Just to get things started, please look at this site and see if this is the general direction you want to go:
This will be extremely difficult to gauge, cause cartridge, Arm combos will have huge effects on any given table.. A new cart. can take you from Cold, Studio image, to Big warm image with sloppy bottom end....Or perfect everything for your listening tastes Etc... I mean really the best table is one that can do it all depending on the combo setup.
Your question will be pretty tuff to seriously answer, mostly a good table will consist of good ergonomics, speed control, build quality that really keeps everything quiet, and of course better bearings, tonearms all come into play.
Example a rega is a pretty thin and wimpy looking and sometimes sounding table.. A notingham is beastly heavy, and not quite as ergonomically stable table.. A Vpi is somewhere between the 2, also by design between them. So for the cost it comes down to what you really can justify for the money in your own mind, and all of them could sound great in their own way.
I will say this, The new MMF 9.1 by music hall is a giant killer.. For the money I believe nothing is as nice, and this thing to me sounds like what analog should sound like, But Music hall tables are extremly Bottom weighted and go to extremly deep bass levels, so good table isolation with decent platform is really needed. So I guess for BASS I can say the Music hall designs seem to have the most abundance of it from all that I have heard.
Anyway, I am not saying any specific table is better or worse, but dollar for dollar you need to choose who gives the best in your performance mind. Its actually much easier to give an idea on what the CD players sound like, cause for the most part beyond changing a power cord they all stay the same in a given system, but too many factors effect a turntable via VTA, VTF, Isolation, Arm, Cartridge Combo... To many variables from system to system setup for anybody to say their Table sounds the same as the other guys with the same setup. But you might get a little idea if nothing else.
Interesting. Here's a side-by-side comparison where a half-as-expensive rig killed the giant killer:
It was a Technics SL1200 with KAB mods. After a 3-turntable shootout, this is the turntable the reviewer bought.
Mark and Undertow: Your points are well taken, and before initiating this thread, I was well aware of the potential here for opening the proverbial can of worms. I have tried to minimize that tendency by emphasizing conditions where either other variables have been held constant or when a number of those owning the same table for some time have reached virtually identical conclusions about its aural traits. Obviously, experiences of the first kind are typically uncommon. Being able to set the stage for this sort of scenario is not an easy proposition for a number of reasons. Though the somewhat less objective second scenario has its limitations, at least it might hopefully provide SOME kind of collective view that underscores a measure of familiarity with the table's sound. Yes, it's a tough road to hoe, and I certainly don't expect definitiveness here. Mark, in the site's article you make reference to---"How to Buy Analog"---the author himself describes some of the sound characteristics of several brands of tables. His observations may have been drawn based on a reasonably objective process of comparison, but without his telling me, I honestly don't know. That notwithstanding, I contend, as do many, that at one time or another probably all audiophile hobbyists and sellers of audio equipment, have asserted views, impressions and/or conclusions about components without having engaged the most objective methods of comparison. But I'm not interested in criticizing or faulting anyone here. And I'm not looking for anyone to tell me what component is "better than the others". I just thought it would be enjoyable to have a little light enlightenment on some reasonably reliable impressions of some of the turntable offerings in the marketplace. So, I welcome the comments of anyone who wishes to offer his or her two cents.
The site I refered you to is a dealer who advertises here on Audiogon. I have found it interesting that they feel comfortable in making descriptive assessments for potential buyers shopping by the internet. I can not judge the comparative statements that they have made, but presume that it must be some help to some shoppers.
I have a Linn LP12 that I bought new in 1979 or 80. I have it upgraded with the Lingo power supply, Cetech subchassis, Graham 2.2 tonearm & armboard, Shelter 90X cartridge and Living Voices mat. It is sitting on a Target wall mount shelf bracket and Nuenace shelf. I use a Purist Audio Venustas tonearm cable to my pre-amp.
I like the sound, it is very natural, smooth, with good inner & transient details. I have shopped some other tables up to the price I paid for the Linn, and really like the Rega sound. I find it very much like the Linn, slightly reduced in both price and quality of sound. I have listened to Music Hall, and did not like it. I have listened to a Michele Gyro, and found it very smooth and accurate, but not engaging. I like the VPI Scout, finding many similarities to my Linn. The Scout has more dynamics, but also brings a little more surface noise to the party.
My Linn is still slightly ahead of the APL/Denon 3910 that I have, but the APL is now out for the latest updates.
I wish to replace the Linn. I am looking for a more solid bottom end, more dynamics, and even more inner & transient detail. I think I will end up with a high mass table, like a Galiber Design Gavia, TW Acoustic Raven One, Brinkmann, or who knows what.
Johnnyb53, Nice... And totally I can agree with you, However Sorry to tell you that Has nothing to do with the MMF 9 . "1" ... Thats an old MMF 9 which is Not the same, even the MMF 7 in my opinion was better than the MMF 9 for the money, and the MMF 7 competes pretty well with the Technics... The new Motor, Speed control, 100% carbon arm on the NEW 2007 MMF 9.1 will easily compete with the direct drive in control now.. I have had the 1200 but not a KAB version and sure for 400 bucks is good unit.. But its no MMF 9.1 sorry to say, just wanted to make sure that everyone was very clear its a totally different unit than the link you refer.
Opus88 , I get ya'... I have heard and read totally opposites on every piece of equipment in the world from differing people, so maybe some good answers will be given to you here..
Thanks for clearing that up. I totally missed the ".1" distinction.
Personally, I wish the high end hadn't so glibly abandoned direct drive. I think the sonic problems traditionally associated with direct drive were erroneous and more likely attributable to the noise isolation of suspended turntables such as the Linn and AR.
I wish the development of direct drive turntables had continued apace. By now we might have a sub-$1K DD table with straight, one-piece carbon fiber arm like the MMF 9.1 and an S/N or 78 dB or greater, but with the advanatages of consistent speed and transient response so characteristic of quartz-locked direct drives.
It's certainly a simple matter to significantly alter a turntable's sound by either setup variations or tonearm and cartridge swaps.
In the 1990's I owned a Merrill - first trying to run my SME V tonearm on it. The sound was fairly lifeless, no matter what I tried.
At the time, I was in communication with two other Merrill owners who shared that observation of the Merrill/SME combination.
Now, the Merrill is more flexible than most suspended turntables, in that it provides for shifting the turntable's center of mass to compensate for tonearms of differing weight.
In spite of the, the Merrill does appear to be sub-optimal with the SME tonearm, and if you heard this combination, you would not even get a hint of the potential of the Merrill.
I cover this topic a bit on my FAQs page, mentioning that in general, you'll run into fewer outright tonearm incompatibilities with a non-suspended deck.
Of course, there are infinite ways to make good parts combinations sound bad. With a Schroder tonearm for example, a screw that's just a wee bit too loose or too tight will alter the sound dramatically.
If I were a betting man (which I'm not), I'd guess that most turntable designers have a fairly consistent musical aesthetic which they express throughout their line (I certainly do). If you heard components selected by them and set up by them, you'd hear a family sound.
OTOH, if you hear a rig set up by anyone else, it's likely to be a pig in a poke.
Thom @ Galibier
Just to toss this out,The 9" VPI Scout has gotten lot'sof good press.I like VPI because i's so easy to switch from my LO MC to high output mono cart on separate armtube.Some good arms like SME or Graham have removable heads and wands respectively but VPI is fastest.Great if you ahve switch from MM to MC on your phono section.Now that they offer real antiskate option(instead of twisting lead wire the way harry likes it) the Scout is hard to beat.I have owned Thorens 160,NAD/Rega 250,Rega 3,Linn LP12,VPI extended Aries with 12.5 arm.I am giving up this $5K deck and getting smaller Scout but not the one with nice ring clam.Going to add a 22lbs TNT5 platter to a Scout since I think high inertia platter is more important than clamp.Was tough decision.If I had space and more dough I'd get $2K HRX platter and ring clap but that platter and ring clamp ($2500)would be cost of Scoutmaster with siganature arm.Plain Scout is bargain $1600 list anbd can be upgraded with clamp,signature Vahalla wirring,anti skate etc.
Also think about isolating your deck especially if you have wood floors.Either a good $300 wood.Granite wall mount from TT Acoustics (I think that's name) or Gingko clod if you put on top of rack can make a HUGE difference no mater what rig you get.New MMF does look nice but I'd go VPI for flexibility and Linn like upgarde path.
Johnnyb53: You can always buy the Origin Live armboard and mount up a modified Rega on a Technics 1200, or there are a number of DJ houses that modify 1200's to accept SME arms (V,IV). I am going to buy a modified RB250 or RB300 arm that has been rewired and see how that works out, and maybe a KAB external Powersupply. Even with the Shelter 501 Mk II cart and phono preamp I will be cheaper than the Music Hall table and arm.
Rnm4: Before reading your comment I had the same thought, so I smiled to myself when I read it. Hopefully, some info will emerge that's more in line with my question. In any event, I'm comfortable with the notion that others feel free to do their thing. Some will find their comments interesting and helpful too.
This certianly appears to be tru with TW Acoustic. The Raven One supposedly sounds very close to it's bigger brother the Raven AC.
The materials and bearing design and motor are the same.
And I certainly bet Thom's new Serac will have the Galibier house sound at an extrely attractive price, since it too shares the motor and bearing (i think) from the bigger designs, though materials vary quite a bit, while design parameters (mass loading, ribbon type belt and battery motor supply all being part of Galibier's philosophy)