Whenever the thread “I’m looking for an affordable turntable of good quality” comes up on a social media forum, the suggestions will often boil down to either an Audio Technica LP- 120 or a U-Turn Orbit. While those who mix/scratch will be better served by a direct drive turntable, vinyl junkies who enjoy their records at home may prefer a more basic, no frills option with a focus towards audio fidelity, and that’s squarely where U-Turn Orbit fits in.
Founded in 2013 via a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, U-Turn Audio was begun with the aim to design a turntable that delivers an audiophile quality experience at an affordable price. Forgoing extraneous features such as USB connectivity or a cheap, baked in phono stage, U-Turn strip their product to its most essential components and opt for a fully manual, belt driven design. Much to the benefit of the budget-conscious audiophile, the result delivers performance that’s usually reserved for turntables that sell at a considerably higher price point.
Starting $179 for the Orbit Basic, each turntable is hand assembled and balanced at their Boston headquarters and made to client specification. In fact, their easy to surf webpage allows you to build a turntable to your liking, with 5 colors and a variety of cartridges to choose from. For $309, the Orbit Plus features an upgraded acrylic platter and comes fitted with a Grado Black cartridge. I also opted for the tonearm lifter, which fit perfectly and snugly underneath the tonearm. While there was virtually no setup involved, the turntable belt proved to be extremely fussy, as it fit around the platter so loosely that it kept falling off. Many frustrated attempts at fumbling with the belt were required before finally getting it right. Upon contacting U-Turn directly and explaining my issue to them, they immediately sent another belt which fit a tad more snugly and effectively solved the issue.
After a trial period of well over 100 hours of play, I remain amazed at what a lush, musical sound the Orbit produces. The Grado Black cartridge offers a tight, well rounded soundstage with very musical mids and a bass which may lack some punch but settles nicely into a tight, ear pleasing rumble. Reggae and soul lps sound fluid and warm, while rock and metal platters retain the punch required to handle the hefty mids. While it doesn’t quite deliver up to the standard of $400+ offerings by Rega or Pro-Ject, the Orbit Plus very easily outperformed similarly priced decks produced by Numark, Stanton or Audio Technica. In terms of offering bang for buck, the U-Turn Orbit exceeded my expectations by very effectively convincing me that $200 can, in fact, buy you something that makes your cherished record collection sound like everything you love about it.