Best Record Player Under $100
If you are new to the vinyl record and turntable craze, you know that to start taking part you need the proper equipment. At the same time, you know that it probably is not a good idea, as a beginner, to purchase really expensive equipment as you may not know whether you will like it. Many people who are just getting into turntables and vinyl records are generally introduced by people who have sound systems that are worth thousands of dollars. They may think that they need to drop at least this much in order to really enjoy listening to vinyl records. As will be seen below, however, there are turntables that cost less than $100 that, when connected to speakers that are just as affordable, provide a quality sound system. Here are the best turntables under $100.
What Is A Turntable?
We are starting this article with a quick rundown of what a turntable is. Most people looking for turntables that cost less than $100 tend to be new to the game and should be knowledgeable about what they are buying. A turntable, at its simplest, is a piece of machinery that broadcasts sound in a vinyl record. It does so through an engine that turns the vinyl record and a needle that picks up specially-made vibrations from the record’s surface, records them, sends them to an amplifier in the unit, which boosts the sound from vibrations to music.
Types of Turntables
There are two key facts to understanding turntables beyond general overview on how they work. The first is that there are two broad categories of sound that a turntable will create and the second is that the way the record is created and the way the turntable needle picks up the sound will necessarily place the record and turntable into each specific category. That was a mouthful, so getting into the two categories and explaining them should help.
The first category of turntable and record sound is monophonic. Monophonic records and turntables were the first to be developed from their predecessors, the phonograph and gramophone. In monophonic sound systems, the turntable’s sound amplifier will turn the vibrations picked up from the vinyl into a unified sound to be played out of the speakers. If this is confusing, imagine what is going on with sound in the first place: sound is nothing more than waves traveling from the source (the instrument) to your ears. In a generalizable manner, music is a combination of different instruments creating different waves, all timed to be played together, to reach your ears at the same time. Monophonic sound ensures that the instruments’ waves are played simultaneously.
But what about music whose tempo and rhythm are meant to be staggered, creating a deeper, more complex piece of music? This is where the second category comes in: stereophonic sound systems. Stereophonic systems were created in 1958 and primarily divided the sound into two broad categories based on which ear was supposed to pick up which sound. Over time, the addition of digital components has allowed turntables and vinyl records to continue disentangling that sound into multiple layers, providing a sound experience unparalleled in history. When vinyl enthusiasts talk of the rich and beautiful sounds of a vinyl record, they are likely using a stereophonic system that allows them to listen and enjoy that complexity.
The Best Turntables Under $100
Now that you have a rough understanding of turntables and vinyl records (though the science and knowledge about turntables and vinyl records are more complex than the preceding summary) you can now starting looking for turntables that will work for you. On the market today there are numerous turntables that cost less than $100; some of these are far enough under the century mark as well that you can afford decent speakers to play the record through and keep the amount spent under $100.
We are recognizing here that a lot of other “Best Turntable” lists on this website start with Audio Technica, but with the quality turntables Audio Technica are delivering, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The AT-LP60BK is one that you should definitely consider if you are just getting into the vinyl game. With its two speed (33 ⅓ and 45 RPM), a DC servo-controlled motor that will last you a while, and a switchable phono preamplifier to help play older records, the AT-LP60BK comes with a lot for a little.
Audio Technica’s components are generally top of the line, and they include many of these components in this piece. The switchable phono pre-amplifier alone helps you play numerous albums without having to worry about sound, it comes with dual RCA plugs to plug into speaker, and it has the capability of plugging into a studio receiver if you would one day like to include one in your sound system setup. For many buyers, though, the best part is the included dust cover, which can be placed over the record both while playing and not in order to keep dust off the record and out of the interior of the unit.
The major downside with this turntable against some of Audio Technica’s other products and products from other sellers is that it does not come with bluetooth capability. Anymore, adding a bluetooth connection has almost become standard, particularly for those units that people will be using to start off. You can spend another $60 to get the same unit with Bluetooth but for many, because regular speaker use RCA input/output, this isn’t needed.
You read that right: this turntable is less than $100 and comes with USB audio output, allowing you to listen through a wide array of speakers. This Sony model also has some decent components involved for the price, including fully automatic operation, a tonearm that balances pretty nicely, and a built-in phono preamp that does the exact same thing the Audio Technica’s unit (above) does. The USB is often used to plug the turntable into a computer, which can then either record the vinyl music into MP3 format or play it through computer speakers.
That USB connectivity makes this a winner for many who are coming to vinyl from digital music. It allows them to listen to vinyl records, record that music on their computer, and, if they’d like, compare the sound to those MP3 files to hear the richer take on the music. For those who want RCA connectivity, this unit comes equipped as well, allowing you the choice to listen to speakers that stand on their own, or through a computer.
Though this may seem kind of strange for those new to the turntable game, the stylus that is included with the unit picks up a ton of dust and debris, which can then be transferred to the record and make the record skip. Many new buyers suggest you either clean that stylus before each use or, as we will suggest here, buy a new one as soon as possible. The problem with that though is that you need to contact Sony to find out which stylus you will need; though there are a bunch of reviews online that will give you suggestions, Sony has apparently come out with multiple models of this turntable that create the possibility that you will buy the wrong stylus.
This turntable has some great components. The Pyle PLTTB1 comes with many of the same components that its higher-end products come with, including a professional belt-drive that will last a long time, a weighted tone arm, adjustable pitch control, and an anti-skating function to ensure that stylus doesn’t go flying across the record. On top of these components, it comes with a neat strobe light feature that can help you figure out what speed you need to play the record at.
As noted above, the components included in the Pyle PLTTB1 are some of the same components that you will see in products that cost $250 and up. The belt-drive and tone arm are particularly advanced for the cost of this model. The adjustable pitch control is creating really good returns for this price of this unit, bringing the pitch to within +/- 16 percent (the highest we’ve seen is within +/- 4% but usually lie on a higher priced unit between 12 and 14%). Moreover, the cartridge is upgradeable: comparing this unit to some of Pyle’s higher priced units suggest that the only component not the same between the units is the cartridge, meaning that you can replace it and have a better turntable whenever you choose to.
Unfortunately, this unit doesn’t come with a pre-amp option, meaning that monophonic records sound can be a bit off. The next unit up, which includes a USB but has problems of its own, does include the pre-amp. Many also consider the plastic-feel to the unit cheap, but many reviewers seem to favor the material used to be a good remover of excess vibration.
The Victrola Modern 3-Speed Bluetooth Turntable comes with just about everything you need to start collecting and listening to vinyl records. The turntable has a pretty good bluetooth connection that connects right to two 50 watt speakers that are included. The speakers can be switched out with better bluetooth speakers or with speakers that connect to RCA, which this model also comes with. There is also a customizability element here: the units color is available in seven different colors, all for prices below $100 and all sporting the same components.
The components that come with this turntable make it a perfect entry for anyone looking to start taking part in the vinyl craze. The speakers are good enough to fill a room and the sound that comes out of them is pretty decent considering that the components are not exactly the gold standard of the market. For the price, everything that is included in this bundle is hard to beat and will last you a while until you choose either to go back to listening to digital or decide to upgrade.
If you didn’t pick up on the hints we were putting in the pros section above, this turntable and its components are good for beginners, meaning that you won’t have professional quality music flowing through them. The music quality will be good for what you are buying and will provide you a perfect gateway to listening to vinyl, but you aren’t buying something that will last a lifetime. Moreover, because the unit is made of a ceramic material, it tends to wobble, which can cause major problems with the sound. Simply placing the unit on a piece of softer material, like a piece of cut-out carpet for example, can help.
Another unit that comes with a lot for a little. The Jensen JTA475B comes with a turntable, CD player, AM/FM stereo, and two connected speakers. An aux input is included to listen to your smartphone or tablet through the unit and an included remote allows you to change what you are listening to from a distance. The speakers allow for stereophonic and monophonic sound with included subwoofers to add additional depth to the music as well.
For those looking to just take simple steps in the vinyl direction, this unit will be a winner. Because it comes with all of those different ways to play music, many customers are choosing to buy this all-in-one unit to listen to a vinyl every so often while having a sound system that can play digital, CD, or cassette. The speakers that are included are good enough for the price and will play your music quite nicely.
Oddly enough, in order to change the volume you have to push a + or – button and the unit doesn’t tell you what level of volume you are on. The sound quality is also not top-of-the-line and those customers that are reporting on it are saying that it “works” for them, which may be a euphemism for “I just need it loud enough for me to sit right next to it and hear it.” So if that won’t work for you, neither will this unit.
As you can see, there are plenty of great options for those looking to start off their vinyl collection while not breaking the bank. These five are the best turntables under $100, but there are other turntables that cost less than $100 that will work great as well. Since you know what you should be looking for, dive into some of those products, read the reviews, and purchase the one you think will work for you. Over time, you can upgrade that system to produce better sounds.