartz direct drive system works unobstructed by stage environmentals. They did this by isolating just about every single component.

On top of that we have a strong single-piece tone arm that is fully adjustable and just a blast to work with. With simple, clearly labeled controls, you can take Denon VL12 Prime and focus completely on your set. Last but not least, the whole package just looks impressive. If aesthetics are something that matters to you, Denon VL12 Prime won't disappoint.

DJ turntables are considered to be rather old school in this day and age. Most of the tools current DJs use are digital in nature. We are talking about different MIDI controllers and similar gear. What if you could combine the two? What if you could have a turntable with a built in MIDI controller? That is exactly what Reloop RP-8000 is all about.

You get a very sturdy chassis which was built to endure all kinds of environments, paired with quality components such as a fully adjustable aluminum tone arm, precision machined platter and more. The MIDI controller segment of the turntable consists of 8 backlit pads, a Trax encoder and more. Reloop RP-8000 is truly a modern solution for those who want something more.

Pioneer has been on the very edge of DJ turntable design for a long time. Their PLX-1000 represents what used to be the apex of mid range territory for a long time. You are looking at a high torque direct drive system packed into a very robust chassis. Pioneer used heavy duty vibration isolating feet in order to eliminate any outside interference during use.

The tonearm that comes with PLX-1000 is fully adjustable and delivers precise tracking. Even though this is essentially a DJ turntable, you can easily expect a solid audiophile performance from it. With simple controls and no nonsense layout, we can reasonably say that PLX-1000 is a user friendly model. Best of all it comes with plenty of upgrade paths.

Pioneer has been on the very edge of DJ turntable design for a long time. Their PLX-1000 represents what used to be the apex of mid range territory for a long time. You are looking at a high torque direct drive system packed into a very robust chassis. Pioneer used heavy duty vibration isolating feet in order to eliminate any outside interference during use.

The tonearm that comes with PLX-1000 is fully adjustable and delivers precise tracking. Even though this is essentially a DJ turntable, you can easily expect a solid audiophile performance from it. With simple controls and no nonsense layout, we can reasonably say that PLX-1000 is a user friendly model. Best of all it comes with plenty of upgrade paths.

When it comes to good mid range turntables for home use, Akai Professional BT500 is about as good as it gets. It features a very nostalgic look with a faux walnut finish and a large, transparent cover. The turntable itself is very robust and versatile. Akai has used good vibration insulating feet for this build. Overall, you're looking at a very stylish yet affordable rig.

Core components come in form of an aluminum tone arm that is lightweight and fully adjustable, a die cast aluminum platter and a great rubber mat on top of it. Controls are very intuitive, making this an easy model to use for beginners but also a convenient one for advanced users. Last but not least, you also have a switchable amp and USB support.

Reloop's RP-7000 is a rock solid direct drive turntable designed to meet the needs of a modern DJ. It is a mid range solution, meaning that its main goal was delivering the necessary performance on a budget. In that regard, we can say that Reloop has done a great job. RP-7000 comes in a fairly rugged chassis which ensures decent durability

The tone arm is an aluminum piece and is fully adjustable. Combined with a die cast platter and a direct drive quartz system, you are looking at a great platform. On top of that, RP-7000 features 3 speeds and is completely manual, meaning that you can use it as a DJ setup but also a regular turntable for home use.

When it comes to affordable, entry level turntables, Audio Technica LP60 is easily one of the most iconic models. There are numerous reasons for this but we can single out ease of use and quality as two of the biggest ones. It is a compact model that features fully automatic operation and a rather rock solid chassis. However, that is only the beginning.

Audio Technica LP60 is a durable little turntable that actually sounds much better than most people think it would. You get an aluminum platter, 2 speeds, a switchable phono preamp and a tone arm which can be fitted with aftermarket cartridges. In other words, it is a simple but customizable turntable making it one of the best choices for beginners.

Portable, entry level turntables are a good way to get into vinyls. Numark PT-01 Touring Record Player allows you to experience the world of vinyls records with great convenience. This is a fully automatic unit which features a 3 speed belt drive system, an USB port as well as a pair of built in speakers. The whole turntable was meant to be portable.

Because of that, Numark has gone and integrated everything. Numark Pt-01 Touring Record Player draws power either from a set of batteries which offer some 4 hours of play time, or from a USB port we've mentioned earlier. Best of all, it is packed in a suitcase making it extremely easy to pack up and take with you where ever you decide to go.

Crosley's turntables are aimed at delivering decent performance in a portable and budget friendly package. In that sense, their Executive Portable USB Turntable has proven to be one of the best. It is a semi automatic package which comes in a stylish suitcase. If it weren't for two built-in speakers, you'd never know it's a turntable just by looking at it from the outside.

 In terms of performance, Crosley entry level turntables are the definition of value for the money. This model is a perfect choice for those who want to get a taste of vinyl without investing too much time or money. Being semi automatic will help you learn the basics of turntables and prepare you for more complex models down the road.

Category Breakdown

Under $100 (click for more)

Turntables found in the sub $100 range are going to be the most basic models you can get. With that said, this is the price range where you really need to pay attention to what you're getting. There are many record players which will tempt you with their super cheap price, but which are ultimately a waste of money. On the other hand, this segment of the market contains some of the true gems out there, especially if you plan to pair them with a good set of bookshelf speakers.

Under $200 (click for more)

When you step things up a notch and increase your budget to $200, you will start finding pretty solid basic turntables. Models in this price range are still considered to be entry level stuff, but the quality of performance increases significantly compared to cheaper ones. You will also see more and better features along with better quality components.

Under $300 (click for more)

Right around the $300 price point, your options go from all-integrated units to ones that give you far more control over the tone and performance. This is where you will most likely find the best balance of price and sound quality as well as control. Components on these turntables are going to be much better while you'll also see expanded versatility.

Under $500 (click for more)

Going for a $500 record player bring you great deal of options when it comes to playing vinyls. We are talking anything from basic stuff like RPM control to arm balancing and fine pitch correction. Hardware quality is great on most $500 turntables, while they should support multiple upgrade paths. If you are experienced audiophile, these turntables will get you the performance you need.

Under $1000 (click for more)

Going for a high end turntable like the ones found in the $1000 range, introduces you to a whole new level of audio quality as well as control. Models found in this range will most likely feature the best hardware you can find at the moment and allow for customization across the board.

What Makes a Good Turntable?

Listening music via vinyls gives you access to a very high quality analog sound, but it also requires some effort. With the return of record players to the mainstream, there are a many models out there which were designed to be cheap but not necessarily good. The issue with cheap turntables is that they can easily damage your records, which is why you have to be really careful when getting a budget model.

The next logical question is what makes a good record player? To answer this, you need to figure out what you need your turntable to do? If you look at the borderline acceptable quality ones, you will see that most of them are fairly closed systems. In other words, you don't really have too much control over what goes on once you pop a record on the platter. These turntables feature built in amps, somewhat crude tonearms and basic cartridges. As such, they are often used by users who just want to have quick access to vinyl sound without much care about the quality of sound.

On the other end of the spectrum we have more expensive turntables that require a standalone amp, which come with high quality stylus/cartridge, and offer a whole lot of control over the tone as well as general performance. These require a bit more effort to use, but the quality of audio you get is about as good as it gets.

How To Choose A Record Player?

As you have probably figured out from the previous paragraph, choosing a turntable comes down to two things - budget and your requirements. If you are someone who is just getting into vinyls and all you had to look until this point is only soundbar reviews, chances are that a more integrated model will be a good fit. Count on spending around $100 for a good one while we strongly recommend you stay away from anything cheaper than that.

Once you have gained some experience and you decide to get something better, things get a bit more complicated. You will probably want to get a record player that doesn't have a built in amplifier and offers a good amount of control over its performance, may be even consider a decent subwoofer with it. If this is going to be a turntable that should last you a couple of years, it might be a good idea to look for one that offers decent upgrade paths. This way you can push the performance up a notch with smaller investments.

Why Are Upgrade Paths Important?

When you are just starting out, upgrade paths are probably the last thing you are thinking about. Chances are that you are content with your fully automatic, low effort turntable and need nothing more. The fact of the matter is that you will want something better sooner rather than later. When this happens you will have a choice to make. You can either go one step above your current build, which is probably going to be a similar device with a bit better specs, or you can go for a proper enthusiast turntable.

This is where upgrade paths kick in. When we talk about upgrade paths we are mostly talking about how much room you have to enhance the performance of your turntable. Higher end models which fit our description will arrive without a preamp, or with a switchable one. Further more, they will have a fully interchangeable cartridge, maybe even the whole tone arm and so on. Changing any of these components can improve the sound quality of the turntable. Preamps alone can do wonders in this regard. The point is that you should be able to fine tune your turntable just the way you like it.

How To Set Up A Turntable

Setting up a turntable is the essential part of achieving a good tone. Coincidentally, it is also one of the most overlooked steps among beginners. In order to properly prepare you for the vinyl experience, we have to explain how to set up a turntable. This ties into our previous topic of upgrade paths in a few ways. Main reason for this is the fact that the majority of the steps we are about to explain have to do with adjustable turntables although some apply to fully automatic units as well.

Leveling The Base

As you probably know by now, turntables don't actually spin the record itself, but rather the entire platter. Since platters are usually made of die cast aluminum or some other material, they tend to have a bit of weight to them. Having that weight spin on an uneven surface is a recipe for disaster. That's just basic physics. Even so, there are way to many users out there who simply never bothered to level out their turntables.

First step you need to take is to find a suitable base for your turntable. That flimsy old night stand you have is probably not going to be the best choice. Whatever you choose to use, just make sure that it is stable and level. Most turntables come with leveling feet as well meaning that a level base won't do you much good if you don't check the feet. Although it might sound complicated, leveling a turntable is a very simple and quick process.

Tone Arm Adjustments

Tone arms, depending on their design, can be simple or complicated. With fully adjustable ones, there are several things you need to pay attention to especially if you just got your turntable. Setting up a tone arm takes some trial and error for the most part.

Tone Arm Level

Before you get into any specific adjustments, you need to make sure that the tone arm is parallel to the vinyl when in use. This is a fairly easy thing to figure out and all it takes is a good eye to catch the right height. Once you have your tone arm level with the vinyl, it is time to look how the cartridge tracks.

Tracking

Most adjustable tone arms come with a counterweight. This piece of mass is there to allow you to adjust the amount of down force that the cartridge is applying on the record. This is also one of the most finicky tasks in this whole process. Too much down force and you will get a very dull sound. On the other hand, if it is too light, the stylus may not even track correctly let alone offer any decent quality of sound.

Finding the right weight is all about trial and error. There is no silver bullet here or a formula to follow. All you have to do is play with the counterweight until you find a setting that sounds good.

Cartridges

The last thing we would like to talk about are cartridges. Most modern turntable designs make it easy to remove and replace a cartridge. This is great because a cartridge can have a large impact on the quality of sound as well as overall performance of your turntable. Some turntables arrive with a cartridge, some don't. Some that do will make you wish they didn't.

Generally speaking, be prepared to experiment with different cartridges at some point. They are one of the most basic but also most important upgrade paths you can access as a turntable owner. Just make sure that you are getting the right type of cartridge for your turntable and you shouldn't run into any issues. This is important because some cartridges are mounted directly on the tone arm while others are mounted on a headshell. Fortunately there isn't much damage you can do if you accidentally get a wrong cartridge as they are not interchangeable however it is a pain to have to order a new one and deal with that entire process. Additionally, make sure to check if your turntable even comes with a cartridge since some don't as we have mentioned earlier.

Beyond A Turntable

Once you have your turntable sorted out, it might be a good idea to look into a decent set of speakers. Truth be told, you can get away with a set of active bookshelf speakers if you don't want to invest too much. However, once you reach the level of sound quality where your speakers are creating a bottleneck, better be prepared to invest in a decent stereo setup. If all of this is a bit intimidating, don't worry. The world of high end audio is a bit complicated but ultimately worth all of the effort.

Conclusion

Getting into vinyls is both exciting and demanding. Once you pop that first record on your brand new turntable, chances are you'll be hooked for life. It's a hobby that can become very expensive, very quickly, but nothing beats listening to your favorite music on a record. Models we've listed above are by far some of the best you can get at the moment. As you can see, you don't need to spend too much money to enjoy good sound.

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