Buy Used Turntable BEST
If you wanted an indicator of just how dramatic the resurgence in vinyl has been in recent years, the choice of new turntables at pretty much any price point you can imagine is larger that it has been since the early '80s when vinyl was the default format for home use. The variety is bewildering and this alone would be enough to keep many people poring over the choice available without wanting to consider other options. There are other options though and they can be excellent value.
buy used turntable
We've already talked about some holy grail devices but these are some more commonly encountered models that might work out as being useful alternatives to a new turntable. So without further ado, here are some second hand heroes that are worth seeking out.
The major change between models is the arm. The original models used a slim arm now discontinued from the Pro-Ject lineup. This was replaced by the thicker metal '8.6' arm which is also still in use on the Essential model. More recent models have also been offered with the carbon fibre arm and the Ortofon 2M cartridge instead of the cheaper OM5e model. As the age and RRP of these models has varied enormously, the used prices will vary too.
Why would you choose a used Debut over a new one? Simply put, as a basic rule of thumb, solid used examples of the Debut can be found from about $150 which compares favorably to the $400 and upward that new models cost. At the same time, as Pro-Ject is still making the Debut, all of the parts are still readily available. Try to ensure that any example you are looking for has its original packaging and look for the standard signs of wear and tear- although as noted, all the bits are there if you need them.
It is hardly a surprise that the Technics makes this list but I need to make a few observations about the abilities and reputation of this semi legendary device. First things first, the SL1200 is a great design, but some of the attributes people ascribe to it are slightly on the hysterical side. There is a vast selection of aftermarket modifications available for it and some of these are comfortably more expensive than the price of a solid used example. It is vitally important not to get carried away but what the Technics can do- depending on the cartridge used, it is a great alternative to new turntables in the $800-1,500 range. It is not a giant slayer that makes everything with a belt look like a Rube Goldberg machine.
The good news is that now you can buy a new SL-1200 again, a fixed upper limit of pricing has been established and the price of used examples has calmed down a bit. This means that prices for solid used examples go from about $400 for a unit in the United States. With the SL1200, the trick is finding a unit that has been used for playback rather than DJing which puts more stress on the motor and bearing. Units with lids are a little rarer but well worth seeking out. The important thing to stress about buying a used SL1200 is that controls and cosmetics and even parts like the arm can be secured without too much effort. Replacement motors and power supplies are rather harder (not impossible I stress) to sort so you need to make sure that the basics of a unit you find are solid.
Where the Rega comes into its own is that it is an easy design to tweak and customize. If you follow the Vinyl Me, Please Instagram feed, you'll see that one of the subjects that crops up from time to time is a modified Rega RP3. Pretty much every part of the fabric of the unit can be changed, upgraded or otherwise improved on so if you are looking for a turntable that can be bought with an initial spend and then improved over time, this is a fine choice. As with the other models in the list, look for original packaging and that the glass platter is free of chips and cracks.
VPI is a US based manufacturer of turntables and a company that has made some truly excellent record players over the course of their history. The present line-up of models includes a Scout Junior and a Scout but this section refers to the original Scout which sat between these two models and was produced for roughly a decade.
Scouts are not common turntables. While they sold well judged by the standards of VPI models, they aren't exactly clogging up the online classifieds. If you want one, it will take careful search and quick responses once you do find one. The good news is that as it is robust, they generally hold up to use rather well. As the Scout cost a fair amount of money new, it is highly unlikely that a used one will have been abused and generally, they only come up for sale if the owner is buying something cooler still. If you can get one, you'll be in possession of a capable yet compact and easy to use turntable that should see you good for years.
Like the Technics SL1200, there are some strange opinions doing the rounds about the LP12 (sometimes referred to as the 'Sondek'). A number of otherwise sane people believe it is the greatest record player ever made and that nothing else can do what it does. Both of these views are wrong but it doesn't stop the LP12 being a great used turntable.
If you want a turntable that will offer the potential to be upgraded to almost any level you see fit, look no further. A new LP12se is in excess of $30,000 and if you really wanted to, you could take any used LP12 to this spec. On a more sensible level, for $1,000-2,000 you can buy examples that sound genuinely good, look nice, are easy to secure parts for and that have an almost unlimited selection of upgrade options. If you are feeling spendy, see if you can find one that has parts from British brand Naim Audio fitted to it- notably the Aro tonearm and Armageddon power supply (I'm not making any of these names up) which can sound absolutely fantastic.
There are of course dozens of other models on sale and the general advice about buying used apply to all of them. These five models are the equivalent of a 'cosmological constant' though- they turn up often enough to provide some sort of guideline for buying them. If chosen carefully, used turntables can be a huge saving over a new model and give years of happy listening.
Ideally, this convenient mechanism leads to a consistent and safe amount of pressure being put on the needle with each play. However, these mechanisms can cause more surface noise, decreasing sound quality and accuracy. When any moving parts are added to a machine, the chances of needing repair increase. Automatic turntable arms are difficult to replace, especially for consumers.
Most contemporary turntables are stereo, but must be added to a home audio system that includes an amp and speakers. Crosley, Victrola, and Pyle are a few brands that sell complete systems that include built-in speakers and other components, such as FM radio or bluetooth.
The Technics SL-1200 has been the industry-standard turntable for DJs for decades. However, vintage, reissue, and iterative models are not affordable for everyone, including beginners. There are a few criteria to look for when considering a turntable (or two) for DJing.
So if you want an industry standard DJ deck at an affordable price point, the best option probably remains going used. Buying a turntable used always carries risks (particularly if you shop online) but our step-by-step guide to buying a Technics SL-1200 second hand tells you what to look out for and why.
If you want a turntable that sounds great and will sit in your lounge looking cool go for a Rega or Pro-Ject, both companies make better sounding turntables than Technics and Regas are almost as robust.
There were five generations of this turntable made between 1972 and 2010 (see an interactive timeline here), but the most desirable models are the ones that came out from 1979 onwards starting with the MK2 which is still the most common variant and remains the most affordable at around 350 to 400.
$300-$500: This is really the sweet spot for beginner audiophile turntables. The sonic difference between many of the offerings in this price range and that of sub-$100 will be distinct in most cases. Additionally, the turntables in this price range will often be configured to allow for a multitude of performance upgrades for individual components (cartridge, belt, stylus, etc.). A couple of Google searches and you will quickly find that three turntables in this price range continually pop up as leaders in both value and performance, and any of them make a fine first turntable:
$500 and up: Once you venture outside of the beginner audiophile range, the sky is the limit. There are an astonishing number of high-quality turntables with exotic designs, mind-blowing precision, and eye-watering performance. If you plan on venturing into this price range you definitely want to consult the experts at your local electronics shop and do a good amount of research.
Speakers and solid-state electronics are the least problematic things to buy used. CD players, turntables and tube electronics are riskier to buy from private sellers; better to stick with pros that have fully checked out, repaired and guarantee the products they sell. Belt-drive turntables are especially delicate devices and should be drained of oil or lubricants and disassembled before shipping, so the buyer will have to know how to put the 'table back together. These tasks are beyond the skills of folks who never owned a turntable before.
Summing up: ask the seller a lot of questions, when buying in person always listen for yourself, and when buying used gear from a store, ask about their return policy and if they offer a warranty. If you're buying online from a private seller, or if the product will be shipped, ask if they have the original box and packing materials. Speakers and amplifiers are the least risky to buy used, steer clear of turntables and CD players from private sellers, and stick with pros with excellent buyer feedback.