Audiophile Turntable: Can You Find One Budget Priced?

Audiophile Turntable: Can You Find One Budget Priced?

An audiophile turntable is not as expensive as you think

I originally had the mistaken assumption that an audiophile turntable was so far beyond my price, that I didn’t even attempt to look into it.

You could spend thousands of dollars, I probably would if I could afford it. I am more than happy with the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon I have. The difference between the Pioneer I was using and the Pro-Ject was noticeable, but not as wide as you might think.

The vibrancy of the music, the clarity is what I remember the most looking back at that first few records I played on it.

I have friends who told me that they thought the Debut Carbon was nearly as good as a 1,000 dollar system they had.

You can always upgrade stylus down the road too if you want, the Ortofon that came with mine sounds good to my ears. Sound is purely a personal thing once you get to a certain quality equipment point.

3 audiophile options that cost less than $400.

The Sony record player was OK

I thought the Sony I had before the Pioneer was pretty good for the money, but once I stepped into the audiophile turntable realm, I experienced the difference. There is definitely a next level of sound quality, when jumping up to the 300 dollar price range.

If you have spent a lot of money on your vinyl record collection, it’s probably a good idea to have a decent sounding turntable right? The Pro-Ject only cost me $399.00 brand new, the Pioneer was $150.00, so not too expensive.

Also if you’re new to vinyl,  you will need a phono preamp of some sort for most audiophile turntables, this will be a separate purchase that you will need to make for most audiophile turntables to play through your receivers.

Set up of a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon

Things to consider if you do upgrade

I finally upgraded to what I call an audiophile quality turntable was less than $400, it sounds great to me, but a word of warning to you thrift store scroungers:

When you start dealing with the high-end tables, they pick up everything! Detail that is noticeable when you listen to mint or near mint vinyl, you will quickly realize what you have missed.

On the other hand, thrift store vinyl, less than VG+, might be more tolerable on a Sony or Pioneer $100 player because of the less sensitive stylus. Those records are noisier on my Pro-Ject. I can’t imagine what an extreme high-end player’s sensitivity would be?

I believe if you want to enjoy lesser condition vinyl, and you are super sensitive to surface noise. You need to have both an audiophile turntable and a cheap record player. Probably smart not to wear that good needle out on rougher vinyl too. Of course if you have the funds, you wouldn’t have to lower yourself to less than near Mint records to begin with.

Here is a large list of audiophile turntables you can check out.

A few things to remember:

    1. Some of these higher end turntables may not include both a needle and cartridge, be sure to check.
    2. Most likely you will need to buy a separate phono pre-amp.
    3. Surface noise is more pronounced on lesser grade used vintage records, pops and clicks may be too much to take. Anything VG+ or above is OK.

If you’re just now making your first audiophile turntable purchase, consider what it is you want, you must ask questions:

Do you really need top dollar audiophile sound quality? well, you will have to pay for that. If you’re some one who can’t really, or never cared to pay that close attention to the detail in sound, but would like a cheap decent sounding player? A Sony or Pioneer might be to your liking

If you’re someone who just has a few records left over from yesteryear, and now you want to play them once in a while, a cheaper more convenient option might be best. You will sacrifice sound quality on these all in one, or built-in speaker turntables though.

If you buy a 50 dollar turntable with speakers built-in, likely the sound will be sub-par. Personally I would stick to the plug and play Sony or Pioneer tables as an absolute minimum starter option.

Splitting hairs with sound quality on audiophile record players

Personally I can’t stand distortion or compressed sound, I like the music to breathe, I want a wide spacious sound stage. Muffled, or muddy sound is the also a problem I find with the cheaper record players. This muddy sound is usually heavily noted on the bottom end bass sound.

I like the nuances of the vintage music I listen to, I don’t mind a bit of static, or some tape hiss. I can live with “some” snap crackle pop during playback of vinyl, there are limits of course, and each person develops their own tastes.

If you’re like me, and just like good bass, and nice clear highs, but don’t fine tune every  nuance. I think any Pro-Ject would be perfect for both types of people without going beyond your budget.

If you would rather have something that’s less about sound, and more about the way it looks, perhaps one of these vintage style record players is what you need, they cost a fraction of an audiophile turntable and could be used to test worn vintage vinyl to protect your audiophile unit.

Photos used with permission: Via


A dad, freelance writer, and entrepreneur: Jason Sositko is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to I also use services like Viglink and Skimlinks to generate links inside articles where I could receive a commission.

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