Budgeting for a turntable is no easy task. You can find many record players for less than $100, but you could spend up to $1,000 or more if you’re shopping for Hi-Fi sound quality. It all depends on your needs and what features are most important to you.
As is the case with many things in life, you get what you pay for. Not everyone has the money for a top-of-the-line turntable and that’s okay, but if you do your research and compare prices, you can find one that meets your needs at an affordable price.
But where is the threshold between bad and good? We typically suggest budgeting out at least $200 for a decent turntable, but more if you can spare it. Of course, the sky’s the limit with this sort of thing, but we’ve found the $500 price range to be the sweet spot in terms of high-quality features and affordability.
Is a good turntable worth it?
In short, the answer is almost always yes. The difference between a cheap and expensive turntable is quite drastic. Expensive turntables often come equipped with various desirable high-quality features to improve sound quality.
Additionally, typically expensive turntables are built to last. The more expensive the turntable, the better the materials used to build it are typically going to be. With this high build quality comes added protection to your records are cartridge and stylus. High-end turntables won’t destroy your records with improper tracking forces and inconsistent motors.
If you’re serious about vinyl, you should invest in a good turntable.
Do expensive turntables sound better?
While of course there are upgrades you can make to most turntables in the form of cartridges, phono preamps, and platters, generally speaking, all things being equal a cheap turntable will never sound as good as an expensive one.
Why? Well, that’s easy to explain: more expensive turntables generally come with more advanced components that allow for higher quality sound reproduction such as better bearings and motor assemblies. A top-of-the-line turntable is like a finely tuned sports car – it’s outfitted with the latest and greatest technology to make sure it performs at its best.
What’s the difference between a cheap and expensive turntable?
While we’ve covered some of this above, to break it down in a little more detail, here are the main differences between a cheap and expensive turntable:
– Motor type: generally speaking, expensive turntables use much better motors than cheaper ones. This means they offer more consistent speeds which leads to improved audio fidelity. There are a few different variations of motors and drive systems which we explain here.
– Platter material: expensive turntables come with cast aluminum platters that are heavier than the cheap ones, allowing them to rotate much more smoothly and evenly as well as mitigate micro-vibrations. Additionally, this makes it easier for the stylus to pick up the grooves in your records correctly.
– Tonearm material: expensive turntables often come with tonearms made out of higher quality materials, like carbon fiber. This helps them track your records more accurately and reduces interference from vibrations in the record player itself.
– Counterweight type: good tonearms are designed with adjustable and removable counterweights, allowing you to set a specific tracking force for your cartridge.
– Cartridge type: this is the removable piece that plays your records and contains the stylus that actually tracks them. Higher-end turntables will often come with high-quality cartridges pre-installed.
– Anti-skating: this is a feature that helps the stylus track your records more accurately, minimizing distortion in playback. More info here.
Overall, spending more money on a turntable will give you higher quality parts and components inside, which leads to better overall performance.
Do cheap record players ruin records?
To be fair, any turntable can ruin records if not properly calibrated and set up, however cheap record players often receive a reputation for damaging vinyl because of the inability to be tuned and calibrated.
Cheap record players like a Victrola Suitcase player are mass-produced with little attention to detail. While we are not here to talk down to anyone using these players, it’s important people are informed about these systems and what they can do to your record collection.
Inconsistent speeds, whether too high or too low, damage records. Additionally, the lack of proper counterweights and cartridge alignment means your records are more likely to be scratched, scuffed, and damaged.
What is a good affordable turntable?
When it comes to affordable turntables, you get what you pay for. While you can go out and get a cheap record player and start listening to records, we’ll assume you want an actual turntable.
The Sony PS-LX310BT has long been our choice for the best budget turntable. You will spend close to $100 depending on the time you buy it, but for the price, the features and build quality are unmatched.
Of course, there are better turntables out there, but the PS-LX310BT is a great jumping-off point for many people who are just getting their feet wet in the world of vinyl. Not to mention, Sony is a fantastic brand with great customer support (in our personal experience). There will always be a used market for these turntables, so keep that in mind when buying one or when you are looking to upgrade to a better one!
Should you buy a used vintage turntable?
One avenue we’ve neglected to mention much in this article is buying a used and/ or vintage turntable. While we don’t typically recommend this route to a beginner, it is still an option in the process.
There are many variables to consider here – especially if your budget is limited. There are always trade-offs when it comes to older or vintage equipment.
Generally, many of these turntables will not come with the cartridge (stylus) that plays your records, which can be a problem if you ever want to upgrade or fix something on the player. We always suggest at the very least cleaning if not replacing the cartridge and stylus in used turntables unless the seller mentions it was recently replaced.
Additionally, even in the 1970s and 80s, there were lackluster turntables – I know, hard to believe! You’ll want to do a great deal of research before purchasing a specific brand or model. That also doesn’t guarantee the turntable is in full working order, so be sure to test it in person or expect to spend at least $100-$200 in servicing it alone.
If you’re okay with spending some extra money to get a nice vintage turntable, don’t be afraid to go that route. Many of these older tables are actually quite good when they are in proper working order and will provide countless hours of enjoyment when playing records.
There are many options to consider when purchasing a turntable, and the price varies depending on what you want it for.
If high-quality sound is important to you, then spending more money will be worth the investment as long as your budget allows. However, if cost is an issue or quality isn’t that big of a deal for you then there are cheaper models available. It’s also possible to purchase used turntables which may have benefits but drawbacks too like not having a cartridge (stylus).
For those who really love records and want something better than average without breaking their bank account, vintage record players might be the best option – just make sure they’re in good working order before making any purchases!
Lead Editor / Owner
After beginning his career in the video and audio recording industry, Andrew started HiFi Hippo to share his knowledge and passion for vinyl and vintage audio with other readers.