Our Guide to Help You Find YOUR Best Record Player Under 300 dollars
We are back with our vinyl obsession and today, we are going to be talking about the best turntable under 300.
$300 is a decent price point for a record player and you can expect a lot more than the all-inclusive beginner-friendly models that sound a little tinny for our liking. Don’t get us wrong here, we have been there, loved every minute of it and overgrown our $75 turntable.
Why, we have even delved into the $10000 territory and come back unsatisfied with the deck we picked. But the mid-range is where we have found the most variety in terms of sound quality and aesthetics.
On offer are some fantastic turntables that are an eclectic mix of features and more importantly, also offer some room for customization.
So, sit back and enjoy.
#1 – Denon DP-300F Fully Automatic Analog Turntable
Denon continues to rule to the roost when it comes to fully automatic or semi-automatic modern day turntables. Among the three most popular models from their line-up, the DP-300F is our personal favourite. There are so many things that are right about it. It is fully-automatic, has a built-in pre amp and features a replaceable cartridge.
Most importantly, Denon sticks to the more affordable end of the price bracket making it well within the reach of beginner vinyl enthusiasts looking for a more authentic sound from their first turntable.
We often get emails asking for assistance on using a completely manual turntable. While it is no rocket science, it does take some getting used to, especially if you are a newbie. The DP-300F is fully automatic, which means, a press of button is all that is needed to hear the soft whir of the motor, watch the arm rise and gently position itself into the groove of your record. But, you can also manually do it if you wish to play a selected track or switch sides. It features a removable head shell which means that you can replace the cartridge, something that is most desired but often missing in a budget-priced deck.
Built-in Pre Amp
The DP-300F is one of the rare models in this price range that features a built-in pre amp, which Denon calls a phono-equalizer. For the uninitiated, this allows you to connect the record player to any external amp or receiver. Also, you have the option of switching between a phono input or an auxiliary one. Sound quality is excellent. The Denon DP-300F has a full, rich and warm sound with enough treble and a satisfying mid-range. It does lack a little in the bass. But that’s not a deal breaker for us neither should it be for you.
Despite the hologram vibration analysis and the die-cast aluminum, vibration-reducing base the DP-300F can do much better with some isolation. A few extra pads or feet should keep it sturdy.
- Attractive vintage-styling
- Fully automatic operation
- Removable headshell for cartridge replacement
- Aluminum, vibration-reducing base
- Hologram vibration analysis
- Warm and full sound
#2 – Pioneer PL-990 Automatic Stereo Turntable
Despite looking like someone time-warped it from the 90s (or is it the 80s) straight into 2018, the Pioneer PL-990 budges its way into this list of the best record players under 300. This old entry-level warhorse from Pioneer has been around for years now and it remains unfazed (and unchanged) by the competition.
But don’t let the mundane exteriors fool you. This is an excellent deck for the price (under $130 at the time of writing this article), that boasts of features like an in-built phone preamp and a moving magnet cartridge.
We love the all-black casing with the buttons on the front. It looks quintessentially vintage, almost like an old Hitachi VHS player that we owned back in the days. But this also ensures that it’s not going to be an eyesore on your cabinet. There’s a bunch of push buttons on the front part of the casing that lets you change speeds, play/stop and raise the tone arm. The PL-990 is a two-speed turntable by the way. It can play 33s and 45s. The anti-vibrating feet on the PL-990 ensure that it stays put wherever you place it and being a belt-driven one, it doesn’t vibrate or skip as much as a direct drive model.
Despite being a variable speed turntable, at times, we find the need for enhanced speed control. Pioneer throws in a rotary dial that allows you to fine tune the speed. It does take some practice mind you. The aluminium platter clubbed with the pre-amp ensures excellent sound quality. Purists would still run it through a professional mixer. But even when hooked directly to a modern speaker, the PL-990 sounds full and true.
Why is there no headphone jack on this one? Taking a cue from Apple maybe? Certainly not when the PL-990 has been around when headphones were the rage. So, you’d still have to connect it to an external receiver to be able to use a headphone. Also, no support for those 78s.
- Vintage looking turntable
- Fully automatic operation
- In-built pre amp
- Belt-driven operation
- Anti-vibrating feet
- Under $130 price tag
#3 – Audio-Technica AT-LP120
We have played records galore on our old Technics-1200 (Rest in Peace) and it remained our infallible favourite for over two decades. So, when we saw something that resembled (should we say mimicked) it, we jumped head first into it. Today, the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 occupies prime real estate on our cabinet and with the features that it boasts of, it looks like it’s going to stay there for a while.
The AT-LP120 is one of Audio-Technica’s most advanced turntable models that’s crammed to the brim with features. This is the first direct drive model in this list of the best record players under 300. Along with that, it also features a stroboscope, pitch control (+ or – 20%) and an excellent alluminum platter.
Record straight to a hard drive
We know that we jumped the gun to talk about the digital-to-analog recording feature skipping other equally important ones like the design and the in-built pre amp. But we love the fact that this can skip the whole USB flash drive thingy and record straight to your PC or Mac. Since it records the entire side as one single track, the direct-to-pc recording also allows you to split the files easily. Coming to the external outputs, the AT-LP120 has a switch that allows you to toggle between the in-built pre amp or an external one of your choice.
Well-rounded feature set
The AT-LP120 is a three-speed turntable with a lightweight aluminum platter. Flanking the platter is a slide switch mechanism which allows you to change the pitch by up to 20%. There is also a pitch lock button that lets you lock the pitch. While we are not big favorites of backmasked messages, we did try out this feature in the AT-LP120 to decode one of the hidden messages in a Def Leppard number. We cant wait to try this out on an old Frank Zappa Vinyl which we recently rediscovered. It features an S-shaped pivoting tone arm with an adjustable counterweight. Other than the basics, there are a few novelty features as well. The base, for example, has a neatly concealed groove to hold the 45 adapter, an extra cartridge and a needle assembly. There’s a strobe light that pops up when required.
For a modern day turntable, a hardwired RCA cable sounds like an anomaly that Audio-Technica failed to notice. What if the cable malfunctions or goes kaput?
- Excellent build quality
- USB recording direct to hard disk
- Three speed turntable
- Pitch control
- Play backwards
- Excellent pricing
#4 – Fluance High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable Record Player with Dual Magnet Cartridge
We first came across Fluance Signature Series Floorstanding Speakers with their luxurious finish and deep thumping bass a couple of years ago. So, when they ventured into analog with the RT81, we were one of the first guys to pre-book what is undoubtedly one of the top contenders for the best turntable under 300. So far, we haven’t been disappointed one bit with our choice.
The RT81 is an immaculately designed turntable that looks like a million bucks and has the build quality to boot. In fact, it can hold its own when pitted against much higher priced turntables like the Rega or the Crosley for example.
Excuisite Walnut Finish
We love the all-wooden (MDF) exterior with the walnut finish on the RT81. It is all gloss and looks like a welcome change from the metallic and the all-blacks that dominate this category of turntables. It weighs close to 14 pounds and is a sturdy little record player that tackles external vibrations effectively. There’s an ‘S’ shaped tone arm (aluminum) with a removable head and a bonded elliptical stylus. That’s a plus $500 model right there in the making. But it’s not over yet. The Fluance RT81 also features an in-built pre amp and RCA output jacks (gold plated)
Warm Sonic Quality
Staying true to the brand, the RT81 churns out impressive quality sound. It is warm and evenly balanced. If anything, it lacks the thumping bass that one expects from the Canadian manufacturer. Also, the built in preamp sounds pretty ordinary even when you hook it up with the best external speaker set. So, a pre amp upgrade might be warranted if you are looking for more than casual listening.
One of the biggest design flaws is in the auto shut-off feature of the Fluance RT81. For some reason, the end-of-side auto shut off doesn’t retract the tone arm or power off the machine. Instead, the record keeps spinning with the needle still on the record. Not only does this wear the record prematurely, but it also wears down the needle.
- All-wooden chassis with walnut finish
- S-Shaped aluminum tone arm
- Built-in Phone pre amp
- Auto-start belt drive operation
- Three-speed turntable
#5 – TEAC TN-300 Analog Turntable with Built-in Phono Pre-amplifier
Last but not the least; we have the TEAC TN-300, another Japanese addition to the list of the best turntables under 300. The TN-300 looks high end with an MDF cabinet in glossy finish. But unlike cheap entry-level decks, they haven’t cut corners with the chassis.
There’s ample metal on the turntable and this can easily pass off as a $1000+ record player. The color choices are not limited to metallic either.
Fully Manual, Analog Turntable
Call it old school, but we love manual turntables. There’s something inherently cool about manually lowering a tone arm onto vinyl and the TEAC TN-300 lets you do just that. But, to keep up with the competition, they have thrown in a pre-amp and a digital music converter that lets you rip MP3 files on to a USB stick. The straight tone arm might seem mundane in comparison with the S shaped ones that have become the norm in this segment. But clubbed with the proven AT95E cartridge, it’s an excellent combination that provides more bang for your buck.
Phone and Line Out
The TEAC TN-300 is a two-speed turntable. With phono as well as line outputs, you can connect this to a modern external speaker or to an external preamp. Like most in-built preamps, the one in the TN-300 will fail to impress an audiophile and you will find yourself looking at external options sooner than later. Sound quality is pretty good for a casual vinyl lover. Also, with the ability to rip music from your records, you can always playback the songs on an external device of your choice.
Once again, being a fully manual turntable, it will not stop spinning once the side ends. You’d have to run over and lift the needle yourself. Also, the AT95E, despite being one of the most popular cartridges will need an upgrade somewhere down the road.
- Vintage Vibe
- All-wood chassis
- Straight tone arm with counterbalance
- Fully manual operation
- Rip MP3 files on to PC or MAC
- AT95E cartridge
A lot of people draw comparisons between a $200 and a $300 turntable because there’s very little visible difference on paper/specs. The real difference lies in the components though. Cartridges, styluses, the chassis, the tone arms, almost everything changes in quality when loosen your pockets.
Also, the turntables in the mid-range are upgradable making them a much better and longer lasting choice.
We hope that you enjoyed this list of the best turntables under 300. If you have your own favorites to add to this, then feel free to give a holler.