Turntables can cost as little as $60 and as much as $3000. Of course, within this range turntables will differ widely in terms of features and components. A decent entry-level turntable (from $150 to $250) will offer most of the features you need and proper sound quality. Middle-range devices (from $250 to $400) will be more durable with quality materials such as a branded cartridge, this will also result in higher sound quality. High-end turntables (from $400 to $1000 and more) feature top-grade components, materials that keep resonance to an absolute minimum and offer more customization of your setup.
In order to fully understand how much you need to spend on a turntable, it is important to figure out what your preferences are. You could take a look into our guide on the things to look for and avoid when buying a turntable. In this article, we are going to look at the specification of turntables within each price range.
Those who are just starting out with vinyl and don’t want to spend too much on their first device can opt for a budget turntable. You can get a decent turntable for less than $250. However, we have found that most turntables below the range of 150 dollars are not worth it in our opinion. Of course, if you rarely listen to records or really don’t care for sound quality you can opt for one. But keep in mind that some devices and cheaper brands can even harm your precious vinyl as we explain here.
There are some really decent options out there that allow you to don’t break your bank. But first, let’s talk about what we think you should look out for when buying on a budget.:
- Look for build quality. HiFi turntables are often solid and can feel heavy because they use premium materials. And for a good reason, they help avoid resonance in the sound and can prevent stuttering. Therefore for budget turntables it is wise to avoid fully plastic builds or a turntable that is built from a lot of different parts. A one-piece plinth and materials such as wood, carbon fiber, and aluminum are good materials. You can also look at the track record of usage after a longer period of time.
- Look for ease of use. When you are just starting out, occasionally playing or just want to keep it budget-friendly we would recommend to look for features that improve the usage. Some features can save you time, maintenance, costs, and just overall headaches. Now some of these tasks are things the HiFi enthusiast lives for but it is good to keep them in mind when buying. You could go for a turntable that has a (semi) automatic system meaning the tonearm and needle don’t have to be manually moved onto the record and accidentally be damaged. Also, a good pick can be to choose a turntable with a built-in preamp so you can in any case hook it up to an amplifier or active speakers. You can read more on this in our article on what is the purpose of a preamp.
If you are interested in a budget turntable one of the following guides might help to find your perfect fit:
A turntable that costs between $200 and $400 would be considered mid-range. They often feature a solid, quality construction with good isolation of the platter. They also often feature high quality branded components for the cartridge or preamp. Most of the turntables in the mid-range have the two aspects that we mentioned when looking for a budget turntable. Therefore when looking for a great mid-range turntable take these three aspects into consideration:
- Resonance reduction. Look for a solid build one-piece plinth made not from plastic but from sturdier materials. Also how with a turntable that has a low noise motor. Some mid-range turntables have speed-controlled motors: it means that the motor that makes the platter spin features speed-regulation optical sensors.
They measure the velocity of the rotation as well as its acceleration and adjust these parameters to provide the minimum wow and flutter as possible, this helps the overall sound quality.
Lastly, S-shaped tonearms can help to optimize the tracking angle at each point of the record. This is why it can reduce the harmonic distortion and therefore provide a cleaner sound when compared to straight tonearms.
- Sound Components. When choosing a turntable look for what cartridge or possible built-in preamp is included. These two components convert the audio source to signal that most modern devices can work with. These components, therefore, have the biggest on the sound. You could research what reviews say on the overall sound or look up the specifications. For example, cartridges that are branded Ortofan have a reputation of producing great sound.
- Upgradability. It is a good idea to keep the option open to upgrade your record player setup further down the line, even though you might just be starting out and not considering it. Therefore look into the upgradability of the cartridge, often only certain types of cartridges can be attached, such as moving magnet cartridges. Another thing to keep in mind is whether an external preamp can be attached if the turntable already has preamp integrated then check if there is a switch on the device to bypass it.
High-end turntables are the top of the bill when it comes down to audio components and build quality. If you are serious about vinyl and really can be coined as an “audiophile” than a true Hifi turntable is the only option. But if you are willing to spend a decent chunk of money you should be picky about what to get, therefore keep in mind the following when buying a high-end turntable:
- Tweakability. Most hand-end models will be very minimal in terms of features and components. This is for a good reason, it allows audiophiles to fully tweak additional components and it also prevents resonance, because fewer components also mean fewer parts that can cause resonance.
Also, look if components can be easily adjusted and maintained. For example, the counterweight on the tonearm should be set precisely as it can avoid skipping or damaging your records. The same goes for the cartridge and platter if these components can be easily removed to clean.
- A Premium cartridge. The cartridge is the component that turns the mechanical movement of the stylus over the record’s tracks into an electrical signal. How well the cartridge does its job determines the quality of the sound and depends on a lot of factors such as the shape of the diamond stylus, the material used for the cantilever, the arrangement of magnet/coil in its body. Premium cartridges can provide a premium sound (and make the cost of the turnable rise up).
- High-quality materials. This could for example be an acrylic platter that has the tendency to absorb more vibrations. An extra option are suspended sub-chassis where the platter rests on springs instead of directly on the plinth.
At same time a unique sophisticated plinth design can be made form premium materials such as bamboo, walnut wood, titanium or transparent acrylic.
Top-quality plinths are designed in a way that they can kill any external vibration so that they won’t be transmitted to the platter. The top-end turntables feature double or triple plinths to kill every possible external vibration.
WE have after reading this you have a more clear overview of what a turntable can cost and what to look for when choosing one. While some turntables nowadays are below 100$ you really should be prepared to spend at least $150 for a decent turntable. After all what is the point if you have a turntable that puts out low sound quality, has a big change of breaking down or can even damage your vinyl in te long run. If you have the possibility and will to spend a little more, you can get additional features that will improve the quality of the sound the turntable would be able to provide. Still, you should avoid spending additional money on features you will likely ever use so first find out what your preferences are. We hope that with this article we’ve just provided you with the information you need to understand what is worth spending additional money on.
Looking for something else?
If you are looking for a turntable with a specific feature or within a certain budget you can take look at one of guides below.