You can have great turntable sound on a modest budget
If you have the money, why get the cheapest record player? There is no reason to start at the bottom of the heap, you know, the 50 dollar cheap turntables you see at the used books and music stores?
Those tables are not horrible for kids, or for a casual music listener, but if you’re gifting a serious audiophile and have a few bucks to spend, why not get a turntable that’s a better than average yet won’t destroy your budget?
U-Turn Audio Turntables
Might Be the Best Quality Turntable For the Price
What a fantastic minimalist design the U-turn Audio record player is, nothing here to distract from what it is just a good record player. Pro-Ject does it this way too, why do you need bells and whistles on record player any way? I like a clean design for sure.
The Orbit Basic and Plus come in 4 different colors: You get the black and white of course, as well as green and blue. But with a minimalist design, you obviously hope that sound quality is the focus here.
As far as sound quality is concerned, I think it’s pretty good, I tested the $179.00 U-Turn basic turntable.
I played a new reissue copy of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and an original 1970 Columbia 2 eye version of Bitches Brew from Davis, and I have to say they both sounded very good.
The U-Turn had a better higher end sound, or at least I perceived clearer highs I should say, than both of the lower end Sony turntables I have tested. I still prefer my Pro-Ject Debut no doubt. But considering this Basic U-Turn was half the cost of the Pro-Ject I do wholeheartedly recommend this for the beginner, or any level of audiophile.
I realize that really you just want something that’s easy to assemble and sounds good right? A good value is what’s expected. The U-Turn does all 3 of those easily. I am sure this will be a popular record player, the price is just too reasonable for the quality. I hope they can keep costs down going forward, only time will tell.
Like the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon below, you will need to buy a separate phono preamp unless you have that built-in to your receiver; the U-turn does not have that built-in to the record player its self.
You can not hook these 3 record players directly up to speakers, you WILL need a receiver to run the turntable through, and on 2 of these a phono pre amp as well. Here’s an article that shows you how to get an entire set up for less than $300.
Audiophile turntable at a reasonable price: Pro-Ject
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is really an audiophile quality record player. It just so happens you can usually get one of these for less than $400.
I have used mine since 2013 and love it. The one thing I always mention when discussing the Carbon is: Surprisingly, the Pioneer PL 990 I had earlier was not nearly as inferior as you might think. For the 120 bucks I paid, it was a pretty good record player.
The Carbon though, had 2 major positives I noticed right away, the crystal clear highs, especially the crisp high-hat and cymbal clarity on certain jazz records; and the crisp and true bass, usually with lesser record players, the bottom end gets a little muddy, no with the Pro-Ject Carbon
A great high-end tester in my opinion is Miles Davis’ Miles Smiles. Drummer Tony Williams’ cymbal work is ridiculously good, I could hear it rise above the mix, Miles trumpet sound was warmer and less distorted too.
You will need to make a separate pre amp buy for the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon by the way, if your receiver doesn’t have a dedicated phono pre amp.
Note: This Pioneer DOES have a built-in phono amp.
For the price the PL-990 is the best beginner record player on the market in my opinion. You will probably have to buy that on the secondary market or used.
The new pictured Pioneer PL-30 has the price hike comparing to the PL-990, but what do you get for the increase in cost?
Well, the PL-30 has dual capabilities, meaning you can use a phono amp if you want, or you can use the built-in phono amp, the PL 990 had a built-in phono amp, you could not turn it off.
The PL-30 Also has a detachable RCA connectors, the PL-990 did not. The PL-30 also has an anti skating dial, and phono equalization, so you can tweak the sound as you want.
A few things to consider before a purchase:
- Don’t forget the possible need for a phono preamp when you budget for the turntable. A good pre-amp will probably run you about 70 dollars.
- The Pioneer might be a better option with that pre amp being built-in, it is one less cost to worry about. It should be noted though, you could upgrade the sound quality with a purchased pre amp on the Pioneer.
- The U-Turn and The Project both come with a fine Ortofon stylus, but the Pioneer comes with a Audio-Technica 3600L cartridge, which is still pretty darned good, but you might want to upgrade to a grado or something.
- Truthfully it’s all just a matter of preference, I like the Ortofon just fine, and the Audio Technica cartridge sounded good on the cheaper PL 990 I can attest to that.
- Don’t forget there are many more beginner turntable options, at a much cheaper price too; you can check out some reviews for those right here. Whether you spend 50 dollars or a 1000 dollars on your first record player, the point is, you want something that will keep you spinning vinyl for years to come.
*Photos used with permission via Amazon.com*
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Jason Sositko, a freelance writer and entrepreneur is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I also use services such as Viglink and Skimlinks to earn income via links placed inside articles.