You might be surprised to learn that serious audiophiles pay up to $10,000 for a premium turntable. That doesn’t mean listening to vinyl is an expensive hobby. It certainly can be, but there are much more affordable options for those just starting out on their vinyl journey.
I have never seen the point of spending hundreds, let alone thousands, on a record player. I would much rather buy a decent vinyl player, and have a larger collection of records to play. For anyone new to the world of vinyl, I would recommend doing the same. Today I will be looking at the best turntables under $100.
Keep in mind that at this price you shouldn’t be expecting high-fidelity sound. Your objective should be finding a good cheap turntable that is simple and easy to use, and that produces reasonable sound quality.
If you can afford to spend an extra $100-150, you can move up to a turntable that produces much better sound quality.
The following are the best record players for those on a budget (under $100), and although they’re not perfect, some of them still have some pretty impressive features for the price.
Jensen JTA-230 Review
The Jensen JTA-230 3 Speed Stereo turntable is very popular with the budget conscious. It has the lowest price of the record players we are looking at. I have to say, it is also the least attractive when it comes to looks. Having said that, if you are shopping for cheap turntables, looks are probably not at the top of your list of requirements!
The JTA-230 has some impressive features that would surprise most seasoned turntable fans:
- This belt-driven stereo turntable comes with a handy USB port to convert your favourite vinyl records to digital format (software is also included). Typically this is a feature that is only included in much more expensive models.
- This table can play 33, 45 and 78RPM records which is another feature typically only available in a higher price range. I will mention that the included stylus can only play 33 and 45 RPM.
- You will need a second stylus to play 78s, as they have deeper and wider grooves. A 3 millimeter (0.003 inch) stylus will work perfectly.
- It also comes with the ability to adjust the pitch and tone so you can fine tune the table to deliver your favourite songs exactly how you like them.
The JTA-230 comes with built-in speakers that perform reasonably well considering the price you pay. While the sound is OK, playing it through external speakers will allow you to crank the volume much higher, although it won’t do much for the sound quality. I found the sound to be quite tinny, and the bass is disappointingly lacking.
This table comes with a ceramic cartridge, similar to most other cheap turntables. This cheaper cartridge is typically more robust which works well in cheap tables that are lighter and less stable than higher priced models. One problem with a ceramic cartridge, is that the stylus tends to jump out of the groove at low frequencies. A counterbalance is used in premium turntables to counter this, but at this price you won’t find this feature on the Jensen.
- This table comes at a very low price, the USB port, the ability to play 33/45/78 and the pitch control are features not commonly found in affordable turntables.
- The sound is very poor, and perhaps Jensen should have focused on sound quality, rather than on adding features usually reserved for higher-priced models. I can’t help but feel they are trying to make up for the poor sound.
I personally don’t like the looks of this table, and while it has some nice features, the sound is just not good enough for serious listening. I would only recommend this table to you if paying more for one of the other options will leave you without money to spend on records. After all, having a turntable without any records would be worse than owning a slightly inferior table with a good selection of records.
If you want true high fidelity sound, or you want to listen to loud music, steer well clear of the JTA-230.
Audio Technica AT LP60 Review
Audio Technica achieved great success with both the LP60 and the LP120 (see my review here). While its big brother has become something of a cult favourite among serious listeners and amateur DJ’s, the LP60 aims to win over the budget conscious market.
This belt driven turntable is fully automatic and comes with a USB port. The manufacturer labels it as a “LP to digital recording system”. I wonder how much the marketing guys get paid over at AT, probably too little to come up with better marketing jargon than that. The table doesn’t do the actual recording, instead it outputs the sound to a computer which uses software to do the recording. All in all, the recording process is time consuming, and can be a bit technical.
While other tables in this price range typically come with ceramic cartridges, the AT LP60 comes with a magnetic cartridge. The user manual lists wow and flutter as less than 0.25%, which is really good considering the price of this unit. Premium turntables will score a value of less than 0.05%, but you will likely pay 5-10x the price.
Audio Technica is known in the music world for their well-built audio products that offer good value for money. They didn’t stray from this path with the AT LP60.
Pair this table with a good set of speakers, and your audiophile friends won’t believe that this table is priced at less than 100 dollars.
Pros Cons Verdict Without a doubt, the LP60 is my choice as the best record player under $100. The magnetic cartridge ensures that the sound quality is much higher than any of the other tables mentioned here. It lacks a few features, but don’t consider this a bad thing. This just means that Audio Technica preferred to focus on the sound quality, rather than just adding features for the sake of it. If you are in the market for an affordable turntable, but you care about the quality of the sound, this table presents the best of both worlds.
Without a doubt, the LP60 is my choice as the best record player under $100. The magnetic cartridge ensures that the sound quality is much higher than any of the other tables mentioned here. It lacks a few features, but don’t consider this a bad thing. This just means that Audio Technica preferred to focus on the sound quality, rather than just adding features for the sake of it.
If you are in the market for an affordable turntable, but you care about the quality of the sound, this table presents the best of both worlds.
Crosley Cruiser Review
I guess there are those that would label the Crosley Cruiser as cute. I, for one, don’t care much for the design. It makes the product look cheaper than what it really is. I guess this is one of those products you either love or hate.
But my job is to look at more than just the looks of a product. Close this record player and it turns into a small and light briefcase, something that might be useful for those who like to take their table to a party or to a friend’s house. I suspect this might make the Cruiser popular among younger vinyl fans.
Perhaps the design is an indication of who this table is aimed at. The design will appeal to younger fans, and won’t look out of place in a child or teenager’s room, while the small size makes it perfect for a dorm room.
The built-in speakers, as is the case with most cheap turntables, disappointed me. But again, for those just starting with vinyl these speakers will be good enough to get going. I have to mention that you don’t want to be playing your mint records on this player, and I would also avoid playing any rare records. With any best cheap turntable, there is a chance of damage to your record. If you have a serious collection of vinyl with rare records, you need to look at a serious turntable.
The ceramic cartridge (also called piezoelectric pickup) on this player is standard for this price range, and delivers sound quality that will underwhelm serious listeners. For those just starting out the cartridge does its job of boosting low frequencies reasonably well. The main advantage with this type of cartridge is that you won’t need an equalizer or pre-amplifier, making this Crosley both easy to use and affordable to get up and running.
At this price you can’t expect the highest of quality in workmanship or in sound. The built-in speakers do not produce sound of high quality, and while this table isn’t aimed at serious audiophiles, I still feel that you can do better in this price range with other options. Whether or not you are a serious listener, I would always recommend getting the best audio you can for your money. I would disregard any features and looks for the most part, getting the best audio will make you enjoy your vinyl records so much more.
Pros Cons Verdict This is a good turntable for the young bunch to get started with vinyl. It is simple and easy to use, but I found it lacking on a number of fronts. Most notably the built in speakers don’t perform well, while I don’t like the one size needle being used for playing 33s, 45s and 78s. I feel that this table is only suitable for the younger generation where the looks matter more than the quality of the sound. For anyone else remotely serious about listening to vinyl, go for the Audio Technica LP-60.
This is a good turntable for the young bunch to get started with vinyl. It is simple and easy to use, but I found it lacking on a number of fronts. Most notably the built in speakers don’t perform well, while I don’t like the one size needle being used for playing 33s, 45s and 78s.
I feel that this table is only suitable for the younger generation where the looks matter more than the quality of the sound. For anyone else remotely serious about listening to vinyl, go for the Audio Technica LP-60.
Ion Audio Max LP Review
The Ion Audio max LP has a distinctive look and feel which I really like. For a turntable that cost less than $100, it looks great. I have seen many TT’s costing three times as much, that don’t look half as good.
This sturdy and robust table features a stylish natural wood finish that will look great in any modern home. The volume control and the auto stop are nice features, and the USB port allows you to convert your vinyl collection to digital format. Digitizing your records is fairly straight forward, although you will need to manually enter the track and album data.
While this table can play 33, 45 and 78 RPM, you will need to use the included special adapter to play 45 RPM.
While no one in their right mind would expect hi-fi sound from a sub-$100 turntable with built-in speakers, the sound is pretty OK. Not great, but not as bad as you might expect from a table in this price range. This table offers surprisingly pleasant range, and the lack of hiss or pop noises is noticeable.
The volume on the built-in speakers is much better than the Jensen, although the headphone jack underdelivers. As with any of these cheap turntables, a separate speaker system will add to your listening experience.
In comparison to the other tables in this price range, the sound quality is definitely up there with the AT LP-60. The wood finish looks great, but I suspect it might not be quite as durable and rugged as the other tables.
Pros Cons Verdict The Ion Audio max LP’s main selling point will be its distinguished wooden finish. In stark contrast with the tacky design of the Crosley Cruiser, this table won’t look out of place in any home. Display this table where visitors can see it, and you are sure to draw some favourable comments on its good looks. As far as sound quality goes, this table comes a close second to the LP-60.
The Ion Audio max LP’s main selling point will be its distinguished wooden finish. In stark contrast with the tacky design of the Crosley Cruiser, this table won’t look out of place in any home. Display this table where visitors can see it, and you are sure to draw some favourable comments on its good looks. As far as sound quality goes, this table comes a close second to the LP-60.
Wrapping it up – And our top pick is…?
The Audio Technica LP-60 is easily the best turntable under 100 dollars. It is the only table to feature a ceramic cartridge, and the difference is clear to even the untrained ear. The Ion Audio max LP finishes in second place with a good sound quality, and appealing looks. As for the Jensen JT-230 and the Crosley Cruiser, I would avoid them.
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