5 budget record players I'd buy right now

hero image showing best turntables showing Audio Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB
(Image credit: Audio Technica)

While our best record players buying guide picks the best turntables for every pocket from entry-level to luxury, these are the very best models under $500. 

Playing records is where I got hooked on listening to music and audio tech started. I've been playing vinyl for more than 30 years, and have tested dozens of turntables from all kinds of brands at every price point. 

For this roundup, though, many of my choices are fuss-free Bluetooth designs that require nothing more than pairing with one of the best Bluetooth speakers or best wireless headphones, but I've also included a more traditional design that requires additional components and a little more effort. 

Whether you're considering returning to vinyl after a long hiatus or you're looking to experience that special sound for the first time, these turntables are all you need to get started.

Best value Bluetooth turntable

Best budget turntables: Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT

(Image credit: Audio Technica)

1. Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT

This fully-automatic turntable with built-in Bluetooth by Audio-Technica is one of the most versatile and affordable models I know. The AT-LP60XBT is an updated model of the company's popular AT-LP60 turntable, and the 'X' version introduces several design improvements to enhance performance. There's also an even more affordable version without Bluetooth

Both models have electronic 33.3 and 45RPM speed change and are fully-automatic, meaning the player will lower the stylus onto the record at the beginning of playback at the touch of a button, then lift it up and return it to the starting position once it has reached the end of the record groove.    

Available in black, white, and red color finishes and supplied with a dust cover, the AT-LP60XBT has all the right attributes to be a great entry-level option from a respected audio brand. We've not tested this model, but it gets 4.6 out of 5 stars from almost 7,328 reviews on Amazon, and is applauded for its ease of use and sound quality.

Best entry-level audiophile turntable

Best budget turntables: Pro-Ject T1 Phono BT

(Image credit: Pro-Ject)

2. Pro-Ject T1 Phono BT

A manual turntable with Bluetooth connectivity, the Pro-Ject T1 Phono BT sits at the upper end of the budget turntable sector, but it has a lot going for it. Pro-Ject makes more turntables than any other brand I know, and although we've not reviewed this particular model at Tom's Guide, I've seen several of its entry-level models over the years and can vouch for their quality. Indeed, the Pro-Ject T1 Phono BT gets 4.3 out of 5 stars from more than 421 reviews on Amazon.  

Pro-Ject turntables typically have an easy listening style that works for all kinds of music, and this entry-level model clearly sets out to get all the fundamentals right for anyone seeking an affordable and seamless wireless transition into the joys of vinyl.

The BT version has manual speed change (SB version with electronic speed change is pictured) and comes packaged with a removable perspex lid to keep the plinth and glass platter dust free between plays. It's available in gloss black, satin white, and satin walnut foil and apart from the drive belt assembly that's required after unboxing, is pretty much a plug-and-play model.

Best budget turntable that's fully automatic

Best budget turntables: Sony PS-LX310BT

(Image credit: Sony)

3. Sony PS-LX310BT

The Sony PS-LX310BT is an ultra-sleek, fully-automatic turntable package that comes with Bluetooth connectivity for wireless streaming to compatible speakers or headphones. 

This slick plug-and-play model will have you spinning vinyl in next to no time, and the auto-return at the end of playback means you won't have to worry about lifting the stylus from the groove when it runs out at the end of a record. And if that wasn't enough, this deck can also digitize your vinyl and enable users to rip records to MP3 files via a USB port at the back. 

Available in black only, this is one of the most versatile entry-level decks I've seen. Although we've yet to review this model ourselves, Amazon reviews suggest that some buyers found the Sony's build quality to be a bit plasticky. But one thing many buyers agree on is the great sound quality this deck delivers with all kinds of music; it scores 4.5 out of 5 stars from more than 3,222 customer ratings.

Best turntable for digitizing vinyl

Best budget turntables: Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB

(Image credit: Audio Technica)

4. Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Technics and its iconic SL-1200 turntable may be feeling mighty flattered by the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XBT-USB. Still, there’s more to this record player than simply trying to look like a legend.

The direct-drive motor arrangement, stroboscope and pitch control make the AT-LP120XBT-USB a good starting point for any budding DJ. But thanks to its integrated switchable phono stage (making it easy to slot into systems of any kind), Bluetooth wireless streaming, and USB output (for making digital copies of vinyl to a computer), it’s a Swiss Army knife of a record player.

We've heard this deck in action many times and happily, the sound it makes is well up to standard. It’s not the most forceful or assertive turntable you’ll ever hear, but it extracts plenty of detail, has an easy-going way with rhythms and puts some nice emphasis on the midrange (vocalists in particular). It scores 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon, and we think it's one of the best budget picks if you want a turntable that does a little bit of everything.

Best-sounding turntable for beginners

Best turntables: Pro-Ject Primary E

(Image credit: Pro-Ject)

5. Pro-Ject Primary E

Pro-Ject has long been a true entry-level hero where the best turntables are concerned, and with the Primary E it’s delivered a record player that absolutely nails the fundamentals.

It doesn't include Bluetooth connectivity, but instead uses wired interconnects to hook up to a separate amplifier. The finish looks a bit basic, but is available in black, white and red color options. Speed change between 33.3 and 45RPM is done by manually shifting the belt on the motor pulley, but apart from that this is as plug-and-play as a turntable gets.

I've experienced this model several times, and all of the vinyl virtues — rhythmic expression, low-frequency weight and energy, overall unity of presentation — are present and correct. As a gateway drug, the Primary E proves very moreish indeed. If you’re looking for an affordable way into the joys of vinyl, look no further.

Suitcase turntables

Although very attractively priced, I wouldn't recommend any of the suitcase turntables I've heard. Sound quality just isn't good enough to make the saving over the cheapest models in this list worthwhile. However, if your budget is super tight then this model appears to perform better than most, according to Amazon buyers. 

The Crosley Voyager portable suitcase record player comes with Bluetooth connectivity (in/out) and built-in speakers. It's priced at $99 but can currently be found discounted to $59 for two color options. It plays records at 33.3, 45 and 78RPM and has earned a rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars from more than 2,082 customer reviews.

How to choose one of the best budget turntables

Once you've considered whether you want a turntable with Bluetooth, USB ripping, and/or a phono stage built in, the next thing to consider is whether you prefer a model with manual or electronic speed change. 

Models with manual speed change require you to shift the belt to the corresponding position on the motor pulley so that the disc platter spins at the correct speed for the record you wish to play. If you're only intending to play records at 33.3RPM, changing the belt position on the pulley is unlikely to be an issue. 

Electronic speed selection is far more convenient for those with a large record collection of LPs and 45s, and is usually selected via a push button or selector found on the turntable plinth.

An automatic turntable may also be worth considering. A fully automatic design will usually lower the stylus into the groove at the start of the record and then return the tonearm to its resting position once it reaches the end of the record.

A semi-automatic turntable should at least lift the stylus from the groove at the end of the record, but make sure you check before you buy.

Whichever turntable model you choose, make sure you take care of your vinyl records so that they deliver pristine sound for years to come. 

Frequently asked questions

Vintage record player with amp, speakers and headphones

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

To listen to your vinyl records you might need more than just a turntable. That's because record players only output a very weak signal which needs to be increased by what's known as a preamp, or phono stage; without that, the sound produced would be very quiet. Some models have this built in, but others don't. 

Which setup you go for will therefore depend on what your existing setup is, how you want to listen and how much you want to spend. Consider the three questions below to help you decide which model is right for you.

1. Do I need a turntable that can stream via Bluetooth?
The simplest option for fuss-free vinyl playback is a packaged turntable that offers a phono stage amplifier and wireless streaming built in. A Bluetooth turntable connects wirelessly to a Bluetooth speaker or a pair of headphones, for example. Simply pair the turntable to your device and you're ready to play.

2. Do I need a turntable with built-in phono amp?
If you already own an integrated amplifier connected to a pair of passive speakers as part of your music setup, then you may be able to broaden your turntable choices to include models that have a built-in phono stage. These models ditch Bluetooth wireless connectivity and send audio signals via a pair of wired interconnects that plug into one of the stereo line-level inputs at the back of an amplifier, or one of our best AV Receivers.

3. Should I choose a turntable without any amplification built-in?
Turntables without a phono stage or Bluetooth wireless connectivity built in are seen as more upmarket designs. Aimed at audiophiles looking to move their vinyl experience further up the ladder, these turntables form part of a vinyl playback system made up of dedicated components that perform just one role each. These designs need to be partnered with an amplifier capable of handling the minuscule audio signals output by these types of turntables. 

Many of the latest integrated amplifiers and AV receivers included dedicated phono inputs (usually marked Phono or MM on the front panel selector) to handle the low-level audio signals from these turntables. Additionally, there are a number of add-on phono stages also available should you wish to add one separately.

For more turntable options, don't forget to check out our guide to the best record players available to buy right now. 

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Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.