While there's a lot to be said for the convenience of listening to your favourite music and discovering great new bands via a music streaming service, it’s easy to feel like there's something missing from all those soulless digital tracks. Our music deserves to be treated to more warmth and depth than our smartphones can provide – and the only way to do that is by listening to vinyl. If your budget is tighter than Robert Plant's jeans, that means investing in one of the best budget turntables in this guide.
Your go-to albums will never sound better than they do when you listen on a turntable, and now is a great time to buy as the quality of budget decks has never been better for the money. If you've been deterred in the past by the cost and difficulty of setting up a more expensive turntable, you can rest easy knowing that a great sounding, modern record player can be yours for well under £300; one of the budget record players in this guide can be picked up for as little as £119 (we're looking at you Lenco L-85).
Setting up a new turntable has never been simpler, too. If you’re into modern tech, the new-breed of decks includes great USB and Bluetooth turntables to give your listening sessions a tech-y twist.
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The Louder Choice
What is the best budget turntable right now?
When choosing the best cheap turntable for you, there are really 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 want 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 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 hi-res audio formats, so you can transfer your music to your smartphone and keep cranking the tunes on the go.
For such a cheap, feature-loaded turntable, the Sony really does sound great. However, if you don't need so many bells and whistles you can bag yourself even better sound for similar money. For that, the Rega Planar 1 is the best cheap record 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 for an external one or 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 (and if not, why not?), the Rega Planar 1 is worth the investment.
If you're still not sure and you want to explore these budget record players in more detail, you should take a look at our Rega Planar 1 vs Sony PS-HX500 head-to-head article where both decks throw down.
In a hurry and want a peak at all the best budget turntable options in this guide? Here you go:
- Rega Planar 1 (£249/$475)
- Sony PS-HX500 (£299/$499)
- Audio-Technica AT-LP3 (£199/$199)
- Sony PS-LX310BT (£199/$199)
- Pro-ject T1 turntable (£239/$329)
- Lenco L-85 (£119)
- Pro-Ject Primary E (£159)
- Audio Technica AT-LP120XUSB (£199/$249)
- Pro-Ject Essential III (£279/$349)
Choosing the best budget turntable for you
So, what should you look 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 by far. 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 arena, going with the established, well respected brands, is a very good start when shopping for the best budget record player – 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, has to be UK company Rega. Rega hasn’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 particularly 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 on your list.
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What features do you actually need?
Speaking of features, think about whether you’ll actually use things like Bluetooth or USB recording. They’re nice to have on paper, but there's no point wasting your budget on tech you won’t 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 very first time, you'll need to familiarise yourself with some key components, particularly 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 simpler than others. Some also have automatic functionality to make things even easier.
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.
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The best budget turntables to buy now
If you want fancy features such as Bluetooth and USB recording, this Rega isn’t for you. Heck, it’s one of the only turntables here that doesn’t have a built-in phono stage, which means you’ll need an amplifier that’s got one or will need to budget for an external unit.
But it is the best-sounding turntable available for this sort of money. If you want to hear your just-bought or much-cherished records just as 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
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, sure, but the top reasons to buy it are that it’s exceedingly 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.
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 (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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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