6 Best Turntables for under $500

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The best man caves combine amazing home theaters and great music listening experiences. As any audiophile will tell you, there are very few things that replicate the depth of sound and feeling created by a vinyl record. The best news? There are a number of high-quality, cost-effective options around $300-$500. These options don’t break the bank will allow you to get the richness of sound that you expect when you throw a record on. For those who don’t want to stick around to the end, the Pro-ject -Debut Carbon DC reigns as our suggested option for Best Turntable under $500. I will also be reviewing the following options below:

  • Denon DP 300F
  • Audio Technica AT-LP120XUSB
  • Music Hall MMF 2.2 2-Speed Turntable
  • Sony PS-HX500
  • Rega RP1

After conferring with my audio obsessed friends and giving a listen myself, here is my list of the Best Turntables under $500.

Best Overall Turntable under $500 – Pro-ject Debut Carbon DC

While I am an audio lover and bought my turntable over 15 years ago, I decided that I would bring in some big guns to help suggest the best turntables for you to deck out your man caves. I texted three friends, all of whom are involved with music professionally for their single best pick. I got back three different answers: Music Hall MMF 2.2., Rega RP1, and the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon. Great help guys! Back to my own research.

While they and they others listed below are all quality options, the Pro-ject Debut Carbon DC took my vote for the best turntable under $500 because of its amazing sound quality.  

While there are some truly quality market

Pros:

  • Sleek classic design – this thing looks good
  • Amazing quality
  • Sounds amazing – even to a picky jazz fan such as myself
  • Carbon-tube tone arm reduces unwanted resonance
  • The best turntable for the money – even if only by a slim margin

Cons:

  • Any imperfections in your records will be heard loud and clear
  • Have to watch the video tutorials online to actually get it setup

Denon DP 300F

A excellently designed automatic turntable that minimizes vibrations and practically guarantees clarity of sound. The automatic tonearm lifts at the touch of a button – minimizing scratches and damage to your records by rough handling.

Pros:

  • High quality great sounding turntable
  • Solidly built

Cons:

I’ve heard several reports of issues with the cartridge. A quick inexpensive fix but not one that I expect on an otherwise excellent system

Audio-Technical AT-LP120XUSB

An excellent turntable that is known for its durability, sound quality, and design. Similar in design to Panasonics Technics SL-1200. With this model, Audio-Technica delivered on a high quality product that delivers value for the dolor. This turntable has the added benefit of being able to connect to a computer via USB. This means that anyone looking to digitize there vinyl music collection has added reason to buy this quality offering.  

Pros:

  • USB drive gives it added functionality
  • Great quality for the price
  • Built in pre-amp

Cons:

  • Completely manual – be sure to handle your records with care
  • Have to be careful with the cantilever – surprisingly delicate for such a quality product

Music Hall MMF 2.2 Belt Driven Turntable

I am including this one because several people I know in the music industry recommended this as one of their favorites. However, I have to say, the feedback on this machine is mixed at best. Consumers feedback on this machine anchors at two extremes: 1) ecstatic reviews about the sound quality or 2) complaints about the life length of the product. Since I do not personally own this model and have only tested it a few times for a listen, I will differ to consumer feedback an not recommend it.

Pros:

  • Very good sound
  • Easy setup

Cons:

  • Complaints about durability of the product
  • More expensive than comparable quality machines

Sony PSHX500 Hi Res USB Turntable

Not much to say about this one, Sony is a trusted name in electronics and for me performance is king. A solid piece of equipment with hi-res ripping capabilities.

Pros:

  • Good price to quality ratio
  • Able to digitize vinyl
  • Good (not great) sound

Cons:

  • Not a fan of the software interface

Rega – Planar 1

Rega’s entry level turntable, the Planar 1 is a very popular addition to the sub $500 turntable market. This is also a unit you are likely to be recommended if you walk into your average record store, as it is cool enough to be trendy and is made by a company with a 40+ year history of serving the vinyl market. A manual, beltdriven design produced in the UK, the Planar 1 delivers a solid sound and all the technology you would expect from an entry level turntable.

Pros:

  • Sounds good enough – until you remember the price point
  • Looks very nice

Cons:

  • A clear step down from the Planar 2 in sound quality
  • Receives lots of quality complaints so I question its durability

Final Thoughts

The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Turntable is the best turntable you can buy for under $500. It is a high-quality machine that has the ability to bring out every key sound in your vinyl. The only warning that I will give you is that it is important to keep your records pristine, particularly with the higher-quality turntables. For more information on caring for your Vinyl’s see below.

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