Slate1 I am presently running an ACE High Output on my Rega P25 through the phono pre of a Musical Fidelity A308 integrated. It performs very well on all types of music, but seems to excell at rock. Newer groups, like Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie and Wilco have lots of layers of sound and the ACE/Rega combo pulls it all out and firmly orders it in the soundstage. I am particularly happy with the tightness of the bass with this combo.
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The low output ACE is at the top of my list right now based on a few responses I've gotten via e-mail.
Are you having any trouble with tracking inner grooves, or distortion during really dynamic passages - like a sustained high note, etc.? That's a big concern of mine and one of the problems I'm currently trying to solve by replacing the Rega Exact in my system.
Also, one last question - did you adjust the VTA? I e-mailed Musical Surroundings (the US distributor for Benz) and they sent me this rather interesting reply:
"You should be fine as is on the Rega P5 regarding VTA. To date, none of our dealers have advised us differently. Typically the ACE likes to be a hair under parallel. As far as hum goes... typically no problem on Rega tables. I have no reason to believe by putting the ACE in your set up that you will introduce hum."
I was a bit surprised that they didn't recommend any adjustment.
HANDS DOWN Denon DL103R, available from Audiocubes @ $250. HOWEVER - I don't know what the phono is like in your preamp. Is it just a MM phono? If so - You'll need to find a step up tranny - should be able to find one and stay in budget. We're talking about a 0.3mv or so cartridge, needs a lot of gain, but worth seeking out the high gain phono.
Also - I don't know much abour your arm. the rb700... how is it different than the rb600 that I have on my P25? Anyway - if it's basically the same, you've got to find the money to upgrade the arms wiring and the stock counterweight to the michell counterweight. Also - Just as important, is the Twl Hifi Mod AKA gluing two bullet fishing weights to the sides of your tonearm bearing bolts. Makes Rega arm effective mass more appropriate for stiff Denon cartridges. Do this - and you have a SERIOUS hifi arm comparing with those in the $$$$$ No need to space vta even, armtube a little under parallel, just right for these cartridges to ROCK
Denon 103 or Denon 103R - given your stated preference:
1 - Dynamic: I listen to classic rock / classic hard rock almost exclusively so this is a must
All three points are true for the Denon: Great for rock and classical (with the standard a bit better for rock), great bass, a tad bright and tracks better than the Rega Elys or Kontrapunkt A I had before. The remaining budget you can use for a decent step-up transformer. I heard many good things about:
Also, on my P3 with RB 300 I needed one 2mm and 1 mm spacer; this should probably work for you as well.