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I'd go with something well known and used so, if you don't like it, you can easily sell it. For example, a Music Hall MM7 is available now in the classifieds for about $750, with cartridge. If the popping and hisses drive you nuts, you can always sell it. Conversely, if you end up loving it and feel the need to upgrade, you can sell it on your path to analog nirvana (there's also a good deal on an Origin Live Aurora Gold setup right now -- that is one nice turntable, but above your price range).
Cleaning the records helps with the noise, but you really can't escape it unless the records are new or mint. Cleaning is a whole sub-culture and involves much research, possibly some machines, and trial and error.
Do make sure what your preamp can accommodate. Not all cartridges are high enough voltage so check to make sure the preamp is set for both moving magnet and moving coil. If it is, you're probably OK. Otherwise, make sure you determine the cartridges output voltage before buying the turntable or you may need to buy a separate phono preamp.
Ozfly (System | Threads | Answers | This Thread)
Hi, I was faced with the same questions you are asking only a few months ago. It was my birthday and my girlfriend wanted to get me a TT(and listen to her records..hehe) but I didn't want to get a junky TT. I had a price limit of around $350. I went on the Needle doctor site and found a Project RM-4 table with a grado blue cart for $450. So I splurged a little and it turned out to be a descent table for the money. It's a no frills, manual TT but the sound is good enough for me in terms of getting back into vinyl and enjoying my old records. Check it out online you may like it.
Xplastic (System | Threads | Answers | This Thread)
I have been running a Project 1.2 for about 3 years now. Re pops and clicks, even after getting a record cleaning machine and with a huge availability of mint vinyl (Los Angeles) they are still there but well managed. This will be true regardless of the table. Record maintenance is a time consuming fact of life and probably not for everybody.
Now about the 1.2. Mine came out of the box with a Sumiko Oyster. It was not until I upgraded to a Grado Red that this setup showed up my CDs. Nothing earth shattering, but my best listening experiences, i.e. realism of presentation, depth of soundstage, emotional high, etc..., have been on vinyl. So the 1.2 is capable but not perfect. It does occasionally reveal some wow/flutter and the Grado likes to 'dance' around on some records. I hear Ortofons are better about this. The previously mentioned RM-4 is probably a better deal in the end since it comes with a better cartridge and the price of the 1.2 has gone up I believe.
For reference my CD player is an Ah! 4000 with Siemens tubes, which by itself sounds pretty damn good.
Rsross (System | Answers | This Thread)
I didn't want to wait so i pulled the old direct drive from ... Tds234
I strongly advise to go the quartz-locked direct drive route ... Psychicanimal
Instead of getting a whole new deck, keep using table you got, but for sure get a new cartridge. Jack's Music Factory is a great source (just google it). You can get setup gear at turntablebasics.com
And if you want clean records, spend the $80 for Disc Doctor brushes and fluid. Excellent stuff, provided you follow the instructions. Seems like a lot of work, but if you set it up assembly-line style, it's similar to doing the dishes.
Larkyparka (Answers | This Thread)
In case anybody cares, i'm back to spinning vinyl and loving ... Tds234