If you are reading this review, you probably are a new turntable enthusiast or someone who’s had more experience with them. Also, you’re very likely looking to find that one turntable that’s not too expensive, but not too cheap; a turntable that’s packed with nice, very good quality features and comes at an affordable price. More precisely, you’re looking for a turntable that has a nice overall performance and great sound and build quality, and you’re looking for it in the “best turntable under $300” category.
There are many good turntables in this price range, but only a few deserve to be put on a ‘best turntable’ list. If you’re looking for higher-end turntables, take a look at the ones under $1000. This review will be focusing on the top 5 best turntables under $300.
1. House of Marley EM-JT000RC-SB Stir It Up
- Great sound quality
- Eco-friendly turntable
- Great build quality
- Awesome design
- Not a lot of extra features
People that value what Rohan Marley advertised to be eco-conscious ways of manufacturing a turntable will value the House of Marley EM-JT000RC-SB Stir It Up turntable. Really, what a well-thought-out turntable.
The House of Marley EM-JT000RC-SB turntable is a great looking, bamboo plinth turntable. What’s very sweet and responsible is that the eco-friendly turntable manufacturers make sure that when they harvest the bamboo trees, no damage is done to the environment. They harvest in such ways that the trees’ roots remain untouched so the tree is alive and ready to grow new shoots. Other than that, they’ve also produced a great-quality regrind silicone slipmat made of upcycled silicone, and an eco dust cover made from Rewind fabric.
More about the House of Marley EM-JT000RC-SB
Besides from being an eco turntable, the House of Marley EM-JT000RC-SB is also a high-quality performance one. That being said, the turntable is belt-driven and has a straight tone arm with a good-quality Audio Technica MM cartridge attached to it. The manufacturers were generous and made the cartridge replaceable so that you can upgrade the overall performance of the turntable if you ever want to. The turntable’s platter is made of a recyclable aluminium alloy, and when it’s combined with the regrind silicone slipmat, you are guaranteed to have your record spinning nicely and precisely.
Of course, the sound quality of the House of Marley EM-JT000RC-SB is more than amazing. Having the turntable be so well-made, you can expect a rich, warm, and more than fantastic sound production. That being said, you will be able to hear a lot of music details with a great level of accuracy.
The turntable furthermore offers the two standard record playing speeds: 33 1/3 and 45 RPM. A great feature on the turntable is its automatic start and power down function. This means that the turntable will go in an energy conservation mode when it’s left on.
If you found these features great, you will have a blast when you hear that the turntable ships with Bob Marley’s “Legend” album in the box. If all of this doesn’t make it the best turntable under $300, I don’t know what could. What an amazing turntable.
2. Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB
- Great, edgy, and stylish design
- Offers features that DJs will find attractive
- Uses the great-quality AT95E Dual Magnet phone cartridge
- Comes with a USB outlet and the Audacity software
- It has a good base, but the material used for it is plastic
The Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB is one of the best mid-range price turntables for DJs available on the market. The AT-LP120-USB is a direct-drive turntable with a high-torque motor under its anti-resonance aluminium stroboscopic platter. It’s S-shaped tone arm does very well in tracking your record grooves and has the already mentioned great-quality AT95E Dual Magnet phono cartridge on its disposal to do that.
The turntable both sounds and looks awesome. If you take a look at the AT-LP12-USB, you’ll see an edgy-looking turntable with a metallic glare. It comes in black and silver and it has a base made out of plastic. There’s also a protective dust cover that comes with your AT-LP12-USB and it can be removed if needed.
Audio Technica AT-LP120 –USB can play your record in all the three speeds available: 33 1/3, 45, and 78RPM. This is a good feature to have in case you want to play some older records on it. And if you want to play around with some record, you can always use the forward/reverse controller or the +/- 10% and +/- 20% pitch control available.
AT-LP120-USB has, as its name says, a USB outlet that you can use to connect the turntable to a computer, power speakers, or audio system. If you connect it to a computer, you can also digitize your LP records by converting them into MP3s. There’s also a free Audacity software that comes with the turntable and can be used to alter the sound properties of your digitized tracks.
3. U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus
- High-quality sound
- Very good overall performance
- Very good-quality Ortofon OM SE cartridge
- Stylish design
- It doesn’t have a cue lever
U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus is a turntable that ‘knows the drill’ when it comes to performance. The USA-made turntable is belt-driven, and it comes with a precisionOA2 gimbal tone arm and the nice Orthofon OM SE cartridge. This cartridge is one of the main factors for the turntable’s really great sound quality. Other factors, aka components, that add to the turntable’s sound properties are its internal anti-skate and adjustable counterweight.
More info about the U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus
When you put on a record on the U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus, you know that you will really hear the music. As the record spins on the turntable’s machined acrylic platter, you will notice how warm, crisp, and nice it all sounds. This is, amongst other reasons, due to the turntable’s low wow and flutter, and great S/N ratio. Also, the belt motor will take care of reducing those unwanted vibrations and will keep the record turning in a consistent speed. You will be able to play records at 33 or 45 RPM, but no matter what the rotational speed is, it will be unlikely for it to change.
Besides from the great features I’ve already mentioned, the U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus also looks great. The plinth is very slim and it has its nice, tiny feet under it. Furthermore, the platter is transparent, making the turntable look even prettier. The turntable comes in multiple colours for everyone’s colour preference.
What is also great about the U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus is that you can get its platter and cartridge upgraded in case you want to hear more out of it. However, many of you will probably find that unnecessary since this components on the turntable already are high-quality ones, and, frankly, the turntable wouldn’t have been on this list if that wasn’t the case.
4. Fluance RT81
- Great sound quality
- Beautiful plinth in walnut finish
- Components that are engineered to greatly reduce unwanted vibrations
- Good build quality
- No auto-off feature
The Fluance RT81 is a belt-driven turntable with an S-shaped, static balanced tone arm and an aluminium platter. The turntable has a beautiful, MDF plinth in a gloss walnut finish that makes it look very elegant. The plinth and the Fluance RT81 resonance-resistant feet make sure that any unwanted vibrations occurring in the turntable’s components are reduced. The RT81 rubber slip mat that sits on the turntable’s platter is also designed to eliminate vibrations, and it certainly does it.
RT81 has the Audio Technica: AT95E cartridge pre-installed on its tone arm. AT95E is a great-quality cartridge that, together with the turntable’s diamond elliptical stylus, can extract a lot of information from your records. Furthermore, the stylus and the cartridge are helped by the tone arm’s counterweight and anti-skating system. This is how the Fluance RT81 turntable provides a clear sound with no background noise or distortion.
Fluance RT81 is a turntable that offers you the two standard speeds: 33 1/3 and 45 RPM. There is a dust cover that comes with the turntable, so worry not about dust causing your RT81 problems. The turntable also has a ground terminal and RCA line outputs that are gold platted. There’s also a good-quality phono/line switchable preamp that is built in the turntable ready to amplify the Fluance RT81 sound.
In short, the Fluance RT81 is a turntable of great components, sound quality, and design. This is why it is one of the best TTs under $300.
5. Pioneer PL-30-K
- High-quality MM cartridge
- Low centre of gravity that enhances the performance
- Great build quality
- Great rubber mat
- The turntable doesn’t have a USB port
About the Pioneer PL-30-K turntable
There are some reasons why the Pioneer PL-30-K is on this list of the best turntables under $30. One of them is its nice build quality that really enhances the turntable’s performance. It’s chassis is dual-layered and there is a nice-looking metal plate and a low centre of gravity on the turntable. Why is the low centre of gravity important? Well, it’s function is to ensure the record spins and stays stable on the platter. After all, no one wants a record that will rotate unstably or slide off deck once you hit the Start button. That might be a potential design for some other device, but not for the Pioneer PL-30-K. Other than that, the turntable is fully automatic and has a high-quality MM cartridge and a counterweight that comes with it.
Besides from the great build quality, Pioneer PL-30-K is also known for its resonance-reduction components. It’s entire plinth is made of such materials that are not to allow any noises, vibrations, and resonance to be created or transferred between the turntable’s parts. Also, the Pioneer PL-30-K mat is made of rubber and it will make sure to prevent the transfer of energy to the record and possibly to the cartridge, and it will also keep the record secured in position.
Pioneer PL-30-K also looks pretty charming and minimalistic. Its dust cover matches the turntable’s matt plinth, and the keys on the PL-30-K fit its overall design and purpose. Other than that, the Pioneer PL-30-K comes with a built-in phono equalizer that is switchable and of good quality.
What the best turntables under $300 have to offer
At this point, you’re probably willing to wrap your head around the idea of what turntables under $300 have to offer in general. The reason why this information will be beneficial to you is because it will give you the bigger picture of what turntables in this price range are supposed to be like. You can then use this information and compare the turntables under $300 with both the cheaper and more expensive models available on the market.
Basically, what differentiates the ‘under $300’ turntables from the cheaper ones is their better components and materials. You’ll see components isolated so that the unnecessary vibration and noise can be cancelled. You’ll also see materials which are more apt to eliminate resonance and energy transference from part to part.
Furthermore, the needles will be of improved quality, and the cartridges will be able to convert their movements on the record in a better electrical signal. The tone arms will start having some more advanced features like anti-skating systems and better bearings. Parts are also made of materials more suitable for their function. There will also be some slight changes to the way platters are made and improvements in their ability to secure the record’s position.
Of course, turntables under $300 will also have a better S/N (sound-to-noise) ratio and reduced wow and flutter.
You now know what to expect from a turntable under $300 and have read this list of the best turntables in this price range. So, are you ready to finally make up your mind and get the turntable that caught your eye and your mind? Or do you think that you could use a little bit more research before you make the final decision?
Whatever your case may be, please, mind the pros and cons of every turntable model out there that you find to be interesting. That way, you’ll be able to crystallize the idea of what the best turntable under $300 for you is.