“You had the time, you had the power,
You’ve yet to have your finest hour…” (copyright Queen music)
And so we have the return of vinyl.
When cassettes arrived Vinyl was struggling, with the advent of the CD it all but disappeared and we thought it would never be seen again. But, maybe it’s yet to have its finest hour?
Whether it does or doesn’t, it’s back, and people are once again buying turntables.
Since the 70s technology has moved on and so has turntable construction. There are now some serious machines out there, so put away your Dansette Junior and let’s see if we can find you the best turntables under $1000…
Top 7 Best Turntables Under $1,000 in 2023
1 Pro-Ject Audio Debut Carbon DC Esprit
Pro-Ject is well-known for manufacturing quality turntables and midway through their range is the Carbon DC Esprit. And it certainly has the look of an expensive turntable.
It has an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge which is a great entry-level cartridge having a moving magnet, in itself quite expensive, that is fitted as standard to this turntable.
With this comes the requirement to attach the counterweight and balance the arm before applying the required tracking force. This is a fairly simple operation except for the connection of the anti-skate weight that prevents the stylus racing across the vinyl.
This turntables name bears the SB symbol which stands for speed box. This is a system of electronic switching, without having to manually go to a different part of the motor pulley. This system will give you 33.3 and 45rpm as standard but with a change of pulley will actually give you 78rpm.
Such is the advance of technology the turntable, once an arm with a crude needle, now has an effect on the dynamics of the reproduction of the sound. The dynamics meaning the difference between the louder and quieter passages of music can be transformed by the turntable.
The sounds can either by powerful and dynamic or smooth and full of rich tone. The Carbon DC is that. Rich and full sounds dominate its performance, and people will admire its fluency.
It is well-built with a dust cover, 8.6” carbon tonearm, and non-resonant platter, it is a quality turntable and easily one of the best turntables under $1,000.
2 Rega Planar 2 Turntable With RB220 Tonearm
Here is a turntable that will catch a few eyes with its impressive styling. Rega is a company with a simplistic policy for naming their products so that buyers know where they stand in the scale of things. Therefore, the higher the number, the higher up the range scale it is.
This is the Planar-2, follow-up, and sitting above Planar-1, which is their entry-level turntable. It is very similar in many ways to the popular ‘1’. But the Planar-2 includes a more sophisticated tonearm and a glass platter. Having a glass platter is an interesting development as it plays a big role in ensuring no vibrations are passed through the stylus.
This is an interesting product from our point of view because we are personally aware of Ruark Audio in Essex, England who have assisted with the development of this great turntable. They are a brilliant company run by very clever people, so we are not surprised by the quality of this product.
The Planar-2 features the 10mm thick glass platter which is an upgrade from the plastic of the first version and a 9-inch tonearm made from aluminum. It has a carbon moving magnet cartridge.
Rega does not make plug and play turntables and doesn’t have a phono preamp. If you have an amp with a dedicated phono input, it will operate with that. Otherwise, you will need to buy a phono stager to connect the turntable to the line input of your speakers. Also, you will need to set up the counterweight and tracking arm.
Changing record speeds between 33.3 and 45 is a little bit of work with the platter.
It is an excellent turntable in the midst of some serious competition at a similar price point. But is a turntable that is worth considering as one of the best turntables under $1,000.
3 Rega RP3 Turntable With Dustcover
Another turntable from Rega, this time, the RP3 or third on the product chain. It is made with typical Rega quality and compares in its performance to turntables costing far more.
It has a very lightweight but rigid plinth and what the makers call a ‘stressed beam assembly.’ This is designed to absorb energy and remove any unwanted sounds and resonance, which may cause minor sound distortions.
It is double-brace technology meaning it is located between the tonearm and the main hub bearing, which is exactly where there is a need for increased stiffness and rigidity. And has been designed to produce quality performance and has excellent build quality.
It has a brand new tonearm, the RB303 which is hand-tuned to its circuit to reduce any further vibration. This has been designed using years of research and development and produces a low vibration noise assisted by its 24v low vibration motor assembly. It is fitted with an Elys2 cartridge.
This best Turntables Under $1,000 is a quality turntable. And as mentioned, is comparable in its sound reproduction to others far more expensive. It is a belt drive design and needs to be manually switched between 33.3 and 45 RPM, and the platter is made from glass, which definitely improves performance.
It is an easy machine to set up as the belt comes fitted and providing you observe the instructions regarding tracking weight and anti-skate then it isn’t a problem.
The RP3 is part of a very special school of British design that says simple is best. And this turntable has been laid out with no clutter and unnecessary controls allowing the real work to be performed easily. It is a great looking turntable.
4 Pioneer DJ Direct Drive DJ Turntable
Many people who love turntables never really got into the direct-drive design. As a consequence, the manufacturers created their top of the range machines with belt-driven technology.
The reason is a simple one. The belt mechanically isolates the motor from the platter. Thus any noise created by the motor is not transmitted to the stylus as unwanted noise.
In some respects, this turntable has many older design idiosyncrasies. For a start, it is quite heavy weighing in at about thirty pounds, which is two to three times the weight of some of its competitors. It has a diecast chassis to prevent resonance and vibrations, and it is a manual design. You have to lift the arm from its rest and place the cartridge’s stylus onto the grooves.
Set up is quite easy if you are familiar with turntable preparations. Care though does need to be taken when loading a delicate cartridge into its position, but the rest is just a case of following the instructions.
This machine was essentially initially designed for DJ’s, and therefore it has some operating controls designed for that purpose. It has a fader control and easy change from 33 and a third to 45. And is designed in Japan and made in China.
It is quite old school in many ways and lacks the style and subtleties of some of the modern machines. But it is Pioneer, and therefore is well made and functional.
Pioneer equipment is always well made and built to last, and this turntable is no different as can be seen from its robust appearance.
The price is comparable with similar machines. So it is just a case of whether you prefer the older looking turntables with direct drive or the newer belt driven ones?
5 Teac TN550B
Teac makes some of the best audio equipment around. And it has an interesting history. Established over sixty years ago in Japan, and still based there, it has been producing quality equipment which ranks with some of the finest. And of course, is also the producer of Tascam, another quality audio product.
You may think this next paragraph irrelevant, but in the mid-2000s, Gibson guitars had lost their way. Quality had drained away, even from their coveted Les Paul range. Even though the Gibson purists refused to admit it. But instead of the guitar giant thinking let’s spend some money and get Gibson guitars as a brand back on track, they decided to spend over $50 million on Teac. No further comment.
Fortunately, the development and production staff of Teac remained in place and under Japanese control, and they are still able to conjure up turntables like the TN550B.
Beautifully designed it is one of the best turntables around for under $1000, and you cannot help but be impressed with not only its performance but its appearance.
The platter is made of an acrylic plate, and it has a plinth made of marble. Yes, marble. Similar to the stuff Julius Caesar had installed in his palace in Rome a few years back. The S-shaped tonearm with a cue lever adds style and with EP and speed selectors finished in aluminum this visually is a stunning turntable that is going to turn heads.
This turntable is either going to impress you or otherwise. Certainly, Teac has gone to great lengths to produce a quality, best in range product, and have achieved that except possibly in one minor area and that is the cue arm which shall we say is not its best feature.
Having said that, it’s a great turntable and once again, easily one of the best Turntables Under $1,000.
6 Music Hall MMF-5.3 2-Speed Belt-Driven Turntable
When the emphasis turned away from turntables and took a back seat, Music Hall continued to make quality equipment. Maybe they knew something we didn’t.
During the ‘dark years’ when vinyl all but disappeared Music Hall honed their development techniques and now produce quality turntables as well as other audio equipment. The electronics are designed and developed in China and the turntables manufactured in the Czech Republic.
They are now recognized as a high-end manufacturer with a quality product that competes with the best.
One of the great things about Music Hall turntables is that the product is delivered to you featuring a correctly balanced, pre-installed Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge. To those in the know, you will appreciate the monetary value of that component alone.
The MMF 5.3 is a two-speed belt-driven turntable that is easy to set up. Not only is the cartridge installed but it comes with a pre-mounted nine-inch carbon tonearm. It also has rather a distinctive style.
It is built with the platter, cartridge, tonearm isolated away from the motor and wiring which are all mounted below thus away from any excess vibration. The main bearing is sheathed in stainless steel, an alloy platter with a soft felt mat, and adjustable feet and a built-in spirit level add to the quality.
The turntable is finished off with a high gloss finish and a dust cover.
This is an exemplary machine that produces quality results. Our only concern is nothing to do with the turntable, its manufacture or performance, all of which are high end.
Considering that so much of the tech is previously installed, to help the customer, a bad delivery could upset or even damage some of the finer balanced points. This, of course, is not a Music Hall issue, but who and how it is delivered.
Great turntable, produces a great performance. One to consider for being the best turntable under $1000.
7 Pro-Ject – 1Xpression Carbon Classic – Turntable
These are reviews of the best turntables under $1000, and this one is right at the top of the range. You will see why. From the moment you catch your first glance, it just oozes class and style. It just looks expensive, and it is also a rather nice piece of furniture. It has a solid chassis in a dark red that looks impressive.
By its appearance, it is evident that it is well-built using quality materials and looks like it belongs in a higher price range. It has been designed with an advanced belt drive system and uses an AC motor, and the platter is a complex design of layers of varying materials.
The tonearm is made of carbon fiber, and there are TPE insulating feet that remove any sound from vibrations. It is supplied with an advanced Ortofon 2M silver cartridge, so you just know how good the sound is going to be.
Pro-Ject considers this as an entry-level turntable you will be in for a surprise at the quality. Exceptional probably doesn’t do it justice. Yes, there will be turntables that are better. But they come with a much bigger price tag and for the money paid this turntable is punching above its weight.
The tracking is perfect and smooth, and when set up with a good amp, you will see just how good this turntable is. It is a manual unit so will take a little bit of understanding to get the best from it but when you do be prepared to be amazed at the quality.
So What Are The Best Turntables Under $1,000?
With the temporary demise of vinyl, most of us stopped thinking about turntables. We wouldn’t need them. But here they are back amongst us, thankfully, and oh how the technology has changed. It’s very easy to be overwhelmed by what they are capable of.
The prices in the reviews are all about the same, not much to choose between them and so cost isn’t really an issue. Belt-driven or direct drive? That’s a personal preference, so it really comes down to two things. Performance and style…
Will it perform to a level you are hoping for? And will it fit into the style of the room in which it will be housed?
We have, therefore, gone for the…
Stylish, understated with real quality built-in.
That is our choice for the best turntable under $1000.