U-Turn Audio’s $150 Orbit turntable

Stereophile’s editorial assistant, Ariel Bitran, directed my attention to this USA Today article on an interesting turntable from U-Turn Audio, a company founded by three close friends—Ben Carter, Bob Hertig, and Peter Maltzan—all in their early 20s, who were tired of playing records on cheap USB turntables.

Their first model, the Orbit, forgoes modern-day conveniences like a USB output and built-in speakers, but concentrates on quality and longevity. Unlike the many inexpensive USB turntables prevalent today—models whose low-quality styli are potentially dangerous to your precious LPs—the Orbit appears to use an Ortofon phono cartridge (perhaps an OM5E?), similar to the ones found on entry-level Regas and Pro-Jects.

Judging from the photos alone, the Orbit is a serious turntable. If all goes as planned, the ’table will be available this fall.

The price? Just $150!

I’ll be keeping my eyes on this one.

volvic's picture

My first turntable a Thorens 166 cost $150.00 back in 1982.  As a starter turntable with better materials this could prove a great way for the young-ins to get into vinyl with a quality table.  Glad to see the future for vinyl is bright. 


heyjudy's picture

These guys don't have a "company," they're just three dudes who put together a table out of existing parts, spray-painted it blue, and are kinda-sorta thinking about maybe trying to raise money on Kickstarter.   

Jaron M.'s picture

No matter how much you may be right/wrong, I'll look forward to a review. I hope it's up to par with the RP1. Maybe that's asking too much.. For $150, if it's decent, I'll go for it. I do have a few LPs, and no turntable. It'd make sense in my situation. Don't want to spend too much on my first one.

stereo slim's picture

then where's the crank? (maybe still in the orbit)

big words in ads ("vinyl renaissance") have been indicative of vaporware before ...

tmsorosk's picture

Wow a turntable that costs $150. does it come with ear plugs? Thanks anyway, but I'll stick with my SME.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Thanks anyway, but I'll stick with my SME.

Good for you. You can afford an SME. How much did you spend on it?  $50,000?  Or did you get the cheaper, $30,000 model?  The $10,000 entry-level model?  Did you buy it used for half the original price?

If this U-Turn Audio table works, I'd rather give them out to 200 kids than spend 30K for one of my own.

laserears's picture

In the same way that Monster trucks tend to have owners that are "smaller" than average in the "Package" department, Audiophiles frequently have an inability to discern great artists or great recordings. They believe they can hear the length of a cable on their stereo yet the recordings they listen to have been created with several miles of electronic cable in a pro studio. Furthermore, there is no consistency as to cable length from singer to the various horns of a section. You make a judgment without hearing, that alone speaks volumes. If your vinyl collection is void of Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Wayne Shorter and Duke Ellington than you really are an idiot. I am not saying cable doesn't matter, I am just saying that it is doubtful that "YOU" can hear the difference between Monster Cable and high-end Audiophile cable. You don't need earplugs. You need a muzzle.

Ariel Bitran's picture

How can you mock an earnest attempt to create what looks like a very decent turntable for under $150??

I've been waiting 5 years for this. $300+ is still too much for an entry-level anything for us young/lower income folks. but $150? that's an excellent price point. bravo. hopefully it works! 

deckeda's picture

But "$300" for a decent turntable in 2012 isn't a ton of money in a hifi-historical sense, either.

For any music lover on a lesser budget who has access to colleagues that know a bit about the subject of turntables, I'd be pestering them with questions about what you see on Craigslist. If money and sound are important you can spend less on used equipment and get satisfaction.

But ya gotta research it.

Stephen Mejias's picture

But "$300" for a decent turntable in 2012 isn't a ton of money in a hifi-historical sense, either.

That's true. But here's the problem: $300 is a lot of money for a college student to spend on a turntable. Especially considering that you can't just buy a turntable; you have to also buy a phono preamp, an amp, speakers, and cables. And there are lots of college students -- and, in general, teens and people in their early 20s -- who want to get into vinyl. They want to play their records on a decent turntable. And hi-fi manufacturers consistently claim they want to get those poeple into the hobby. But what, really, are those hi-fi manufacturers doing for those young people?

And it's not just teens who consider $300 expensive for a turntable. I've got older family members who consider $300 a lot to spend on a turntable. Compared to me, these people are rich.  And they still want to know why they can't just spend $150 on that Ion or Crosley thing that includes speakers and a USB input.

And what if you don't want to buy used? The person who wants to spend less than $300 on a good new turntable has very few options. (Thank you, Music Hall and Pro-Ject.) So, like you, I'm hoping that U-Turn Audio changes that. I love the concept. Let's see where it goes.

smittyman's picture

I've got older family members who consider $300 a lot to spend on a turntable.

Actually an awful lot of people think $300 is a lot for their whole system; they think a Bose system is a reach. 

And buying used is a risk; stuff off Craiglist or garage sales or thrift shops can be pretty beat up and the crappy old stylus and tonearm with pennies on it will damage your records.  If you buy used from a dealer or someplace like Audiogon you can reduce the risk but you won't find much for $150. 

If this is an OK table that let's people start with an easy plug and play for half what a Rega, Pro-Ject or Music Hall entry level table costs, then more power to them.  I hope they sell a ton.

deckeda's picture

Using the Consumer Price Index percentage increase from 1980 to 2011 for commodity items, $300 today would have cost you $110 back then. If $110 was a lot to spend on a turntable about 30 years ago then yes, $300 is a lot to spend on one today.

Sure, $110 would have been a chunk of change back then. College kids didn't usually take turntables to school back then however, but apparently that's a growing expectation today: I should be able to own one, because they are available. Make it cheaper so I can. I understand that argument but don't necessarily agree it's valid. Excuse me, I'll be back --- there are some kids on my lawn.

Playing records because vinyl is "cool"? That explains a lot. No wonder it's considered expensive; it's a sideline hobby to kids, like designer jeans.

I had very modest equipment from Junior High through college, and yet rarely knew anyone else my age that also owned hifi. It's not that I was spending "a lot", it's that I was spending it on audio and music and not on other stuff. It's not about the money, it's about the priorities and perceptions of whatever else you can spend it on --- and today there's a lot more. A PS2 was mentioned above I believe. Guitar parts. I get it.

$150 isn't merely affordable for a turntable, it's not the starting point, it's below the historical starting point; it's darn near free in that context of what normal, non-audiophiles used to pay years ago.

If it turns out that the Orbit is a reliable machine that's fairly flexible and sounds good we'll all be cheering its success. I hope to be!

My comments re: buying used was obviously a viable suggestion to someone like Ariel, who has the resources and collegues that could actually have helped him "5 years ago" to put together something good on the über-cheap. It wasn't meant as an equivalent decision just anyone would be expected to easily take.

smittyman's picture

1980 was just before CD was introduced.  Everyone I knew at university had some kind of stereo in their dorm room, mostly crap, but some nice gear as well.  I know I paid $99 CDN for a JVC TT in the late 70's about $150 for a Dual a few years later and that was on a par with what most of my friends had. So that was basically the opening bid for something decent - meaning not a Sears all-in-one unit with the turntable built into the top of the receiver. 

It was always about priorities then and now.  But most of us who frequent this site are not a reflection of the majority; a lot of people were happy with boom boxes in the day and now like the Bose Wave system. Turntables were more common 30 years ago simply because the only other options were cassette or 8 track.

And you are right, there's a lot more to spend on these days; you didn't even mention computers, iPods, cell phones, etc. 

If $150 gets more people into vinyl I think it's great.  I paid $200 for a Thorens in '83 by which time I was married and working full time so $150 today would be a steal.

And I didn't mean to suggest that used is not an option.  It is and it can yield some great deals.  The stories of finding LP12's in a thrift shop are likely more folklore than anything else but you can find the odd Sony, JVC, Pioneer or even Dual that will get the job done - but they may be pretty beat; as you said it is basically buyer beware. .  $150 for something you know will work and won't peal a curly strip of vinyl off your reords like a lathe is safer for sure.

And in an age when a cellphone can be set up to accept a voice command to "Reject" a call because it is apparently too much effort to manually push the little red button, I have to agree with you about the instant gratification thing.smiley

Drtrey3's picture

Cheaper turntables = more people with turntables = more people buying vinyl = more people selling vinyl for cheaper prices.

I fail to see how this development is anything other than cool.



atomlow's picture

I agree I see nothing wrong with a $150 turntable if it works decently without ruining records etc, it's a win-win.

I also love the idea of more people buying vinyl records but I must say I've seen the opposite on the pricing of records. Since it became so "cool" to buy records I've noticed most reissues costing $22-35! Remember we were crying back in the day about Musicland selling cd's for $18.95? The industry is taking advantage of the popularity of vinyl, again referring to the 80's, it reminds me a bit of the skyrocket prices of baseball cards of the 80's. How much are those worth today? At least I'll be able to listen to these records if they aren't worth anything. If anyone has seen record prices going down let me know.

But to the SME guy enjoy your table. Obviously this table wasn't meant for you, never was meant for you. I'm not sure it's even meant for me owning a Rega P3-24 but I'd love to steer someone to this table who is starting out once I hear good things about it.

I think it looks nice. Lets hear it!

Drtrey3's picture

I would love to own a really expensive turntable! I am happy that others do, and every little inch I move up the audiophile ladder (I am awaiting the upgraded belt for my rega) fills me with joy. If I had the money for a high end player, I would get it. I might some day!



hollowman's picture

That pronounced Do-All ;)

Anyway, way back in my Jr.HS days (early - mid 80s), when funds were tight, The Dual CS 505 series were getting good reviews. I had one with an OM30 that was around $200.

I recall the showroom guy demoing the 4-point-tip ULM tonearm's tracking ability with the fucker on its side (90 deg.) and even up-fucking-side-down.

Later I also owned CS5000 w/Shure V15-V-MR, and a VPI19 Rega RB300/Sumiko BP Spec. But that $200 Dual 505 (which I still have and have, and it works well, and have NO plans on selling) holds its own. Here's a look: 


So if UTurn can pull off something similar, all the power to them.

hollowman's picture

I went to Wikipedia to see what's up with Dual these days. It LOOKS like some of their classic tables are STILL (??) being made (anyone know for sure?):


From the site...

For decades  Alfred Fehrenbacher GmbH has been producing DUAL Analog-turntables. This brand stands for highest quality, long life span and customer orientated service. 

1963: Alfred Fehrenbacher was employed as process engineer at Perpetuum Ebner resp. DUAL Brand.

1993  Alfred Fehrenbacher GmbH, Feinmechanik & Elektrotechnik (precision engineering and electrical engineering) takes over the complete production of the DUAL turntable programme.

The DUAL turntables offered in the market today are produced by Alfred Fehrenbacher GmbH in St. Georgen in the Black Forest.

Still today  DUAL-turntables are sold worldwide with growing production figures. The present retro trend will most probably increase this success in the coming years. 

deckeda's picture

Back in the '90s, Alfred bought the rights to make and sell Dual turntables. Others got the rights to use the Dual name for other stuff, like the craptastic Dual car stereos in Wal-Mart.

But he hasn't done anything with the designs and they cost what a modern Rega or Pro-Ject does. 

But those decks do remain great examples of inexpensive done right, just as the various and nearly identical 1970s models do.

I bought a CS 506 new and used it for many years. It's the same thing as a 505, a belt drive semi automatic; an earlier verison with proprietary Ortofon mount but you can find adapters for 1/2" cartridges. I held onto it until I could get a SOTA Comet. I'd tried the Moonbeam but wasn't better enough than the old Dual.

hollowman - you got your '505 with the OM30 for $200? Wow, great price even back then.

For a few years I worked at a place that sold the 505 and 5000 before Dual's lights went out (again, albeit for the last time.) And yes, we would often tilt the fucker up on its side but lacked record clamps for the upside-fucking-down demo.

We had a show for those interested in the B&O RX-2 (another nice machine) and that was to pound on the plinth while playing a record. Nothing happened, and no thump from the speakers unless you were just being a jerk about it.

deckeda's picture

... Go here: http://www.audiokarma.org/forums/showpost.php?p=5984814&postcount=42

The image at the beginning of this post is only a computer model.