Cheap turntables – Are they really THAT bad?

The Audio-Technica AT-LP60, Pioneer PL-990, and other similar inexpensive turntables are very popular and generally get good reviews, but they’ve come under criticism for various reasons which I discuss and test in this in-depth video, to find out if that criticism is valid or not.

3:11 Tracking force
8:13 Anti-skating
12:12 Skipping on modern vinyl?
15:30 Speed stability
18:00 Audio quality & upgrades
19:23 A cheap turntable makes cheap records sound better
21:24 My conclusion
22:37 Other people’s opinions about these turntables

Do you own one of these turntables? Post your review of it here:


Mark Bartlett says:

Totally agree with your views on expensive vs low cost turntables.

I used to own 2x Technics SL1210’s. I didn’t realise they had such a low wow/flutter, rated at 0.02% until now. Obviously needed to keep the timing since they are considered DJ equipment, but i’m surprised at that low figure. I wish i still had them.

Slosh Mike says:

I have had both these inexpensive turntables along with vintage ones. These new inexpensive ones don’t measure up to a good quality vintage unit. Even newer, more expensive higher quality brand turntables. These are cheap, made of plastic, and use inferior components. You get what you pay for. I can even tell the difference in the sound quality. Stop blaming audiophiles. I’m no audiophile but I’m not stupid when it comes to something i have experience with.

George Price says:

What about original 70’s 12 inch singles?

Adam Power says:

Their cursed repetitions! Gaaarrrrggh! But good job testing the decks so rigorously, this was very informative. Cheers!

Amy says:

I have the audio-technica one and I’m new to vinyls (I’m only 17 and only have seven records) but it sounds good to me. Didn’t even realise vinyl snobs were a thing.

moonage daydream says:

If you turn a digital clock upside down it reads? if you turn a analog clock upside down with no numbers or numerals it still reads correctly!

jim hatch says:

so just buy digital track.

♫ Juke Joint ♪ says:

Hey, the more expensive turntables have problems of their own….

TheZooman22 says:

I have seen these in stores and often wondered how they compare to a more expensive device, thanks for the critical review.

StephaneVorstellung says:

I’m not exactly an audiophile but I recognized a huge difference when, in 2002, I upgraded to a 400-dollar Stanton table (for 15 years prior, I had been using a 200-dollar entry-level Technics table). With records the range of sound quality is hugely dependent on one’s equipment: bottom of the barrel sounds terrible (crosley), budget components, (like these) sound OK to kind of bad (especially if they pick up a lot of vibrations in the room), and at the consumer/pro level (mine) sound good to great, and probably better still as one heads into boutique audiophile territory. I’m not trying to badmouth anything but am genuinely curious why people are interested in records and turntables when you can get more reliably good sound with less hassle using digital formats?

C SAS says:

very informative as i have a music hall 5.1, but want a TT that plays 78s.
i am now sold on the ATLP-120, as it has USB, good quality, and plays 33/45/78rpm records.

phr tao says:

Great video. So much depends on what you plug these turntables into as well and the quality of your record. Very often the supposed benefits of a turntable costing 10 of thousands of dollars is immediately offset by a poor quality record. Most records are very cheaply made and mixed to sound bright and cheerful NOT high fidelity (even those new releases).
If some one wanted a significant jump in sound quality I would suggest putting money into an amplifier and speakers and maybe consider a good budget DAC for a couple of hundred dollars to play your music digitally from a laptop (lossless audio files NOT MP3 or iTunes store music). This would deliver better results than saving up for that $1000 dollar turntable

Richard Goodman says:

This site is like a breath of fresh air! I have been a dyed in the wool audiophile since 1963 . I still listen to my vinyl with my Kenwood KP-5021 turntable (and a good receiver & speakers) and while I believe that a well mastered CD will usually sound better, I am amazed how good that vinyl can sound. Yes Crosby turntables are inexpensive and have shortcomings when compared to a better turntable but I firmly believe that tracking with 5 grams WILL NOT wear your album out. If that’s what you can afford to purchase to listen to your records than by all means do it. You can purchase some better later. BTW …. I still have a large number of albums that I purchased in the late 60’s and 70’s … they still sound great … even with tracking with a force heavier than 4 grams. I am amazed about the number of vinyl “Experts” that are out there now telling you what not to buy!

TheGreatNorth says:

I love me a good polka

G Wernette says:

were you playing copyrighted music perhaps a little too long?

bbarrera86 says:

thats nice and all but clearly these t-tables arent customizable for different carts and whatnot, since that would require you to tamper with all those fixed variables and you are not gonna be playing with springs and invisible antiskating mechanisms until you find out your correct settings for those different carts/headshells/stylus

AC85Bears says:

What are your thoughts on the ION record players? I have an ION Max Wooden LP Turntable.

Brad Scott says:

You don’t have to be an engineer to understand why ceramic phono cartridges will eat your records. And yes, they also have poor frequency response. Spring “counterweight”: junk. Ceramic head: junk. Skipping indicates a cheap cartridge with undamped resonances and can actually damage the record so it always skips in that place, even when played on other machines. This is also affected by its anti-resonance properties, of which these cheap things have little. The reason those styrene records played in jukeboxes as you said is also caused by a heavy tracking force ceramic phono cartridge. And yes, when you are dealing with the footprint of a playback stylus, one gram in tracking force means a LOT of difference in additional PSI pushing against the groove walls.

You can literally buy a 40 year old SL-model Technics on ebay for the same price as one of these pieces of plastic junk and it will walk all over most every turntable you can buy today, as well as then. There’s a very good reason the SLxxxx turntables are still being made today and selling new from Technics retailers for upward of 500 bucks each.

You can spend LESS than on one of these pieces of junk, on a 40 year old turntable, and have a higher quality product and far better sound.

Stoneyburke says:

I bought older turntables at yard sales,no one was using them so they were lucky I guess.

Richard Brookes says:

Excellent. Thank you.

Shoegum says:

10:32 How dare you question what “people say” is right or wrong.

A Rem says:

Elton John warped?

DED says:

the daft punk album that skips is homework, ive tried three different copies until i final sold my audiotechnica to friend who also had skipping with new records

C SAS says:

@vwestlife do you now love that DP album? Its top notch.

Thevinylking69 says:

Bought two of these in 2005 they were $99 a piece and are great starter equiptment. I kept them long after I upgraded and gave them to people starting out, a good trick on these is to unhook the belt if you dont use the table frequently. What people tend to forget is that a very high percentage of used records were played on very low quality and/or un-maintained equiptment. One of these is not going to destroy a record. It may sound sonically different due to the wow and flutter, microphonics of the hollow body, or even the cartridge limitations but that stuff is not usually severe enough to ruin the average listeners experience anyways.

Kelvin Smith says:

Thank you sir for setting the record straight…l love my Audio Technica LP 60…you set out the real facts about it…the best video on YouTube.

Stultus Films says:

Here comes the triggered audiophile idiots!

jim hatch says:

I see high end audio store playing a record with an obvious off center hole, yuck.

I own a micom wow and flutter meter. I embrace the a well recorded cd .I waited decades. for cd.
do it right, a well cd is beyond anything on vinyl.

Brad Scott says:

Hi. Compare these two. In fact, why don’t you compare the AT to your Technics?

Vs. a 35 year old table:

Wow and flutter: 0.3% vs. 0.03%. Rumble (which you did not measure) -50db down compared to -75db down. The Technics has a well regarded, S shaped tonearm with a counterweight and hydraulic damping, direct drive (belts are a nuisance and have little torque) and front panel controls for speed adjustment.

Even the AT120 is a better value. It at least has a decent _balanced_ tonearm and cartridge – even if the table itself is still mostly junk.

BiscuitFever says:

Just for clarification, no audiophile actually takes records seriously. Everyone knows that lossless compression files like FLAC are undeniably superior to records. The people that say otherwise are literally retarded.

Matt Smith says:

Excellent video, thanks! My take on this question is as follows: a lot of hi-fi is sold on the back of nonsense and is waaaay overpriced, but it’s probably still worth spending a little more than the bare minimum if you’re serious about your music, or anticipate using the turntable for a long time.

For example, there’s an ‘entry level’ model from Pro-ject which costs 350 euros, or something like 400 US dollars (Pro-Ject Debut Carbon (DC)). Here in Europe, Audio-Technica AT-LP60 models, of which there seem to be a few variants go from around 140 to 200 euros. The difference is pretty significant, but then any kind of turntable is sort of a luxury item these days. If you have a smartphone with some headphones you can already get a very nice sound for little money, and of course the phone has quite a bit more practical usage than any turntable you could buy.

The Audio-Technica specs say wow and flutter is about 0.25%, the Pro-ject advertises less than half at 0.10%. In terms of signal to noise, AT says >50 dB, which is very good, Pro-Ject meanwhile says 68 dB which is better than excellent. We don’t know if these specs are accurate, and manufacturers do tend to exaggerate or take measurements under the best conditions possible. I think that most people would be happy with the AT sound, but would also be able to notice the difference between these turntables, especially as far as pitch variations go. I doubt there are many people in the world who, under perfect test conditions, could reliably distinguish between the Debut Carbon or similar, and any ultra-high end model. Perhaps a concert violinist, listening to a recording of their own performance?!

What the specs don’t tell us is much about the build quality and durability. Really cheap turntables I’ve seen have been poorly isolated from vibration, which might be a more important issue than any differences in S/N ratio compared with something a bit more expensive. With the Pro-ject model the cartridge is not integrated, which also might become important one day when you’re looking for a new stylus. Finally, whether you’ve got a cheap turntable or expensive one, comparisons are difficult, but I’m not going to trust anyone who just bought it, set it up and said, “That sounds good to me!”, as if the mere fact that it works proves it’s all good.

UnitSe7en says:

No-one going to make a joke about the Elton John record being so.. bent? Just me? Okay…

Xander Jon Siose says:

I own an Audio Technica AT-PL300. I love it!

Matheus Rosa says:

Yes, I the ~audiophile~ community is mostly full of bullshit, but people (including audiofools) don’t realize that you don’t pay only for the sound of a turntable (or audio equipment in general). You pay for the quality of construction/material, reliability, lifespan, design and technical support. Those cheap turntables may have nice sound, be in accordance with the specs and be enough for listening to music, but I’m sure that their hardware is more prone to natural malfunctioning during their lifetime. At the end of the day, the law of diminishing return is what matters most: the difference between the sound of a 1000$ turntable and a 500$ one will be way less noticeable than between a 500$ and a 250$ one. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with an Orbit U-Turn, for example, the cheapest one is around 250$ and you’ll have amazing sound, incredible support and will probably last forever. Pioneer, Sony, Audio Technicas, Numarks, Stantons are cheaper and will do the job well (as the video shows), but just stay away from Crosley-type and Urban outfitters turntables.

EDIT: I’m not part of any audiophile community (fuck them), I just like audio gear and music 🙂

Silas Mayes says:

God do I love good headphones

JDolande says:

Why are good turntables so expensive, My understanding is that back then they were cheap as fuck and way better than they are today

Shoegum says:

Its more expensive…it MUST be better!

DQSpider says:

I thought I heard a little pitch drift on the polka record, but who is to say… :v

FurryCrew says:

Better off buying an old technics photo from the 80s for CHEAP than these things.

Paianni says:

TBH, more expensive turntable components do make a difference, in terms of noise, vibration, frequency response, etc. It’s just that some companies would like to claim that tonearms that track at 5g will destroy records, when in most cases they won’t, at least with a conical stylus.

Crosley players are still ridiculously overpriced, given that one can pick up a very respectable 70s or 80s ‘table that, with new belts and a new cartridge, will deliver a far superior listening experience. They reek of pandering to the retro-nostalgia obsessed, too.

Metz Gaming says:

After much deliberation about what turntable to go for, or whether to even get into Vinyl at all, I’ve just bought and set up an AT LP 60 after watching this video and enjoying my first foray in records and I’m loving it!

So simple to get started and sounds great even with a modest older amp/speakers. I can always work my way up to something
More sophisticated later, but this is plenty good enough, and cheap!

Thanks again

mrheem44 says:

the polka music interruption——- hahahahah

Jan Garcia says:

So the Pioneer will be a bit better as you can easily regulate it if it is going too fast?

rob M. says:

Cheers to VWestlife for helping eveyone expand their music : *low-income kids & everyone on a tight budget* ought to be able to start somewhere along the spectrum.
It’s one thing to say that older or less efficient technology isn’t your view of perfection–it’s another to say that
we shouldn’t dig older, less efficient forms of technology- 1940s sexy pin-up

girl’s actually can be a turn on, eh?
*Consider :*
1) none of us could afford a Van Gogh painting, we’re fortunate to have cheap printers & screens so we can translate good culture into a format we can afford,
2) Hendrix, Miles Davis, YoYoMa & Peter Gabriel were turned onto music in ways that went *beyond* audio hardware limitations.
— I would never recommend low-budget ripoff audio to

anyone and at the same time I don’t think it’s realistic to think anyone but a few wealthy people can afford systems in which each component costs $500 and up.

Kerbal Zone says:

aaaaaannnnddd …. unsubscribe

TheEarlymtv says:

I had a LP60, the belt driven one , the platter ran a tad too fast and without a counterweight a lot of records skipped. upgraded to a 120 and it was much better..

Richard Golden-DeWitt says:

the only perfect turntable I think ever made was made in 1971 sold for $189.50 that is $1,149.53 in today’s money is the Garrard Zero 100

fernarias says:

If you want to test a record player, you would use a test record, that plays a certain frequency, say 1000hz and measure that frequency on a frequency counter, scope and spectrum analyzer. The best record player would play nearest the frequency, it would have a clean sign wave and very few harmonics. Playing music can only lead to subjective outcomes.

VWestlife says:

Do you own one of these turntables? If so, post your review of it here:

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