When discussing turntables, audiophiles tend to bristle if you utter the expression “entry-level.” But the reality is that the brands offering turntable packages understand that the vast majority of first-time buyers see $500 as their ceiling. And that $500 turntable is expected to plug-n-play, be reasonably well made, and sound phenomenal as well.
Established high-end audio brands like Pro-Ject, Rega, and Audio-Technica have decades of experience building high-performance turntables and wisely chose to embrace this new generation of listeners with entry-level packages that can stand the test of time. Affordable audiophile-grade turntables have taken massive strides in both build and playback quality – making them worthy analog sources that will bring justice to your record collection at a price that won’t break the bank.
What to Look For
Automatic or manual: Most entry-level turntables are manual turntables, meaning that they require you to manually lower the tonearm onto the record to start playing and, when the record is over, you have to lift the tonearm back into its resting position. A manual turnable is more work and more deliberate, but many vinyl enthusiasts prefer that. You can buy an automatic turntable that, after pressing a button (or lever), the tonearm automatically lower onto the record and lifts up and returns to its resting position when the record has finished playing.
Built-in phono preamp: You can buy a turntable with or without a phono preamp (or phono stage), which is a necessary component that amplifies the turntable’s normally weak signal into one that your amplifier and speaker can actually play. Many of these turntables with a built-in preamp, which are referred to as "integrated turntables" or "all-in-one turntables," allow you to turn off the built-in preamp so that you can add an external one (that's more hi-fi) if you want to build out your system later on.
Phono cartridge: A phono cartridge is a complex electro-mechanical device that, in addition to holding the stylus, is responsible for converting the vibrations that the stylus picks up into an analog signal. It's an absolutely vital component in any turntable setup. A turntable's price can fluctuate drastically depending on the quality of its phono cartridge. The good news is that phono cartridges are very upgradable and most turntables allow you to swap out their phono cartridges.
Why You Should Trust Us
We've been writing about and reviewing audio products — including speakers, headphones, earbuds and other audio components that run the gamut from consumer to hi-fi — for near-on a decade. We also work with major brands and talk to experts within the audio industry. The below selections of turntables are a combination of products that we've had hands-on experience with as well as products that are made by trusted brands in the audio space.
Forget all the moving parts. With these no-hassle hi-fi setups, all you need is a turntable and a set of speakers.