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If you’re transitioning from basic equipment like an iPod, radio, or CD player for the first time and you’ve never owned or used a turntable before, you might need some guidance on how to pick out the best entry-level turntable for a beginner. Some quick advice on knowing how to choose a great beginner turntable is to go for a medium-weight solid platter for your vinyl to spin on. The surface tension from a solid platter will create a constant enough speed and your music won’t warble. Dopey models are usually so light your vinyl risk bending and skipping, and it’s in your best interest to avoid most turntables that can fold up into a suitcase and become portable. Additionally, a great turntable should have a well-made tonearm which hits all the groves in the record without scratching the vinyl and which is made of materials that don’t resonate.
In consideration of the best entry-level record players for this list, scrutiny was given for all the reviews regarding general wear and tear after extended use of each device. More importantly, we compared a wide spectrum of materials, quality of sound, extra features, and even the installation and look of each model. Turntables with excessive tracking force and cheap tonearms were disqualified, as well as any with subpar speakers and models which introduced unwanted resonance.
The following buying guide is organized into a comprehensive table summing up our top 4, and in-detail reviews of each product, describing each product and laying out its pros and cons. At the bottom, we have included the buying guide and our advice on what models work best for certain needs and why, including answers to frequently asked questions. It’s our hope this will help you in your discovery of that gorgeous vinyl sound played on the best entry level turntable for you.
This high-fidelity vinyl turntable is truly top of the line. Not just because of the pure analog experience it will create (providing music the way the artist meant for it to be heard), but also because its made of the finest materials used in the best design for the best performance. It might seem more high-end (a decent representative of the best turntables under 300 dollars), and that’s because it’s just on edge but still perfect for a beginner starting their vinyl collection.
The high standing dual movement magnet cartridge produces excellent clarity, and the aluminum balanced s-type tonearm ensures that Audio-Technica AT95E stylus rests deep in the grooves of the record. Even better, this turntable is built on a solid platter and spun with a belt-drive system, eliminating nearly all vibration and keeping your record from wobbling.
Not to be overlooked by the quality of its parts, the turntable itself has a gorgeous old-timey look, handcrafted from the finest walnut finished wood. Upon delivery, this turntable is easy to set up, and the users liked that the instructions are straightforward and informative.
What are our favorite features?
Provides perfect playback
Incorporates isolation feet and a rubber slip mat, so there are no unwanted vibrations
This model from Pro-Ject is an award-winning turntable, most ideal for the beginner finding out what they like best about the vinyl sound. Beyond its glittery prizes, it will transport the listener by demonstrating what true sound really is.
The cartridge is a dual moving magnet on top of an aluminum tonearm, so that whatever specifications you need to make for your vinyl the weight of the mechanism can be adjusted to affect purity of the sound. Delivering rich, organic, and inviting analog sound, this model comes with an extremely quiet belt-drive motor which is completely decoupled from the plinth to minimize vibration and protect your records.
The vibration dampening silicone tonearm has a rigid lightweight aluminum body attached to a superior stainless-steel stylus; it will hit all the grooves in your record for perfect clear playback.
Finally, the design of the turntable is perfect for a modern household, or any household, and can be hooked up to speakers for better surround sound.
Why is it special?
Easy to install, comes pretty much completed to begin with
Conveys realistic transparent sound
Cartridge weight adjustable tonearm
Comes with a dust cover
Is weighted for less rumble and noise
What are the flaws?
Needs to be stopped manually or will replay or skip
No built-in preamp
Sound is crystal clear but projects only to the room it’s in
This model was built with a rigid die-cast aluminum platter base so as to prevent and eliminate any unwanted wobbling and vibration. Where vibration can distort sound or damage to the record, this model was designed to protect your vinyl collection. It’s a gorgeous turntable for a more modern setting, built upon vibration minimalizing rubber feet. It has a belt-drive DC servo motor for spinning your vinyl at the ideal speed for quality sound without scratching it against the stylus. Settings are available for the common 12-inch records and less common 10-inch records.
Additionally, the tonearm can start and stop play automatically using a built-in manual lifting mechanism which can be placed further in the record whenever you want to skip to a different song.
The DP-300F includes a phono equalizer for the best sound and added compatibility for integrated amps or receivers, should you want to connect them.
What are our favorite features?
Comes with a phono preamp
Can be connected to NAD receivers using a slide switch accessible near the plinth
Has two rotation speeds for preferred playback
Comes with a dust cover
What could be better?
Does not have a USB
Must have RCA cable inputs of your own to connect speakers
Some assembly required, but instructions are very straightforward
No headphone jack, but can connect using an RCA cable
By far the ideal entry-level turntable as well as the most economical purchase, this table surprisingly also includes a built-in switchable phono pre-amplifier and RCA output cables.
Its belt-drive system is isolated from the platter resulting in increased clarity and high-fidelity audio, while also negating sound-damaging and vinyl-damaging vibration. The replaceable diamond tipped stylus provides amazing sound and adds to the gorgeous look of the turntables very modern and sleek design.
With a belt-driven motor system, it supports both 33-1/3 to 45 RPM (10-12-inch records) and also includes two output adapter cables with purchase. Tonearm’s weight is adjustable with an integrated dual-magnet Audio-Technica cartridge, allowing you to adjust the tone and quality from your stylus pressing against the vinyl. Truly, this is a phenomenal purchase which you won’t regret.
What are its best features?
Comes with RCA adapters for speaker connection and better volume
Very clear sound from a diamond-tipped stylus
Belt is isolated from the platter
Has a built-in preamp
Connects to computer or stereo receiver
What could be improved?
Vibrating the platform where you place the turntable will cause it to skip
Not as vintage looking, but is a beginner-level turntable
Spend extra for Bluetooth compatibility
Belt may wear down quickly and need to be replaced
This handmade turntable is very reliable and easy to use; what you see is what you get. It’s perfect for beginners who are working their way to becoming vinyl enthusiasts. Built with a precision gimbal adjustable tonearm and an Ortofon cartridge, the weight of the stylus pressing into your vinyl can be adjusted at any time for optimal playback. Not only is a weight adjustable tonearm important, but the ability to set it as you prefer will provide the clearest sound on any record.
Speaking of clear sound, the stylus is professionally made diamond dipped elliptical, making you hear music the way it was intended to be heard. This model is built with an acrylic platter and manual belt drive motor (33 and 45 RPM), therefore eliminating vibration and general damage to your vinyl.
Not only these perks, but the manufacturers are so certain of their turntables and the quality of sound they produce, that they’re offering a two-year warranty on your purchase.
It’s easy to set up and even easier to use, and the sound comes through very clearly and without any vibration. This is a sound purchase for your home.
What makes it special?
Phenomenal two-year warranty
Comes in five different colors
Dust cover is provided with purchase
Can adjust the tracking weight
RCA cables are included and can be used to connect speakers or headphones
What cons did we find?
Pricier model because of the amazing
You can customize your turntable on their website and with their advice.
Manual not automatic
Does not have a built-in preamp
Single voltage only
Things to Consider
If you know little to nothing about turntables, then this is exactly what you should be reading because here we’ll give you a short low-down of how to begin your search and what you should be looking for. Getting into vinyl can become an intense hobby which will change your music listening experience, but collecting records is only half of the fun. You’re going to want a turntable which will not only transport you audibly but which will also protect your collection. Cheap turntables have the potential to scratch and damage, even if the sound does appear to be coming out perfectly at first.
What to look for in an ideal turntable for beginners?
Aim for buying a turntable that not only produces quality sound but can also produce quality volume. Clear and organic music is great to listen to, but can quickly become tedious if you have to be in a certain proximity of your turntable to hear your favorite artists. Therefore, as a beginner, you’ll want to purchase a turntable with a well-made stylus (diamond and stainless steel are great) – this will produce the excellent quality of sound you want – and for volume, you’ll want to look for models which provide RCA output (for speakers) or have phono preamp. A great example of these two qualifiers is the Denon DP 300-F.
The look of your turntable is only a quarter of a bigger picture, so don’t just aim for that vintage look or sleek modern vibe. Additionally, aim for a range of value versus price. If you’re going to make an expensive purchase, guarantee that it has the extras you need for your house and setup.
Features to consider before buying your first turntable
It’s not only the little touches which make a difference, it’s also the major qualifiers which should already be there. For beginners, many of these qualifiers aren’t really self-explanatory, such as: “What is a phono preamp?”. Here we explore some of these features and the reasons you should include them in the parameters of your search.
A vinyl record contains a very tiny groove which runs from the outer edge to the center of the disk, and in this groove are the imprints of ridges which can’t be seen by the human eye. When it comes to the rotation speed and your stylus hitting all these grooves, your RPM (revolutions per minute) has to be just so. Otherwise you risk damaging your vinyl or making it skip.
There are three types of vinyl record:
7-inch: played at 45 RPM.
12-inch: played at 33 RPM.
10-inch (fairly uncommon/older vinyl): played at 78 RPM.
What you need to know is that nearly every record you see at the store will be 12-inch, and so when buying a turntable, you’ll want to find one which supports 33 RPM and maybe even goes up to 45.
Simply, a turntable produces a phono output signal. With a preamp included, your turntable can transfer that audile phono output into a ‘line level signal’ and therefore can work with other audio equipment including computers, speakers, and stereo systems around the house.
Whatever type of turntable you buy can actually end up being very important. A manual turntable requires you to put the record on, move the tonearm, place the stylus, and sometimes even flip a switch to get the record spinning. On the other hand, an automatic turntable (such as the Audio Techinca AT-LP60) will do things like extend the tonearm and place the stylus right where it needs to go.
Additionally, most models are direct-drive or belt-drive. All the examples listed are belt-drive styles and so the plate spines the record using a tight belt within the turntable. The better the belt, the longer it will last and the more accurately your record rotation will be. Cheaper models have the downside of belts wearing down more quickly.
Stylus and platter
The stylus is also called the needle, and is responsible for the accuracy and detail of sound reproduction while your record is rotating. Put simply, the better your stylus (its materials and positioning and weight) the clearer and more organic your sound will be.
Adding to this, the platter (spinning plate that the record sits on) will not only rotate your record, but will also help dampen vibration depending on its weight. The heavier the platter, the less vibration you will have, and vibration can cause your vinyl to scratch or skip.
The arm which swings across the record and then raises or lowers to bring the stylus in contact with the disk. What is most important about this is the weight and accuracy of your tonearm, and its something you’ll want to check reviews or ask the manufacturer about. Too much weight and your tonearm will dig the needle into your record, too little weight and the needle won’t catch all the grooves in your record. A great example of the type and weight of tonearm you want is Fluance RT81.
Sometimes it’s the extras that make or break. For turntables certain must-have extras are: headphone capability, Bluetooth, RCA outputs (for connecting speakers) etcetera. Some not-so-obvious extras are:
Adjustable counterweights, in order to make the tonearm press down on the record more or less.
Adjustable pitch control.
A diamond-tipped stylus, for truly the purest sound.
Most turntables come with all their parts pre-assembled. The most moderate assembly will require attaching the tonearm and stylus, and this may take some trial and error to figure out where you want your stylus to land and how much weight (from the cartridge) you want pressing on your tonearm. Models like Fluance RT81 and Pro-Ject Debut III require very little assembly, except for cover attachments and situating the tonearm.
When it comes to this moderate assembly, the instructions are very precise with each model and explain how to situate the arm and at what angles, weights, etcetera, it will affect the sound quality.
Not all models are compatible with headphones. The above examples which will work with headphones are Fluance RT81, Denon DP 300-F, and Audio-Technica AT-LP60. What you will need to make these headphone-capable are RCA adapters which you will then plug into the RCA outputs (usually found on the side or back of your turntable). As an added perk, with Audio-Technica AT-LP60 you won’t have to buy RCA cables separately. Instead they come with your purchase.
The sound quality of turntables without pre-amps will generally be just as pure and organic (exactly as the artist intended) however without a pre-amp it won’t be nearly as loud. Additionally, with a pre-amp your turntable can be connected to a computer or a stereo system, thereby boosting the volume further. If volume and extras make a system ‘better’ for you, than you’ll want a pre-amp, otherwise depending on the model you purchase the quality of sound will still be pristine without one.
Decided by the value of their materials, features, sale value, reviews, and our main criteria of sound quality and compatibility, the top three turntables on this list are:
Fluance RT81 – For its classic vintage look which is mixed with compatibility (for headphones, computers, and speakers) and quality. This turntable is just on the edge of working for a beginner and branching out into the more high-end turntables on the market. It improves the quality of its sound with a diamond-tipped stylus, and by dampening any vibration (not just created from the turntable itself, but also vibration created in the room). On this record player, music will truly transport you.
Pro-Ject Debut III – Ranked highly in this list for its price compared to quality. This is a turntable which will not disappoint you by wearing out over time. The materials are high end and produce the best results for your sound by intensifying the tonality, bass, and quality of voice to what it would have sounded like when first recorded in a studio. Additionally, this is a great modern looking turntable for a classy office, apartment, or living room, and will truly show off your taste not only in music but also just your own general knowledge of true aesthetic.
Audio-Technica AT-LP60 – Ranked as our ‘budget pick’ this is a safe way to invest your money while beginning to figure out what you want in a turntable. You can easily use this for a long period before moving on to higher-end turntables, and it won’t dent your budget. Surprisingly, for such a low price, this turntable actually has a ton of extras. It comes with a preamp and with RCA cords for connection to computer or stereo, it also has a diamond tipped stylus for a purer sound. For beginners, you cannot go wrong with this model.