5 Impressive Turntables under $500 for Your Nostalgic Musical Nights

21 Models Considered
53 Hours of Research
3 Experts Interviewed
253 Reviews Analyzed

Vinyl records continue to be venerated because listening to classics is a nostalgic reminder of the good old days and the music that shaped our childhood and milestones, whether it is turning 18, graduation, or weddings. Owning these analog records is like having a physical collection of historical masterpieces. You can enjoy this music on vinyl without paying a fortune by acquiring the best turntable under $500.

We have reviewed the most important features of the products in order to find the perfect one for your nostalgic musical nights. We compared the types of turntable drives to help you choose the one that resonates most with you. Next, we evaluated the rotating speed so as to determine the type of records you can play. We then examined USB functionality which allows digitization of the music for playback on your computer, car stereo, or smartphone. Finally, we checked for built-in preamps which boost the signals for connection to an external sound system.

Top 5 Turntables under $500 Review 2019

After researching reviews from buyer experiences, expert audiophiles, and other credible sites, we compiled a list of the models that made it to our best turntable under $500 list and ranked their performance in a comparison table below. This is followed by an analysis of the features of every model in detail, including their strengths and drawbacks. The review also features an in-depth buying guide comprising of further details on fundamental characteristics, tips on maintaining your turntable, and an FAQ segment. At the very end, you’ll also find a summary of our top three choices.

Name and Features Image Rating Price
1. Audio-Technica AT-LP5 (Editor’s Choice)
An excellent direct-drive model with two speeds and an inbuilt preamp; comes with PC- and Mac-compatible software to convert your vinyl into digital format
Audio Technica AT LP5 image
2. Numark NTX1000 (Best Direct-Drive Turntable under $500)
Another direct-drive option featuring a USB compatibility, a tonearm with height adjustment, and pitch fader with the reset button
Numark NTX1000 image
3. Pro-Ject - Debut Carbon DC (Best Belt-Drive Turntable under $500)
A minimalistic belt-drive model that comes with a dust cover to protect the platter and the tonearm from dirt and dust
Pro Ject Debut Carbon DC image
4. Fluance RT81 (Budget Pick)
A budget-friendly pick that features a sturdy and beautiful walnut finished cabinet, two speeds, and an integrated preamp
Fluance RT81 image
5. U-Turn Audio - Orbit Special Turntable (Best Design)
This elegant modern-style turntable is available in flatcut maple and rift walnut cabinets to fit into any home décor without compromising on sound quality
U Turn Audio Orbit Special Turntable image
Features
  • Type: direct-drive
  • Speeds: 33-1/3; 45 RPM
  • USB: yes
  • Built-in preamp: yes
  • Dimensions: 17.72 x 13.86 x 6.1 in

More features: comes with PC- and Mac-compatible software to convert records to MP3, WAV or other digital audio file formats

OVERALL RATING: 9.8 out of 10

This model has earned its position among the best direct-drive turntables under $500 with numerous sound features, a high-torque motor, and an intriguing design which makes it look just as good as it sounds. Since direct-drive models utilize a fixed connection instead of connection through a belt, the resulting sound has a more accurate and stable pitch. You can also switch the speed between 33-1/3 and 45 RPM without repositioning the belt.

One of the most outstanding strengths of Audio-Technica AT-LP5 is the ability to dampen noise and vibration. It achieves this through heavy metal chassis inserts.

The die-cast aluminum platter lies underneath a thick rubber mat which reduces resonance and low-frequency feedback while the J-shaped tonearm is equipped with a hydraulic lift for greater precision, adjustable counterweight for balance and anti-skate controls to improve groove tracking accuracy.

In addition to a built-in phono/line preamp and USB output for digital playback, it also includes Audacity software which is compatible with PC and Mac computers and a dual moving magnet cartridge with a stylus which can be upgraded. The dual RCA cable and 45 RPM adapter enable you to connect the unit to other external audio devices.

Owners of this turntable consider it a catch with fantastic sound quality and a pleasing aesthetic design at a reasonable price. The main issues they point out are the cartridge quality which you may have to upgrade and the bass output which can be fixed with an external phono pre-amp. This unit also lacks an auto-return feature.

PROS:
  • Excellent noise dampening features
  • Speed adjustment
  • Impressive sonic performance
  • USB function
  • Audacity software
  • Sturdy build
  • Built-in preamp

CONS:
  • No auto-return feature
  • Cartridge and bass quality could be better

Features
  • Type: direct-drive
  • Speeds: 33-1/3; 45 RPM
  • USB: yes
  • Built-in preamp: no
  • Dimensions: 13.7 x 5.9 x 17.71 in

More features: tonearm with height adjustment, damped cueing and anti-skate control; pitch fader with the reset button

OVERALL RATING: 9.6 out of 10

Disk jockeys and audiophiles who are looking for the best turntable system under $500 will love the versatility, value, and performance provided by this model which is designated for professionals.

This turntable gives professionals control through a height-adjustable tonearm, variable pitch range of +/- 8, 16 or 50%, speed adjustment between 33-1/3 and 45 RPM, and a 100mm pitch fader with a reset button. It also has a start/stop feature, damped cueing and anti-skate controls for further customization.

The designing material is sturdy and durable while the rubber feet reduce noise and vibrations.

In addition to the high-torque direct-drive motor and the full-sized platter made of die-cast aluminum, the unit features an S-shaped tonearm which tracks the groove for accurate sound output.

As one of the best record players under $500, Numark NTX1000 comes with recording software, RCA cable, USB functionality, and a 45 RPM adapter for a versatile play. Keep in mind though that this unit does not include a built-in preamp.

PROS:
  • High-torque motor
  • Adjustable pitch range
  • Speed adjustment
  • Start/stop, damped cueing and anti-skate controls
  • Recording software
  • USB function for plug-and-play
  • Sturdy design

CONS:
  • No built-in preamp

Features
  • Type: belt-drive
  • Speeds: 33-1/3; 45 RPM
  • USB: no
  • Built-in preamp: no
  • Dimensions: 16.33 x 4.6 x 12.6 in

More features: comes with a dust cover; Ortofon 2M Red cartridge

OVERALL RATING: 9.4 out of 10

With high buyer ratings, advanced sound features and affordable pricing, it is easy to see why this is, not only the best belt-drive turntable under $500, but also Amazon’s Choice.

The rigid 8.6-inch tonearm made of carbon fiber, which is stiffer than steel, generates a tighter and more detailed sound by improving accuracy and reducing unnecessary resonance.

The platter featuring a durable medium density fiberboard (MDF) plinth with a gloss finish has been made larger and heavier to reduce resonance, enhance the bass sound, and dampen background noise and vibrations. Noise is also significantly reduced by isolating and decoupling the Sorbothane motor with a rubber suspension system for a more dynamic sound.

Unlike Fluance RT81 (read the description below) which uses a simple knob to change the speed, you have to move the belt between the pulleys to switch speed between 33 ⅓ and 45 RPM.

Unfortunately, it does not have an integrated preamp, so you will have to acquire an amplifier, phono preamp, and external speakers separately. Once these are available, you only need to install the counter and bias weights and adjust the speed to start playing your favorite oldies since the turntable is already fixed to the headshell.

The preinstalled Ortofon 2M Red cartridge is convenient for beginners because you do not have to align it.  It is also great at groove tracking and detail retrieval.

A dust cover is availed with this turntable which continues to generate positive reviews from buyers who do not seem to mind its lack of USB function, auto start/stop feature, built-in preamp, and anti-skate dial settings.

PROS:
  • Stylish design
  • Stiff carbon fiber tonearm
  • Speed adjustment
  • Built-in cartridge
  • A wide range of dynamic sound

CONS:
  • No USB function
  • No built-in preamp
  • No auto start/stop and anti-skate features

Features
  • Type: belt-drive
  • Speeds: 33-1/3; 45 RPM
  • USB: no
  • Built-in preamp: yes
  • Dimensions: 16.5 x 5.5 x 13.75 in

More features: S-Type tonearm; walnut finished cabinet; Texas Instruments preamp

OVERALL RATING: 9.2 out of 10

This is the best belt-drive turntable under 500 dollars for budding vinyl newbies who are making an entry into the world of turntables, with pleasing aesthetics and decent sound output.

It is made of solidly designed MDF wood with a walnut finish which gives it a sleek, sturdy look and also reduces vibrations for the best signal. Assembling it by installing the belt and cartridge as well as adjusting the anti-skate settings and the tonearm only takes a few minutes, although first-timers might struggle with balancing the aluminum S-type tonearm.

The built-in Texas Instruments preamp which can easily be switched on and off provides ready entertainment while the three-feet gold-plated RCA cable included in the package allows for connection to external audio systems. Also included in the unit are a 100V – 240V AC Power Adapter, a rubber slip mat, a dust cover, and a quick-start guide.

The dual-magnet AT95E Audio Technica cartridge features a diamond elliptical tipped stylus which improves accuracy in tracking the grooves for a more precise sound.

A knob on the unit enables you to select either 33 ⅓ or 45 RPM to match the speed of your record without repositioning the belt and reverberation is lessened by the aluminum platter and sound isolation feet.

One of its downsides is the absence of auto-return function. While the auto-off feature prevents endless spinning which might wear out the stylus, it does not automatically switch off the turntable. You have to do it manually. You also have to lift the tonearm manually to restore it to its position once the record has played to the end. It also lacks a USB port for connection.

Intermediate users may want to upgrade the cartridge and add a phono preamp to improve the sound quality, but it is undoubtedly the best belt-drive turntable under $500.

PROS:
  • Sleek and sturdy design
  • Decent sound output
  • Built-in preamp
  • Flexible speed
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy assembly

CONS:
  • Ineffective auto-off feature
  • No retractable tonearm
  • No USB function

Features
  • Type: belt-drive
  • Speeds: 33-1/3; 45 RPM
  • USB function: no
  • Built-in preamp: no
  • Dimensions: 16.75 x 4.25 x 12.5 in

More features: available in flatcut maple and rift walnut; comes with a dust cover

OVERALL RATING: 8.9 out of 10

This is one of the best audiophile turntables under $500, featuring a sturdy structure made of solid maple (the model is also available in rift walnut hardwood plinth) and numerous upgradeable options. Audiophiles love the flexibility it offers them to control and upgrade the features, such as preamp, type of wood and platter, and cartridge to their liking. It is preinstalled with a moving magnet type Ortofon 2M Red cartridge but does not have a built-in preamp and a USB output.

The belt-drive design isolates the motor from the platter with rubber dampers to reduce noise and vibrations and enables you to switch between 33-1/3 and 45 RPM speed by moving the belt.

The precision gimbal acrylic tonearm which is operated with a cue lever eliminates distortion to improve accuracy in tracking the grooves. It also includes anti-skate control and adjustable counterweight for balance.

A convenient on/off switch is located on the side, and the rubber feet provide traction and reduce background noise.

When you purchase this turntable, you will also get a free AC adapter, RCA cables, and a dust cover.

PROS:
  • Solid, stylish, durable design
  • Numerous upgradeable options
  • Speed adjustment
  • On/off feature
  • Cartridge included

CONS:
  • No USB output
  • No integrated amp

Buying Guide

This guide delves more into detailed reviews of essential features and offers additional tips on maintaining your turntable. It also answers the most frequently asked questions.

Tips on how to take care of your new turntable

  • Place your turntable on a level surface with no vibrations nearby to prevent sound distortion.
  • Clean the stylus with a carbon fiber brush and alcohol to prevent skipping, scratching or muddled sound. Consult your manufacturer to establish its lifespan for replacement.
  • Switch off the unit and unplug it before connecting the cables to prevent accidental shock.
  • To prevent skipping stylus and wearing out your records, ensure the height, tracking force, and anti-skate settings have been calibrated correctly.
  • Proper alignment of the counterweight positions the stylus in the right position as your record spins.
  • If available, use the cueing lever, such as in U-Turn Audio – Orbit Special Turntable to place and remove the needle.
  • Replace the dust cover after playing to keep your turntable clean.

Features to consider before buying a turntable

AT LP120 MSR7BK 0375 6x4 600rgb 1024x682 imageWe have already presented our list of the best turntable under $500 models. So, what features influenced our selection? These are the features that define the best record player, whether under $500 or over $10,000.

Type

Most turntables feature either belt-drive or direct-drive platters. Belt-drive turntables consist of an elastic belt which connects the motor and the platter. The rubber band isolates the motor to reduce its vibration effects on the stylus and record and improves speed consistency. In direct-drive models, the motor is connected directly to the platter which results in higher torque and faster response. This is why direct-drive is popular in turntables designed for DJs, such as Numark NTX1000 while audiophiles seem to prefer belt-drive models. Generally, belt-drive turntables have better sound but less torque and speed consistency while also being not prone to noise interference.

Rotating speed

This refers to the playback speed supported by the turntable. It is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM). There are three main types of vinyl records: 12-inch, 7-inch, and 10-inch discs. These rotate on the turntable at a speed of 33⅓, 45 and 78 RPM respectively. Majority of turntables can play the first two record sizes, but 10-inch records are rarer and feature wider grooves which necessitate a special stylus and cartridge to play them at 78 RPM. Turntables with this capability will usually include three-speed support in their description, and they aren’t necessary expensive. Read our guide on the best turntables under 300 dollars if you need this particular feature. In case your turntable doesn’t offer a 10-inch disc compatibility, you can always buy a separate adapter.

USB availability

71y3CH3PaL. SL1500  imageUSB ports allow you to connect to computers to transfer and convert the music on your vinyl record to digital formats, such as MP3, WMA and WAV. This preserves your vintage collection and increases the playability of the music on various devices. The Audio-Technica AT-LP5 and the Numark NTX1000 both have this feature

Built-in amplifier

The best thing about having an integrated amp is that you can play the music by just plugging it into a phono input. You can also connect the record player with other audio devices using its auxiliary input to amplify the sound from the built-in speakers. A preamp also boosts and equalizes the sound signal to maintain the same quality as the original sound.

Dimensions

Turntables come in a variety of shapes and sizes so you can choose the right one for your available space and intended purpose. The right size will be determined by where you will be setting up your turntable and where you will be playing it. You can choose a large model if the turntable will be installed at home where it will not require constant movement, but portable turntables would best suit traveling DJs for entertainment on the move.

Extra features81pVdqfblML. SL1500  image

  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth turntables use radio waves instead of cables to connect to other This cordless feature allows you to play your music from a distance or from other rooms.
  • Dust cover: Most of the turntables include a dust cover in the package which protects the platter and your records from dust, dirt, kids, and pets.
  • Auto-stop: It automatically stops spinning of the platter once the record comes to an end to avoid wearing out the stylus. Otherwise, you have to lift the tonearm manually to restore it to its position once the record finishes playing.
  • Software: Recording software like Audacity featured in Audio-Technica AT-LP5 helps in converting vinyl records to digital formats.
  • Adapter: This allows you to play records whose RPM speed is not supported by your turntable.
  • Design: Turntables vary in design, from one model to another. Since excellent sound quality is dependent on various components and not the aesthetics, you may find a great turntable with a bland, minimalistic design. Ultimately, the best design boils down to individual preference.

FAQ

You will need to buy a special adapter which can play 78 RPM and also a cartridge that can support heavy tracking.

In addition to the turntable, you may need a preamp (if it’s not integrated), a receiver, a stereo to amplify the sound, headphones (if you want to enjoy your vinyl without disturbing others), and a laptop or smartphone for playback and digitization.

Manufacturers usually indicate the recommended lifespan of the stylus, with most of them recommending replacement after 1000 to 3000 hours. You could also check for visible damage, forward skipping and audible static as signs of a damaged stylus.

Our Verdict

Audio-Technica AT-LP5 has all the features you need in the best vintage turntable under $500. It has a sturdy aluminum design, high-torque motor, speed adjustment and a built-in preamp which can be paired with your stereo or laptop via USB to convert the records into digital format using the included Audacity software.

Numark NTX1000 is the best versatile turntable setup for DJs and professionals, with advanced features that are rare in models under $500. It gives you greater control over the cartridge, speed and pitch range to customize your performance while the RCA cable, USB port, and speed adapter increase playability options.

Pro-Ject – Debut Carbon DC was our third choice as well as the best belt-drive turntable under $500. It has impressive sound dampening features such as the decoupled motor and the ergonomically designed platter.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Pin It on Pinterest

Login/Register access is temporary disabled