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The best budget turntables 2020: spin your vinyl records on our pick of sub-£300 decks

9 best budget turntables 2020: spin your vinyl records on our pick of sub-£300 decks
(Image credit: Future)
Wax on!

Sure, listening to your favourite artists or discovering new music through music streaming services on our phones is super quick, convenient and the ideal way to listen when you’re on the move, but let’s be honest – simply skipping through playlists is a bit of a soulless experience. That's where the best budget turntables on in this guide come in.

With vinyl enjoying something of a renaissance over recent years, it’s clear that music fans are coming back to the humble LP, which for a long time seemed destined to be relegated to obscurity by the music-buying masses, along with cassettes and MiniDiscs.

Vinyl not only offers audio depth and warmth, but we can all appreciate the work that’s gone into the cover art – and scanning covers while listening to the LP is finally back in vogue.

So when it comes to choosing something to play your collection on, you’re going to want the best bang for your buck turntable – and that’s where this guide comes in.

If you've been put off in the past by the cost and difficulty of setting up a more expensive turntable, rest easy knowing that a great sounding player is well within reach and comfortably under the £300 mark, while one of the budget record players in this guide can be purchased for as little as £89 (we're looking directly at you Lenco L-85). 

If you’re into modern tech, the new-breed of decks also includes great USB and Bluetooth turntables to give your listening sessions a bit of a tech-y twist.

Best budget turntables: The Louder Choice

When choosing the best budget turntable, there are two ways you can go, depending on how much effort you’re prepared to put in to fill your ears with that glorious, analogue audio. 

If you require a simple plug and play budget turntable, the best option for you right now is the Sony PS-HX500. Not only is Sony a trusted brand in the turnable and tech world, but this model comes with a built-in phono stage and a first-time set-up that’s incredibly simple. USB functionality also means your can rip your records to a connected computer in beautiful hi-res audio, so you can transfer your music to your smartphone and keep cranking the tunes on the go. The best of both worlds.

For such a cheap, feature-loaded turntable, the Sony PS-HX500 really does sound great. That said, if you don't really need loads of exras, you can bag yourself even better sound for similar money. For that, the Rega Planar 1 is the best cheap player on this list.

The Planar 1 is a pretty straightforward record player to set up, however it doesn't include a built-in phono stage, so you’ll need to pay out a bit extra for an external one or altternatively find a stereo amp that has one. We've got recommendations for all budgets in our guide to whether you actually need a phono preamp for your record player. If sound quality is your number one priority though, the Rega Planar 1 is worth the investment.

If you're still unsure and you want to explore these budget record players in more detail, take a look at our Rega Planar 1 vs Sony PS-HX500 head-to-head article where both decks throw down.

Want a peak at all the best budget turntable options in this guide? Here you go:

  1. Rega Planar 1 (£249/$475)
  2. Sony PS-HX500 (£297/$499)
  3. Audio-Technica AT-LP3 (£178/$199)
  4. Sony PS-LX310BT (£194.99/$199)
  5. Pro-ject T1 turntable (£259/$329)
  6. Lenco L-85 (£99.99)
  7. Pro-Ject Primary E (£179)
  8. Audio Technica AT-LP120XUSB (£214.99/$249)
  9. Pro-Ject Essential III (£299/$349)

Best budget turntables: Buying advice

Sony PS-HX500 turntable

(Image credit: Future)

Sound quality
What should you be looking for when shopping for the best budget turntable? It might sound like an obvious thing to say, but sound quality should be your biggest priority. If you don’t care about sound quality, then a record player probably isn’t for you and you should stick to streaming.

Go with known brands
While no company has a perfect record in this area, going with the established  and well respected brands, is a good place to start – a turntable is a very specialised, delicate bit of kit, after all, so you want to go with a brand you know you can trust.

These days, the most consistent name in turntables, let alone the best budget turntables, is arguably UK company Rega. They haven't produced a bad model in as long as we can remember. Austrian brand Pro-Ject offers a fantastic range, too, while more mainstream brands like Sony and Audio-Technica are good at marrying true hi-fi audio quality with more modern features such as Bluetooth and USB recording. If it's tech you want, these brands should be top of your list.

What features do you actually need?
Think about whether you’ll actually use things Bluetooth or USB recording. They’re nice to have on paper, but there's no point wasting your budget on features you are unlikely to use and, truthfully, the tech-iest turntable is almost never the one that sounds the best.

What is a phono stage and do you need one?
If you’re boarding the vinyl bandwagon for the first time, you'll need to familiarise yourself with some key components, and in particular the phono stage. This is essentially a step-up amplifier – often referred to as phono preamp – that increases the record-player’s tiny output to a level that a standard stereo amplifier can work with. 

Many turntables – even those in our best budget turntables list – come already packing a built-in phono stage, as do some stereo amplifiers. For some however, like the Rega Planar 1, a phono stage will be an additional cost, but one we reckon is definitely worth the investment.

Generally speaking, a phono-less turntable that goes through an external phono stage before getting to the amplifier will sound best, so consider going down that route if you’re serious about audio quality. Right now, the best phono stage at this end of the market is undoubtedly the Rega Fono Mini A2D which will set you back around £95.

How easy is it to set up a budget turntable?
Setting up a turntable can be a fiddly operation, with components that need fitting and careful adjustment, but some are much simpler than others. Some also have automatic functionality to make things even easier so you can start spinning your collection faster.

The above means that you only have to press a button for the tonearm to move into place and drop the needle into the groove at the start of the record. Fully automatic and semi-automatic turntables will lift the needle from the groove at the end, too. 

For many people, a little initial tweaking and manual operation are keys to the charm of turntable ownership, and the simplest decks are often the best-sounding.

Best budget turntables: Full round-up & reviews

Best budget turntables: Rega Planar 1

(Image credit: Rega)

1. Rega Planar 1

Simply the best budget turntable if sound matters most

Price: £249/$475 | Operation: manual | Drive: belt | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: no | USB recording: no | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): 12x45x36cm

Unbeatable sound for the money
Simple set-up
No integrated phono stage
No fancy features

If you want fancy features such as Bluetooth and USB recording, this Rega isn’t for you. It’s one of the only turntables on this list that doesn’t have a built-in phono stage, which means you’ll need an amplifier that has one, or will need to budget for an external unit.

But it is the best-sounding turntable available in this price bracket. If you want to hear your just-bought or much-cherished records just the way the artist intended, the Rega is how you do it.

And don’t go thinking this is a cold, complicated deck. On the contrary, it produces a really fun sound and is pretty straightforward to set-up. If you’re prepared to be just a bit adventurous, this is the deck to buy.

Read the full Rega Planar 1 turntable review

Best budget turntables: Sony PS-HX500

(Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony PS-HX500

User-friendly, feature-packed, sonically capable – a perfect first turntable

Price: £299/$499 | Operation: manual | Drive: belt | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: yes | USB recording: yes | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): - 10x43x37cm

Simple set-up but great sound
Built-in phono stage and ripping
Rega Planar 1 sounds better
No Bluetooth

On paper, the Sony PS-HX500’s big selling point is that you can use it to rip your records – in hi-res, no less. That’s useful, but the top reasons to buy it are that it’s  simple to set-up, has a built-in phono stage and, for a feature king, it sounds great.

This is one of the best budget turntables for making the most of your cherished vinyl by playing and even recording it (just plug in your Mac or PC and download Sony’s bespoke software) with all of its detail, clarity and texture intact.

But this Sony turntable doesn’t require a degree in audio engineering to set-up and you don’t need to buy a phono stage on top. It’s the perfect choice for the first-timer determined to take vinyl seriously.

Best budget turntables: Audio-Technica AT-LP3

(Image credit: Audio-Technica)

3. Audio-Technica AT-LP3

Automatic for the people

Price: £199/$199 | Operation: fully automatic | Drive: belt | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: yes | USB recording: no | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): 13x44x35cm

Fully automatic operation
Authentic sound
No Bluetooth or recording

Those suitcase turntables you see all over Amazon, Argos and even Urban Outfitters are designed to bridge the gap between vinyl enthusiasm and analogue actuality by building everything in and making it as hands-off as possible.

But here’s the thing: those suitcase turntables sound bloody awful, and unless you’re boarding the vinyl train for entirely hipster reasons – and as a Louder reader, we certainly hope that’s not the case – you simply must do better.

Better is the Audio-Technica AT-LP3, which has a completely automatic action (start the record at the touch of a button and finish it without lifting a finger) but sounds downright excellent for the money, with a balanced, natural sound that doesn’t mask your tune of choice.

Read the full Audio Technica AT-LP3 turntable review

Best budget turntables: Sony PS-LX310BT

(Image credit: Sony)

4. Sony PS-LX310BT

The best budget Bluetooth turntable you can buy

Price: £199/$199 | Operation: fully automatic | Drive: belt | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: yes | USB recording: no | Bluetooth: yes | Dimensions (hwd): 11x43x37cm

Fully automatic operation
Bluetooth built-in
Purist decks sound even better

If you’re looking to marry old-school hi-fi with new-school cool, this Sony is the turntable for you. The big draw is Bluetooth, which you can use to send that rich, analogue audio via the digital, wireless domain to a pair of Bluetooth headphones or a wireless speaker. Wires? In the bin.

On top of that the tonearm action is automatic, so the needle will find your record’s groove via a button-press and will extricate itself at the end with no intervention necessary.

Crucially, the PS-LX310BT also sounds great. Detailed, punchy and direct, this is a deck that reveals the details lurking in the depths of those black disks and brings them to the surface in fun, bubbly fashion.

Best budget turntables: Pro-Ject T1

(Image credit: Pro-Ject)

5. Pro-ject T1 turntable

A plastic-free record player with a big dollop of bass; ideal for rock

Price: £259/$329 | Drive: belt | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: no | USB recording: no | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): 10x42x34cm

Weighty, bassy sound
Lovely build quality
Sound isn’t exactly neutral
No integrated phono stage

If you’re keen that your affordable turntable has a premium look and feel, the new Pro-ject T1 could be the one for you. This entirely plastic-free deck is brilliantly solid and weighty, and it comes more or less ready to rock - you need only place the platter and belt yourself.

The T1 is light on fancy features - there’s no Bluetooth or USB recording, and you’ll need to add a phono stage - but that’s because sound quality has been prioritised.

While the Rega Planar 1 is the no-frills deck to choose for sheer clarity and detail, this Pro-ject counters with a smoother, weightier, bassier sound that will suit a lot of the rock and metal vinyl you’ll be spinning.

Best budget turntables: Lenco L-85

(Image credit: Lenco)

6. Lenco L-85

The best budget turntable for plug-and-play simplicity

Price: £119 | Operation: semi-automatic | Drive: belt | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: yes | USB recording: yes | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): 15x42x36cm

As simple as turntables get
Incredibly affordable

It looks like a kid’s toy – and is almost as cheap – but the Lenco L-85 is actually a semi-automatic, belt-driven turntable with a built-in phono stage and the ability to record via USB. It’s as plug-and-play as vinyl gets.

It's old school enough – it comes with a pair of RCA cables so you can plug the L-85 into your stereo amplifier and get started straight away – but it's 21st century enough too: a USB port means you can convert your vinyl into MP3 files. 

A great starting point for anyone who's just getting into vinyl or digging out their old records from the garage.

Read the full Lenco L-85 turntable review

Best budget turntables 2020: Pro-Ject Primary E

(Image credit: Pro-Ject)

7. Pro-Ject Primary E

A fantastic budget turntable from a respected brand

Price: £179 | Drive: belt | Cartridge: Ortofon MM | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 (manual speed change) | Built-in phono stage: no | USB recording: no | Bluetooth: | Dimensions (hwd): 11.2 x 42 x 33cm

Easy to set up and use
Perfectly workable sound
Rugged build
Could be too basic for some

While it’s a basic deck, the belt-driven Primary E does its job very well. Set up is a breeze and everything from Zeppelin to Rush sounds well balanced and clear with enough body to do the bottom end justice.

If you’re looking for your first turntable, not only would this look great as part of your setup, but it sounds great, is built to last and won’t cost you the earth.

Best budget turntables: Audio Technica AT-LP120XUSB

(Image credit: Audio Technica)

8. Audio Technica AT-LP120XUSB

One of the best budget turntables around has just been updated

Price: £245/$249 | Operation: semi-automatic | Drive: direct | Cartridge: moving magnet | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45, 78 | Built-in phono stage: yes | USB recording: yes | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): 14x45x35cm

Slim profile
Direct drive
USB recording
Can be beaten for sound

Audio Technica’s long-running AT-LP120USB was recently replaced by this updated model. The original was without doubt one of the best budget turntables you can buy on account of a clean, solid sound, integrated phono stage and USB recording. 

Many features that made it a top deck have stuck around on the 120X, including quality USB recording, switchable input and 78rpm speed (the only turntable in this list to offer that option). 

Key changes include an improved, slimline design, plus updates to the motor and anti-skate control that have been introduced to improve overall performance.

This budget turntable is direct drive, so there’s no belt to worry about and, like its predecessor, setup is super-simple and beginner-friendly.

Best budget turntables: Pro-Ject Essential III

(Image credit: Pro-Ject)

9. Pro-Ject Essential III

A funky budget turntable that's so easy to setup

Price: £319/$349 | Operation: manual | Drive: belt | Cartridge: Ortofon OM 10 | Speeds: 33 ⅓, 45 | Built-in phono stage: no | USB recording: no | Bluetooth: no | Dimensions (hwd): 11x42x33cm

Looks great
Sounds amazing
Simple set-up
Build quality

Pro-Ject is a relative newcomer to the field. They started out as vinyl sales seemed to be on a terminal slide but carved out quite a reputation in the last 20 years as vinyl itself has made its comeback. 

Pro-Ject have two budget turntables priced below this – the Elemental (£150) and Primary (£190) – but calls the £240 Essential III its “first true hi-fi offering”. It may be made out of MDF but it doesn't look or play like a ‘budget deck’ – and you can even upgrade it...

The Essential III A turntable comes with an acrylic platter upgrade (called the Pro-Ject Acryl-IT E) for an extra £40 – and it's money well spent.

Read the full Pro-Ject Essential III turntable review