Music Hall MMF-5 with Goldring cartridge and a glass platter sells new for $499. That would be a good place to start.
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The most reliable table on the market also has the best arm below $500 on it and you can find used or demo Rega P2's and P3's between $275 for a used P2 in perfect shape and $600 for a demo P3 2000 in mint condition. The Rega tables have been made for more than 25 years and continue to be the best sounding tables available at their price points and can from time to time be found on the used market.
Might I suggest the NAD 533? It's basically a Rega P2 re-badged and packaged for NAD. It can be found at a few stores on the web for $399 including an entry level Goldring cartridge. A few months ago, I would have said that the extra $$ for the actual Rega Planar 2 over the NAD 533 was worth it, but now that Rega has cheapened up the table by using a MDF platter rather than glass, the difference between the two is very small, if any. In my humble opinion, the NAD will trounce a MMF-5 and is easier to use.
I agree with Sugarbrie - you should really look into the
Music Hall MMF-5. I'm also just getting started with
vinyl, and the MMF-5 was really pretty easy to set up.
I've used it with the MM input on my McIntosh Preamp;
and really liked what I've heard so far. If you look
around here on Audiogon, you might find a used MMF-5 for
a really decent price. Also, keep in mind that some dealers
sell demo units also with full warantee. This leaves you
some extra money to put into cleaning your records.
But most of all - enjoy the music!
I dont want to brag, but I think I have to. For five hundy i scored a mint Sota Sapphire TT with Sumiko Premier MMT arm, with two carts; Grado 8MX and a Adcom Crosscoil. Also, just for good measure, a Nitty Gritty 2.5 record cleaning machine and a few accessories. I am so psyched. I purchased these items from an older gentleman that had given away all his LPs a couple years ago.
I would also say that the above suggestions on either the Music Hall or the Rega TT's would be very good to go with.
Have fun, spin lots.
Brookland Audio is one of the most respected dealers here on 'Gon. In the course of business, they see plenty of things come and go every week- far more than any of us as individuals do. I have every confidence that their comments are both fair and reasonable and come from their extensive experience and knowledge. Their feedback rating of 990 positive and NO negatives speaks for itself.
For the record (no pun intended), I have absolutely no connection with Brooklyn Audio.
You might be able to find an Ariston RD-11S at around 500 used. May times they had a Grace 707 or a Linn Basik tonearm put on them. They are similar to a Linn table and sound almost as good. They are a suspension table and need to be set up, but it is probably as good a table as you can get for that amount of money. Buy a new cartridge, they are often used up or damaged when they come with a used table.
There is an ad right now here on Agon that lists a Connoiseur BD102 turtable with arm for $145 obo. This is a good British entry level belt drive AC motor turntable. We used to sell them as the basic TT in our high end shop. Not as good as Rega, but better than anything under $250. They work very well with a Goldring cartridge and a "Platter Matter" or deadening mat helps too. Not well known, but good sound and low price.