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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
James Grimshaw

Best budget record players 2024: Turntables to make the most of your vinyl collection

By now, it is perhaps safe to say that the vinyl revolution is here to stay; indeed, it might be fairer still to say that it never quite left.

Despite a Millennium-era slump in production and sales, vinyl has bounced back as a medium of choice for many music lovers – even if a handful of them are more interested in records as décor than music source. 

The renewed popularity of vinyl can be attributed to several factors. For one, records have a reputation as the connoisseur’s choice for music listening; some well-meaning but ultimately misunderstood assertions have led some people to the conclusion that vinyl records, being analogue, are ‘better’ than digital media. 

Vinyl is empirically a much more problematic medium for fidelity and frequency response – though those ‘problems’ are what give records their trademark warmth and depth to the human ear, and hence a subjective edge over many clinical-sounding digital recreations.

Another key reason lies in the state of the music industry at present. As streaming platforms continue to dominate with their all-digital, all-on-demand subscription models, many music fans are starting to tire of having little to show for their taste. Records are a powerful rejection of app-based ‘content consumption’, being tangible artefacts with stunning artwork and liner notes to explore – and requiring active interaction, and mindful listening, to appreciate in full. This, of course, brings us to the means by which records are heard.

Anatomy of a record player

Record players are astonishingly simple machines, at least in terms of basic operating principles. Up to the higher echelons of the record player pantheon, many of the best designs are minimal; at its most essential, a record player is simply a revolving plate and a swinging tonearm with a passive transducer needle attached. Of course, a lot can change between these basic elements to set different players apart.

One consideration is how the record plate is powered. Belt-driven turntables are one standard, where a rubber belt connects the plate to an electric motor – and changes to the ratio of roller diameter change the speed of revolution. Direct drive turntables, meanwhile, cut out the middleman, with increased speed accuracy and torque the reward. 

Another consideration relates to the tonearm and attached stylus. Imbalanced tonearms can put too much pressure on the stylus, wearing records quicker; alternately, they can be too light, leading to increased skipping and scratch risks; this problem is one solved by the presence of an adjustable counterweight system. The stylus itself is essential to the quality of the produced sound too, though these can be replaced on most units.

While more expensive record players execute the basics well, they also incur additional costs due to their simplicity; an expensive record player still needs to service a separate phono pre-amplifier, if not successive stages of hi-fi amplification – before its sounds reach another third party, in the form of the speakers. 

Best budget record players at a glance

Spending money on the right record player setup can yield rewarding results, but this is not immediately accessible to everyone. Meanwhile, the entry-level offers an extremely broad degree of serviceable record players – from distilled forms of quality turntables to all-in-one record-playing media centres. But which are the best in this crowded field?

We've found the best to shop below

TEAC TN-175 Automatic HiFi Turntable

Best: overall

TEAC should be a brand familiar to many a bedroom musician and analogue-sound-chasing tapehead; it is a Japanese corporation, one division of which was responsible for the creation of the infamous TASCAM tape recorders. From era-defining reel-to-reel tape recorders like the 32 and TSR-8 to the Portastudio 4-track cassette recorders that made immeasurable bedroom demos, TASCAM has come to be a vintage name with vintage appeal. TEAC’s broader remit also encompasses consumer hi-fi and audio – and while their entries in the hi-fi world don’t carry quite the same nostalgic weight, they do carry that same sense of signature quality.

The TN-175 is TEAC’s lowest-priced turntable, and a great deal for its low price. This unit is in fierce competition with Audio-Technica’s LP-60X, featured later in this piece. They share much in the way of features and topography; the same speed-shifting toggle is here, as is the automatic tonearm mechanism – though this time the buttons are almost arcade-style, and positioned on top of the unit. The TEAC trades Audio-Technica’s metal chassis for wood, with an MDF construction that still adds weight and stability despite its cheapness. The finish doesn’t suffer from this material choice, either.

The TEAC features a phono amplifier/equaliser, that enables the TN-175 to connect to sound systems without their own phono pre-amp. The TN-175 also boasts the same Audio-Technica-branded stylus as the AT-60LPX, putting it in good company for sound quality and articulation at the entry-level.

Given the similarity of design between this and at least two other budget turntables in this list, it is hard to call favourites beyond aesthetic considerations. The TEAC is a winner in at least one category, though, thanks to its conventional tonearm counterweight system that enables fine control of stylus pressure on the record – something many other entry-level record players lack.

Buy now £129.00, Amazon

Audio-Technica SB727 ‘Sound Burger’

Best for: portability and cool factor

Reputation for studio-quality equipment notwithstanding, Audio-Technica also has something of a cultural oddity up its sleeves. The ‘Sound Burger’ was a short-lived portable record player released by the brand in the early 1980s, which earned its name from its unusual form factor. Long and slim, the Sound Burger (sold as the somewhat less appetising ‘Mister Disc’ in the US) features a belt-driven mini-platter at one rounded end; mounted records are locked in place if pinched between two fingers, while the tone arm swivels outward to meet the grooves.

Audio-Technica has seen fit to bring this niche corner of early portable media-playing back for the 21st century, via the SB727 – a modern-day re-issue with modern conveniences. The USP for this thing is self-evident; I mean, just look at it. It is an unusual device in and of itself, but the faithfulness of the SB727 to its original aesthetics makes this a chic nostalgia bomb.

The SB-727 is original in all the right places, and improved in all the rest. The original Sound Burger was a clunky battery-operated affair, designed to allow out-of-the-house listening with relative ease. The reissue replaces the need for disposable batteries with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which enables up to 12 hours of unplugged play.

Speaking of unplugged, another smart upgrade comes in the form of Bluetooth connectivity. Now, you can listen wirelessly as well as play wirelessly – and on anything Bluetooth-compliant, as well. Of course, there is an analogue line out too, so you aren’t forced to use Bluetooth. This makes the SB727 fundamentally more versatile than the vast majority of record players.

The Sound Burger is, in a word, fun. Using it is a blast, with its tactile lid and tonearm travel; it is fun to look at, and fun to watch doing its thing; and the novelty of doing it anywhere you’d like is not one that’ll wear off soon. There are some obvious trade-offs, and the SB-727 is not immune to vibration despite its mobile nature, but none of these should be enough to dissuade you from getting something undeniably cool to play your records on.

Buy now £199.00, Audio-Technica

Audio-Technica LP60X Fully Automatic Turntable

Best for: quality at the entry-level

Audio-Technica is a well-beloved budget-to-mid-range audio brand, at least within the music-making community. The brand’s headphones and microphones strike an expert balance between affordability and quality, with the ATH-M50x headphones having achieved legendary status amongst producers and other music-makers for their accessibility and clear, balanced sound. The same is true for Audio-Technica’s work within the turntable space, too, with the LP60X being a stand-out budget model. 

This is a plug-and-play record player that has exactly everything you’d need to start your record-playing journey – minus, of course, the speakers. A switchable on-board preamp solves this too, though, allowing you to pair this with practically any system you desire. This is also a fully-automatic turntable, with a mechanical action inside that controls the placement and lifting of the tonearm on your behalf. This eliminates the possibility of you dropping or slipping with the stylus, preserving the integrity of your records and making playing them as simple as pressing a button.

The LP60X is also a sleek unit, with a beautiful (relatively) minimal design and a pleasing surface. It is a quintessential thing, and would look good against practically any hi-fi set-up. The £140 price point cannot buy you the clarity or quality that a serious turntable might offer, but Audio-Technica offers much more at this price point than many a competitor. For your money, you are getting a good build quality from the unit itself, a pleasing and articulate sound from the tonearm and stylus, and an accessible usability that doesn’t lean into gimmickry.

Buy now £154.99, Amazon

Lenco LS-300WD

Best for: a cheap and cheerful all-in-one audio solution

Lenco is a Swiss brand that has been in the turntable game for around 80 years now, providing a wide range of record players and other audio devices to a wide range of consumers. Its offerings today lean towards the budget end of the spectrum, with a number of products that seek to solve more than one problem at a time – including the LS-300.

The Lenco LS-300 is a manual belt-drive turntable, but one with a little more functionality than others of its ilk. For one, it features a built-in amplifier as well as a built-in phono pre-amp, meaning the turntable itself is enough to power a set of passive bookshelf speakers. This is big news for people without the knowledge or money to create their own hi-fi ‘stack’, and something that counts well towards its practical utility.

The unit also comes with its own bookshelf speakers, further reducing the need for you to invest in your set-up. Situating the LS-300 is as simple as hooking the wires up to the terminals on the speaker and unit respectively, and plugging the power supply in. The speakers are a little honky, but the treble articulation is commendable – and they are better than most other built-in speaker options in rival products. There are also phono outputs to enable hookups to other systems, if you aren’t too fond of the built-in amplifier. Rounding out the LS-300 as an all-inclusive solution, the unit is also Bluetooth-enabled!

The LS-300’s tonearm is a little weighty, but there is a nifty counterweight system hidden under a plastic hood at the rear of the assembly; the stylus here is also Audio-Technica, which speaks somewhat to the treble articulation of the unit. The turntable itself is lightweight, and the tonearm-platter assembly is mounted above the chassis in such a way as to reduce the effects of vibration and shakes. This assembly feels a tad flimsy but is a great way to reduce skipping and skating.

For the money, this is a fun all-in-one product and definitely a contender for those starting their vinyl journey. There are nitpicks, for sure, from flimsy-feeling assemblies to a torque-lacking motor, but these would not get in the way of a new vinyl adoptee enjoying their collection – nor in the way of someone looking for a handy hi-fi solution.

Buy now £199.00, Amazon

Lenco L-30

Best for: plug-and-play simplicity

Lenco’s L-30 turntable is a slightly more austere stand-alone offering from the Swiss brand, with some small and simple changes that make the unit more useful in some key ways. The tonearm-platter assembly is essentially the same as the L-300, with the same placement of controls and the same tonearm form; this time, a simpler and sleeker shroud-less linkage makes for a cleaner look, though the counterweight is unfortunately lost in favour of a plastic facsimile. The unit’s chassis is sleeker too, with a lower profile, pleasing rounded edges, and lack of buttons or switches to clutter its surface.

The lower profile is with some thanks to the simplified circuitry within; there’s no built-in amplifier here, though there is a stereo pre-amp to feed the RCA outputs at the rear. Also found at the rear is a USB-B connector, on account of the analogue-digital converter that allows you to record your catalogue to your computer. Given the plug-and-play simplicity of the L-30, it is a great starter unit for those unfamiliar with record players – and a great stepping stone to better things.

Buy now £127.23, Amazon

Pro-ject E1 Phono

Best for: audiophiles

Pro-Ject Audio Systems is an Austrian hi-fi brand, and a relatively young one in comparison to many of the other brands that feature in this list. Since 1991, Pro-Ject have been designing and releasing record players and associated hi-fi peripherals with newer vinyl adoptees in mind; their modus operandi has been to create affordable and accessible audio devices, by keeping them simple and keeping quality in mind all the while.

The E1 series is Pro-Ject’s true entry-level, with three different varieties available in three different colours. This is the E1 Phono, which features a built-in phono pre-amplifier to negate the need for a separate element to your hi-fi set-up. ‘Plug and play’ is the purpose of the E1 line, and this achieves said purpose handily.

Another way in which it does so is through simplicity of control. Many other quality record players will have complex controls to enable precise tweaks, with variables like ‘anti-skating’ and ‘tracking force’ to dial in carefully. The E1 Phono comes pre-calibrated to remove this from the equation, and further reduce the distance between a listener and a quality listening experience.

That listening experience is provided, in part, by the Ortofon OM 5E cartridge – Ortofon is another audio manufacturer associated with quality. Between this brilliant cartridge, the solidity of the E1 Phono’s MDF chassis, and the shock-absorbing stability of its dual-platter assembly, setting up and listening to a record is rendered a joy. 

The simplicity of the E1 Phono is also reflected in its design. The surface is sleek and minimal, even monolithic, making this as much a delight to behold as it is to play. Though entry-level, it commands a higher price than entry-level offerings from other brands. This might be a deal-breaker for some new to records, but is the price to pay for consummate quality – and a great start for the budding audiophile.

Buy now £299.00, John Lewis

Denon DP-29F

Best for: quality under £100

Denon is a key competitor brand in the battle of budgets, particularly within the DJ equipment and peripherals space. Denon, Numark and Pioneer are frequent fixtures in entry-level DJ gear breakdowns, each offering something affordable and accessible to the beginning beat-matcher. But Denon’s hi-fi credentials are greater still, with the Japanese brand having built itself on the production of hi-fi components and equipment.

The Deon DP-29F is an entry-level turntable that has the likes of Audio-Technica and TEAC clearly in its sights. There are some key similarities between the models, with the speed toggle and placement of the start/stop switches being particularly stand-out. The DP-29F is similarly well-built, too, though its design is a little less sleek in comparison.

This is an inarguably functional thing, that does exactly what it says on the tin and does so with a degree of quality to it. There are no bells and whistles, but it does have a built-in equaliser for better integration with simpler amplifiers. This is an elegant and inexpensive solution, and one of the better options on the market if you can find it for below £100.

Buy now £99.00, Currys

Pioneer DJ PLX-500-K

Best for: Career-hungry future DJs

Pioneer is the go-to brand for all things DJ; the brand’s mixers and speakers are de rigueur for producers and late-night venues, thanks to their practical engineering and near-indestructibility. The PLX-500-K is a budget version of the poster-child record player, and an absolute must-own for budding DJs on a relative budget – but why?

For starters, this is one of the best direct-drive turntables you will get in this price bracket. This alone is enough to justify spending a little more, given the accuracy with which records can be replayed (and the effective elimination of speed ‘warble’ as a result). The construction is also remarkably solid, with a hefty baseplate and a rugged tonearm that balances its weight well.

The PLX-500-K also features some essential tools on which DJs rely. A fader offers fine control of motor speed, enabling plus or minus 8 per cent of the set speed for beat-matching. A separate start/stop button allows direct control over the platter itself, with instantaneous response. The platter has a strobe indicator embossed around its edges, illuminated by the power switch and by an optional pop-up light on the right-hand side. As for the tonearm, there are myriad controls for affecting the likes of tracking speed and anti-skate, allowing you to dial in the right settings for both the playing of the record and its long-term health.

Finally, and of course, the PLX-500 has a USB out that enables digital recording of your vinyl records – making it all the easier to transfer your all-vinyl sets to USBs and take your performances out to CDJs. All of this is housed in a chassis built to last, making a turntable that is every bit the professional tool it was designed to be. At this price, these features are an excellent provision – but only those of a certain disposition would truly benefit from them all.

Buy now £319.00, Amazon

Crosley Voyager Sage Bluetooth Turntable

Best for: gifting to the young ‘uns

Crosley turntables have been the haunt of student dorms and teenage bedrooms alike for decades now. There’s something about the suitcase record player that just appeals, whether it is the retro-nostalgic pull of the leather-suitcase aesthetic or the handy all-in-one nature of their design. Crosley has gotten this down to a fine art, and the Voyager range is a solid example of this.

The Voyager is a briefcase turntable with all the bells and whistles: in-built speakers, Bluetooth connectivity, an aux input for signals from other devices (whether a phone or a Walkman) and a phono output for connectivity to other sound systems. The aesthetics are what make the Crosley though, with a nostalgic design that hearkens more to the early portable radios and reel-to-reels of the 1930s-50s. The Sage variety is a real looker, with a textured pleather finish that sells the whole thing.

Admittedly, the tone-arm is light, the plastics on display are undeniably cheap and cheerful, and the sound quality out of the speakers leaves a little to be desired in comparison with other self-contained units. Still, though, the Crosley Voyager is a charming budget record player, and a harmless first for those expressing an early interest in having their own vinyl collection.

Buy now £89.99, HMV

ION Max LP USB Turntable - Wood

Best for: inexpensive digital conversion

ION is an often-undersung entry-level brand, with an impressive array of products across audio and tech. The brand’s work in the field of turntables is similarly underrated, as it quietly provides essential quality at the lowest end of the budget spectrum. The ION Max LP USB Turntable is a shining example of the budget output, being a practical and practicable budget record player that offers a suite of plug-and-play utilities.

First off, the Max LP is an all-in-one turntable, with a built-in amplifier and speakers for immediate and un-fussy playback of your records. The amp is around 2.5W, and won’t be breaking many records as a result, but is nonetheless more than enough to service the average bedroom. There is, of course, a phono output on the back so you can use preferred third-party amplifiers and speakers – as well as a 3.5mm aux output for headphones.

There is also an aux input that allows you to play other devices through the Max LP’s amp, or indeed its converter. The Max has a USB-B output that enables you to record the turntables’ output via some proprietary software, making digitising your record library (or recording from other sources) a cinch.

The turntable itself is obviously for those dipping a toe into the world of vinyl, with a lightweight tonearm and cheap plastic parts. However, it works – and more than well enough for daily use. Though it’ll never quite hold a candle to more expensive record players in terms of sound quality, it is the perfect all-in-one solution for the average bedroom, or one of the cheapest ways to digitise your record library.

Buy now £74.99, Amazon


There’s a lot to like about many of the budget record players featured in this list – and just as much that sets them apart as there is that conjoins them. It is hard to dismiss the likes of Pro-Ject and Pioneer from the final reckoning, but to do so I must for two budget-range standouts. The Audio-Technica SB727 was a standout even if only for its gimmick, but also provides quality and performance that shows up full-sized record players matching its price.

The award, however, must go to the TEAC TN-175. It provides a standard of quality that all record collectors should consider at least their minimum, and manages to match its direct competitors for performance – all at a cheaper price, too.

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