Table of Contents
- Are $500 Record Players Worth It?
- Main Difference between High-End Models
- 5 Best Turntables under $500
- What to Look for When Choosing a Record Player Under $500
- Final Words
As technology keeps on moving, old technology keep on becoming redundant. The new turntables that you can buy in 2020 are miles away from the old sound systems that you will find biting dust in your grandma’s attic.
However, there are a few people who are truly committed to old vinyl music and prefer listening to their records on old vintage players. No matter what you do, you will never get the old retro feeling on the modern vinyl players as you would on a vintage system.
Today we have brought you the best record players which have excellent features and provide you the convenience to listen to your records anywhere. This review includes mixed variations of vinyl players which include the vintage, audiophile, and the modern fully automated record players.
Are $500 Record Players Worth It?
If you are an audio enthusiast, then it is natural that spending a lot of money to attain perfection for your audio cravings won’t be an issue. But you have got to stop somewhere. The truth is that the market is flushed with many products that can range from 100 to over 4000 dollars. It depends on your preference and how much you want to spend on your player.
There are, however, some options under $500 which give you some exceptionally high quality music. These are budget-friendly record players that we have included in our list. These record players provide you with good music quality with high clarity of sound. Furthermore, they have some brilliant high quality tonearms with top-of-the-line cartridges.
Main Difference between High-End Models
The high-end models are designed so that they have just the right quality which also provides high returns. That essentially means that the company can improve the quality and performance up to a certain point, beyond which will cost considerably more amount of money. Low-end and mid-end provide more effective cost-cutting, thus the quality varies from product to product. If a product is high-end, you will not see a quality difference in the same slab of products.
For example, the Rega’s planar offers high performance in just under a thousand dollars. If you compare that with the RP10, it offers all the same specifications and performance, but at five times more price. If the performance is compared to the one with the 1000 dollar price tag, then the performance difference is not something that justifies the 3000 dollars price increase.
But the company has to make a profit so, to make incremental gains, they use technologies and raw materials that can’t be used at a lower price range from a practical point of view. For example, some of the brands will use a gold plated tonearm tip which is impractical to use in low-end record players. Things like magnetic beatings, surface isolation, DC motors, all of them work together provide the performance which is beyond the performance of any low or mid-range record player.
There are some moments when the brands can bring high-end features to the more mainstream range by employing new design concepts. There are some things that can never be employed in the mainstream products but the manufacturers often hone new concepts and try their best to proliferate new features in the mainstream range.
As far as longevity is concerned, the high-end products provide more or less the same warranty period. It is a double-edged sword as the manufacturers are not ready to provide more warranty on their high-end products. But that is also an assurance that the product will be of the highest quality possible and will not go bad. Moreover, companies know that people do not tolerate poor performance and take the utmost care in manufacturing.
5 Best Turntables under $500
BANDC Bronze Vintage Classic – Best Vintage Turntable Under 500
The BANDC Bronze Vintage Classic is a vintage turntable that gives a retro feel to your music. With a vintage design and pure copper horn, this turntable is a pure old school turntable that one can expect to have as an antique.
It features a pure aluminum alloy base that is high in quality and durable. The turntable is laced with anti-oxidation plating that prevents rusting and increases the longevity of your equipment. It features two speed modes: 35 RPM and 45 RPM that can play records of all sizes.
On top of that, it also comes with a USB drive support that allows you to connect it to your computer and save all your favorite recordings to your devices. At this price, this is absolutely a steal.
- Vintage retro design with pure copper horn with an aluminum alloy base
- Anti-oxidation plating
- Professional stereo audio with two built-in stereo speakers
- Two-speed modes
- Plays all sizes
- USB flash drive support
- Dimensions: 302 mm x 354 mm x 576 mm (11.89” x 13.94” x 22.68”)
The BANDC Bronze Vintage Classic is a turntable for those who are a vinyl audio enthusiast and who want old school audio with old school looks. This is a budget-oriented turntable with a premium design.
Marantz TT42P Fully Automatic – Best Automatic Turntable Under 500
The Marantz TT42P Fully Automatic is an upgrade to the previous-gen TT42. It comes with a preinstalled cartridge and a built-in phono preamp that makes this turntable a ready to play, fully automatic turntable. The phono preamp is a major upgrade as the previous-gen didn’t include this.
Aesthetically, it is rather simple looking and aims for a more classical look rather than projecting a modern appearance. It comes with a plastic dust cover that protects the platter surface while it is not in use. It is fit for playing records of all sizes at 33 1/3 and 45 RPM speeds.
The belt drive reduces vibrations to a minimum and provides a distortion-free and warm sound quality by running it at a constant and stable speed. If they had included USB support, it would be much better.
- Fully automatic vinyl record player
- Phonogram with easy connectivity
- High quality playback
- Industrial grade parts
The Marantz TT42P Fully Automatic is a fully automatic turntable for those who need easier operation and convenience in enjoying their music. Sit back and relax with this high quality phono preamp turntable which is a blend of quality and convenience.
Music Hall MMF - 1.3 Audiophile Turntable – Best Audiophile Turntable Under $500
The Music Hall MMF is an entry-level Audiophile turntable set that can play all your records with ease. Whether it is a 20-year-old record from an ancient era of the 90s classics or even older, this turntable plays all of them at three-speed modes that you can choose from. It can play 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM as well. The high speed of 78 RPM makes it unique and indicates that it has a powerful drive.
With a built-in phono preamp, you don’t need to plug it into an integrated receiver to listen to your music. You can save your money to buy some records instead of investing in an amplifier. You can plug this directly into the line-level output or receiver without any hassle.
The best thing is that it comes with an Audio Technica cartridge that is pre-mounted. With a precision aligned cartridge and a diamond stylus, it produces some of the most beautiful sounds with its balanced tonearm.
- Automatic belt drive
- Electronic motor with the speed control mode
- Three-speed modes
- High-quality aluminum tonearm
- Removable head shell
- Vibration dampening feet and rubber platter mat
- Audio technical cartridge
The Music Hall MMF is an entry-level turntable that stands out on its own with its unrivaled price. Coming with a quality pre-mounted cartridge and a high quality phono preamp, this turntable is everything you will need to satisfy your musical cravings.
Denon DP-300F Fully Automatic – Best Turntable Under $500
The Denon DP-300F is an excellent choice if you are a beginner as it is a fully automatic turntable that works with a simple push of a button. You will not need to manually move the tonearm to play and stop the music. When it finishes playing the record, the tonearm automatically moves aside to help prevent the warping of the record surface.
The design is very generic but the simplistic looks make it more appealing. With a dark greyish metallic paint, it has a unique aesthetic appeal. The operation is belt-driven, which means it will provide you with stable rotation and good quality sound.
The sound quality is on the lower end of the spectrum. While most of the Audiophiles may not be impressed, someone who is just beginning might find the sound to be good enough. Highs are not that well defined and bass lacks an impact but you don’t need that if you are looking to have something that stays true to its vintage roots.
- High quality aluminum die-cast
- Mounting head shell
- Two rotation speeds
- Automatic startup and tonearm movements to protect your records from scratching
- Built-in equalizer
- Easy to set up and install
- Attractive design and superior build quality
The Denon DP-300F Fully Automatic Turntable is for those who don’t want to deal with a complicated setup and even more complicated playing operations. This is something that just works right out of the box and does everything for you. While it does sacrifice some of the sound quality, you do have the option to upgrade it with better cartridges.
Spending a few more dollars for a high quality turntable is a bargain even though you can get some cheap turntables. The Pro-Ject Debut excels when it comes to design, vibration dampening, and phono cartridges.
It comes with a piano black design with a few other variants as well. The MDF construction is something that offers good noise dampening and improves sound quality. Moreover, it has a rubber suspension system that ensures that there are no vibrations in the platter.
The only thing that troubled us was setting up the tonearm. The tonearm level should be manually adjusted to just the right level before you can get any kind of music out of this thing. However, there is no need to align the cartridge as it comes pre-mounted to the tonearm.
- Carbon tonearm
- A large platter that adds more weight for stable playback
- Synchronous motors with precision belt drive
- Sorbothan motor suspension
- 2 M red cartridge by Ortofon
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC is the perfect choice for Audiophiles. With an easy setup and the provisions to upgrade parts, you can’t expect more at this price.
What to Look for When Choosing a Record Player Under $500
If you are new to turntables, there are some terms and technical jargon that you may find confusing. Let us take a closer look at some of the factors you need to consider before you make a purchase decision:
A turntable is powered through what we call a drive. There are primarily two types of drives:
- Direct Drive: Direct drive is usually a DC motor that sits beneath the platter to rotate it. The drive is connected directly to the platter because it helps the platter accelerate more quickly.
- Belt Drive: A belt drive is a motor that is connected away from the center of the platter. This has its advantages and disadvantages. The belt is prone to occasional wear and tear which means that it will need to be replaced more often. However, as the motor is offset from the center, it helps in significantly reduce the vibrations.
Unlike the stereo audio, the sound produced by a turntable is referred to as a phone signal. This signal needs constant conversion if it is to be played on the stereo system speakers. Most of the high-end turntables have a phono preamplifier that converts this signal into auxiliary or line signal. This ensures that your integrated amp will work with your turntable.
Tonearm, Cartridge, and Stylus
Tonearm, stylus, and cartridges are the most important parts of a turntable because they are responsible for tracing the music on your record and transcribe them into the phono signal that converts into an audible sound. The stylus tip is made up of fine diamond or sapphire that contacts the rotating surface of the record and detects the dips and bumps. It transfers them to the cartridge that in turn converts them into the phono output signal. The function of the tonearm is to keep the stylus and cartridge in the right place so it can perfectly trace all the music on the record.
You might find some terms like semi-automatic or fully automatic on the web while you are searching for the turntables. A fully automatic turntable plays your record just with a push of a button – no other movements needed. When you push the play button, the motor starts and the tonearm will automatically adjust its position to play the music. It is that simple.
A semi-automatic turntable does not have this feature. While it does move the tonearm to the starting position to prevent wear and tear, you will still have to move the tonearm manually. There are some variations that you will see in the above-mentioned products, but one thing they have in common is that they will not automatically move the tonearm to play and stop the music. The manual turntables are meant for the more experienced ones.
While all the turntables surpass the expectations, we would say that the Denon DP- 300F is the best. If you want a turntable that just works right out of the box without having to worry about the needle’s wear and tear, then this model is the best possible choice. It allows you to listen to your records with ease.
At this price, this turntable surpasses all the other entry-level turntables. We felt that this has the best price-to-performance ratio. While there may be other cheap turntables with the same features, Denon is unique in the sense that it offers a tonearm that allows you to swap cartridges to suit your needs.
A high quality turntable isn’t that hard to find. Now that you have read this guide, you should be well versed in the nitty-gritty of turntables. We have provided the top 5 turntables with a wide range of features and operations that will allow you to choose the best one for your needs.