Yet another turntable recommendation question

Hello all,
Longtime reader of the forums, but I rarely post. As a relative noob, I have learned much from reading your conversations, so thank you.
I am currently looking to upgrade my turntable situation from my old plastic Technics and Onkyo hand-me-downs.
Budget would be stretched at $600-ish.
Features I like...
- removable headshell, or at least a way to easily change carts and related tonearm adjustments
- speed stability!! (as a musician, pitch instability drives me absolutely insane)- some prospect of upgrading over time (tonearm, platter, sub-platter, wiring, etc.)
- belt drive- good (dare I say great?) sound quality- Auto shut off would be very nice

I don't want bells and whistles like built-in phono stage and USB nonsense. Simple is good.

I have considered buying used (Thorens, Dual) and haven't necessarily ruled it out, but I don't want a project, and I darn sure don't want to inherit someone else's problems. Warranties are kind of awesome.
The rest of my system is...
Schitt Mani, Jolida JD1501BRC, Wharfedale Diamond 10.7, Audioquest, BlueJeans, and Morrow cabling.
Mid-fi, I suppose, but I think it sounds great for the price, and I have no immediate plans to change any of that.
I listen to everything from classical to hard rock to jazz to ambient drone.
So far I have looked at Music Hall, Fluance, Denon, Rega, Pro-Ject, but all are compromised in some way.
Are there any others I should be factoring in to the equation?Or any I should steer clear of?
Thanks for any advice and cheers!

The budget is too low for a serious turntable with all the features you have mentioned. Why biyin’ another toy if for double price you can get something really great (direct drive for sure) ?

Technics SP-20 with your custom made plinth and the arm of your choice (vintage).
Well honestly, you should steer clear of the features you want. Detachable head shell, first and foremost. You're already in a budget area where there are compromises galore. One of the bigger ones, besides the bearing and motor, is the arm. So on top of that you want to add a knurled knob and threads and contacts? Fine. But understand you are sacrificing sound quality. Big time.

Connections anywhere along the delicate phono cartridge signal wire are bound to degrade the signal like you can't believe. I know. Had a Graham. Which look it up, $2500 just for the arm. Aerospace connectors. The freaking connector on the Graham probably costs about your entire turntable budget. It still ruined the sound. When I went to Origin Live, wire all continuous from cartridge pins to RCA plugs, huge improvement. Amazing improvement.

That's the "feature" you should be looking for. One continuous wire from cartridge pins to RCA plugs. Not extra connections. Fewer.
@millercarbon: The OP cannot afford a $2-3K tonearm! And there is NOTHING wrong with a detachable headshell! Both my Fidelity Research arms use them! And they are NOT junk!
The OP can get a Pioneer PLX1000 for $700 and add a $500 Grado Sonata to it. Excellent sound quality - I have this combination!
Ok, thanks for your input, people. I fully realize that compromises are a forgone conclusion at my budget level. I don’t expect miracles, I was just looking for some possibilities that I had not yet considered, and to avoid as many mistakes as possible. VPI used might be a possibility. It checks a lot of boxes.
i will look into the pioneer, thanks again. 
I love my vintage lenco l90 belt drive with pitch/speed contol, cool amber strobe, auto stop/lift feature, and, you guessed it, a removable headshell. In fact I got 2. Right now running the discontinued shure m97xe cartridge with brush down and man it sounds good. Bought turntable on ebay a year ago for 299 and it is in near mint condition. It’s not my go to turntable, but man it’s a blast.

The OP, at his budget of 600, should maybe consider the new pro-ject T1 turntable only $329 (leaves room for either a decent phono stage or cartridge upgrade) , or stretch the budget and go for the pro-ject X1 at $899. Read Michael Femer’s review of the X1, he seemed to like it very much so. Pro-ject is killing it with these new series of turntables, which also includes the X2 and the classic Evo.
I agree with roberjerman on the Pioneer PLX-1000.  I've had mine for over 2 years now and is currently what I consider my best sounding turntable.  I also have two Rega turntables and a near mint, never gigged Technics SL-1200.  My Rega P-3 should be the best sounding, but it's not.  The removable head shell, with pre-mounted cartridges on spare headshells makes changing cartridges a breeze on the Pioneer and Technics.  For fear of damaging the cartridge or the delicate cartridge cables on the Rega, I'm usually sweating bullets when I'm finished.  The PLX-1000 is my quietest deck due to the extra insulation in the base and inside the tone arm.  It's one of the better made Hanpin clones of the SL-1000 Technics.  I paid $699 for mine, but they're currently down to $599 on Amazon.  If you can swing a few $$$ for a cartridge, I recommend the Hana SL Shibata tipped cartridge.  It sounds as good as it gets to me, so much so that I have two of them!  Happy gear searching!     
For an extra 100 or so, try Audio Techica ATLP7, a fully manual belt drive at an excellent price point.
Pioneer, as others mentioned, is really good for the money.

However, if by any chance you find some extra money in last year's coat pocket, Technics SL-1500 C. It checks almost all the boxes (it is direct drive, like Pioneer) including auto-lift at the end of the record. Do not worry about included preamplifier, you can switch it off.
I'll second a recommendation already posted: buy used. You may be able to get a really nice turntable that can be subsequently upgraded with a better tonearm and cartridge, if needed. VPI is a good bet, especially for older models like the HW-19 for which parts and various enhancements remain readily available.
+1 for VPI HW-19. I have a MKIII which I bought used. The dealer installed a new Jelco TS-550S and Hana EL. I am very happy. With your budget, you may not be able to get a new tonearm and cartridge. My point is, look out for one which comes with an arm (and you're lucky if there's a cartridge) and in good condition. You may need to shell out a bit more than what you're planning to, but you'll have a very nice 'table. The HW-19 is simple, solid and a very accomplished performer.

If you want direct drive, I suggest you get a Technics SL-150MK2. It is just a couple steps down from the level of the SP-10, is better that the SL-1200 spec- and sound-wise, and sells less (a sleeper). It usually comes with an SME 3009 Series III (at least based on what I've seen around and mine did come with that arm and a V-15 Type IV). That arm is happy with high compliance carts like the Shure V-15 and Stanton 681.

I hope that helps. 
Get a used Technics or Technics-like direct drive turntable from a dealer or online store you trust that offers a warranty, if you're serious about staying at $600.  The Technics have the removable SME-like head shell (if you're really going to be changing/adjusting cartridges all that frequently?), have great pitch stability and speed accuracy, are easy to match up with a suitable cartridge in your price range, have some of the bells and whistles you asked for (even though you said you didn't want any - I would forgo the auto return/auto shutoff myself), and are more sturdily built than a lot of the new paper-mache-plinth and fishing-line offerings out there.  I would also forgo the idea of upgrading a $600 (or less) turntable unless you really love tinkering, because after it all 1.) you will have spent more money than if you would've bought a more expensive table, and 2.) no one will want to buy your Frankentable for anywhere near the amount of money you've invested in it, unless you've really done some stellar upgrades.  Bottom line:  I would go with a used SL-1200mk2 with an AT/Ortofon cartridge from a dealer you trust (with a limited warranty), and go on with your life.  If you want to go crazy later on an expensive tt you can unload the Technics for what you paid for it or a little less.
Thanks again, everyone! I was hoping for some good ideas and you didn’t let me down. Cheers!
something 'better', or 'nicer', not too much money, hard but possible.


detatchable headshell, yes

direct drive: yes.

dead accurate speed control. many have pitch control, but that is a feature, for intentional speed change. I have never needed to 'fix' the speed/pitch of any direct drive tt I have owned.
belt drive, no, especially if sensitive to pitch.

auto lift: no.

that feature adds an unwanted mechanism to the arm, It also limits your choices a great deal. I advise against it.

there are separate after market auto-lift devices, if you can get one to work I think it is a great idea,

however, if the arm is close to the platter, or if the arm has a large base, typically sloped, then there is no flat place to put it.

here's the budget model auto lifter I bought. It may not fit on my new to me tt that is coming next week.

this one is nicer, may fit where the other one doesn't

my plastic tt is this one. I have had 'better' but this tt is hard to beat within your budget. I would use it as a base for comparison when shopping.

they, and others, have more expensive plastic 'dj' versions.

for home use, I don't think the heavy duty motor's start/stop feature needed in a dj tt is needed, thus the extra money of a Technics 1200 is wasted at home.


Part of the goal is wood, not plastic, a different look. Hard to do in your budget unless buying used.

Part of you want's a warranty. Hard to do in your budget. Conflicts with used.

My recent project buying used tt and used tonearms (2) has led to problems, many would be upset, I just patiently deal with it.

If you are buying used, I strongly advise finding something local, craigs list, facebook marketplace, local ebay, local pick up, see it work, 30 day handshake with seller.

Patience, actively look until you get lucky locally.


primary to any tt success is acquired skills in all aspects of cartridge alignment and the matching of downward and anti-skate forces.

how are your skills? 
Internal Preamp of some modern tt.

I had highly respected McIntosh C28 Solid State Preamp. I preferred the optional phono eq built into my plastic tt.

Sold the SS C28, bought a used McIntosh Tube Preamp. Same tt, I prefer the McIntosh Tube Phono EQ.

USB. I don't use it, but it is not nonsense, many want/use this feature, especially within your price range.
@earworm22 I was in the same boat and ended up accidently coming across a Denon DP-62L. It had everything I was looking for and comes with 2 tone arms (Straight and S shapped) and also several counter weights for the arms. There is a good review available at:

There other similar Denon models 60, 62, 72, 57, and 59 however I have no experience with them. 

These are beautiful pieces of equipment and they are hard to come by but do pop up regularly on line. 

Good luck on your journey with your TT. 
Yamaha PX2 , Technics SL-M3,   Sony PS-X800 are good Linear tracking turntables. These days, hard to come by. Some come up from time to time.
For sound quality on a budget, it would be hard to beat the Project Debut Carbon Esprit, or the RPM 1, particularly if you swap out for a better cartridge!
Some of the new Pro-jects and Music Halls look interesting, despite afixed headshells.

The used market in my area doesn't currently offer much, but I'll keep looking. I would be very reluctant to buy used without testing it out first.

@elliot _ I can set alignment, azimuth and anti-skate fairly well. What I am more concerned about is changing carts with a one-piece tonearm. Is it a huge PIA? If not, I can forgo the removable headshell. Sounds like auto-return might also be off the table. I'm ok with that.

That being the case, anyone have experience with anything similar to this..? Looks interesting and on sale...
It has VTA and anti-skate adjustment. That's a big plus as I would likely swap out the cart at some point. That's what turned me off to the new P1 & P2. Also, looks like the speed regulation is improved from the base model.
There's no built-in  pre-amp in the signal path. Looks nice. Maybe a platter upgrade down the road...
Pro-jects and Music Halls are piece of sh**** belt drives, lightweight plastic turntables, toys, you have to remove the platter to each time your want to switch a belt from 33 to 45 rpm and you must do that manually, an awful turntables even for entry level. Awful tonearm with NO adjustment of anything, they are too bad.

Go with Direct Drive and you will get something serious. New Technics, Pioneer, Denon ... whatever. Some vintage are far better, look for Technics SP-20 which is a simplified/cheaper version of one of the best direct drive ever ( SP10mkII ), make a custom plinth and buy the tonearm you want. Those turntable will live longer that we’re

I simply will not have an arm without a removable headshell.

I was at my friends house last night. To specifically listen to some 'new to us' Jazz records. He didn't even realize they were mono.

I had packed the headshell with my new Grado ME+ Mono cartridge, and my digital stylus gauge, expecting to let him hear the difference.

He had a Grace Arm, integral/non removable headshell.

No way can he change headshells, You would need to pull the tiny wires off the cartridge pins, unscrew the cartridge, install and

completely align a different cartridge, EVERYTHING. How many times do you want to mess with those tiny wires?

That TT is fixed headshell, and belt drive. I won't do belt drive, and you mentioned specific sensitivity to small speed variances.
It may be a great deal, looks to be a carbon arm, .... but, I bet you will regret compromising on those 2 features.

going back to your request for auto stop.

I don’t know anything about it, but I would expect you could clean that arm up, and it uses hanging weight anti-skate which I like.

$700. over your original, may accept offer.

have you increased your budget, or sticking with $500.00 ?
Thanks for all your help people. I clearly have a lot of factors to weigh and options to consider. You folks didn’t disappoint. Fortunately I’m not in a big hurry, so I will spend some time reassessing priorities, and checking out some of your suggestions. Cheers everyone!
Pioneer PLX1000 with a Nagaoka MP110 or AudioTechnica AT540ML is what my pals buy when they're looking for a budget table.

your features, your budget, accepts returns, 100% rating, ebay/paypal/credit card protection,

this one looks darn good, except it is belt drive

I am not familiar with them however they have similar direct drive units,

If not finding something ideal right now, I might get this, enjoy it while searching for the next one, direct drive ... whatever ..... find great deal on the next one, this should be fairly easy to sell.
Not a fan of detachable headshells for obvious reasons. Absolute no to inexpensive direct drive tables for even more obvious reasons. Probably a Rega with the best cartridge you can find within your budget. 
If you can find a decent Technics SL-1200 that hasn't been beat up by a DJ, it's a surprisingly good table.  I think I paid about $600 for mine.  I've upgraded the feet ($100) and added the KAB fluid damper ($149), both of which seemed to help.  Mine came with the KAB RCA jack plate and a nice Soundeck mat, so I can't say how good it is completely stock, but it sounds really good with a nice cartridge and I can put a not so nice cart on it if I want to play some of my less than pristine records. 

Not sure why belt drive is a requirement.  Or a removable headshell for that matter.  I have both belt and direct drive turntables and all of them but the SL 1200 have fixed headshells.  Changing a cartridge isn't rocket surgery and while it's fun to be able to swap them out on the SL 1200, it was never an issue before I got it.  Currently my two main tables are both direct drive.

I don't think you're going to get anything very good new at your budget.  You could get a Music Hall 2.3.  I have the 2.2 and it was a nice starter table, but a used 5.X Music Hall could be had at your budget level and would be much better.  I'm not sure what problems you're worried about inheriting with a used turntable.  A basic belt drive turntable doesn't have a lot of moving parts.  If you buy used from a dealer, most will offer some kind of return if it doesn't work right.

I'd suggest stretching your budget and picking this up before it's gone -

Your first post mentioned vintage turntables with one being Dual. If you are still looking for a vintage turntable, contact Bill Neumann at
He has the largest inventory of Dual parts in the US. Tell him what you want and he will steer you in the right direction. The Dual turntables he has will have what is called a sled. You can buy several sleds so you can swap out different cartridges. The sled fits under the headshell and it is simple to replace.

Bill can hook you up with a belt, idler, or direct drive turntable. I have purchased a few turntables from Bill, and I currently have a 1219 idler and a 721 direct drive. Both will return the tonearm to the rest while the table powers off.
The money you will spend on a Dual, you will not find a new turntable with the same features. You would have to spend two to three times more money. If you buy from Bill, you will get a warranty. If you have any problem whatsoever, he will be there to help you. He stands behind his product and offers superb CS. One more thing, he makes his own plinths and he will supply a dust cover for your table.