Turntables are making a resurgence, and you don’t need something as expensive as a Technics SL-1200 to enjoy your favorite records.
There are plenty of people who are just casual listeners but feel compelled to stay up-to-date with the latest trends, so they purchase a reasonably priced, well-reputed turntable.
Then there are the audiophiles and the musicologists who ask for only the finest machines to play their records on. The ones that are willing to pay a premium usually know a thing or two about audio quality, or at least they think they do.
But how does one select the right turntable at such a high cost? Surely they can’t all be of the same quality based on how much they are, that’s not true of any product. An expensive car can be a lemon, a pricey turntable can fail to live up to the expectations set by the price.
To avoid such situations, here’s a list of the five best turntables under $500. Then we’ll get into what you should be looking for when shopping for one.
|Turntables Under $500||Model||Expert Rating||Price|
|Denon DP-400 Semi-Automatic|
What To Look for In The Best Turntables Under $500
Not everyone is a professional DJ, but some of us are capable of learning a new skill – or at least some aspects of skill – that we never thought would interest us.
Numerous turntables at this price range serve as terrific learning platforms for aspiring DJs, though you may want to start with something less expensive if you’re just beginning.
A professional turntable can be a very serious thing, and if you don’t know how to use it properly, you could risk seriously damaging your collection. Just one push of the wrong button and a precious album you’ve had for years is ruined.
Make sure you’re comfortable with your level of understanding of turntables before you purchase a high-tech, complex one.
Manual or Automatic
Whether the tonearm has a manual or automatic control may seem minor, but it’s very important at this level. It’s less of a style thing and more about precision. Some people are nervous about placing a needle themselves so that an automatic belt drive would be preferable.
Others just prefer it to be done for them because they like knowing the machine will always get it right, eliminating the concern of human error. Ultimately, this decision is up to you, and you should always go with what you’re most comfortable with.
Many turntables, especially at this price range, come with a cartridge that has the stylus, or needle, inside. The one they provide is usually pretty good, however, a lot of music lovers prefer to choose one of their own.
Plenty of turntables exclude a cartridge; however, just because one comes included means you have to use it.
You can easily switch the stylus for one of your own choosing, but you should make sure it’s high-quality.
This is very much dependent on what you intend to use your turntable for. If you intend only to use it as a record player, always committed to the sound of vinyl, then you probably don’t need a USB connection at all.
If, however, you intend to digitize your record collection, then it is absolutely vital that you have a turntable that’s capable of a USB connection.
5 Best Turntables Under $500:
To help you with your search, here is a selection of 5 of the best turntables under $500:
1. Fluance RT85 Reference High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable Record Player with Ortofon 2M Blue Cartridge
- Pure analog performance
- Spectacular musical accuracy
- High-density acrylic platter
- Speed control
- Solid wood plinth
It’s hard to talk about design with turntables as there’s little variation between them. Most of them are some sort of wood or plastic; occasionally, they attempt to recreate some old vintage pastiche to appeal to those who enjoy such things. The Fluance looks like a record player, and that’s primarily the most important thing.
It’s also very comfortable in weight, easy to pick up and move around but feels durable enough that it won’t easily break should an accident happen.
In terms of design, it has one major benefit – the level that helps you place the turntable perfectly, even on whatever surface you place it. This will be important in delivering the best sound possible.
Speaking of sound, there are no complaints. The Fluance delivers rich, full-blooded, warm tones. To test, there is only one option: music produced by controversial genius Phil Spector. Spector’s “wall of sound” on tracks like “Be My Baby” will exemplify the complete richness that the machine has to offer.
That said, it does have a little trouble with some of the higher sounds. The 60s were an era when the harmonica came into fashion thanks to musicians like Bob Dylan. The harmonica on some of the louder tracks off Highway 61 Revisited was incredibly sharp and piercing. If you’re going to listen to tracks with plenty of high notes, you may wish to opt for another turntable.
- Auto belt drive
- Superior sound
- Dual Magnet Cartridge
- Classic design
The first thing you’ll notice when you open the box of the LP60X, a fairly new upgrade, is much sleeker than its previous incarnation. Along with simply making the turntable look better, the sleek design of this model makes it easier to transport without damaging it.
The LP60X is not necessarily the turntable you want if you aren’t a fan of black since every color that it comes in has black accents. If you don’t mind the dark trim on this turntable, then you’ll be excited to hear that it comes in four different colors, allowing you to pick out the one that matches your audio gear.
The buttons are probably the turntable’s most interesting feature. Often a problematic area with turntables, these are clear, easy to use, and always respond when pushed.
The auto belt drive is really a matter of preference. Some prefer to place the tonearm manually, setting it right on the record. This turntable sets it automatically. It’s a handier way of doing it, but it does make one feel a little like a beginner.
A lot of the features on the LP60X are there for convenience sake, and for those who feel less comfortable using a record player, it’s optimal. However, it may be a little too simplistic for the more advanced.
- Dual RCA to Dual RCA Cable
- 45 Rpm Adapter
- Rubber mat
- Removable hinged dust cover
Now here’s a design that’s actually worth a second glance. It is simply and sleek, with a gorgeous wood base that gives it the retro feel that many turntable owners are seeking. However, upon reading the list of features, you’ll see that it’s kind of lacking – and with good reason.
Audio-Technica is a brand known for really focusing on audio quality, and in that sense, they’ve spared no expense. It’s not impressive for its features and add-ons because it’s impressive enough on its own, just as a sound delivery system.
Let’s talk about that sound: clear, congestion-free, and almost too full, like the band was in the room. When they say they pour all their money into the audio quality, they aren’t kidding. I don’t think I’ve heard a more concise presentation of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, an album notorious for its production complexity.
The manual belt drive is also the preferred method for needle placement for true record enthusiasts, and it never appears to stick.
- Designed primarily for professional DJs at nightclubs
- USB output
- Built-in switchable pre-phono amp
- It plays at three speeds
- Professional Anti-resonance, damped die-cast aluminum stroboscopic platter
No one here has been blessed with such an awesome career as a professional DJ, even part-time. Fortunately, though, we did reach out to a friend in Montreal who couldn’t recommend this turntable for professional gigs anymore.
The design, she said, is of particular importance, and it’s surprisingly more complex than it looks. For one, the stroboscope, which is especially useful in disco clubs, weddings, and other such events. There’s even a light on the stylus to assist you in needle placement in smoky, dark rooms.
However, there are some features that you don’t want to mess with unless you are a professional. Hitting the “reverse” button without knowing what you’re doing is a surefire way to ruin your collection. It’s best to stick with what you know, which will deliver a crisp, cool, complex sound at even the most basic settings.
You can really get the joint jumping, so to speak, if you know what you’re doing with this device. It’s still better to let the professionals mess with the more advanced aspects.
- Plays three speeds
- Weighted belt-driven platter
- Built-in phono equalizer
- Easy installation and setup
The key to Denon’s design is sophistication. This is a turntable that sits among the most elegantly decorated rooms, the finest furniture, the most expensive and desired artwork. It’s also compact enough to fit easily without being much of a distraction. Something about the S-shape of the tonearm enhances the sound, and the dust cover does more than just protect.
The dust cover actually works to remove the vibrations caused by build-up. It’s all part of Denon’s entire theme – removing the distractions so that the sound can be the most significant factor. The sound coming from the Denon is something special. You can hear and notice details in productions of which you never were previously aware.
A particular legend about a curse word on a famous Kinks song was cleared up – no one ever says the F-word in the background of “You Really Got Me.” We’re admittedly curious to see what other music myths this kind of technology might clear up.
Now that you know the best turntables that are around a mid-range price, it’s time to understand better just what you’re trying to look for when you’re in the market for one. As you may have noticed, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to buying turntables, as it really depends on both your situation and your base of knowledge.
Do Bluetooth Turntables Sound Good?
Bluetooth technology does nothing to affect the audio quality of a turntable. However, Bluetooth is not the ideal connection for such a device.
It’ll play decently; however, true music fans understand the importance of a wired connection.
What’s the Difference Between a Turntable and a Record Player?
A turntable is part of a record player. It’s specifically the part that spins the record. However, you can also buy this as a standalone device.
The big difference is that they won’t necessarily come with speakers and amplifiers. While some models will include certain features built-in, they are add-ons and not essentials.
If you are looking for less expensive turntables please do check: 10 Best Turntables Under $200.
Do Turntables Play Old Records?
All turntables are capable of playing 45s and long-playing 33s. However, records released before the 50s were of the older 78 formats.
If you have older 78 records, certain turntables are capable of playing them as well. You’ll have to find a turntable with three speeds, which can be found at any price range.
If however, you are looking for a more vintage-looking turntable we would highly suggest to first check out our guide on the 5 Best Vintage Turntables.
Does Vinyl Sound Better?
That’s a very difficult question. To some, yes, vinyl will always sound better and more pristine than any newer technology. And there’s truth to the fact that there is some loss in quality when transferred to a digital format.
How detectable that loss is to the human ear can vary from person to person. Some will die on the hill that nothing sounds better than vinyl.
Others are fairly indifferent. One thing is clear; it certainly beats out any physical competition. You don’t find a lot of people claiming that nothing sounds better than 8-Track, cassette tape, or compact disc.
Is it Bad To Touch a Vinyl Record?
Its edges should only hold a record. This is because fingerprint smudges and other such markings can actually affect the audio quality. They should also always be kept in their sleeve to protect from dust or accidents.