Listen to Vinyl at Home with a New Turntable

By Moana Sanchez | Entertainment

May 19

Although the era of digital, fast-food music has provided us with plenty of conveniences, there are some people that still hearken back to the good old days of music, when LPs and 45s were spun on turntables of various shapes and sizes.

If this describes you, the following article, in which we have reviewed several different turntables currently on the market, may be for you. Here we have given descriptions and described the pros and cons of three different turntable models.

Best Turntables for the Money (2018)

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We have additionally provided an informative “Turntable Buying Guide” to help you select the very best turntable for your particular needs.

Audio-Technica AT-LP120

The Audio-Technica AT-LP120 is one of the most popular turntables on the marketplace among people in the know.

A step up from their basic model, the Audio-Technica AT-LP60, the AT-LP120 features a number of modern upgrades, including a USB port on the back of the turntable which enables you to convert your favorite vinyl albums into great sounding digital music files. This new model also gives you the ability to make older albums seem like new by fine-tuning the amount of downward force on the needle

At mid-level price, the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 is a mid-range turntable (the most expensive on our list) that gives users the opportunity to listen to music as they did in years gone by: on vinyl albums with all the subtle nuances this format delivers.

Easy to set up, customers can be listening to records in no time at speeds of 33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPMs, with a +/-10 percent or +/-20 percent pitch adjust and high-accuracy quartz-controlled pitch lock. One of the best aspects of the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 is that no other parts or accessories are needed when connecting the turntable to speakers or a stereo system, as this model includes a built-in preamp that makes this connection quite effortless. This model also includes replacement parts, such as an extra needle and pre-calibrated cartridge.

The Audio-Technica AT-LP120, at roughly 24 pounds, is very sturdy. It includes a plastic base measuring 4 feet in length, which is more than enough space for keeping the turntable in place and for dampening any external vibrations.

Pros

  • Solidly built. The four-foot platform on the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 provides a solid base, keeping the turntable protected and dampening out vibrations.
  • USB Port. The USB port on the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 allows listeners to easily digitize their favorite albums.
  • Built-in Preamp. The built-in preamp, with bypass control, on the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 makes connections to stereos and powered (active) speakers a snap.

Cons

  • Replacement Parts. Those who own the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 for a significant period of time may have trouble replacing some of the RCA hard-wired connections.
  • Price. This is far from an entry-level model—there are many other basic turntables available for much less.
  • Plastic Base. The plastic, rather than wood base may look cheesy to some purists.

Pioneer PL-990 Automatic Stereo Turntable

The Pioneer PL-990 Automatic Stereo Turntable has been on the market for many years now and it is still one of the most popular and best-selling entry-level turntables out there.

Featuring two speeds (33 1/3 and 45), the PL-990 enables users to play their favorite LPs and singles. The unit boasts an almost fully automatic operation, with all the necessary buttons (play, stop, etc) located conveniently on the front of the turntable. One push of the play button and the Pioneer PL-990 Automatic Stereo Turntable will play the given record and will automatically shut off once the needle has reached the end.

The low-mass straight tone arm on the Pioneer PL-990 Automatic Stereo Turntable makes it highly sensitive to resonance and the built-in phone-Equalizer makes it easy to connect the unit to any auxiliary input on things like amplifiers or mini audio systems. This model features a belt-drive design with low vibration, and a rubber LP mat that will never scratch your favorite records.

Its sleek, black design conjures up thoughts of turntables from days gone by, and the hinged dust cover keeps records protected and sounding great when being played.

Pros

  • Price. Based on the MSRP, the Pioneer PL-990 Automatic Stereo Turntable is a great entry-level turntable for the price.
  • Lightweight. The lightweight design of the Pioneer PL-990 Automatic Stereo Turntable makes it easy to transport and move from room to room.
  • User-Friendly. You do not have to be anything close to an expert to use this turntable, as it basically does it all for you.

Cons

  • Non-Removable Cartridge. Unlike with other turntables on our list, the magnet cartridge on the Pioneer PL-990 Automatic Stereo Turntable cannot be removed.
  • Cable too short. The RCA cable that is built into the player, according to some users, is too short.
  • Problems with RPMs. Many users have complained that, after several uses, the turntable began to slow, thus distorting the sound of the music.

Sony PS-LX300USB USB Stereo Turntable

A great turntable for the money, the Sony PS-LX300USB USB Stereo Turntable has a lot of great features.

With speeds of 331/3 and 45, listeners can play their entire collection of singles and LPs. The turntable boasts a fully automatic operation, and a built-in phono preamp for connecting the unit to stereos and speakers. The static balance tone arm resists skips, and the belt drive system, consisting of a durable silicon belt that fits snugly around the step drive pulley, helps protect against unwanted vibration.

One of the best features of the Sony PS-LX300USB USB Stereo Turntable, especially considering the price, is the USB audio output that comes standard on this model. This feature allows you to transfer some of your favorite albums and singles to your PC or mobile device by converting the files into MP3 format. The audio software that comes with the turntable makes this archiving process quick and easy, and it even enables you to optimize the music using the online tools.

Pros

  • Easy to Use. The Sony PS-LX300USB USB Stereo Turntable is easy to set up and even easier to use thanks to its fully automatic operation.
  • Good sound quality. For an entry-level turntable, the sound quality is pretty good.
  • USB connectivity. The USB connectivity on the Sony PS-LX300USB USB Stereo Turntable makes it easy to convert vinyl songs into MP3 files.

Cons

  • No 78 Speed. The Sony PS-LX300USB USB Stereo Turntable only plays at speeds of 331/3 and 45.
  • Hard to Follow Instructions. According to some users, the directions for the audio software are somewhat unclear and hard to follow.
  • Arm Return. Many users complain that the arm return begins to malfunction after a period of heavy use.

Turntable Buying Guide: What to Look For

Turntables come with a variety of built-in features and a wide array of optional accessories. Here we will tell you just a few things to look for when buying a new turntable.

1. Built-in Phono Preamp

Although higher-end turntables tend to come standard with a dedicated turntable input, most of the entry-level turntables do not. And if the turntable you are looking at does not have this dedicated input, you will need to select one with a built-in phono preamp. Although a phono preamp does not enable you to connect your turntable to “regular” speakers, it does allow you to connect to things like active or powered speakers, amplifiers, and auxiliary inputs in stereos and mini-stereo systems.

2. USB Connectivity

In less you’re an ultimate purist when it comes to your turntables, you should definitely look for turntables that come with a USB output port—even if you won’t immediately need this function. The benefit of a USB output and USB connectivity is that it allows you to digitize your vinyl music collection by connecting the turntable to your MAC or PC computer. Once your music is digitized, you can then transfer it to your smart phone, iPod or other device so you can enjoy it on the go.

3. Manual vs. Automatic

When we say the phrase, manual vs. automatic, we are actually referring to the arm of the turntable. Automatic turntables are those in which the arm automatic descends at the start of the record, and returns to its starting position once the record is finished playing. With manual turntables, the listener is responsible for placing the arm down on the record, and must retrieve it once the record has finished playing.

4. Upgrades?

If you think you may want to upgrade your turntable at some time, you will definitely need to look at some of the higher end models that allow for upgrades.

5. Audio Software

The audio software will help you digitize and optimize your music when transferring it from vinyl to your computer. Some models include this software, while other models sell it separately (if it all).

6. Signal to Noise Ratio

Usually expressed as S/N followed by a number, which represents decibels, the signal to noise ratio lets you know just how much background noise to expect from the turntable for any given music signal level. A high number—something above 65 decibels—is what you are looking for here, as you definitely want more signal than background noise.

7. Playback Speeds

Although almost all turntables available today can be played at speeds of both 331/3 and 45 RPMs, if you have a collection of 78 records you’ve been dying to listen to you will need a turntable that includes this speed.