best "entry level" audiophile TT?


I'm looking to replace the relatively crappy turntabel I'm using right now. Everyone says Rega (p3 or p2?). I've also been impressed with the Pro-Ject RM-5, Dual CS 455 Gold, and the Music Hall MMF-5 turntables. Any thoughts? any additions to the list? What are key issues / questions to be addressed in finding the best turntable for me?
metalsymph
Everyone says Rega (p3 or p2?).

That's because they don't know better than glass & particle board.

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As the previous poster subtly mentioned the kind of thing you want vis materials can play a role.The thing we want to know here is what sort of budget do you have in mind?What you end up with will most likely be dollar determined at one level so give us a clue and then we'll have an arguement about what you should do.You can search the archives here also as this has been covered well before.The Rega's are probabaly the best of what you have mentioned so far.
I still think a VPI HW-19 mark whatever is a great deal in the used market, built to last,ease of setup,price,large flexible arm board fitting almost any arm,and not that bad to look at.
There's probably not a "best." It's a matter of what compromises you're willing to have at the $400-700 (+ cartridge) price range.

A local store stopped carrying Music Hall TTs, citing motor reliability. Pro-Ject 'tables are also made in the same factory in the Czech Republic. They prefer the Rega P1, P2, and P3 in your price range for reliability and upgradability.

I myself am smitten by my Technics SL 1210 M5G. I got it for $500, the cost of a P2 and significantly less than a Sota Moonbeam, Pro-Ject RM-5, MMF-5, or Rega P3. Unlike the Rega, the rotation speed is dead-nuts accurate with better wow, flutter, and rumble figures. In spite of the "audiophile press" assertions to the contrary, it's a very quiet table and I can't hear any motor noise, even with headphones.

It's certainly an old school arm, but the S-curve breaks up resonances and the detachable headshell makes cart mounting and changing a breeze. You can also bypass one cartridge-to-tonearm "joint" by getting an Ortofon Concorde all-in-one cartridge/headshell from http://www.kabusa.com.

And you won't touch the Technics' SL 12x0 series' durability, smoothness of controls, and build quality for under $2K.

Most of all, I like the way it sounds. It has no trouble sounding better than my CD/SACD players, it's rhythmic and involving with lots of pace and slam combined with decent microdynamics (certainly better than CD) and inner detail.

Taking pains to get this 'table acoustically/vibrationally isolated pays off big sonic dividends.
Taking pains to get this 'table acoustically/vibrationally isolated pays off big sonic dividends.

I have three Dennensen air suspension platform pistons under a granite slab under my KAB modded 1200. The air suspension makes a HUGE sonic improvement.

Other tricks I use include Marigo dots on the tonearm gimbals and under cartridge body. This also wowed me.

The 1200 series is entry level in price, but the technology to price ratio is much higher thatn any of its competitors. The KAB mods take it to the $5K performance level with much less than that.

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Question about Dennensen platforms:

I have three Dennensen air suspension platform pistons

Do you have a link or any information about these isolation devices?
Music hall MMF-7 was what got me hooked again on the medium.
+++ The KAB mods take it [SL1200] to the $5K performance level with much less than that.+++

Really? And which $5000 tables my that be? Teres perhaps? Galabier? Avid? Oracle? ClearAudio? Michell?
Sota?

Tell me something psychic, have you ever even heard a $5K table? I have heard a SL1200 and it sound nothing like a $5K table. Doesn't even sound like $500 table.

Regards
Paul
Hey Guys, listening is SUBJECTIVE. How can you claim to know how good or bad a table sounded to someone else? Some like the sound of one table, others don't. Period. No claim of OBJECTIVE superiority can be sustained or substantiated.

Myself, I'm thrilled to death by the sound of my distinctly un-audiophile Yamaha YP-D8 DD table, unmodded, playing my Empire EDR.9 vintage cart. So my $400 rig (including cart) meets MY needs just fine. Will it meet anyone else's -- no way to predict.
thanks for the responses - quite helpful. I guess the price range is sub-1,000. I'm looking for solid quality, good sound - not sheer audio bliss. I, at least as of yet, mainly rely on other sources for music, and only have 40 records. I'm fairly new to audiophilia, and just bought my McIntosh MA6900 integrated, anticables / IC's, and vienna acoustic bach's - so I'm still recovering from the cost of all that while still looking for a TT.
And not to open up a new can of worms, but what /who / how much should I look for in terms of vibration isolation?
Tell me something psychic, have you ever even heard a $5K table? I have heard a SL1200 and it sound nothing like a $5K table. Doesn't even sound like $500 table.

No I haven't heard a $5K TT. I was born and raised in a little Caribbean island with only a few general stores and post offices. Not even TVs were sold. Everybody had little AM radios for listening to hurricane weather broadcasts.

Of course, the 1200 does not sound like a $500 table. You must have come from somewhere other than my little island. The 1200's technology to price ratio goes way above its price point. But then again, it's someone like Raoul the Mexican that gives you first world audiophiles a reality check regarding lowly moving magnets giving multi thousand dollar moving coils a run for their money. Money...ahhhh!

JohnnyB, e-mail me & I'll send ya pictures.

With psychic power and primal intensity,
The 1200 series is entry level in price, but the technology to price ratio is much higher thatn any of its competitors. The KAB mods take it to the $5K performance level with much less than that.

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Psychicanimal (Threads | Answers)

04-18-07: Psychicanimal

Tell me something psychic, have you ever even heard a $5K table? I have heard a SL1200 and it sound nothing like a $5K table. Doesn't even sound like $500 table.

No I haven't heard a $5K TT.

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Psychicanimal (Threads | Answers)

This is quite revealing. For months I have read claims of the Technics SL1200 modded by KAB performing at a level of tables costing thousands of dollars more, and I had assumed the author(s) had the listening experience to make the comparison. Now, this admission that you have never heard a $5k table. Readers of these threads take most comments at face value, and with the assumption that the author has first-hand knowledge of the subject.

I was seriously considering a purchase of a KAB Technics SL1200, but now I have to step back and reconsider how much of what I have read is hyperbole.

If you love the KAB SL1200, then it's reasonable to write about your experience with it, but please don't make other claims that have no experiential basis.
...now I have to step back and reconsider how much of what I have read is hyperbole.

I got the impression that Psychicanimal was being sarcastic about his isolated background.

Whatever the situation, fortunately, there are some reviews that compare KAB-modified Technics SL1200s with more expensive belt-drive rigs. Here's one from TNT-Audio where the reviewer compares a KAB-modified SL1200/Ortofon/Creek rig with a near twice-as-expensive Music Hall MMF-9/MH Maestro/Creek setup.

http://www.tnt-audio.com/sorgenti/technics_sl1200_2_e.html

Also, Ed Kobesky has written a lot about the SL 1200 and has had a wide array of turntables and cartridges, plus he reviews for Positive Feedback.
>>Raoul the Mexican that gives you first world audiophiles a reality check<<

Those are only his opinions.

Simply because he has more toys than most of us doesn't mean he's smarter than some of us.

However, the KAB table is a high value component.
I spent 2 years auditioning "high end" tables before making my choice. Part of the problem was that nothing I heard bested the 25 year old Technics SL-150 Mk II or Lenco L75 that I picked up to re-learn analog set up.

A good table will isolate the cart/vinyl interface from extraneous energy whilst providing a stable platform for the tonearm and constant speed platter rotation. Cheaper belt drive tables don't do good enough speed stability. Most direct drives and idler drives are better. The SL1200 is a well engineered table in standard form and the KAB mods are proven to improve it.

My advice is if you want to spend about $5k, buy a Galibier Gavia. If you don't want to spend that much, get a SL1200 and either an Empire EDR.9. AT440 or Dynavector 20X for less than $1k. No half measures.

The SL1200 is way better than Regas, MMFs and similar rubber band driven entry level tables. It has better dynamics, resolution, speed stability and bass articulation.

Regarding isolation, a home made sandbox will suffice. The top shelf should be bigger than the table's footprint and this should rest on about 3 inches of sand in a box constructed from 3/4 inch mdf, with a 1/4 inch gap between the top shelf and the box sides. Use play sand (from a garden center or Toys R Us). The sandbox can be suspended on wall brackets or attached to stout legs (if you have a solid floor).
I get to hear a lot of different equipment which gives me an awareness of "schools of hearing".

There's a reason why many favor the lively sound of a slightly fast and light Rega and call it PRAT while others prefer a heavier sprung suspended table i.e. Linn, Thorens, etc. and call it musical. Then others with the $$$ and a preference for detail go for high-mass Teres and such and call it accurate and airy.

Then it really gets complicated. The DV 10x5 makes my suspended table sound more like a Rega but the Benz Micro Ace gets it back toward "musical". The 47 labs McBee took it toward Teres or Michell territory.

While I'm writing this I'm listening to the suspended Ariston, musical, Benz Ace, musical, AQvox Phono2, Prat, Arc LS-1, Prat/musical and so on.

Of course one mans musical is anothers Prat.

Get a Thorens, or Rega or Technics at the right price and see for yourself. None of us hears like you do. You might flip the first table you buy or love it and then flip it later 'cause you heard something "better".

Waddya think keeps the classifieds here so busy. Getting there is half the fun.

One of the reasons alot of people on here recommend Rega's is that they are easily upgradable in many different ways but they also have some drawbacks.
One of the reasons alot of people on here recommend Rega's is that they are easily upgradable in many different ways but they also have some drawbacks.

Another reason is they realize the table's limitations and are looking to sell, so that they can upgrade!

The Rega table is a very successful product commercially. The Toyota Corolla is the world's best selling automobile; but that doesn't mean it's the best.
Is'nt it ironic that in the days of digital, there are so many excellent turntables at every price point and turntables do seem an area where you get what you pay for. As things stand, in the US, you probably want to stick to US products, because of the $ price. Having said that Rega and Project are excellent and competitive in any market. If you plan to upgrade then going for Rega or Clearaudio or VPI which allow for upgradeabilty is a good idea. In the UK I went onto an Origin Live Resolution, but it is probably overpriced in the US.
As Kitch says, you have to listen yourself, if it sounds good to you it is good.
I listened for months to various tables and ended up choosing the Rega P5 with the TT PSU and an Exact2 cartridge. For my price-point I could not find one that sounded better. Plus the fact that Stereophile chose this table as the analogue product of the year in 2005. Everyone had their opinion but really matters is yours - let your ears direct you to the table of choice.
+++ I spent 2 years auditioning "high end" tables before making my choice. Part of the problem was that nothing I heard bested the 25 year old Technics SL-150 Mk II or Lenco L75 that I picked up to re-learn analog set up. +++

Well Red, which one is it? Did you audition high end tables OR have you not heard anything better than your SL150/L75?

Regards
Paul
although some people have said otherwise, it's my understanding that direct drive is better than belt - especially in my area of the country (st louis) where temp and humidity go crazy in any single day. if so, why not go the Pro-Ject RM-5 route - direct drive? still looking SUB 1000$, want good, rich sound but not necessarily audio bliss (which would be hard at such a cheap 'table). I'm definitely looking into some of the used, old thorens and AR.

Flyingred, thanks for the cheap answer to isolation. Maybe I can make a zen garden out of my zen music. anyone else tried this?
Tvad: I can sell you some beachfront land for cheap...three dollars an acre. E-mail me.

JohnnyB: I e-mailed you the pictures. There was a nice tourist that let me use their laptop--I don't own a computer. No computers on this island...only little AM radios.

Audiofeil: Raoul has a lot of toys--especially for a kid that smoked weed and listened to music on a Technics 1700. However, he does know how they sound and has let quite a few know that they're being ripped off by the high end establishment. You could relocate to my island and become a real estate agent. Don't worry about the $3 an acre price. We have plenty.

Metalsymph: $500-600 on a Technics 12XX, Kevin's newest $100 modded Stanton 500 cartridge and an eBay Groovmaster record cleaner would leave some cash to go get used records in Chicago.

Groovmaster

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Seems like the cartridge has a lot to do with the sonic quality of any TT so how can some of you categorically state one TT is better than the other unless the same cart was used for comparison?
Zen gardens ...
Flyingred, thanks for the cheap answer to isolation. Maybe I can make a zen garden out of my zen music. anyone else tried this?
This drove the poor boys at Redrock Audio nuts at my very first ever audio show in 2001 ... the sandbox top plate wasn't ready and there was a bit of visible sand.

There we were ... raking this little Zen garden.

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Here's a quick drawing for a DIY sandbox:
http://www.galibierdesign.com/images/zz_sandbox.pdf.

If you lose this post, you can always link to it from my FAQs page.

This whole topic of stands is becoming deserving of a dedicated section. If I ever get around to making this update (don't worry ... after the Serac becomes real), I'll point to it from the FAQs page.

Also, I need to update the FAQs page with an additional link.

I am receiving excellent reports from a very trusted source on this shelf:
http://www.adonacorporation.com/platform.html

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There's some good advice in this thread on the 1200. You can do wonders for this 'table. As an aside, I've had some good success with the Duals too.

Cheers,
Thom @ Galibier
Paul, yes I have heard better than the SL-150/L75 and bought a Galibier. I worked my way through Nottingham Audio, Origin Live, SME, dps, Teres, Michell, Rega, Kuzma plus more (I previously owned Thorens and Linns) before I hit on the Galibier and was completely smitten.

I've enjoyed the Teres Certus, the Walker and the Morsiani.

I hadn't realized it would be so tough - in my experience rubber belt tables don't do good (enough for me) speed stability and leading edge transients as well as the idlers, direct drives and mylar belt drives. Once you've lost some fidelity at the source you can never get it back.

Rotarius, I have spent the last few years perming cart/arm/table combinations to understand the influence of each component and how they interact. As an aside, a table contributes isolation and speed stability/lack of attack - both fairly easy to identify and diagnose. I would also challenge your assertion about cartridges - if you work on VTA/VTF/azimuty and impedance/capacitance matching then the difference between carts becomes quite subtle.

IMO, too many people upgrade too frequently to "improve" their system when a little work with the variables would deliver the same effect for zero outlay. Too few dealers know how to set up equipment properly - however it might not be in their interests if it lost them sales! :)
Pauly must come from some real upscale hood.
Hi Flyingred. I too have a peeve with speed stability, but my issue is with DC motors. I have yet to hear a DC motored TT that has speed stability. I have listened to tracks were I could tell the TT was drifting, but the salesman/owner were blissfully unaware.

Psychic, I come from a modest background, but in spite of that I do not see the need to exaggerate. I also do not have the phobia that "the man" is out to rip me off.

Regards
Paul
Ok,

Interesting reading. Guess I will just have to put in my 2 cents for what ever it is worth.

1: The Project RM-5 is belt driven per the owners manual.

I own a Project RM-4 very easy to setup with the right tools. I use a Sumiko Blue Point Cartridge. This combination is shall we say IMHO very good for the cost. $499.00 for the table and $250.00 for the cartridge.

Although I have listened to other tables thay have not been in my system therefore I can only compair to my digital front end. A friend of mine says I would have to spend considerably more on my vinyl front end to better my digital front end.

At this stage I would consider it a tossup between the two. Now this is a $750.00 vinyl set up aginst a $5000.00 digital setup (Theta Data Basic II transport, SR digital coridor phase II active digital IC, MF Tri-Vista tube dac). I run SR Kalidiscope phase I active between the digital front end and the vinyl front end.

I am very pleased with the tone and sonics that I get from either front end. The seperation in the sound stage is execelent with both.

The setup of the table and cart is critical. In moving my table my VTF got knocked out of whack. I had to go to the dealer and borrow a VTF gague to get it right again. The result of to light of a tracking force in my case was week bass and an overly bright tone. Once the VTF was re-adjusted to a heavier tracking force within the recomended cartridge range the tone is much better and smoother.

The last piece of the puzzle is the phono pre. I use the internal phone pre in my integrated.

Could I achieve better sonics and tone with a dedicated pre probably but not without the cost factor of the pre and cables.

04-20-07: Artizen65
...The last piece of the puzzle is the phono pre. I use the internal phone pre in my integrated.

Could I achieve better sonics and tone with a dedicated pre probably but not without the cost factor of the pre and cables.
It depends on how good the phono section is in your integrated amp. Some integrateds (e.g., Creek) have good built-in or plug-in phono sections.

Given the cost and quality of your digital front end, I'd be surprised if you had an inexpensive integrated.

However, if you think you'd be better off with an outboard phono section, I'd recommend a Creek OBH-18 or Bellari VP 129, either of which go for about $250. I haven't heard the Bellari but it's a Stereophile Class B component, where most of the others in that group cost $900 to $1500. I have heard various Creek phono units and always liked them. To keep costs down on the extra interconnects while getting good signal transfer, I recommend the Audioquest Blue Racer or Black Mamba interconnects available at Audio Advisor. I have two pairs of Black Mambas and a pair of Blue Racers. The great thing about either of these is that they're made of single-crystal OCC copper, and the difference with the Black Mambas is that they're also 99.9999% pure copper. The Racers are $65 and the Mambas are $85 for a 1 meter pair. That's cheap for that level of copper quality, especially from AQ.
Well, I've been tweaking my analog front and set-up: Music Hall MMF-7 (Goldring Eroica H) and Wright Sound Company WPP200C phono preamp.

I recently lowered the VTA of my MMF-7 Pro-Ject 9 arm (despite the manufacturer's recommendation to leave the factory set-up alone), and doing so reduced some of the high frequency glare I was experiencing.

I also have been experimenting with different resistive loads for the WPP200C by using several pairs of RCA plugs with different value resistors soldered into them, and also using a pair of F-F>M RCA adapters to allow the resistor/RCA plugs to be easily swapped. I've more-or-less settled on a resistive load of 1000 ohms for the Goldring Eroica H.

So, at this point, I'm pretty satisfied with the MMF-7 and WPP200C combo.

Special thanks to member Nsgarch for his recommendation and assistance with the RCA/resistor technique, and for encouraging me to try lowering the Pro-Ject 9's VTA.
Dear Flyingred: +++++ " I hadn't realized it would be so tough - in my experience rubber belt tables don't do good (enough for me) speed stability and leading edge transients as well as .... " +++++

Well, " speed stability " ( IMHO ) every other thibgs the same makes a huge difference and yes many BD TTs are not up to the task but there are some that are: Walker, Raven, Brinkman Simon Yorke, etc, etc, unfortunatelly some of these have very high prices.
Now, as important ( critical I say ) as is the speed stability there are other important subjects that count on the overall performance: platter material, suspension, arm board material, kind of belt used, etc, etc.

+++++ " Once you've lost some fidelity at the source you can never get it back. " +++++

This statement is of paramount importance ( specially at the analog reproduction system ) and when we really understand it we could take care in deep about in any single link of the analog chain: TT/cartridge/cartridge set-up/tonearm/cables,Phonolinepreamp, etc.

+++++ " IMO, too many people upgrade too frequently to "improve" their system when a little work with the variables would deliver the same effect " +++++
This statement it is directly related with the last one: we have to try hard on what we have trying to setting up everything on target.

+++++ " I would also challenge your assertion about cartridges - if you work on VTA/VTF/azimuty and impedance/capacitance matching then the difference between carts becomes quite subtle. " +++++

It is only on this statement that I can't agree with you because if you have a good resolution system then the differences that you could hear will not " subtle " at least was not on my experiences about. All cartridges have its own " signature sound " that is different ( not subtle ) from one to each other ( inclusive in the same manufacturer line ), maybe I never try too hard about to had what you are experienced. So I'm with Rotarius opinion on this subject.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul.
Hi Raul / 'Red ...

Cartridges certainly have their signature sound. I agree.

I do think however, that we can take actions to make them sound more alike by tuning the interface ... addressing where they stray from the truth. Your (Raul's) extensive studies in arm and cartridge matching is but one area in this exploration.

I had an experience a few years ago, which spun my head around.

As I was working through several highly regarded tonearms (fill in the blanks - the brand doesn't matter), several of the arms resulted in quite a few cartridges sounding more alike while at the same time, pulling more music out of the groove.

As I pondered this paradox, it occurred to me that these tonearms were more effective at draining vibrations (resonance) from the system. This had the effect of mitigating one of the characteristic differences between cartridges.

Surely the other distinguishing factors remained - motor generator, stylus profile and moving mass, compliance, coil inductance, etc., but by better damping out cartridge resonance, one distinguishing characteristic was minimized - thus, improving resolution while at the same time making the cartridges sound a bit more alike.

Cheers,
Thom @ Galibier
Dear Tom: +++++ " I do think however, that we can take actions to make them sound more alike by tuning the interface........but by better damping out cartridge resonance, one distinguishing characteristic was minimized.... " +++++

Fortunatelly that is not happenning ( in electronics is a lot more easy to achieve it but with transducers like cartridges/speakers is almost impossible, like I say: fortunatelly!!!! ), IMHO I think that we prefer the cartridge differences more than " they sound alike ": " the flavor/taste is in the variety ".

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul.