Turntables that you find in the stores these days are nothing like the ones we used as kids. It used to be where you plugged in the turntable, put on a record, and it played. These days, turntables have lots of new features and you can even connect them to your PC to produce digital recordings so you can listen to the sounds of your favorite records on your smartphone. When looking for the best turntable under $500, there are those that hunt for second hand versions of old players, and those that see the quality in the new rise of the turntable.
Before you purchase a new turntable, you should learn a bit more about the new technology that they include and everything that they are capable of doing. Even turntables that are under $500 have tons of new features for you to check out. Here are a few tips on what to look for in the best turntable under $500 and a few reviews to help you start shopping.
Features of a Turntable
Stylus – Otherwise known as the needle, the stylus normally has a tiny diamond tip that can be shaped in different ways. You will find the more expensive and exotic shapes work better around the grooves in your record and increase the detail you hear while reducing wear. Make sure to protect the tip of the needle as it is the most delicate point of the turntable.
Cartridge – Producing the audio signal that your turntable sends for amplification, the cartridge is a little box where the magnets and stylus are housed. You will find that there are two main types of cartridges either a moving coil (MC) or a moving magnet (MM). With the moving coil, you get better sound quality, but it is more expensive and needs more care. Your turntable should come with a cartridge, so make sure it has one before you purchase it.
Tonearm – The tonearm is a wand that pivots around allowing the stylus to track across your LP’s and is also where the cartridge is attached. Available in a few shapes, weights, sizes, and pivoting styles, it is important that your tonearm works well with the cartridge. Inexpensive turntables often put too much pressure on your records which can ruin them so make sure you are getting a quality product.
Platter – The platter is the area that your record sits on and spins. They can be made of ceramic, resin, metal, glass, vinyl-coated MDF, or acrylic and some even come with a wool or rubber mat.
Belt drive vs. Direct drive
Most of the turntables that are available today are belt-driven which means they have a rubber band that runs around the platter and the motor pulley. This set up helps to prevent vibrations that can be picked up from the motor from being sent to the stylus. A direct drive motor connects to the spindle directly under the platter and has the benefit of guaranteeing that your rotational speed is consistent.
When choosing between the two drives, remember that belt drive turntables are not good for DJ’s, but they are generally believed to have better sound quality as they create fewer vibrations and outside noise. Direct Drives are a good choice for DJ’s and have a better build, stronger torque, and a fast startup time.
Since the audio signal that is sent from the cartridge tends to be really faint, a phono pre-amp will be needed to amplify the signal before it is sent to a line input. You will find that the plug and play turntables will come with a phono pre-amp built in.
Here are few things to know about preamps:
• They can come built-in to the turntable
• Older stereo systems and amplifiers may also have built-in preamps
• A DJ mixer can also be used as a preamp
• You will find a built-in preamp if your turntable has a USB output
• If you are using an external preamp, you will need to get cables that will connect to your audio system
Grounding – For turntables that do not have a built-in preamp, you need to make sure they are grounded. This is done through a cable that is attached to the turntables preamp. If you do not ground your turntable, you will get a very obvious humming sound.
Turntable Mats – Also known as slipmats, a turntable mat has several functions. It will protect your record, help to improve sound and reduce friction when you are DJing. The most versatile turntable mat is a felt mat that can be used when you DJ and while you are listening. Not only does it improve sound quality, it also allows you to hold the record as the platter spins. Other mats like rubber mats are really good for dampening vibrations, and a cork mat is a popular choice among audiophiles that want to open up the sound spectrum.
Best Turntable Under $500 Reviews
If you want the authentic sound that you get from vinyl, check out the Sony PSHX500 Turntable that not only plays your favorite records, but also records and converts tracks to portable devices. You’ll enjoy great analog sound quality, and you can easily plug it into your computer to hear music at its best. Not only will you be able to enjoy the warm and smooth sounds of vinyl, but you can breathe new life into your favorite songs with Hi-Res audio, and you will also get natural sound reproduction with the spindle-bearing construction that has been optimized.
The Sony PSHX500 Turntable also has built-in phono EQ, a new tonearm design that improves durability, and it features the latest in techniques to give you stable rotations for natural delivery of your favorite music. One of the best features of this turntable is its ability to make your favorite vinyl sounds portable with the supplied software that allows you to edit tracks and transfer them to a device or portable player to be played anytime, anywhere. It also comes with an acoustic grade MDF cabinet, a high-quality rubber mat, structure that is insulated, and an epoxy circuit board made of glass to give you better stability and sound quality.
When you want high-end analog sound at an affordable price, the Pro-Ject Carbon DC Turntable is worth checking out. It decreases unwanted resonances, and the tonearm produces higher fidelity from any album that you play. It also gives you incredible recovery and tracking of the nuances that are hidden inside your vinyl albums grooves.
Featuring a hefty platter, the Pro-Ject Carbon DC Turntable also includes a low-noise motor that has effective stable isolation fee that help to protect the Debut Carbon DC from vibrations. It has a spaciousness and sense of depth that is impressive and can outperform cheap CD players with ease. It also is available in several high-gloss color options.
With a stylish chassis and a built-in equalizer, the Teac TN 300 Turntable comes equipped to play your favorite LP’s with a stereo that does not come with a phono input. Featuring a belt-drive, this analog record player includes both line and photo outputs. You can also transfer songs from your favorite LP’ to your computer using the included USB digital output and the optional recording software.
With the CD-quality digital archiving, you can preserve your record collection and enjoy it on a Digital Audio Player or your smartphone. The Teac TN 300 Turntable also features audio-technica’s AT95E VM cartridge that gives you highly accurate tracking sounds and the platter is made of aluminum that also helps provide that solid playback quality. This is the ideal turntable for a music lover that can appreciate a sturdy and stylish design along with high quality output.
For playback that is high-quality, the Teac TN 400S Turntable has the ease of a plug and play and sounds better than it looks. It features a preamp that is built-in, a pre-mounted cartridge, and an S-shaped tonearm. Playback is supper easy with a belt-drive that includes three speeds and high-grade internal components.
The TEAC TN-400S Turntable comes equipped with an aluminum die-cast platter and low-friction spindle. The built-in preamp and premounted cartridge produce computer-based archiving giving you great flexibility and convenience. It also has a durable rubber flat-belt for incredible stable playback at any speed.
If you want your vinyl LP’s to sound incredible, check out the Pro-Jeck Debut Carbon Esprit Turntable. It has a pre-mounted cartridge and a carbon-fiber tonearm, plus it comes with a built-in Pro-Ject speed box to give you great control while supporting any speed. This turntable will give you finely engineered playback with every record, no matter what the speed.
The Espirit Turntable also has a great-sounding tonearm made of carbon-fiber and an Ortofon 2M red moving-magnet cartridge that is best in its class. The highly tuned motor and a isolation feet that are vibration dampening both come standard to the Espriit Turntable, and it is also available in several striking color options. This is a great turntable with incredible stability, suspension, and sound for an affordable price
If you are looking for a high-torque, professional turntable with a direct-drive, the Audio Technica AT-LP120 Turntable is a great choice for DJ’s or other types of music enthusiasts. All you need to do is connect the turntable to your computer so you can digitize your favorite songs and listen to their amazing sound anywhere. You also get a USB output and phono preamplifier so that you can digitize your music to a high-quality FLAC or MP3 file.
You also get adapter and USB cables included with the Audio Technica Turntable plus software that is compatible with PC and Macs. There is an adjustable counterweight with the S-shaped tone arm assembly as well as height adjustment and lock and a lift lever and hydraulic actions. Plus, it will maintain the right rotational speed with the DC servo motor and the pop-up stylus target light and stroboscopic platter speed indicator helps you see when you are playing and queuing up music.
If you need a professional quality DJ turntable, the Audio Technica Direct Drive Turntable was created to be used primarily by DJs in nightclubs, while touring, or with mobile applications. You can also use it to play your favorite LPs at home and, with its USB output, you can connect it directly to your computer for easy conversion of your favorite sons to digital recordings. This turntable has an elegant and sleek gloss black and silver design that will fit in with any décor or home entertainment system.
The Audio Technical Direct Drive Turntable also feature a built-in switchable phono preamp that lets you use it with a variety of powered speakers, receivers, and other A/V components. It also uses a powerful direct-drive that has a powerful three-phase, 16-pole motor that gives you speed stability and easy cueing in forward, back, and reverse play. The S-shaped tone arm includes trackforce that is adjustable, anti-skate adjustment, and a universal cartridge mount that is removable.
The Pro-Ject Essential III Sgt. Pepper‘s Turntable is a definitely a collector’s item. A collaboration between The Beatles and Pro-Ject Audio Systems, this special edition turntable was inspired by the their iconic album “Sergeant Pepper‘s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the album, this turntable was designed to allow their fans that opportunity to play it in their living room with a high quality turntable.
Based on an improved Pro-Ject Essential III turntable, the Sgt. Pepper’s Turntable features a belt drive that includes a silicone belt and synchronous motor. The chassis is constructed of a drive pulley made of aluminum and the low tolerance platter bearing includes a spindle made of stainless steel and has an aluminum tonearm that features sapphire bearings.
If you like to save money and make sure you are getting the value out of your purchase, check out the Pioneer PLX-500 Direct Drive Turntable that includes all the necessary accessories are included to so you can start playing your turntable immediately. Pioneer draws on its heritage to produce another high-quality product with the Direct Drive Turntable. Using the layout of the PLX-1000, you get a clear and warm analogue sound and a high-torque deck that is perfect for scratching.
The PLX-500 includes a stylus, slipmat, and cartridge, as well as a USB out. So you can easily make high-quality digital recordings of your favorite LPs with the included free recording software. By using the shortest audio route from the outputs to the stylus, you can reduce distortion and get the high-quality sounds you want from your records. You can then use the in-built USB output to record high-quality digital WAV files by easily connecting to your Mac or PC.
If you are looking for a simple but high performance turntable, the U-Turn Audio-Orbit Plus Turntable gives you all that at an affordable price. This product is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign done in 2013 by U-Turn which helped them launch their Orbit line of turntables. This is an easy to set up and use turntable that comes with a two year warranty.
U- Turn Audio provides true attention to detail in their manufacturing process. The Audio-Orbit Plus has a configuration that features an acrylic platter upgrade which gives you tight bass and improves detail and speed consistency. It also includes a built-in Pluto phono preamp that allows you to connect it right to an amplifier or powered speakers. It also comes with a dust cover, precision arm, and a counterweight that is adjustable.