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The 5 Best Turntables Under $500: 2017 Reviews and Top Picks

By djadmin | best turntables

best turntable under 500

With the vinyl game absolutely booming right now, we have found ourselves in an extremely fortunate situation – the rapidly increasing popularity of turntables and record players has cause a mass increase in production quantity and quality.

This has driven up competition within the market, leading to the increased production of some seriously high quality turntables that won’t break the bank.

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In fact, it is now completely reasonable to expect to find a durable, good looking turntable (with great sound quality) for under 500 bucks.

The issue often comes with actually trying to find the good ones (because unfortunately, there are some bad ones too…).

Which is why I have down all the legwork for you. Taking into consideration a number of factors (including sound and build quality, features, and of course, cost), in the following article I will outline the best 5 turntables under 500 bucks that can be found on the market today.

Product Summary

headphones on turntable

Project Essential III

The Project Essential III is the third rendition of the famous ‘Essential’ turntable line by Project. This turntable offers extremely high build and sound quality at a very affordable price.

Project have opted for a no frills approach with the essential III, in which only the essential (pun intended…) aspects of a good turntable have been included – and while this means that there are no fancy features, you do get a high quality turntable at a low cost that does the simple things extremely well.

U-turn Audio Orbit Plus Turntable

The U-Turn Orbit Plus turntable is a great option for those who are after a locally made machine (designed and manufactured in the USA) that won’t break the bank. Offering an extremely visually appealing option, the Orbit Plus is well renowned for its great construction quality and fantastic sound.

Music Hall MMF 2.2 Belt Driven Turntable

The third turntable we have on the list is the Music Hall MMF 2.2 Belt Driven Turntable – and it is a great option for those looking for an affordable machine that channels the heart and soul of traditional turntables into a piece of modern and visually appealing machinery.

Additionally, this specific model is well known for its high sound quality and gorgeous construction. Seriously, the MMF 2.2 looks fantastic and is an absolute pleasure to use.

Project Debut Carbon

The second project turntable we have on this list is an absolute doozy. Coming in at a slightly higher price point than the essential III, the carbon is an absolute beast that comes with some unique and uncommon features.

Moreover, this particular model is renowned for its extremely high build quality and amazing sound. Not only will it reproduce tunes with incredible clarity, it will do so for an extremely long time.

Audio Technica AT-LP120

While this Audio Technica turntable is actually the most affordable on this list, you should not let that deter you in the slightest. This machine is one of the most popular on the market today – and for very good reason.

This machine comes with a host of features that aren’t seen with many of the others on this list, and while it may not be as appealing visually, it can handle almost anything thrown at it with ease.

Comparison Table

Reviews Of The 5 Best Turntables (Under $500)

1. Project Essential III

Project Essential III

The Project Essential III is a turntable that has been designed with quality in mind. In technical terms, the Essential III comes with isolation feet, a low vibration motor (with a DC power supply), and an extremely high quality Ortofon Cartridge – in short, the Project Essential III has all the components of an exceptionally high quality turntable at a mere fraction of the cost.

With this comes great durability and construction quality, meaning that this simple machine will be able to handle anything you throw at it – and handle it extremely well.

The high quality materials used within the Essential III not only increase durability – they also greatly improve sound quality as well. This particular turntable has a great capacity to produce crystal clear sounds, while also easily distinguishing between background music and core vocals very well.

While it may not have as many bells and whistles as some like, the quality of this machine cannot be denied. It does the basics incredibly well, will last an extremely long time, and as an added bonus, looks slick as… well something that is extremely slick. A great option for those on a budget who prioritize sound quality over all else.

What we liked

  • Awesome to look at
  • Simple and durable design
  • Great sound quality

What we didn’t like

  • Minimal Features

2. U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus

U-turn Audio Orbit Plus Turntable

The Orbit Plus Turntable was founded through a Kickstarter campaign in 2014, by two individuals who were sick of paying a premium for turntables that they weren’t 100% happy with. With this in mind, they designed the Orbit Plus – a great machine that is both extremely simple to set up and incredibly easy to use.

The orbit plus has been designed using some extremely high quality pieces, including a uni-pivot tonearm, a high end MM cartridge (from Grado labs), and a high quality acrylic platter. This ensures exceptional speed consistency and an extremely high durability.

Combined with its quality parts, the Orbit Plus offers exceptional sound quality, creating crystal clear tones and deep and powerful bass - it is honestly one of the best sounding turntables we have on the list.

While again, the basics have been prioritized over any bells and whistles, it should not deter you in the slightest. This is a fantastic option for those who want an excellent looking machine that produces a great sound – and will last you a very long time.

What we liked

  • Easy to use
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Super Durable
  • Aesthetically pleasing to the eyes

What we didn’t like

  • Minimal Features

3. Music Hall MMF 2.2 Belt Driven Turntable

Music Hall MMF 2.2 Belt Driven Turntable

The Music Hall MMF 2.2 is an extremely popular turntable – and for very good reason too. Similar to both the Orbit Plus and Project Essential II, the MMF 2.2 is absolutely awesome to look at. Coming in a delicious gloss black (or red or white.. if your into that sort of thing), its design screams quality.

The MMF 2.2 is a fully manual, two speed (33 and 45 RPM), belt driven turntable. It doesn’t offer an automatic start or stop, which should appeal to those purists out there, and comes with an adjustable height tone arm, and a quality moving magnet cartridge.

With this comes an extremely high construction quality – this machine is not only durable, it will also be able to handle absolutely anything you can throw at it. Within this, the MMF 2.2 has been designed to run both smoothly and quietly, in which you get an excellent sound while simultaneously protecting your records from any unwanted damage.

With this in mind, this machine has had reports of producing ‘cracking’ noises in top of your favorite beats after excessive use – but this has only been reported in a very few cases. Despite this, for the vast majority of us, this machine offers a fantastic option for those looking for a traditional machine with great sound quality that will last a very long time.

What we liked

  • Looks amazing
  • Super Durable
  • Quality production

What we didn’t like

  • Minimal Features
  • Fully manual may not appeal to everyone

4. Project Debut Carbon

Project Debut Carbon

With project managing to get two turntables on this list, we can certainly guarantee on thing – Project are pretty darn good at making high quality turntables that won’t break your budget (a little obvious I know… but it still holds true).

The first thing you will notice about the Debut Carbon is its ridiculously light and super strong tonearm – in which it is made completely from carbon. Combined with this, is solid metal platter, a nice felt mat, and a high quality Ortofon 2M red moving magnet cartilage – all of which ensures that this machine screams quality.

With this high level of durability comes some serious visual appeal. While simple, this machine is extremely nice to look at, opting for a Minimalistic design that you will never get tired of staring at.

Once you get over how nice this thing is to look at, you begin to remember that it actually plays music (and is more than just a visual piece for your lounge room/DJ booth) – and that is where this machine really begins to shine. The Debut Carbon offers extremely high sound quality, in which it shows extreme clarity across a wide range of sounds.

While both its stability and durability has been questioned by some individuals (so maybe take some care with it…), this machine is a great option for those looking for something with an excellent sound and looks great.

What we liked

  • Great looking machine
  • Quality sound
  • High quality pieces

What we didn’t like

  • Durability has been questioned

5. Audio Technica AT-LP120

Audio Technica AT-LP120

The LP120 offers a host of nice features including a variable pitch slider, a quartz phase locked loop, and three different speed options (33, 45 and 78 RPM). With this particular model you can even spin the platter backwards if you are so inclined. As an added bonus, you can rip your records straight to your PC through the USB outlet if you are looking to digitize all your favorite records.

The LP120 channels the aesthetic feel of traditional turntables from the 80s and 90s to produce a nice looking machine that functions well. It is important to note that made from a combination of both metal and plastic, the durability of this machine has been thrown into question with excessive use.

In saying that, this machine will last you a very long time if looked after correctly.​

Moreover, this machine offers extremely high sound quality, especially considering its price. With a crystal clear sound that carries over a huge orange, you can’t go wrong with this budget option.

What we liked

  • Additional Features
  • Great sound
  • Super affordable

What we didn’t like

  • Construction has been questioned
  • Doesn’t look as nice as alternatives

Value Section

turntable focus on detail

Looking at this list I think it is easy to agree that each of these machines screams good value. Each of them come in well below 500 clams, which is an incredible thing when we take a second to consider the quality that they do offer.

But, with that in mind, there a few tips that I recommend taking into consideration if you are after maximizing your budget while purchasing a turntable.

Look for high quality materials: High quality cartridges and tone arms are worth their weight in gold. Not only will these provide an indication of sound quality, they will also last a whole lot longer than budget alternatives. This will not only ensure that you are getting a solid sounding machine, you will also avoid unnecessary replacement costs further down the road.

Consider the ‘feel’ of the machine: A good machine should feel solid and weighty. If it doesn’t it is a sure sign that the construction may not be up to par – and therefore the deck won’t last you all that long. You want to opt for a machine with solid construction that can handle anything you throw at it.

Don’t get sucked in by features: extra features often come in at an additional cost – and they are typically unnecessary. When it comes to maximising your dollar, finding a machine that does the basics very well will be your best bet.

And there you have it. By using the three tips provided you can maximize your dollar and finds the best turntable for your money.

Conclusion

turntable top view

While there are a number of machines on this list that offer great value for money, I cannot look past the Orbit Plus turntable. Not only is this machine American made, it is designed specifically for those after a great sound that won’t break the bank.

Made with high quality materials and extremely sturdy construction, this machine will last as long as you do. As an added bonus, opting for a simplistic design, the Orbit Plus is incredibly easy to use and absolutely gorgeous to look at – this is a great option for both experts on the decks AND beginners looking to get their foot into the door of the vinyl game.

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