Best turntable for the buck

I now amazingly find that my analog system has fallen behind my digital system in  SQ and I want to investigate how to improve it. 
Currently I have a heavily modified Rega RP3 turntable, with two power supplies, a new platter, sub-platter and other internal enhancements. My cartridge is the Clearaudio Virtuoso.
Not that it’s bad, but I want to look for  something that will significantly improve the sound of my current setup. 
Will about a 4K investment do that?


I'd consider 3 specific areas:

Phono stage - this can make a huge impact alone

Table - I recognize you have a modified RP3, I upgraded a little while ago to the P8 and the improvement in the plinth and tone arm over the P6 was noticeable as was the upgrade from the P3 to P6 using the same catridge.  I don't know the details of your current rig so you may not expeirence the impact I had when I moved from the RP1 to P8.

Cartridge - Can be a huge impact; and if shifting from MM to MC you may want to split the $4 between phono stage and cartridge.

If you ever buy a turntable for a buck, it will certainly be the best turntable for a buck.

I bought once 2 Sansui Fr2040 turntables for $1 each in late 90s. Both worked very nice.

If I was looking for a table, I would definitely look at Well Tempered. They get raves.

How many albums do you own? A $4K investment in digital might be more cost effective. It is the future anyway. 

I have equally satisfying, same sounding digital and analog ends… both worth about $45K. If I only had a few hundred albums I would ditch the analog end and just upgrade digital. 

I am relatively new to digital, but have been involved in a few experiences where the Digital Source vs Vinyl LP Source have outshone each other on the impressions being made.

I am no longer endeavouring to have them in a competition, I have accepted each for their fortes over the other, but this place was not found without making changes to each of the Sources supporting ancillaries, I will say the most significant impression made was from the introduction of a Custom Built DAC and Custom Built Phonostage.

The Phonostage was produced to my own specific tuning,  

Prior to parting with any monies on adding equipment, I would attempt to have a listen to other Vinyl Set Ups and see if there is anything on offer from one of the demonstrations, that is looking like it can challenge/surpass your Digital Source.

If all goes well there might be an option to have the device that is believed to have been most instrumental, in making the positive impression, used within your system for a demonstration.

This type of encounter will enhance your experience base and will certainly allow for a much better evaluation and assessment of how you would like to proceed and how much of your hard earned monies will need to be allocated to the budget, if the .a device has proven to be quite attractive to you. 

I’m using a Conrad-Johnson preamp as my phono stage. 
I don’t think I can do better than that.

One does not know until they try out a few new experiences, especially making in roads to encounter devices that can make a positive impact and leave a lasting impression.

Limiting an access to create an experience on the pretense of pre conceived ideas, is much akin, to the individual who selects an item to purchase with no prior experience of how it presents, with another's account as the only guidance. 

Good Luck to that one, the Hospital ! oop's I mean' sales adds ' are full of the casualties from this as the buyers method.



sell rega-3 ... Technics SP-10R - buy for growth ...

for digital music - boombox in the kitchen

Thank those of you who submitted a recommendation.

 I’m considering all of them.

If you want to stay with the Rega philosophy consider the P8 with the Apheta cart.

It will be a significant upgrade to your P3. No need to bother with additional tweaky add ons, just unbox, hookup and play.

A separate phono stage would be another upgrade to look into after the table-tube will offer another level of presentation.

Who knows what perimeters make any tt SQ an attractive buy for you. 

George Merrill's Poly Table is a worthy consideration.

STST Motus DQ, a very musical DD turntable. Capable of the best tonearm and cartridge you can put on it. 

Caveat: bias implied as I am the NA agent for STST. So don't take my word for it ;) there are plenty of raves to be found online.

@solypsa There is not any information offered on how to receive a demonstration of the recommended TT that comes with a retail of approx' +$7000. 

How does a interested individual arrange to receive a demonstration of the TT being promoted as a choice to consider exchanging to ? 

As a further advisory, as the TT's distributor of the recommended TT, which Tonearm and Cartridge would be the suggested combination to be used as ancillaries.    

I understand that not wanting to seem overly biased, the directing an individual to a online rave for a product, is going to divert the individual to information that is in keeping with the bias that is on offer.  Where what is really happening is that the information being encouraged to be sought out, is only going to introduce the individual doing the search, to a commentary from a very limited number of individuals.

This type of reporting can be found on almost every device available, it is not really a method to enable a interested individual to assess a device for it capabilities, especially in comparison to other options to be found at a similar price point.

The best way to show a TT's Capabilities to any individual, is always through demonstration, and even better if carried out in a purpose produced environment. From my end it seems quite askew, when a Dealer of a product is not encouraging a experience of a device through demonstration.  

@pindac thanks for your comments. If I am not mistaken you are located in Europe? If your inquiry was serious ( versus making some obvious point about bias ) I would start by contacting Ana Mighty Sound in Paris. There you may hear the Motus and many other turntables.


If however your point was to say that I should not have mentioned it at all, I will take your opinion under advisement.

The Rega RP3 is a terrible turntable, I know that since I bought one 7-8 years ago. Tried a lot of cartrtidges from the Goldring 1042, Sumiko Blue Point Special Evo 2 and Dynavector 10x5, etc. It was so bad it almost made me quit analog for good. Everything was sounding thin, without body and musical involvement. The RP3's tonearm and the cartridges were perfectly aligned, I had the Rega TT-PSU power supply upgrade as well, it did nothing for me.

Switched to a Michell Gyrodec, the groove and musical excitement came back. A lot of upgrade potential with the power supplies, choice of tonearms, platter/clamp/suspension upgrades, etc. I also hear the entry level Dr. Feickert is a terrific sounding TT as well. 

But my suggestion, the RP3 should go, it's just a waste of time, money and space.

My recommendation on offer to any forum member, when there is an inquiry made about their options that can be considered for an item of equipment, is to suggest the inquirer attempts to receive a demonstration of an item that has become one of interest and not only use recommendations as their final guidance.

I very rarely recommend equipment on this forum, as I am not familiar enough with other Countries set ups to enable a demonstration to be arranged.

From my end, and governed by what I suggest is a valuable practice, my inquiry was to get a objective for the OP, as to what the suggestion would be for a Tonearm and Cart',  to be used with the suggested TT.

The OP has made it quite clear a 4K Budget was being considered to be allocated and a TT that surpasses that Budget by approx' 100% is the recommendation, how much would the Tonearm and Cart' add to this recommendation that is already far exceeding the OP's budget.

I was not quite understanding why the possessor an item that was being promoted through recommendation as a device to replace an already owned device, that has an equivalent function, was keen to guide towards a few comments by others that will undoubtedly be complimentary and not encourage the opportunity to offer a demonstration.

I have no concerns about the mention of the STST Motus DQ, I can fully see the benefit for the OP from receiving a demonstration, I'm sure they would much enjoy the experience. What I did express concern about was the missing encouragement to arrange for such an experience.

Even though too many miles from my home, I can experience and have experienced items that are sold through Ana Mighty, of which some are now on a list to be home trialed in 2023. I have also recommended the Companies Services to forum members who reside in mainland Europe.         

The main issue with my turntable is a lack of transparency, that I am getting with digital sources. The instruments don’t exist in a three dimensional space. The tone quality is fine
My hope is that new turntable in the 4K range will provide that. My cartridge is relatively high end and, I may be wrong, but I think the phono stage on my recapped Conrad-Johnson PV 11 preamp is adequate to the task.

Isn’t CJ known for the warmer side of neutral?

IMO, no. You should be able to achieve higher level of SQ for similar $ spent these days

I’ve noticed many of your posts that in essence, seem to question the positive results you may get by going forward and risking an upgrade.

I have always liked the SOTA Sapphire, you can possibly get a refurbished table direct from SOTA. Put Origin Live arm on it and away you go. SOTA carry a variety of arms and can properly fit your arm board.





I was keeping my trap shut as it would just be posted what I own, but have to believe it would be hard to beat the Sapphire for the $.

With a good arm, the choice of carts is almost endless. And of course a good phono pre.

A solid choice as a platform, if I do say so my biased self.

@rvpiano When playing classical, my vinyl rig is better than anything I have on the digital side in terms of 3 dimensionality, imaging, and soundstage. Tone and natural presentation is incredible as well, that is so important for acoustic instruments. It just ‘feels’ more real to me.



‘Do you have the Saphire VI?
‘Does it require an arm separately? 
‘The price is right.

Sounds like you want in to the vinyl arena. I used to own a Rega… your criticism is the same as I would have made… I would have said too much noise resulting in decreased transparent soundstage. I have not been a fan of Rega since I owned one… the higher level ones are supposed to be better.


You might think about a used Linn LP12  or I think you could get a new Majik without cartridge for about the price you are looking at. I recommend getting one from a dealer… like I would most turntables.

I own a new LP12. Incredible transparency. One of the amazing things about Linn, any Linn TT, is you can upgrade them all the way up to the current top of the line by small steps. They have been Top performers… continuing to advance for many decades while many of their predecessors have fallen behind. 

Anyway, I thing the Majik really fits the bill for you.

I was keeping my trap shut as it would just be posted what I own, but have to believe it would be hard to beat the Sapphire for the $.

Me too.

I was looking at new tables, but in the end decided to just overhaul the Sapphire with the new motor/controller/etc.
The OP mentioned $4k budget, and the parts for the overhaul gobble up half of that.
But it sound pretty good at the moment, as those parts are in transit. So it is a bit of peeling the onion.


With a good arm, the choice of carts is almost endless. And of course a good phono pre.

A solid choice as a platform, if I do say so my biased self.

@rvpiano When playing classical, my vinyl rig is better than anything I have on the digital side in terms of 3 dimensionality, imaging, and soundstage. Tone and natural presentation is incredible as well, that is so important for acoustic instruments. It just ‘feels’ more real to me

Mine too, however my digital side is on the Best Buy side.


I have always liked the SOTA Sapphire, you can possibly get a refurbished table direct from SOTA. Put Origin Live arm on it and away you go. SOTA carry a variety of arms and can properly fit your arm board.

There are better arm choices than OL… IMO.
Certainly there are arms that are easier to align/adjust/set-up.

Sota Sapphire hands down. There is no other $3500 turntable that comes close to the Sapphire's level of performance.




‘Do you have the Saphire VI?
‘Does it require an arm separately?
‘The price is right.

I bought a used Model III from a gentleman here on Audiogon. It was a table only, so I purchased a new arm. I was lucky enough to get a Jelco S850 MK II when they were still available. The arm actually cost me more than the table. Then, at the time, bought a decent tone arm cable, a Soundsmith Zephyr cart followed a couple months later, which is very nice, but now have a Soundsmith MIMC star lo-output after purchasing a Hagerman Trumpet tube phono preamp a year later (was actually using a Schiit Mani up until then). Then replaced the stock tubes in the Hagerman with some nice old stock tubes, and just recently a purchased separate linear power supply for it. All this together has created a pretty nice rig I am enjoying immensely. Was all of it necessary, no, but after you get started, you simply want to make it better.

So, yes, add it all up, and a nice investment cost-wise, but very much worth it IMO, and many of the additions were added over time, not all at once. Probably about a 3.6K initial investment to get started. But, but over time, about 6K spent to date (including another back-up cart and mono cart).

And, as it is a model III, it will need sent to SOTA soon for an upgrade to min. V specs and restoration. So probably another 1-1.5k investment, and I will do it gladly.

When I started down this path, I would have told you no way would I spend 2K on a vinyl rig. Well, I’m way over that, and happy. But, to be honest, this is small change in the world of higher end vinyl rigs, (some cartridges cost as much as my investment to date), but I think I’ve done well putting together a relative bargain set-up which works incredibly well, and sounds fantastic.

I don't know if $4k will get you there. Digital does transparency and resolution pretty well at relatively lower price. Analog requires much higher expenditure than the $4k you're talking about. My digital surpassed my analog on transparency/resolution front many years ago, and this with aprox. $7k in tt and phono pre. To bring my analog up to my present digital will take at least $2k cartridge and $7-10K phono pre.


Sure you can improve what you have for $4k, but will that hold up in long run? You'll likely improve your digital in the future and analog will fall behind again, and that's assuming your $4k upgrade measures up to your present digital. I'm in same boat, and I'm going all in on vinyl in future, or simply give it up, no half measures will get me what I want. My take is unless one has funds to go first rate on both formats, concentrate on one or the other in short term, you can always do substantial upgrades for the other format at a later date.



I think my query has been answered here. 
it’s apparent that $4000 is not going to bring my analog side to the level that I’m hoping for.
Thanks everyone for your help.

Improving on the performance of a Vinyl LP Source does require the consideration that a considerable outlay may be needed to acquire equipment that will noticeably surpass a already existing equipment.

The performance that is achieved as a result of the restructure of the system will hopefully be quite impressive and wanted to be maintained as a keeper.

In the field of Digital there are opportunities to produce a Digital Source that can compare to a Parity or Surpass a Vinyl presentation for the impression being made on the quality of the presentation.

With Digital it is quite possible to achieve this with an outlay that is less than the cost attached to a MC Cart' from certain Brands Middle to Upper Middle Models in the Cart' Range. 

With a budget of 4K and your reports that the in use Digital Source is capable of showing itself as a Betterment over the Vinyl LP Source, a small proportion of the 4K Budget allocated to the furthering of the performance of the Digital Source, might just provide a Digital Source that any selected Vinyl LP Source might fall short of in making an impression that is Parity during a comparison.     

"Will about a 4K investment do that?"

Absolutely it will. Get a Kuzma Stabi S.

I think my query has been answered here. 
it’s apparent that $4000 is not going to bring my analog side to the level that I’m hoping for.
Thanks everyone for your help.

Well done @rvpiano - most people just “hope their way” along.

I realize mine is a fringe/lunatic recommendation, but I would get a VPI HW-19 MK.3 or Aries (original), put on it a Zeta arm, and mount a London Super Gold w/Decapod on its headshell. That combo will bring your LP’s to LIFE!

The London puts out 5mV’s, so no extra gain needed---40dB is more than enough. (The Schitt Mani 2 has a setting specifically for Decca/London’s---35dB). In fact, lower gain can result in greater headroom in your phono amp.

As was mentioned earlier, it is much easier to build a decent digital system and for people who do not have large record collections optimizing the digital side is a much safer investment, then buy music. I love my record collection and have thousands of records dating back to the 60s. But, vinyl is a very deep rabbit hole and given that my generation is now retiring and has lots of money to blow the pricing is nearing ridiculous. There are obvious aspects in which vinyl can not dream of competing, signal to noise ratio and measured distortion are two. People without large collections would be better off sticking to digital. If you have an unstoppable urge to collect records, love turning Allen wrenches and have money to burn then by all means join the club. There are people who were born to collect records sort of like baseball cards:-)

A refurbished Sota Sapphire is definitely the way to go. I have one with a modified Sumiko FT-3 tonearm. Bought it from a friend who is one of the more distinguished members of the A'gon community!

This is the best tt I ever owned. Easily surpasses the SQ of a Well-Tempered tt I had. $4000 should get you a refurb Sapphire and decent tonearm. IMHO :-)




😁 you must have bought @tomic601 ‘s SOTA. You definitely got a great deal if so. Jim helped me out greatly when I dove into my SOTA  Sapphire purchase.

And I don’t care what anyone says, for me, vinyl is simply magical, and will always be better than my digital source. I will definitely enjoy it while I can. Sure, age may be a factor in that becoming a primary source, some day. But nobody can convince me digital will be better than my records. You just won’t win that argument.

@bkeske ,

I know Jim somewhat personally, and I don't think you will find a more altruistic gentleman. :-)

Not that it’s bad, but I want to look for  something that will significantly improve the sound of my current setup. 
Will about a 4K investment do that?

I'm sure you're considering the Rega Planar 8 w/ Ania.


”And I don’t care what anyone says, for me, vinyl is simply magical, and will always be better than my digital source.”

I have used vinyl for over 50 years and built ever better vinyl rigs to get the very best out of it. Until my digital rig bested it. My rig is shown under my UserID. Paradigms shift.

Good for you, have fun. I’ll do the same….and I do listen to all the various formats….but vinyl will always be preferred. It just sounds right and more ‘real’ to me.

As the kids used to say, ‘it’s all good’.

Perhaps a Rega Fono MC phono preamp (roughly $550) or a Rega Aria MM/MC phono preamp (roughly $1,700) and the rest of your budget spent on the best MC cartridge you can find might improve things. Personally, I'd get a Linn Majik LP12, as previously suggested, and start the inevitable climb up the Linn ladder.

Another to consider is a Dr Feickert Volare with Origin Live arm, $4K without cartridge.  It is smaller than a SOTA and requires an isolated platform.  It is dead quiet in operation (more quiet than the SOTA).

I've owned 2 SOTA's over the last 35 years, including my current Star III/SME V combination - bought new.  They are wonderful tables with a fantastic suspension, just not as quiet in my experience as some other very good units.

Pros and cons, as usual, in this price segment.

Ego not inflated a bit Tim and Brian, and thanks for the kind words :-)

I have decent gear on the digital, LP and RtR fronts, so for me anyway….assessment of relative strengths and weaknesses AND trying to address has a been a catalyst for competitive improvement across all 3. I do understand that the various formats do compete for $$$. Ultimately that was why i sold the SOTA as trying to maintain all the analog bits in two places, was too much.

@rvpiano what did you decide to do ?
best to all



As much as I would love to improve my analog side, I don’t think I have the level of commitment and resources that it takes. I don’t even trust myself to install a cartridge, no less a tone arm. So I think I’ll pass on a new setup.

The interaction with Vinyl does not need to be lost entirely.

I am not with a System in use at present, my home is to be worked on and most possessions are readying themselves for a period of storage.

Through being member of a HiFI Group, I am regularly invited to experience in both Analogue and Digital Equipment demonstrations. Additionally there is on occasions new unfamiliar equipment made available for broadening the experiences being encountered.

I am happy to Purchase New Music Recordings to be used at the meetings, and if well received, leave them as loaned music for the group to use on their own systems, or used when I am absent from a meeting.

The interaction with the groups arranged events, has enables myself to encounter items of equipment, I would recommend to others, but also allow for my discovering equipment, I have now put onto a shortlist to be trialed on the home system when reinstated for regular use. These are curve ball moments, and were not anticipated to leave such strong positive impressions, to the point where an item might find itself a place on the rack.      

For the "money", the Music Hall mmf-7.3 cannot be beat. Just look at what you get for your money. Split plinth, seperate motor, electronic speed control, 9cc tonearm, azimuth and Vta adjustable, acrylic platter, round profile belt, quality phono cables, quality spin on/threaded record clamp, built in level, dust cover, tip toe feet, beautiful real walnut finish (optional), Ortofon 2nd from the top 2m Bronze cartridge. The price has increases recently, and is now generally a 2k turntable... I love mine. Pair this table/cartridge combo with a good tubed phono preamp and it sounds splendid. Not to mention, the turntable looks awesome, if that at all matters....

Upscale offers the Feickert Volare with Origin Live tonearm and Ultratracker cartridge installed for a package price of 4.3k. Surely something like that would work.


+1 on the Music Hall products, I purchased a used mmf-5.3 for all the reasons you listed. Solved all my vinyl playback issues and looks great on the shelf. 

There is a glaring omission from the recommendations- the Technics SL-1200/1210 G.

I’m a former Rega and Sota owner. I see the recommendations for the exact same Sota that I owned and just cringe. I hated mine.

The Technics offers everything I value, incredible sound quality, amazing build quality, it’s easy to set up and won’t go out of adjustment. I’ve bought my last turntable.