TL;DR - If you want the best bang for your buck when buying a new turntable, get the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 for $250. It performs as good or better than more expensive turntables in the same class, according to recent technical tests. It comes with a built in phono pre-amp and allows you to upgrade the cartridge, so you won't need to buy a whole new turntable a few years down the road. It's a good investment.
If you want to know more, keep reading.
Ever since I wrote my giant turntable guide post a few months back, I thought it would be worthwhile to catalog as many modern turntables as I could, along with basic specs and price. Below you'll find a table comparing about 50 different turntables that I came across, most of which can be purchased on Amazon. I decided to only include turntables that are currently still in production. Older models, even if still relatively new, are not included (SL-1200 MKII for example).
I decided to include a few technical specifications such as the wow & flutter rating, the signal to noise ratio, and weight. I did this in order to provide a general sense of quality for each turntable, however they should not be taken as the be-all and end-all determination. Often the craftsmanship and materials used in a turntable will matter more in the end. So use your own judgement and be sure to read the reviews.
Some information is missing, even from the manufacturer's website. So if anyone out there can fill in any of the blanks, I would appreciate it.
Information and prices were last updated Dec 10 2015. Apologies if this chart looks horrid at lower resolutions or on mobile. I still need to optimize it for smaller screens.
|Brand||Model||Price||Speeds||Drive||Auto||Wow/Flutter||S/N Ratio||Cart||Phono||USB||Weight (lbs)|
|Audio-Technica||AT-LP120-USB||249.99||33/45/78||Direct||Manual||0.2%||50 dB||Std. ½"||Y||Y||23.5|
|Audio-Technica||AT-LP1240-USB||399.00||33/45/78||Direct||Manual||0.1%||55 dB||Std. ½"||Y||Y||27.6|
|Denon||DP-300F||329.00||33/45||Belt||Auto||0.1%||60 dB||Std. ½"||Y||N||12.1|
|Music Hall||USB-1||249.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.25%||Std. ½"||Y||Y||11|
|Music Hall||MMF 2.2||299.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.15%||70 dB||Std. ½"||N||N||19|
|Music Hall||MMF 5.1||875.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.15%||70 dB||Std. ½"||N||N||24|
|Music Hall||MMF 9.1||1899.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.15%||70 dB||Std. ½"||N||N||39.5|
|Pro-Ject||Debut Carbon||399.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.1%||68 dB||Std. ½"||N||N||12.3|
|Pro-Ject||RPM 1.3 Genie||499.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.15%||70 dB||Std. ½"||N||N||7.3|
|Pro-Ject||Debut Carbon USB||349.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.1%||68 dB||Std. ½"||Y||Y||13.2|
|Stanton||T52B||149.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.2%||65 dB||Std. ½"||Y||N||14.6|
|Stanton||T55USB||199.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.2%||65 dB||Std. ½"||Y||Y||15.7|
|Stanton||T62||199.00||33/45||Direct||Manual||0.15%||65 dB||Std. ½"||N||N||16.5|
|Stanton||T92USB||299.00||33/45/78||Direct||Manual||0.15%||65 dB||Std. ½"||Y||Y||22.4|
|Stanton||ST-150||579.00||33/45/78||Direct||Manual||0.1%||60 dB||Std. ½"||Y||N||27|
|Stanton||STR8150||599.00||33/45/78||Direct||Manual||0.1%||60 dB||Std. ½"||Y||N||39.1|
|TEAC||TN-200||299.99||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.2%||67 dB||Std. ½"||Y||Y||10.8|
|TEAC||TN-300||350.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.2%||67 dB||Std. ½"||Y||Y||10.8|
|U-Turn||Orbit||179.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.2%||60 dB||Std. ½"||N||N||15|
|U-Turn||Orbit Plus||309.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.125%||79 dB||Std. ½"||N||N||15|
|VPI||Traveler||999.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.02%||80 dB||Std. ½"||N||N||17.8|
|VPI||Classic 1||2995.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.02%||80 dB||Std. ½"||N||N||55|
|VPI||Classic 2||4000.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.02%||80 dB||Std. ½"||N||N||65|
|VPI||Scout 1.1||1995.00||33/45||Belt||Manual||0.02%||78 dB||Std. ½"||N||N||32|
Putting it all together
I should note that you will likely regret buying the cheapest turntable on this list. And if you consider yourself an audio enthusiast, you'll also likely regret buying a turntable with a fixed cartridge. They typically have low quality needles and fixed weight tonearms that can damage your records over time.
Below are a few points to help you make sense of the above comparison chart. For more detailed explanations, I highly recommend reading my full turntable guide.
33, 45 and 78 RPM Speeds
Most records you come across will be either 33 (sometimes labeled 33⅓) or 45 RPM. Don't worry about 78 RPM unless you have a collection of extremely old records (pre 1950).
Belt Drive vs. Direct Drive
Not a significant difference from a sound quality perspective. Belt drives are reported to isolate vibrations more effectively, and they happen to be less expensive. Direct drives are preferred by DJs because of the high torque motors.
Automatic vs. Manual Operation
An automatic turntable will lift the needle from the rest position and lower it onto the record for you. At the end of a record, the needle will lift and return to the rest position again. Manual turntables do not have this feature, and must be operated by hand.
Wow & Flutter
Determines how much the platter's speed will fluctuate as it spins. It is determined by the quality of the motor. A lower percentage is better.
The signal to noise ratio determines how much noise is introduced into the audio signal through vibrations from the motor and interference from other electrical components. It is measured in negative decibels, so a higher number is better.
Cartridges come in three types. Fixed, P-mount or Standard ½". Fixed cartridges allow you to replace the needle when it is worn out, but you can't upgrade the cartridge itself. P-mount and Standard ½" options both let you upgrade the cartridge, but there are fewer P-mount options. Standard ½" is the preferred option with the most flexibility in upgrades.
Does the turntable come with a built in phono pre-amp? Phono pre-amps are a required component when using a turntable, but they're sometimes built into the turntable itself or your existing stereo. Check if your stereo has an input labeled "phono" on the back first. You should check this out for a more detailed explanation.
Does the turntable come with a built in USB interface? Turntables with a USB interface allow you to connect the turntable directly to a computer so that you can listen through your computer speakers, or record your albums to a digital format. Most USB turntables come with software for recording.
The weight of a turntable can determine how well vibrations are isolated from the needle. A turntable with poor isolation may skip when there are too many interfering vibrations in the room, heavy footsteps for example.
Photo courtesy Parker Miles Blohm