The Best Affordable Turntables That Audiophiles Want (2024)

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Can you buy a great-sounding turntable for under $500? The answer is yes, yes you can.

The Best Affordable Turntables That Audiophiles Want (1)Fluance, Pro-Ject, U Turn Audio

The Best Affordable Turntables That Audiophiles Want (2)The Best Affordable Turntables That Audiophiles Want (3)

By Ian White and Tucker Bowe

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When discussing turntables, audiophiles tend to bristle if you utter the expression “entry-level.” But the reality is, the brands offering turntable packages understand that the vast majority of first-time buyers see $500 as their ceiling. And that $500 turntable is expected to be plug-and-play, be reasonably well made and sound phenomenal, to boot.

Established high-end audio brands like Pro-Ject, Rega and Audio-Technica have decades of experience building high-performance turntables, and all three have wisely chose to embrace this new generation of listeners with entry-level packages that can stand the test of time.

Affordable audiophile-grade turntables have taken massive strides in both build and playback quality in recent years, making them worthy analog sources that will bring justice to your record collection at a price that won’t break the bank.

The Best-Looking Turntable Under $500

The Best Affordable Turntables That Audiophiles Want (4)Pro-Ject

Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB

Specs

CartridgeOrtofon OM 5E
TypeBelt-drive
Built-in phono preampYes (switchable)
Automatic or manualManual
  • $449.00 at Amazon

    $499.00(10% off)

Pro-Ject Audio Systems is the leading manufacturer of audiophile turntables in the world. Its manufacturing facilities in Slovakia and the Czech Republic produce 100,000 audiophile-quality tables a year for the Pro-Ject brand and several others.

That level of volume allows them to offer turntables like the T1 Phono SB, which includes electronic speed control, dustcover, built-in phono pre-amplifier and Ortofon OM5e moving magnet phono cartridge for less than $500.

It’s rare to find a heavyweight glass platter on an entry-level turntable, but Pro-Ject has provided the T1 SB with that added level of performance to make it stand out against the competition.

The one-piece aluminum tonearm is not as fancy as the carbon fiber variety that Pro-Ject supplies on its more expensive tables but it works well with the supplied cartridge.

A Highly Customizable Turntable Under $500

The Best Affordable Turntables That Audiophiles Want (5)Orbit

U-Turn Orbit Custom

Specs

CartridgeGrado Black3 (5 choices)
TypeBelt-drive
Built-in phono preampYes (3 options)
Automatic or manualManual
  • $199.00 at uturnaudio.com

    $384.00(48% off)

U-Turn Audio was one of the first American manufacturers to take advantage of the resurgence of vinyl with its affordable tables built by hand in Massachusetts. Today, we find this upstart brand offering entry-level turntables priced below $500.

Even better, they use American-sourced parts and have real hardwood plinths and acrylic platters. Their internal Pluto phono stage can be bypassed if your existing amplifier already offers a phono pre-amplifier.

U-Turn offers a limited selection of moving magnet phono cartridges from Ortofon, Audio-Technica and Grado Labs.

For the best sound, we recommend the components listed in the specs, which must be selected at checkout due to the custom nature of the turntable. (The list price refers to a model equipped as such.)

An Old-School Turntable Under $500

The Best Affordable Turntables That Audiophiles Want (6)Fluance

Fluance RT85

Specs

CartridgeOrtofon 2M Blue
TypeBelt-drive
Built-in phono preampNo
Automatic or manualManual
  • $499.99 at Amazon

    $499.99(0% off)

Audiophiles often dismiss entry-level tables for using MDF plinths, cheap tonearms and bargain-basem*nt cartridges, but none of those criticisms could be leveled at the Fluance RT85.

With a solid wood plinth, acrylic platter, 9-inch aluminum tonearm, and pre-installed Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge, the RT85 is a genuine audiophile turntable that delivers speed stability, a dynamic-sounding presentation, and a lot of performance for the money.

The only item not included in the box with the Fluance RT85 is a phono pre-amplifier; we recommend the Schiit Audio Mani or Moon by SimAudio 110LP V2. Both work exceptionally well with the Ortofon 2M Blue and would elevate the sound of the RT85 to end-game table performance for most people assembling an entry-level high-end audio system.

A Good Turntable Under $500 for DJs

The Best Affordable Turntables That Audiophiles Want (7)Audio-Technica

Audio-Technica AT-LP5x USB

Specs

CartridgeAudio-Technica AT-VM95E
TypeDirect-drive
Built-in phono preampYes (switchable)
Automatic or manualManual
  • $449.00 at turntablelab.com

Audio-Technica turntables are very popular for a simple reason; they offer great bang for the buck.

Audio-Technica turntables may not offer the construction quality of the better entry-level tables from Pro-Ject or Fluance, but they come standard with high-quality moving magnet cartridges that can be upgraded for a small increase in price. (Audio-Technica makes uber-expensive phono cartridges like the AT-ART1000 that retails for $5,000, so the brand is not without high-end credibility.)

The AT-LP5x USB turntable is a direct-drive turntable equipped with a die-cast aluminum platter, external power supply, pre-mounted AT-VM95E cartridge, support for 78 RPM playback, internal phono pre-amp, and USB output for those who want to digitize their vinyl. The AT-LP5x USB is well-built, quiet in the groove, and sounds balanced and forceful — all at a very affordable price.

An Upgrade Option

The Best Affordable Turntables That Audiophiles Want (8)Rega

Rega Planar 1 Plus

Specs

CartridgeRega Carbon
TypeBelt-drive
Built-in phono preampNo
Automatic or manualManual
  • $595.00 at audioadvice.com

Rega have been building audiophile-approved turntables in the U.K. for more than 40 years, and its Planar series of turntables are considered a benchmark in affordable high-end design.

Rega makes products that are known to play nicely in the sandbox with a wide range of cartridges, and big on what the Brits call “PRaT’ (Pace, Rhythm and Timing).

Rega tables run a little fast, creating that boogie factor — something that you’ll notice about the Planar 1 Plus that includes a Rega Carbon cartridge, internal phono pre-amplifier based on their excellent FONO stage and RB-110 tonearm.

Some Rega fans view this entry-level package as a step-down in quality from a basic Planar 1 but it’s hard to dismiss the quality of the overall package that is true to the Rega creed.

At nearly $600, the Rega Planar 1 Plus is obviously an outlier on this list — but it’s definitely worth it if you can manage the extra dough.

A Plug-and-Play Turntable Under $500

The Best Affordable Turntables That Audiophiles Want (9)Pro-Ject

Pro-Ject E1 Phono

Specs

CartridgeOrtofon OM5e
TypeBelt-drive
Built-in phono preampYes (switchable)
Automatic or manualManual

The Pro-Ject E1 Phono is a slightly upgraded version of the brand’s most affordable turntable; it comes with an internal phono preamplifier, but listeners who already have one in their setup can save $50 for the base-model E1 (which retails for $349).

Each model has a true sub-platter design to dampen out vibrations and reduce noise, and they’re made with high-quality components, including a solid MDF plinth and an Ortofon OM5e cartridge (which costs roughly $70 on its own). It’s available in three finishes: glossy black, glossy white or satin walnut.

An Automatic Turntable Under $500

The Best Affordable Turntables That Audiophiles Want (10)Pro-Ject

Pro-Ject Automat A1

Specs

CartridgeOrtofon OM10
TypeBelt-drive
Built-in phono preampYes (switchable)
Automatic or manualAutomatic
  • $449.00 at Amazon

    $499.00(10% off)

Released in early 2022, the Automat A1 is Pro-Ject’s first and only fully automatic turntable. It comes with high-quality components, including an Ortofon OM10 cartridge, 8.3-inch aluminium tonearm, metal platter, wooden chassis and a built-in phono preamp (switchable).

And, because it’s fully automatic, it’s extra-easy to play vinyl — you just place the record down and press a button, and the Automat A1 will play the record all the way through and then automatically stop when it’s done.

Additionally, the Automat A1 is quite upgradable. You can add an external preamp if you like (the Automat A1’s built-in one can be switched off) and swap to a higher-end cartridge (for example, Ortofon’s OM20) later on down the road.

The Most Affordable Turntable Worth Buying

The Best Affordable Turntables That Audiophiles Want (11)Fluance

Fluance RT82

Specs

CartridgeOrtofon OM10
TypeBelt-drive
Built-in phono preampNo
Automatic or manualManual
  • $300.00 at Amazon

The RT82 is the most affordable turntable in Fluance’s Reference line. It has key upgrades over the RT81, such as a three-foot design and a motor that’s been moved to the outside of the platter to reduce vibrations.

It doesn’t have a built-in phono preamp, which gives you the option to purchase an external one. What makes it substantially more affordable than Fluance’s higher-end turntables like the RT85 is the quality of its cartridge and platter: the RT82 comes with an aluminum platter, a rubber mat and an Ortofon OM 10 cartridge.

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