Best Turntables Under $200
If you work in the music industry as a DJ or are a music connoisseur who loves collecting and listening to records, you know that a proper turntable can mean the difference between poor and great sound quality. While many assume that you have to invest thousands of dollars in order to get the right equipment, there are many turntables out there that cost less than $200 that will provide a great sound experience. The trick is finding one that costs less than $200 but does not trade off quality parts for value.
What Is A Turntable?
A turntable is the modern equivalent of the phonograph. At its simplest, it uses a steel box with an engine inside. Attached to that steel box is a rubber disk on a track that is spun by that engine once the turntable is plugged in. A vinyl record is placed on top of the rubber disk, which causes it to spin. An attached needle, called the stylus, that is connected to an arm coming out of the top of the box is placed down on the vinyl. As the needle passes between the grooves of a record, it creates vibrations, which travel up the arm to an amplifier. The amplifier magnifies the vibrations into audible sound waves, which allows us to hear the amplified vibrations as music.
Types of Turntables
The turntable has a very interesting history. Starting with the phonograph and the gramophone, it slowly evolved into utilizing electrical signals to send the amplified vibrations to speakers. By the mid-twentieth century, almost every household had a vinyl record turntable. Up to 1958, the vibrations and amplified signals, by virtue of the way the vinyl records were made, were communicated monophonically, meaning the sound signals were combined to play out of one speaker. These monophonic record players have begun to make a comeback in the newer turntables that include the turntable, a CD and cassette player, and radio into one unit with speakers.
By 1958, stereophonic turntables were introduced. These used advances in recording and wiring systems to allow sound to travel to multiple speakers, recording the different sets of sounds and organizing them to provide a better sound experience. Many vinyl players from the 1960s and 1970s, the “vintage” turntables you may find in record stores and online, utilize stereophonic systems. More recently, the advent of USB turntables allows the listener to use a computer to separate the vibrations into a stereophonic or monophonic systems.
The Best Turntables For Under $200
Now that you understand the two different types of vinyl record players–monophonic and stereophonic–which are based largely on the way the vinyl record is made, you can now start looking for a turntable that will work for you. The following utilize a wide-range of electronics in order to amplify the vibrations into music and choosing between the types depends on how you would like your sounds system to be set up.
It should be noted from the outset that Audio Technica makes superb turntables no matter your need. The AT-LP60BK-BT’s sister product, the AT-LP60NV-BT, received great reviews as well, with the only downside being a frequently faulty bluetooth connector. You read that right: this turntable doesn’t require the mess of wires that used to be standard on and its upgraded bluetooth system allows for a better connection with wireless speakers. On top of the improved wireless capabilities, it comes with pretty good internal components that provide a crisp sound almost unequaled in this price range (but not as good as the more expensive turntables). Moreover, it comes with a USB connection that allows you to listen through a computer’s speakers or record the vinyl onto your computer.
One of the most appreciated things about this turntable is that it comes with a dust cover. While this may not seem like a big deal, the cover keeps dust from accumulating into the internal mechanics of the turntable, which lets it last longer. Moreover, this turntable comes with numerous components that allow it to play all types of records, including speed control and stylus pressure.
While there are some components that are extremely useful, there are others that are relatively useless. One component that some rave about but do not seem to be useful are is the S-shaped tonearm, which doesn’t appear to provide any improvement on sound. Another is the manual pitch adjustment control, but records are usually made to ensure that, when played, the pitch is controlled exactly as it was engineered. Yet the biggest downside is how heavy it is: while it is a relatively simple design, it weighs over 8 pounds because of a steel plate that was included in order to dampen the sound. Again, because the sound is mostly digitally-enhanced vibrations, there isn’t much use for a sound dampening plate.
The Stanton T62 Straight Arm Direct Drive is a favorite amongst DJs. It is a simple device with a lot less components than the Audio Technica AT-LP60BK-BT in exchange for greater portability. Though it lacks a USB port, it has RCA outputs, which are perfect to connect to DJ equipment like controllers and mixers (which can then connect to a computer). Because of the particular uses for this turntable, it is most useful to DJs and those who need to take it places.
Though it does cut down on some of the components that other digital turntables come with for the sake of portability. To put it as simply as possible: this turntable is fantastic for those who have the equipment that utilizes RCA outputs well. This includes DJ mixing equipment and speaker that will stay close to the turntable. The components that are includes are very useful for those with the proper equipment.
The lack of components in comparison to other turntables on the market now leave a lot to be desired. Unless you are have a host of other pieces of equipment, all of which can cost more than $200, this turntable may not be right for you. However, even this lack of components, the things it does have make it a great turntable.
It is little wonder that this turntable has been christened with the much sought-after “Amazon’s Choice” designation: Pioneer’s experience in providing some of the market’s best audio instruments has been included in this turntable with a value that costs far less than it should. Note here as well the “Stereo” in the title: Pioneer’s PL-990 provides an unparalleled stereo sound experience. The PL-990 operates primarily through a auxiliary line input to work on most speaker systems, forgoes the weighty steel plates inside the unit to deal with excess vibration by including four feet at each corner that absorb the vibration, and comes with a computer system that easily allows you to play whatever vinyl record you may have.
The Pioneer PL-990’s components are some of the best on the market. This provides you with unparalleled sound quality and ease-of-use. Indeed, its internals and exterior components are the same that you would see in more expensive turntables. Included in this is a dust cover which, to protect internal components, is a must.
There is no USB port. Amongst even those turntables below $200 that are of lesser quality than the PL-990, a USB port has almost become standard. Moreover, the auxiliary port often has problems, outputting volume at far lower levels than it should. This doesn’t appear to be a problem for all users, but has occurred often enough to show up on forums for the product around the internet.
- Innovative Technology Victrola Nostalgic Aviator Wood 8-in-1 Bluetooth Turntable Entertainment Center
I alluded to these types of vinyl turntables that come in a system together with speakers, a radio, a CD player, and cassette player. What I didn’t mention before is that if you are looking for a system that plays vinyl, don’t mind it being monophonic (and thus trading off some better sound quality), and reminds you of days long past, Innovative Technology’s Victrola Nostalgic Aviator is perfect for you. Not to mention that the CD player also converts into a disk burner (allowing you to record the vinyl onto CD), it has the classic knobs and radio dial of the radios from yesteryear, and includes a cassette player on the side for any cassettes you have laying around.
If you aren’t looking for a turntable that gives you top-notch sound quality and are okay with the monophonic sound, then this system is perfect. Putting basically every type of sound system in one allows you to enjoy all of your music in one place. The manual dials and vintage radio dial, set into an overall system design that evokes the Roaring Twenties is perfect for those looking for a vintage design. Finally, this system is available all over the place, including Amazon (see the link) and department stores like Best Buy and Sears.
The sound quality of this system is pretty sub-par. Mono systems tend to be less enjoyable to listen to than stereophonic systems. And don’t think that you can simply connect it to external speakers in place of the included speakers: the aux inputs on the back are inputs, not outputs. You can plug your phone in and listen through the system, but you can’t use the vinyl player apart from the system itself.
If you are looking for a turntable that looks like it came straight out of the 1970s but has the technology of today included, the ION Audio Max LP 3-Speed is perfect for you. At first glance, the tiny little speakers on the front corners look almost pitiful, but the ION comes with a USB cord and port amongst other ports as well to listen through external speakers. Many owners of this product simply use computer speakers for it which, with the advent of computer gaming speakers works really well.
The varied ports this turntable comes with make it work with any type of speaker system you have. The design is very retro, which is a plus for some people. Finally, the turntable comes with a dust cover, which can be closed while the record is playing but, more importantly, keeps dust from getting into the inner components.
The most common complaint of the ION Audio Max is that the belt is often out of whack when it comes out of the box. This is most often due to the product being shaken when shipped, which is usual for any type of product. Moreover, the manual doesn’t provide details on how to fix the misaligned belt so unless you have some mechanical experience, you may have to return it for another one and hope the new one’s belt is on track. Another major problem that is being seen amongst users is that the pressure on the stylus can scratch a record. A scratched record is worse than a scratched CD because you can’t clean off those scratches. The record is then usually destroyed. However, this doesn’t appear to be happening in a lot of cases so may just be a fluke with a few units.
As can be seen, there are many high-quality turntables on the market for less than $200. This list barely scratches the surface, as companies like Audio Technica, Pioneer, and Stanton make models that are comparable to the ones included in this list. Choosing which is best for you ultimately depends on how you see your sound system being set up, whether you are planning to use computer speakers or other external speakers, or whether you want a monophonic or stereophonic system. A final note: these turntables will work great as a centerpiece of a sound system that you steadily upgrade. Buying these with average speakers, then upgrading those speakers over time will eventually result in a quality sound system that plays vinyl beautifully.