There's something incredibly soothing about listening to vinyl. As soon as the needle sets into a record's grooves and the static-laced hiss emerges, you're transported back to a simpler state of mind. Many models are difficult to operate and cost upwards of $500. The U-turn Orbit Basic turntable, however hits the sweet spot of price and features. Its slick, minimalist design offers a marked audio (and visual) improvement over the clunky automatic turntables, and includes details like adjustable tracking force that many similar tables are lacking.

Manual turntables can be a bit scary for first timers, but have no fear—the Orbit is simple to set up and operate. The belt drive system requires you to loop a thin rubber belt around the pulley and the platter; then you're ready to spin the black circle. Remember that you'll need a separate phono preamp if you don't have a receiver with one built in (most home theater receivers no longer include them).

The Orbit Basic ships with an Audio-Technica CN5625AL cartridge, which brings out the warmth in vocals and midrange tones; it bloomed on acoustic folk like Neil Young's "Harvest" and the soothing tones of Cannonball Adderly's sax on "Autumn Leaves." If you favor music that includes more deep bass or bright treble tones, you may want to upgrade to the Grado Black1 cartridge U-turn also offers. Either way, the audio is far better than the cost alludes.
[$179, uturnaudio.com]