Make sure you have a phono input. There are a few tables in that price range on audiogon. An ex-demo Project with an OM10 would be a reasonable start.
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There is a RekoKut K33 with original arm for sale now on EBAY. $195 + $63 shipping from Illinois. Belt drive with a high-torque motor. I have one like this in my collection of vintage TT's. Build and sound quality far better than any of today's cheap TT's! Install a Denon 103R mc cartridge and you will have a TT system rivaling multi-kilobuck gear for sound quality!
Not to rain on your parade, but your old albums are likely chewed up from whatever they were played on in the past and $2-300 does not exactly equate with "beautiful sound" even from an entry level standpoint. Turntables involve a lot of moving parts and vibration issues that take a bit of money to address. That said, the Pioneer 500 doesn’t look too bad for $350.
Just try to be realistic.
Some of the old early 80’s HK turntables can be a great deal.
Some things usually need to be done, though. In the HK tables they may need new damping foam in the sprung footers, but that is an easy job.
A notable problem is finding good arm bearings in older tables, at that price range.
also look into mico seiki turntables. Some of the most notable ’brand name’ Japanese turntables were made for those brands by........ micro seiki.
Go to hifishark and type in ’micro seiki’ or Harmon Kardon tc (tc-60, tc-35, tc-65, etc)
Your most important thing to learn is setting up the cartridge on the arm with the correct geometry/alignment/position. This will have the biggest effect on your overall fidelity of output.
I mean..heck..right here on the ’gon..:
I’m not saying it is the best buy, but they show up everywhere. So go fishing and you can spend some fun time learning which is the best micro seiki, and some of them are quite gorgeous. Completely manual tables are always the best sounding. you can add a manual arm lifter thingie as a aftermarket ad on.
Getting auto lift is generally bad news as it adds a bunch of mechanical garbage to the arm and thus interferes with the mechanics of vibration in the arm and thus makes records sound worse. all for convenience. the strippers (fully manual tonearm operation) are always the best sounding. Note that nearly 100% (~+99.9%) of all ’real turntables’ have purely manual tonearms. $100k turntable? fully manual? Not a chance it would be any other way.
200 -300 is a tough range. Older pl pioneer series are going for double that price. Same with vintage denon. Most of those are bullit proof. Look for a vintage Yamaha as you can find a decent direct drive for around 300-400 and they are very well built as well as very nice looking. Good luck and happy hunting.
It's not hard to find a decent vintage direct drive Yamaha or Pioneer PL series for $300. You probably won't find a PL530 for that price, but you can get a PL510 in great condition and it will absolutely trounce the entry-level Pro-Jects and U turn.
Find a nice vintage Pioneer, pair it with a Shure M97xe or AT120eb cartridge and you'll get very respectable sound for your budget.
Some more advice, once you've got that TT set up don't neglect to consider further investment in accessories to clean that vinyl you've been accumulating as well as a good carbon fiber record brush.
Anti-static treatments are also a must, I use a Milty anti-static gun, you can pick one up for less than 100$. There are other solutions but the Milty is reliable and one of the least expensive.
Finally, get a tonearm stylus brush or something like an Onzow to clean your needle. It's disconcerting at first how much gunk can get picked up from even the cleanest seeming vinyl.
Onzow is a glob of soft sticky plastic that does a pretty good job of cleaning the stylus without putting too much pressure on the stylus.