5 Best Turntables for the Budget-Minded Audiophile

With vinyl settling back into the mainstream, more listeners are looking to invest in a hi-fi home audio setup. While you can certainly dig into the vintage market in search of an old gem, these tables often come with a hefty amount of necessary maintenance needed to get them up and running and a hefty price tag to match.

This list is comprised of newer, out-of-the-box ready and lower-maintenance turntables with excellent sound quality. Being that our choices are all fully-manual belt-driven turntables, they do require a bit more work to use than direct-drive alternatives. You'll have to get up and raise the tone arm when it gets to the end of the record, and you'll also have to remove the platter and manually switch the belt from one spindle to another when changing from 33-⅓ to 45 rpm. These little extra efforts are easy and only take a second – well worth it for a quiet table with that warm, analog sound.

Model Type Best For Price On Reverb
Pro-Ject III Belt-Driven The beginner audiophile. $200-$400 Shop Now
Music Hall MMF-2.2 Belt-Driven The minimalist. $150-$500 Shop Now
Musical Fidelity Roundtable Turntable Belt-Driven A sonic upgrade. $200-$400 Shop Now
Music Hall MMF-5.1 Turntable Belt-Driven The largest record collection. $650-$1000 Shop Now
Rega RP1 Belt-Driven Tracking accuracy and tonal balance. $200-$500 Shop Now

Pro-Ject III

The Pro-Ject III has wound up a number of “best buy” lists for all the right reasons. It’s a solid but no-frills table with thoughtful and well-engineered features.

Pro-Ject III ships with the stylus and Ortofon OM-5 moving-magnet cartridge installed and set up. If you eventually replace or upgrade the cartridge, there are many online tutorials available to walk you through adjusting the tracking force and attaching the anti-skate weight, which is essentially a fishing sinker. This will either complete the no-frills vibe or push the table into the realm of primitivism, depending on your aesthetic values.

Well-made and reliable, the Pro-Ject III is a hugely popular turntable available in a number of different colors, including matte and glossy black, white, silver, red, blue and green, which increases curb appeal for many users.

Music Hall MMF-2.2

The Music Hall MMF 2.2 is a sleek, minimalist and fully-manual turntable that features well- engineered components for the discerning listener at a great price point — and it looks pretty cool to boot. Like the Pro-Ject III, it’s a critics’ favorite, having won the Absolute Sound Editors' Choice Award.

This turntable includes a low-noise bearing and belt design with an isolated motor, along with damping feet to keep your music more free of rumble and the quake caused by your own footsteps. It also includes a standard two-speed pulley, high-quality RCA connectors and an alloy tonearm.

The MMF 2.2 ships with a rebranded Ortofon cartridge, which has also been engineered for superb audio quality, lower cost and easy home maintenance compared to traditional shop repair prices. With a frequency response covering the standard audible range, listeners will experience high-quality sound, precise channel balance and separation.

Like the Pro-Ject III, the MMF 2.2 is a very popular turntable, available in a number of different colors, including black, red and white to fit in well with any modern home decor.

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Musical Fidelity Roundtable Turntable

The Musical Fidelity Roundtable Turntable offers a sizable sonic upgrade compared to the MMF 2.2 and Pro-Ject III. It includes a beefier chassis, greater stability and isolation from motor noise, and a high-quality, low-resonance 9” pickup arm, which all means that it’s going to be much quieter than the previous two tables. This makes the Roundtable an attractive choice, because when it comes to turntables, you want them to be as quiet as possible.

It also ships with Audio Technica AT-95e cartridge, magnetic anti-skating compensation and vertical bearings that are steel-tipped and housed in Zirconium. In short, it’s a more mechanically sophisticated turntable that offers more accurate tracking of your records, a tighter, more focused sound and applies less wear and tear on them. Unlike the MMF 2.2 and Pro-Ject III, the Roundtable doesn’t include a dust cover.

Music Hall MMF-5.1 Turntable

The MMF 5.1 shares the sleek design of the Music Hall MMF 2.2, but with additional quality components and significantly more noise isolation. If you have a sizable record collection, or plan to acquire one, you’re going to want your turntable to be as quiet as possible.

Like the MMF 2.2, this model possesses the isolated motor, stainless steel and bronze bearings and a belt-driven design, but it also includes viso-elastic cones that offer significant vibration damping as well as a dual-plinth construction, essentially a doubled foundation that increases the stability and isolation of the turntable for substantially quieter playback. In addition, the damping counterweight is decoupled from the tonearm, which further helps with tracking accuracy.

This turntable also includes a mounted, properly aligned and upgraded phono cartridge: the Magic 3, which features a user-replaceable nude elliptical diamond stylus . This is just another reason this turntable is appealing to audiophile audiences: you can quickly and easily do the installation and upgrades of the stylus and cartridge yourself when the time comes.

Rega RP1

The Rega RP1 may look similar to the other turntables here, but there are several less-than-obvious design and engineering considerations that make it unique.

Rega is excited about its platter, which is made from phenolic resin to improve speed stability, lower the table’s resonant frequency and help eliminate vibration. What does all that mean? It means less noise, more accuracy and more stability. It also has a newer, more powerful and quieter motor than Rega’s previous entry-level audiophile turntable, the much-loved Rega P1.

The Rega RP1 also uses the RB101 tonearm, a redesign of the Rega P1’s tonearm, which includes higher-precision bearings and an all-new non-resonant headshell, all of which results in better tracking accuracy, tonal balance and less noise; the new sliding counterweight makes it easier for you to adjust the tracking force when you eventually change out the cartridge. Plus, the RP1 offers an upgrade path that includes a reference drive belt, upgraded Rega Bias 2 MM cartridge and a 100% wool mat. This may be important for those who develop more serious vinyl habits and need to economize to support those inclinations.

Out of the box, the RP1 comes with a Rega's Carbon MM Phono Cartridge, and is available in several finishes, including white, grey and platinum.

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