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Answered £350 turntable (& phono pre-amp) budget - what to get?


Novice Member
My AT-LP120 unfortunately developed a fault, so has been sent back for a refund. Fortunately I have a bit of extra cash to spend now, so can get a bit more of an expensive set-up.

With the AT-LP120 I used the built in phono pre-amp, which worked well as it plugged straight into my Marshall Stanmore active speaker.

Looking at turntables similar to the AT-LP120, I can get the following:
- Audio Technica AT-LP5 (£329)
- Sony PS-HX500 (£275)

If I was to get the Sony PS-HX500, I would have plenty left over to upgrade the cartridge. However, I am struggling to find information online on what cartridge it currently has - making upgrade choices difficult. I wouldn't be using the USB / ripping functionality, so not sure if the above two options are the right choices either.

Alternatively I can get a turntable and a seperate phono pre-amp, which opens up my options greatly.

I have a total budget of £350. What would you recommend I do? Any recommendations on what products I should be looking at with this budget?

I'm very open to any suggestions, it just needs to work with my Marshall Stanmore speaker.

Thanks in advance for any help :)


Distinguished Member
The two most often recommended are the Project Debut Carbon DC with Ortofon 2M Red and the Rega Planar 1 with Performance Pack.

Rega Planar 2 with Peformance Pack - £333 -


Project Carbon Debut DC w/ Ortofon 2M Red - £349 -


Both these include a substantial Cartridge Upgrade.

Something like the Audio Technica LP120 is a nice direct drive turntable but it comes with a very basic low cost cartridge, and a cartridge upgrade would be in the £75 to £100 range.

£240 - Audio Technical LP120 Turntable -

Audio Technica ATLP120USBC USB Turntable - Superfi

The Audio Technica LP120 also have the advantage of having a USB output so you could record vinyl to your Computer, but it definitely needs a cartridge upgrade.

As an example of Cartridge Upgrades -





However, a reminder, both the Rega Planar 1 with Performance Pack and the Project Debut Carbon both come with cartridge upgrades in the roughly £75 to £100 range.

I would speculate that the Sony PS-HX500 is only marginally in the same class as the other turntables listed.

Most of my judgement on a turntable is based on the Tonearm. These would be some other considerations but also requiring an eventual Cartridge upgrade -






There are some lower cost DJ-Style turntables what would bring you near budget with a cartridge upgrade, though while mimicking the style, these probably can not be used for DJ.






Distinguished Member
Wow thanks for the detailed response BlueWizard - a huge help and lots of options to consider!

In terms of a phono pre-amp, do you have any recommendations?

Some of the Turntables come with a Phono Pre-Amp built in, and it may be possible that your Amp has a PHONO in.

If not, you need not spend a fortune on a Phono Stage -

Project Phono Box MM Turntable Pre-Amplifier - Superfi


The basic Project Phono Pre-Amp at £60 would be fine.



Established Member
There is an upgrade path for the AT cartridge which comes with the LP5 without changing the cartridge. If I have understood correctly the cartridge supplied is an AT 95HE which is already a step up from the stock 95e by virtue of the hyper elliptical stylus. When it becomes worn, it could be replaced and upgraded by fitting an ATN 95SA which has a shibata stylus and should be much better than the entry level Rega or ortofon offerings.

Crucially, the LP5 is direct drive but the Rega and Project offerings are belt driven, try to compare them before choosing and buy on that basis rather than the monetary value of the cartridge supplied.

The phono stage built in to the LP5 is at least as good as the 120 you have parted company with and can be bypassed if you choose to invest in a stand alone phono stage in due course.



Novice Member
There's some nice and affordable gear here if you are ok with not new...

Cheers for the link, but looking to buy new as I want a warranty - especially as I had a problem with the LP120 :)

There is an upgrade path for the AT cartridge which comes with the LP5 without changing the cartridge...

Thanks Jim, I really appreciate the advice.

Are there any other stylus that are recommended other than the ATN 95SA? I can't seem to find a supplier for it in the UK with a quick Google. Also I'd ideally likely be looking at something slightly cheaper.

Really struggling to make up my mind on what to get! £350 seems to be an awkward budget in some ways as I'm stuck in between price brackets.

As I won't be using the USB ripping functionality my choice leans towards a turntable with separate phono pre-amp. But then I lean more towards the AT LP5 due to the ease of it all and it having a great spec for the price. It's a shame that there's so much mystery with the Sony PS-HX500 cartridge as if there wasn't I'd most likely get that especially with the recent price drop.

Decisions, decisions!


Novice Member
Well there's a new contender...the Project Debut Carbon USB, which comes with a built in phono pre-amp.

- Pro-Ject Audio Systems

I can get this bang on my budget of £350.

I'd be really interested to hear if anyone has any experience with this particular model or knows how good the built in phono pre-amp is?

It's between this and the Audio Technica AT-LP5. Looking to make a decision tonight, so I can enjoy this weekend :)


Novice Member
Or alternatively I can get the Project Debut Carbon (non-USB), with Project Phono Box MM for £375.

- Audio Technica LP5: £330
- Project Debut Carbon USB: £350
- Project Debut Carbon with Project Phono Box MM: £375

What should I choose?


Distinguished Member
Or alternatively I can get the Project Debut Carbon (non-USB), with Project Phono Box MM for £375.

- Audio Technica LP5: £330
- Project Debut Carbon USB: £350
- Project Debut Carbon with Project Phono Box MM: £375

What should I choose?

Those are all good turntables, but ... the Project Debut Carbon comes with a considerable Cartridge upgrade. The Ortofon 2M Red on its own typically sells for £95.

The Audio Technica LP5 does come with USB and a switchable Phono Pre-Amp built in. So, that's a plus.

Typically there is about a £50 price difference between the Project Debut Carbon USB and the standard Project Debut Carbon -

Project Debut Carbon Turntable With Ortofon 2M Red Cartridge - Superfi

Project Debut Carbon USB Turntable - Superfi

However, the USB version does not come with the Ortofon 2M Red, it comes with the Ortofon OM10. That's an OK cartridge, you probably would not need to upgrade it. I think I found one on Amazon-UK for about £80.


The Ortofon 2M Red is in a similar price range, though probably more popular -

Ortofon 2M Red Moving Magnet Cartridge - Superfi

That is a consideration, but not a deal breaker.

I suspect the Audio Technica AT95Ex is an OEM, not for retail, cartridge. I can't find the cartridge anywhere, but I can find the Stylus replacement for about £30. The nearest equivalent would be the Audio Technica AT95E, which can be found for about £30 to £40 on Amazon.

That would be a decent cartridge to start with, then later you can decide if you feel you need a better one.

There is no bad choice on the list, it is just a matter of which you feel gives you a combination of the best deal and the best turntable, and a turntable that has the features you want and need.

Myself, I would lean toward the Debut Carbon with Phono Pre-Amp, that seems like a very good deal.



Novice Member
Thanks again for the help Steve, it's really appreciated.

After reading a lot more last night online, I've gone with the AT-LP5. I enjoyed the AT-LP120 whilst it worked and with this being a step up, I think it was the wise choice.

The great reviews, ease of setup and potential to upgrade excite me! I will update with how I get on :)

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