Best Turntable at $1,500? Please Advise.

Dear Analog Veterans, I'm taking the plunge, and getting a turntable, following numerous disappointements with DACs (Bel Canto & MSB included) and the digital domain in general. I am new to the turntable arena, and would value advice from any analog savvy Audiogoners out there. I'm thinking of spending somewhere in the region of $1,500 (for table, arm, cartridge and phono stage) but would also value structuring my purchase so that there are good upgrade paths available in the near term (I could be willing to spend another $1,000 about four months from now). I would be most interested in getting something used on Audiogon, so if you know of any good deals in this pricepoint, please feel free to share. I could also consider upgrading my preamp to one with a phono stage (sensible I think). I hope my budget is enough to get me started (let me know if I really need to spend more though). Sound quality is, of course, of paramount importance, but if the table is visually appealing that would be great (more girlfriend friendly :-) Thanks in advance for your advice. My system is as follows: Bryston BP20 Preamp, Bryston 3B-ST Power Amp, B&W Nautilus 805 speakers, Stealth TR silver and PC Premier copper speaker cables (true birewire), Cardas Golden Cross, Kimber KCAG and Homegrown Audio Silver Lace Interconnects.
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I would buy a new rega 25 with 300 tonearm and elyse cartridge new for $1275 for the turntable. The rosewood is very nice looking. I have the 25 w/600 and super elyse and I think it's great. I have read that for low cost phono stages, some good ones are: the rotel ($200 new-don't know the part), McCormack phono stage ($600 new), or the lehman black cube (600-700ish new). I see the mccormacks go used for $300 here and there. The lehman is a small box that does not need it's own audio shelf. Check and see if your bryston preamp can have a phono stage added to it.
there was an oracle delphi mkll on for $850 yesterday - pick-up in nyc only. this is a nice deal on a nice turntable. i think it already came w/arm/cartridge. i'd check out an aragon outboard phono-stage, or the cary-aes tube fono-stage. re: cartridges, look for barely-used/demo/etc, moving-coil cartridges by ortofon, sumoko, benz, audio-technica.

another turntable choice - audio-max in california has a vacuum-platter-hold-down sota turntable, complete w/new sumiko ft-4 tonearm; they're asking $1295. this is also an excellent deal on an excellent 'table. they've had this for a *long* time, so they should be willing to deal. dunno if it includes a cartridge or not at the asking price...


Outlier, welcome to analog land. You won't be sorry. Here's what I would do: Sell the Bryston pre. buy a used tubed pre. with good phono stage Quicksilver($700-850?and a little tweaky),Audible Illusions Mod.3($800-900? less tweaky easy with tubes, AR SP9II, Melos 222C(that's what I use and could probably be had for about $850,much to my chagrin, and sonically in a different league from the others IMO).You'll have the magic of tubes and won't need to spend $ on another interconnect. In my opinion, the phono stages of any of these is far better than any of the $200-750 seperate stages; unless you can get a great deal on a EAR. Used Rega Planar 3 very reliable and good sounding($375?). I have seen great deals for used VPI HW19's with Sumiko,Rega,ETII!!!!!!!(tweaky) in the 1000.00 range. I would not, being new to vinyl, buy a used cartridge. You would have to spend a lot more to better the performance of the Grado Platinum($300)And if you want to spend more buy a used record cleaner. Happy listening.
Guys, thanks for the great advice. As per Frogman's advice, I think selling my preamp and getting a pramp with a phono section would be a smart first move (also wanted to get into tubes :-) and then I'll get the turntable. Again, seeing that this is my first venture into turntable stuff, do you recommend MC or MM, and how should I allocate my money across table, tonearm and cartridge (55%, 30%, 15%???). Sorry for the basic questions. Thanks!!
Well, since you're now talking new preamps, if you were willing to stretch your budget, check out the BAT VK-3i which can be had with an internal phono stage. I have one and am beyond happy with it. Gets you tubes, true balanced design, phono and even remote control that doesn't degrade the sound in a single component. Have seen them in the $1500 to $1800 range, but believe you would be happy with this investment for a long time. BTW, am using a Wilson-Benesch Full Circle for analog, which is very attractive (like sculpture that plays music) and does an awesome job. Picked it up used for $1500, so it's not out of the realm.
re: tubed preamps, my melos music director (picked up used for $1800) is outstanding! no fono-stage, but my pentagon ps-3 ($1900 new, picked up for $600), is also outstanding. a solid-state piece, but still wonderful when run thru a tubed pre.

i also recently had in my system a couple other nice tube preamps - the cary slp98 - really nice, but not in the same league as the melos; the magnum-version of the rogue 99 - nice, but too coloured & lacking frequency extension in my system (might have been an impedence mismatch; rogue sez output impedence is 100 ohms, but my testing indicates its more like 2400 ohms). i tried an ar sp9 mkll several years ago, & it was awful in mny system; the solid-state electrocompaniet ec-1a crushed it.

as far as what percentage to spend on what piece of equipment, i'd suggest looking for a great deal on a used 'table w/an arm. it may or may not already come w/a cartridge. depending on how much ya have left, then decide on the fonstage &/or a tubed pre w/or w/o fono-stage. (the other adwantage of a tubed preamp is yule find your cd's are suddenly listenable!) ;~) if yer scared of a used cartridge, the needle doctor always has the ortofon mc-25fl on sale, from $450 to $225. this is an outstanding performer, but it's lo-output, so ya have to have a quality fono-stage. one thing i found w/my melos preamp, tho, is it has so much gain, i had to cut my fono-preamp back to its lowest setting, even w/the low ~0.25mv output of this cartridge. i wouldn't shy away from a used cartridge, tho - i recently bought on this website, a lyra clavis, re-built by vdh, for <$500. the rebuild service alone is $600, on a retail $1700 cartridge. there's always good cartridge deals on this site.

good luck, doug

Speaking of Cartridges, What is a good $300-600 (new or used) cartridge for the rega 600 tonearm ? My super elyse cartridge sounds great, but I might want to upgrade after it wears out. Rumor has it, these have a 2000 hour life or so. I understand that you cannot retip a rega cart, so I might want to go to a higher end model that you can retip. Rega's apparently have no VTA, so you need to buy a compatible cartridge.
There are many great possibilities but I would look for a used VPI HW -19 mk III or IV with a rega 300 or JMW tonearm. All are still in production, the VPI is a straight forward non tweaky and very stable design. The company offers upgrades, is easy to reach on the phone and helpful.
If you decide to buy new, check out the Basis 1400 which is in your price range. Basis has modified the big problem with the RB 300 arm (which is no VTA adjustment) through a modified design. This is a problem that I can't believe is overlooked so often in discussions about this arm. The RB300 arm comes with their table. Another point about Basis, their budget 1400 table comes with the same Swiss sourced high end motor and assembly as their mega-bucks tables. Another turntable that I have heard is promising is the newest Sumiko (prototype was called the 6.0 or 6.9 I'm not sure what the new designation is, I can check with dealer friends if you're interested). This retails for $1,000 new, including arm. I have heard reports that this is very, very good for the money. This is marketed by Sumiko and is manufactured in Eastern Eurpope. Both of these are visually striking as well being made of clear acylic material. I'm fond of the older tables myself and regret selling my Sota. If I were to shop in your price range I would consider both used and newer tables. Like almost everything in audio, there are moderately priced products today that outperform high end products of the past. That said, turntables have a more distinct and obvious sound of their own than almost any other component except speakers imo. For a budget cartridge I still like the Blue Point Special (unless I had LOTS more money to spend). There are cartridges that are exponentially better, but also very expensive. I think that the "middle ground" for cartridges is difficult right now -- lower priced products like the Blue Points (and other similarly priced products -- take your pick) make money based on quantity while design, manufacturing, marketing costs for the very expensive products are recouped by virtue of big ticket prices. Although it is great to see renewed interest in turntables, I think it is very difficult for cartridge manufacturers to successfully address the middle ground due to the numbers game. I'm seriously considering a great deal that was offered on a TNT with JMW Millenium arm even though there are other areas in my system that I had planned to upgrade first. I really miss my LP sound. good luck. (P.S. plan on getting a record cleaning machine. I rarely see these used but there are lower priced models that get the job done reasonably well.)
There is no "big problem" with the lack of VTA on the Rega arms.Add a spacer or 2,I found the angle with no spacer works the best for me. Big problem?? If it were so critical there wouldnt be so many arms sold,awesome reviews,MANY other table manufacturers using them on their tables etc,etc.The Basis 1400 is less dynamic with less bass extention than the Rega P-25.The P-25 rocks hard,the 1400 waltzes.Plus the 1400 costs more.Read the reviews in For the $2000 and under table/arm combo the P-25 blows all others away.I listened to most and have first hand knowledge. The wooden Grado's may be the cartridge of choice for cost vs performance.Again read the reviews.The so called Grado hum "problem" is a problem only if you are bothered by a slight hum at the end of the record upon raising the arm.I have never heard a hum during music or between tracks.ONLY when the arm/cartridge is above the platter.The Blue point special is Ok but if you are a rocker or even a bass lover it will disappoint. All this is my opinion only of course.
Hey, David. I suggested that Outlier take a listen to two new tables in his price range that weren't mentioned. The Regas are OK and I think the RB300 is a good sounding arm for what it is. I happen to think that having to adjust VTA with spacers is a less than desireable design solution. Like I said, I miss my SOTA and will soon be using a new VPI TNT with a JMW arm. And, I'll stick with the Blue Point Special until I decide to step up to something significantly better. A matter of taste...
Jim,I wasnt talkng about the "Regas" in general.The P-2 and P-3 are more than OK, but what I was recommending is the P-25 with the RB-600 tonearm.Specifically this table/arm.I would like to have a high priced T.T./ cartridge but cant afford both.If you can put a killer ($$) P.U.on the TNT then I envy you.I think a P-25 with a ($$) P.U. would be better than a TNT or many other ($$) T.T.'s with an inferior P.U. and Im not referring to the BPS,Im not knocking it.Again,as far as having to use spacers on the Rega arms there are VTA add ons avaliable.I for one have no problem with VTA.The rake angle is just fine.One could spend much more on an arm with VTA and have an inferior arm compared to a Rega with no VTA.IMO! Happy Holidays Jim and every one else.Looks like all Santa is bringing me is a bag of poop.I hope you all do better!
Guys, the question was for analog system including phono stage for 1500.00. I still don't see how you can do better than a VPI HW19(any vintage)with a Rega, Alphason, or if you have a tweaking predilection a ET2 for around $700-800. This was and still is one of the all time great, reasonably priced combos. And as a bonus this arm in spite of all it's tweakiness, can be a lot of fun to play with not to mention that it is in a different sonic league from a lot of the moderately priced arms. As an alternative, the more that I think about it, how about a Linn/Ittok. Great sounding and fun fun fun to listen to. The one that started it all ($750). As far as cartridges go, I hold to my position of no used cartridge, unless it's from a VERY reputable dealer. As far as MM vs MC, depends on the rest of your system. I installed a Grado Platinum in a Rega 300 for a friend; it replaced a Blue point Special. No contest. Much more natural timbre, soundstaging, bass, you name it. You really should not try to use anything with less than 1mv output with anything other than a first rate tubed phono stage. The Melos can do it, and while it can handle a Monster Genesis .2mv, it really comes alive with my Vandenhull MC1 .4mv. A Grado (1.5, 4.0) really lets it take charge dynamically, although with a little less detail and overall refinement. Look for a good deal in a Benz Glider. Remember, generally speaking something like the Grado will give you a more opulent sound, more fleshed out images. A MC will give you a more tightly defined sound, more seperation of images and probably more brightness as well which may or may not be good with the rest of your system. And lastly, pay LOTS of attention to what your new table will be sitting on. If at all possible, MOUNT IT ON THE WALL. Happy listening.
For tube preamp with phono consider the Anthem Pre1--about $650 used on Audiogon. With some NOS tubes very nice sound for the $$. Also consider a Pre1L ($450 used) Or Pre2L ($700 new) + Black Cube phono section.
I have a mint Oracle Delphi Mark II with Audioquest PT-8 Arm and two different cartridges, both MM, one Grado, and one Dynavector. Huge list of options and tweaks included, $1000.
by bibto's table, ewe won't regret it! i got a similar deal on a mint oracle, then had it upgraded to their latest mk-v specs for not too much more. of course, i was lucky to buy it from a dealer in quebec, which is right across-town from oracle's factory.

also, regarding giant-killer tonearms, check out the origin-live mods for the rb-250. o-l sez this set-up is better than even their rb900-modded arm, due to rega's different pivot design for the 250 vs their other arms. i bought one from stone audio uk, and it was ~$300, including their adjustable vta base. that pt-8 on bibto's oracle is nothing to sneeze at, tho...


Outlier, Get this turntable. I saw this on Ebay. The Sota Star Turntable with SME 3 Tonearm and Ortofon ME 10 cartridge. List price was 3000 dollars for everything. He wants 800 dollars for it. Here's the link to the add and pic of the turntable
Normaly I would not respond to posts. I think that to many people are looking to wave the flag for there own equiptment, which is fine. But this time I'm going to do a little flag waving myself. Get the Basis 1400. Trust me the Basis does not Waltz. If you have ever put one together you would see that it is built to far more exacting standards (case and point being that the motor used is the same as thier flag ship model) than the Rega P25. Which I think is a good turntable but does not beat out the Basis. Lets put it this way, I'm thinking about putting a Graham 2.0 on my Basis, with the Rega I would get rid of the table first. Did anyone actaully listen to the Rega VS. the Basis... I did and the Basis did it for me.
rega & basis 'tables are excellent, but for the money i don't think they can compare w/a similarly priced used sota or oracle - yust my humble opinion.


I lstened to the P-25 and the 1400.The P-25 sounded more dynamic,smoother and deeper bass.So I bought the P-25.Plus less money for better sound.