In recent times, vinyl is making a comeback. That’s great news for avid vinyl lovers and those who want to experience the record as it was originally recorded.
You may be thinking “How do I know which turntable to buy or is worth it?” Today, we put all your worries aside and created a guide to help you choose the right one and reviewed the best turntables under $300.
There are many choices out there for turntables that can overwhelm even the biggest audiophile. The good news is we covered most of the questions you may ask and what to consider before you make the leap of buying the best turntables.
- Which Parts of Best Turntable Under $300 Can I Upgrade?
- The Best Turntables Under $300 Reviewed
- What Are the Main Components of a Turntable Under $300?
- How to Choose the Best Turntable Under $300
- Final Verdict
Which Parts of Best Turntable Under $300 Can I Upgrade?
Replacing the mat can improve sound quality. The right one can absorb vibrations and offer better protection for your vinyl.
The Cartridge is the little case at the end of the tonearm that holds the stylus. Changing the cartridge can improve tracking, add more characteristics to the sound, improve the quality, and increase the signal level.
The spinning parts of the Turntable. Different types of platters will change the sound. For example, acrylic platters have a change in transparency. Glass platters add clarity and lessen wear and tear. Heavy platters reduce vibrations.
4. Phono Preamp
The pre-amp is responsible for the high and low frequencies and needs to be equalized or boosted to get the signal back to the master recording. Having a subpar pre-amp can really make or break your sound quality.
The Best Turntables Under $300 Reviewed
Below is my list of top picks, along with a quick review of each turntable so you know its pros and cons.
1. Fluance RT81
- Plays 33 1/3 and 45 RPM
- Switchable pre-amp
- Solid wood base
The Fluance RT81 is made of solid wood with an aluminum die-cast platter and rubber mat to stop vibrations. It has a diamond elliptical-tipped stylus for better precision and accuracy for high-definition audio.
The S-Type tonearm combined with the anti-skating produces more detailed sound while protecting your records. The built-in pre-amp allows for warm and true sound.
The Fluance RT81 is hands down a beautiful turntable. In addition to its stunning looks, it has really good sound quality overall. The parts and entire base are durable and made to produce quality sound.
The only major complaint is the speed. It needs to be adjusted quite frequently which can get tiresome after a few times. It’s a good choice for those looking for a conversational piece and a turntable that has a great sound.
- Good sounding pre-amp
- Beautiful design
- Durable tonearm and cartridge
- Speed needs to be adjusted frequently
2. Sony PSHX500
- Insulated structure
- Built-in Phono EQ
- Plays 33 1/3 and 45 RPM
This Sony Hi-Res turntable uses high-quality audio technology to produce the best possible analog playback. You’ll hear the smooth and warm sounds of your records.
It uses a rubber mat for a clean sound, an aluminum die-cast platter, and an acoustic-grade MDF cabinet for accurate soundstage reproduction. The new tonearm design allows for better traceability.
The Sony PSHX500 might be the best choice for you if you’re looking to not only listen to your vinyl but stream music other Bluetooth and get to rip your old favorites. It comes with an insulated structure to increase the sound while reducing vibrations you’d normally have with a belt drive.
The only downsides are the ripping software is it’s only compatible with Windows and the pre-amp. The sound quality for the price is excellent. However, it does lack bass due to the pre-amp, so you might want to upgrade.
- Excellent sound quality
- Rips vinyl easily
- Sleek design
- Software isn’t compatible with Mac
- The built-in pre-amp lacks bass
- Plays 33 1/3 and 45 RPM
- Straight tonearm
- Switchable pre-amp modes
Audio-Technica has a lot of features to give it the best sound possible. It includes a magnet moving phono cartridge to give you a high-fidelity sound.
Resonance is reduced with the rubber mat and die-cast aluminum platter. It’s made with anti-vibration in mind with its anti-dumping materials. The magnet moving cartridge and headshell are universal, so you can upgrade easily for even better sound.
The Audio-Technica is the best turntable under 300 if you’re looking for an entry-level turntable. It comes with universal parts allowing you to easily upgrade if you want a better sound. It comes fully automated and easy setup.
The construction of the Audio-Technica is designed with anti-resonance and anti-vibration in mind giving you great sound quality. The only flaw is that the speed isn’t consistent.
- Easy setup
- Great sound quality
- Fully automatic
- Speed isn’t consistent
4. U-Turn Audio
- Plays 33 1/3 and 45 RPM
- Durable base and parts
- Acrylic platter
The U-Turn Audio turntable comes with an acrylic platter that improves acoustics and speed consistency. You’ll even get punchier bass.
The cartridge is made with a balanced and neutral sound profile for those who listen to different genres.
The tonearm is designed to allow the stylus to freely move to eliminate distortion and provide more details. It has an anti-skate and an adjustable counterweight.
This turntable is a good option for those who are looking for a durable yet basic turntable. It has consistent speeds and delivers good sound quality.
However, it doesn’t come with a pre-amp, so you may need to buy one if you feel the sound doesn’t match your standards but we found it to be great without it.
The outside belt design does reduce the noise of the motor but it’s easy to pull the belt off when switching records which can be a major pain if you switch a lot.
The major selling point is the acrylic platter. It’s literally made to improve the sound quality with dynamic range and transparency.
- Outstanding sound quality
- Consistent speed
- Barely any motor noise
- Doesn’t come with a built-in pre-amp
- Easy to pull the outside belt off the platter
- Plays 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM
- Direct drive
- Comes with vinyl to digital ripping software
- S-Shaped tonearm
The Audio-Technica allows you to convert your vinyl to digital with USB and computer software. It’s made with a die-cast aluminum platter and a slip mat for anti-resonance. The diamond-shaped stylus and magnet phono cartridge allow for a more precise and detailed sound.
The Audio-Technica might be the better option for you if you’re looking for a direct drive turntable instead of a belt drive. You can play 78 RPM vinyl records on it which makes it stand out from the other turntables.
Due to the build, it doesn’t suffer from any vibration and the sound is generally clear. The major problem seems to be with the pre-amp. A replacement would make this turntable 100 times better.
- Great sound clarity
- Solid base/No vibration
- Ripping software is easy to use
- The pre-amp doesn’t deliver the best sound
What Are the Main Components of a Turntable Under $300?
There are quite a few parts of your turntable that make it function properly. The following is a list of the main components you’ll want to learn about.
There are two types of arms, S-shaped and square-shaped. It’s how the stylus meets with the vinyl. It makes sure that the speed stays consistent as well.
On the pivot of the tonearm, you find two important adjustments called Counterweight and Anti-Skate. With this adjustment, you can set the tracking force of the stylus as a part of a mandatory preliminary setting for any of the selections of the turntable in this article list.
This is where the vinyl is placed, and it rotates to produce sound. The heavier the platter, the better sound it produces as it reduces the vibrations coming from the motor of the Turntable itself.
Vibrations for such a delicate machine are a nightmare. Heavy parts for turntables are a synthon of quality as they absorb better such vibrations. The mats on top of the platter also help to reduce vibrations
The cartridge sets the pressure for the stylus on the vinyl. Depending on the different models of Turntable you may decide to upgrade your Cartridge to improve the quality sound of your new Turntable.
In case the stylus wears off and it is not separated from the cartridge, The latter is the one part you will have to change.
The grip for the record while it rotates. It can also reduce vibration from the motor. It can be one of the simple and maybe the most affordable upgrades to do in a turntable.
This is an adjustment used to keep the cartridge from skating across the record and lessen distortion. It’s on the tonearm and together with the Counterweight, you can use this adjustment to set the tracking force of the stylus.
It’s an adjustment on the pivot of the tonearm. You can find it on the pivot of the tonearm and it is used to balance the tonearm and set the tracking force of the stylus. If you need some help doing this preliminary setting this video may help you.
Plinth or Base
It’s the body of the turntable and helps to minimize vibrations coming from the motor. If you have a heavier plinth, the better reduction of the vibrations translates into better performance for the turntable.
How to Choose the Best Turntable Under $300
There are quite a few things you’ll want to consider before making your turntable purchase. Some turntables are better equipped for DJs. Some come with extra bells and whistles that may not be needed. These are the two different types of turntables, belt-drive, and direct drive.
Belt-Drive or Direct Drive Turntable
Belt drives use a belt that’s mounted to the motor to spin the platter. This usually will produce a cleaner sound because it reduces vibrations caused by the motor.
On the other hand, this is not the recommended option if you were looking for the best DJ turntable. In this case, you may want to go for a direct drive turntable.
Direct drives work using an electric motor to spin the platter. This type will give you a more consistent speed, higher startup speeds, and higher torque.
The disadvantage is it causes vibrations which can affect the sound quality. This is the type of Turntable a DJ is looking for. The speed accuracy and startup speed is essential for such use.
The next thing to consider is the type of speed it can handle. Older vinyl records will need a turntable that can handle 78 RPM. Newer records produce 33 1/3 RPM or 45 RPM. If you plan to play older records, then it’s important you pick one that has the proper speed.
Whether or not it has Bluetooth and USB is more of a personal preference. If your only intent is to just play vinyl and nothing else, then this won’t matter to you. However, if you want to use it to stream music too, then Bluetooth and USB are necessary.
The type of stylus/needle it has is another thing to consider. Choosing a stylus can have an effect on your sound. It also contributes to the wear and tear of the vinyl record.
Another thing to consider is if the turntable comes with a pre-amplifier. Pre-amplifiers enhance the signals from the turntable. This produces higher-quality sound and makes the turntable more portable.
The winner for the best turntable under $300 dollars goes to the Fluance RT81. Not only does it look beautiful, but it also plays great. While others may come with ripping software or a direct drive, this one has the most consistent sound quality compared to the rest.
When it comes to the features, the main reason we chose this as the winner comes down to the way it’s made. The base is solid wood, and the parts are durable and of better quality than the competition. The others we reviewed are great entry-level turntables but need various upgrades. The Fluance RT81 simply doesn’t.