There are so many record players to choose from when getting into vinyl that it can feel overwhelming and difficult to know where to start. The last thing you want to do is get stuck with a dirt-cheap deck that will damage your records. This article aims to give you a bit more info on why some of the cheaper turntables are not fit for your music, what to look out for when upgrading or purchasing beginner Turntables, and also some great options to choose from.
How Much Should I Pay For My Turntable?
Turntables can start from as cheap as £40, and some of these would include the speakers and everything you need to start listening, all in one handy unit. An example of these are the Crosley record players. If you’re looking to get into records seriously, however, this would not be the way to go; cheaper units could be damaging your records (this will be discussed later on). On the other hand, you don’t want to spend a mega amount to begin with. We, therefore, suggest spending between £150 – £300 on beginner turntables. With this budget, you will get a great sound and upgrade capabilities without breaking the bank.
Should I Buy A New or Used Record Player?
The big question. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. This article is dedicated to buying new, but if you want to buy used, check out our article on buying a secondhand record player set up to help you make an informed decision. After reading both articles, you should have enough information to decide what you would like to go for. When deciding, also remember that your setup is likely to need a decent pair of speakers and an amplifier (at least) to listen to your records. If you haven’t got these already, remember to factor this into your budget. If you want to learn more about the entire setup, the article on buying secondhand also includes this.
Why Between £150 – £300?
So, why have we set this budget for beginner turntables? If we’re being honest with you, you’re not going to get anything decent for under £100. The sound won’t be the best and your records could end up being damaged. Here are a few reasons why:
Obviously, like any cheaper products, you’ll get cheaper components. Record players are all about precision and the right materials to be able to read the record’s grooves accurately. Cheaper materials and lower production values mean you’re going to get an inferior sound. The beginner turntables listed at the end of this article may not have the best of the best, but for the price, they can’t be beaten.
Tracking Weight and Tone Arm
This one is a biggie and the main factor that would cause damage to your records. Tonearm design and how heavy the needle sits on the grooves of your record to read the music determines how clear the sound is and how much damage the records take with each play. Most cheap record players don’t have a counterweight regulating the pressure of the needle meaning it could really dig into the record grooves and create added wear and tear. To read more about this and go into a bit more depth, check out our article on tracking force.
Speed, as you can guess, is very important when listening to records. Albums should play on your record player at 33 ⅓ RPM (Revolutions per minute). Cheaper record players find it more difficult to regulate this speed consistently and therefore your music may be faster or slower than it should be.
Cheap Stylus with large tip
The stylus is what reads the bumps and grooves on your vinyl and reproduces the sound through your record player setup. On cheaper record players, the stylus’ can be of inferior quality with larger, less defined tips which means less detail in the music and an inferior sound. These larger tips can also drag and damage your records. Read more about cartridges and stylus’ with our handy guide.
No upgrade capability
Many cheaper turntables don’t give options to upgrade, and even if they did, it wouldn’t be worth it because of the inferior components. Usually, the components you may look to upgrade on turntables are tonearms and cartridges/stylus.
Close proximity speakers
If you have one of those all-in-one systems with speakers attached, they might look cool and save space, but they won’t create a great sound. The speakers aren’t far enough away from your record player to create a decent stereo sound and the vibrations from the speakers will cause havoc when the stylus is reading the grooves, once again making for an inferior quality of sound.
So now I know the basics. Where do I go from here?
Now that you know why you need to spend a little for a decent beginner turntable, we can really get to the fun part: choosing which turntable you want to buy. Think about where you will buy your new record player as well. Buying from a shop will mean you have someone to talk to face to face about what you’re looking for. Buying online might get you a cheaper price, but your more left to your own devices or online reviews.
What to look for when buying a Record Player
Let’s give you a few more tips and then we’ll get down to the nitty gritty with a few recommendations for you.
These are the three factors that make a good turntable: A heavy, solid platter, a well-designed tonearm and a decent cartridge. A heavy platter (the base your record will sit on) means that it will be secure and regulate the speed of the spinning record A LOT better. A well-designed tonearm will minimise any damage to your records and a good cartridge will create a more pleasing and structured sound, creating less wear and tear on your record’s grooves.
9 Beginner Turntables
With all the above in mind and our knowledge of record players, we’ve picked 9 turntables for a beginners budget. The main price ranges are between £150 – £300, with each brand having a cheaper version towards the lower end of that price range and another at the more expensive end. This gives you a nice choice depending on your budget. We’ve also included a £120 option if you just can’t afford much more than £100 but really want a half-decent record player. Also, REMEMBER that the record player will only be part of your record player setup. You will also need to keep in mind a price for speakers and an amplifier to complete the setup.
Project Primary E – £160
A great turntable for the price that can compete with many that cost a lot more. With a plain and elegant design, it doesn’t need any thrills or gimmicks to stand out; the money has been put into the basics. Able to play 33 1/3 RPM or 45 RPM by manually adjusting the belt. The tonearm is easy to set up and includes an anti-skate weight. It comes with an Ortofon MM cartridge which completes this easy to set up budget record player.
Project Debut 3 S – £300
If you want a Project but can afford a bit more, the Debut 3 S is definitely the way to go. This is a truly lovely looking player with the new version containing the new S- shaped Tone arm. The cartridge is the New Ortofon Pick-IT 25; A cartridge which is a vast upgrade from the one on the Primary E with the deck also available in black and white. You’ll also get impressive bass with this system and just an overall better quality of sound.
Rega Planar 1 – £250
Rega is a stalwart amongst record enthusiasts and you could do a lot worse than starting with the RP1 for your beginner turntable. Like the Primary E, it has a simple and elegant design and is also rugged and durable with a great platter. It also includes the wonderful RB110 tonearm with a tracking weight whose ideal position is already marked for you – perfect for beginners. Coming out of the box with a Rega Carbon Cartridge which helps create a roomy, warm sound that wouldn’t feel out of place on a far more expensive system
Rega Planar 2 – £400
OK, this is probably slightly more than a beginner turntables budget, but we just thought people deserved another Rega option. If you can afford almost double the price of the RP1, the upgrade to the RP2 might be the way to go. Compared to the RP1, the sound can pack a lot more detail. The Planer 2 is fitted with the fantastic RB220 tonearm coupled with the Carbon cartridge making for a more dynamic sound and virtually ‘plug n play’. As it’s a bit more expensive, you might need a little more knowledge to get it exactly how you want it and it doesn’t come with a built-in phono stage. This could be taking your vinyl obsession to the next level.
Sony PS-LX310BT £199
If you’re looking for beginner turntables with a couple of extra features like bluetooth and automatic switching between 45s and 33s, this Sony might be up your street. This option is for those of you that want to almost play music straight out the box with no need to align the cartridge or set tracking force. You can also pair the system with bluetooth devices. Some purists feel all these bells and whistles can take away from the sound with more money spent on the extra components, so it all depends what you’re looking for.
Sony PS-HX500 – £300
If you can afford another £100, this offering from Sony may be the way to go. This turntable is able to rip music files to hi-res WAV or DSD and also features a more lively and transparent sound. It comes with Sony’s inhouse MM cartridge and an all-in-one tonearm that looks the business. The overall design might seem a bit boring, but if you’re looking for a great sound with a few additional features, this is a great deal.
Audio Technica AT-LP3 – £160
This one really looks cool. It has that elegance and charisma with a nice curved underbelly that makes it stand out. Including a built-in preamp and automatic tonearm, it’s a perfect beginners turntable. Again, these added extras might take away a little from the quality of other components, but it’s nothing noticeable at this level. It features easy to set tracking weights for the tonearm and a very cool red AT cartridge that gives it that extra sizzle.
Audio- Technica LP120-USB – £250
If you’re not just into the sound but a bit of an aspiring DJ as well, this is the beginner turntable for you. Taking design tips from the phenomenal Technics SL1200, it’s a completely different look to everything else on this list, but still holds up its own with a decent sound. with an aluminium platter, Audio-Technica AT-P2 cartridge and a decent tone-arm, this baby can play at 33 1/3, 45 and 78rpm. There’s a built-in preamp and the USB feature means you can connect this to your PC so records can be copied straight to the hard drive. Obviously, for a purist of music, other options will be better.
Lenco L-85 – £120
If you really can’t afford much else, this is the lowest price we would recommend going without delving into sub-par systems. It’s a semi-automatic, belt-driven turntable with a built-in phono stage and the ability to record via USB, so you can record music to MP3’s. At this price, it’s an absolute steal, but to some, it might look a little cheap. At the end of the day, it has everything you need to get your vinyl obsession up and running, but you’re likely to upgrade to different beginner turntables as your love of vinyl grows and (hopefully) so do your funds.
There we have it! What one would you choose? If you have any questions or comments about our beginner turntable choices, feel free to add them below.