If you're ready for components that will age like fine wine without absolutely destroying your bank account, the under-$500 price range for turntables and record players is the sweet spot. It seems like the market really encourages you to buy one in the $300 range, but by spending a little bit more on one of these turntables below, you will set yourself and your stereo up for a long road of vinyl enjoyment.
the best audiophile turntable under $500
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon ($399)
This Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable (typically $399) is one of the most prevalent turntables I see when I visit other established record collectors. It's beautiful in gloss black, but comes in myriad other colors to match your style, it's solidly built with a carbon tonearm, and the excellent Ortofon 2M red cartridge will be a treat for your vinyl for years and years. With 100+ reviews on Amazon at a solid 4.5 stars, there's a reason this is one of the most popular turntables on the market.
Audio Technica AT-LP1240-USB ($438)
This direct drive offering from Audio Technica represents the high-end for turntables from the brand. It's fashioned after Technic's iconic SL1200 turntable series and is marketed as a professional DJ turntable. None-the-less, it's a great all around turntable with quality components, a bold look, and will function for many years as a great centerpiece to your stereo. 100+ reviews and a solid 4.5 stars!
- built-in pre-amp
Rega Planar 1 ($475)
Marketed as Rega's "entry-level high-end" record player, Rega is clearly urging you to check out their Planar 2 and Planer 3 models which rise above the confines of the under-$500 category. Regardless, the Planar 1 here is a great turntable from a highly respected brand and it comes in just under $500 at typically $475.
- plug-and-play setup
- RB110 Tonearm
- factory mounted carbon cartridge
u-Turn Orbit Plus ($419)
One of the newest players on the block, the folks at U-Turn are a breath of fresh air to the vinyl community. Their U-Turn Orbit Plus turntable is a high-performance component turntable that rings in well under $500 and is sure to keep you spinning your vinyl for years to come. And hey, it's made in the USA!
- quick setup, with built-in preamp
- Precision tonearm, Ortofon OM 5E cartridge
- machined acrylic platter
- manual belt drive (33/45 RPM)
Pro-Ject Essential III ($299)
This Pro-Ject Essential III turntable is like the little brother of the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon from above. It has high quality components and you'd do fine to buy this one as an entry level turntable and save yourself a little if you think the Debut Carbon is just out of reach for the price.
- Integrated DC–powered motor control minimizes motor vibration
- 8.6” aluminium tonearm with sapphire bearings
- pre–mounted Ortofon OM10 cartridge
- Special decoupling feet
Music Hall MMF 2.2 ($299)
This plug-and-play turntable, the Music Hall MMF 2.2, is an updated version of a great system that's been around for years. At one point a nearly $500 turntable, this one is definitely worth taking a look at.
- Special vibration damping feet
- Low-noise fully manual belt drive
- High-precision bearing assembly
- Music Hall Magic 2 moving-magnet phono cartridge by Ortofon