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Hello all,

I know there are some seriously experienced vinyl users here, so I want to tap the brain-trust. I have never owned/used vinyl before and I'd love some suggestions and recommendations on how to get started. 

I don't know exactly what my budget is yet, but I'm looking at the Rega P6 and the VPI Prime Scout as top contenders. So that's the budget territory. (Totally open to other TT suggestions.)

  •  Should one consider buying used, or is new the best option for a turntable?
  • I'd like to start with a setup that that I can experiment with vinyl and see if I like it, but high enough quality that represents what vinyl can do.
  • Looking for a fairly simple turntable that I won't need to fuss with too much to get it to sound it's best.
  • Thoughts on how to allocate budget between TT, cart, and pre?
  • Any recommendations for where to start, what I should consider?
    • Turntable
    • Phono pre
    • Cart
    • Accessories
    • Used vs New
    • Good retailers (I've had two people recommend Upscale Audio for TT purchase.)
    • How and where to get started with a record collection. (I currently have 30 records.)

My current system:

  • Ayre AX-5 Twenty
  • Quatro CT speakers
  • Lumin U1 Mini (Tidal, Qobuz)
  • Yggy DAC

Thank you.

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U, you've come to the right place with your questions. You are going to receive a lot of good nuts and bolts direction from the members here.

Playing records is often a fiddly business, but it's fun.

I won't pretend to give you advice, because a) I don't have the experience with as much different kind of gear as everyone else here and b) because my first reaction to reading your post was, "unless you already have at least 500 to 1000 records don't do it." My next thought was, "like the pool shark said to the newbie who walked into the bar room and said he wanted to learn to shoot pool, How much money you got?" And that was followed by the thought that I don't have records because they sound better or warmer or realer, I have records because, at age 62, when I was a kid that's where the music was.

But then I put on Sue Foley's LP, Pinky's Blues, that I picked up at her show last month. And followed that with record 6 of the Band of Gypsies box set, which I'm listening to now as I type, and . . . . . . I'm captivated. It seems there is more meat on the bones compared to my streaming setup. Of course I have about 3 to 5 times more money invested in my analogue set up than my digital. So, I don't know if it's an entirely fair comparison.

Anyway, I spend days where I just listen to the streams and days when I just listen to the LPs. And days, like today, when I listen to both. The bottom line for me is, I really don't care what the format is as long as I have the chance to be stopped in my tracks and compelled to sit and listen to the music with a smile on my face.

Rock on! John

Edited by jkmcc
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jkmcc - Thanks for the reply. I really like the exploration that digital/streaming offers. And I’m happy with my current digital rig. I’m fairly new to hifi (about 4 years) so I am interested in dipping my toe into as many aspects as I can reasonably afford, see what works best for me, and then devote resources growing into them. Vinyl has been an interest for many years but not as practical or as immediately affordable as digital as a way to start playing music via hifi. Vinyl seems like a fun next move.

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  • Thoughts on how to allocate budget between TT, cart, and pre?
    • Well a TT maker says the table.
    • The cart manufacture says the cart
    • And the tone arm people say the tone arm.
  • Any recommendations for where to start, what I should consider?
    • Turntable (rego and project are usual go to suggestion. Or a used Sota or Linn maybe.)
    • Phono pre (Maybe, schitt or iFi, or a bevy of others. I have an old ARC PH2 that I would let go cheap if the daughter doesn’t take it.)
    • Cart (I have a Garrott Bros p77i, but a Hana SL is great at ~750)
    • Accessories
    • Used vs New (a cogent argument can be made for either. Having a warranty and less risk of a dud is a compelling reason. But a shop which takes in trades can have some better tables than an entry level for the same $)
    • Good retailers (I've had two people recommend Upscale Audio for TT purchase.) dunno I would go to whoever is near you. If you are in SoCal, then San Diego also has some places to go to.
    • How and where to get started with a record collection. (I currently have 30 records.) Used and see if you like them, then move them on, or send them to get cleaned. I have been getting stuff from Rough Trade, and Disk Cogs, etc..

I can also make an argument to just sell the 30 records, and get CDs.
Does someone near you have a table you can borrow/demo?
(Maybe you will not like doing it?)

A member here advised me yesterday on some phono stage settings.
I listened to records for 1-1.2 hours go to work at 2:45, and then left after 10PM.
A decent table can be a bit enthralling.

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Yea, agree with @Holmz regarding TT. Yes I’m biased, but I think a used SOTA Sapphire is a killer table for what you can pick them up for. Yes, I have one, and just don’t think you can beat them for the price and higher.  I looked closely at the Prime Scout, but actually another VPI owner kinda talked me out of it. I was lucky enough to get a Jelco S850 MKII arm that fit perfectly on the SOTA premium arm board that came with my table. An alternative would be an Origin Live. The iFi phono pre is really a neat piece. Almost went for it myself, but instead went with a Hagerman Trumpet MC tube phono pre and really like it. I can throw any cart at it and it will work without a step-up. Cart-wise, well, I’m a big Soundsmith fan, but I think they are having supply and manpower issues right now, so not sure I would go for one….right now….and I have two. Use the low output MIMC and love the sound. A back-up I have is the Goldring G-1042, a great cart for the money, but finicky to set up correctly. 
 

So many options, and good ones as well, but of all things, get the table right first. 
 

As it turns out, after getting back into vinyl and putting my current vinyl rig together, the table (used), arm (new), phono pre (new), and cartridge (new Soundsmith Zephyr), all cost similar., or about 1,000 to 1,300 per piece on average. My current cart cost more, but you can always upgrade your cart in the future….but get the table and arm ‘right’ first. They make a significant difference in sound as the foundation of your rig.

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22 minutes ago, bkeske said:

…. An alternative would be an Origin Live.
… Cart-wise, well, I’m a big Soundsmith fan, but I think they are having supply and manpower issues right now, so not sure I would go for one….right now….and I have two. Use the low output MIMC and love the sound. A back-up I have is the Goldring G-1042, a great cart for the money, but finicky to set up correctly. 

 

My buddy (also with a Sota) had a Origin-live for <1 year, and luckily just was able to pay the difference for a Kuzma.
I have not used an Origin-live, but he said it was hours of finicky work, and the Kuzma took 20 minutes.

However, the Jelco’s are in the Goldilocks zone of 500-1000(ish)

 

24 minutes ago, bkeske said:

 

As it turns out, after getting back into vinyl and putting my current vinyl rig together, the table (used), arm (new), phono pre (new), and cartridge (new Soundsmith Zephyr), all cost similar., or about 1,000 to 1,300 per piece on average. My current cart cost more, but you can always upgrade your cart in the future….but get the table and arm ‘right’ first. They make a significant difference in sound as the foundation of your rig.

What cart are you running now @bkeske?

There are also AT, Ortofon, Hana SL, and some SoundSmith in the 500-1k$ range that are seeming to be pretty good.

 

If @ursus13 was interested in a Sota…

https://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649846482-sota-star-sapphire-with-factory-upgraded-magnetic-bearing/

Someone was quick:
https://www.canuckaudiomart.com/details/649837820-sota-star-vacuum-turntable-vintage-circa-1987/

And a bunch of complete Project systems <1k?

What state/city are you in?

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@Holmz

Well. My Jelco S850 MKII was about $1,400 new, and you cannot really find them now. They are a knife edge bearing design, so different from most all the earlier Jelco’s, and came highly recommended. I was lucky to get one when I did.

 Interesting about your friend with the Origin. I chatted with someone who had one and really liked it.

I currently run a Soundsmith MIMC low output cart as my main driver, newest model. 0.4mv. It runs about $1,900, but you can find deals. My back-ups are a high output Soundsmith Zephyr (paid about $1,000, $1,200 retail), the Goldring G-1042 (got it new from someone local for $385, a steal, retails for about $650), and I do have a modified Grado Red with an upgraded stylus. Also have an Ortofon mono cart for my mono LP’s.

I’m seriously considering a Benz cart to add to the collection.

 

Edited by bkeske
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2 hours ago, bkeske said:

@Holmz

Well. My Jelco S850 MKII was about $1,400 new, and you cannot really find them now. They are a knife edge bearing design, so different from most all the earlier Jelco’s, and came highly recommended. I was lucky to get one when I did.

 Interesting about your friend with the Origin. I chatted with someone who had one and really liked it.I

Yeah the Jelco SA250 was recommended to me just today.
A bunch of other people moaned about by SAEC we317 having a knive edge bearing, and how it can hammer on the surface of the bearing.

In my mind I picture doing something like Woody Woodpecker, but it sounds pretty good with that $500 P77i.

And I also picture the cartridge like a flea, the tail of the dog as the arm, and the dog as the bearing assembly.
So I cannot picture the flea grabbing the tail of the dog and swinging it bodily, head first,  into the cement like a WWF wrestler.

Hence I am wondering if I should be happy with the we317, or upgrade the arm?
(It is supposedly a higher mass, so I was looking at the stiffer SS carts.)

The same person said that the Hana ML is not much better than their the SL and 2x the cost…. and they also mentioned the Lyra Delios as worth looking at.

 

2 hours ago, bkeske said:

@Holmz

I’m seriously considering a Benz cart to add to the collection.

I hear that they sound pretty neutral… So I am thinking that may be good.

I am not sure what I go with as the system is pretty neutral (I think) except maybe the amp is not, and the  2Cs are not harsh-n-bright.

 

In any case for @ursus13: for a $500 cart, I am quite enjoying the P77i. (Almost no distressing sibilant sounds, which is usually my main turn off.)

Edited by Holmz
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8 minutes ago, Holmz said:

A bunch of other people moaned about by SAEC we317 having a knive edge bearing, and how it can hammer on the surface of the bearing.

Yea, I saw that conversation. I don’t believe that universally regarding knife edge bearings. The Jelco design has no such issues, and got rave reviews when released. 

The Lyra Delos is a very nice cart according to our very own @TomicTime He has one on his Brinkman.

I’ve considered that vs a Benz.

Edited by bkeske
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The one fellow there is a bit tough on the blood pressure.
But it gives me a bit of a challenge.
(and while I think he may be prone to hyperbole and bovine excrement, I am at least wondering what such a bad design of a knife edge would sound like?)

I did find an older Schroder arm, and also a demo Kuzma 4.9… so <3k on the former (with arm rewiring), and 4k on later.

But I might be better off with a cart that suits the SEAC arm, so I am putting it out there for the “brains trust”. 

 

I am tempted to build up a DD Denon of Techniques for eldest, and could put the SEAC on there if I were to upgrade.

 

I guess the point is that there are some pieces of gear in the 500-1k range, where @ursus13could end up with a nice system for 1-2k.
That vacuumed Sota for $300, I linked earlier, would be an example of a table that seems like a potentially good value to me to build upon.

Edited by Holmz
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ursus13, to begin with  .............  CONGRATULATIONS!  you own (for the $$) the best speaker in the world. 

I've had my Linn LP12 for thirty some years, so I can't really comment on the sound of other tables.  Though, all that have been mentioned seem to be well regarded.  Where I can offer some first-hand experience is with the cartridge.  I recently replaced my Sumiko Blackbird high output MC with a Hana MH (also high output).  It has been one of the best upgrades I've ever realized.  To be fair, my Sumiko was ten years on, but the improvement in detail, dynamics, separation and all the other audio superlatives, has been significant.  AND, what little surface noise I had has all but vanished.  It really was startling how quiet that cartridge (with its Nude Microline stylus) plays music.

Best of luck with your quest; I'm confident you'll love the vinyl experience.

Play on

Steve

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If I was starting out, and had the same approximate price point as you, I'd go with a new Technics SL-1200GR and start out with a cartridge like the Audio-Technica VM750SH. Easy to set up. Great resale value. Speed stable. A good cart that won't make you too concerned about damaging it while you learn. Removable head shell that make a pre-mounted cart an option (removing a setup variable). While you're getting many good suggestions and recommendations, this option addresses your first 3 requirements. Many will dismiss my recommendation, but they also forget what it was like getting their first table. When you immediately start talking about upgrades and tweaks, it can be come overwhelming really quickly.

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A used Basis is on any TT must audition list. Clearaudio is another brand that would be on my short list regardless of what price range you are in.  I personally won't purchase any used TT, unless it's from a dealer like Audio Connections and most of the Vandy dealers who have at least one expert TT set up person.  Set up of excellent gear will sound better than improperly set up GREAT gear imho.  I also feel the TT itself is the foundation of the three.

A great cartridge won't sound it's best if the TT isn't spinning perfectly.  The arm won't be it's best self if the TT isn't spinning perfectly.  If the TT is perfect, then the arm needs to be it's best or the cartridge won't sound it's best, regardless of price etc....  

The Basis I sold to Jim was as good a table in that price range that I have ever heard.  The arm was a modified Rega 300 arm that AJ Conte modified to sound as good as any of the 1k plus arms he played with.  I was blessed to have the MB cart (Jim, what was the name?  It was about 1400 new I think).  The other part of the TT equation is your phono stage.  Like the preamp, it's also just as important. I have seen so many set ups where folks have a ton spent on their TT set ups, but they are losing so much sound with an average phono stage.  

These are just my thoughts.  

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Pete - It was the venerable Benz Glider which is still a very fine table. IF you do chase a Basis 1400,  be aware it really needs an isolation base to sound fantastic. This is true of many other tables…

the appropriate HRS base is $1,500 range.

Have fun !

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……but….i certainly understand the allure of vinyl and high speed  tape and digital done well. I think chasing musical enjoyment, goosebumps and holy cow moments should be in an ideal world agnostic to format… 

Building a decent and well maintained record collection is no small investment, but w Quattro you have something deserving of excellent gear. Most Vandersteen dealers are pretty serious about analog and importantly have an onsite TT setup expert.  I would tend to start w where you got the Quattro. Firming up the budget is important…. 

Allocating by % can get silly… Reality is there are MANY competent tables, arms, cartridges and isolation systems out there… 

Jim

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I really have liked the Delos cartridges when I've heard them.  I heard their TOTL on an AMG table that was .....  Just really DARN good.  This is the perfect thread for me.  I have NO dog in this fight.  I am not espousing that you should buy anything that I own (I shared the Basis as I felt the 1400 on an isolation base (of course I used one, lol) is another great choice for a foundation.  I learned a ton when I auditioned tables.  I spent more time auditioning TT than I did on any other part of the system.  Choosing Vandy's was the quickest and easiest audition as the music sounded just right.  

For my TT, I went to a lot of dealers over the course of 2 years or so if I recall correctly.  Johnny wanted me to get the Rega 3 and a basic MC cart.  I remember hearing the Rega 8 with their top cart vs the Linn (forget the cart).  We were using the 15k Maggies (Gifted Listener in VA when I was visiting my little bro).  The Rega sounded thread bare to me.  Just didnt' have the body of the music.  The Linn was just amazing in that system to my ears.  I knew I couldn't afford one, but that was my true watershed moment.  For me, I remember how I feel after listening. I usually take notes to refer to later as you can never get all your favorites in the same room to listen.  

What I learned was that a dealer needs to move gear to make money.  They will either bring in the flavor of the month gear (positive reviews) or get in gear that won't break down, will sound great as a system with the rest of their products and will keep their value.  It's the only way they can stay in business as returns KILL their bottom line and reputation.  I think that's why I gravitate towards buying from a Vandy dealer.  It's pretty simple as they know the speakers and you know the speakers.  You can audition most of your system in one place.  If you think you like a Dr Frickert table and your Vandy dealer doesn't have one, you will still know that it's a great table and worthy of being in your system, but at that point an in home audition would be a must for my ears.  As your dealer about any of their used gear they have tucked away.  When I told Johnny that I didn't want the Rega table, he understood. I asked him what NOS tables he had and the Basis came up.  The 1400 was discontinued and he already had the Glider (thanks Jim) cart installed. They played it and I heard something that I hadn't felt with even the Linn.  I just knew that was my table and by that eventing it was in my system.  Sota was another one that I wanted badly, as I heard it in Bruce's store with Vandersteen's from 82-87 and was always blown away, but the vacuum was a cool deal back then, lol.  

Long story short, most of the tables we are offering ideas on are sold by Vandy dealers, because they are solid buys, stand up over time, are fundamentally stable, built by companies that are going to be around to service them in the future when you need specialized parts etc...  you get the picture.  If I was able to stay with vinyl, that Basis would still be in my system on teh HRS platform as it is in Jim's.  I hope you get to audition and share your feelings about each table. 

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2 hours ago, ctsooner said:

….  We were using the 15k Maggies (Gifted Listener in VA when I was visiting my little bro).  …

Is that the place south of 66 and east of 28?
I think my buddy was going there when he left San Diego for DC. He said swing there if you get a chance.

So I stopped in… Must have been around 2002-2004…
I forget the fellow’s name, but were chatting and he said that left aerospace in the 70’s and knew a bunch of fellows who’s name’s I dropped.
He was doing orbit work, and my father was doing that in Alabama during the Apollo era… so I had heard about all those fellows in my youth.
(Paying just enough attention to the words of a father.)
And he chucked it all in to run a stereo shop.

 

Then that evening, I was relaying that story at a work dinner at Fishbone (Or something like that… maybe bone-fish) it was in Centreville that night, and everyone had this look like, ”what a bunch of total BS”.
The waitress came over over and said, “I hear one of you is from Australia.”
I raise my hand, and asked “when were you there?…”
She said, “between when I was ## and ##”. (It was around teen years I think)
I asked, ”where at?”

The next question I asked. was, “What is your maiden name?”

She responded with, “I am not married, but it is xxxxxxxx”
I said, “I didn’t want to be obvious,” and gave a wink… And then told her, “I had lunch with her father yesterday.”
She said, “B.S. !”
I mentioned where it was, and that her father’s first name was Mark, and she said “No $hit?”
She the asked if I knew her “Uncle Paul”, and I rattled off his last name too, and that he works down the road off of the “123”.

So it was a small world moment.
 

Everyone at the table was Gobsmacked… including myself and the waitress.
I seem to believe that the fellow might been Tom?
It seemed like a decent shop, and the fellow was pretty likeable.

 

Anyhow…
Back to turn tables… 


@ursus13Try to remember the saying, “Don’t put the cart in front of the horse.” 😎

Edited by Holmz
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You guys are awesome to offer all these great detailed insights. Thank you for chiming in. 

I’m reading all the comments and researching along the way. I’m buried with work at the moment so I haven’t had the opportunity to properly respond.

I absolutely plan to audition as much as possible. I love the Basis recommendation! Never occurred to me that a Basis might be accessible. I’ve heard a number of Basis models, including the Work of Art, on various Vandys, mostly the Model 7s via Audio Research separates or Ayre. A buddy has a Basis 2200, Vector 4, Lyra Etna, Treo CTs w a Sub 3, via Audio Research GSi75 integrated. His system is the one I have the most hours listening to. I started buying some vinyl to take it to his place for long listening sessions. His system is what initially sold me on Vandersteen, and then I bought my first hifi system with VLR CTs.

My understanding is that Basis tables are fairly technical to set up and maintain? 

Thanks again everyone for the discussion.

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@ursus13Your buddy should join the forum…..that’s quite a system, especially the front end….probably better than 95% of high end front ends on the planet frankly….

I do think you can get close with a Delos, although my long term plan is an Etna Lamda this Fall IF Lyra can meet demand….

Lyra are like the Vandy carbon models fundamentally truth tellers so you need a solid arm, in my opinion a Triplaner, Kuzma, Vector 4, Brinkmann…. it’s not a long list. There are a few others but i lack long term experience w them.  I love my Bardo / Triplaner / Delos combination but it is not lush and romantic. 

As you free up from work and get closer, touchstone back w us…. i am sure we can give you inputs…

best to you

Jim

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