The disappearing $500 turntable


I was just emailing an audio buddy who wants to get a turntable in the $500 range, and I thought there was still a wide selection of them. Just a year ago when I was shopping for one, there was the Goldring GR1.2, Music Hall MMF5, Rega P2, Pro-Ject Xpression with the Pro-Ject RM5 or RM6.

Well, guess what? It looks like the dollar falling against the British Pound and Euro, plus the increasing demand for vinyl playback are taking their toll. Pro-Ject and Music Hall don't really have a $500 turntable anymore. A year ago you could get a Sota Moonbeam from Galen Carol Audio for $529 with cartridge. Now it's $699 without. Many of the previous $500 turntables have been taken "uptown" to X.1 or "SE" versions in the $700-$1000 range. Cambridge Audio's new TT50 is also $679. Now the $500 turntables are gussied-up turntables that used to go for $350, like the Music Hall MMF2.2LE and the USB version of the Pro-Ject Debut III.

Even the Rega P2 is now $545, and $645 with cartridge. The NAD is $599 with cartridge.

Given that most of these are made out of MDF using garden-variety AC synchronous motors driving the platter via a rubber band, it makes the high precision, heavily-built Japanese direct drives in this price range all the more attractive. You can still get a Technics SL1200 mk2 with SuperMat and Kevin's 23-point inspection for $475, the SL1210 M5G for $625, or the Denon DP-500M for $699.

Comments? If you had a friend unfamiliar with vinyl playback who wanted to get into it, what would *you* recommend now for $500?
johnnyb53
The Rega P1 is quite a bit under $500, and I believe Music Hall still has at least one under that figure as well.
The Technics.
Here's my best shot for excellence in vinyl playback for $500 range:
Lenco L 75 on eBay. If you are lucky, you might find one for under $300. Easy to tear apart and bring it to perfection, mechanically (see lencolovers.com for instructions).
Build a plinth- easy to do. Time consuming with planning involved.
Eventually, you will want to replace the arm and cart which will be an additional $500 to $1k.
But, your friend will have an EXCELLENT turntable and spend all his free time scrounging for more and more LPs. Why? Because he/she will be in analog heaven.
See my system for a Lenco I just complete (my 6th). It is dated 8/28/08.
Of course, this one is 4 times the price you mentioned, however, with some elbow grease, a little luck and a few tools, you can get real close with your budget.
Don't waste your money on a cheap belt drive.
08-28-08: Learsfool
The Rega P1 is quite a bit under $500, and I believe Music Hall still has at least one under that figure as well.
Well, I know there are still entry-level tables between $300 and $400, but they are starting to creep towards $500, and almost all of the European-sourced $500 belt-drive 'tables have been moved up to the $700-$1000 range.
Personally, I would go used under $500. A nice old Thorens or a used Linn Axis would be cool.
I should have prefaced this by saying that if a novice wanted to get into analog playback, the last thing I'd do is suggest he scrounge for a 40-yr-old unit and restore it. I'm sure you can get really good results that way, but that's hardly a plug'n'play solution for a newcomer.
You can buy Technics SL12xx MKII series. You will be hard pressed to find another table in its price range or double that to compete with it.

Don't rule out good used vintage stuff from the late 70's and early 80'.s Japan Inc. made some very good tables back in the day, ones that would still sit proud against popular ones today.
I agree w/ you, Johnny. I'd recommend a Technics SL1200 or Denon DP 500M.
A lightly used non-DJ'd SL1200 WITH the KAB tonearm damper will still keep you under $500. I prefer it the far more expensive SOTA whose place it took in my system.
08-29-08: Les_creative_edge
You can buy Technics SL12xx MKII series. You will be hard pressed to find another table in its price range or double that to compete with it.
Having just had a listening session with a Rega P3/24, I have to say I'll take my Technics 1210 M5G with KAB fluid damper over the Rega any day of the week, and on any and all listening criteria--s/n, musical involvement, speed accuracy, and especially, how "real" and "in-the-room" it sounds.

My rig is a compelling listen.
Just my $0.02 - I am very happy with the Audio Technica PL120 that I bought for $300 from NeedleDoctor.com.
Tell me something new. I would recommend going used. Dual 1229's used in manual mode are outstanding and robust. (I have a Grace 747 tonearm on mine) The idler wheel drive is dead silent and has pace, pitch and power like no ones business. Every now and then you;ll see a Thorens 124, or 150 at a fair price. The 124 is a jewell of a table. The 150, properly set up is as good as an LP 12. I also like the old Aristion RD 11s (the original Linn LP12). The motors, pulleys even the platter are directly replaceable with Linn units.
The Technics 1200 is as bullet proof a table as you will find. Direct drive or not, the are strong, and quiet. Parts are still available.
08-31-08: Mgattone
Just my $0.02 - I am very happy with the Audio Technica PL120 that I bought for $300 from NeedleDoctor.com.
And they LPGear sells'em even cheaper yet. There's some positive buzz out there for this turntable. At $200 or $300, I think it's a no-brainer over a Pro-Ject Debut III or Rega P1. It's such a close copy of the Technics, I wonder if KAB's fluid damper would fit on it. You can also experiment with headshells made of ZuMetal, magnesium, Technihard, ebony, boxwood, and others.

If the Origin Live armboard to adapt a Rega-geometry tonearm to a Technics fits, you could really put together something special for crazy-cheap:

SL-120 from LPGear: $205
OL armboard: $89
OL-1 tonearm: $240

= $544 for a transport with s/n and wow & flutter figures of a $4K turntable with the RB-250, which often shows up on $900-1200 belt-drive turntables.

Now THERE's a $500 turntable!