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COLUMN: Buying a turntable on a budget



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A fifth-floor room in the Hotel Max at 620 Stewart St. in downtown Seattle, Wash. This corner suite has a working record player and a small selection of vinyl discus to play. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

For most of us at university, our budget goes toward things like books, tuition, Kilroy’s and the bi-weekly trip to Kroger for pasta and tomato sauce. 

College students generally don’t have $1,000 to drop on a whim. Yet, our culturally revived interest in the land of record stores and turntables has brought a new generation of audiophiles looking to please their ears with vinyl. A big factor in choosing a turntable is quality of sound. 

Unfortunately, the popular box turntables, the kind found at Urban Outfitters, are actually more prone to ruining a $30 record rather than giving it continuous use. If you find yourself with a little extra cash and the desire to hear some old Johnny Cash records, check out this list of five quality record players under $250.

1. Audio-Technica AT-LP60 - $89 

Unlike overpriced all-in-one box sets offered from places like Urban Outfitters, this record player is for turntable novices who don’t necessarily want to spend big bucks, but would like to keep their records in good condition. According to devotedtovinyl.com, the Crosley box player’s ceramic needle creates heavy tracking to a record, which in the long run ruins it. The Audio-Technica has a more favorable “moving-magnet” needle that tracks far lighter on the wear of a vinyl. 

2.) Sony PSLX300USB - $100

A slightly more expensive alternative to the Audio-Technica AT-LP60, this turntable is a fully-automatic device with USB connection. More “techy” than its counterpart, the PSLX300USB has the capability to transfer records to computer files if you feel like digitizing your collection. 

3.) TEAC TN-100 - $120

Unlike most turntables with a plastic “plinth” or base, the TEAC TN-100’s base is made entirely out of wood. According to the company’s website, the wood dampens the vibrations of the record in order to create a clearer more pleasant sound. It's a semi-automatic turntable, so owners will have to put the needle in to the groove themselves, but as the record finishes the machine will rest its arm and turn the motor off. 

4.) Pioneer PL-990 - $179

According to an online review, the Pioneer PL-990 focuses on sound quality more than looks. The feet of this turntable are made with anti-vibrating material so the user can worry less about skips and shakes. Made to be simple and user friendly, this record player comes with auxiliary line cables, a dust cover and, of course, a manual. 

5.)  Fluance RT81 - $250 

The most expensive record player on the list, the Fluance RT81, wraps convenience, sound quality and record protection all into one. According to techradar.com the Fluance RT81 “is the perfect record player for vinyl newbies.” The turntable’s company, Fluance, states on its website the RT81 has a diamond elliptical tipped stylus, which tracks the grooves of a record with greater precision and accuracy, creating distinct high-fidelity sound.  

Whether you’re trying to purchase your first turntable or are looking to upgrade to a higher-quality model, quality and price are the keys to finding exactly what you want. 

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