Best turntables under $300 in 2020: Audio Technica, Pro-ject, Fluance and more
id="article-body" class="row" section="article-body"> The time is right to get into budget hi-fi. From cheap, amazing speakers to a high-quality turntable, it's never been more affordable to get a great-sounding system for vinyl records. One of the first questions to ask is: How much should I spend if I want the best turntable? Name a price from $40 or up, and there's no doubt you'll find a record player to fit your budget from vintage turntables to the newest fully automatic and Bluetooth turntable options. For example, the Audio Technica LP60 is a great little turntable for $100. But there are even better choices for the best turntable under $300 out there.
Now playing: Watch this: How to set up a budget turntable 5:38 I've chosen $300 as the sweet spot because it opens up the options for finding a high-quality model. These vinyl record players are no longer simple toys but can be considered hi-fi turntables: They offer elevated vinyl record sound quality and high-quality components. With an analog turntable or manual turntable, you'll be constantly removing a vinyl record, moving the tonearm and spinning up an actual motor -- so it's worth spending a bit more for record players that will last.
Best turntables under $300
Best overall Best minimalist Best plug and play Best design Best for newbies Best step-up Best under $100
Product Fluance RT82 Pro-Ject Primary Music Hall MMF-1.3 Audio Technica AT-LPW40WN U-Turn Orbit Plus Pro-Ject T1 Audio Technica AT-LP60
Price $300 at Fluance $249 at Pro-Ject $289 at Amazon $299 at B&H starts at $289 at U-Turn $329 at Turntable Lab $79 at Amazon
Cartridge Ortofon OM10 Ortofon OM5E Audio Technica AT3600L Audio Technica VM95 Ortofon OM5E Ortofon OM5E Audio Technica AT3600L
33/45 speed switch ✔ ✘ ✔ ✔ ✘ ✘ ✔
Onboard preamp ✘ ✘ ✔ ✔ ✘ at $289, ✔ at $359 ✘ ✔
Adjustable feet ✔ ✘ ✘ ✘ ✘ ✘ ✘
Platter Metal MDF Metal Metal Acrylic Glass Metal
Removable headshell ✔ ✘ ✔ ✔ ✘ ✘ ✘
Weight (lbs) 14.1 8.8 11 10.4 12.5 11 lbs 6.6
I also considered vinyl record players from the bigger electronics manufacturers -- Sony, Denon, Yamaha -- but didn't find any below $300 that beat the quality of the ones above.
Each of the six turntables models I tested for this buyer's guide has at least something to recommend it, but a couple stood above the rest with solid builds, user-friendly features and excellent sound quality. Let's dive in and check out the top picks for the best turntable under $300.
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Best overall under $300
Sarah Tew/CNET The Fluance RT82 offers everything you could want except an onboard preamp, so if you have a receiver or amplifier with a dedicated phono input, this is the model to get.
I was mightily impressed by the well thought-out inclusions with the Fluance. Auto-start on/off, adjustable feet and even a little bubble-level were designed with the user in mind.
This high-quality turntable had one of the most entertaining sounds of the bunch, with plenty of insight into recordings as well as a healthy bass kick.
See at Fluance Best minimalist alternative
Sarah Tew/CNET I expected the $250 Pro-Ject Primary (an affordable version of the original Pro-Ject Debut) to perform towards the bottom of the roster: It's the cheapest, the lightest and it has an unusual wooden platter. According to hi-fi folklore "heavier" is supposed to equal "better," so I found it surprising that the Pro-Ject turntable was one of the best sounding. (And if you want even better-sounding, you can pay more for desain rumah minimalis the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon.) It was also one of the easiest to set up. Most of the work was done in the factory -- I just had to attach the belt.
If you can handle its barebones aesthetic and want to save a little money on the Fluance, the Pro-Ject Primary is an excellent choice. You can also upgrade to the version with the phono pre-amplifier (also known as a phono preamp or phono stage) for $299, which would make the Pro-Ject even more foolproof.
See at Pro-Ject The best of the rest
Best plug and play
Music Hall MMF-1.3
Sarah Tew/CNET Arriving in the middle of the pack in terms of both build and sound quality, this is a solid turntable at a good price range. It had an even-handed response with all types of music but wasn't as engaging as the Pro-Ject and Fluance tables.
If you're looking to plug a modern turntable straight into any receiver (that is, one that lacks a phono preamp or phono stage) then this is the model we'd opt for.
See at Amazon Best design
Audio Technica AT-LPW40WN
Sarah Tew/CNET With its carbon-fiber arm and natural wood veneer plinth, the Audio Technica was my favorite design, but a mixed bag in terms of sound quality for vinyl. The table was the boomiest sounding model when plugged into the same phono pre-amplifier as the others. When I tested its own preamp it was much less bassy, though also less exciting, and this was presumably due to a better match with the cartridge.
Though the Music Hall's onboard preamp sounded better, the Audio Technica could be the one to get if you want an all-in-one package that also looks great.
See at B&H Best for newbies
U-Turn Orbit Plus
Sarah Tew/CNET There's no denying the U-Turn Orbit Plus looked striking with its red plinth and acrylic platter. I also appreciate that the tonearm has been upgraded from the original Orbit with a new gimbal bearing. While it's better sounding than I remember from the original, the U-Turn couldn't compete with the sound of the others. It sounded truncated with a lack of extended high frequencies, and on the hardware side the lack of a cue lever felt like a glaring omission. Note that you can also get this model with a built-in preamp for $70 more.
See at U-Turn Best under $100
Audio Technica AT-LP60
Sarah Tew If you're just starting out in vinyl or looking for cheap turntables to give as a gift, the inexpensive Audio Technica AT-LP60 belt-drive turntable is a good option with fully automatic operation. While I didn't test it directly against the other six, I have listened to it previously. Even with speakers such as the Bowers & Wilkins 606, the LP60 was able to give a convincing and musical performance. Plus, that fully automatic operation really helps. Read CNET's review.
See at Amazon Best step-up option
Pro-Ject T1 $329
Sarah Tew/CNET The Pro-Ject may be a little over $300, but it shows how spending a little more can reap benefits. In terms of sound quality it really can bring out the best in your records. It offers refined treble, an expansive, detailed midrange and supple bass. It looks lovely too with its glass platter -- second only in appearance to the Audio Technica (but the Pro-ject sounds better). The T1's only "problem" is that it's ergonomically awkward -- the switch is deep on the left-hand side instead of on the front, and you need to apply a bit of upwards force to remove the tone arm from the rest. The Pro-Ject T1 is sometimes on sale for under $300 and it's a great deal at that price.
See at Turntable Lab What does $300 buy you?
Above anything else, sound quality is the main reason to upgrade to a better turntable. Compared to an all-in-one design by the likes of Victrola or Crosley, the lack of integrated speakers means the designers can concentrate on things like better motors and upgraded tone-arms. These are hi-fi components that can stand alongside stereo systems worth many thousands of dollars in a way that a $100 turntable can't.
From left to right: Music Hall MMF-1.3, Fluance RT82, U-Turn Orbit Plus, Audio Technica AT-LPW40WN, Pro-Ject Primary E.
Sarah Tew/CNET There are four main elements to a turntable: The plinth or base, the platter on which the vinyl record sits, the motor and the arm. Both external and internal noise can affect the sound quality of the vinyl, and the idea is to ensure that vibrations don't travel from one to the other of these components, and the vibrations don't interfere with sound.
All six $300-ish vinyl record players offer a belt drive design which helps isolate the rumble of the motor from the pickup or stylus. Each vinyl turntable also includes either a removable headshell or at least a replaceable cartridge should you want to experiment with a higher-quality cartridge (such as an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge).
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