It’s all about budget baby!
If you’re looking for the best turntables under 400 to suit your budget you’re in the right place.
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Vinyls are back with a bang! And if you’re into them you’re part of a pretty elite group.
But, just like anything that’s beautiful, there’s a dark side.
Check out my number one pick on Amazon because of the features to cost ratio and Sony’s high quality as a brand.
You know, like every rose has its thorn and all that jazz. LOL!
Playing vinyl is a double-edged sword.
On the one edge, you have those rich mahogany tones that can’t be argued with.
And on the other, each play slowly degrades the vinyl.
So, whether you’re starting out with vinyl or you already have a growing collection, your first thought should be to protect your vinyl.
Besides cleaning and proper handling of your vinyls. The most important way to protect them is by having the best deck you can afford.
- 1 Reviews of the Best Turntables Under 400
- 2 My Favorite Picks
- 3 Conclusion
Reviews of the Best Turntables Under 400
So here at RPP, I’ve reviewed 9 of the best turntables that fit my budget of under 400.
I’ll share the good, the bad and what can be improved.
I guarantee you’ll find at least one that’ll bring music to your ears. And you won’t need to bust up that piggy bank either.
Audio-Technica LP 120 USB Turntable
The Audio Technica LP 120 deserves mentioning here. It’s a classic based on the famous Technics SL 1200.
And it’s everything you’d want in a high-end turntable, without breaking the bank.
It boasts a high torque direct drive, which is something most audiophiles don’t prefer. But it’s reliable and robust.
It’s a great turntable, even if it’s not as good looking as some of the other turntables I’ve reviewed here.
And you have options for upgrades. So you can take this mid-range turntable into the higher end with a few small tweaks.
But it’s just as great out of the box too.
Its S-shaped tonearm will reduce tracking errors.
The standard AT95E cartridge has a elliptical diamond head stylus. This means balanced playback with minimal distortion.
You have the option to select the internal pre-amp if you’re running active speakers. But you can also hook it up to an amplifier if you have a set of passive speakers.
The Audio Technica LP 120 is one of the few higher-end turntables that allow you to rip your vinyl into MP3. And it does a darn good job.
It also runs at 3 speeds so you can spin just about anything in your collection. Although you will need something like the Shure M78S to protect your 78’s from damage.
It’s worth noting that some customers have complained about problems with the left speaker channel dying.
But with a name like Audio Technica you can be sure of outstanding support. And I’m pleased to see the manufacturer is very active on Amazon to help folks resolve issues.
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Turntable
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Turntable is attractive in its simplicity. And it sets the bar high in the affordable category.
The first feature I like is the carbon tonearm which plays a big part in reducing unwanted resonance during playback.
The platter size is slightly bigger at 12 inches and it’s weighted. In my opinion, this is a great feature since it just holds vinyls better.
And with the isolation feet, there’s very little in terms of vibrations. Well, nothing audible anyway.
The DC power supply actually gives a more consistent speed. There is the option to go for the Pro-Ject Carbon without the DC supply.
But there’s no difference in price. So I’d go with the DC version.
Like other higher-end entry-level turntables, the Debut has some options for upgrades.
It comes fitted with the Ortofon 2M Red cartridge. It’s elliptical which is preferred in audiophile circles. But from my research, I’ve found that this might not be the best match for the Pro-Ject Debut.
You might find it lacks luster in the treble department. Especially in the mid ranges. But it’s still a damn good cartridge.
Although, if you’re itching to change it, an upgrade to the Ortofon Blue will do nicely.
The Debut is a 2-speed turntable – 33 and 45. The switch is done manually. This might be a fiddly exercise, to begin with. But a handy tool is included to do this, so there’s not much to it.
Here’s a quick video to demonstrate how easy switching between 33 and 45 is…
And like most other higher-end turntables this design is purposeful to reduce stress on the belt drive.
The Debut doesn’t have an internal amp. So depending on your receiver you might need a phono amp if your receiver doesn’t have a phono input.
This is an outstanding turntable if you’re just getting into vinyl and might want to upgrade components as time goes by.
But for the price tag, there are a few sticking points for me.
Firstly, I’d like to see better quality slipmat. The one it comes with is a thin felt one. So you’ll want to upgrade that first.
Secondly, some folks complained about a distinct humming sound. Considering the price tag, this should not be happening.
Also, some vinyls tend to stick to the dust cover if it’s closed. This might not be a problem for you. But if you like to keep the lid closed it’s annoying.
A quick fix is to loosen the screws of the dust cover slightly. And then pull it towards you when closing it.
Not ideal, I know but it’s not a deal breaker.
Sony PSHX500 Hi-Res USB Turntable
This 2 speed turntable by Sony is the big daddy of the entry level PS-LX300 Turntable. And it kicks some serious butt in comparison!
Sony designed the adjustable, lightweight tonearm with an integrated shell.
The tonearm is fully manual, so if you want to preserve your vinyls and stylus dozing off while spinning vinyl is out of the question.
The cartridge is elliptical and crafted by Audio Technica especially for this Sony, which does a pretty darn good job.
But the headshell plays nice with a bunch of other options too. So if you’re into mods try out the Ortofon Blue for size. Or maybe even the Sumiko Pearl or the Nagaoka MP 110.
Any of these will put your PSHX500 toe to toe with turntables like the Debut and the RP1.
So why should you get the Sony PSHX500 if it’s going to take another 100 bucks or so to get it in the ring with the big boys?
That’s where Sony’s high fidelity recording software comes in. If you want to digitize those rare LP’s there’s nothing better on the market to do so.
16 bits is the lowest rate at which Sony’s DSD recording app will transfer your tracks. That’s CD quality! With more power under the hood of their software.
And yes, the software works great for both PC and Mac users.
But besides mods and crystal clear digitizing capabilities, this is a beautiful deck.
The acoustic grade MDF gives it a solid base. There’s not much in the way of knobs and buttons. Which gives it a minimalist edge.
It really is an understated turntable that’ll fit elegantly into any audio setup.
Out of the box, I’d say the sound quality is more than decent. Okay, you’re not going to discover hidden tones you’ve never heard before.
But you won’t be disappointed either. And like I mentioned, a small upgrade to the cartridge and you’re in a whole new class.
The PSHX500 also has an internal pre-amp with a line output. So you can plug and play out of the box. Or hook this baby up to an outboard phono amp.
For all its beauty and functionality, the PSHX500 is not perfect.
There have been complaints that the DSD app doesn’t always play nice with computers. Even those running the latest versions.
Although, from my research, I’ve found that Sony’s support is up to scratch. Both on Amazon and when calling into the call center.
Another point worth mentioning is that it can be tricky to swap out the cartridge. The wires are really fine so detaching them from the cartridge is a fiddly job.
But it’s a common problem with these modern day turntables and not specifically with Sony.
Music Hall MMF 2.3 Turntable
The belt drive Music Hall MMF 2.3 turntable comes in black, white and Ferrari red. And in terms of looks, it’s more than aesthetically pleasing.
Like other serious audiophile decks, it plays at 33 and 45 speeds. And the switch is made by manually moving the belt.
The tonearm is crafted from a single piece of alloy aluminum. And it’s the same tonearm you’ll find on the MMF5, which is the big brother of this deck That’s a super upgrade right there and a nice touch.
The cartridge on this deck is the Music Hall Magic 2 MM phono cartridge. It’s a rebranded elliptical Ortofon Super OM10.
And if you’re looking at mods, you can easily upgrade this to the OM20 at an affordable price.
The sound from this baby is far above what you’d expect for its price tag.
The bass is satisfying. The midranges and even the peaks sound sweet. And the vocals are crisp and clear.
Here’s what Absolute Sound Magazine had to say…
“The level of musicality offered by the MMF-2.3 is going to surprise a lot of people. It sounds far better than most of the entry-level turntables of yesteryear and is a wonderful introduction into the world of vinyl!”
The MMF 2.3 doesn’t have a built-in amp. So you’ll need an amplifier or a receiver with phono inputs and a pair of speakers.
The Rolls VP29 pre-amp plays nice with most systems at a very affordable price.
If you’re lucky enough to have a vintage receiver from the 70’s or 80’s it should have a built in phono pre-amp.
Dust covers are often a deal-breaker for folks. And I totally get that.
I prefer dust cover too. Keeping your deck dust-free just makes life so much easier!
You’ll be happy to know that the MMF 2.3 does come with a dust cover. And in theory, you can spin your vinyl with the cover down.
But some folks have experienced their vinyls ‘sticking’ while the cover is down.
From my research, I’ve noticed this tends to happen with the newer 180 and 200-gram vinyls.
And yes, the MMF 2.3 plays 180 and 200-gram vinyls perfectly. Except for the cover issue I just mentioned.
All that being said, there are a few things worth mentioning here…
Some folks have experienced a low humming sound which is not a grounding issue.
This can happen if the shipping screws of the motor have not been removed. So make sure you remove those during setup.
It also tends to happen if the deck is not isolated properly. The best spot for your deck is on a solid wood base like a wall unit.
But you can easily isolate it by placing it on a piece of MDF. Also, grab a spirit level to make sure your deck is on a level surface.
Cracks and pops are part and parcel of vinyls charm. But if you’re hearing too much of it your tracking force might be too heavy.
This will make your cartridge scrape the record. In the instructions, Music Hall recommends a tracking force of 1.75 grams.
But, you might find that a tracking force of 1.5 grams solves the problem for you.
TEAC TN-420 Turntable
The TEAC TN-420 Turntable is a beautiful deck. Especially in the Tie-dye option.
It’s a manual turntable. So the tonearm won’t return automatically and the motor won’t stop spinning at the end of a vinyl.
This is standard with any decent audiophile deck. And means you’ll need to be around when the vinyl ends.
It runs at 2 speeds only – 33 and 45. And switching speeds is manual, which is the norm.
Any half-decent audiophile deck is a manual switch. Keeps stress off the belt and platter.
This baby comes with the AT95SE Audio Technica cartridge. Which is pretty decent.
It has a standard mounting head through. So you’ve got room to upgrade to a better cartridge if you like.
Although you can and probably should upgrade the cartridge. If you’re looking for something better and affordable, try something like the Audio Technica AT 100E or the AT 120 ET.
Or if you want to splash out, the Shure M92E (on Amazon) and the Ortofon 2M Red are fantastic upgrades.
The platter is die-cast aluminum and the base is made from natural wood. Both these features make for a solid deck with acceptable acoustic sound.
It’s got a built-in pre-amp so hook it up to your speakers and you’re good to go.
Although, you can turn off the internal amp. So, I’d suggest investing in a decent outboard phono amp.
Or a receiver with phono output. The vintage receivers from the 70’s and 80’s are great if you have one.
With the TEAC TN 300, you can rip your vinyl into digital format. But the results are nowhere near the same quality as the Sony PSHX500.
The soundstage of the TEAc is pretty decent for the price tag. The bass substantial and the midranges are dazzling.
But you might find the peaks strained. Which you might find annoying.
Although, upgrading the cartridge will give nice separation in detail.
And if you’re like me and a dust cover is essential, you’ll be happy to know that the TEAC has one.
I haven’t come across any complaints about vinyls ‘sticking’ when the cover is down like with some other decks.
So you can keep your turntable dust-free even while you’re spinning vinyls.
For all its beauty and plus points, there are a few gripes…
From my research, I’ve come across a few complaints about the internal pre-amp kicking the bucket after 12 months or so.
This might be a deal-breaker but in my opinion, it’s not. I suggest using an outboard phono pre-amp anyway and not even bothering with the internal one.
Inconsistent speed is another complaint that came up more than I’d like.
The first port of call is to ensure that the deck is on a level surface. Which is important for any turntable.
TEAC’s customer service is another frequent complaint. And this is a deal-breaker for me.
Okay so the TEAC is not on the highest end of the price tag, but I still expect stellar customer service.
Which it seems TEAC doesn’t have.
U-Turn Orbit Plus Turntable
Orbit concentrated on designing the U-Turn plus with no bells and whistles. But focused on high fidelity sound and affordability instead.
It’s 2-speed deck that’ll spin at 33 and 45. And from my research, it gets pretty darn close to the perfect speed.
Speeds are switched manually. This is standard with any deck that’s classed as audiophile quality. Although the switch is tricky because the belt is overly sensitive.
The deck is fully manual so you’ll be doing all the cueing and you need to be around at the end of the last track.
A cue lever is not included. But you can have it added by choosing the option at an extra cost.
For some reason, the cue lever will cause the tonearm to drift ever so slightly. And it’s not very graceful at placing the arm smoothly.
So it’s a toss up really. In my opinion, the cue lever is not all that important. So save the extra money for an upgrade to the cartridge.
The U-Turn plus comes with the Ortofon OM5E cartridge. Which is a big jump from the standard AT91B that comes with the regular U-Turn.
But if you’re looking for a more dazzling sound, the Ortofon 2M Red or Blue are both snazzy upgrades.
See the Ortofon 2M Red on Amazon as an upgrade cartridge
There’s no anti-skate setting options. But if you follow the recommended tracking force of the cartridge you choose you’ll be good to go.
The sound on this deck definitely outperforms its price tag. You’ll find it produces pretty high fidelity sound that’s clean, crisp and alive.
Most audiophiles will upgrade a platter to acrylic on other turntables. So I like the fact that the U-Turn comes standard with an acrylic platter.
The U-Turn Plus has no built-in pre-amp and no USB output for ripping vinyl.
But like I mentioned, it’s designed with performance and affordability in mind. So there’s some sacrifice on whistles.
You’ll need either powered speakers with amplifiers built-in. Or an outboard phono amp like the U-Turn Pluto. And of course speakers.
If you’re lucky enough to own a vintage receiver from the 70’s or 80’s it should have phono inputs.
The U-Turn comes with a dust cover and I love that it’s made in the USA!
You’ll also be happy to know that you’ll have lifetime tech support. And from my research, it’s clear that Orbit giver excellent customer support.
Keeping all the plus points in mind. This deck does not plug and play. You will need speakers and a phono amp like I mentioned.
So if your budget is super tight and you don’t want to shell out for the phono amp, I recommend the Audio Technica LP 120 or the Sony PSHX500 instead.
Once customer did have an issue with the platter making a weird ticking sound. But he commended Orbit on their customer service to help resolve his issue.
Fluance RT81 Turntable
The Fluance RT81 Turntable is at the lower end of the more upmarket turntables. But it doesn’t lack in beauty!
One of the reasons I prefer the Fluance RT81 to the RT80 is the acoustic support from the engineered wood base and the solid isolation feet.
I also prefer an S-shaped tonearm that Fluance is designed with. In my opinion, it sits better in the vinyl grooves.
It’s a 2-speed deck playing at 33 and 45. And with this turntable, the speed is switched automatically using a dial.
This is way more convenient than switching the belt manually. But it does add strain to the belt and the motor.
Another feature of the RT81 that other turntables I’ve reviewed here don’t have is an auto-stop function.
This means you don’t need to be near the turntable at the end of the side. And if you doze off when listening to vinyl this is a great benefit for you.
The RT81 is fitted with the AT95E from Audio Technica. Which is a pretty decent cartridge.
It plays back clear peaks and the bass is hefty. Although I recommend upgrading to the AT 120 EB or the GRADO Prestige Black2 Phono Cartridge
It’s worth noting here that the manufacturer has not tested any other cartridge with the RT81.
But other customers are happy with the improvements in the sound the upgrade options make.
The Fluance RT81 comes with a built-in pre-amp which is great to get you listening out of the box.
The internal pre-amp can be bypassed by flicking a switch. So you have the option of upgrading to an outboard phono amp at a later stage to bump up the sound quality.
The RT81 can’t rip your vinyl to MP3 format. So if this is important to you. The Sony PSHX500 might be a better choice for you.
It comes with a dust cover which is something a lot of folks want to see with a turntable.
And with the option of a few small upgrades, you can bump this turntable into a higher class.
One customer rates it in the same class as decks twice its price tag. In all honesty, I wouldn’t go that far.
But the RT81 is definitely on the higher end of the lower price tag range.
For all its plus points there is one issue that keeps popping up…
From my research, I’ve found several complaints about the deck losing speed, which is a big problem.
Although I’m happy to report that Fluance has stellar customer service. And they are active on Amazon to help folks sort out any issues.
It’s a shame about the speed issues. Because the Fluance is a neat turntable that’s got a lot going for it. But, I must admit, the complaints about speed inconsistency do concern me enough to avoid this deck.
House of Marley Stir It Up Turntable
The legendary Bob Marley’s son, Rohan Marley and The House of Marley offer something extraordinary with this turntable.
This Stir it Up Turntable looks so simple it’s gorgeous! It’s designed using materials that can be sustainably sourced.
The plinth is made from Bamboo wood which is beautiful and also improves the acoustics. The slipmat is made from upcycled silicon and it does a good job of keeping vinyls from scratching.
The natural wood accentuated by the black of the base and aluminum makes for a turntable you want to touch as much as you want to listen to.
I also love the silicon feet. They are great for that extra stability and their vibration absorbing ability.
The platter and the tonearm are made from recycled aluminum. And the platter is especially robust.
If you’re a beginner this is a great started turntable with options to improve on the system over time.
As a starter turntable, you can start out listening through the 3.5 mm headphone jack. And invest in a decent set of speakers later.
It also comes standard with the Audio Technica ATN3600 cartridge and stylus, which can be upgraded.
And it has a built-in amp. Which can be upgraded to a high-end external phono pre-amp in the future.
It’s a belt-drive unit which is the preferred design by audiophiles. But it only plays 33’s and 45’s. So if you’re a collector of 78’s this baby is not for you.
The Stir it Up turntable allows you to rip your vinyls into the 21st century. And they’ll throw in the Legend Album by Bob Marley.
Although I don’t know how long this something extra will be available.
On the downside…
Customers have complained that the unit can be unreliable when spinning 45’s.
The internal amp could also be better. So you might have to shell out for a better outboard one if you want fuller, richer sounds.
It does come with a dust cover made from Hemp. But you can’t play records with it on.
My Favorite Picks
Okay, so you’ve saved money like a squirrel stores nuts. And you’re ready to get into vinyl or you’re dying for an upgrade.
So which turntable is the best for your $400 budget?
I can’t argue with the classic Audio Technica LP 120.
It’s a reliable workhorse with a solid brand behind it. Okay, it’s not the most graceful turntable. But the chrome and black design will fit into just about any home sound system.
It’s a direct drive which is not the preferred drive for audiophiles. But it’s a great starter turntable with a host of upgrade options.
So it definitely makes it into the top 4.
The Sony PSHX500 is a definite contender for a spot in the top 4. I mean you can’t go wrong with a Sony.
But it’s what it comes with out of the box that sold me. For starters, the built-in pre-amp and Audio Technica cartridge means you don’t need anything else to get started.
Of course, you can upgrade the cartridge later if you like. And even a small upgrade will move this deck into a different weight class altogether.
And if you want to convert your vinyl to MP3 this deck does that for you. But it’s not just any old software. Sony provides you with its DSD recording app.
So at a minimum, you’ll be converting at 16 bits, which is CD quality.
Next I’d say the Music Hall MMF 2.3 makes the grade. What you get for the price tag is hard to beat.
For starters, the OM10 Ortofon cartridge is pretty decent. But you can upgrade to the OM20 for better sound.
And I like that the tonearm is the same one used on the MMF5. That’s a nice bump in quality right there.
The MMF 2.. doesn’t have a builtin pre-amp. So you’ll need to shell out for that.
But considering the price of the MMF 2.2 even if you pick up the Rolls VP29 pre-amp – which is more than decent – you’re still under budget.
The House of Marley turntable makes it into my top 4 too.
Okay, I am biased to Bob – I love him! But that’s not why the Stir it up turntable makes the grade.
The bamboo wood plinth works wonders to support acoustic perfection. And the silicon slip mat and isolation feet do a great job to reduce vibrations.
It comes with the Audio Technica AT3600 cartridge which is acceptable. But it can be upgraded to something better at an affordable price.
The built-in pre-amp and headphone jack are all great features for entry into higher-end turntables.
And you have the option to rip your vinyls into MP3 format. Although the quality of the MP3’s is nowhere near that of the Sony PSHX500.
And I’ve got to mention the dust cover made from hemp. It adds a unique style to a turntable that’s already understatedly beautiful.
There are some fantastic turntable options if your budget peaks out at 400 bucks.
Shopping with confidence is always tricky, especially when there’s a budget involved.
And you want to make sure you’re not buying a piece of crap.
But now you know pretty much everything you need to choose from the best turntables under 400. You can make the right choice for your pocket.
And pick one that will protect your vinyls and bring music to your ears for many years to come.
Do you know all the parts of a Turntable? Check out the Anatomy of a Turntable here.