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Best Way To Play Vinyl Records On A Budget

If you are reading this article, chances are that you have a record collection that you (or your parents) acquired during the 70s, 80s, and 90s. And you want to blow off the dust and put it back into play.

Or you might be a total newbie just getting into vinyl. Just starting your record collection journey. (We salute you!)

Either way, you are not ready to spend a fortune on a turntable (or record player).

Rather, you want to find the best way to get into vinyl on a budget.

Which is absolutely possible.

This article will show you the best way to start listening to vinyl records without breaking the bank.

The most important thing when picking a budget record player is that we pick one that won’t ruin our records. Vinyl is expensive and unfortunately, there are a few low-cost models on the market that have a bad reputation for destroying records.

Vinyl records are precious items, and we want to make sure that they stay well clear of any record player that might put them at risk of being destroyed.

Other important factors when choosing a budget turntable is the sound quality and build quality. We want to get as much value as possible in return for the money we spend.

If you follow the advice in this article your record collection will be absolutely safe and you will be able to listen to your records with a sound quality that is absolutely acceptable. Without breaking the bank.

The best budget turntable setup

First and foremost, I highly recommend that you do not go to the closest department store and buy the cheapest, coolest looking, retro suitcase-style record player that they have for sale in their shop.

I know that suitcase-style record players look really cool and everything, but the problem is that they are just bad news for your record collection.

These suitcase-style record players are often reported to have way too high tracking force which might ruin your records. The stylus (needle) digs into the grooves much harder than ideal and literally destroy the grooves. Which is unfortunate, because they look really cool and can be picked up for a very reasonable amount of money.

So the advice is to steer clear of this type of record players.

And fortunately, there is a much better affordable option available to us.

The way to go is to buy an affordable standalone turntable and an affordable set of powered bookshelf speakers.

The gear we highly recommend for a budget turntable setup is the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X fully automatic turntable (Amazon link) and the Edifier R1280T powered bookshelf speakers (Amazon link).

By doing it this way, you records are safe and the sound quality will be much better.

Prices might vary slightly over time so please use the links above to check the current price for the turntable and speakers at Amazon.

It will be slightly more expensive than what you can pick up a suitcase-style record player for at department stores, but trust me, spend the extra money and you will thank me later.

WHY IS THIS THE BETTER OPTION?

A big part of that equation is that the other option, which is buying a cheap all-in-one record player that eat records and sound like crap, is just a big no no.

Buying the turntable and the speakers separately just gives more value for the money spent across the table.

A turntable with correct tracking force, correct cartridge alignment and a decent replaceable stylus (needle) will not put your records at risk for being destroyed when played.

The sound quality will also be a lot better. We won’t get a high-fidelity stereophile musical experience from a $200 turntable setup. We are still at the very low-cost end of the spectrum.

But the sound will definitely be much better than from the tiny speakers and amplifier that is built into cheap all-in-one record players. The depth and tightness in the bass will be a lot better. And so will the level of detail and the overall music volume.

Another good thing with buying standalone gear is that we can upgrade and grow with it over time.

HOW DO I SET IT UP?

The AT-LP60 Turntable and the Edifier R1280T powered speaker are very easy to set up.

The LP60 turntable has built-in phono preamp.

And the R1280T speakers have a built-in amplifier.

So no standalone phono preamp or amplifier or receiver are necessary.

We just need to connect the two units together with a standard RCA signal cable that is included. Then connect both units to power. And we are good to go.

Both the Audio-Technica AT-LP60 fully automatic turntable and the Edifier R1280T powered bookshelf speakers have received great reviews and are very popular and very high-selling models. And they give great value for money.

The Audio-Technica AT-LP60 is a full automatic belt-drive turntable with built-in phono preamp.

It is probably the best-selling turntable word-wide.

It has a replaceable diamond stylus and plays both 33 RPM and 45 RPM records.

Being fully automatic, the tonearm automatically places the stylus on the starting groove with a push on a button and it automatically returns the tonearm again when the record ends.

The Edifier R1280 powered bookshelf speakers is a 2-way speaker system in a nice looking wooden enclosure that offers remote control, tone adjustments and dual RCA inputs.

Beside being hooked up to your turntable, they can also connect to other devices like a PC, laptop or mobile phone by issuing the other RCA input. Having dials for bass and treble adjustment, you can personalize the music experience to your personal taste.

These are highly compact speakers, measuring only 6.9 x 9.5 x 5.8 inches. But they will outperform the sound quality from any low-cost all-in-one record player by a mile while still being easy to place. The sound quality and level from these compact speakers might surprise you.

So if you look to get (back) into vinyl records as cheap as possible while keeping your records absolutely safe, buying the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X turntable and the Edifier R1280 speakers are the best cheap way to play vinyl records in our opinion.

An alternative approach to a budget vinyl setup

There is another way to get into vinyl records without breaking the bank and that is to hook the turntable up to wired or wireless headphones.

This will probably only make sense if you already have a pair of decent headphones. If you will have to buy headphones, the better choice for most people is to rather spend that money on a set of affordable powered speakers.

But if you have a pair of headphones and don’t mind to use them for vinyl record listening, this might be a good option.

If you have Bluetooth wireless headphones you can buy the Bluetooth version of the Audio-Technica AT-LP60.

The Bluetooth version is called Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBK-BT.

It enables you to pair your Bluetooth wireless headphones with the turntable and listen to music wirelessly.

You can read more about Bluetooth wireless turntable setups in this article.

If you have wired headphones you will need a headphone amplifier in addition to the turntable to drive the headphones properly.

You can not connect wired headphones directly to a turntable, so a headphone amplifier is necessary. You will find a decent entry-level one for about $50 on Amazon.

You can read more about how to connect headphones to turntables in this article.

Conclusion

We’ve learned that the best cheap vinyl setup is an affordable standalone turntable with built-in phono preamp combined with powered bookshelf speakers.

And that choosing a setup like this will prevent your from destroying records like some low-cost all-in-one record players have a bad reputation for doing.

And that this type of setup will sound much better than an all-in-one record player.

Resources

If you want to learn more about how to set up a stereo to play vinyl records, there is a good video from Amoeba on the topic that you can watch on Youtube by clicking here.

Related questions

What is the best cheap turntable? The Audio-Technica AT-LP60 is probably the best cheap turntable on today’s market. It is also one of the highest selling turntables world-wide. It is fully automatic, belt drive and comes with a built-in phono preamp. It has a replaceable stylus and does not have a reputation for destroying records as some other cheap record players might have.

What is the best turntable under $500? It is highly debatable, but the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon (DC) seems to be the turntable below $500 that gets the best reviews and the most praise from critics. It comes with a carbon fiber tonearm and an Ortofon Red cartridge. Which is quite good for a turntable below $500.