Advice needed on sub $1000 setup

I want to replace my old turntable, cartridge, and preamp with something decent - and stay under $1k. Used, new, doesn't matter. I've been looking at used Rega P3's, almost new MH MMF-5.1's, and new P2's, but open to other suggestions. I haven't really looked at pre-amps yet, but there appear to be plenty of choices in the $100-$250 range. Again, total budget for everything is sub $1k. Suggestions?

Sound choices of TTs. I would look at the Bellari VP130 Tube Phono Preamp
I've been eying the VP130 preamp...though I found a Lehmann black cube at a great price - haven't heard back from the seller yet, but if it isn't sold I'm going to give it a try (for less $$$ than the Bellari).

I'm also waiting to hear back on a used P3, but I'm going to need a cartridge. The Denon DL-160 appears to be a popular budget cartridge - even more so than the DL-103 which seems surprising. Also looking at inexpensive offerings from Benz and Rega....suggestions?
The Bellari is good, the Lehmann is better. Rega's are great TT for the price. Denon's are wonderful cartridges. You have been doing your homework I see. Though, put extra in this case on the cartridge. Try to squeeze in a DL-304 if you can. Check the specs on the Lehmann, the 304 has only .18mv output (MC). Other than that, you have put together a great setup.
If you don't have room treatment such as bass traps, and you can fit them in to your room, I would put your money there before getting a vinyl rig. I recently did this and I was surprised how good it made digital sound. You can get some pretty nice products that look good and are affordable from places such as GIK. A $1000 won't get you much of a vinyl rig, but it will be enough for some reasonable room treatment and from my experience I know the improvements it can bring to an existing digital based system will be far greater than what you will hear from adding a $1000 vinyl rig. It will be a true improvement, whereas a $1000 vinyl rig will be a lateral move not really improving your system, only adding another medium of playback to an existing system. And it really will make your digital system sound better than awesome.
Bmckenney, you make a good point, though it is backwards in Mark's reality. Obviously, he is not looking to maximize on analog primarily. He wants to upgrade to better components. Treatments will benefit everything acoustically in the future. Where are you getting CD info from? I dont see anything mentioned in Mark's post. Mark, what are you presently using for analog playback?
Well, looks like a modified Rega P3 is coming my way. Haven't heard back on the pre yet and still need a cartridge...The 304 looks like a sweet cart, but probably out of my budget at the moment (I was out of work for 49 weeks! Just started back...)

Bmckenney - I hear you on the acoustic treatment and agree a little money here can greatly improve a system. I've done a little work in this area but should do more. The reason behind the vinyl rig is I have a decent LP collection that I seldom play. My table is a Yamaha P-520 (direct drive, auto) that I bought over 25 years ago when I was in college. The cartridge is some inexpensive AT that was purchased at the same time as the table and I'm using a junk $20 pre to send it into my B&K. A $1000 (or less) vinyl rig is going to be like night and day.
A note on the cartridges - unless the Rega has been modified to provide VTA adjustment - you are a bit limited to the cartridges that will work best with the P3. You know the Rega cartridges will work. I find them solid but a bit overpriced for what you get. Does anybody know if the Denon cartridges will work with the P3 without VTA issues? Other cartridges that are a good match with Rega arm?

For more discussion on topic, see here:


and here:
Thanks Knownothing. The P3 I'm getting is the older P3, not the P3-24, so I think that means the shell is a 2-point mount, not a 3 point like the new RB301 arm (mine is a RB300 arm). The new Rega carts appear to be designed for 3 point mount. Can anyone tell me if they will still work on a RB300 arm?

BTW - I heard back on the Lehmann pre - so it is down to picking a cartridge. Thus far I've spent $700 for a Rega P3 with a Deepgrove subplatter, custom hardwood plinth, and a spare motor, and a Lehmann black cube preamp. That leaves me about $300 for a cartridge.

Some of the candidates:
Rega Elys 2 (sold with the new P3-24, but will it work on the RB300 arm?)
Denon DL-160 (I've seen a few reports of happy users with the P2 and P3)
Denon DL-103 (haven't found any reports users with this on a RB300 arm yet)
Benz MC20EL2 (prior owner used a Benz Ace, more $$$ than I can spare right now. Saw a few good reports on the low end Benz)
The Dynavector 10X is a perfect match for Rega tables and arm. It has the boogie factor that synergizes with the Rega kit. You see a lot of 10X's on Rega arms that belong to happy people. The Denon 103 isn't the best match for the Rega arm compliance. It will sound OK, but won't sing. Don't know about the DL160 on a Rega arm. Benz could be good too but I don't know them. Rega cartridges are not good IMO, based on the one I heard. Good list otherwise, but I'd add the 10X to the list. And check compliance of each cartridge against the arm for ideal resonance. You should be able to get a 10X for close to your $300, and certainly worth adding another $50 for. One more thing, I don't know the amp you selected, but if you get a MC cartridge, even a high output one, you better have impedance load adjustments so you can get it down to 1K or below depending on the cartridge. If you don't have MC loading adjustments, I'd get a MM cartridge instead. Your next step, getting a cartridge to match the arm and phonostage, will make or break this rig.
I purchased a used (almost new, really) Music Hall 7. It's great. I've had so much fun listening to my vinyl again. The thing sounds great (but if you get one, take the felt mat off, and just put the record right on the acrylic platter, and tighten down the screw down clamp just finger tight). You can adjust the VTA (although it's somewhat of a pain in the rear). It came with a pretty decent Goldring high output (2.5 mV) moving coil.
Bottom line, I paid $600 (used), and knowing what I do after listening to it for about a couple of months, I think I got a heck of a deal. If you can find a used one here for sale, my recommendation is to just go for it. I really don't think you'd be dissapointed.
Bmckenney - looks like you advice on the DL103 was spot on - I found the cartridge data base - which has a cartridge resonance calculator. The 103 would require significant weight added to the arm to fall in the ideal range (which correlates nicely with reports I read of people placing a coin on the headshell of a RB300 to make the 103 come to life. no thanks).

Both the DL160 and the 10x fall in the idea range. Unfortunately the best price I've found for the 10x is $430 - a bit high for me at the moment. I'm tempted to try the DL160, but still hunting for a deal on the 10x....
Mark, dont be put off by the coin scenario. My ZYX has a weight added specifically for these reasons. Though it does look better than a coin sitting atop the head (LOL that looks funny I know), but the overall purpose is the same. I'm sorry to say...the 10X performs no where near the level of the 304. Its a good cartridge dont get me wrong...but in a different league. And I'm not adding the respectful IMHO here either. This is a fact. (imho..) :)~
Thanks Vandermeulen. I assume you mean the Denon DL304? If so, at $700 it is even more out of my range (unless I find a good used deal).

Unless I can find a good used deal, it is looking more like a new DL-160 will be the starting point. A good review (and lots of good comments) on the DL-160 -
yes the DL304. 700? NO WAY. Go to efay and find it for 300 ish new. I purchased one a few years back from Germany. I forget the gentlemens name.
No joy on evil bay - only a seller in the UK At $470 ish. Did find a general electronics store in Washington selling the 304 for $382 - but this guy sells everything from vacuums to security cams - doesn't make me comfortable that I'll really get what I ordered. Anyone dealt with these guys?
Well, after reading tons of reviews I kept seeing people mention the DL-160 and how they liked it. I finally decided that at some point I was going to have to try a DL-160 even if I wound up settling on a much higher end cart (not that I have the money for that at the moment). Not seeing any deals on my target higher end carts I went ahead and ordered a new DL-160 along with some cleaning supplies from needle doc. Many thanks to everyone for your assistance. I'll report back in a few weeks and let you all know how it turns out.

The modified Rega P3 arrived yesterday. Custom hardwood plinth (massive), Deepgrove subplatter, RB300 arm...I plugged in the motor and discovered there was a pulsing sound from the motor (disconnected the belt to make sure it wasn't the platter). Bummer...haven't solved that one yet, but working on it.

Not having my cart or phono preamp yet I decided to give it a try using my over 25 year old well worn Signet TK1EA cart and the junk phono pre I picked up from Frys several years back. I really wasn't expecting much - even if the P3 was way better than my old Yamaha TT, I expected the results to be masked by the worn cheap cart and the lousy pre amp. More importantly I wanted to find out of the motor pulsing sound would be audible when playing music.

Much to my surprise - not only did the pulsing stay out of the audio path, but there was a noticeable improvement in clarity and detail over my old table. So much that even my wife noticed - commenting that there was much more depth to the music.

Can't wait to hear what it sounds like with the new cart and pre!

BTW - I have to add I had forgotten how much I enjoyed playing LPs compared to CDs. Music is fundamentally an analog experience - and placing the needle on the spinning vinyl disc (and watching it play) somehow completes the experience in a way that placing a CD into a digital machine (essentially a computer) can not.