Affordable Turntable Options

Hey all. First, I know the term affordable is relative. I'm considering getting back into vinyl and rather than resurrect my dusty Marantz 6270 I thought about starting anew. I'd like to keep the cost under $500.00 w/cartridge. The U-Turn models interest me and they have added some new models with solid wood plinths that look awesome. Any suggestions based on the above? I see some prices for "vintage" tables are through the roof and always of dubious history...

82f9a4e1 0ce8 4684 a836 8980a2f687a0beernut
Thanks! Option 1 in the books.
Given your budget, I'd suggest putting your Marantz back in service.
Hunt at local garage sales & craigslist for a Technics SL1200 for a couple of hundred and then look at the KAB upgrades and similar upgrades. Cheers,
Hmm. Buying used can be a crap shoot. if repairs need to be made you get into $$ and the hassle. I had hoped something more "modern" might be a good option like the U-Turn line...
That Orbit looks like a winner. The reviews are positive. You are better off getting something new , getting an older table might turn into a money pit!
At your price point, vintage is still the best bet.  You can get a very good Technics or JVC DD for around $300.  I just sold a Technics SL1401, it will outperform a Pro-ject Debut, U-turn, Rega p1 or the like in every way possible.  Speed stability, build quality, isolation, features, bearing tolerances and yes sonics.
 ...a Technics SL1401, it will outperform a Pro-ject Debut, U-turn, Rega p1 or the like in every way possible. 

Have you made direct comparisons? 
Have you seen a U-Turn, or just on line photos. I saw one and they don't appear to be very well made IMO. If your Marantz does not work I would look look at a new pro-ject or Rega with cartridge in your price range
I don't understand people's aversion to buying vintage turntables. Turn tables are so simple that they rarely break. If they do usually it's easy and inexpensive to fix. Unless obviously you're talking about a very complex direct drive. But an old vintage belt drive is almost bullet proof. And even the old complex belt drives are very reliable. Worst case you may have to recap them and you will get years of trouble free service.
Have you made direct comparisons?

Yes, except u-turn but it has a lousy tonearm. Cueing as an add-on and no antiskate.  The improved version supposed to have a fixed bias another crappy idea.

I don't understand people's aversion to buying vintage turntables.

Because they are electro-mechanical devices with may pushing be 40 years old or more.  And just like Granny's car stored a shed for 40 years, you wouldn't expect to be able to start it and drive away? Same with vintage TT's - they will require some degree of maintenance and repair and that will mean opening the unit up. And this is what people have an aversion too, especially newbies just discovering vinyl for the first time.  Most don't even know they need a phono preamp. let alone degreasing a vintage TT's automatics or deoxidizing the speed pots.  Ask a newbie to even identify a potentiometer inside a TT?

Vintage is fine if your technically inclined!  But not everyone is. 

And yes, I have a 40 year old Technics SL-1400 that I picked up practically free from an original owner that I totally restored and now operates as if its fresh out of the box.  But if I couldn't do this and had to take it to a shop, I would have walked away from it.  That money would have best been spent buying new.
"I don't understand people's aversion to buying vintage turntables."

+1. Many of the vintage TTs offer superior performance to new models, especially at the <$500 price point the OP has specified.

I have had great results from carefully selected Thorens, Luxman, and Empire vintage turntables as well as vintage MM/Electret cartridges.

The biggest problem is getting them shipped safely as many sellers don't have the original packaging nor the knowledge to correctly disassemble the table/arm and pack it properly to avoid damage during shipping.

The other key to success is knowing how to setup the table for proper functioning. Manufacturers' instructions for packaging, setup, and operation are available for most models from

The biggest problem is getting them shipped safely as many sellers don't have the original packaging nor the knowledge to correctly disassemble the table/arm and pack it properly to avoid damage during shipping.
Worried about shipping?  That would imply buying a vintage TT online from a vendor like Ebay and that poses a whole other problem - trusting that the TT works at factory spec despite what the seller says.  Most selling vintage on line really have no idea.

If your going to go vintage, buy only from Craiglist or a local shop where you actually inspect and hear the TT before you buy it.  Or your going to get burned.


Please state your opinions without inferring things from my posts.

Did I infer wrong Dave? Sorry about that brother but not sure what I did other than quoting you.  Something that happens all the time on forums.  So, please correct the record if you meant something else.

But it seems to me that if one is buying a vintage TT and is worried about packaging and shipping, then that implies one is buying sight unseen from an internet site. So I issued another warning - makes sure it works!
It is a risk that can be contained to a large degree by communication with the seller. If the seller balks at providing details or even posting pics showing the operation of the table, then move to the next one. For the most part, avoid estate sale items unless there is ample information regarding the actual seller having tested the function of the TT. I have found that most of these tables operate fine but are just not set up correctly.  

Having a good operational piece is much different than having a seller that understands how to disassemble and package the table for shipment. I always contact the seller prior to payment and give instructions as to how the table should be packaged for shipment. If no reply or anything said that indicates any reluctance, move to the next one.

No arguing that it would be best to find a vintage table locally if that is possible.

Again, the tables that sell new with cartridge for <$500 are not very good and it pays to be patient in order to find the right vintage table and the right circumstances. I have had good luck following this approach. 

Buying a vintage table is nothing like pulling Granny's car out of the garage! Paraneer you seem to have glossed over my point that a vintage belt drive turntable is not a very complex device so not much can go wrong with it.  A lot different from an internal combustion engine that has been sitting for 40 years. 
It is exactly like pulling Granny's car out of the garage.  The car will need work before it can be driven off.  So will the vintage TT before it can played - at least properly.  I have yet to buy one from CL that did not require it to be opened and repaired.  And I bought quite a few. And it doesn't matter if its a simple belt driven, manual Pioneer PL-12D or a more complex fully automatic Technics SL-1300 or SL-1600 MKI or II.  At the very least with a manual, speed will need to checked, cueing often redamped and outputs checked for continuity.  You and I are up to it.  I just think its fair to let a newbie know what they may be in for.

Finally, for the record, I do not wish to offend any vintage TT fans.  I have one myself.  Its in my virtual system and it is stunning in both looks and performance.  But my investment in this 40 year old machine is a whopping 50 bucks being fortunate enough to know how to restore it myself. 

The U-Turn tables, made in MA by the way, work beautifully. I know a few people who bought them and think they sound great, and the fixed bias actually works fine. They're simply too inexpensive to be taken seriously by some, but that's a typical attitude among so called audiophiles…if it ain't expensive it can't be good.

I bought a old Linn Basik/Akito a few years ago and had to change the tone arm cable (actual rat bites I hadn't noticed when I picked it up from the seller…oh well), but beyond that and choosing a cartridge that meets my needs it's an great sounding table. 
Thanks, I ordered up a new U-Turn with the nice solid wood base they now offer. I didn't select the cartridge as neither the Grado Black nor Ortofon Red really excite me. I'll take it with the default budget AT cartridge and replace it myself. So any suggestions on a good budget cartridge?
Nice choice.  U-Turns strike me as great way to get back into vinyl without spending a lot.  And the solid wood plinth makes them much more attractive.

Don't know what your budget is, but I would recommend the Audio Technica AT-120E/B.  Its the only cartridge in its price class with a nude elliptical stylus similar to that in an Ortofon 2M Blue but for a lot less.

Actually, that cartridge was at the top of my short list....Thanks!
Typo..I meant "it's A great sounding table." Also, I can recommend a Sumiko Pearl cartridge as that's what a nearby Turntable Expert (works at a local high end gear joint) sold me a few years ago after I was whining about the shrill tone I was hearing from a new AT440…again, the Pearl is relatively el-cheapo so some can feel they're not spending enough money, but meh…I like it so much I bought a stylus replacement from the Needle Doctor just to see if I needed it (not sure but I stuck it on anyway and damn, it sounds great), and also asked for some advice about knitting needle repair and the town of Needles, CA, but the Doctor was somewhat less helpful regarding those topics…not sure if those guys are REAL doctors, but the Pearl is great anyway.
Ha! "points" well taken....

Beernut, I started out with a Project Debut and was very pleased with it. For a starting out table it's perfectly fine, ready to go out of the box, and easily upgraded. It wasn't long and I put a new cart on it, and then the acrylic platter. While it's not the table I've got $3 grand in now, it was a nice start. Nothing majorly wrong with it, and maybe as well as you can do at your price point. If you are trying out vinyl, no need in getting too deep before you know if you're going to stick with it. And easy to get back out. But for me, it rekindled my love of vinyl, and got me on my way. I gave it to my son-in-law and now he's vinyl crazy and has moved up to a $1600 outfit. I previously had a 25 year old Denon, and the Project actually sounded better.