Best Turntables Setups for Under $1,000
In recent years, turntables have reached a level of popularity not seen in decades! A combination of older music listeners digging out their old vinyl collection and a younger generation of music lovers discovering the ritual and warmth of vinyl have created what can only be referred to as a Vinyl Revival.
But while most turntables 50+ years ago were integrated into a piece of furniture or tied into a larger separates system, today the many listeners are opting for something simpler.
Whether you’re dusting off a crate of records you found in your attic, you’re buying your first albums at a used record store, or you’re shopping for a gift for the music lover in your life, we can help you put together a system that looks good and sound great for under $1,000.
Components of a Vinyl Playback System
You may have run across some “all-in-one” record players in your local big box store or online. While these are cool-looking novelty gifts, they don’t sound very good and can actually damage your records. Instead, you may want to get a system that has as few pieces as possible, but still provides the sound and experience that makes vinyl special.
Here are the main components of a vinyl playback system:
- Phono Preamplifier
To keep things as simple as possible, we’re going to recommend products that combine several of these pieces. This gives you all of the functionality you need while keeping costs down and eliminating the number of components in the system. You’ll also need cables to hook everything up. We recommend upgrading to some decent cables (we like the AudioQuest Evergreen for this price point), but we’re not going to include this year as the components will come with basic cables in the box.
Use the list of 4 components above as a checklist. You can mix and match many of our recommendations here, but you want to make sure you have all four of these components covered.
If you follow this post, you’ll wind up with one of the following configurations:
- Turntable (w/ built-in phono preamp) & powered speakers
- Turntable & powered speakers (with built-in phono preamp)
While each of the pieces of your system are important, the turntable may feel like the most complicated -- particularly if this is your first time buying one. All of the turntables we will be recommending here are in a price range that should allow you to create a system for under $1,000 -- extending beyond this budget will only improve your sound.
All of the turntables we will be discussing today come with a cartridge pre-mounted, so there is nothing extra you will need to buy on the turntable side to make it work.
Turntables with a Built-in Phono Preamp
If you aren’t familiar with phono preamps, you can read all about it in our “What is a Phono Preamp” blog post. For this post, suffice it to say that it is necessary in order to play vinyl on your audio system.
Phono preamps can be standalone components, or can be built into other pieces. All of the turntables in this section come with a phono preamp built-in, so you can check both “turntable” and “phono preamp” off your checklist if you buy any of these.
Please note that if you decide on the U-Turn Orbit Plus, you have to specifically select the model with the built-in phono preamp.
Turntables (no built-in phono preamp)
When you purchase a turntable without a built-in preamp, it means you are typically going to get a better overall quality turntable for the same price. You’re swapping convenience for better internal parts, a better cartridge, features, etc.
All of these turntables are great for the money, but since there is no built-in phono preamp in any of these you will want to make sure you purchase a set of powered speakers below that do include a built-in phono preamp (or just purchase an external phono preamp).
A speaker is considered “powered” if it has an amplifier built-in. This means that you don’t need to connect it to an external amplifier or receiver in order for the speakers to work. For more details descriptions of some of the speakers we’re covering here, check out our blog “Best Powered Speakers to Pair with a Turntable.”
As long as you purchase any of the speakers below, you can check off both “speakers” and “amplifier” from your list. Some, however, have built-in phono preamps and others do not.
If you choose a turntable with a built-in phono preamp, any of these speakers will work. If you choose a turntable that does not have a built-in phono preamp, you will want to make sure you choose a pair of powered speakers that do have them built-in.
Powered Speakers with Built-in Phono Preamp
If you choose a turntable that does not have a built-in phono preamp, you will want to make sure you get a set of speakers from this section.
Powered Speakers (no built-in phono preamp)
If you choose a turntable that has a built-in phono preamp, any of the speakers in this section will be fine for your system.
Enjoy Your Vinyl!
We understand that setting up an audio system, particularly a vinyl playback system can be daunting, especially for the budding audio enthusiast. We hope this helps make building a basic setup simpler.
Of course, don’t be surprised if you catch the vinyl bug and find yourself wanting to upgrade your system down the road. Also, don’t forget to take care of your vinyl collection! It doesn’t matter how great your system is if your records are scratched or covered in dirt and dust.
If you read through all of this and still have trouble piecing your system together, take a look at some of our turntable packages. Also, don’t hesitate to chat with us or give us a call. We’ve been doing this for nearly 40 years and love helping music lovers experience the beauty of vinyl. Happy listening!