My suggestion would be a used Rega P3 with a Sumiko Blue Point ($299).
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Your phono stage doesn't require a moving coil cartridge; it's just been engineered to do low output moving coils particularly well. Read the specs again; it can accept *any* cartridge with output from 0.2mV to 4.0mV.
0.2mV to about 2.5 mV covers the output range of most moving coil cartridges. But notice that your Chenin accepts all the way up to a 4.0mV output. This is squarely in moving magnet and moving iron territory.
Why you'd want to pair a $500 turntable with a $2900 tubed phono stage I can't imagine, but whatever. Moving magnet and Grado moving iron cartridges make the most sense at that price range and your phono stage will have no problem with them whatsoever.
In the MMF 5.1 price range you could also consider a Rega P2, Technics SL1200, SOTA Moonbeam, or Denon DP-500M. You can use any cartridge you want, regardless of underlying design as long as its output is between 0.2mV and 4.0mV, which is 99% of them.
Good entry level carts would include the Ortofon 2M Red ($99) or Blue ($199), Grado Prestige Red ($140) or above, Denon DL-110 ($139) or 160 ($179), or the Audio Technica AT150MLX ($299-399). If you get into the low output moving coil realm, check out the Audio Technica OC-9 ($339) or Denon 301 II ($329).
Richmon, I'm with Johnnyb53. You have a very nice phono-pre, and from what I can tell from other threads, a nice set of speakers. It would be a shame to be turned off vinyl because you don't think it does well compared to your digital (which will probably gain some 'smoothness' because of the tube output stage vs an op-amp output stage in other CDPs). If you need to stick to $500 for table+arm+cart, you will be woefully 'undercutting' your system's capabilities, but it can be done. If I "really, really wanted to stick to $500" (+ shipping), I would 'cheat' and be flexible :^) Otherwise, I would go for a table older than either the Rega or the MMF - you can get more bang for buck with an older table (the Denon DP72L mentioned below listed for $400 (and sold) today is shown as having an $800 MSRP but that was 25yrs ago and that table had 15yrs of motor technology built/amortized into it by that time). There is an Empire 598 offered at ~$600 and a Lenco L78 listed for a lot less, both of which would be vastly improved by a better plinth at some point (not to mention better arm, though there are some who like the Empire arm). There is also a VPI HW19 and a Project RM-5 listed in the area of $500. Finally, the Technics SL1200 is a pretty darned good deal (though some will not like it's "DJ-style" looks. On a used basis, you might be able to get a KAB-modified one for your budget, otherwise I think a new one would come in under, and then you'd have to add a cart.
If the arm you end up with is on the heavy side, I can recommend the Denon 103 cart, which should be available for around $200 new.
In addition to what T-bone said, I think you should take a look at a Denon DP-500M turntable. It lists at $699 most places, but if you Google for online vendors, one or two will pop up in the $545 range. The Denon should sound better out-of-the-box than the Technics, as it's a much more recent release (2005 vs. 1981), is targeted at the home market, and has significant vibration control built into the physical design. I suspect the tonearm has a bit higher effective mass as well, because Denon recommends several of their low-to-mid compliance MC cartridges for it--the DL-110/160, DL-103, DL-301, etc.
There aren't as many aftermarket tweaks available for the Denon as the Technics, but then, maybe it doesn't need them. There's a review on A-gon, and one of the respondents claims to have retro-fitted an SME tonearm, so I guess there's room to grow.
And you can always improve a sub-$1500 turntable's sound by putting it on an isolation platform and getting a clamp or weight for it. The Denon is also open to aftermarket headshells, which change the tonearm's effective mass and resonance rigidity characteristics.
Thanks for the excellent suggestions. Originally I was considering a VPI Scout or MMF9.1, but reading others accounts of their re-entry into vinyl, it seems many are disaapointed so I thought I'd go slow and start cheap and see where it leads. I've been leaning toward putting most of my schekels into continuing to better my digital front end, if I branch into the pricey analog realm, I feel somewhat like I'm moving laterally - splitting my resources. So for critical listening, the digital and for just enjoying my record collection without being critical use analog.
So for critical listening, the digital and for just enjoying my record collection without being critical use analog.With no intention of being insulting, I think most people on this forum would feel that--once you've given the LPs a chance again--you've got that backwards.
LP has re-emerged as the high-resolution medium of choice, and is part of the reason DVD-A and SACD have withered on the vine.
I still don't understand how you could be so cautious about the turntable expense when you have a $2900 hand-made phono stage. Did you inherit it?
There have been a number of threads that challenge the superiority of analog over digital, which of course will vary depending on the quality of the source, either lp or CD. My very limited personal experience has been that LP sounds different, but not substantially better. I listened to a 50K system with a expensive Clearaudio turntable at a dealer, auditioned an entire side of the Moody Blues Days of future passed on half speed master. I followed that by playing the remastered CD on my home system. I really need to spend alot more time with a turntable, cause the difference between that 50K Lp system and my humble rig was not noteworthy. Maybe a longer audition in my home will reveal this proported superiority of analog over digital. I also have 500 lps and 2000 CD's which influences my playback focus. I bought the Supratek mainly for the line stage, seemed silly not to spend an extra $200 which got me the phono capability. So I view the preamp as a $2300 linestage that also has phono, not as a $2900 phono stage (I bought the unit used here on Gon).
I'd say from the threads I've been reading over the last year here that opinion is evenly split as to whether high rez analog or high rez digital reigns supreme.
So, with fiscal caution I'm going in, the Denon turntables you recomended look particulary interesting for my maiden voyage.
Thanks again for the rec's.
I like your reasoning and go with it. The MM5 is a great choice and you can experiment with cartridges after. But even in stock form you can get magic from vinyl.... with a good phono preamp. If you like the phono pre in your rig go with it but like you say it is a $2300 line stage with a $200 phono. You can always play with other phono stages after,just try before you buy.
04-13-09: RichmonBefore you jump on the Denon, I suggest you read this thread.
The responses in that thread laid to rest any interest or speculation I had in the Denon. I'll stand by my recommendation for a Technics SL1210 M5G with aftermarket feet, better mat, and fluid damper.
While I personally would lean to an older table (and that includes the older Denons), I can't argue with the rationale of going with a Technics 1210 (if you can stomach the looks). OTOH, if you want the 'upgraded version' like Johnnyb53 recommends, it will be cheaper to buy a fully-loaded KAB-modified model used rather than buying the table and adding the mods/etc yourself (and will mean less or no economic hit to you should you bail on vinyl or trade up).
04-13-09: RichmonYou may not hear significant differences in "critical listener" mode. I find that the biggest differences between CD and LP are in how they make me *feel*, not in the identifiable sonic differences in A/B comparisons.
The differences in digital and analog is best demonstrated by the shift in listening habits since the onset of digital in the late '80s. Popularity of the great storytelling vocalists has been replaced by the mimicry of Jessica Simpson and the vocal gymnastics of Mariah Carey and the like. Groups with a musical message who could write songs and play instruments have largely been replaced by pop-synth, sampled beats, rap, and hip-hop. Classical music, which suffers worst with what red book does to the sound of bowed strings, dropped from a respectable 5% to a near unmeasurable market share.
People gravitate to what sounds good on the medium at hand. By that standard, red book and below doesn't convey subtlety well, and LPs--the era of Sinatra, Bennett, the Beatles, Heifetz, Rubinstein, and Horowitz--did it particularly well. It's boom & sizzle vs. the music that resides between the bits.