turntables

Budget turntables that won’t ruin your vinyl records

When looking for turntables, there are a few things you need to look for on the turntable you need to make sure it won’t destroy your vinyl. While there are many features that make up a great turntable (pitch control, strobe lights, etc. are nice but not essential), most audiophiles consider these the minimum features that every turntable should have.

  1. A counterweight
  2. A moving magnet cartridge
  3. A full-sized platter
  4. Anti-skate

(See: why turntables without these features will ruin your vinyl)

If you’re buying a turntable on a strict budget we strongly suggest buying one of the turntables listed below. You’ll spend slightly more now but you’ll save a lot in the long-run by buying a turntable that won’t break down or damage your records.

So we decided to compile a list of the cheapest turntables that meet these basic specs:

1. Crosley C100 Turntable

The only Crosley you should consider buying. The Crosley C100 is Crosley’s first premium turntable. It comes with a full-sized platter, a magnetic Audio-Technica cartridge and pitch adjustment features. It has a built-in phono stage so it will plug into any stereo or home entertainment with red and white phono inputs.

Buy it on Amazon ($119.99)

2. 1byone Fully Automatic Turntable

This is the ONLY 1byone turntable you should consider purchasing. This record player has a full sized platter and adjustable counterweight. It also has a built in preamp so it will work with any home entertainment system amplifier with a red and white aux input. It’s fully automatic as well which means the player automatically lowers the arm onto the record which is great for new record collectors. A highly recommended product and the perfect gift for somebody who has been looking into starting a vinyl record collection.

Buy it on Amazon ($119.99)

3. The House of Marley Stir It Up Turntable

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Perfect for beginners, this turntable features all the basic requirements that turntables should meet. It features a working counterweight, anti-skate, full-size platter and an Audio-Technica AT3600 Moving Magnet cartridge. Another feature that this turntable has is a built-in phono preamp. Built in phono preamps allow you to plug this into any sound system that can take a normal aux cable or RCA cables. Turntables without built-in preamps need a vintage receiver with a dedicated phono preamp to amplify the low level signal produced by moving magnet cartridges to a level that all sound systems can amplify. You could plug this straight into your home sound system, some powered PC speakers or even straight into your headphones thanks to the turntable’s built-in headphone jack.

All for under $200.

Buy it: Amazon ($199.99)

4. Pro-Ject Elemental

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Pro-Jects lowest priced offering also has everything you need, except for a phono preamp. If your receiver has a dedicated phono input, you’re good to go. If not, you’ll have to buy one before you can plug your turntable into your sound system.

This turntable comes equipped with the Ortofon OM10 Moving Magnet Cartridge.

Buy it: Amazon($229.00)

I’ve listed this Pro-Ject because it’s the cheapest one on offer but they’re all great really. Get one that fits your budget and catches your eye.

5. Audio-Technica AT-LP120

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This one comes with a built-in phono preamp. It comes equipped with an Audio-Technica AT95e Moving Magnet cartridge.

Buy it: Amazon ($299.99)

Cheap turntables to avoid.

Like everything these days, most turntables are made in China. Chinese turntables include Leetac, Hanpin and Skywin. These turntables are then imported and branded by companies like Crosley. While these factories can make high-end products, these turntables by them should be avoided by them at all costs.

Most of these are turntables are cheaper than $50 and all of them are under $150.

Briefcase turntables – Skywin SW-204, SW-196B, Okly OKG-001

 

The famous briefcase-style turntable often seen at Barnes & Noble, Urban Outfitters, your friends’ social media profiles and other places that aren’t known for caring much about audio equipment. They’re available in several variants, some have square speakers, some have round speakers and some have speakers on the sides. They’re made by Skywin in China and imported under a huge number of brand names, most famously, Crosley. Here’s a list of the turntables. You should avoid all models (except noted exceptions) from these brands when choosing a turntable. Click on the links below to see an example of a turntable from these brands:

  • 1byone
  • AMOS Retro Suitcase Briefcase Style Turntable
  • Akai A60011N Bluetooth Rechargeable Record Player
  • Assai Vinyl Record Player Retro Turntable Briefcase
  • Audiology
  • Bush Classic Portable Turntable
  • Caseflex Turntable Record Player Briefcase
  • CMC Turntables
  • Crosley Cruiser
  • Crosley Executive
  • All other Crosleys except the Advance and the C100
  • Denver VPL-120 Black 3 Speed Vinyl Record Player
  • DigitNow! Vinyl Transport
  • Digital Tec Retro Record Player
  • DMYCO
  • Elyxr Audio Revolution Portable Vinyl Player
  • Feir Turntables
  • Funkyfonic Turntables
  • GPO Attache Briefcase Style Three-Speed Portable Vinyl Turntable
  • GOODNEW
  • GoJiaJie Turntables
  • Grausch RPS100 Briefcase Style Three-Speed Portable Vinyl Turntable
  • Intempo Retro Portable Bluetooth Compatible Turntable Record Player
  • ION Audio Vinyl Motion
  • Jensen Turntables
  • JORLAI
  • JOPOSTAR
  • Miric Turntables
  • Musitrend Turntables
  • MYWAVE/My Wave
  • Numark PT01 Touring
  • Pyle PVTT2UOR Rechargeable Retro Belt-Drive Turntable
  • Steepletone – All models
  • Tokky Briefcase Style Three-Speed Portable Vinyl Turntable
  • UKayed ® Black Turntable Leather Briefcase Style
  • Victrola Turntables
  • Xenta Vinyl Turntable
  • Zennox Retro Briefcase Style Vinyl Turntable
  • Vinyl Styl turntables

Leetac consoles

 

The stylish but equally crappy all-in-one console. Made by Leetac of China and sold by GPO, Steepletone, Crosley, Ion and all the other no-no brands.

Imitation turntables

 

These are meant to look like real turntables but they aren’t. Some may have fake counterweights. Their distinguishing feature is their red cartridge. Look out for this when buying turntables online. This cartridge tracks at 5+ grams and all turntables using it do not have adjustable counterweights. Brands using this turntable include 1byone, Benross, Kenley, Steepletone, GPO, ION and Assai.

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Don’t buy a turntable that has this cartridge on it.

Low end tables from high end brands

These turntables come from reputable brands like Marantz, Sony and Audio-Technica but are actually just Leetacs with audiophile brands stuck on to them. These are just as bad as the turntables listed above and should be avoided at all costs.

Audio Technica AT-LP60

Denon DP200

Denon DP29F

Pioneer PL990

Marantz TT5005

See also: Cheap turntables that won’t ruin your records

Why cheap turntables will ruin your vinyl records.

The vinyl revival over the past few years has been great. We’ve seen vinyl reissues of rare titles that haven’t been available in decades and vinyl sales are at their highest in 20 years. The resurgence has been a great help to independent record stores all around the United Kingdom. Chain stores like HMV have begun selling vinyl again. It’s super cool.

Unfortunately, we’ve also seen a resurgence of cheap turntables. The market has been flooded with “all-in-one” style record players and “briefcase style” turntables from manufacturers like Crosley, ION and Jensen. A visit to HMV, Amazon.co.uk, Argos or Urban Outfitters will show you how these turntables litter the shelves and web pages of online and brick-and-mortar record stores in the UK.

This post is in no way meant to be elitist. It is merely to inform buyers of the potential damage a cheap turntable can cause to their precious vinyl records and how terrible these turntables sound. I hope this post helps you to stay away from cheap new turntables and get something that will get the best sound out of your vinyl records.

What makes cheap turntables so bad?

  • The lack of a counterweight.

This is a counterweight. It is there to balance out the tonearm so that all the weight of the tonearm and cartridge do not rest on the record. Modern records can survive hundreds of plays when the counterweight is set correctly. The weight at which the arm rests on the record is known as the tracking weight. The tracking weight of a turntable should be between 1 and 2 grams. A good turntable has one of these. They are adjustable so that the tonearm can be balanced if a new cartridge is added.

This is the tonearm of a cheap turntable.

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Image: Amazon UK.

This is the tonearm of a cheap turntable. It does not have an adjustable counterweight. It has a chunk of plastic. This turntable will grind away at your records at 2-3 times the proper tracking weight. Records begin to sound deteriorated after just 10 plays. You won’t hear it on this turntable though due to its cheap design.

  • Built in speakers

Turntables work by amplifying the vibrations made by the stylus (needle) as it rides the groove on the vinyl record. Speakers work by making vibrations. When speakers are built in to the record player you get terrible sound quality, skipping and damage to your records as the stylus bounces up and down in the groove. No decent turntable has built-in speakers.

  • Undersized platter
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Image: Amazon UK.

See how the record hangs off the turntable? The tonearm tracking heavily on one side of the platter causes the record to flex and bend while it spins. Again, this results in a loss in sound quality and groove damage to your vinyl records. It also results in the needle skipping over the record. An infamous problem in Crosley, Jensen, 1byone, ION and other brands that import these cheap turntables from China.

  • The stylus is the wrong size

The stylus used in these turntables is far to large for modern (60s-present) 33rpm records and far too small for old (pre-1950s old) 78rpm records. The manufacturer chose this stylus to save costs. Turntables should have two different styli to play 33rpm and 78rpm records. In fact, most good turntables don’t even include a 78rpm speed because of all the changes you need to make to play the old format properly. This large stylus causes the turntable to skip over the grooves and damage your records.

  • The lack of anti-skate

Anti-skate is a feature on turntables that stops the arm from swinging in towards the center of the record or out towards the outside of the record. If the arms tries to move towards the center or the outside while the record plays it will grind away one side of the groove while it plays. Anti-skate keeps the stylus riding the center of the groove, maximizing sound quality and minimizing damage to your vinyl. Cheap turntables don’t have anti-skate.

Can these flaws be fixed?

No. You can’t fix them all. There is no correct sized stylus that fits on these turntables. You can’t put a bigger platter on these cheap turntables. The motor won’t handle it.

Some have suggested putting a penny on the head of the tonearm to prevent skipping. You should NEVER do this. The added weight will grind your records to a fine vinyl powder in just a few plays.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my next post: A list of these cheap turntables that you should avoid.