Despite the popularity of music streaming sites which dominate the way most of us consume music these days, vinyl sales are continuing to rise as more and more of us look at owning a physical product rather than staring at a digital file stored on phones, laptops or on the cloud. And with a the demand for vinyl steadily increasing, that means more music fans are looking to get their hands on record players - including the best budget turntables on the market.
That makes sense as we're all having to watch our outgoings a little bit more carefully at the moment, and with some turntables on the market costing a considerable amount, I've decided to turn my attention to picking out some of the best cheap record players around. These will not only save you a bundle, but they all sound fantastic and are all worth a closer look.
It’s also worth pointing out here that some of the most recent models also include USB, and Bluetoooth turntables will give your listening sessions a bit of a tech twist. Take a look at the picks below, which also includes record players from Sony, Rega, Audio Technica and more, so we're sure you'll find something that suits.
Best budget turntables: The Louder Choice
When choosing one of the best budget turntables, there are a couple of ways you can turn 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 record player, the best option for you right now is the Sony PS-HX500 (opens in new tab). Not only is Sony a trusted brand in the turnable and tech world, but this model comes with a built-in phono preamp 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.
If you don't really need loads of extras then the Rega Planar 1 (opens in new tab) is the best cheap option on this list. It's 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 alternatively find a stereo amp that has one.
Best budget turntables: Product guide & reviews
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.
Read the full Sony PS-HX500 review
If you want 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 preamp, which means you’ll need an amplifier that has one or will need to budget for an external unit.
That said, it's the best-sounding turntable available in this price bracket. If you want to hear your just-bought or much-cherished vinyl 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
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? Straight 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.
Read the full Sony PS-LX310BT review
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 record player is direct drive, so there’s no belt to worry about and, like its predecessor, setup is super-simple and beginner-friendly.
Read the full Audio-Technica ATLP120XBT-USB review
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.
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
Pro-Ject are 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 record players priced below this – the Elemental and Primary – but calls the 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
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 preamp, 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, bass-heavy sound that'll suit a lot of the rock and metal vinyl you’ll be spinning.
Read the full Pro-Ject T1 review
While the Rega Planar 1 is our top choice for budget turntable, let’s not forget about the audio firm’s Planar 2. It’s a wee but more expensive, so what do you get for your money? In general terms, I found a meatier sound, with solid bass levels and ear-bending audio.
Bear in mind that the Rega Planar 2 doesn’t come with a phono pre-amp built in so you’ll need to factor that in when buying, but it’s straightforward to set up and is worth a look if you have a bit more cash in your back pocket.
Read the full Rega Planar 2 review
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 I found everything from Led Zeppelin to Rush sounded 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.
Read the full Pro-Ject Primary E review
Best budget turntables: Buying advice
How important is 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 basic streaming.
Should I go with the big 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 record players, 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 are the essential features to have?
It really comes down to what you want to do with your record player. For example, will you need Bluetooth functionality or the ability to record via USB? On paper, these features are great to have but there's no point wasting your budget on bells and whistles you are unlikely to use and, truthfully, the tech-iest turntable is almost never the one that sounds the best.
What is a phono preamp and do I need one?
If you’re boarding the vinyl train 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 I 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.
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.
How we test budget turntables
Why you can trust Louder Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Budget turntables are subjected to no less rigorous testing than their pricier counterparts. In fact, if a record player can truly claim to be budget, we need to make sure that it passes muster. So, our tests cover the following categories:
- Sound - the most important one for us. At Louder we’re music fans first and foremost, so budget decks need to scratch that itch. If it takes too much away from the classic albums we know and love inside and out, then it doesn’t make the list.
- Set up - how quickly can we get the deck up and running? We prefer plug and play decks in this sector, but if there’s any set up of manual mechanisms, we’re looking for an easy ride.
- Build quality - We expect to find shortcomings in budgets decks - such as more plastic components, or a flimsy dust cover - but if the important components such as the tonearm, cartridge or platter don’t measure up, then we don’t include the product in the guide.
- Other features - does the deck offer additional features such as computer connectivity, automatic tonearm or Bluetooth? If so, how well do these features work, or are they simply set-dressing for a mediocre product that takes budget away from more important components?
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