Vinyl records are back in a big way. You can find them all over the place now, and not just at that little record shop across town — even stores like Walmart and Target have joined the likes of Urban Outfitters in offering brand new pressings for sale. And right next to the records in those stores you’ll find turntables conveniently available, too. But you shouldn’t buy one.
Budget record players have their place, certainly — we know not everyone wants to spend big bucks to get into a new hobby. But there’s a problem with the turntables you’ll find at those mega-marts and hipster shops: they don’t sound very good. So if you want great vinyl sound in addition to the appealing tactile and aesthetic experience that comes with records, you’ll need to spend a little more. The good news? You don’t have to spend upwards of $300 to get one of those “highly recommended” turntables you see reviewed online. Look no further than the U-Turn Audio Orbit basic turntable.
U-Turn audio is in the business of making audiophile-worthy turntables that don’t break the bank. The Orbit basic comes in five different colors, outfitted with a totally respectable Audio Technica AT91B cartridge and stylus (the same one you’ll find on many more expensive turntables), and ships to your doorstep for $179.
Out of the box, the Orbit needs very little set-up because U-Turn has done all the tricky work ahead at their factory. All that’s needed to get the ‘table up and running is to place the included thick acrylic platter (which looks awesome, by the way) on the turntable’s spindle, wrap the included belt around the platter and motor (33 1/3 and 45 RPM speeds supported) and remove the stylus guard from the cartridge. U-Turn balances the player’s tonearm, sets the tracking force, and aligns the cartridge at the factory, so there’s nothing else to do but plug the table in and start listening.
Of course, you’ll need a stereo receiver with a phono input on it, or you’ll need to pick up a phono pre-amp if your receiver doesn’t have one — U-Turn offers its PLUTO phono pre for $90 (which also lets you use a pair of powered speakers if you want), but less expensive options are available online as well.
After spinning the Orbit for a few hours, we’re confident all manner of new and returning vinyl enthusiasts will love it. The table isn’t super-fancy, and requires more manual operation (there’s no auto-return for the tonearm, no fine speed control, and no cue lever) but it looks and sounds fantastic, and is easily the best bang for your buck we’ve seen in a turntable yet. Pick one up and you will absolutely not be disappointed.