It doesn’t matter how easy it is to download and stream music; there’s just something about vinyl that will never die. It could be the tactile sensation or the smell. Maybe it’s the album art. Whatever it is, you need a turntable. If you’ve never bought a turntable, it might be overwhelming, but we’ve put together a best turntable under $1000 list of our favorites. Plus, we’ve answered all your questions about buying one to help you make a better decision. Let’s take a look.
How do I choose a turntable?
There are a few critical pieces of a turntable that you need to consider. The parts of the turntable may or may not be familiar to you, but we’ll go through each.
Many turntable manufacturers have proprietary needles, sometimes called the “stylus,” but there are some standard basic shapes.
Spherical is the most common needle type, much beloved for its simple, durable shape and easy to use structure. Many standard turntables come with a spherical needle, which trades off audio quality for ease of use.
An elliptical stylus gets closer to the triangle shape cut into the grooves of the record. With greater contact area with the groove, sound integrity improves. There are fewer phase errors and less distortion overall.
A fine line stylus gets even closer to the integrity of the original master. Less surface area means less distortion, especially within treble frequencies.
The Shibata stylus tip was created to handle the higher demands of quadraphonic systems. It has a superior high-frequency tracking but doesn’t cause the same long-term wear as the fine line because it doesn’t hit the groove the same way each time due to the asymmetrical shape.
Other, more esoteric stylus tips are available but not as familiar. These offer different tracking and different productions of sound at recordings of different frequencies.
Record players work by translating variations in a groove into an electrical signal. As the stylus moves horizontally and vertically over the record, a coil of wire and a magnet pick up those signals and translate them into audio.
Cartridge parts: Moving Magnet style
The stylus is attached to a small arm at the base of the cartridge called the “cantilever” or the “shank.” The shank’s flexible bushing allows the needle to travel unhindered within the groove as the record spins underneath.
These are attached to a moving magnet. As the magnet is agitated by the stylus, it sends signals back to a coil located in the body of the cartridge. From there, the output pins transmit those signals to the amplification system.
This design is the most common. Users can replace the cartridge themselves when the stylus wears out.
A moving coil cartridge inverts the typical design by putting the coils on the shank itself. The magnet rests nearby. Moving Coil cartridges aren’t user-replaceable, and they require a pre-amp system.
The upside is that the lighter weight of the cartridge is thought to improve stylus agility. This translates to better tracking and better audio quality.
Mounts: Standard or P-mount
A standard mount cartridge attaches to the cartridge body by two screws which secure it to the headshell. The cartridge then plugs into the tonearm.
A P-mount uses four arms at the back of the tonearm and a screw attaches through the side of the cartridge to hold it into place.
Here, you want to cross check manufacturer’s recommendations, because you want a cartridge that balances across the tonearm perfectly. Too heavy and it messes up the record by exerting too much force and damaging grooves or not enough force and skipping out of the grooves.
Preamp or no Preamp
If you have an all in one turntable, chances are it already has a built-in preamp. Turntables receive sound from an extraordinarily delicate piece of equipment, the stylus, and the voltage output isn’t enough to translate to a usable signal for most audio equipment.
If the turntable has the preamp built in, all you need is a proper amplifier. Also, if your amplifier has a “phono” setting already built in, you don’t need another preamp. Also, if your turntable has a USB output, it has a preamp.
If you have none of these things, you’ll have to get a preamp. Don’t purchase one that costs more than the turntable itself (unless you got it secondhand) and there are plenty of entry-level preamps for less than $100.
Belt drive turntables use an elastic belt attached to the motor to spin the record. The platter (where the record sits) is isolated from the base. Belt drives help reduce sound from the motor and absorb shock which is believed to produce better sound quality. The downside is that playback speed is less reliable and every few years, you’ll have to replace the belt.
Direct drive turntables place the platter directly on the motor, increasing torque speed and giving more stable playback. Better speed acceleration means less distortion, plus you can spin the plate backward for sound effects. A downside is more ambient noise makes its way to the tonearm. To combat this, many DJs and audiophiles use shock absorbers between the platter and the motor. In my opinion, the best turntable under $1000 would have to be direct driven. You can scratch, mix, cut and paste in a way that just couldn’t happen on a belt driven turntable.
The Best Turntable Under $1000 Reviews
The Rega Planar 2 was originally introduced in 1976 and has gone through quite a few iterations. The latest version still features the belt drive and the plastic moldings for the dust cover lid, but that’s where the similarities end.
It has a rigid acrylic plinth, and the power switch rests underneath. The updated base is apart of a minimalist redesign that highlights the essential parts of the turntable, creating an attractive, modern look.
The motor is a 24-volt quiet motor that reduces ambient noise from spinning with a central bearing. The turntable has Rega’s newest RB220 tonearm with an automatic bias setting, so the machine is virtually plug-and-play. At the end is a Carbon moving magnet cartridge.
It doesn’t have a built-in preamp. Make sure your stereo set up is equipped for phono inputs, or you’ll need to purchase a separate phono stage. Other than that and ensuring that the manual speed settings are correct, it’s just a matter of balancing the arm, and you’re good to go.
Pro-ject’s turntable is a beautiful design that throws back to early turntables with a brushed metal top plate on top of a wooden plinth. It has a full-bodied sound and a purpose-built tonearm, plus a preamp.
The two-layer design reduces sound interference and vibrations from the motor. The motor itself is a low noise AC motor, and the design uses Thermo Plastic Elastomer (TPE) damping balls to reduce further unwanted frequencies, so the sound you want is crystal clear.
The feet are height adjustable, and it comes with an Ortofon 2M Silver moving magnet cartridge, a cartridge designed specifically for The Classic. If you decide to upgrade, the company offers counterweights up to 25 grams.
The sound is fantastic, full-bodied with plenty of punch. It lacks a bit of precision, but if you spend enough time balancing both the supports and the tonearm, it’s a good compromise to make.
This Pro-ject turntable is another beautiful, classic throwback to old style turntables, but updated with some pretty high-end features like a carbon fiber tonearm. It has a belt drive system with a synchronous motor and a heavy aluminum platter. It does require a preamp without proper phono equipment.
The arm is a well-balanced design that comes with an Ortofon 2M Silver cartridge. The new version of the power supply further reduces speed inconsistencies and ambient noise coming from the motor.
The platter is plastic, but the company does provide a cork and a felt mat. Remember to adjust the arm height to account for the mats should you choose to use one.
The bias weight can be tricky if you aren’t used to adjusting the balance but other than that, it’s ready to play as soon as you get it.
The sound is precise and well balanced, even when tracks get busy, though sometimes this can add a sterile air to some of the punchier aspects of the sound. This isn’t a dealbreaker and at times, barely noticeable.
It’s one of the industry leaders in this range of turntable.
Technics’ 1200 series has long been an industry leader, and this model is a low noise design with rock-solid construction and base. It offers a lot of different modifications and adjustments but comes ready to play for those new to turntables.
It’s a high torque motor with super fast ramp-ups. It’s a more substantial unit with a metal console and platter, but the plastic underbelly holds shock absorbing feet. The headshell can accommodate cartridges that weight anywhere from 3 to 13 grams, so you have a lot of room for modification.
Nearly every adjustment for the tonearm is available. It has a counterbalance, cue lever, anti-skating controls, and height settings. It’s a direct drive motor with a quarts synthesizer to reduce ambient sound from mechanical vibrations.
It’s virtually silent in operation, something DJs will appreciate. It comes with a mat, but other types of mats are readily available. It’s a top-notch turntable for those who want a little more control over adjustments and an easier time customizing parts. The only downside is that it doesn’t come with a cartridge.
Normally, audiophiles prefer belt drive systems to reduce noise interference from the motor, but direct drive systems are making a comeback.
The PLX-1000 is a direct drive turntable that delivers excellent sound with very little ambient noise. It gives you a lot of control over playback and installing the cartridge is straightforward.
It gives off a clear, bright sound, and as you choose the cartridge you want (it doesn’t come included), you’ll have even more control. The motor is powered by a quartz lock, servo type direct drive to ensure that speeds are most efficient with little inaccuracy.
It’s heavy, as most direct drive motor turntables are, but it does give you a lot of control over different sounds and actions, plus it has an LED light at the front so you can load records regardless of the light around you.
There’s no preamp, so make sure your equipment is phono capable, or invest in a preamp yourself.
Denon’s DJ ready turntable is a reimagined audiophile player for the control and adjustments DJs need. At first glance, it looks like most other turntables, but it’s meant to be rotated 90 degrees to put controls directly in front of you.
It has recessed feet for easier cable placement. There are no hinges to add a lid. It’s dense with a brushed black steel top with an ultra-solid base. The buttons are backlit for easier viewing.
It spins and stops within a third of a second, and a ring of LED lights sits under the platter, a nice design feature. It comes with an s-arm that’s slightly prone to skipping regardless of adjustments, but likely not noticeable unless you’re DJing professionally.
Denon built extra damping directly into the base to account for the higher torque motor with a rubber platter backing, and the plinth is a noise absorbing material itself.
The sound is full and deep, exactly what you’d want with a DJ enabled turntable.
The TD-203 is a factory set, plug and play turntable that comes fully assembled. It has a pre-fitted with a moving magnet cartridge, the Thorens TAS 257, and a straight arm. The deck on the Thorens TD-203 only requires a little balancing, and you’re good to go. It comes with a standard electric speed change.
The tonearm is a unipivot arm which gives good midrange and level of detail. It’s unusual to find this design on anything besides a professional turntable, so it may take some getting used to if you’ve never used one.
It uses an anti-skate balancing weight, which also takes getting used to for beginners, but once set up, it produces excellent sound, but you’ll need a preamp if your stereo doesn’t have phono capability.
House of Marley’s Bamboo turntable is a beautiful, classically designed turntable with a built-in preamp and a warm sound. It’s easy to set up and as a bonus, built with sustainable materials.
It’s a quick set up, just a little balancing of the tonearm and placing the mat on the platter. The turntable allows you to choose if you want to use the preamp, which gives you more choices for your amplification.
It includes an analog output, a digital USB, and a front-facing headphone jack. The House Of Marley Stir It Up turntable doesn’t have pitch control or a lighted stylus, but you can switch easily between record speeds. It comes with an Audio-Technica moving magnet cartridge, a reliable entry-level cartridge.
HYM’s turntable is an all in one design, eliminating the scramble to find amplification equipment. It’s an attractive, modern turntable with the speaker built right in. It comes with an Audio Technica moving magnetic cartridge.
Set up is a matter of attaching the plates that make up the surface of the record player, but after that, it’s truly plug-and-play. The speaker is a 70w output with two one-inch tweeters and two four-inch woofers.
The record player itself sits on a suspension system to prevent outside noise from reaching the tonearm. You can pair the speaker with blue tooth and wifi, and the back has a variety of input/outputs.
It looks and sounds wonderful and is a good turntable for those who also want a connection to the tech of today.
Best Turntable Where Money Is No Object
If money is no object, you could do little better than Technics’ professional turntable. This is a benchmark turntable, one by which all other DJ setups will be known.
It’s a direct drive motor with powerful torque and quartz controls. It offers pitch adjustment, well-damped feet, and it’s one of the most durable turntables available.
It doesn’t have a newer USB port, and still has a dent at the zero point which makes finer adjustments difficult sometimes, but overall, if you’re investing in a DJ turntable, this one has stood the test of time.