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Audio

Best Turntable

DJing has undergone a recent change from the days of two turntables and a mixer. Controllers have arisen as an all-in-one practical way of playing music. However, the fact of the matter is DJs still widely use turntables to rock a party. Popular software programs often require a hardware box that is meant to bridge the gap between the digital and analog world. Turntables and mixer are connected to a hardware box, bridged to the laptop, and ultimately out through the speakers. This makes the turntable a musical mainstay, not just to play your favorite jazz or classic rock record. And of course there are DJs who strictly play analog! Some prefer to stay averse from the changing, sometimes trendy technologically advancing scene and keep their style close to the original style of DJing. The turntables listed were chosen because they are all durable, feature modern upgrades, and are direct-drive, meaning the platter and spindle are directly connected to the motor which requires less maintenance. Furthermore, consistent match in speed between spindle and platter is needed for the demanding nature of scratching and beat matching that entails applied pressure to the vinyl. Anti-skate technology popularized by Technics have been mastered by other brands such as Reloop and Stanton. Wider ranges of pitch control give DJs unprecedented control over mixing and sampling. Combine this with MIDI capability, an auto beats per minute counter, and USB connectivity in some models, and its apparent that the wave of new features are staggering and promote new avenues to creativity.

Stanton ST-150 Digital Turntable with Cartridge

The Stanton ST-150 is the frontrunner among DJ Turntables. This turntable has such powerful adjustable torque, giving you the option to go fast or really fast when timing stop position to full speed. Variable pitch control ranging from 8 percent to 20 percent to 50 percent gives the DJ unrestricted control over blending. Key lock also enables the DJ to change pitch without changing the key, so a song can be slowed down without changing a tenor into a baritone, or a making a bass sound like the vocalist was inhaling balloons. The ST-150 offers traditional analog red and white RCAs for hook up to a mixer, as well as S/PDIF digital output for connection to audio interfaces which makes for easy sampling. To top it all off, Stanton includes one of their quality 680HP styluses already mounted onto the headshell. As if that wasn’t enough: an adjustable and removable target light is placed on the stylus for added precision! They seemed to have thought of everything on this one.

Numark TTX Professional DJ Turntable

Numark did not hold back when they designed TTX Professional DJ Turntable. Known for appealing to novice level DJs because of affordability, this direct drive is a steal that can be enjoyed by beginners and experts alike. For starters, the TTX gives you the option two interchangeable tonearms! Many criticize the straight tonearm, although more effective against skipping, it is more prone to wear out records and reduce sound clarity, while others praise the straight arm for its renowned sound quality. Numark gives you both. USB connectivity makes the TTX a versatile tool when it comes to recording performances or uploading vinyl to a computer. They even supply with vinyl conversion software. The TTX features a wide, adjustable range of pitch from 8 to 10, 20, and 50 percent. Like the Stanton ST 150, the TTX has a key lock option that allows for changes in tempo without changing key. Bright blue illuminated displays accent the pitch, RPM, BPM, and motor settings, so you can spin a party without bringing a flashlight.

Vestax PDX-3000MKII Turntable

This lightweight turntable packs a huge punch with the highest torque out of any turntable on this list. The PDX's motor is controlled by a 32-bit CPU, enabling more precise speeds and adjustments. Start/stop within half a second! Vestax’s patented Anti-skipping tonearm System gives Technics a run for their money, boasting a straight tonearm so resistant to skipping, you'd think all your vinyl were skipless scratch records. Adding to possibilities, Vestax boasts MIDI Input for keyboard triggering. Imagine sampling one note from a piano, sending it out to a keyboard, and having a musical scale stemming from that single note. They also designed the widest range of pitch control, with a fine tuning setting that extends it to +/- 60 percent. Gone are the days of being limited, mixing only songs with similar tempos. Vestax makes the possibilities endless.

Reloop RP-6000 MK6 b Turntable

As an alternative to more reputable turntable makers, Reloop just might convince you that their RP-6000 turntable is better than your favorite. Reloop equipped this turntable with variable torque and speeds to match (33rpm/45/78/reverse). Pitch ranges from 10 percent to 20 percent to 50 percent puts the RP-6000 on a level comparable to that of the Numark TTX. The anti-skip properties of their “S” arm are said to be on par with some of the best in the industry. Heavy-duty construction ensures this turntable survives many parties. The features of this turntable seamlessly embody characteristics of other high-quality turntables, at a more affordable price versus Vestax and Technics. Its reputation as a purveyor of turntables is surely to grow.

Technics SL-1200MK2 Turntable

Most DJs regard the Technics 1200 is regarded as the turntable that “started it all.” This turntable revolutionized parties forever, giving birth to live mixing of songs and scratching of records. Its place as a staple in the DJ scene for over 35 years was driven by its seemingly indestructible construction, gaining a reputation for being a long lasting instrument, which is why they have withstood the test of time. Pitch control ranges from +/- 8%, setting the bar for future turntables. Powerful torque makes for quick start and slow speeds and accurate playback. In fact, this old thing still holds the title for the fastest start/stop time of 0.07 seconds! Moreover, a tonearm that closely resembles many of today’s tonearms was originally constructed for this series.

Audio Technica AT-LP1240-USB Direct Drive DJ Turntable

Audio Technica made a beastly direct drive turntable, designed for use in nightclubs while catering to the vinyl enthusiasts who wish to digitize their music. The torque on this is 4.5kgf.cm, cementing its place among the most powerful motors in the DJ industry. Adjustable antiskate and tracking force contribute to steady playback. Audacity software is included, along with a slipmat and unhinged dust cover. There is no cartridge included, but there is a high quality headshell already mounted for easy connection. Three speeds 33, 45, and 78RPM coupled with three ranges of pitch at +/- 8 percent, 25 percent, and 50 percent, gives DJs seemingly endless avenues to creative mixes.

Stanton T92USB USB Direct Drive DJ Turntable

Stanton’s premier direct drive USB turntable was designed for DJs who want a turntable built for the club scene, while having the standard features of a good analog-to-digital converter. Key lock allows for a change in speed without changing the key of a song. There are two pitch ranges to choose from, +/- 8 percent and 12 percent respectively, as well as three speeds from 33, 45, to 78 RPM. A high quality Stanton 500.v3 cartridge comes already mounted on the headshell. The S-shaped tonearm is meant to play with lower distortion and reduce record wear to help preserve valuable classics, while being very resistant to skipping in mix situations. Torque on this turntable is excellent, being listed as having a start/stop time of less than a second at all three speeds. Reputable software, iZotope Music & Speech Cleaner makes conversion easy, allowing analog enthusiasts to edit pops and distorted parts in playback.

Audio-Technica ATLP120USB Turntable with USB output

Audio Technica gives Stanton a run for their money with their direct drive LP120. Their mid-range USB turntable features pitch lock for bpm changes that will not affect the pitch. 12, 10, and 7-inch records can be converted with three different speeds: 33, 78, and 45 RPM respectively. Pitch ranges vary from +/- 10 percent to 20 percent for dynamic mixing capability. Audacity software is included for straightforward analog-to-digital conversion. Reverse playback is also an option for further creativity. Audio-Technica’s 95E cartridge, a favorite among vinyl lovers for its clarity and strong low-end, is mounted on the headshell. They threw in a removable dust cover for the classic record player look, as well as a slip mat and all the necessary cables.

Music Hall USB-1 Turntable

Music Hall’s USB-1 is a belt-drive turntable ideal for digitizing analog music. As an entry-level turntable, it is built durably and includes everything needed to start converting, listening, or both. A pre-mounted reputable Audio Technica AT3600L cartridge is included, made ideally for high quality playback and crisp conversions. The tonearm comes with antiskate technology for even more reliable playback. Although this is not the most suitable for scratching, it will produce excellent digital versions of analog music. Torque on this turntable yields a start/stop time of less than a second when spinning at either 33 or 45RPM. Pitch control of +/- 10 percent allows listeners to tweak songs for recording or to dabble with mixing.

Numark PT-01USB Portable USB DJ Turntable

Portability defines Numark’s 01USB. This lightweight device is ideal for collectors and crate diggers who enjoy visiting used vinyl stores and previewing records before they purchase for purposes of sampling, or casual listening of course. In addition to RCA outputs, there is a miniature speaker built right into the turntable and optional battery operation for on-the-go sound. It comes with 33, 45, and even 78 RPM. Numark included their CZ-800-10 cartridge, a tool designed for balanced stereo playback. Pitch control is also wider than previous portable models at +/- 10 percent so mixing is still made possible if desired. The tonearm is a bit lacking with no antiskate or adjustable height but without scratching this becomes a negligible shortcoming. A USB output and Line Input makes it easy to convert all types of analog, including vinyl and cassettes. EZ Vinyl conversion software is included.

Rega RP3 Turntable

Rega has been making turntables for a long time, and the RP3 is proof that Rega is not resting on its laurels or simply tinkering with old technology. This is a strikingly modern and clean looking design featuring a phenolic double-braced plinth and belt-driven clear acrylic platter. The newly designed tonearm was fine-tuned using computer modeling for minimal resonance, and has a friction-free range of motion due to its precision bearings.

The RP3 incorporates a 24V DC motor for minimal noise and improved pace (timing accuracy) as compared to lower voltage DC units. Although most audiophiles only play LPs that spin at 33 1/3 RPM, you'll need to purchase the additional Rega TT PSU if you want to play 45s without removing the platter and moving the belt on the pulley. Otherwise, changing speeds takes a moment, but is a simple task.

This is a player that was designed to bring out every nuance in the music, with a sweet and natural midrange, at a great price. It has that Rega quality. Either with the recommended Elys 2 moving magnet cartridge, or with a cartridge of your choosing, you cannot go wrong with the Rega RP3.

Marantz TT15S1 Reference Series Turntable

The Marantz TT-15S1 has almost everything you could want in an audiophile turntable. It was designed by Marantz and Clearaudio. It has a precision-crafted aluminum tonearm, and a very dense low resonance platter and chassis. It's AC synchronous motor is completely isolated from the chassis via unique design, and drives the platter via silicon belt. It comes with a very good Clearaudio cartridge. Speed changes are manual via adjusting the belt on the pulley. A felt turntable mat and record clamp are included as well to ensure proper tracking, and further elimination of noise. At the price, although not cheap, you are getting all the elements of a much more expensive turntable with Clearaudio's careful engineering.

The soundstage created by the TT-15S is excellent, with good depth, and an overall balanced presentation of the audio frequency. So why isn't this the overall best pick? Well, it comes, essentially, as a kit which you assemble. All reports are that doing so is not difficult, and the instructions are thorough. However, you might be inclined to let your local audiophile shop do the work for you since getting cartridge overhang, and arm height can be a bit tricky. Even so, the TT-15S1 is still a bargain in the world of high-end sound.

Pro-Ject RM5.1SE Turntable

The first thing you notice about the Pro-Ject RM5.1SE is the styling: modern and sleek, with a piano finish. But what you'll really appreciate is all the quality engineering in this belt-drive audiophile turntable. The plinth is made from acoustically dead MDF for zero resonance, and the platter is also MDF with an integrated vinyl mat. The 16 VDC motor is quiet and powerful, bringing time accuracy and pace to the music. The carbon fiber tonearm is mated to precision bearings enabling the arm to travel smooth arc.

Similar to other audiophile turntables built at a reasonable price point, this Pro-Ject turntable was designed for listening at 33.33 RPM as the default. If you want to change the speed to 45, you'll need to manually move the belt on the pulley. That's no big deal, but if you need to switch often consider purchasing the additional electronic control Speedbox.

The RM5.1SE comes stock equipped with a Sumiko Blue Point high-output moving coil cartridge, and includes a record clamp. It's an unbeatable value for a high-end player, and would be a fine addition to your audiophile set up.

Clearaudio Concept Turntable

Clearaudio equals German engineering, and the Clearaudio Concept is a precision machine. However, unlike a finicky high-performance sports car, the Concept was designed to be, as much as possible, plug-and-play audiophile goodness. It usually is sold mated to a Clearaudio Concept cartridge (either MC or MM) and thus is ready to go as soon as you unpack it and hook it to your amplifier, pre-preamplifier, or receiver.

The chassis/plinth is optimized for noise isolation and no resonance, and the dense belt-driven Polyoxymethylene platter is over an inch thick. In another unusual feature that will be welcomed by audiophiles with vast collections, the Concept's DC motor has electronic speed control with three speeds - 33 1/3, 45, and 78!

The Clearaudio Concept provides a sound like the name - balanced, with good definition across the frequency ranges.If there is a caveat with this turntable it is that there have been reports it is more sensitive to footfalls. So, setting it on a wall stand or other isolation platform might be a good idea. It's a little more expensive too. If you need a player with built-in electronic speed control that includes 78 RPM, this is the choice.

Sota Moonbeam II Turntable

Sota Moonbeam II Turntable

The SOTA Moonbeam II is by far the least-expensive turntable in the SOTA line, and offers a great entry to the world of audiophile vinyl reproduction. This turntable utilizes special polymers for the chassis and belt-driven platter to keep vibrations and resonance super low at this price point. A synchronous AC motor drives the platter and provides the pace and timing unique to AC motors. That being said, rumble specs are not as good as some DC motor-driven choices, but still fall in the category of "very good." Speed changes are manual via belt adjustment on the pulley. The SOTA S100 tonearm does the job and can be mated to a wide range of cartridges. The Moonbeam II's pricing allows you to think about really looking up the product line of companies like Grado, Ortofon, Denon etc.

The SOTA Moonbeam II, like all audiophile turntables, was designed to get out of the way, and it is known for bringing out lots of low-level detail. You'll enjoy this turntable, and, if you really get bitten by the hi-fi bug, appreciate SOTA's lifetime trade-in policy.

Sony PS-LX300USB Turntable

The Sony PS LX300 USB Turntable is a good entry level turntable with all the needed features for those just getting into records. It features a straight tonearm mated to a moving magnet cartridge with a replaceable stylus. The LX300 USB has auto return which brings the tonearm back to the rest after the last track has played. It's belt-driven and plays at 33 1/3 or 45 RPM with the speed selector control on the front face. Speed stability is good.

Line level outputs (with a built-in switchable phono preamp) allow you to connect the PS LX300 USB to your receiver or amplifier. The USB output is perfect for connecting this turntable to the computer for digitizing your vinyl. A nice bonus is that Sony includes their Audio Studio software to make the conversion process easy.

With a dust cover included, this budget Sony turntable provides a lot of value, and is our best pick.

Stanton T52B Straight Arm Belt-Drive Turntable

Stanton is one of those few names known by both audiophiles and DJs. Since Technics left the game, the higher end Stanton turntables have become the choice for those in the market for a new DJ table. And, Stanton has made a wide range of phono cartridges for many years.

The big feature of the Stanton T52B is its cartridge. It comes with a pre-mounted Stanton 500.v3. This alone means increased audio fidelity as compared to other budget turntables. Plus this cartridge can be upgraded via changing out the stylus. But, you need to realize that in exchange for the better cartridge you are not getting a built-in phono preamp, nor USB connectivity. If you need those features you will need to buy a separate USB preamp, or already have a stereo that accepts phono level inputs.

As far as mechanical features are concerned, the T52B utilizes a belt-driven platter with a straight tonearm, and operates at either 33.3 or 45 RPM. The soft start and stop buttons, and sliding pitch adjustment, make this turntable at home in the home, or connected to a club mixer.

Audio-Technica AT-LP60-USB Record/CD Turntable

Audio Technica is one of the few large audio companies who stuck with analog sound despite the world going digital. One reason is that they have been a manufacturer of quality phono cartridges for many years. The AT-LP60 USB turntable is a typical budget setup - straight tonearm, belt-driven platter, and fully-automatic (tonearm returns to rest at the end of a side). Unlike many budget tables, the AT-LP60 has an aluminum platter. The moving magnet cartridge is permanently attached to the tonearm. The downside is that no upgrade path is available (you can replace the stylus when it wears out). The upside is that the tracking angle is correctly set from the factory, and A-T makes the cartridge.

The AT-LP60 USB has a USB output, and RCA outputs that supply line-level audio to a wide range of receivers and A/V gear. It also comes with a dual RCA to mini cable for connecting to the 3.5mm input on a computer sound card. A copy of Audacity is included for digitizing your LPs to MP3s or other formats.

The noise specs are respectable, several different connecting cables are included, and the included cartridge provides good sound. At its price, the Audio-Technica LP60 USB turntable is hard to beat.

Pioneer PL-990 Fully Automatic Turntable

This best pick for budget turntable is a little different than the rest. If you need USB built in then look elsewhere. But, if you already have a sound card with RCA inputs, or simply want a good quality starter turntable, The Pioneer PL-990 fits the bill.

The PL-990 is a fully automatic turntable with a straight tonearm and belt-driven platter that will spin at 33.33 or 45 RPM. It comes with a moving magnet cartridge with a universal mount. Universal mount makes it easy to replace or upgrade the cartridge in the future. However, note that the built-in phono preamp is not switchable. So, more than likely, if you are at the point of considering a cartridge upgrade, you may very well be on the path to a more expensive turntable as well.

As with all turntables in the budget category, specs are good, but not great. The Pioneer PL-990 is a good entry point to vinyl reproduction, and with less going on in the inside, there is less to go wrong as well.

Gemini DJ TT-1100USB Belt Drive Turntable with USB Output

This budget "battle" turntable from Gemini has a standard, belt-driven motor and soft stop buttons, making it a good choice for the novice DJ learning to mix as well as a decent entry-level turntable for home use. It has a USB output for computer connections, and switchable line/phono level outputs for connecting to a stereo receiver or other audio component.

The TT-1000 USB turntable can spin wax at 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM, and has a pitch adjustment allowing a 10 percent change up or down within speeds. Unlike other choices on the list, the TT-1000 has an S-tonearm with a magnetic cartridge. It's mostly a matter of personal preference, but some audiophiles think that S-tonearms allow the cartridge to stay in alignment with the groove better. This potential positive is counterbalanced a bit by reports that the TT-1000 does not hold pitch quite as solidly as other choices on the list.

If you like the style, or want a more versatile unit, the Gemini TT-100 USB is one of your better budget choices.

Stanton Str8.150 Turntable

The straight-armed version of its counterpart has a tonearm that is meant to minimize the inward and outward force on the needle, giving it better tracking compared to the S-shaped Stanton 150. Stanton declared their straight tonearm to be “skip-proof,” a bold statement that holds true in most DJ circles. The world’s strongest turntable motor powers this beast into new heights, making way for adjustable start/stop speeds and variable pitch control ranging from +/- 8%, 25%, and 50%, respectively. To top it off, one of the industry’s most trusted and reputable cartridges comes with the Str8. 150 already mounted on the headshell: the Stanton 680v3. The key lock feature is a modern addition that allows for adjustments in speed without changing the pitch of the song! This can be extremely useful when blending songs together that are drastically different in beats per minute. Its sturdiness is reminiscent of the Technics’ durable body, with an even more heavy-duty construction that helps to protect against skipping due to sound vibration.

Reloop RP-8000 Turntable

A superior turntable meets controller. The Reloop RP8000 features all of the sturdiness and reliability of the RP7000, combined with MIDI. Vestax released the world’s first MIDI capable turntable, and Reloop took it a step further with Serato mappings readily available. Eight pads line the left side of the turntable with different combinable modes of playback: cue, loop, sample, and user. User mode offers DJs fully customizable pads. Pressing two of the mode buttons simultaneously splits the 8 pads into two banks of 4. Furthermore, each button can be held down to assign a second function. A rotary sits right above the mode buttons for easy access to track navigation. Practically all features are adjustable including the 3 ranges of pitch, torque, and start/stop time from 0.2 to 0.6 seconds. The digitized pitch fader is listed as being even more accurate than the RP7000 at a 0.02% deviation!

Reloop RP-7000 Turntable

The RP7000 is Reloop’s answer to the Technics 1200. Durable construction, high adjustable torque backed by powerful motor, and digitally corrective pitch control adds to the classic features of a Technics. Technological advancements also make this turntable unlike a 1200mk2 in every way. A digitized fader yields precise pitch control with a deviation of only 0.04%, so DJs need not worry about mixes becoming unmatched while they are preparing for the next track. Three variable pitch ranges from +/-10%, to 16%, to 50% combined with easily switchable torque enables DJs to customize the feel of it from more turntablist juggling and scratch method friendly to more mix-friendly styles. Speed kills with the adjustable start/stop to full speed time ranging from 0.2 to 0.6 seconds. Reloop’s tonearm has been compared to Technics’ industry standard reputation, retaining an S-shape without compromising protection against skipping.

Vestax PDX-3000mix Professional Direct Drive DJ Turntable

Vestax has appealed to turntablists because of their commitment to the straight-arm’s protection against skipping. The PDX 3000mix gives DJs all of Vestax’s notoriety in an S-shaped version with excellent anti-skip properties suitable for both mixing and scratching. Driving this machine is improvement in torque. One knob easily controls the Torque Simulator which enables DJs to adjust between more sensitive settings for mixing and more steady torque for scratching. In any event, the turntable reaches top speed in a blazing 0.5 seconds – important for DJs regardless of style. Toggling between +/- 10% and 50% allows a wide range of possibilities when blending. Vestax innovated the DJ scene by designing the first turntable with a MIDI input connection, so DJs have the option to externally control the rotational speed of the turntable!

Technics Technics SL-1210M5G Direct Drive Turntable

In many circles, Technics' SL-1210M5G is known as the "Grand Master" of the notoriously classic 1200s. Even with a discontinuation is manufacturing, the 1200s remain a staple in the DJ industry. Technics prides itself on creating high-quality, everlasting turntables, and their diligence does not come up short here. Improved anti-skate technology produce strong bass, clear sound, and fine tunes the revered 1200 into a tank that will surely last for quite some time. Digital pitch control keeps adjustments consistent from deck to deck. A wider range of pitch control shows a range double that of its predecessors, upgrading to +/- 16 percent. Technics may have more competition these days, but they weren't undisputed industry- standard for nothing. Unparalleled torque yields a start/stop time of 0.07 seconds, the quickest out of any turntable listed. But a hefty price tag and technological advancements that are still not on par with their more affordable counterparts pushes the revered 1200 towards the bottom of the list, as its time being the "standard" of DJ turntables is being challenged by other models.

Stanton T62 Straight Arm Direct-Drive DJ Turntable

The only direct drive turntable listed is based on Stanton’s best selling T.60, which has been tweaked to stand up to the most demanding DJ scenarios, from house party to dance club. The T.62 has powerful torque and a straight tone arm with superb tracking that is ideal for scratch DJs. Stanton’s most revered cartridge, the 500.v3 comes mounted on the headshell. The 33 and 45 speeds along with +/- 10 percent pitch control give DJs more range than a Technics 1200 for a fragment of the price. Additionally, two start/stop switches on either side of the turntable is made for traditional mixing or optional battle style in which the turntable are setup vertical. Stanton includes RCA cables, a slip mat, and dust cover, making this a complete package for the DJ who has no need for analog to digital conversion.

Stanton T55USB USB DJ Turntable

Stanton’s next tier above their base model is the T.55, equipped with both RCA and USB outputs. This is a highly efficient setup for DJs who want the option to convert their records into digital files that can be played from a computer or iPod. As with the base model Stanton provides their renowned 500.v3 cartridge already mounted onto the headshell for easy plug and play. Standard 33 and 45 speeds plus +/- 10 percent pitch control give DJs a wide range of mixing possibilities. A more stable static balanced tone arm protects more efficiently against skipping. Torque yields a start time and pitch change time of less than a second. As a bonus, they include high quality Cakewalk Pyro Audio Creator LE for all your music conversion and editing needs.

Stanton T52B Straight Arm Belt-Drive Turntable

Stanton is one of those few names known by both audiophiles and DJs. Since Technics left the game, the higher end Stanton turntables have become the choice for those in the market for a new DJ table. And, Stanton has made a wide range of phono cartridges for many years.

The big feature of the Stanton T52B is its cartridge. It comes with a pre-mounted Stanton 500.v3. This alone means increased audio fidelity as compared to other budget turntables. Plus this cartridge can be upgraded via changing out the stylus. But, you need to realize that in exchange for the better cartridge you are not getting a built-in phono preamp, nor USB connectivity. If you need those features you will need to buy a separate USB preamp, or already have a stereo that accepts phono level inputs.

As far as mechanical features are concerned, the T52B utilizes a belt-driven platter with a straight tonearm, and operates at either 33.3 or 45 RPM. The soft start and stop buttons, and sliding pitch adjustment, make this turntable at home in the home, or connected to a club mixer.

Numark TTUSB - Belt-drive Battle and Club Turntable with USB Output

Numark built a quality belt driven turntable for mixing and transferring analog music into digital files. A 1/8 inch jack in addition to USB connectivity allows vinyl, cassette, even 8 tracks to be transferred to a computer and edited with their included Audacity software. Reading 78s is also possible with their software. The TTUSB boasts adjustable anti-skate technology for a more balanced sound and resistance against skipping. Good sound quality emanates from the cartridge but does is not the best for scratching. An upgrade of the cartridge is recommended if mixing with scratch techniques in a party environment. All cables are included, ready to plug and play.

ION Audio TTUSB USB Turntable with Dust Cover

ION designed a turntable meant for beginner DJs to cut mixes together. There is no pitch control on this turntable, rendering it more suited for events where beatmatching is unnecessary and “fade in, fade out” mixing is more appropriate. This turntable can also be effectively used in conjunction with a software program where the pitch is controlled through the computer. ION’s TTUSB shares a name and similar features with its competitor, the Numark TTUSB. This belt-drive turntable has a tone arm with adjustable anti-skating helps to keep an even stereo sound while protecting against skipping. The 33 and 45rpm speeds are supported and resonate through a fairly good cartridge that comes with the turntable. USB and 1/8 inch connections are used to convert records into MP3 files.

Denon DP-300F Turntable

The Denon DP-300F is in a mid-grade turntable designed for people that enjoy the automatic features of starter units. It is fully automatic; pushing a button starts the platter, raises and moves the arm, and sets it on the record. It has a built-in phono preamp for direct connection to receivers that only accept line level connections.

But the similarities end when it comes to build quality. The DP-300F uses a belt-drive system with DC servo motor that provides better isolation of motor noise and better wow and flutter specifications (0.10 percent). Instead of plastic, the chassis is made of aluminum. The straight tonearm is noted to be very good, and comes with a removable universal mount headshell. On the downside, the included cartridge is a weak point. If you are willing to be in this price range for a better turntable, you will want to upgrade the cartridge. Finally, we need to note that this is a very attractive turntable, with a piano-like finish and clean design. It looks nothing like DJ turntable because it isn't. It's a serious spinner of records that just so happens to be fully-automatic.

Music Hall USB-1 Turntable

Music Hall’s USB-1 is a belt-drive turntable ideal for digitizing analog music. As an entry-level turntable, it is built durably and includes everything needed to start converting, listening, or both. A pre-mounted reputable Audio Technica AT3600L cartridge is included, made ideally for high quality playback and crisp conversions. The tonearm comes with antiskate technology for even more reliable playback. Although this is not the most suitable for scratching, it will produce excellent digital versions of analog music. Torque on this turntable yields a start/stop time of less than a second when spinning at either 33 or 45RPM. Pitch control of +/- 10 percent allows listeners to tweak songs for recording or to dabble with mixing.

Pro-Ject Essential Turntable

Pro-Ject's least expensive turntable is a great way to bring audiophile-grade sound to a mid-fi budget. The Essential is a fully-manual turntable with MDF used for the chassis and platter instead of plastic. It includes a cueing lever but no other frills. Unlike other models on the list, this is a two-speed, belt-drive turntable with no electronic speed control. To change the speed you must move the belt on the pulley.

Right away, this can be a non-starter for people unaccustomed to this level of manual control. However, components like this are designed with the notion of fewer mechanical parts equals fewer things to affect the sound. Wow and flutter specs are similar to other choices on the list, but signal-to-noise ratio is better (-65 dB) due to the belt-driven design.

The straight tonearm is crafted from aluminum and has a fixed headshell with the very good Ortofon OM3E cartridge included. The difference a better cartridge makes in tracking and fidelity cannot be overstated. The Essential does not offer USB outputs, and is fully manual. It may not be the best choice for many users looking in this price range. However, it will certainly be the best sounding.

Audio-Technica ATLP120USB Turntable with USB output

Audio Technica gives Stanton a run for their money with their direct drive LP120. Their mid-range USB turntable features pitch lock for bpm changes that will not affect the pitch. 12, 10, and 7-inch records can be converted with three different speeds: 33, 78, and 45 RPM respectively. Pitch ranges vary from +/- 10 percent to 20 percent for dynamic mixing capability. Audacity software is included for straightforward analog-to-digital conversion. Reverse playback is also an option for further creativity. Audio-Technica’s 95E cartridge, a favorite among vinyl lovers for its clarity and strong low-end, is mounted on the headshell. They threw in a removable dust cover for the classic record player look, as well as a slip mat and all the necessary cables.

U-Turn Audio Orbit Turntable

If you have not heard of the Orbit Turntable and U-Turn Audio, that's because this is a new product from a new company. But, the design is decidedly old school audiophile. The Orbit is a completely manual turntable with audiophile-grade sound, positioned just slightly above the budget turntable price range.

There is no USB output, nor built-in preamp. There is not even a tonearm lift. What you are getting, however, is a real deal vinyl playing machine. The basic Orbit model uses a belt-driven, machined MDF platter, mated to an AC synchronous motor. The wow and flutter is listed at 0.2 percent which must be a conservative rating considering the drive system. The motor is isolated from the plinth using a rubber suspension, with a signal-to-noise rating of -62 dB. . Speed changes from 33 1/3 to 45 are manual via moving the belt on the exposed pulley.

The Orbit turntable's tonearm is also quite a bit better than what is normally found at this price range. It is a straight design crafted from aluminum, with very high quality bearings, and silver-plated wiring. RCA cables are included and removable for transit and upgrade purposes. If you have visions of really getting into high fidelity audio, the Orbit will be a very good choice. If you do want to be able to digitize your vinyl, the Orbit plus a USB phono preamp is a very nice combo. If you need automatic features, look elsewhere. Finally, be aware that Orbit is a new company, but one with a clear vision of affordable audiophile-grade sound.

Sean Dennis
I'm a freelance technical writer and editor who has been interested in music and audio for a long time. I was bitten by the audiophile bug as a child, fascinated by the turning reels on my father's Sony Reel-to-Reel Tape Deck. In college, I took courses in audio production and analog recording techniques, and participated in my college's radio station. And, I discovered the magic of tubes, acquiring a vintage Fisher KX-100 stereo tube amp that I still have today.

As a Bestcovery expert, my goal is to provide information to help you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to the enjoyment of recorded music, and to point out the features, sonics, and build quality that differentiates top notch audio gear.
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