Record players have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years as music lovers rediscover the warm, rich sound of vinyl. But with so many models on the market, ranging from cheap units under $100 to high-end audiophile turntables costing well over $1,000, how much should you expect to pay for a decent record player?
In this guide, I’ll walk through the average costs and key factors to consider when looking for the right turntable for your budget and needs as a vinyl enthusiast. Whether you’re a beginner looking for your first record player or an experienced collector seeking to upgrade, you’ll find tips on getting the best value at every price point.
The Average Cost of Record Players
The average price range for a new record player is about $100 to $400. However, you can find viable options below and well above that range.
Here’s a quick rundown of broad price categories to expect as you shop:
- Budget “suitcase” style record players under $100 – These all-in-one units combine the turntable, speakers, and amplifier in one portable case. They’re extremely affordable and designed for convenience, but audio quality is limited.
- Entry-level audiophile turntables around $100-$300 – This range gets you improved audio quality and the option to connect external speakers. Popular picks are the Audio Technica AT-LP60X and AT-LP120X.
- Mid-range record players $300-$500 – Stepping up to this tier brings more premium features like adjustable counterweights and anti-skating control for fine tuning. The Audio Technica AT-LP3 is a great example.
- High-end and audiophile turntables $500+ – At this level, you’ll find ultra high-fidelity turntables made for vinyl purists, like the Rega Planar 3. Expect precision engineering and materials like metal platters.
Of course, it’s possible to spend way more on ultra-luxury turntables at $1,000+, but diminishing returns start to kick in. A record player in the $500 range can produce sound quality good enough for most listeners.
Key Differences: Record Players vs. Turntables
Before diving into specific products, it helps to understand the difference between a record player and a turntable:
A record player refers to an all-in-one unit that combines the turntable itself along with built-in speakers and a preamp/amplifier. This convenience allows you to simply plug and play without other equipment.
A turntable is just the mechanical component that spins the records, with the tonearm and cartridge/stylus. For a turntable to produce sound, you need to connect it to a separate amplifier with speakers, or powered speakers with a built-in amp.
For first-time buyers and anyone short on space, an all-in-one record player offers simplicity. But turntables paired with external components provide higher quality and let you customize your setup.
Keep this core difference in mind as we survey the prices and products available.
Best Beginner Record Players Under $200
If you’re diving into vinyl for the first time, an affordable record player under $200 can deliver decent sound without a huge upfront investment.
Here are my top picks for beginner audiophiles on a budget:
Audio Technica AT-LP60X (~$100)
Arguably the best value is the Audio Technica AT-LP60X, usually priced around $100 or less. This popular automatic belt-drive turntable provides good audio quality for the price.
- Fully automatic operation – just push a button and the tonearm raises/lowers itself
- Plays 33 1/3 and 45 RPM records
- Built-in switchable phono preamp to connect to speakers
- Replaceable stylus when worn out
While you’ll have to buy separate speakers, you can find some powered bookshelf speakers for under $50. So the total package price remains budget-friendly.
All-In-One Suitcase Players
For pure simplicity right out of the box, an all-in-one suitcase player like the Crosley Cruiser Deluxe (~$90) or Victrola Vintage 3-Speed (~$50) can be a good starter option.
You won’t get the best fidelity due to lightweight components and smaller speakers. But these portable record players offer decent sound for casual listening.
- Combines turntable, amplifier, and speakers in one briefcase unit
- Built-in Bluetooth connectivity on some models
- Affordable price under $100
Just keep in mind sound quality limits if you get into collecting. But overall, these briefcase players provide an easy plug-and-play solution.
Worth of Beginner Record Players
At the entry-level, you’ll be making some sacrifices in audio quality and turntable components. Is it still worth buying one?
In my opinion, absolutely. I think starting with an affordable automatic record player under $200 is smart for a few reasons:
You can try out vinyl and see if you enjoy the hobby without a huge upfront cost. Once you get hooked (and you likely will!), then you can upgrade.
They sound good enough for casual listening. While audiophiles will notice the limitations, these players can still provide many hours of vinyl enjoyment.
You can learn the ropes on setting up and caring for a turntable before investing in more advanced equipment. This experience helps you be an informed buyer when upgrading.
Are cheap turntables as good as high-end models? Of course not. But they deliver satisfying sound that sparks the vinyl passion. Then you can pursue better equipment and audio quality over time.
Mid-Range Record Players Under $500
Once you’re ready to step up your vinyl game, a record player in the $300 to $500 range brings noticeable improvements in audio fidelity and features.
What can you expect in this mid-tier category? Here are some key upgrades:
- Improved build quality – Heavier platters, higher torque motors, and better cartridges/styli deliver clearer audio.
- Manual adjustments – Options like counterweights, anti-skate control, and adjustable tonearms allow you to fine tune the turntable’s performance.
- Multiple speeds – Play 33, 45, and 78 RPM records. Ideal for archiving vintage shellac.
- Isolation feet – Absorb vibrations for clearer sound, especially if you have powerful speakers.
- Target upgrade path – Moving magnet (MM) phono stage works with a future external preamp and hi-fi system.
Two great mid-range turntable picks with the above upgrades are:
Audio Technica AT-LP120XUSB (~$250)
This manual direct drive turntable gives you great control over playback and queues up the next record with its 1.2 kg metal platter. It also has a built-in phono preamp to connect to powered speakers now, but can work in a component hi-fi later.
Audio Technica AT-LP3 (~$300)
This automatic belt drive turntable plays flawlessly while you sit back, with its J shaped tonearm to handle any warps. The durable housing absorbs noise and vibrations for clear audio. Analog controls give that vintage feel.
Spending up to $500 gives noticeable jumps in fidelity and enjoyment. You also have a turntable setup with room to grow as your passion expands.
Best Overall Record Player for Most
What’s the single best vinyl record player to buy for most people? Given its balance of quality, features, and affordability, I recommend:
The Audio Technica AT-LP60X turntable, paired with a set of powered bookshelf speakers.
This combo should cost you under $200 total. For a low entry price, you get:
- Easy automatic operation – Just push a button and enjoy your records! No need to drop the needle or fret over adjustments.
- Clear, balanced sound – The AT-LP60X delivers warm, accurate audio that brings out the best of your vinyl.
- Versatile connectivity – Built-in phono preamp, allowing connection to a speaker system of your choice.
- Long-term durability – Many reviewers report years of consistent performance. Plus, the replaceable stylus protects your precious vinyl collection.
While audiophiles will eventually upgrade, this is a fabulous starting setup. And for casual listeners, it can be all you ever need to enjoy vinyl’s signature sound.
The Cost of High-End Audiophile Turntables
Once you get into high-end equipment for vinyl purists, prices start at $500 and can go well over $5,000. What are you paying for at this tier?
- Engineering perfection – Every component meticulously designed for peak audio quality. Platters often weigh 5+ pounds.
- Premium materials – Exotic platters (acrylic, aluminum), precision machined metal tonearms, etc.
- Vibration isolation – High-end suspensions and heavy plinths prevent any interference or noise.
- Cartridge quality – Moving coil (MC) cartridges with diamond or boron stylus profiles provide ultra-accuracy.
- Improved motors – Incredibly precise, high-torque motors keep perfect speed with any record.
- Digital readiness – Seamless streaming options and USB outputs create a hybrid analog-digital experience.
- Craftsmanship – These turntables are built to last decades or even lifetimes.
Here’s an example to illustrate the leap in engineering and price:
Audio Technica AT-LP140XP
This high-end manual turntable provides audiophile-level accuracy. With a heavy anti-resonance metal platter, adjustable counterweight and anti-skate dial, advanced motor control, and optimized cartridge, it delivers superb fidelity. Expect costs around $700.
Is this giant price leap worth it? For hardcore enthusiasts seeking ultimate quality, the difference is noticeable across the entire frequency range. But for most vinyl lovers, a $300 table still brings plenty of enjoyment.
One of the great aspects of vinyl is having options at every budget. While high-end turntables cost a premium, you can get started on a setup you’ll love for years at under $200.
My advice is to put your money into the best turntable you can afford now. Then slowly upgrade peripherals like speakers and amplifiers down the road to build your dream listening experience. With some patience, you can build an amazing vinyl hi-fi on a reasonable budget.
Just focus first on finding that perfect turntable match for your current goals and budget. From automatic plug-and-play units to state of the art engineering masterpieces, there’s a record player to match your passion. Happy listening!