Even with the advent of digital music, smartphones, mp3 players, etc. people haven’t forgotten the good old spin tables. A turntable is the de-facto when it comes to playing vinyl records, and it has surprisingly gained quite a bit of popularity in the last decade or so, mainly because of its unique sound and faithful audio reproduction.
Some people just like the feeling of gently lifting up a vinyl record from the rack, placing it on the platter and listening to that initial “thump” which happen as soon as you set the arm on the disk. A good turntable can produce much better sound than an average mp3 player or smartphone. Yeah, you can’t carry it around in your pocket, but who needs portability when you can get true audiophile level sound quality?
Best turntable under $1000: What to look for?
Vinyl records may be old tech but they absolutely excel when it comes to reproducing sound without adding any form of artificial distortion or digital compression. You can feel the warmth in the tone, along with that true analog audio quality which is miles ahead of an ordinary mp3 player or even a low-end CD player. So, how do you choose a turntable? Well, here are the things you should pay attention to while buying your brand new vintage music player:
The stylus: The stylus is the part of the arm that maintains contact with the vinyl record, and its job is to “extract” the music from the spinning disk. Normally, you can upgrade the stylus of a turntable, but it is best to have a good one installed right out of the box.
The cartridge: The cartridge is the little piece of hardware that holds the stylus in place, and its job is to pick up all the vibrations made by the stylus, so these can then be transferred to electrical signals. Upgrading the cartridge will make a huge difference in your turntables audio quality.
The platter: Heavier platters are better since they don’t vibrate as much and stay steady. Some good turntables come with mats on the platter to keep the Vinyl disk level and steady at all times. Fewer vibrations on the platter equal less noise in the final audio.
The drive system: Audiophiles will go for belt drives over direct drives, while DJ’s normally prefer direct drive systems since they are much easier to spin backward and forward. If you’re getting a belt drive system, try to get a model with high-quality bearings underneath the pulley, so that the disk will spin more smoothly.
Phono preamp: It is always better to have a phono preamp built into your turntable, although you can buy an external phono preamp quite easily.
If you’re ready to go out and buy your new turntable, then take a look at the following models that we have listed below. They have been selected on the basis of customer feedback and specifications.
We also did a review of the best turntables under $500!
Denon DJ VL12 PRIME Professional Turntable
• The isolated motor provides best-in-class signal-to-noise ratio since almost no mechanical humming sounds make it into the reproduction
• Users can easily switch between low and high torque motor settings
• All-metal tone arm design is extremely durable, which is perfect for DJs who move around all the time
• Consumes a fairly healthy amount of power with approximately 65 watts of current draw
• Lacks any sort of premounted cartridge on the tonearm, though a headshell is included
• Doesn’t come with a dust cover and lacks mounting screws to add one yourself
Denon was clearly aiming for the professional nightclub DJ market when they designed the VL12 PRIME. It’s an entirely new design that was engineered from the ground up with input from people who work in the music industry as well as from technicians. This might help to explain some of the more showy features like selectable color RGB lights that can make your records look like they’re flying saucers.
By no means is this a triumph of form over function, however. Everything from the quartz speed controller to the rubber dampening feet is designed to prevent any excess noise from making it into any tracks you mix. Even the stock 45 RPM adapter is much better than the standard pack-in plastic inserts most people are used to. At nearly 28 pounds, the VL12 is quite a hefty turntable. Unfortunately, build quality comes at a price and it tends to run higher than the competition.
If you’re into scratching cuts, then you’ll appreciate the switchable torque settings to get the right amount of pressure. When you dial the pressure up, you still shouldn’t find that too much sound bleeds over into twin stereo RCA output headers. The PRIME should certainly serve those who are looking for a serious phonograph that can travel with them.
Audio-Technica AT-LP7 Turntable
• Dual moving magnet cartridge system provides excellent multi-channel separation
• A metal gimbal helps provide remarkable stability to the tonearm
• Drive motor speed sensors automatically maintain accurate platter rotation even with records that might be a bit bent
• Some users don’t care for the stock stylus and opted to upgrade it
• While the medium density fiberboard chassis is excellent when it comes to deadening vibrations, it might warp over time when exposed to humidity
• Adjustable counterweights need to be calibrated before use, and it can suffer from anti-skate issues overall as a result
While the AT-LP7 is more of an audiophile’s turntable at heart, there are some features that should certainly make it attractive to DJs as well. For instance, a switchable phono and line-in preamp are built right into the chassis. This makes it easy to connect the LP7 to devices without dedicated phono input headers. At only slight over 18 pounds, it’s also considerably lighter than many competing designs.
Audiophiles looking to use it at home will like the VM520EB dual moving magnet cartridge, but those who want more power will find that the AT-HS10 headshell is easily upgraded. While it does cost more than most other belt-drive turntables, the AT-LP7 is still priced more affordable than a majority of direct-drive tables that come with similar speed-sensors.
Akai Professional BT500 Turntable
• Extremely low weight at only 12.13 pounds
• Polished controls and tonearm feature a very solid fit and finish
• Comes complete with a leveling bubble that has adjustable feet
• Has been in production for several years now, which means some features have been passed on in the process
• Speed sometimes runs a bit too fast, but the BT500 lacks a control to dial it back
• The belt may need replacement more often than other comparably-priced turntables
Gold-plated RCA jacks, a switchable phono pre-amplifier, and a die-cast anti-resonance aluminum platter help to make this traditional table into something that could be used both by audiophiles as well as DJs. While it’s been passed by some of the other newer turntables in terms of features, this has helped drop the price as well.
Nevertheless, it does offer native Bluetooth support that can wirelessly stream audio to any compatible speaker.
Music Hall MMF-5.1 Phonograph
• Features a really unique dual plinth design
• Completely isolates the motor for better sound quality
• Comes with a cartridge already mounted and aligned
• Tends to run toward the higher end of the price spectrum
• Many users find they need to upgrade the needle over time
• Users may easily damage the MMF-5.1 if they tighten the plinth screws, which have to be removed to use it
Designing turntables that look like futuristic technology gadgets seem to be Music Hall’s gimmick, and the MMF-5.1 doesn’t disappoint in this respect. Keeping with the progressive theme, it’s very easy to upgrade and many users do indeed opt for an additional nude elliptical diamond stylus. Special high-density elastic bands keep the platter in place, which leads to better consistency when it comes to rotary speeds. This hasn’t increased the weight too much, considering that it still clocks in at under 25 pounds.
Teac DJ Equipment TN-550B Phonograph
• Features almost no acoustic feedback whatsoever
• Comes with a Technica MM stylus cartridge
• The platter is made from solid plexiglass and should hold up well
• Design flaw causes optical sensor noise issues
• 33 ⅓ RPM and 45 RPM records produce slightly different sounds
• Arm counterweight has to be carefully calibrated before use
You won’t often see a turntable that works equally well in a DJ booth as it does playing vintage vinyl, but you’ll see ones made from marble even less often. The TN-550B turntable uses a marble base to add a significant amount of weight in order to cut down on audio feedback. This also helps to make the body quite durable, and it didn’t increase the price very much considering that it’s right in the middle of the pack as far as these units go.
Unfortunately, some users have reported problems with the optical sensor, which leads to electrical noise issues. On the plus side, though, plenty of people have reported that a simple cartridge upgrade improves reproduction quality.
While all of these turntables have their own merits and drawbacks, each does have at least one-use case they’d be best for. Those who are looking for a top-of-the-line unit that’s not going to break the bank, however, should certainly consider the Denon DJ VL12 PRIME as their first choice. It’s a bit pricier than many of the others, but it’s still quite reasonable considering everything you’re getting especially when you consider how well it scratches. The lighting effects would be great in a dark booth, and the sound quality isn’t really rivaled by anything else in its price range. You’ll also say goodbye to excess noise the first time you slip some vinyl it.