My 2 cents here.
I'd easily recommend that you go to KAB USA, Order one of the Technics SL-1200 variants of turntables Kevin offers. You then can select from a list of additional products he has for said turntables. One can setup a complete kitted out SL-1200 for about $1000 US.
As for phono preamps, LOTS ti choose from, cheap or expensive. The straight forward and nicely priced Cambridge Audio 640p is a nice unit to look at.
Another alternative is a good vintage turntable off Audiogon or eBay. Higher end top decks from the Made in Japan makers of the late 70's and early 80s' may get you setup well. Of course being vintage you have no warranty.
I second the KAB Technics route. Add a Denon cartridge and I think you'll find the sound competitive well above its price point.
3rd- If you are on a budget you will not beat the music these tables will make. And really trouble free with easy set up and push button play. You have Kevin who delivers the best customer service in the business. KAB.U.S.A.
I am partial to the VPI HW19jr. It sure beat my mmf7
Are you guys really serious about the Techniques? What have you compared it too? I had one and even my Dual CS5000, which I just gave it away, blew it away on every level.
50 albums and no more ever? If that's true, go to goodwill and buy and old dual for $20. Then, buy a new cartridge for $40 from needledoctor. For a phono pre, go as cheap as you can, the NAD or Parasound will do well for under $100. The other option is to buy a crosly at target.
Cerrot, the KAB-modified Technics really are quite special. I've previously had a Music Hall MMF-5 and a Project RM-6B that the Technics trounces. (The chasm widens with the addition of a Denon DL-103 cartridge.) I had also borrowed a Nottingham Horizon that the Technics handily beat, as well.
Sufentanil, I appreciate the response. That 'J' arm is way heavy and the direct drive is soo noisey. The inner grove tracking makes bass soo bloated ad the highs ripped up my soundstage. I am tempted to try annother from posts for a 3'rd system but have reservations. Have you compared it to a rega p3 with rb300 arm?
Cerrot- With the Cardas tonearm rewire and the fluid damper any bass issues are resolved. The motor is dead quiet- check the spec's at KAB U.S.A. There can be issues with the platter so a good mat is mandatory in my view. If you are hung up on the stock tonearm you can install the Origin arm board and a better(?) arm. With that and some good table isolation you will have a giant killer. There is a segment of this community that dismiss this table out of hand, but most that have taken the time to listen to a well thought out and modded Technics TT have been rewarded with one of the great values in lp playback.
Cerrot, on what do you base your assertion that "that 'J' arm is way heavy and the direct drive is sooo noisey"? I had to actually at the (included) headshell weight to have an overall arm mass to match my Denon 103. And I've experienced none of the motor noise that you refer to. It outperforms the belt-driven tables I've had in the past. Have you listened to a unit with the fluid damping system? And no, I've never heard a Rega P3 so I can't provide a comparison.
It seems that we're getting a little off-topic. The original poster wanted a system that would allow someone to enjoy vinyl on a relative budget. Several of us have offered the KAB-modified Technics as a viable option. None of us are claiming it's the be-all-end-all turntable, but it provides excellent value, reliability, ease of adjustment, and compatibility with a wide range of cartridges. Not to mention top-notch support from Kevin at KAB.
I should have warned you not to get the Technics people riled up...
If he has 50 LP's and no plans to get any more, I recommend the following procedure:
1) Buy a Project Debut III with integrated phono pre-amp and USB output.
2) Play all 50 albums with the USB cable from the TT to your computer.
3) Put turntable and 50 lp's up for sale on Audiogon as a package deal.
Vinyl playback is something of a commitment. If you're not going to "do" the format, do away with it.
You'll feel cleansed.
Like many others I started with a VPI HW-19. Starting from there, and assuming he will soon look for more records, he won't reach top level, but it is possible to get a lot of good sound for not so much money (especially, if he is willing to tweak a bit - much advice on the net).
A "J" arm is longer than a streight arm and, thus, has more mass, and, is heavier. The J arms have been abandandoned long ago - just like the "S" arms and direct drives (except in rare, recent cases (direct drive)-and it is done a bit different than in the Technics). The way the Technics is direct coupled to the motor causes noise, which was much higher than any rig I would ever recommend to someone. I have had and heard many Technics tables, modded and not, and, although when I got my first table back in the 70's, and thought it was great, as I listened to more and more tables, I realized that its limitiaions were just too great. The P3 is much, much more musical, quieter, wider and deeper soundstage and resolves low level details much better than the Technics. I'm trying to stick to that price point and know the P3 isn't the end all, either. My Dual CS5000, blew away the modded Technics (Dual is direct drive but had much lower platter noise). We compared a highly modded Technics to a Project table that cost a few hundred less last year, same cartridge/phonostage/system and it easilly beat the Technics. I absolutely loved my 1st Technics, and still do, but, sound wise, there is just much, much better for the price. It does hold a glamor place in hi fi history but, if you listen, it's just a pretty face with not much going on inside. Just my opinion, guys.
Cerrot, that's interesting because your experience with the Technics vs Project is completely opposite of mine. I found the light Project arm to be difficult to match with cartridges that offered strong value, the arm was difficult to properly adjust the VTA and anti-skate, and the turntable itself was extremely sensitive to vibration. With the same cartridge, the Technics sounds so much better to me, and gave me a much better signal-to-noise ratio. I also previously had a Music Hall table (similar in many ways to the Project), and it couldn't hold a candle to my Technics. Which mods did your "highly modded Technics" have that didn't do as well as the Rega?
The original poster asked about a Rega P3 and a Clearaudio Emotion (neither of which I've ever listened to). I'm sure both would work just fine, as they get good press. As for budget phono stages, it depends on how much you want to spend. On the inexpensive side, the Parasound zPhono is a good value for around $100, and the Acurus P10 and Musical Surroundings Phenomena are a little better for a couple hundred dollars more. The Dynavector P75 also gets good reviews.
Best of luck,
Agiaccio: I have a few questions for you:
You suggested a couple of rigs from Rega and Clearaudio in the $1500 range.
1) If your bro-in-law has only 50 albums and no intention of expanding that, why would he want to toss that much money just to play 50 albums?
2) What type of system does he have?
3) Is he open to the possibility of expanding his collection?
4) Does he have the space and inclination to provide a proper platform for the turntable?
If so, fine, but otherwise he'd probably do well with the Audio Technica PL-120 for $219.95 from LPGear
. It's a well-executed solidly built (weighs about 26 lbs) Technics SL12x0 knockoff that plays 78s and has a built-in phono stage. For cartridge I'd go for an Ortofon 2M Red. Put Vibrapod #2s under the feet, or put the turntable on a butcher block cutting board and put Vibrapods under the cutting board to isolate the turntable and lower the noise floor.
For an outboard phono stage, the Cambridge 640P is pretty good and does both MM and MC, but I've found that for high output cartridges, the built-in phono stage of my Onkyo A-9555 integrated amp is significantly better. If he's in the market for electronics, this integrated would provide an excellent phono stage.
The Technics had the KAB PS1200 power supply, fluid damper, Isonoe footers, upgraded bottom plate, upgraded wiring (not cardas but the guy spent $200 for it), strobe dissabler and record clamp. It (to me) really sounded stringent, narrow sound stage, no depth. All vinyl had too much surface noise and I swear I could hear the drive rumble, and rumble... When I tapped the body of the table, you heared it through the speakers (stylus on record) way too loud. Cartridge was grado gold, and then Benz Micro Glider and then a shelter (can't remember which); used two phono stages - Bellari (sucked-hum, no low level retrievel) and my Innersound (which I find very dynamic, quiet and brings everything out of the grooves). We compared it to (with same cartridges/phone) Project Debut, Rega P3 and My modded TNT Jr. It was easilly bested by all rigs.
Cheaper to have them all transcribed to digital.
Rega would not be bad if you don't listen to that much. I lived with a P3 for 5 years in bliss. Had a terrible Grace 707 with it to boot (why does sumiko blue point ring a bell?). Imagine if I'd never thought of upgrading because I had the RB300. But for 50 records? Why occupy the real estate.
For me, instead of upgrading the whole thing I instead bought an SME V for $1800. This was back in the 1900's though. Still think that was the best investment I'd made in audio (everything else in my system has changed since then except the vinyl).