For beginners, I don't recommend used equipment. I think it's better to get something with a warranty, and has a much lower risk of loose connections, cracked circuit boards, and leaky capacitors near the end of their lifespan.
Plus, the new gear brings so much transparency, speed, clarity, and high signal-to-noise that the older gear seldom has, and at very good prices.
Get an integrated amp from Cambridge
for under $350.
For a turntable, skip the MDF plinths, the rubber band drive, and cheesey construction for a solidly built, easy to set up and use Audio Technica PL-120
direct-drive turntable with precision aluminum castings, weighing in at around 25 lbs.
You can get it at Amazon for about $205, or for $299 from LPGear
with decent AT95 cartridge, better mat, and protractor. If you go with Amazon, spend $99 and get the Ortofon 2M Red
, which is a great match for this turntable.
For reviews of the PL-120, check out this review at Crutchfield
and download Issue 11
of ToneAudio magazine, which has a pretty favorable review from a longtime high end belt drive aficionado.
There is a link to The Absolute Sound's review of the 2M Red and Black here
, and if you Google "ortofon 2M red review" you'll find plenty more.
Also, the NAD and Cambridge integrated amps I mentioned here don't have a phono preamp, but the Audio Technica turntable has one built-in. And if you upgrade later, you can always turn off the internal phono stage and get a nice outboard one from Cambridge, Parasound, NAD, Bellari, etc.