So, you’re getting into vinyl? Fantastic! It’s one of the most rewarding interests anyone can have, but as you’re probably aware, it can be an expensive hobby to keep.
Not only do vinyl records cost twice as much as their CD equivalent, but a record player can set you back something to the tune of $1000.
To make matters worse, cheaping out on a record player can be pretty damaging to your beloved vinyl albums, so what do you do if you’re trying to achieve vinyl nirvana on a budget?
Well, After days of research and years of personal experience, I’ve collated five of the very best record players you can buy for under $100.
From one vinyl nerd to another, at this price, you’re going to have to come to terms with a certain amount of sacrifices, but trust me, it still beats CD or streaming quality any day of the week!
Top 5 Best Record Players Under $100
MY TOP PICK
The AT-LP60 from Audio Technica is absolutely the place to start if you’re an audiophile on a budget.
If we’re being honest, it’s ever so slightly over the $100 budget, but thanks to free postage, it about levels out.
This may be Audio Technica’s entry-level model, but it’s leagues above the other vintage-style options you see for less than $100. Featuring two play speeds, 33 ⅓, and 45 RPM, you can enjoy a multitude of records from different periods of production.
It also boasts incredibly smooth automation. All you have to do is push a button and the tonearm kicks into action, lining up the stylus to play the first tune on your record.
Once the record’s over, the arm lifts back up and settles in its rest, ensuring the stylus doesn’t exert any unnecessary pressure on your valuable vinyl.
Arriving ready to play out the box thanks to a quality built-in amplifier, the die-cast aluminum platter dampens extraneous vibrations, ensuring the highest possible fidelity for under $100.
My only wish is that it would be a little more expandable.
- Automated Tone Arm - Saves you effort and protects your records.
- Integrated Amplifier - No separate purchases necessary.
- Die-Cast Aluminum Platter - Reduces excess vibration.
- Diamond Stylus - Won’t damage your records.
- Fixed Unit - Non-expandable, for better or worse.
- 2-Play Speeds - Can’t play 78s.
The suitcase-style of record player is treated with a lot of suspicion, but much like any other product, there are good ones and bad ones, and then there’s this Miric model, which is a great one!
Two 3-watt, front-facing speakers provide a pretty impressive directional audio output, so it suits those who like to sit cross-legged in front of their player and read the liner notes of their favorite records as they listen.
In addition, speaker ports allow you to expand your system with an advanced audio output, so instead of forking out for a new player when you’re ready to upgrade, you can just hook up some quality speakers.
Sort of the Swiss army knife of the affordable record player world, you can hook it up to the internet and stream music through it or play music stored on an SD or USB drive. You can even record your records into a digital format as they spin...pretty amazing, right?
Of course, there’s the portability factor to speak of too, and the faux distressed leather is tasteful and totally vegan. Perfect!
- FF Speakers - Surprisingly warm and loud.
- Expandable - Has AUX and RCA ports for connecting speakers.
- Portable - Take it literally anywhere with ease.
- Aesthetics - Looks beautiful.
- USB/SD/Internet - Plays digital music.
- Sound Quality - It’s not going to blow your socks off.
- Stylus - I’d recommend upgrading the stylus before long.
Very similar in style to the Miric suitcase, the Wockoder has more of a modern sheen to it, the relic effect starting and ending with the faux leather rather than spreading across the unit as a whole.
With three play speeds, no record is off-limits, so you can kick back and enjoy an endless stream of vinyl classics. Much like the Miric, it features wireless connectivity and an SD/USB port for listening to all your favorite digital tracks.
You can also use the AUX and RCA ports to plug in some headphones for a solo listening session or hook up some enhanced speakers when you want to play your records loud and proud.
My one caveat is that the finish material is a little thin. Say that you did want to lug this thing about with you for listening sessions at different locations, it wouldn’t be long before the wear and tear of the journeys would start to show.
- AUX/RCA - Listen with headphones or expand your system with speakers.
- USB/SD/Wireless - Listen to your digital tunes.
- Portable - Take your music with you on the go.
- FF Speakers - Not bad for the price.
- Sound Quality - Pair it with speakers for best results.
- Stylus - You may want to switch it up sooner rather than later.
The CR6019D takes the suitcase aesthetic to whole new levels of realism.
With a relic brown leather-look finish and reinforced edges, this thing looks like it’s arrived straight out of the 40s, the bronze-style clasps and handle fixtures completing the look in a tasteful and believable fashion.
Fortunately, this thing isn’t just a lovely piece of eye candy, it’s chock-full of ear candy too. I’d prefer the integrated speakers were forward-facing, but despite their lateral orientation, they sound great. You shouldn’t expect pristine fidelity, but the sound is well worth the price tag.
Of course, it has all the bells and whistles the other case players have, including USB and Bluetooth connectivity for playing your digital collection, and AUX/RCA outputs for upgrading your system with better speakers.
On top of the usual three play speeds; however, you get an additional pitch adjustment function, an appointment usually reserved for up-market record players.
- Aesthetics - Best looking on the list.
- Build Quality - Clasps are very secure.
- Pitch Adjustment - Can essentially fast-forward.
- AUX/RCA - Headphones and speaker compatible.
- Speakers - Sound nice and warm.
- SF Speakers - Sound travels away from you.
- Sound Quality - Could be better, but great for the price.
Victrola may be spearheading the modern suitcase-style record player movement, but they’ve got over a century of experience under their belt, so their products tend to be a cut above the rest.
While the sound quality could certainly be better - as is the case with most budget players - the drivers are actually pretty good, and there’s something to be said about it being the bestseller of all the players on this list.
Featuring the standard multi-purpose arsenal of the other picks, it can connect to your other devices via Bluetooth for an enjoyable streaming session, allowing you to play all the albums you haven’t yet ticked off your ‘records to buy’ bucket list.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a USB port, so making physical connections is out of the question, but you can still improve upon the integrated speakers using the RCA port, and enjoy the sound quality of a much more expensive player.
- Price - Perfect for a beginner on a budget.
- FF Speakers - Sound is directed at you.
- Spare Stylus - Use the free replacement when the first one wears.
- Stylus Materials - You’ll need to upgrade to a diamond stylus before long.
- Sound Quality - It won’t blow you away.
Best Record Players Under $100 Buying Guide
I know you’re craving the crackle, but before you can choose a record player and start spinning your favorite albums, we need to run over a few key considerations.
Direct Drive vs Belt Drive
One of the first bits of jargon you’ll encounter when shopping around for a record player is whether it has a belt or direct drive, the drive of a record player being the motor that turns the platter.
Belt drives use an elastic belt connected to the motor to rotate the platter. They tend to be the premium option as the belt reduces vibrations from the motor, amounting to a higher quality audio playback.
However, they do wear out eventually, and they’re not quite as accurate when it comes to playback speed.
The motor in direct drive record players sits beneath the platter and turns it, well...directly. These don’t need anywhere near as much maintenance as belt drive designs, making them great for novice vinyl-heads.
They also have more accurate playback speed, but as vibrations from the motor travel straight through to the stylus, sound quality takes a hit.
Throughout the years, records have been designed to spin at different speeds on the platter. These speeds are 33 ⅓, 45, and 78 RPM. You’ll need a record player that can play at each of these speeds if you want to be able to listen to all kinds of records.
If you try to play a record on the wrong speed setting, it will either sound like it’s being sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks or like some sort of super slow Barry White remix.
As you’ve likely surmised, the audio quality of speakers in record players under $100 is never going to satisfy the hardcore audiophiles out there, but even at this entry-level point in the market, there is a vast range in the quality of drivers and sound types.
Some speakers will sound warm, while others may sound colder and perhaps airier. Some will have punchy low ends and harsh trebles, while others will have smooth trebles but flappy bass frequencies.
The best way to decide which is best for you is to try them out, but if that’s not an option, think about your current sound tastes.
Do you like a sound with well-rounded mids? Perhaps you’re into dub or dark ambient and play a lot of records with heavy bass frequencies.
Expandability and Private Listening
Ideally, you want your record player to have AUX and RCA ports, so you can listen through your headphones or connect it up to some better speakers.
The stylus on a cheap record player can wear out pretty quickly and damage your records, so if yours comes with a sapphire or steel stylus, I recommend upgrading to a diamond as soon as possible.
Autostop is exactly what it sounds like. It stops the platter spinning once a record is finished, preventing that perpetual scratch and clunk sound of an elapsed record.
This will protect your records, prolong the life of the stylus, and prevent awful noises should you accidentally leave your record player on.
Some record players will come with integrated cassette tape, CD, or radio functions, so if you have a music collection that spans a few different mediums, these versatile designs are well worth your money.
I’m particularly fond of record players with tape machines, as they can be hard to find as dedicated units.
Most modern record players will feature either Bluetooth or USB connectivity, meaning you can hook them up to your phone or computer and stream music through them.
If your record collection isn’t quite as voluminous as you’d like just yet, this is a great way to get plenty of use out of your record player.
If the opposite is true, and you have stacks of vinyl taking up whole rooms of your house, but you’d like to digitize them, some record players have a record function that rips the music of the vinyl to a storage device.
Love it or hate, aesthetics are a large part of a record player’s appeal this day and age, and what’s the harm in wanting something that doesn’t just sound great, but looks great too.
A lot of record players under $100 have similar features, so feel free to make style a key consideration in the decision process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s round things up by answering a few common queries about affordable record players.
What Is the Best Record Player Under $100?
The Audio Technica At-LP60X is by far the best record player you can get around the $100 mark.
It’s that much better than the competition, I’d go as far as categorizing it as a mid-level rather than entry-level player.
What Is a Good Inexpensive Record Player?
All the record players on this list offer a truly incendiary bang for your buck, but if you’re on an incredibly tight budget, I can’t speak highly enough of the Victrola VSC-550BT.
It has everything you need to enjoy your records, and all for under $50.
Is Crosley Better than Victrola?
These companies both make quality, affordable record players that appeal to budding enthusiasts via vintage aesthetics and space-friendly designs.
Very similar in regard to the ground they hold in the market and their company directions, if I had to pick just one, I’d probably go with Victrola.
That’s not to say Crosley record players aren’t worth your money, because they absolutely are, but in my experience Victrola players have a much flatter response and the beefy low-end essential to translating the signature warmth of vinyl.
Of course, this is a comparison I’d make between equivalent models. If we were to compare a cheap Victrola with a more expensive Crosley, I’d pick Crosley any day of the week.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Crosley’s warranty is worded in a much more reassuring way, and as record players are quite complex things, it’s nice to know the manufacturer has your back should something go awry.
Do Cheap Record Players Ruin Records?
The honest answer is, yes, but don’t let that spook you out of treating yourself to one of the fantastic record players on this list, as it’s a problem that’s easily remedied.
First, let’s discuss what it is exactly about more affordable record players that damages our records. The crux of the matter is the stylus, which is the needle that tracks the grooves in our vinyl, allowing the cartridge to translate its vibrations into sound waves.
Did you know that a stylus has to shoulder 26 tons of pressure per square inch and travels the equivalent of 2 miles to play just one record of average length?
To accomplish this marathon, they’re usually crafted from diamond, which is obviously a problem for some cheaper designs.
Instead, steel or sapphire is often used, both of which wear out far quicker (sometimes in as little as 40 hours). Once this wear and tear has taken place, the stylus will quickly begin eating into your record’s grooves.
I know, I know, just the thought sends shivers down your spine, but all you need to do is make sure that you replace the stylus before this happens. In fact, if you have the funds, I recommend switching to a diamond stylus straight off the bat.
What Is a Good First Record Player?
I wholeheartedly recommend any of the record players on this list as fantastic first record players for budding enthusiasts, but something with an RCA port that allows you to bring some better speakers into the fold at a later date is probably best.
What Is the Best Record Player to Buy?
Before you can decide what the best record player you can buy is, you have to engage in a bit of self-reflection. Ask yourself what kind of vinyl-head you are.
Are you an audiophile purist hunting for playback perfection and a 20-year+ lifespan from each of your records? Do you just enjoy the physicality of vinyl records and aren’t fussed about audio fidelity?
Do you want something that looks new or old-fashioned, large or discrete, something that looks like a piece of furniture or decidedly like a record player? Perhaps you’re a new collector that’s never even used a record player before.
Once you’ve answered these questions, finding the best record player for you will be a total breeze.
Is it Worth Buying a Record Player?
This is a question I can’t really answer for you, but I think there are so many quality options available at every point on the market, that there’s no reason you wouldn’t consider the right record player for you ‘worth it’.
Even if you only use it once in a blue moon, as long as you got it for a bargain, you’ll still get your money’s worth.
Sure, there are a lot of practicalities to consider when thinking about taking the record player plunge. Vinyl is way more expensive than CDs or streaming.
There are a lot of moving parts in a record player, meaning they’re quite delicate, and things do wear out over time.
It also depends on your listening habits. If you’re perfectly fine with the overly compressed audio profile of streamed music or the sterility of CDs, perhaps a record player isn’t the way to go.
But the idea that vinyl sounds better is no myth. It has character, a special warmth that once baptized in, you’ll never wish to stray from.
When I put on a record, it’s an exciting experience, and the effort it takes to choose, find, set off, and flip it prompts a more deliberate listen, and you’ll notice ear candies you’ve never heard before in tracks you’ve listened to countless times.
What’s the Difference Between a Turntable and a Record Player?
A turntable is the component of a record player that holds and turns your records. It’s quite literally a table that turns. But turntables aren’t always an integrated appendage of a record player.
They can be bought as standalone products without an amplifier or built-in/pre-wired speakers.
If you already own speakers, or you were interested in building a custom setup, you’d buy an independent turntable, then shop around for the rest of the components.
A record player is a much more holistic creature, arriving out the box with everything you need to spin your favorite albums and throw some shapes around your living room.
There you have it, vinyl lovers. Did any of these budget record players catch your eye?
They may not be the most impressive in the grand scheme of things, but even these simple, starter-friendly record players can bring an immense amount of joy to your musical life and add a bit of character to the room in the process.
Any one of them could be the beginning of a lifelong love story between you and the vinyl format. Happy listening!