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Best budget record players: USB, Bluetooth

Best budget turntables 2020

Best budget turntables Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best budget turntables you can buy in 2021.

These are the best budget turntables currently on the market, for whether you're dipping a toe into analogue with your first turntable, want to rip your vinyl using a USB deck or are simply upgrading an aging entry-level model.

Spinning vinyl doesn't have to be an expensive affair – our favourite budget decks start at under £100. At its most basic, a good turntable will play your records smoothly to give you a steady sound that your amp can work with. 

More advanced options will let you rip that music to your digital archive in hi-res, while we've even managed to track down an all-in-one turntable system that includes amplification and the ability to stream music via Bluetooth.

All the options we've listed below come in at less than £500 – but many are less than half that.

(Image credit: Future)

1. Pro-Ject Primary E

A What Hi-Fi? Award winner for the cost of just a few records.

Specifications
Dimensions (hwd): 11.2 x 42 x 33cm
Motor: Belt drive
Cartridge: Ortofon MM
Phono preamp: No
USB: No
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 (manual speed change)
Finishes: Red, white, black
Reasons to buy
+An enjoyable temperament+Nails the sonic basics+Easy to set up and use
Reasons to avoid
-Chassis edges a little sharp

The Primary E confidently nails the basics, from an even tonal balance to a delivery that’s clear and clean and spacious enough to keep things coherent. Decent body and substance cling reliably to every frequency, and that’s made all the more enjoyable by a spirited sense of drive and momentum. As a first turntable, it's hard to beat near this price.

Read the full review: Pro-Ject Primary E

Best budget turntables 2019: USB, Bluetooth

2. Audio-Technica AT-LP3

Excellent performance meets an impressive set of features.

Specifications
Dimensions (hwd): 12.8 x 43.5 x 35.3cm
Motor: Belt drive
Cartridge: AT91R VM
Phono preamp: Yes
USB: No
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 (manual speed change)
Finishes: Black, white
Reasons to buy
+Expressive and musical+Built-in phono stage+Fully automatic tonearm
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing of note

The Audio-Technica AT-LP3 manages to offer the full automation of a suitcase turntable without compromising on sound quality. That means you get a built-in phono stage, a removable cartridge so you can upgrade to another moving-magnet or moving-coil at a later date. It delivers a full-bodied and musical sound, with plenty of space and detail. And at well under £200 it's a veritable bargain.

Read the full review: Audio-Technica AT-LP3

Best budget turntables 2019: USB, Bluetooth

3. Sony PS-LX310BT

Plenty of features, impressive usability and excellent sound make for a brilliant budget turntable.

Specifications
Dimensions (hwd): 10.8 x 43 x 36.7cm
Motor: Belt drive
Cartridge: MM
Phono preamp: Yes
USB: No
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 (electronic speed change)
Finish: Black
Reasons to buy
+Entertaining sound+Bluetooth+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Purist alternatives sound better

If you’re after a fully-automatic deck which works virtually straight out of the box, the Sony PS-LX310BT one of the best we’ve heard.

For just under £200, you get an easy to use deck with a very decent phono stage built in. There's also Bluetooth support so you can stream your vinyl to a pair of wireless headphones or Bluetooth speaker. The very best decks at the same money pip it for pure sound quality, but you won't find many as fun, ridiculously user-friendly and resoundingly listenable.

Read the full review: Sony PS-LX310BT

Best budget turntables 2019: USB, Bluetooth

4. Lenco L-85

Hands down, one of the best budget plug-and-play turntables we've seen.

Specifications
Dimensions (hwd): 15 x 42 x 36.2cm
Motor: Belt drive
Cartridge: MM
Phono preamp: Yes
USB: Yes
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 (manual speed change)
Finishes: Green, red, yellow, black, white, grey
Reasons to buy
+Decent, enjoyable sound+Good with voices+User friendly
Reasons to avoid
-Rivals offer better sound

If you want a budget turntable that just plugs in and gets on with the job of spinning your records, you'll be hard pressed to find anything better than the Lenco L-85. The semi-automatic, belt-driven turntable features a built-in phono stage and even supports USB recording. Build is decent for the price and the colour options are plentiful. Sound quality is very good for the money. 

Read the full review: Lenco L-85

Best budget turntables 2019: USB, Bluetooth

5. Rega Planar 1

Yet another Award-winning entry-level turntable from Rega.

Specifications
Dimensions (hwd): 11.7 x 44.7 x 36cm
Motor: Belt drive
Cartridge: Rega Carbon MM
Phono preamp: No
USB: No
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 (manual speed change)
Finishes: Black, white
Reasons to buy
+Good amount of detail+Rhythmic and expressive+Easy to put together
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing at this price

The Rega Planar 1 became a 2019 What Hi-Fi? Award-winner thanks to its wonderfully exciting and engaging sound. Build quality is superb and features include a Rega Carbon cartridge, which is attached to a RB110 tonearm. 

It's a simple deck to get up and running, too. The result is a roomy, spacious sound that's full of detail. Voices sound superb and the Rega delivers a combination of clarity and accuracy that's tough to beat at this price.

Read the full review: Rega Planar 1

Best budget turntables 2019: USB, Bluetooth

6. Sony PS-HX500

Want to rip vinyl to hi-res? This five-star turntable has that ability at a good price.

Specifications
Dimensions (hwd): 10.4 x 43.0 x 36.6cm
Motor: Belt drive
Tracking force: 1.7kg
Cartridge: MM
Phono preamp: Yes
USB: Yes
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 (manual speed change)
Finish: Black
Reasons to buy
+Rips vinyl to hi-res+Simple set-up+Lively, transparent sound
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn’t look all that special

The Sony PS-HX500 is a slick operator. It connects to your computer via USB and uses Sony's Mac and Windows-compatible High Res Audio Recorder software to rip your vinyl either as a WAV (up to 24-bit/192kHz) or DSD (5.6mHz) file. It's a simple process, all done at the press of a button.

Build quality is excellent - the Sony uses a one-piece tonearm with an integrated head shell - and its sound mirrors this. It extracts a superb level of detail and delivers it in an articulate. coherent and entertaining manner. Stereo imaging is up there with the best at the money.

Read the full review: Sony PS-HX500

Best budget turntables 2019: USB, Bluetooth

7. Pro-Ject Juke Box E

Here's an excellent all-in-one turntable system – just add speakers.

Specifications
Dimensions (hwd): 11.8 x 41.5 x 33.4cm
Motor: Belt drive
Cartridge: MM
Phono preamp: No
USB: No
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 (manual speed change)
Finish: Black, white, walnut
Reasons to buy
+Just-add-speakers convenience+Good range of features+Capable, even-handed sound
Reasons to avoid
-Baffling remote control-Some will desire more power

Pro-ject's Juke Box E crams lot of usability and features into a vinyl-playing package. You're looking at a turntable, amplifier, phono stage and Bluetooth connectivity all in one box - all you have to do is add a pair of budget speakers. 

It's a concept we've seen before, but Pro-Ject has refined it to great effect. The system sounds on the warmish side of neutral and it's no slouch when dealing with complex rhythms. Overall it's an enjoyable listen, but you will need to think about the speakers you use to partner it with. Think along the lines of the Mission LX-2 or Q Acoustics 3010i and you'll be onto a winner.

Read the full review: Pro-ject Juke Box E

(Image credit: Future)

8. Pro-Ject T1

A plastic-free turntable with a healthy dollop of bass.

Specifications
Dimensions (hwd): 10 x 41.5 x 33.5cm
Motor: Belt drive
Cartridge: MM
Phono preamp: No
USB: No
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 (manual speed change)
Finish: Black, white, walnut
Reasons to buy
+Bold, smooth presentation+Lots of bass weight+Simple set-up
Reasons to avoid
-Balance skewed to soft bass-Not the last word in timing or dynamics-Soundstage not very spacious

Those familiar with Pro-Ject will recognise the T1's ability to wrap its arms around you and hug. Its full-bodied, weighty presentation is akin to a slice of home cooking, but it can really dance as well.

Its build is not to be sniffed at either, with a CNC machined chassis that not only avoids the use of plastic but has absolutely no hollow spaces, quelling unwanted vibrations, and a weighty glass platter you almost want to carry around like a trophy. It has some tough competition at the price, but there are plenty reasons to go for the T1.

Read the full review: Pro-ject T1

Best budget turntables 2019: USB, Bluetooth

9. Pro-Ject Essential III

Great features, great sound – another in a long line of top-value Pro-Ject decks.

Specifications
Dimensions (hwd): 11.2 x 41.5 x 33.5cm
Motor: Belt drive
Cartridge: Ortofon OM10
Phono preamp: No
USB: No
Speeds: 33 1/3, 45 (manual speed change)
Finishes: Red, white, black
Reasons to buy
+Smart styling+Relatively simple set-up+Open, detailed sound
Reasons to avoid
-Build isn’t rock solid

The Pro-Ject Essential III looks fantastic with it's slimline build but also crams in great features like an enhanced platter and plinth and upgraded cartridge and cables. This belt-driven deck sounds easy-going and enjoyable, with exciting highs and an excellent sonic balance. The soundstage is open and scale is decent. At this price, what's not to like?

Read the full review: Pro-Ject Essential III

What Hi-Fi?

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