Selecting the appropriate turntable is a very personal decision that should be made off of your specific needs and existing stereo setup. With a revival of Vinyl as a mainstream format again, many are looking for a turntable to give them the analogue music hit they desire so much. There are turntables for every budget, and this post is looking specifically at those considered to be the best turntable under $300.
There are so many digital formats for music today. There are so many streaming services too, that it can be easy to forget the true value of music. Music is something tangible, real and important. Most people, most of the time will stream music, but it can be easy to forget it’s true value when it is so ‘hands off’ and readily available. Vinyl is different. With vinyl, you have to take care of your music and you have to respect it. Vinyl adds that level of respect, value and duty of care that should be associated to anything that you love. People that buy vinyl often do so not for everyday music, but for those special records that have significance to them. Albums that define moments, and importance in their lives.
Built In Or Dedicated Pre-Amp
Selecting the appropriate turntable is a very personal decision that should be made off of your specific needs and existing stereo setup. One popular feature to look for is a built-in phono preamplifier. For those that do not already have a phono preamplifier, this can be considered an essential feature, especially if you aren’t looking to make a separate preamp purchase. Typically, higher end turntables do not come with built in preamps. Simply put, a built in preamp is not able to reach the same quality level of a dedicated preamp, or even one included in a higher-end stereo receiver/amplifier.
Analogue To Digital Converters
Likewise, many manufacturers offer a turntable with analog to digital converters. These modules, usually manufactured by Texas Instruments offer the ability to output vinyl tracks to your PC, which can be particularly useful in archiving your vinyl collection in digital form. The included list of turntable under $300 options all represent high quality products. Overall, units with less features will tend to have higher quality construction and components. For those that aren’t married to the idea of vinyl playback, a USB enabled turntable offers a great way in converting over a music collection to a digital form.
Cartridges also offer listeners a way to cater to a specific sound profile. Many of the listed turntables include a high quality cartridge, with some even coming pre-installed. It is important to note however, that these cartridges are easily replaceable. As with all things associated with Hi-Fi audio, the sky is the limit when it comes to upgrading your cartridge. The included cartridges with these models typically provides a great starting point, with most users never desiring any further upgrades.
Oftentimes warranty coverage is overlooked when considering a purchase, particularly for audio equipment. In this case, all of the mainstream turntable manufacturers fully back their products and that is a testament to their high build quality and quality control standards.
The below list is by no means exhaustive, but represents a great cross section of available turntables at an affordable price. The $300 price point is about where the law of diminishing returns begins to come in at full force. Turntables from manufacturers such as Music Hall and Pro-Ject can quickly climb well above the $1000 price range. While quality of construction and the materials used at that price point is noticeably better, for most listeners there will be no audible differences in sound quality.
The Best Turntable Under $300 – Reviews
The Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB is one of the most feature packed models in its price range. This turntable offers playback for 33-1/3, 45, and 78 rpm vinyl, along with the ability to adjust pitch. Its fully adjustable s-shaped tone arm assembly provides more advanced users the ability to dial in their playback experience. Similar to its competitors, the At-LP120-USB includes a switchable built-in preamplifier with line-level RCA interconnects along with a USB interface.
What sets it apart is the inclusion of PC and Mac compatibly software from Audacity which will allow you to input your vinyl collection to your computer. This turntable comes fully ready to go with a professional cartridge and head-shell. Overall, the AT-LP120-USB offers a lot of useful features and high quality playback at a reasonable price. This model is available in both black and silver finishes.
The Music Hall MMF 2.2 turntable stands out with its striking looks, particularly its simplistic design language coupled with a sleek gloss black finish. The MMF 2.2 makes up for a lack of features with its high quality construction and use of audiophile grade components. In particular, the included moving-magnet phono cartridge is a significant upgrade from cartridges offered by other manufacturers at a similar price point. Overall quality and attention to detail on this turntable is evident in its use of a stainless steel and bronze bearing assembly, one-piece aluminum alloy tonearm, along with a well isolated asynchronous motor.
These result of this construction along with adjustable, vibration-damping feet is a playback experience that eliminates any unwanted audible distractions that may plague other turntables. The MMF 2.2 hearkens back to when record players only offered the essential features such as 33 and 45 rpm playback. Those looking to purchase this turntable will need an appropriate preamp before they can begin to enjoy the high quality sound this turntable provides.
The Crosley C10A-NA provides a high quality listening experience in a very streamlined simplistic manner. This turntable may lack a built in phono preamp and USB/digital output, but for those listeners that are looking for a fantastic vinyl listening experience without any added features this model proves to be a great option. The included Ortofon Om5e cartridge comes pre-mounted and ready to go. More discerning listeners can always swap out this cartridge for a listening experience more tailored to their own tastes.
The construction and choice of materials on the Crosley C10A-NA is superb. The base is constructed of hardwood with a tasteful looking veneer to customize the look. The 8.6-inch aluminum tonearm also features sapphire bearings, adjustable counterweights, and anti-skate adjustment. Another key feature is the specially designed feet for effective vibration reduction. This Crosley model provides amazing playback of 33-1/3 and 45 rpm records without getting caught up with the competition in trying to jam too many unnecessary features for those listeners that are simply seeking a quality listening experience.
The Audio-Technica AT-LP3BK offers a fully automatic belt driven operation at both 33-1/3 and 45 rpm. This model features a balanced straight tone arm with lockable rest and hydraulically damped control of lift. A high quality AT91R dual moving magnet cartridge is included with the turntable. This comes along with a universally sized head shell (1/2″ mount). The built in phono pre-amplifier is useful for those that do not already have a stereo equipped with a phono preamp. Overall, this is a high quality offering from Audio-Technica with the most commonly desired features. Those looking for additional digital features might want to consider the pricier AP-LT120-USB. That model offers a built-in analog to digital converter as well as s-shaped tonearm.
The Fluance RT81 turntable is a quality belt driven device with built in Texas Instruments preamp. The turntable is constructed of walnut finished MDF, incorporating vibration isolating feet and a high quality aluminum platter. The s-type tonearm is constructed of aluminum and ensures proper placement of the stylus to provide the highest quality playback. A particularly nice addition is the included Audio-Technica AT95E cartridge. This features a diamond elliptical tipped stylus which results in precision tracking. The Fluance RT81 is definitely a high quality turntable to consider for your next purchase.
The Teac TN-350-WA is constructed out of high density MDF with a high-intertia die-cast aluminum platter. The included built-in switchable phono preamp allows this turntable to be used with a variety of amplifiers and receivers. Another useful feature is the Texas Instruments Analog to Digital converter which allows output to your computer. In terms of features, the Teac TN-350-WA really provides a lot of versatility for a variety of applications. This turntable can be used for both vinyl playback as well as for archiving an entire vinyl collection via its digital output capability to a PC.
While the Pro-Ject Essential III turntable may lack in features over its similarly priced competitors, its looks are undeniably stunning and elegant. The glossy piano black finished MDF frame is complemented by a 8.6″ aluminum tonearm with sapphire bearings. Audiophile grade features such as special decoupling feet are what differentiate this model from its competitors. This turntable comes equipped with an Ortofon OM10 cartridge pre-mounted and a high quality semi-balanced phono interconnect cable with gold-plated RCA connectors.
This is a fully manual unit and lacks the common features such as a phono pre-amp and digital output. True vinyl connoisseurs might not miss those. However, there is no denying that those features are becoming increasingly common. Particularly in a world that has shifted to almost exclusively digital music consumption. Think of this as your classic 33/45 rpm manual turntable with no extraneous features. Overall, those desiring digital capabilities out of their turntable would be better served with other turntables in the same price range as the Essential III.
The TEAC TN-300 is a manual belt driven turntable offering an authentic listening experience coupled with some useful modern features. Build quality on this TEAC unit is high quality, with an aluminum die-cast higher inertia platter providing excellent quality playback. Likewise, gold plated RCA connectors provide a quality connection point between the turntable and your stereo/amplifier. This turntable supports both 33 and 45 rpm speeds, so those with 78 rpm records would be better served with other more versatile options.
The TN-300 features both phono and line outputs. This is useful for those that may not have a stereo with a phono input/equalizer. Another key feature is the built-in USB digital output. The built in Texas Instruments analog to digital converter allows you to preserve your vinyl collection digitally. This is done via USB and optionally available software. Also included is an Audio-Technica MM (VM) phono cartridge. This allows you to set up the record player and begin listening to music in high clarity right out of the box. The TN-300 is an excellent choice with its high quality construction and modern features.
To summarize, none of these turntables would be considered a bad choice. They all have their inherent strengths and weaknesses, however. It is important to realistically evaluate your needs and desires and shop accordingly. Overall, the Audio-Technica turntables offer more of a modern experience and the ability to output digitally. The Music Hall and Pro-Ject models are particular favorites in the audiophile community for their Hi-Fi sound at a reasonable price. Matching the decor of your listening environment can certainly also play a major role in the decision making process. While gloss black finishes will typically suit most decors, some of the natural wood grained options are certainly appealing in certain homes.
As with any purchase, in choosing the best turntable under $300 multiple personal factors will favor one model over another. Rest assured, there are a multitude of great turntable offerings for less than $300. Hopefully this helps make your purchase decision a bit easier.