Analog Noob: I have a few questions


I am hoping I can be pointed in the right direction. I am looking to get into analogue, and as far as I know, will need the following: turntable/cartridge (usually sold together on lower-end product), a phono preamp, and some cables. And, some LP's!

Where should I start? I don't have an unlimited budget: trying to keep it around $1000 for starters, perhaps a bit more. Any suggestions, either new or used? I am typically an A'gon shopper, buying used from the boards, but there is a good 2-channel analogue shop a few hours away, so I don't mind buying new, either. They know their stuff, but I am not sure they have anything in the price range I am looking at.

I listen to jazz, vocals, acoustic guitar, and orchestral and chamber music. My system is solid yet forgiving: Dehavilland preamp, upgraded McCormack DNA-125 Gold, and Tyler acoustics Linbrook Signature full-range. I am anticipating some great-sounding music with LP's!
I started to creat a long post about analogue, but instead let me ask a simple question. Are you up to speed on how much effort is involved in getting and setting up a good analogue system? It is a lot of work and a long learning process. Analogue is not plug and play - as reading all of the various threads in the analogue forum will reveal. Analogue is a hobby within a hobby.

Finding good used vinyl is not a walk in the park either, and IMHO getting good used LP's is the only reason to get into analogue. The quality of audiophile company reissues of the classic LP's is more often than not both expensive and unsatisfactory. QC is the pits much of the time. Another hobby within a hobby.

While you can get an entry level TT/Arm/Cartridge for around $1000, I would expect, judging from your other posts about much more advanced equipment that you might not be happy with it very long, any more than you would want to go back to lesser electronics or speakers.

BTW, Rega's are a good place to start, but unless you are already up to speed on set up, or have a good handy friend, buy from a dealer who can AND WILL help you with set up issues. It is a time consuming process and a lot of them reserve their set up time for customers who have bought expensive rigs and/or have bought their high end stuff thru them.

Just in case you aren't at all discouraged, and you decide to get a bargin priced used TT (etc) and have it shipped to you make sure you get a guarantee that it will arrive in perfect working condition. Most folks aren't up to packing these delicate devices adequately and the shippers destroy them without damaging the box.

If you are prepared to proceed, I would confine myself to looking for used TT (etc) within driving distance of your home - you can get some excellent quality TT's locally if you are patient, and when you have some decisions to make you can always ask specific questions of folks here.


BTW, I just noted the post below about antiskating - read it and get a feel for just one of the parameters involved in set up....That aught to get your head scratching. I'm still trying to figure that issue out, and I can speak Greek too. :-)
Start with the Rega P3.It is straight forward.Read some of the reviews on cartridges in the price range you are considering.After deciding on a cartridge,it should eliminate some phonostages.It might be best to look at mm/mc phonostages,just in case you take a liking to analog-I did.
Records are available from Acoustic Sounds,Music Direct,GEMM and others-plus swap meets and local stores.
Pick up a nice Vintage Thorens turnatble ( $300-$400 ) from Audiogon ( or Ebay ) . Throw in Grado Gold cartridge $200 ) and spend whats left over for a Phono stage, ( maybe ) Graham Slee Phono ( $399 ) ....your good to go...Until you get hooked and need more!!!!!!!

I picked up a nice TD160..Put some time and effort into it..Installed a Grado Gold..Rebuilt the internal interconects..Upgrade the Power cord..added a Tube Phono amp and am amaized at how good this thing sounds...
Thanks for the suggestions so far. Yes, I don't mind doing research and learning the ins and outs of working on my gear. The main reason I was considering visiting a dealer was that I really have no idea what I am doing at this point, or where I can source good LP's. Unfortunately, a call to them revealed that their cheapest setup is $3,000, which is not going to happen at this time. I would love to learn about it and have an analogue setup, but I doubt it will be my only source: I have a ton of CD's.

Perhaps incorrectly, I have heard that a $1200 "cheap" analogue setup beats a digital source at nearly any price. Correct, or not? As I love jazz, it might be great to get 15 of my favorite albums on vinyl (I tend to like a few albums and listen to them most of the time, anyways) My CDP sounds great, so what can I expect from vinyl?

Perhaps I am wasting my time (and money!)
Never fear, every noob on the block used to have a working TT setup. For a new cartridge go to for a Shure M97xE. For a new TT get one somebody on here suggests that fits the Shure and has an understandable installation manual. Once you put it all together recheck the settings every few months. For a phono preamp find the cheapest Rotel wherever you can find it. Look online locally for unwanted record collections. Vinyl playback sounds good even when pretty it's screwed up. It's simple. Don't worry. If you ever tear off a cartridge connector or crimp a cantilever just don't do it again. If you use your new TT every day change the stylus or the cartridge once a year.
Take Newbee's advise.Vinyl takes dedication.If you are unsure about setup and have no source for Lp's stay with digital.
Could you explain what is meant by "their cheapest setup is $3000"
Dawgcatching, I'm not sure if I can add much, but regarding the supremacy of analog to digital at $1200 price range, that is an unquestionably foolish statement made by someone with more ego than sensibility or experience. In fact I'd guess that most folks, with a little system guidance, could get far better sound out of a 1200 CDP than any comparably priced analogue system. And, I would argue, that until you are talking about 'systems' that are in the many thousands of dollars that they remain on the same level assuming care has been taken in creating system synergy. At some point, I think a great analogue system will rule. They both have inherrent warts so, for the most part its really apples to oranges in any event.

I think you really have to deal with the software issue before you decide whether or not to go forward. What music do you want to hear/explore. Where do you expect to find it. How much effort are you willing to make to find it. You get the idea.

FWIW, about 10 years ago, after I finally got immerged in jazz I decided to get some LP's. Well after about a year of rooting thru all of the used bins I could find, I picked up about 10 records in good or better condition, and enuf marajuna seeds to plant 100 acres. :-) No leaves though, damm it!

I'm not trying to turn you off of vinyl, there is good stuff, it is a good format, but it is a hobby, time consuming, and if you are not careful a mony pit as well.

Good luck though.........
I would recommend a new KAB Technics with at least some of the mods (outboard power supply, arm fluid damper) and one of the plug-and-play KAB cartridges (eg Trackmaster). Along with a used Bellari phono stage, you would have a setup that can compete with a lot more expensive rigs. Also requires no set up skills and should have good resale value. Can be upgraded later with a better phonostage or cartridge if desired. I recently upgraded to an Eastern Electric phono pre and Denon l03R cart, but was very happy with the Bellari and Trackmaster combo. FWIW, the KAB Technics replaced a Music Hall MMF5 and Nottingham Spacedeck in my system.
my $300 music hall (new with cartridge) was more musical than my $6500 cd player. not saying it was better, but more enjoyable. start cheap, buy some cheap used lp's, clean them, play 'em. decide. if your liking it, move up the line. my home theater set-up had a phono stage. not the best, but enough to make me see the light. don't let any snob tell you you have to spend tons of cash to "get it", you don't. as with ALL systems more "better" cost, but it's all relative.
Vinyl Rules!
For that budget, I'd recommend a KAB Technics SL-1200MK5SE ($535.00), a Audio-Technica 440MLa Cartridge ($199.00), some Disc Doctor supplies (around $100) and a KAB EV-1 Cleaner ($159.00).

And just incase you missed this piece of advice from Newbee, "...unless you are already up to speed on set up, or have a good handy friend, buy from a dealer who can AND WILL help you with set up issues. It is a time consuming process and a lot of them reserve their set up time for customers who have bought expensive rigs and/or have bought their high end stuff thru them."

Buy from KAB and have Kevin check everything out for you and set it up. This is the single most important factor for your first table. Anyone who tells you anything different probably has something they want to sell you.
In response to staying digital,analog takes dedication.Why don't you forget about fresh food, frozen dinners are soooo easy to prepare.And get one of those Stepford wives,very low maintainence.As far as Vinyl being hard to acquire,I'm choking with laughter as I have personally purchased over 600 LPs in the last two weeks.Get a turntable.Quit worrying so much.
12-19-08: Casey33
And get one of those Stepford wives,very low maintainence.

Best advice I've seen in these forums in a long, long time.

I'd second an old Thorens as a good starter table. TD-160s can usually be had for $3-400 dollars depending on the version. They sound good and when you want to upgrade you'll get all you're money back reselling it.
It's not rocket science.

Millions of people with good ears have spun records for's not that complicated.

Can't go wrong with a used Linn in good operating condition.

The best thing about it these days is you can pick up used albums that sound great cheap for the most part.

If listening for 20 minutes then having to change sides doesn't put you off, or if your not mostly into newer music, go for it. Your price target is a good one for a first rig.
You might consider the "baby" Soundsmith cartridge.Sounds like it may out-perform some of the entry level cartridges of the past.Around $299.
Consider this, a new Rega P3 or used Systemdek, but Incognito wire the RB250 or RB300/301 arm, and get the Michell Technoweight too. As far as cartridges, Denon DL-110 or DL-160 are fantastic. Upgrade to Dynavector 10x5, all 3 are great intro to vinyl carts. Put the tt on a wall shelf(especially Systemdek). I've spent all the money you alloted, but a Cambridge Audio 640p is a great phono stage for the money. Next, Google the Van Den Hul turntable system setup, this has been very important to my vinyl listening enjoyment. The Rega is so simple, it's hard to go wrong with it. Systemdek IIX sounds better to me, but requires some setup. You'll also need a Shure stylus force gauge, a cartridge allignment protractor(DB Systems or the like), and a bubble level to get your setup close to correct. You and your friends will love listening to records with this equipment! Enjoy!