Best turntable setup for under $300

Dipping my toes in the vinyl world with a relatively limited budget. Any good suggestions on something that won't break a grad student bank?

I'm not ready for a true audiophile setup, just want something that sounds good and won't destroy my records. My knowledge of analog is very limited at the present time...\

Many thanks AG members!
I am not a Vinyl person but I did note that Stereophile had a review of a fairly inexpensive turntable-cartridge combo in this month's edition. MSRP was just under four Franklins.
Well ........... Here's what I suggest. Buy a Sony PS-LX300USB for $150. Put the other $150 away to begin saving for tomorrow's new table.
I'd recommend adding $100 to your budget and getting a Rega P1. You can get one for $395 from several online retailers, this is with free shipping and no sales tax. The rega is highly regarded for a low cost table and it also includes a premounted Ortofon cartridge. Truly a plug and play component.
I second the Rega P1 suggestion, and if you by a used one you could get it for your stated budget.
Believe it or not, the Sony PS-LX300USB is actually selling for $109 shipped on Amazing right now.

The Rega R1 and Pro-ject Debut are also nice, though a new one is out of reach for me...
Technics SL 1300, 1400,1500,1600,1700,1800 all great tables. Mk2's look nicer. All can be had within budget and sound great
$109 shipped! SOLD !!! You can listen safely for less. Enjoy your LP's and save your money for a mid level entry table in the future. Dam !!!!
I've just recently received the Sony LX300USB for a gift and am going to use it to transfer some of my LP's to Cd's. The stock needle isn't the best so if your going to do any transfering I'd suggest going to LP gear .com and getting a better one. For the money this player is great starter player and can transfer your stull to digital if you want to.
With all said !!! Your after the best for the least that offers saftey with what you have to play. Take it from experience !!!!! Buy the LX and let it be done with. Save for a better rig up the raod! Forget about getting another needle or even a low line Rega player! Too much rhedoric from people that ignore your principles put up front! Email me off the board ............. I'll help you with what you desire Rch34. It's a hobby not a job! Get the LX300 and be happy! Too many years of experience ,willing to help a novice new starter to the hobby! Bill
With all due respect, I must disagree with those who have advised the OP to go out and buy a new Sony PS-LX300USB. I have heard this TT in an average "dorm room" setup, and I must say that I thought it sounded pretty bad. Admittedly the cartridge was probably the worst part of the rig, but I think that the kid can do much better for less.

For example, I recently bought a Project/One TT on eBay for my nephew. Basically a house branded (anyone remember the old Pacific Stereo?) Pioneer PL-12 for $35. It actually came with a working Shure cartridge but I popped a new belt and an AT95E from LP Gear on it and it sounds very good. Total investement = $104.00 Would have been $55 if I had kept the original cartridge, which still had life in it. Much better than the Sony LX300 IMHO.

There are lots of other good deals out there, including old Technics, Sony and other 70s/80s DD decks. Look on your local craigslist - sometimes they are free damned nearly so.
The Audio Technica AT PL120USB direct drive turntable with built-in (switchable) phono preamp and USB interface. $249 at the link. They're $369 and $399 elsewhere. Bought one for my 23-yr-old son for Christmas and it is surprisingly good. Comes with a heavy tracking DJ cartridge but I put on a Shure M97xE I had lying around and it's a very decent match with a smooth presentation but dynamic with excellent bass and rhythm & pace. The felt DJ slip mat isn't so useful for critical listening, but add a thicker mat and you'll be in business. It even has adjustable tonearm height.

Reasonably well built; weighs about 26 lbs. Tone Publications gave it a very favorable review considering the price and the tonearm is good enough to make good use of better cartridges such as the Ortofon 2M Blue and the Grado Platinum.
He's gets the additional benefit with the LX to transfer his vinyl to digital if he needs/wants to which for me would provide additional value. Most of the other recommended tables can not provide that benefit for $104. I know that the LX is not the best but for $104 plus you can transfer to digital as well as upgrade the needle if you want.....thats a get deal and provides additional fun for this least it would be me. Buying old turntables off ebay a bit to risky for me. Either way it's your decision.

Good luck
Rega P2/Planar 2 (only with the RB250 arm not the older s-shaped one)USED. Often comes up around your price, sometimes with a decent cartridge that has enough life left to get you started. The older Planar 2 is a little nicer looking (and has the same thickness of plinth as the Planar 3 of that era)with the walnut surround, but the newer P2's may have the 'motor upgrade', ie fixed to the plinth instead of suspended on a belt.

Why? They're as close to 'hifi' sound as it gets in the entry level arena. Their main weakness is isolation and there are a ton of tweaks and platforms and stand options to eliminate most of the problem easily and cheaply. They are totally uncomplicated, mostly just plug and play.

And, it is probable you'll acquire 'the bug'. While there are a lot of similar and clone tables out there that may sound as good or similar, the Rega has the name and is an easy resale, if you buy right you wont lose when you go to upgrade.

Do some research in forums and reviews, go out and listen to one. It's a no-brainer really.
Thorens 145/150/160/166 with Grado Gold (or any cartridge at around $150~200) would be a good start at under $300.
Take a good look at this B&O turntable here on Audiogon, these are VERY nice turntables!

get a cherry AR manual and SHURE V15 hard to beat
I just picked both up for $70
I am in agreemet with those who recommend a vintage classic table like an AR or Thorens. If you buy one that has been reconditioned, then you will be able to use it, enjoy it, and learn about analog. When you are ready to upgrade, you will likely be able to sell the table for close to what you paid.

Try hard to buy a table with its original box, packaging, accessories and manual. They're out there.

If you buy a new production table, you will definitely take a financial hit when it comes time to resell, and the new production tables in the $300 range are not in the same league as the vintage tables that were made when vinyl was King and all there was (except magnetic tape).

Don't buy any gear off eBay, its too risky. A month ago I purchased a Dynaco ST-70 on eBay from an individual that regularly sells modified ST-70s here on Agon. He described in great detail in the ad that the unit was in totally excellent condition. It came with switches broken (no parts in box), wiring that was not correctly soldered or not soldered at all, and a quad of new EL34's of different brands. I guess he puts his bad units on eBay so he can hide behind the eBay curtain and he refuses to answer emails. Haven't received it back from the repair shop yet.
01-23-10: Jetter
Don't buy any gear off eBay, its too risky.
You have to do your homework, that's for certain.

I purchased a beautiful Thorens table on E-Bay. It included the original box, accessories and manual. It arrived in perfect condition. So, it's possible to successfully buy turntables on E-Bay, but due diligence is required.
Tvad, I hear you. I purchased some fine Museatex equipment off eBay from John Wright, way back when, what a gentleman.