[Poll] Entry-level Turntables: Is There Really Such a Thing as a Good sub-$500 TT?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Cyclone Ranger, May 28, 2017.

  1. Cyclone Ranger

    Cyclone Ranger New old stock Thread Starter

    Best Coast USA
    Just curious as to what the general consensus on this was, assuming there even is one.

    What with the Vinyl Revivalâ„¢ in full swing, we get a lot of threads asking about entry-level TTs, as new ppl look to take the plunge.

    So, kinda a key question nowadays.
    Last edited: May 28, 2017
  2. missan

    missan Forum Resident

    What is a good TT?
    acdc7369 and cdash99 like this.
  3. Slick Willie

    Slick Willie Decisively Indecisive

    sweet VA.
    Considering new stock only, as I feel it is the intent of this thread(?), I voted "yes".
    And by good, I mean a table that plays quiet/steady and accepts a variety of sub $200 1/2 inch mount carts.
    andybeau likes this.
  4. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    IMHO, good is a subjective qualification which will never get a definitive answer.

    What I consider as good enough for an entry level TT will be unacceptable to other people and each will have its own and most likely different reason, why he came to this conclusion.
    troggy and PhilBiker like this.
  5. HenryH

    HenryH Forum Resident

    Yup, what one expects from a TT is part of the equation, but that will also include considering the rest of the system the turntable is going to be a part of. So, if someone just wants something basic to spin records without an absolute regard for fidelity, I suppose there are plenty of choices for under $500.

    But if the goal is to get the most in terms of sound quality in a system that's put together for that purpose, then there's a lot more to consider.

    Frankly, IMO, something like a Pro-Ject Debut with an Ortofon Red would be my choice for a basic, "good" turntable, and that just makes the $500 threshold. So, $500 is really the starting point, from my perspective.

    A good turntable for less than $500? I would say no.
  6. Cyclone Ranger

    Cyclone Ranger New old stock Thread Starter

    Best Coast USA
    Well, as the OP, let me offer a small bit of guidance, since some ppl seem to be tripping up on the concept of 'good'...

    Obviously and *of course* 'good' is subjective, at least up to a reasonable point. No argument from me there. Subjectivity is part and parcel of anything art-related, and music is an art form.

    So when ppl on here, or on any audio forum, are asked their opinion on a certain piece of equipment, say a cartridge or speaker or amp, they don't often answer, "Well, what is good anyway?", more often they'll say something like, "Yes, I think it's good/awesome/great" and then say why, or they say, "I didn't care for it", and they (hopefully) give a reason or two why. Or maybe it's just okay/'meh' to them, and say why.

    So given that, feel free, in short, to embrace subjectivity. It's okay, it really is. And it's all around you on this forum. Even if the West Coast liberal in me sorta admires your intellectual even-handedness and caution.

    Also realize that the question was intentionally posed in a non-super-specific way, so that ppl would feel free to be subjective, and lay out a rationale for why they thought the way they did. Saying 'well, what is good' and not going any further with it is okay, but not terribly interesting. Off the top of my head, and just for conversation's sake, I can think of a few unapologetically-subjective standards for 'good' in entry-level TTs:

    1) An entry-level TT + the whole LP experience has to provide a good enough user experience (i.e. sound quality, 'ritual'/involvement, large-format artwork, tactility, significant rewards for tweaking/upgrading/increasing knowledge, etc) to give someone new to vinyl a positive 'taste' of what analog's all about, instead of being a turn-off/making them regret they ever dipped a toe in these waters and their inherent complexity.

    2) Has to have sound-quality that is *generally* (don't overthink it) competitive with other formats, such as mp3/AAC, Redbook CD, whatever.

    3) Something that reasonably meets user expectations of what the TT/LP experience is.

    4) Forget everything else, even entry-level equipment has to be good enough to foster a real connection with the music that the user loves, or else it is pointless. How you define that particular 'good enough' is multi-faceted, inherently subjective, and up to you.

    Pro Tip: I don't necessarily believe in any or all of the above, they're just examples.

    I'm sure someone is still going to be confused by the thrust of the thread, but hopefully, I've given at least some ppl a decent jumping-off point, if indeed they needed one. But the thread's ultimately whatever ppl make of it. Cheers. :)
    Last edited: May 28, 2017
  7. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    East TN
    Today, there is no $500 new turntable which for me is not deficient in one or more critical areas.
  8. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    Are you including the cartridge and / or preamp with the $500?
    delmonaco likes this.
  9. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    I think there could be one that approaches a high performance if a quality turntable and cartridge maker would team up and put together a design for the tonearm / cartridge that takes all of the adjustment out of the tonearm assembly. Kind of an adaptation of the old p-mount system and the tonearm could be radically simple if it were designed to fit and balance just one quality cartridge.
    The two suppliers would benefit from economies of scale and could put the savings of that and the simple tonearm into improved tonearm bearings, platter bearings and drive system.
    JediJoker, H8SLKC and Cyclone Ranger like this.
  10. Cyclone Ranger

    Cyclone Ranger New old stock Thread Starter

    Best Coast USA
    I am not. Just the TT and what is traditionally almost always sold with entry-level TTs, i.e. TT + tonearm.

    Some entry-level TTs come with carts, some don't... though at the entry-level, any included cart is usually cheap/doesn't alter the pricing equation much unless upgraded (i.e. picking an Ortofon Blue to come with your U-Turn Orbit).

    Many entry-level TTs don't come with phono preamps (though they are sometimes offered at additional charge).
    Last edited: May 28, 2017
  11. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    OK, I'll bite. For me a good entry level TT should include everything needed to play a record without nudging/forcing the user to upgrade or add anything. It should be dead easy to use, have very little maintenance, include a phono pre-amp and cables and have clear instructions which should obviate the need for the helicoptering dealer of expert.

    IMHO, a Technics SL clone, such as the Pioneer PLX or AT LP 120 are excellent entry levels TT because they fill all the above requirements and being DD, they are also dead easy to switch speed and don't require fiddling with a belt which can be daunting for novices. Of course, this is my opinion and as such it is biased and subjective.
  12. Bob_in_OKC

    Bob_in_OKC Forum Resident

    If someone outside an audio forum asked me this question, I'd say "yes" and recommend the Denon DP300F.

    For my own purposes, I say - Buy your starter used so you can sell without taking a loss, because eventually you wind up in the $2,000+ range.
    Last edited: May 28, 2017
    PhilBiker, Robert C and jfbar167 like this.
  13. cdash99

    cdash99 Forum Resident

    Still a happy user of a Project Debut III that was upgraded at purchase with a Grado Black cartridge. Price at the time was sub-$400. If you add in the Project Speed Box, cork mat, and Q-Up I'm in to it for about $600 at this point, but I may have sprung for those accessories at any price point.

    One thing to consider is the time commitment to listening to vinyl. Personal and business commitments limit my vinyl listening to 10-20% of the total, so consider this when determining how much to spend on the hardware vs software.
  14. Victor/Victrola

    Victor/Victrola Makng shure its write

    <== Predictably, I said "Umm, something-something Technics 1200".
  15. Cyclone Ranger

    Cyclone Ranger New old stock Thread Starter

    Best Coast USA
    Way to go, Claude. Just for funsies, I'm now gonna repeat the Gordon Gekko speech from Wall Street, but with the word 'greed' replaced by 'subjectivity' :thumbsup: :

    Gordon Gekko: The point is, ladies and gentleman, that subjectivity -- for lack of a better word -- is good.

    Subjectivity is right. Subjectivity works.

    Subjectivity clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.

    Subjectivity, in all of its forms -- subjectivity in life, in business, in love, in knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind.

    :) (and no, I don't completely believe that)
    Last edited: May 28, 2017
  16. H8SLKC

    H8SLKC Forum Resident

    Boston, MA
    I'm a happy U-Turn owner. I also own a couple of Fluance machines, which really are pretty good for the money IMO, although I like the sound I get from my Orbit better. I'm biased though because of my strong desire not to sink loads of money into this hobby. Regarding the Orbit, reviewers have seemed to like it and U-Turn has continued to improve the machine as they go. It runs quietly, is on-speed, has good specs, looks great, sounds great to me. I have no doubt that more expensive machines can better it, but the amount I'd need to spend to get appreciably better, to my older ears, isn't worth it, at this point, to me. I've also noticed that machine cost and reputation don't seem to change/reduce common complaints I see in these forums regarding hum, motor noise, quality control, tracking, etc. It's one thing to have a bit of motor noise in a U-Turn, but to read common complaints of motor noise in high-end tables never ceases to amaze me.

    So, can one buy a new machine that runs true, steady, quietly and makes good sound? I argue yes.
  17. tumbleweed

    tumbleweed Three chords and an attitude

    Colorado foothills
    As a committed owner of vintage TTs, I'll never go near a new sub-$500 TT - I paid $35 for one, and $50 for the other, but both now have premium-level cartridges - but I'm really interested in opinions on new TTs. In particular, what's really bad about the Fluance or UTurns? From what I've read, they are at least worlds beyond the Crosley level.

    I ask this sincerely, since I'm frequently asked what's out there for someone who wants a true vinyl experience, wants to stay away from outright crap, but still not spend $1000.


    Larry B.
  18. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Awhile ago I thought about buying a newer turntable. Couldn't find anything without worse specs and features than my 30 year old consumer level Yamaha direct drive for under $1k. Even several newer decks up to $1,500 had worse specs. Think about that for a minute.

    When I upgrade it will be to a resto-modded vintage deck.
  19. Jking3002

    Jking3002 Forum Resident

    @avanti1960 what would be even better than that would be if Technics just started making their basic p-mount decks again (something like the sl-bd22) and a few better carts than what are currently available new came back out. I believe that model wasn't discontinued until around 2000 and only cost about $190 new at that time. Bring that back out for $225 new and you've got the best starter table on the market- imo. Easy to use, very respectable specs, fairly durable, etc.

    I own the lp120, a debut carbon, and a few old p-mounts so I've done the comparison.

    ***full disclosure- I hate aligning 1/2 inch mount carts (Even with my fieckert protractor, digital scale, etc).
    4xoddic and timind like this.
  20. Fiddlefye

    Fiddlefye Forum Resident

    With the caveat that I've not so far owned a new turntable (unless you count a Technics SL-20 bought in the mid-70s) I have yet to pay as much as $500 for table. Having said that many I do own have over the years been upgraded from the state I got them in with much better arms, carts etc. Even given that last caveat most of them would have come in under $500 with the exception of higher level carts, though I could install more entry level carts and still get a good result. Here is the current list:

    Under $500:
    Ariston RD-11s/SME 3009 S2
    Technics SP-15/Sumiko MMT
    Harmon Kardon ST-6
    Braun SP-500
    Technics SL-D2

    Under $800
    Thorens TD-125/Fidelity Research FR-24 MkII
    Rek-O-Kut B-12H/Nottingham Ace Space

    Yes, one can pay more for most of the above decks, but with patience they can still be had.
  21. Methodical

    Methodical Forum Resident

    And that would be?
  22. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    I had a Pro-Ject Debut II, a REGA RP1 and an AT LP-120. My experience with the Debut and RP1 was less than stellar, to put it mildly.
  23. Methodical

    Methodical Forum Resident

    Interesting, this is what I purchased and still have many years ago because I was not to deep into vinyl, although I had a small collection. I replaced the stock needle with the Ortofon Red and just recently purchased the Rega Fono Mini A2D phone preamp. I may consider upgrading to a bit better TT, but I don't think I will hit the $2k mark though.
  24. Methodical

    Methodical Forum Resident

    This also sounds like a Denon DP300F.
    Bill Why Man and PhilBiker like this.
  25. Slick Willie

    Slick Willie Decisively Indecisive

    sweet VA.

    I've often said what the entry level market is missing is a nice P-Mount table with adjustable VTF. Those tables are just so beginner friendly. and there used to be some decent carts out there for them. Build them again and cart manufactures will step up I'm sure!!
    Aftermath, 4xoddic, andybeau and 3 others like this.

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