The Best Record Player Under $100 – Our Top Picks for 2018

By Glen Parry / October 30, 2017
best record player under 100

Whether you're looking for a hit of nostalgia, or want just a little more retro in your life, there's no better time to catch the vinyl addiction then now. With all the advances in technology, there's still not been a suitable replacement to pulling a record out of cover and laying it on the platter.

Best record player under 100

Now while you may have been under the impression that these were only for the 1%, we've pulled together a list of the best record players under $100. That's right, you are now able to spend your free time and hard earned cash at your local record dealer finding the freshest album to show off to your friends. Your days of listening to distorted MP3s recordings off YouTube are over! 

If you are new to the game, researching record players can seem like you are learning a new language. You can quickly get lost in jargon such as platter, torque, RPM, stylus, and RCA, just to name a few. Well luckily for you, we're here to guide you through your first foray into the world of vinyl.  

It's really easy to be convinced into buying something based upon price alone. I highly recommend buying something that offers a 12-month warranty. I've read too many reviews complaining about a lack of build quality for record players at this price point. 

We'll make sure you understand the key features you want to look for, the type of outputs and inputs you should be thinking about, and everything else that comes along with owning a record player. We've written this article to be as beginner friendly as possible. So sit back, relax, and let us introduce you to the world of vinyl! 

Record Player

Title

Rating

Recommendation

Jensen JTA-230

1byone Belt-Drive 3-Speed

Budget Friendly

ION Audio Max LP

Audio Technica AT-LP60

JORLAI 3-Speed

Victrola Modern 3-Speed Bluetooth

Crosley CR6019D-BR

Victrola 50's Retro 3-Speed Bluetooth

Considerations When Selecting The Best Record Player

 Welcome to the world of vinyl. We hope your world will ever be changed from here on forward. There is nothing that compares to the smooth and warm sound of a good vinyl record. When you are first starting out, things can be a little intimating. We'll attempt to clear things up so you can confidently move forward in selecting the best record player for you. Below are some of the considerations to make when shopping for your record player:

Belt Drive vs. Direct Drive
This is a contentious issue. Opinions will vary, but direct drive is seen as a more premium feature, whereas belt drives are usually found on less expensive units. I feel the automatic assumption that direct drive is better than belt drive is just not true. First, let's quickly explain the difference.

A record player must turn. The method of turning the platter (the piece the record is in contact with) is either accomplished through belt drive, or direct drive.

Belt Drives

Belt drive

With belt drive systems, the motor is not in direct contact with the platter. Rather, the motion is transferred using a belt. This isolates the platter from any motor vibration and provides a smooth listening experience. This is ideal for record players that are trying to be budget friendly. It can be difficult to manufacture a motor that is precise enough to directly control the RPM of the platter and still come in under $100. 

Belt drives usually have less torque compared to direct drives. This is usually not an issue (except for DJs), however, it has the potential to result in inconsistencies regarding your playback.  The belts are also susceptible to stretching, heat fluctuations, and cracks. 

Direct Drives

Direct drive systems attach the motor directly to the platter. The direct drive systems are thought to have more control with less potential for skipping. Direct drive units are also used a lot for DJ as they have more torque resistance. Due to technology advances the quality of electric motors is at the point where vibrations are no longer an issue (if you can afford it). This really negates the need for a belt. However, these motors won't come cheap. You'll be hard-pressed to find anything in the under $100 category. 

Direct drives are also seen as more reliable with increased durability. That being said, there are many audiophiles who still believe belt drives sound better. 

All of the drives we feature in the article are belt driven. This is perfect for any audiophile or beginner. 

  • Speed
    Records are set to turn at a specific speed. This is measured in RPM (revolutions per minute). There are essentially three speed options you need to consider: 33 1.3, 45, and 78 RPM. Each record will be labeled with the playing speed, so it important that your record player is able to match the speed required for your records. Records are commonly played at 33 or 45 RPM but you will occasionally run into records requiring 78. We will specify the capability of each unit we review. 
  • Cartridge
    The cartridge on the record player is the electro-mechanical device that translates the physical information on the vinyl into audio signals that can be amplified by your speakers. The common moving magnet cartridges use a cantilever attached to a stylus to read the vinyl. As the cantilever is moved, the magnet vibrates and the magnetic field around the coils is altered. This is how the voltage signals are created that are in turn sent to your amplifier.

    The cartridge places a crucial role in determining the sound quality of your turn table. This topic is best saved for the advanced audiophile and isn't something you really need to be worried about in your entry level record player. For your information, most of the record players on this list use a ceramic cartridge. 
best record player under 100



Cartridge 
  • Outputs
    Most record players these days will provide a number of different input/outputs to suit different needs. A basic USB output allows you to sync your record player to your computer to transfer your files from analog to digital. There are always the typical RCA outputs that can be used with active speakers (or computer speakers) for most cases. Most units will provide an AUX jack and a headphone jack if you want to do some private listening.

    There are a number of units that are now offering Bluetooth. Don't be fooled into thinking that the record player will output Bluetooth. This is a simple function that allows you to stream Bluetooth signals from your device to the built-in speakers on the player.

  • Speakers
    Most of the record players will come with an all-in-one package that includes built-in speakers. While at this price range, the speaker quality is not the best, they do provide a great, do-it-all option. If you are particular about your sound, there is always the option to upgrade to external speakers for each unit. There are a few options that come with external speakers that are much better suited to fill medium-sized rooms. Look for something around 50 Watts for a medium-sized room. 10 Watts will be enough for a small office or room. 

5-10 W stereo speakers you'll typically find at this price-point

  • Automatic vs. Manual Tone Arms 
    You'll run into two different options when it comes to what happens at the beginning and end of your record. Many of you will be familiar with manual tone arms - record players that require you to place the stylus onto the beginning grove of the record. This also will coincide with manual stops. In other words, your record will continue to spin until you turn it off. 

    There are some record players that offer automatic start and return. This is where your tone arm will return to the rest once the vinyl is finished playing - not a huge deal for some, but is nice to have if it's included.   



In addition to the basics, there are a few technical details you may want to know about. You may come across people mentioning the speed stability of the record player. This is referring to the ability of the unit to maintain a consistent rotation speed. This is important as the tempo of each record is meticulously set, and listening to an unstable record player will create shifts in tempo and pitch - potentially ruining the listening experience. 

This can be avoided with pitch control. Unfortunately, only a few record players on our list offer this function.

You will also want to be aware of the tracking force. The tracking force refers to the pressure in which the stylus (the portion of the tone arm touching the record) pushes down on the vinyl. Too much tracking force and your record will become grooved and unplayable, while too little and your record will be prone to skipping. This can be adjusted with some models. Be careful if you aren't sure what you are doing. A heavy tone arm will have adverse consequences on your vinyl collection. 

Phono Preamps 

For those of you unfamiliar with audio equipment a preamp is a device used to boost the audio signal. When you first convert the audio information from the physical into a voltage signal the signal is very weak. This is where preamps come in. They are used to amplify the audio signal to a level that can read by other equipment in the audio chain (namely, speakers).

Now, this can be incredibly intimidating for anyone jumping into vinyl. The good news is, all of the record players on this list come with a preamp already installed! This saves all the hassle of mixing and matching your own audio chain.

If you do decide to go the route of a turn table you may need to pay a little more attention. Some turn tables will require a separate amplifier to be routed to your speakers. This is usually the case if you are using active speakers. 

Record Players Under $100 vs. High-End Record Player

Check out the video below for an A/B comparison of an under $100 record player vs. something on the high-end.  

Hopefully, this gives you a little more information to arm yourself with when selecting the record player. If you are looking for something simple, then the all in one option will be a great choice. If you are someone who is picky about their sound quality, we have one option below that will satisfy your needs! Take note: 

Look for a record player that offers a 12-month warranty! After all the research I've done for this article I've noticed a number of people having trouble with quality issues. Remember, you can always send anything back you buy from Amazon for a full refund. 

While audiophiles tend to be very picky when it comes to sound quality, a majority of the population will find it difficult to tell the difference between high-grade audio equipment and the run of the mill. It takes time to refine your ears to pick up on the subtleties. There are always a few different ways you can upgrade your sound (speakers, or stylus for example) without having to upgrade your entire unit. 

I highly recommend buying based upon build quality and customer service. I have read too many reviews that complain about faulty record players.   

Record Player vs. Turntable

This is sometimes a point of confusion for beginners. Simply put, a record player has everything you need built-in whereas a turntable only reads the audio information off the record. In other words, record players usually have built-in speakers. Turntables have many of the same functions as a record player with the exception of speakers.

Turntable

Record Player

Now, before we go any further, I must admit that by definition one turntable has snuck onto the list below. I just wasn't able to put a list together without including the AT-LP60 from Audio Technica. It's simply the best product on the market right now for this price point.

You may also be interested in portable record players. Similar to record players, they come with everything you need to play the record. The only difference is they usually come in a more portable form - usually similar to a suitcase.  If you decide to purchase a turn table be sure you have the correct audio chain to follow. You can make things easy on yourself by using active speakers. However, if you do decide to use passive speakers you'll need to start looking at amplifiers to go with your setup. These 

Our Top Picks For The Best Record Player Under $100

Jensen JTA-230

Pros

  • Belt driven
  • Pitch Control 
  • Replaceable stylus
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    Plays 33/45/78
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    Two built-in speakers

Cons

  • Durability issues 
  • Heavy tracking force

First up on our list: Jensen JTA-230. This record player is one of Amazon's top sellers in the 'Home Audio' category. It boasts some of the same features as many of the other record players on our list. Such as, stereo speakers, belt drive, 33/45/78 speeds, USB out, and pitch control. It also happens to be the most budget friendly option.

Let's talk about the good first. If you're on a tight budget and simply cannot afford anything else, this is a great option. This will at least allow you to get your records turning, and won't require additional purchases, such as speakers or preamps. It has the ability to rip your vinyls into digital. It even provides you with the software to get you going. 

One thing the JTA-230 has going for it is speed stability. A stable rotation speed is extremely important for record players. The tempo of the track is completely controlled through the rotational speed of the platter. Any changes of pace will slow down or speed up the track, resulting in the intended tempo of your music being distorted. Luckily, the is something the JTA-230 actually does quite well. No complaints here. 

Speed stability is incredibly important for record players. This is one thing that the JTA-230 has going for it. 


It also has a replaceable stylus. Meaning when yours wears out you can just buy a new one. No need to retire your record machine to the attic!


Now for the bad.


First up - tracking force. The tracking force refers to the pressure of the stylus on your record. Unfortunately, the tracking for on the JTA-230 is extremely strong. Pushing down on your records with too much force will ultimately end up damaging your grooves. Your record will still play, but it may begin to distort as the groove wears out.


We felt the tone arm was a little flimsy, but what can you expect for $50. Finally, the speaker quality is not great. Don't expect to hear a crystal clear tone at high volume with these speakers. If you are not picky with your sound, this is something you may be able to live with. 


Bottom Line: A good option if you are on a strict budget. If you can afford to pay 30 dollars more, go with our other suggestions. 

1byone

Pros

  • Belt driven
  • Replaceable stylus
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    Plays 33/45/78
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    Two built-in speakers

Cons

  • No pitch control
  • Lots of plastic used

Second up: 1byone. Another record player similar to the JTA-230. It has many of the same features as the JTA-230 - able to play 33 1/3, 45 (with adaptor), and 78. It also has two front facing stereo speakers with USB input and output. This means you are able to play your MP3 files on the speakers if you so choose. Like the JAT-230, the 1byone is belt driven, removing any vibrations or noise caused by the motor. 


It also provides RCA/USB/headphone out. Giving you plenty of options. RCA out is essential if you are looking to output the audio into a decent set of speakers.


The finish on the 1byone is modeled off of the original record players of the 1930s and 40s. It includes the standard dust cover to protect the platter, tonearm and stylus. Although the fidelity of the speakers is not the greatest, they can be quite loud. This will be good for anyone looking to fill a dorm room or small office. If you want higher quality sound, there is always the option to upgrade the speaker setup. 


Respectable volume projection - great for filling a small room.


The stylus is replaceable, essential for any decent record player. The main complaint we have is the amount of plastic used. We suspect this will adversely affect the lifetime of the unit. However, 1byone does offer a 12-month money back guarantee. Unfortunately, this is almost a necessity with record players at this price-point! 

Bottom Line: A worthy upgrade from JTA-230. If you can afford the difference, and like the look of the 1940s, it's worth the upgrade. 

ION Audio Max LP

Pros

  • Belt driven
  • Great aesthetic appeal
  • Replaceable stylus
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    Plays 33/45/78
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    Two built-in speakers

Cons

  • Belt drive needs to warm up occasionally
  • Heavy tracking force

Next: the ION Audio Max LP. A sleek, wooden finish with stereo speakers and a belt driven platter. This will be a great option if you are looking for something straightforward to use in a small room, such as a dorm room or bedroom. It has similar features as the above record players - capable of playing 33 1/3, 45, and 78 (although you need to purchase a 78 stylus if you want to play at this speed). The platter is belt driven and it comes with two stereo speakers.


The good: very stylish. The wood finish and minimalistic interface makes this record player very visually appealing. A great addition to any office or dorm room. It also provides the digital conversion capabilities to convert your records to digital if you so choose. If you'd like to stream the audio over Bluetooth, ION offers an upgraded version called Air LP


Similar to the above record players, it comes with a dust cover to protect the delicate mechanical parts. 


There haven't been any complaints with speed stability or overly weak/strong tracking force. 

Includes the EZ Vinyl/Tape Converter software CD to convert your vinyl to digital audio.

The bad: if you are picky about your sound, upgrade your speakers. Be careful when inputing your RCA to your speakers. ION recommends connecting your record player to your speakers using a line level input such as AUX or CD to avoid damaging your speakers. 


There have been a few customers mentioning the belt drive occasionally needing a short period of time to warm up. However, the overall functionality of the player is well received. 


Unfortunately, the tonearm seems a bit flimsy - made of plastic. That being said, we haven't come across any complaints about it breaking. 


Bottom Line: A great option for those looking for an all-in-one record player. The sound quality is great for the price point. 

Audio Technica AT-LP60

Pros

  • Dual magnet cartridge
  • Pitch Control 
  • Replaceable stylus
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    Plays 33/45
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    Aluminum platter​​​​
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    Belt-driven 

Cons

  • Does not play 78s

Next up: The AT-LP60 from Audio Technica. Right off the hop - this turntable will require speakers to function. The easiest way to do this is to hook it up to a set of powered speakers, or computer speakers.

This record player (or turntable) produces the best quality for this price range. If you have the means, picking up this turntable will surpass your expectations. For starters, this is a fully automatic turn table. Just put your record on and hit the button and the AT-LP60 will handle the rest. The tone arm will automatically position itself to the correct location. This is perfect for anyone new to records as this will help prevent any damage from dropping the stylus too hard. 

Secondly, the platter quality is exceptional. The platter is made of aluminum, something that is usually only found in higher end record players. Additionally, the AT-LP60 uses a dual magnet cartridge. Most entry level turntables use a ceramic cartridge. Dual magnet cartridges are known for their ability to produce better audio signals. They also tend to skip less. However, they can be a bit more temperamental when it comes to external vibrations. 

Upgrade to the ANT3600DLXI if you need a premium stylus! 


The cartridge on the turntable is factory adjusted, so you don't have to worry about any excessive tracking force, or tracking for adjustments. Like the other record players on our list, the stylus is replaceable (you can also upgrade it to the ATN3600DLXI if you choose). 

The platter is belt driven. Perfect for anyone using this for listening purposes only. The belt drive isolates the motor vibrations and provides a cleaner sound overall. There have been no complaints about speed inaccuracies or pitch variations. It comes with a built in preamp. 


Although the sound quality is not as strong as premium turntables, the AT-LP60 definitely packs a punch. It produces a very clear and warm sound. It most definitely out ranks the other recommendations on our list in terms of sound quality. Although keep in mind, the over-all sound quality is depended on the entire sound chain (turntable, speakers, etc.) 

Bottom Line: Our top recommendation. The AT-LP60 will provide the best value for your dollar. If you have speakers or can afford to purchase some, this setup will allow you to get the most out of your sound. 

JORLAI 3-Speed

Pros

  • Auto-stop
  • 3-speed
  • Vinyl-to-mp3 capability 
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    AUX in and RCA out
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    Retro look
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    Belt-driven 

Cons

Next on the list: the JORLAI 3 Speed Retro Record Player. This record player is a great competitor for the ION Audio Max LP. With similar wood finishing and functionality you really can't go wrong with either one. The overall customer reviews have been very positive. There have been very few reports of faulty units or a lack of durability. Keep in mind that JORLAI offers a 12-month warranty so you can buy with confidence.


The overall styling is retro with a solid peach wood base. Many customers have commented on the heavier-than-expected weight of the record player. Similar to the other record players on our list, the JORLAI is belt-driven. As mentioned above, this is essential for isolating any vibrations caused by an inexpensive motor. 


Sound quality is decent for this price-point. No complaints. 

You'll notice that the tone arm and stylus is the same for most of the record players on the list. There will be a slight difference in speaker quality as well as built quality. This is why it is essential to pick a company with a 12-month warranty with great customer service. JORLAI is a good choice here. Although it is more expensive compared to the other record players - it's worth it to pay for the additional customer service. 

Bottom Line: A great alternative to the ION LP. Similar functionality and specs as the others on the list. High marks for the customer service and 12-month warranty.

Victrola Modern 3-Speed Bluetooth Turntable

Pros

  • Comes with 50-watt speakers
  • Ceramic cartridge
  • Bluetooth streaming
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    3-speeds
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    Belt-driven 

Cons

  • No dust cover

Here's one example of a vinyl player under $100 that actually has decent speakers! The 50-watt speakers will be more than enough to fill a medium sized room. Much better than the built-in speakers you find with the other units. The ceramic cartridge is also a welcomed addition. How is Victrola able to offer these features at such a competitive price?  You'll notice that it's missing three features compared to the other vinyl players on the list: not made from wood, no vinyl-to-digital conversion, no dust cover.


While the wood and conversion ability really comes down to personal preference - I do have an issue with the lack of a dust cover. If you are not using the record player regularly there is potential for dust to negatively affect the longevity of the player. However, this shouldn't be an issue if you take the time to regularly dust and clean. 


You'll also notice that it offers Bluetooth streaming - one of the only record players on the list to do so. While this might not be important for some, it does bring the record player into the modern world of audio. Keep in mind that it does not output Bluetooth - rather, it has the capability to play audio through the speakers from your device. Just think of it as an alternative to the popular Bluetooth speakers


Loud speakers, ceramic cartridge, Bluetooth in - what more can you ask for?

There have been a few comments regarding the lack of quality regarding the plastic. This shouldn't really be an issue for many of you. Most record players are placed in a safe location and don't require heavy plastic to protect sensitive internal components. Also, I should mention that this record player cannot convert your vinyl to digital. Something to keep in mind.

Bottom Line: Perfect for those who are looking for a little more punch in their record player. Also, if you aren't looking to convert your vinyl into a digital format this is a good option for you. 

Crosley CR6019D-BR

Pros

  • Adjustable pitch control 
  • Bluetooth streaming
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    3-speeds
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    Belt-driven 

Cons

  • Heavy tracking force

I thought I'd include a portable record player to have a well-rounded list. These record players are very similar to the others on the list. The dust cover just happens to be a suitcase lid. I have to warn you right off the bat that there have been a few reports of this record player having a heavy tracking force. This sometimes can result in your records degrading over time. 


The speakers are also standard for built-in speakers - not great, but passable for most people. The main attractions here are the overall look and nostalgia of the unit. They are a great conversation piece as well as a functional piece of retro furniture. 


The Crosley CR6019D-BR does offer pitch control. A welcomed function at this price-point. It can be difficult to offer a precision motor under $100, so any pitch adjustments can be made with the external controls rather than relying on the preset RPMs. 


Watch out for a heavy tracking force. It has Bluetooth, RCA out, and a retro style.

The main attraction here is the overall look of the player. If you are not absolutely set on the look, I'd suggest trying some of the other record players on the list.

Bottom Line: Buy only if you love the looks. 

Crosley CR6019D-BR

Pros

  • USB encoding 
  • Bluetooth streaming
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    3-speeds
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    AM/FM/CD capabilities

Cons

  • No pitch control 

Another record player that you should be buying because you love the look. Alternatively, if you like the idea of having a CD player alongside your radio and record player than this option is for you. It also offers Bluetooth streaming from your device. Remember, you won't be able to stream your vinyl to Bluetooth, only audio from incoming devices (such as your smartphone). 


The tone-arm and stylus are par-for-the-course at this price-point (you'll find the exact same stylus and cartridge on a number of record players from different companies). While not terrible, you can't really expect the finest at this entry-level. The speakers are loud enough to fill a small room.


Buy if you are looking for the retro look from the 70s. 

There have been a few complaints that the CD player hasn't worked upon arrival. If this is the case - just send it back to Amazon for a full refund (another benefit from shopping from Amazon). 

Bottom Line: Again, buy only if you love the looks. 

A Quick Note on Storing Your Vinyl 

While I have you hear, I think it's best to provide you with a few quick tips on storying your vinyl collection. If your records aren't stored correctly there is a good chance they will slowly degrade overtime. 

1. Store Your Records on Edge

Never stack your records on top of one another. This is the easiest way to warp all of your records to the point where they are unusable. The best storage position is standing vertically on edge. A stack of records can be quite heavy. Any jostling or movement of the record increases the chances of the record grooves wearing down.  

The easiest way to accomplish this is with a dedicated record shelf. Alternatively, you can use pre-made record storage containers that help you organize and maintain your records. 

storing vinyl

2. Store at Room Temperature (or even slightly lower)

Vinyl will naturally degrade over time. Any deviation from room temperature will increase this process and lead to unnecessary damage. Try to avoid attics where there is greater temperature variations over the year. Additionally, keep the records away from any heat sources such as radiators or baseboard heaters. 

3. Use the polyethylene  sleeves 

Storing the record in the cardboard sleeve will have negative chemical impacts on the record. Your safest bet is to use the plastic polyethylene sleeve that every record comes with. If you need to transport them you can purchase record transporting bags that are specifically designed to maintain your records integrity. 

About the author

Glen Parry

My name is Glen Parry. I've been in the audio world for over 15 years. This includes guitar, keyboard, ukulele, speakers, headphones and everything else that comes with it. I spend all my free time on music production and jamming with friends. I hope to use this site to share my experience and help anyone looking for solutions to audio related problems.

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