Used Spacedeck/Spacearm, or Well Tempered Classic. Unlike some of the other "affordable" tables, you won't feel the need to upgrade anytime soon.
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The Clearaudio Concept seems to be a good candidate. It has received many awards here in the U.S. and in England. What Hi-Fi awarded it Turntable of the Year in 2009. Around $500 or so, Rega is a good one.
I used to own the Well-Tempered Classic that sold for $1,800 retail back in the 90s. It is still a very good table. Used should be under $1,000. But some folks don't like its looks.
For a first table I generally recommend buying from a local dealer who can make sure everything is set up correctly and can show you the ropes as far as TT basics goes (VTA, VTF, Azimuth, Cartridge compliance etc..)
Once you are comfortable setting up a TT yourself then I'd recommend looking at used tables for your next purchase as the value proposition is generally much better.
If you are already comforable setting up a TT or are a DIY kind of person, then you can probably skip my first step and buy used without a problem. My personal bias in belt drive tables that provide good value are Nottingham and Well Tempered.
Finally, if you need to buy a phono stage, don't skimp here. The phono stage has a meaningful impact on sound quality. Bite the bullet and get a good one.
Rega Dealer Disclaimer******
If your $1500 price is just for the table and arm, then I would suggest perhaps waiting for a couple weeks for the new Rega RP6 to come out. It falls right at your price and looks like it will be a quite a nice table.
If you are looking at $1500 for everything, then be sure and take a look at an RP3 with a TTPSU. This option would leave you about $300 for cart purchase.
How about going vintage? Some people are getting spectacular results from the Empire 208/308's of the 1960's. These were manufactured to extremely tight tolerances. Worthy of putting on a modern tonearm. See, for instance, Ralph Karsten's version at the Atma-Sphere site,
or Doc's version at the Bottlehead site
These are potentially world-class, and compete with many of the high-dollar tables sold today. Of course, any used turntable will need careful inspection, but there's not a whole lot to go wrong with the Empire. The Pabst motors are a clever 3-phase design and are extremely good. The bearing and main platter were outstanding. You might have to replace the thrust plate beneath the main bearing with a Delrin one, but the results are well worth a bit of time investment. And you might just get one that's been cared for its whole life and needs nothing!
Mine is a recent purchase, with an SME3009R tonearm, and it really makes nice music. About to put my Scoutmaster up for sale as a result!