Vinyl records have made a big comeback. For some audiophiles, they never went away. Listening to music on vinyl records is more fun than digital music. Vinyl records have big, colorful sleeves with lots of information on them that make pulling one off the shelf and putting it on a turntable an event. While you can cram a lot of music in an MP3 player, the music is compressed digitally and doesn’t have the sonic range of a recording on a vinyl record.
If you’re new to vinyl records, or you gave yours away when CDs took over, you’re in luck. While you can spend up to $10,000 on a high-end audiophile’s dream turntable, there are plenty of turntables available for the budget conscious. Remember, the more you save on your turntable, the more you’ll be able to spend on your vinyl collection. Here’s how to shop for the best turntable under 100 bucks.
How to Judge the Best Record Player Under 100 Bucks
It’s hard for a novice to shop for an affordable record player based on pictures and specifications. Many of the measurements of sound quality used in sound reproduction are unusual to the average person. There are a few important features and benefits that anyone can understand when shopping for a cheap still high quality record player. Here are a few of the most common ways to tell if you’re getting your money’s worth.
Vinyl Records Are Better Quality Than You Think
We live in a digital world. Very few people watch or listen to anything that isn’t digitally encoded. If you compare the picture on an old analog television to a modern 1080p flatscreen playing a Blu-ray disc, you can see how much information can be crammed onto digital media. In theory, an analog storage device like a vinyl record can’t compete with a digital storage device like a CD. In practice, that’s not always the case.
While vinyl records do have some limitations, they hold a great deal of audio information in their grooves. Digital files can hold more, but they’re not practical for use by the average person unless they’re compressed. Without compression, audio files are huge, and you wouldn’t be able to fit very many of them on even the most powerful MP3 players. That compression degrades the quality of the sound, and makes it possible for old-fashioned vinyl records to compete with MP3s for your listening dollar. You might be surprised to find out that record players under a hundread dollars are able to reproduce sound better than many digital players using compressed audio files.
Look for Solid Preamplification
The best turntable under 100 dollars will have onboard preamplification. The signal that a needle produces when it’s running through the grooves on a record is very faint, and many amplifiers will introduce distortion if the signal is fed directly to them without being boosted. Look for models that have a high quality preamplifier to deliver the best sound possible.
The Best Turntable Under 100 Dollars
The Audio Technica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Stereo Turntable System is the best record player we can find in this price range. Audio Technica has been making high-quality turntables for decades, and while the popularity of vinyl records has come and gone and come again, they’ve never stopped making great record players. The Audio Technica AT-LP60 has a high-quality preamplifier onboard that lets you plug it in to any auxiliary slot on an amplifier while still delivering great sound. One important setting on the Audio Technica AT-LP60 is often overlooked. The preamplifier can be switched off if desired. Many older versions of amplifiers have a dedicated phono input, which is designed to provide high-quality preamplification to turntables that don’t have one onboard. With the preamp switched off, the Audio Technica AT-LP60 won’t overload a phono input with too much signal, which can cause distortion. It allows you to use the turntable with almost any amplifier in the world to get great sound.
The Audio Technica AT-LP60 is fully automatic, a great convenience when you want to enjoy your favorite discs. It will track the needle in the correct place whether you’re listening to 7-inch or 12-inch records, and plays at both 33 and 45 RPM to match. Just press the button and the rest is done for you. It is belt-driven, which cuts down on noise by separating the drive shaft of the motor from the spindle that holds the record, improving the sound further. Audio Technica AT-LP60 delivers 99 percent of the performance of the most expensive turntables at a fraction of their price.