Best Turntables Under $500: 2022 Buying Guide

So you’re in the market for a turntable? $500 is a great budget that allows you a lot of flexibility when it comes to turntable quality and features that some beginner models might not have. Of course, there are a ton of options out there. I’ve hand-picked some of the best turntables on the market based on my first-hand experience as well as feedback provided by other vinyl enthusiasts.

I’ll walk you through the specific pros and cons of each of my favorite turntables and cover why you might want one model over another.

Not quite ready to spend $500? Check out some budget-friendly turntables under $200 as well!

How I choose these turntables

Andrew – Lead Editor

When it comes to turntables, I’m your guy. Since a young age, I’ve been involved in home audio equipment and vinyl records. That passion at a young age turned into a career path. I now work as a professional in the audio and video industry.

Since starting my career, I’ve been able to experience some of the best equipment in the audiophile and vintage home audio industry, and trust me, turntables are a big part of that. I’m an active member in many online audio communities and have a pulse on what’s going on with the latest vinyl tech.

Using this knowledge, I’ve delicately compiled this list of some of the best turntables under $500 based on quality, price, features, and user experience.

The 6 Best Turntables Under $500

My top pick: Fluance RT85 Turntable

Fluance RT85 Reference High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable Record Player with Ortofon 2M Blue Cartridge,...
1,281 Reviews
Fluance RT85 Reference High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable Record Player with Ortofon 2M Blue Cartridge,...
  • PURE ANALOG PERFORMANCE - The definitive vinyl record listening...
  • SPECTACULAR MUSICAL ACCURACY - Immerse yourself in the detailed...
  • HIGH DENSITY ACRYLIC PLATTER - The greater mass of the acrylic...

Noteworthy Features

  • Glossy, MDF wooden plinth that comes in four colors: Walnut, Piano White, Piano Black, Bamboo
  • Automatic, Servo-controlled belt drive motor
  • 3-pound Acrylic platter
  • Includes an Ortofon 2M Blue Moving Magnet Cartridge (~$250 value)
  • Aluminum S-shaped tonearm with a bayonet cartridge mount
  • Switch for 33 and 45 RPM speeds
  • No built-in preamp
  • 2-year manufacturer’s warranty

Pros

  • Premium cartridge: The Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge is already a premium-level phono cartridge that comes standard with every RT85. This gives your vinyl recordings rich mid-tones and tons of definition in the bass, much more so than other cartridge and turntable pairings
  • 3 lb acrylic platter: There are not many turntables in the price range that come out of the box with a 3-pound solid acrylic platter. Not only does an acrylic platter negate the need for a turntable mat due to its anti-static properties, but its weight adds a level of stability and dimension to the music, breathing new life into your record collection.
  • Versatility: The RT85 is an extremely versatile turntable because of the neutral sound it produces. It’s the best turntable in this price range for any genre of music whether it be jazz, hip hop, or electronic.
  • S-shaped tonearm: An S-shaped tonearm is not something you often find on a mid-to-entry level turntable, yet Fluance has included it in the RT85’s design. This aluminum tonearm is similar to that of the Technics SL-1500C – a turntable over twice the price.
  • Gold-plated RCA outputs: Gold-plated electrical connections, especially for RCA cables, provide superior sound quality compared to standard metal.

Cons

  • Quality of the gloss finish: Some people have noticed that the quality of the glossy finish is imperfect with small blotches and bumps here and there.
  • MDF plinth: While Fluance boasts a “solid wood” plinth, that wood is MDF, a cheaper piece of engineer wood that lacks sonic character and looks bland. While this shouldn’t have a huge effect on the vinyl audio quality, it is something to be aware of.
  • Plastic tonearm mechanism: Despite the high quality of the tonearm itself, the cue lever feels flimsy and cheap. I feel the plastic construction intensifies this feeling as it’s a stark contrast to the aluminum construction of the tonearm.

Why this is my top pick?

The Fluance RT85 is an elegant-looking turntable full of high-end features that you don’t find in other models in the price range. While there are some minor aesthetic issues with the turntable, ultimately what you get out of the box blows away the competition.

The included cartridge alone is enough to have this turntable on your radar. In addition to this, the high-end features like the acrylic platter, S-shaped tonearm, and quality components provide great sound quality.

For the money, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better quality turntable out there.

One thing to note: This system does not include a built-in phono preamp, meaning you’ll need to buy an external one or have a stereo that can accommodate phono input.

See what people are saying about the Fluance RT85 here

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Runner up: Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB

Sale
Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB Turntable with Built-in Preamp and Electronic Speed Change (Piano Black)
  • Tonearm and cartridge completely setup at the Factory for simple...
  • 8mm thick bead-blasted glass platter
  • Premium mechanical parts used throughout for smooth, precise...

Noteworthy Features

  • Belt drive motor
  • Comes in White, Black, and Walnut finishes
  • 33 and 45 RPM electronic speed change
  • Single-piece tonearm design
  • Built-in phono preamp
  • Comes with the Ortofon OM5E Moving Magnet Cartridge
  • Heavy glass platter

Pros

  • One-piece design tonearm: Easily one of the most defining features of the T1 is the tonearm. Its one-piece aluminum design glides along records smoothly, reducing the chance of friction damaging records. This design feature is present in many of Pro-Ject’s higher-end models, yet those chose to include it as well in their sub-$500 unit.
  • Ease of use: The T1’s simplistic design means that any can use this turntable. The speed switch and tonearm mechanisms worked flawlessly. Additionally, upon unboxing, I was able to use this turntable right out of the box without fiddling with adjusting the counterweight. It just works.
  • Balanced sound: Similar to the RT85 above, the T1 provides a neutral, balanced sound with a wide sound stage making it perfect for a variety of different musical genres.
  • Built-in phono preamp: While not everyone will use it, a built-in preamp typically is seen as a positive in a turntable’s design – especially at this price point. While many higher-end turntables will come without them, if you aren’t planning on purchasing a stand-alone unit yet, this turntable will have your back.

Cons

  • The included cartridge could be better: The included Ortofon OM5E, while a fine cartridge, definitely isn’t maximizing the T1’s fullest potential. This is a sub-$100 light tracking cartridge and you might find it struggles to track on older, lighter records.
  • Short power cable: One big annoyance I and many other owners of this turntable found is the power cord is a little short. While I wouldn’t consider this a dealbreaker, it has the potential to create some annoying situations when installing.
  • Stiff dust cover: I found the hinged dust cover to be a little more stiff compared to what I’m used to. This didn’t affect my listening experience, but it caught me off-guard when switching the side of the record.

Why should you consider the Pro-Ject T1 turntable?

The Pro-Ject T1 is a great turntable and one of the best turntables you can buy for under $500. The highlight of the T1 is its one-piece tonearm which delivers buttery tracking to your record collection. The main takeaway I got from the T1 was quality; quality components, quality brand, and quality customer support.

That’s why I’m a little confused by the cartridge choice. While the Ortofon OM5E isn’t the worst cartridge ever made, it doesn’t match up with the rest of the T1’s theme in my opinion. While I understand they’re trying to make a sub-$500 turntable, this choice definitely is a deterrent to many would-be buyers who likely will now consider the RT85.

That being said, The Pro-Ject T1 is a fantastic turntable with arguably better quality than the RT85, just with fewer meaningful features. If you want a quality turntable that works out of the box, no questions asked, the T1 is right for you.

See what people are saying about the Pro-Ject T1 here

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Best budget turntable: U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus

U-Turn Audio - Orbit Plus Turntable (Black)
  • Acrylic platter provides improved speed consistency and clearer...
  • Ortofon OM5E cartridge with elliptical diamond stylus.
  • Precision OA2 gimbal tonearm for accurate tracking and low...

Noteworthy features

  • External belt drive motor
  • Acrylic platter
  • Comes with an Ortofon OM5E cartridge
  • Adjustable tonearm and internal anti-skate
  • 33 and 45 RPM speeds

Pros

  • Appealing design in a variety of colors: U-Turn really focused on individuality when designing the Orbit Plus. While most people think of turntables as a machine that serves a very specific function, U-Turn obviously sees them as decorative pieces of furniture in which people express their creativity.
  • Made in the USA: U-Turn is a small business based in Boston, MA in The United States. If you’re based in the US, you’ll know that many folks prefer to buy from domestic, small businesses when possible. Not to mention, seeking customer support is a much more streamlined process than with some of the other bigger manufacturers on this list.
  • Quality cartridge… for the turntable: You might be thinking to yourself, “wait, doesn’t the Orbit Plus have an Ortofon OM5E? That’s the same cartridge this guy ripped on earlier in this review.” You would be correct. However, keep in mind that that cartridge was paired with the Pro-Ject T1, a turntable over $100 more expensive than the Orbit Plus. The Ortofon OM5E does not have bad sound quality by any means, and I’d wager it makes a lot more sense being paired with a turntable at this price point compared to the T1.
  • Easy maintenance: The external belt allows for easy changing of the belt when the time comes.

Cons

  • Built-in preamp costs extra: The standard Orbit Plus does not come with a built-in phono preamp. That will cost you around $70 more on the Orbit Plus with Built-in Preamp. Of course, my recommendation is to use an external preamp anyways, but I understand that might not always be feasible or desired.
  • The belt can have trouble staying in place: One of my biggest issues with the Orbit Plus is the belt. Simply put, it can be a huge pain to deal with and often needs to be readjusted. Additionally, the belt is extremely thin, meaning slipping, especially with heavier records.
  • It’s just plain simple: The U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus is just a turntable. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that some of the other turntables on this list have. It does one job and one job only.

Why should you consider the U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus turntable?

If you’re someone new to vinyl or someone that really doesn’t care to have a top-of-the-line turntable with incredible features, this is the best turntable for you. I know that’s not the best sales pitch in the world, but hear me out.

The U-Turn Orbit Plus is a simple, budget-friendly, quality turntable that will work and work well. Yes, it does have some quirks, I won’t sugarcoat it, BUT for a fraction of the price this simple turntable gives your fantastic sound quality out of the box – all in a sleek and easy-to-use design.

See what people are saying about the U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus here

You might also consider:

Best for beginners: Fluance RT81

Fluance RT81 Elite High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable Record Player with Audio Technica AT95E Cartridge,...
  • PURE ANALOG LISTENING EXPERIENCE - Premium components allow this...
  • HIGH PERFORMANCE CARTRIDGE - The Audio Technica AT95E featuring a...
  • SUPERIOR RECORD TRACKING - Enjoy perfect playback using the...

Noteworthy features

  • Glossy, MDF wooden plinth that comes in three colors: Walnut, Piano White, Piano Black
  • Automatic, Servo-controlled belt drive motor
  • Includes an AT-95E Moving Magnet Cartridge (~$60 value)
  • S-shaped tonearm with a bayonet cartridge mount
  • Speeds of 33 and 45 RPM
  • Built-in preamp
  • 2-year manufacturer’s warranty

Pros

  • Great starting point: The RT81 is an awesome starting point for anyone looking to upgrade from a record player to a turntable or even just straight into vinyl fresh. While the turntable comes with everything you need to get started, it can be upgraded and outfitted with a better cartridge, external phono preamp, and an improved platter mat for improved performance.
  • Surprising bass performance: Similar to its big brother above (RT85), the RT81 comes with a solid MDF wooden plinth that really helps with bass response. While in higher-end turntables, MDF is seen as a downside, at this price point you’re lucky to even get real wood, so this plinth is a huge plus in my eyes.
  • Built-in phono preamp: We’ve mentioned this before, but a built-in phono preamp can sometimes be seen as a downside, however, we’re recommending this as one of the best turntables for beginners. Out of the box, you’ll be ready to plug directly into a set of powered speakers and start playing your vinyl without the hassle of purchasing other stereo components.

Cons

  • Hollow aluminum platter: I noticed the platter isn’t heavy… like at all. In fact, if you remove it from the plinth and flick it, you’ll hear a loud, resonant “ping!” This is not ideal. Ideally, platters should have high mass and density to mitigate vibrations and not add additional resonance during record playback.
  • Low-quality rubber mat: You’re going to want to upgrade platter mats pretty early on. The standard rubber platter mat on the RT81 attracts tons of static and does a pretty poor job of isolating the record itself.

Why should you consider the Fluance RT81 as a beginner turntable?

Fluance has multiple different models in the RT series, so how did I decide that the RT81 is the best model for beginners? Well, primarily because I think it’s the best turntable on the market under $250 that has a built-in phono preamp. in addition to this, the RT81 comes with the AT-95E, a solid middle ground cartridge that alone costs nearly $70.

The RT81 also comes with some of the premium features you find on the other turntables in the RT line like a solid wood (MDF) plinth and S-shaped tonearm. The RT81 comes with everything to produce satisfactory analog sound for a very affordable price – AND it has plenty of upgrade options should owners want to push the design to its maximum potential.

While I understand that to the seasoned audiophile, there are better turntables out there – however, I would wager that not many of them could find a better design on the new turntable market for under $250. That’s why I’m choosing it as the best turntable under $500 for beginners.

See what people are saying about the Fluance RT81 here

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Best direct drive turntable: Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK

Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK Direct-Drive Turntable (Analog & USB), Fully Manual, Hi-Fi, 3 Speed,...
  • Experience the high-fidelity audio of vinyl
  • Direct-drive, DC servo motor with selectable 33/45/78 RPM speeds....
  • Fully manual operation featuring adjustable dynamic anti-skate...

Noteworthy Features

  • Manual direct-drive motor
  • Anti-skate and variable pitch control
  • Includes an Audio-Technica AT-95E cartridge
  • S-shaped tonearm
  • Speeds: 33, 45, and 78 RPM
  • Built-in preamp
  • USB output for digitizing your vinyl records

Pros

  • Full of features: The Audio Technica LP120 models are some of the most feature-dense turntables on the market. From three playback speeds, USB and Bluetooth connectivity (depending on the model), and pitch control with a quartz speed lock, the LP120 has features you won’t typically find on a belt drive turntable of the same price.
  • Versatile: While this turntable is designed with DJs in mind, the LP120 is perfectly capable as a casual listening turntable as well. In fact, the direct drive motor will bring your records up to speed faster than a belt drive turntable would.
  • Historic design: The LP120 is modeled after the iconic Technics SL-1200 which is the standard for most DJs. Audio Technica makes DJing accessible to the masses by incorporating this historic design.
  • USB connectivity: The USB port allows you to sample records or make digital copies of your vinyl collection.

Cons

  • Quality control can be an issue: The LP120 is constructed by Hanpin turntables in China. While Audio Technica does weigh in on some of the design attributes, they’re just responsible for making the cartridges and marketing the turntables.
  • Poor support & documentation: I’ve personally had issues with Audio Technica’s support for turntables and other audio equipment I own. Documentation for the LP120 specifically can be a little convoluted. While the setup is generally easy to follow and there are plenty of guides on YouTube, support for this product if it breaks can be a headache – in my experience.
  • The built-in phono preamp is not a long-term solution: While some would argue that the built-in phono input is enough to get you by, you really are doing yourself and your records a disservice by continuing to use it beyond your first few months with the turntable.

Why should you consider the Audio Technica LP120 turntable?

For aspiring DJs or people just looking for a direct drive turntable under $500, the AT-LP120XUSB-BK is likely the best choice on the market aside from exploring what’s available second-hand. There’s no shortage of features on this turntable, so as long as you have a set of powered speakers you’ll be ready to play your records right out of the box.

Of course, there are some definite issues with quality control when it comes to the LP120’s design. No, the LP120 doesn’t feature a glossy wooden plinth and instead is a plastic-bodies design, but it’s necessary to fit the high torque motor within.

I wouldn’t be doing the LP120 justice if I didn’t mention the price, coming in at over $100 less than many of the other turntables on this list. While it’s not the best turntable available, if versatility, features, and price are your top priorities, the LP120 is the pick for you.

See what people are saying about the ATLP-120 here

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Best fully automatic turntable: Denon DP300F

Denon DP-300F Fully Automatic Analog Turntable with Built-in Phono Equalizer | Unique Tonearm Design...
  • REDISCOVER YOUR PASSION FOR VINYL -Listen to your analog music in...
  • LOWER VIBRATIONS DRIVE BETTER PERFORMANCE - This slim and sleek...
  • SMOOTH & GENTLE AUTOMATIC MOTIONS - The automatic startup feature...

Noteworthy features

  • Belt drive motor
  • 33 and 45 RPM speeds
  • Fully automatic tonearm
  • Built-in phono preamp
  • Includes a moving magnet cartridge

Pros

Fully automatic functionality: Let’s face it, the primary reason to consider the Denon DP300F is that it’s one of the better fully automatic turntables on the market. It seamlessly pivots the tonearm and drops it onto the record and when the side is complete, it picks itself up and pivots the tonearm back to the resting position. No need to worry about falling asleep while listening to records and damaging your cartridge anymore!

Included phono preamp: The DP300F comes standard with the built-in phono preamp. This just adds to the convenience of this turntable. If you’re considering a fully automatic turntable, you likely don’t value sound quality as highly.

Cons

Cheap cartridge: One of the biggest issues I have with the Denon DP300F is the DSN-85 cartridge it came with. This is one of the most budget cartridges Denon offers and you can certainly tell. The sound, in my opinion, was muddy and lacked detail. To the untrained ear, you might notice, but I certainly did. You’ll definitely want to consider upgrading the cartridge early on with this turntable.

Aluminum platter: While it’s not a deal breaker, an aluminum platter adds unnecessary resonance that heavy, dense platters don’t suffer from.

Why should you consider the Denon DP300F as a great fully automatic turntable?

The Denon DP300F is kind of like a high school basketball player playing against a bunch of 4th graders; sure the high schooler will win, but are you really all that impressed?

There just aren’t a ton of fully automatic turntables in this price range. Most beginner audiophile turntables under 500 dollars will be manual. The DP300F didn’t blow me away at all, in fact, I was pretty underwhelmed.

That being said, if you’re dead set on purchasing an automatic turntable for under $500, the DP300F is what I would recommend.

See what people are saying about the Denon DP300F here

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Before you buy, here are some FAQs I often see

If you’re just getting started browsing for a new turntable, you likely have a couple of additional questions. Here are some common questions I often see asked online or in the store.

What’s the difference between record players and turntables?

Record players and turntables both play records by rotating them at a steady speed. Where record players differ is that they are all-in-one units meaning they are comprised of the turntable mechanism, amplifier, and speakers.

Find further information on this in our turntables vs record players article.

Should I consider buying a record player or a turntable?

A record player will have significantly inferior to turntables in terms of audio and build quality. Record players have been known to damage records during playback and are ultimately just affordable stepping stones for people to get into vinyl as a hobby.

Should I buy an automatic or manual turntable?

Manual turntables are typically recommended as they have fewer internal components that interfere with sound quality. Many audiophile turntables are manual to allow for a solid plinth which promotes improved speed stability and bass frequency response.

Do I need an external preamp to have great sound?

“Great sound” is subjective, but generally you can get away with using the internal preamp of your turntable while you upgrade other audio gear like your cartridge and speakers. After these are upgraded, you may want to consider purchasing a standalone preamp unit to improve the sound of your analog audio.

Choosing the right turntable for you

At the end of the day, this article is just a list of recommendations. Ultimately, you need to find the right turntable for your needs and budget. Maybe you want to splurge on the highest quality hi-fi setup, or perhaps you need to find a modest system on a higher budget?

These are all things to consider when looking through the feature list of the different systems.

Most importantly, HiFi Hippo wants to provide you with accurate and non-biased reviews to help you make an important decision. Don’t lose sight of what matters: the music.