Top Turntables Under $500 Reviewed
A great turntable makes for a great music experience. As such, while you don’t want to end up paying more than you really need to, you also want to ensure that you’re not going so cheap as to sacrifice the impact of your favorite vinyl records.
So, what price range should you be looking at? In the vast majority of cases, that sweet spot of high-quality, cost-effective sound is around $300-$500.
Here, we’re going to turntables that are relatively affordable, while still ensuring that you’re getting the richness you expect from your records. We’re going to be looking at the features that both improve your listening experience, as well as those that make a set of turntables DJ ready with professional level quality.
Best Turntables Under $500
The higher budget cousin of the AT-LP120, this DJ ready turnable from Audio-Technica is built with professional DJs in mind, hence the boost in price. Playing records at 33, 45, and 78pm thanks to the electronic speed switch, it comes with a direct-drive design, making it less hassle than belt-driven models. It’s also a high-quality digital conversion amp, the USB allowing for seamless, high quality transfers, depending on the state of the vinyl that you’re trying to convert, of course.
Compared to the LP120, this is a much more feature packed turntable. But it’s also a much more durable and hard-wearing one, perfect for transporting from venue to venue without having to worry too much about any potential problems popping up. This feeling of build resilience is complete thanks to high-quality buttons and sliders, as well.
The controls are well designed as well, thanks in part to the lighting. An overhead light signifies the different elements in a way that’s clear and distinct, while the stroboscope acts as both an indicator of speed accuracy while giving off a lightshow for the audience.
The LP1240 comes with minimal issues. Some find that the mat is better for DJing than listening, for one. Meanwhile, the counterweight on the tone-arm is a little light for the cartridge weight, but is easily replaced with heavier counterweights from other Audio-Technica turntables. Lastly, a stylus isn’t include, so it has to be bought separately, but that won’t bump the price too much.
- Designed primarily for DJ use in nightclubs, touring and mobile applications; features a direct-drive, high-torque, multipole motor for demanding DJ use
- Offers a USB output that allows direct connection to a computer for easy LP-to-digital conversion through included Audacity software
- Built-in switchable phono preamp enables it to be used with a wide variety of receivers, powered speakers and other A/V components
- Fully manual operation with start and brake control adjustments and selectable 33/45/78 RPM speeds
- Professional anti-resonance, damped die-cast aluminum stroboscopic platter with DJ-style slip mat and speed indicator
Another direct drive turntable, the Reloop is around the same price as the AT-LP1240, but on first glance, presents a much simpler setup. But how does the relative reduction of features measure up against the similar pricing? Well, when it comes to build quality, there are very few complaints, indeed. This is a turntable built for DJ sets, with distinct features and a solid build that’s perfectly built for taking it on the road or keeping it in the home for personal listening, both.
The MK2 has a digital pitch control, which might sound alien to several veteran DJs, but makes very little difference in practice, with smooth pitch fading. Similarly, the lack of a recessed for the platter might feel a little odd, but once you get used to it, it works just as fine with those with a recess.
You have to get the cartridge separate, but it works well with a wide variety of cartridges, allowing for excellent detail retrieval, perfect rhythmic timing, and seriously powerful bass. The sound mixing features make it excellent for capturing the original sound of just about any record, so it’s just as welcome as part of the audiophile’s set up rather than being a tool exclusively for the DJs out there.
The only downsides you might find with the Reloop are the lack of needles or dust cover. You have to supply those yourself. Furthermore, while the isolation feet are well-cushioned, they aren’t adjustable at all, which isn’t necessarily a deal breaker for most.
- Adjustable Stop/Start Time
- Phono/Line Outputs - Black
- Direct Drive Turntable
We are moving into the digital age, so it’s only natural that we would spend some time looking more closely into at least one of the digital turntables out there. This LCD touchscreen equipped portable mixer comes with 2GB memory but can be loaded up with up to 2TB thanks to SED cards, and has both analog and digital outputs to speakers of your choice.
Naturally, this turntable is not a fit for those who are looking to reproduce vinyl sounds or to mix physical records, but when it comes to a versatility of use, DJs can’t get much better. It’s extremely portable and has no need to connect to a laptop. You only need speakers and you get access to a veritable studio’s worth of mixing, adjusting, and sound editing features.
DJs looking for feature-riddled turntables won’t be turned off by the sheer utility, including mixing, on-board sequencing, multi-looping, on-board pads, multiple effects, and much more. The digital interface might make it a little difficult to get used to on-the-fly mixing, but if you don’t mind learning, it has all the tools you need. Otherwise, transitioning from one song to the other for a simpler set is much, much more accessible.
That barrier of getting the use of all its features might turn some off, but if you’re looking for a portable music device with full production capabilities, that’s entirely self-contained with no need for a laptop, you can’t go wrong with the Monster Go DJ. Some people are simply never going to be able to turn away from the feeling of spinning records, but if digital is your preference, it’s an excellent model.
- Internal and External Memory: Up to 2GB using Internal Memory and 2TB using SD cards
- Sound I/O : 3.5mm Stereo Jack x 4 (Line-out, Headphones, Line-in, Microphone)
- Line-out 1.0 Vrms / Headphones : 1.0 Vrms
- General : 320 x 240 resolution color display 2EA, Interface : Mini-B USB x 1 (for USB 2.0 connection and power supply)
- Internal Li-Polymer Battery / Max 12hrs play back / Support Sleep mode
Amongst the less expensive of the models we’re reviewing here, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC is a no-frills, high-quality devise with an immediately noticeable mega-sized platter. Unlike most of the others reviewed here, it comes with a precision belt drive rather than a direct drive. As such, that means it can be more temperamental, but offers improved sound quality as a result. There’s no hum or no rumble to content with.
In terms of recreating record perfect sounds, the Debut Carbon DC is almost too good. It can bring the original sound of your records out better than most, but this also means that any imperfections in the record are going be several times more noticeable.
It’s worth noting the lack of details compared to other DJ-focused turntables like either Audio-Technica models reviewed here or the Reloop. Rather, the Pro-Ject is aimed more firmly at audiophiles. Furthermore, it’s hard to argue with the sleek, simple black design. It looks great in amongst any record collection.
One of the only negatives worth mentioning is that it takes some time and effort to setup. The instructions provided aren’t as clear as some might like, so you may want to look online for one of the video tutorials available to save yourself some frustration. The stock Red cartridge sounds decent, as well, but Pro-Ject also supply a Blue cartridge that’s a significant improvement.
- 8.6" carbon tonearm
- Increased platter size with more weight
- Precision belt drive with synchronous motor
- New Sorbothane motor suspension
- Ortofon 2M Red cartridge
Amongst the most inexpensive of the turntables that we’re review, today, this amp comes with both analog and USB outputs, meaning you can connect it to a set of speakers or your PC/Mac desktop just as easily for record digitization. There’s no headphone jack, either, so connecting it to an external device, analog or digital, is a must.
The conversion process is easy and you can play and convert 33, 45, and 75pm records, but the quality of the resulting files will depend on what kind of condition the records are in. The older they are, the sketchier the end result. The AT-LP120 comes with Audacity, a relatively well-known audio editing software for beginners that’s highly accessible, but does miss the feature of splitting audio tracks automatically. Rather, you have to do it yourself.
The difference in sound quality compared to cheaper belt-driven models is immediately noticeable. Furthermore, there’s no need to having to worry about changing worn belts. Meanwhile, features like the counterweight, antiskating, pitch adjust and pitch lock make for excellent playback. There are plenty of ways to adjust the output to get the sound that’s more accurate to the records you’re playing.
In general, the AT-LP120 is one of the better vinyl converter turntables around, thanks to excellent conversion quality and the adjustable counterweight. The built-in preamp makes it a solid choice for DJing, and there’s plenty of value in the added slip mat and pitch lock as well. However, with a lack of built-in speakers, that adds to your investment some.
- USB output connects directly to your computer for plug-and-play use
- Mac and PC compatible Audacity software digitizes your LPs
- Direct drive high-torque motor with selectable 33/45/78 RPM speeds
- Professional cast aluminum platter with slip mat
- Includes cables, software and removable dust cover
Does A Better Turntable Actually Sound Better?
Here is a video of someone comparing a higher quality turntable to a lower quality one to see if there is a difference:
A great turntable makes for a great music experience. As such, while you don’t want to end up paying more than you really need to, you also want to ensure that you’re not going so cheap as to sacrifice the impact of your favorite vinyl records. So, what price range should you be looking at? In the vast majority of cases, that sweet spot of high-quality, cost-effective sound is around $300-$500.
Here, we’re going to turntables that are relatively affordable, while still ensuring that you’re getting the richness you expect from your records. Furthermore, we’re going to look at what you should be looking for in the best turntables under $500.