The moment you decided to go down the path of becoming a musician and a performer, you immediately realize how expensive things can get. While it all seems like fun and games at first, there’s a lot of equipment one needs to buy if they feel like performing or recording music.
What’s more, you can’t always go with the cheapest stuff, even if you’re an amateur. But there are plenty of great mid-level price products that can help you out. This is why we decided to get into the matter and try and find the best turntable under 500 dollars.
But the task wasn’t that simple. As we said, the standards are pretty high these days, and it’s expected of you, a performer, to sound great. But nonetheless, these turntables below will give you both the sound quality and useful features that will help you make the best out of your performances.
- 1 Top 7 Best Turntables Under 500 Dollars Reviews
- 2 Turntable Buying Guide
- 3 Turntable Frequently Asked Questions
Top 7 Best Turntables Under 500 Dollars Reviews
Great Value: U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus
U-Turn Audio is a company that specialized in making great turntables and turntable components. They’re relatively new, starting their work back in the early 2010s through a Kickstarter campaign, eventually building their name as one of the most reliable manufacturers in the field. They’re still a small independent company, but that’s the best way for them to keep the quality at the desired level.
From U-Turn’s arsenal of products, we’ve decided to include Orbit Plus turntable on the list. The first obvious difference compared to some otherwise “conventional” turntables is the acrylic platter. With it, the user gets more consistency when it comes to the playback speed, as well as a more detailed playback. Orbit Plus also comes with Ortofon’s OM5E cartridge and its elliptical diamond needle.
Another quality feature here is its tonearm, the Precision OA2. This is a straight arm, which is what certain turntablists prefer over S-type arms. With the OA2, users can get less distortion in the tone. What’s more, it features an adjustable counterweight for extra control and its internal anti-skate.
A very exciting feature, both functionally and aesthetics-wise, is the external belt drive. It not only offers noise-free operation (motors can be a little problematic), but it also provides great speed consistency. In addition, it looks really cool, especially with the transparent acrylic platter. To be fair, there’s rarely any turntable out there that’s as innovative and eye-pleasing as U-Turn Audio’s Orbit Plus.
Lots of Features: Pioneer PLX 500
Now going over to some of the older and more “classic” companies, we have Pioneer. Their reputation needs no special introduction, as they’ve been making some of the best quality audio equipment under this name since the 1960s. Aside from the standard hi-fi home stereo stuff, we can also find stuff like turntables especially made for DJs. From their vast collection of products, we’ve chosen PLX500K for this list.
Kind of similar to its “bigger brother” PLX 1000, it bears the same recognizable design and aesthetics, along with great sound and great build qualities. In its essence, PLX 500 is intended to reproduce the tone of even the best-quality records.
But while you can get those purest fully analog sounds from it, PLX 500 also features USB connectivity and great analog to digital conversion. All you need to do is plug it into your personal computer (works both with Windows and MAC OS), and it will be ready for action in any standard DAW or any other recording software of your choice. You can also pair it up with the company’s rekordbox dvs and RB-VS1-K Control Vinyl for some full real-time performance features. When it comes to these digital features, we’re not sure whether there’s any other turntable in this price range that comes close to what PLX 500 is capable of.
Looking into it further, we have an aluminum die-casting platter, the three-phase motor with standard playback speeds (33 1/3, 45, and 78 rotations per minute), +-8% rotation speed adjustment range, and many other features. There’s also the phono/line switch for different settings one performer might need. In the end, it’s equipped with a standard S-shape tonearm, which some turntablists might prefer over straight ones.
Aside from all this, it makes for a great record player in the conventional sense. The addition of the USB connectivity and the quality analog to digital conversion makes it possible for you to convert those old and rare valuable records into digital files.
Most Innovative: Pro-Ject Audio RPM 1 Carbon
And right on the edge of this list’s price range, we have Pro-Ject Audio and their RPM 1 Carbon turntable. And we have to say that this is one pretty innovative and compact piece. Even those more expensive turntables won’t be able to impress you like RPM 1 Carbon can.
First off, this one has a low resonance chassis which bears a very innovative inverted platter. It also features a ceramic ball which adds to the overall stability of the device and reduces rumble. The design might seem pretty unusual, but it’s so well-thought-of that you won’t need to worry about any unwanted additions in your performances.
There’s a simple 15-volt AC motor on the outside. It is driven using a very precise AC generator with the DC power supply. Overall, these are all designed to bring more stability to the operation. The company also dedicated a lot of time in designing the tonearm and all of its features. Here we have the standard S-type shape, but it’s fully made of carbon. Made through a special 3-step process that involves heat and pressure treatment, the arm is really rugged and its operational stability is improved.
This turntable also comes with Ortofon 2M Red cartridge. This one is shielded and protected, ensuring both stability and a great tone.
In the end, there’s something for all those who care about design and aesthetics. Pro-Ject Audio has ensured to make everyone satisfied with a few different color finishes – black, red, and white. And all three of these color options go well with the black tonearm and its standard carbon color pattern. The platter surface, the motor, and the belt are also black in all three variants, but it all fits so well together.
The Most Stylish Design: Teac TN-400S
To go back to some more “conventionally” designed turntables, we’ve chosen to feature Teac’s TN-400S for this list. But while it’s conceived with the classic formation in mind, the overall aesthetics and looks definitely stand out. We would argue that this is the perfect and most tasteful combination of some classic traits and innovative additions. It comes in a few different color finishes, but the Walnut version stands out in our eyes. It’s pretty obvious that Teac had pleasing stylistic qualities in mind when making these.
But not to make it all about the aesthetics, this is, above all, one very functional and well-made turntable for semi-professional or even professional work. There’s the standard S-type arm here with some special balancing and stability features. The stability features are also enhanced with its motor, belt-driven operation with the Neoprene rubber belt, aluminum die-cast platter, and its high-torque DC motor. TN-400S operates with the three standard speeds – 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM.
As for the outputs, we have the standard phono and line modes, designed for different settings. The diversity is enhanced with the inclusion of USB connectivity. All of the connectors on the turntable are also resistant to corrosion, which is definitely useful in the long run.
It’s also worth noting that the analog to digital conversion works pretty well with it. The overall sound quality is pretty great and there are no low-end hums when using it through regular analog outputs. However, all of these qualities are present when used with its digital USB output. The analog to digital conversion is definitely done well with TN-400S.
Most Reliable: Pro-Ject Audio Debut Carbon
Being a smaller manufacturer on the market is far from an easy task. But knowing that staying competitive is a priority, Pro-Ject Audio made sure never to disappoint with their line of products. This is exactly why we decided to include at least one more of their products as one of the best turntables under the $500 price mark. For this purpose, we have their classic and very simple to use Debut Carbon turntable. It takes no more than a glance to realize how straightforward it is.
Debut Carbon is the first model in the series, released back in the 1990s. Knowing that it’s still in production to this day, this clearly shows the device’s potential. It was quite an advancement back in the day, and it still keeps the standards up high.
The most obvious change came with a carbon tonearm. Although we have the same principle that we can see with the aforementioned RPM-1 Carbon, the tonearm is a straight one. Of course, which formation is better is open for discussion. But if you prefer straight over S-shaped arms, Debut Carbon is definitely one of the first turntables to consider, both in this price range and outside of it.
The turntable itself comes with a few different goodies as well. You’ll also get a useful dust cover, felt mat, RCA cable, and even a 7-inch singles adapter. With all this being said, it’s pretty obvious that Pro-Ject’s Debut Carbon is one of the best deals for the price, at least in the given price scope.
Simplest to Use: Rega – RP1
What we really love about RP-1 by Rega is the overall simplicity, both in design and its operation. In some way similar to Debut Carbon, you’re immediately aware that you have a very straightforward device at your disposal.
Although it’s generally considered to be an entry-level turntable, we’d argue that RP-1 is capable of dealing with some semi-pro and professional settings. The first thing that we can notice is the good sound quality, something you’d not expect in this price range. Secondly, this is a very stripped-down “plug and play” kind of device, which is definitely a preferable solution for many turntablists out there, coming from all of the skill level groups.
The only downside that we’d mention is that it features only two playback speed settings, 33 1/3 and 45, which is somewhat of a disappointment for this particular price range.
Nonetheless, RP-1 still delivers stability in playback and performance. There’s a well-built straight aluminum alloy tonearm, phenolic resin platter, as well as Ortofon’s OM 5E cartridge. To sum it all up – although it’s somewhat of a stripped-down and simplified turntable, it delivers some really great performance qualities with it. And, in the end, this is something that certain users might even prefer.
Best Overall: Rega – Planar 1
While we’re at it, we figured we could bring in another Rega turntable to the list. When talking about what’s the best turntable under 500 dollars, there’s definitely going to be a mention of Planar 1. And to be completely frank, we couldn’t really find any potential flaws a turntable can have at this particular price range. What’s more, we’d argue that this is the best choice overall for our set price range.
Checking out the platter, we quickly realized that the accent was given to its stability. It’s a little heavier and features an improved flywheel effect that helps with stability at any playback speed. While we’re at it, performance stability is definitely enhanced with its tonearm. The part in question is RB110 – a straight tonearm designed by Rega – brings extremely low friction rates.
Looking further into it, the turntable operates with 24 volts, it has an extremely low noise rate, and the motor is designed to keep all the unnecessary vibrations in order. We can also see a reinvented brass main bearing which minimizes the energy transfer. With all this explained, it’s pretty clear that stability was one of the company’s main concerns when making Planar 1.
Putting all the things together, it’s pretty clear that this is, overall, the best turntable that you can find under the $500 price mark. Of course, there are a few things to consider and you might prefer an S-type arm over its straight arm. But either way, you just can’t go wrong with Planar 1.
Turntable Buying Guide
When getting yourself a turntable, there are a few important things that you’ll need to think about before getting into the matter. Without going too much into the details, here’s a brief guide for anyone looking for a turntable.
The set price will be the first “filter” when getting yourself a new (or first) turntable. But when you set the range, it’ll be up to you to find the best possible quality and combination of features that suit your own needs. Any of the turntables above is definitely worth considering.
See our list of best turntables under $200 here.
Next up, you’ll need to think of the overall features and how they fit your needs. If you’re looking for something simple that you can just plug and play, then Rega RP1 can come as a good choice. If you need more stuff on it, then Pioneer PLX 500 is a viable option.
The tonearm is one of the essential parts and often the most divisive feature among turntablist. First, decide whether you want to go with a straight or a curved “S” tonearm. The next thing to consider is the material and whether you want carbon, aluminum, or any other type of tonearm.
Playback speeds and motor types are also things to consider when getting a new turntable.
While this might not be an essential issue, many turntablists will also think of the overall design. Once again, you’ll need to know what works best for you, both functionally and aesthetically.
Turntable Frequently Asked Questions
How to Ground a Turntable?
Bad grounding can cause unwanted issues with sound and performance. In case you want to deal with it, here’s what you’ll need to do. First, turn off all the power to avoid any accidental electric shocks. Then you’ll need to locate your turntable’s grounding wire, which shouldn’t be hard as they’re always connected to the metal chassis and it’s usually green. After that, you’ll need to find the ground terminal on the amp and the receiver, which is usually on the back. Connect the grounding wire and the amp’s grounding terminal.
How to Connect Turntable to a Soundbar?
Playing your turntable through a soundbar or home stereo is one of the easiest ways to get the party going without much hassle. In some cases, turntables feature Bluetooth connection, which makes it really easy to connect. If there’s no Bluetooth connection, then you can do it via a standard audio cable. Most of the turntables feature RCA outputs, so you’ll need a cable with RCA connectors on one side and the regular 3.5 mm jack on the other. In case your soundbar, home stereo, or any other audio system has the larger 1/4-inch jack, then you’ll need a 1/8-inch (3.5 mm) to 1/4-inch adapter.
Whatever is the PA system, home stereo, or a soundbar, you’ll always find ways to connect your turntable to it.