With a lot of retro trends making a comeback in recent years, now is as good a time as any to own a turntable – again if you’ve been around the block, or for the first time. The best turntables under $200 may be entry-level, but you would be surprised to see how many of them can satisfy even discerning audiophiles.
8 Best Turntables Under $200 - Budget Picks
If you’re ready to experience music at another level, here are my top picks in budget-friendly turntables that come with plenty of comfort features and modern appeal.
Table of Contents
- 8 Best Turntables Under $200 - Budget Picks
- Deciding Between Direct Drive and Belt Drive
- Quality of Life Features
- Don’t Get Caught Up in Expectations
- Straight vs. Other Tonearm Designs
The Audio Technica AT-LP60XBT is a high-fidelity turntable with a budget-friendly price tag and loads of quality of life features. First of all, it’s fully automatic, which means you won’t have to be bothered with anything until it’s time to flip the record.
Secondly, it features a belt-drive mechanism which is pretty much noiseless and will let you squeeze more nuance out of your recordings. I also like that the AT-LP60XBT is equipped with Bluetooth technology. This will allow you to connect it to your speakers, eliminate the need for too many intermediary components, and deal with messy cable arrangements.
The platter is made of die-cast aluminum, which is not bad for this price range. It does a good job of minimizing unwanted resonance so that you can get a true projection of the recording. In terms of the playback speed, the AT-LP60XBT offers 33-1/3 and 45 RPM, which is good enough for most vinyl records, with the exception of some very old ones.
The Sony PS-LX310BT is cutting it close to the target price but if you can find a deal on it, you won’t be disappointed. It’s one of the easiest turntables to use for its fully automatic operation.
The device is also equipped with a switchable phono output and line out, as well as a phono preamp and three gain settings. Another feature I really like is the potential for MP3 ripping. By using the USB output, you’ll be able to rip vinyl records with your favorite software.
Wireless technology has become increasingly popular with turntable manufacturers, so it’s no surprise that the PS-LX310BT can be directly connected to speakers, headphones, and other Bluetooth devices.
Of course, you’ll also be able to use the traditional RCA connectors and plug the turntable into a powerful stereo system. High-fidelity audio is not the only thing done right by Sony. Along with the die-cast aluminum platter, the PS-LX310BT also features a pipe tonearm which offers superior tracking accuracy.
3. Fluance RT80
The Fluance RT80 may have a simple MDF build, but it features some high-end components for this price range. It has an Audio Technica AT91 cartridge, a belt drive system, and a signal-to-noise ratio of 67dB weighted.
I also like the S-Type tonearm with the diamond needle. S-Type tonearms are known to have a deeper reach into the record groove, which is why they’re able to extract impressive audio detail from records, assuming that your records are in perfect shape.
The design also sees a die-cast aluminum platter and isolation feet which help reduce vibration interference. Other premium components include gold-plated RCA analog outputs and a high-quality built-in phone preamp.
You’ll also have the option to switch between phono and line out, depending on you have an external phono preamp. I should also point out that this turntable doesn’t have Bluetooth technology. This is normal since Fluance markets itself as a traditional audiophile company.
Last but not least, the adjustable counterweight can have a big impact on the audio fidelity as well as the tracking accuracy.
If you want to go completely entry-level but still enjoy a good amount of modern features, then the Audio Technica AT-LP60X-USB is not the place to start. This is as affordable as turntables get without seriously compromising audio fidelity.
The design is fully automatic, so there’s quality of life right there. It also has a belt-drive mechanism, which reduces some of the operational noise on both 33-1/3 and 45 RPM records. The platter is die-cast aluminum which helps improve the audio clarity.
This one comes with USB support, so you have a decent options connectivity wise. There’s another version of the AT-LP60X-USB called the AT-LP60XBT. This one adds Bluetooth and a few other tweaks.
The AT-LP60x also has a high-end AC adapter which helps reduce the noise in the signal chain. The signal-to-noise ratio is just 50dB, which is not bad for any turntables.
5. Crosley C100
You can get the Crosley C100 turntable as a standalone or paired with Bluetooth speakers. I recommend the standalone version if you want to stick to the proposed spending limit for this article. The C100 is a good turntable with standard RCA analog audio outputs and a belt-drive mechanism.
It makes very little noise and can handle both 33-1/3 and 45 RPM records without causing damage to the grooves. I recommend it for the S-Type tonearm too, which can penetrate deeper into the groove and perhaps extract all details as the master recording intended.
Another feature I really enjoy is the manual operation. This means that you’ll have to lift, place, and lift again whenever you’re listening to a record. It may be time-consuming for some people, I’ll give you that, but it’s as close to a vintage vinyl listening experience as you’re going to get.
The felt slip mat seems thick enough to do a good job of minimizing vibrations, as does the die-cast aluminum platter. I should also point out that the C100 features height adjustment and a lockable turntable rest, as well as an anti-skate feature.
It’s not the most high-end turntable on the market, but because it has enough modern features and manual operation, it serves as a pretty good entry-level cross between old and new vinyl players, one that even audiophiles may enjoy using.
The Stanton T.62 MKII is another interesting alternative in the under $200 price range. It’s a direct-drive turntable that has a straight tone arm. This offers advanced tracking abilities for DJs but it also does a good job on your everyday 33-1/3 and 45 RPM records.
Equipped with a pitch control slider, with +/- 10% adjustments, you’ll be able to fully control the speed of the record quickly.
The slip mat seems to be of good quality and will provide some vibration dampening. It will likely work even better due to the fact that the T.62 MKII comes with dampening feet also. A Stanton 300 cartridge is also included.
I might suggest changing the RCA cables though, as they seem to be a bit slimmer than what I would normally prefer for high fidelity audio and minimal signal loss.
The Teac TN-300SE turntable has more to it than meets the eye. Starting with the solid MDF build. This is a heavy cabinet which eliminates most of the resonance and also provides a durable exterior.
The turntable also features line and phono outputs so it’s compatible with any audio systems. In terms of high-end features, you’ll find an Audio Technica AT95SE cartridge which is pretty good for an entry-level analog turntable. A Texas Instruments analog-to-digital converter supports the USB output.
With that, you can use this turntable to rip your favorite albums and always be able to listen to them anywhere. The tonearm has good tracking accuracy and an anti-skating mechanism but it doesn’t have an adjustable counterweight.
This means that the performance might be uneven between records. Still, the needle will reach a good depth and capture most nuances of original recordings. Also worth mentioning is the fact that the aluminum platter is heavy. This along with the belt drive system should eliminate a lot of the noise associated with vinyl playbacks.
In the interest of saving you some time but also reducing some of the inconsistencies with noise, I thought I’d also offer a semi-automatic playback turntable as an alternative. The 1Byone Belt-Drive Turntable is almost as easy to use as a fully automatic model but it should have less noise and better groove tracking accuracy.
What’s even better is that it comes with a remote so you won’t even have to get up and walk over to the vinyl player to get things spinning. The adjustable counterweight on the tonearm will let you make adjustments for 33-1/3 and 45RPM records in order to get a near flawless reading on all your albums.
I also want to recommend this due to its USB output. This will enable you to rip your favorite songs using a computer. You might want to really consider this feature if your old records are on their last legs and you can’t afford to replace them.
There’s also a pitch controller included in the design as is a strobe illuminator. This is a very interesting feature to see in this price range. Especially since the turntable seems to be a bit faster than it should be for the 33-1/3 and 45RPM records. Pitch adjustment will help you there.
Deciding Between Direct Drive and Belt Drive
These are two very distinctive drivetrains, both with their own advantages and disadvantages. But depending on what you’ll use your turntable for, picking between the two is very easy. Here’s what you need to know.
Belt-drive turntables are for audiophiles and avid listeners. The belt-drive design basically means that the motor is connected to an elastic band, which is in turn connected to a mechanism that spins the plater. Very little motor noise gets transferred to the platter and cartridge, and that’s how you can get a high-fidelity sound and the nuances off a recording.
Direct-drive turntables have the ability to pick up speed really fast, or as soon as the motor is on. This also guarantees that the platter will spin freely with no resistance if the motor is off. This type of turntable can be great for listening to music too but it offers more value to professional DJs.
Quality of Life Features
You’ll have to also decide about what type of operation you prefer: manual, semi-automatic, automatic. Especially when you’re shopping on a tight budget, it pays to know about the subtle differences between these three types of turntables.
Manual means that you’ll be pretty hands-on with your turntable. You’ll have to lift the tonearm and place its needle on the lead groove. You’ll also have to take it off once a side is over. If you have the time and pay attention, then a manual turntable may be your best bet if you don’t want any noise
Semi-automatic turntables still require you to manually lower the tonearm. However, when a side is done, the tonearm should come back into its rest position automatically and the motor should also shut off.
A fully automatic turntable is obviously the most convenient to use. They typically feature a one-push operation with everything moving into position when needed. The only thing they won’t do is automatically flip the record to the other side.
Don’t Get Caught Up in Expectations
When you’re shopping on a tight budget, there are some certain expectations you need to manage. For example, aluminum platters will pretty much be the standard for most turntables under $400 or $500. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t get the job done beautifully.
Generally speaking, thicker, heavier aluminum platters are preferable. You might not want to expect too much from vibration mats either.
Straight vs. Other Tonearm Designs
Theoretically, the S-Type tonearm allows the needle to penetrate deeper into the groove. That’s the best way to do it on the cheap. But you will never find an S-Type tonearm on a high-end audiophile turntable. Straight tonearms are still the most accurate but they will require exotic materials and support systems to exceed the curved tonearm.
That’s not to say that a straight tonearm doesn’t have its uses. If you’re a DJ for instance, you may value a straight tonearm more since it will allow both tracking and scratching, with minimal damage to records.
Spin to Win High Fidelity Audio in Vintage Fashion
Hopefully this list wasn’t too exhaustive. However, I wanted to point out that there are many options even when you’re a bit budget constrained, so anybody will be able to enjoy vinyl records in the digital age.
Whether you’re looking to rip music off some dying records or you want to experience more audio quality than ever before, all of the turntables on this list carry an affordable price tag and unheard of performance and sound quality compared to just a few years ago. Here’s to freedom from low bitrate tracks in your near future.