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10 gorgeous turntables under $500 that will spin your stacks of wax in style

Vinyl is back in a big way. For many audio purists, no sound can compare to that brilliant moment when a stylus first sits down into a gorgeous vinyl groove. And thanks to the current record renaissance, not only are there a bevy of classics available from your local record store, but new artists are also increasingly releasing their latest albums on vinyl, along with a digital download code to give you the best of both worlds —  class and convenience.

If you’ve been squirreling away cash to get in the vinyl game or maybe indulge in an upgrade, there are now a ton of options that cater to both your audiophile cravings and your aesthetic sensibilities. For your convenience (and our pleasure) we’ve compiled a list of our favorite turntables on the market under $500 that will bring music to your ears (literally and figuratively), and some style to your pad.

Note: Some of these turntables include a built-in phono preamp, while others do not. A phono preamp is a device that boosts the signal from the turntable so that modern electronics can play it. While many older receivers have a phono input, many newer devices do not. Whether or not you need a preamp will depend on your receiver/amplifier and speaker setup.

The Best

Audio Technica AT-LP120 USB Turntable ($299)

Audio Technica AT-LP120

It’s hard to argue with a classic. This hunk of sparkling chrome might not be as fashionable as the others on our list, but it still looks and sounds good, and at a very enticing price. Though it sports direct drive as opposed to the audiophile-preferred belt-driven system, this go-to starter turntable is rugged and reliable, and also hosts plenty of features like a selectable internal pre-amp so you won’t necessarily need a phono input, a USB output to capture your vinyl in digital form, and three speeds to handle virtually anything in your collection.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

The Rest

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon ($399)

pro-ject carbon

We can actually feel you picturing this beauty in your listening room, trying to decide if you should go with a flashy color from its seven available choices, or perhaps something more resigned. Luckily, with a table this cool, there’s no wrong answer. Designed to set new standards in the affordable audiophile category, this belt-driven table boasts a carbon tube tonearm to reduce unwanted resonance, a quiet-run DC power supply, and a weightier platter to hold your records more securely and rock out optimal sound. One caveat — there’s no dust cover on board for many of our choices, so you’ll have to clean those records diligently to keep your stylus sterling (we recommend the tried and true LP brush from Audioquest).

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Rega RP1 Turntable ($345)

Rega RP1 image

Sometimes the simplest things really are the most beautiful, and it’s hard to argue against the concise elegance of the RP1. This unit gets high marks for reproducing stellar sound on a budget, and boasts unique features such as a manual speed change system that eliminates wear on the belt drive, a hand assembled tonearm, and a low vibration motor that promises to outperform its price tag.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Pro-ject USB Elemental Phono USB ($229)

pro-ject elemental

Want to know what a belt drive looks like? Our second piece from Pro-Ject, this minimalist hunk of awesome wears its belt on the outside, so you (and those you’re looking to impress) can watch the action first hand. And if you’re still not convinced, the entry-level Elemental tackles function just as well as form, with sleek features like a DC power supply for ultra-quiet running, gold-plated RCA contacts and cartridge pins, a built-in preamp, and yes, USB output to take your collection digital. Basically, it’s a little slice of hipster heaven.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Sony PS-HX500 ($598)

Those with the rarest stacks of wax will love the Sony PS-HX500 for its preservation abilities. Though it has the chops to playback your favorite records with brilliant clarity and warmth, it’s specifically designed for those who also want to digitize their rarest analog music in high resolution. Paired with a special high-fidelity recording app, the player utilizes a high-quality Texas Instruments DAC (digital-to-analog converter) that transfers at a bare-minimum of 16-bit, CD quality resolution. From there, the sky is virtually the limit in terms of conversion: Sony’s deck can transfer files up to 5.6MHz DSD — the highest quality of any USB turntable of its kind. It should be noted that the PS-HZ500 retails at $600, but it can routinely be found online under the $500 mark. The price is on the high side, but if you want to preserve your vinyl for the coming virtual age, this turntable is the way to go.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

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