For USB connectivity
Audio-Technica has been making turntable cartridges for decades and although its turntables tend to be a more budget affair, they offer decent value for money. At a street price of just over $200 each, the LP120s are solid entry-level DJ turntables with a few features to make them versatile enough for all-round use. They’re clearly a step down from the more serious DJ turntables in terms of build quality and finish. Yet with a built-in phono preamp and USB connection to hook up with your Mac or PC, they make for a nice starting point for a beginner DJ setup.
Retails for $249.
Inspired by a classic
Yes, it’s slightly over $300, but this Pioneer should still be included here – if only for being a wallet-friendly alternative to an icon.
When Technics discontinued its mighty SL-1200 DJ turntable in 2010, DJs were understandably concerned that the industry standard had disappeared. Pioneer DJ, better known for its CD decks, stepped in a few years later with the release of the PLX-1000, offering a distinctly Technics-inspired alternative.
The PLX-500 arrived the following year as a more affordable option with the same basic design principles, sacrificing a bit of build quality to meet the lower price point. Technics has since returned, but it doesn’t make a budget model. If you’re looking for a Technics-style deck below $350, the PLX-500 is a solid choice.
Retails for $349.
Numark PT01 Scratch
A portable solution
Turntable and DJ gear specialists Numark makes a small range of portable PT01 models with built-in speakers, but the DJ-focused Scratch is our favourite. You probably wouldn’t want it as your only turntable, but the bargain price and all-in-one approach make it the perfect option for a day of crate digging. Take it round the charity shops, car-boot sales and bargain buckets and you’ve got the perfect way of checking out obscure unknown records, looking for samples or hidden gems. At such a low price, it’s a simple and flexible way to get started with vinyl on a budget.
Retails for $129.99.
Pro-Ject Primary E
For sampling and general listening
Although we’re focusing mainly on DJ turntables here, it’s worth pointing out that a more hi-fi turntable might be a better choice in some cases. If you’re mainly interested in listening to records, ripping tracks to your computer (via a suitable audio interface) or sampling, consider something like the Primary E. A £150 turntable has no right to sound as good as this one does. It’s a remarkably capable unit at such a price point. (Note that you’ll also need a phono preamp to hook it up to a line level input or an amp with a phono input stage built in.)
Retails for £150.
Stanton T.62 M2
For scratching and aspiring turntablists
Founded in 1946, Stanton has been a trusted name in turntable technology for decades, specialising in cartridges and styluses but also offering a range of turntables and DJ controllers. The scratch-focused T.62 breaks with the tried-and-tested Technics-style look and feel of most DJ turntables to offer a more modern approach, with a straight tonearm for better tracking when scratching, Stanton’s own durable 300 cartridge, plus dual start/stop buttons to allow the turntables to be positioned in ‘battle’ position (rotated 90 degrees from standard). A solid entry-level option for aspiring turntablists.
Retails for $199.
Reloop RP-4000 MK2
A classic updated for the modern day
Münster-based Reloop is a relative newcomer to the turntable world, founded in 1996 with a mission to update DJ technology for modern techniques and approaches. The RP-4000 is one of its more affordable models, offering a solid starting point clearly based on the classic SL1200 format, with a few modern additions like a reverse function and switchable pitch-control range. The 4000 is also bundled with an Ortofon OM Black cartridge and stylus, which is a very solid performer at this price point, with good sound quality and durability. Overall, it’s a package that offers great value for money.
Retails for $299.