Can a $3K table be among the best out there?

I am on the market for a $3K turntable. I am going back to analog after a number of years so I know little of current market. So, I did some research and stumbled across the Townshend Rock 7 and WT Amadeus tables. I've read a lot about them.. The impression one gets after reading user comments or reviews (like TAS reviews for instance) is that it's hard to get a better table, period. In a world where you can easily spend $4K on a tonearm, I found these statements to be surprising to say the least. What's so special about these turntables, and can anyone comment on the notion that it's hard to beat their performance at any price?
I think whats happening here is that those products are such good "all arounders" Yes, you can pay more money for bigger bass for example, or maybe a slightly quieter noise floor,(though with the Well Tempered, I'd be surprised) or any number of things, including a simpatico match to your favorite cartridge. But, something like the Amadeus just sounds so well balanced and right that it will be difficult to better it in all parameters. I know it is hard to believe. Just look at it, that skinny platter, thin plinth, crazy arm with virtually no parts, or fancy machining. In this case, less is surely more. The resulting sound is more than the sum of it's parts. Sure, something like a mid model Project can also be considered a good "all arounder", but it doesn't have near the level of attainment that these tables do. I don't own an Amadeus, but an older WT model, still, I "get it" nontheless. I don't doubt those glowing reviews one bit.
there are a number of similar tables in that range, including the current Sota Sapphire and VPI Classic and Basis 2001 that give a large slice of what the highest end components can deliver. After that, it is sometimes just a matter of taste, or degree, with slight improvements in noise floor, articulation, detail etc. that last 10% of performance takes a considerable amount of dollars to attain, and even then, one man's treasure is another's garbage. I dont think many can complain about the performance of these tables in the 3k range.
the above mentioned Sota Sapphire and VPI Classic (which I own and love) are great in that price range. I would add the Clearaudio Performance with the CMB bearing. Great table as well, especially if put on a Gingko Audio isolation table.
Indeed a lot of turntable in the 3k-30k range sound similar, they are different from finish, but at the end of day, it is the way it is. Look for one which has a correct speed, that is a huge step forward today.
A well done 3k turntable can be indeed better than a shiny 30k unit. Or than black, heavy, multi-motor units(3x wrong does NOT give a correct speed) or wood Products for 16k ... That is High End today.
Syntax-great point, correct speed and vibration control are essential. To many well designed decks forget about the power supply. A wallwart or inadequate ps on a $3k+ table is unacceptable!
Sota Saphire is definitely a world class table, and it has a good suspension.
Check out the Trans Fi Audio Salvation direct rim drive tt with it's Terminator T3Pro air bearing linear tracking arm. £2400 UK price, $4000-$4500 US price. I have it, and believe it beats tt/arms over 5x the price. Most bang for buck in analogue, or audio generally, today. IMHO.
I own the Townshend Rock 7. I've been listening to vinyl as my main source since 1973 and I am a picky SOB. I would easily put my TRock up against tables many times its price. The reason behind my confidence is not the overall build quality (there are certainly better fit & finish examples out there at higher price points), but one ingenious feature that puts it in class by itself: the fluid filled trough and head shell assembly.

Although The Well tempered also uses a viscous fluid to damp vibrations in the tonearm, the Rock does it at the cartridge! This neutralizes so much of the vibration that the stylus is normally susceptible to and allows it to convey its minute signals down the chain uncolored by vibrations except those it tracked in the grooves.

The amazing result is that the tonearm becomes less important. I have the Townshend Excalibur 3 arm, but even a good Rega arm sounded absolutely breathtaking.

I'm listening to the Beatles White Album as I write this and the sound is so alive and musical that it's difficult to focus on this post. Feel free to ask any questions, I'm going to focus on the music for a while.
The Well Tempered arm is the only arm I know of that can survive a test record resonance test without literally flying of the record. There are no bearings in the arm.

When you first handle the arm you'll immediately feel the resistance in all directions provided by the oils viscosity. The ingenious sensibility is instantly

The polished plater spindle is immersed in a lighter oil supported four nylon dots. The drive belt applies a constant load to the spindle against the oil bathed dots so there is no chatter whatsoever.
No. A new $3K TT can be pretty good and maybe all some people need but I've never heard one I would consider among the best. It's just not possible to build and market a TT for that price and get top performance.

With the right knowledge and skills you might be able to DIY one for $3K if you don't account for time and labor.

"It's just not possible to build and market a TT for that price and get top performance. "

Generally, I agree... unless, as in this case, a game changing relatively inexpensive idea is at the heart of the design, allowing the TT to reproduce music as clearly and accurately as ones way beyond its price. The Rock 7 is such a game changer.

Unless you've heard this 'table, you have no reason to believe me. Without the trough, the Rock sounds like a good $3000 turntable. When the trough is in use, it feels and sounds like you just swapped in a $20,000 TT.

Don't take my word for it, find a correctly set up Rock 7 somewhere and bring your reference LPs. You'll be vey impressed...
Sorry Sarcher, but it is: Trans Fi Audio Salvation. If you can stretch to $3500-$4000, to include dedicated arm. I was ready to shell out on the 5-10x pricier SME 30 and TW Acustic AC3, when I heard this gem. Now it's the one in my system.
A $300.00 table can be among the "best" out there if you want it to be.
Dear Vicdamone, You are not the first to repeat the claim made by WT that their tonearm has "no bearing". However, if you apply the formal definition of a bearing, I think their claim is rubbish. The arm pivots at a fixed point at its rear (I hope). Ergo, it has a bearing. What it has is a rather sloppy bearing, but a bearing, nevertheless. This is not to belittle the Amadeus as a tonearm/turntable entity; it must do a lot right, because it has an army of devoted followers.

Could a $3K turntable be among the best out there? Probably not, but at that price point it could be "good enough".
01-28-13: Tpreaves
A $300.00 table can be among the "best" out there if you want it to be.

Good comment. And true :-)
For some MP3 is the next best after sliced bread. You find that also in Analog reproduction.

01-28-13: Lewm
Dear Vicdamone, You are not the first to repeat the claim made by WT that their tonearm has "no bearing". However, if you apply the formal definition of a bearing, I think their claim is rubbish. The arm pivots at a fixed point at its rear (I hope). Ergo, it has a bearing. What it has is a rather sloppy bearing, but a bearing, nevertheless. This is not to belittle the Amadeus as a tonearm/turntable entity; it must do a lot right, because it has an army of devoted followers.

Could a $3K turntable be among the best out there? Probably not, but at that price point it could be "good enough".

Also a good comment. A Tonearm has to guide a Cartridge, not the other way. The WT Design is brilliant from the costs, it offers a good Package for someone who wants something which is not a total money burner (based on the first WT Designs). The WT ARm was always a good pricing but when you compared it to a much more expensive Graham Arm you will hear the Differences. Anyway, each his own, That Arm was copied with a piece of wood, two Magnets, 7000 USD, 1.5 years waiting list and that is a real joke. But you will find much more which is very expensive and at the end of day, lower average from performance.
Our time is tough, but modern :-)
Spiritofmusic, I'm happy you're happy with your TT. That's all that really matters. That said just because something is pricier does not mean it's better. This does not automatically make the cheaper table among the best though. It just means that some TT's are over priced for the performance they offer.

I have not heard the Trans Fi so can not comment on it's performance. Have you heard the tables you mentioned? How about in your own system? If not how can you be sure your TT is competitive?

I had a VPI Classic 1 in my system and know it's short comings. I can confidently say it is not among the best. Not to say it's bad it just falls short in a few areas. I've also heard the Amadeus at a dealer directly compared to the VPI Classic that I bought. The Amadeus was pleasing to the ear and I did like it a bit better than the Classic at the time but the Amadeus had a Dynavector 17D3 and the Classic had a 20XL. I own both those carts and I much prefer the 17D3.

I happen to agree with Lewm on the Amadeus arm. There is no way to be precise with the alignment on that arm because of it's design. This results in less clarity in sound than is possible with other arms. It does make it easier to setup though.

The Amadeus and Townshend Rock 7 are both excellent tables. I have given my comparison of their sound on a thread at Audio Circle, and the short of it is that I came to agree with the comparison given in Greene's reviews in The Absolute Sound.

MSRP of $3k will get you a lot of table, and what you prefer will likely come down to personal preference. The Classic and the recently introduced Avid table are others I would look at around these price points.

This is still a price point at which desginers will need to make trade-offs and compromises. I like the naked look of the Townshend, which was likely a cost-cutting measure (and I am fine in general with cost-cutting that might primarily be cosmetic in nature; my Avid phono pre is certainly nothing much to look at). The Amadeus' lack of suspension and use of MDF for the plinth are where that design saved money, it seems.

So I don't think these tables are necessarily among the best, but they are damn good and likely many (like myself) will feel an upgrade is unnecessary.

What sort of shortcomings do you find with the VPI classic? It just so happens I was thinking of either one of those 2 Dynavector MC's you mentioned and perhaps at a later date, going for the VPI Classic.
Vinyl; can be pricy, and in a nutshell, the more you spend the better it gets. Not always the case with digital.

Lets work this through, a $3000 TT, a comperable arm would be @ $1000 - 1500, a comperable cartridge would be @$1000-1500, a comperable phono stage would be about $2000. So the whole vinyl system would be in the range of $7000-9000. (then you need a record cleaning machine)

That's not cheese whiz and I would expect it would sound very good indeed!
And even "cheese whiz" is not the best cheese out there.
A $3K table is among the "best" in the same sense that a Honda Civic is among the "best" cars.
I wouldn't go that far Lloydc.

To continue the car analogy:

I'd consider something like the VPI Traveler or a comparably priced Rega to be analogous to a Civic.

A good $3k table would be more like a Golf GTI, a Mazdaspeed, or a high performance Subaru, or a Mini Cooper S.

Not the ultimate in performance, but surprisingly high performance for the buck. And can be tweaked to up the performance even more if you get the itch (though this applies less to the Amadeus, for better for worse).
"The Amadeus' lack of suspension and use of MDF for the plinth are where that design saved money, it seems."

Roscoeiii- I agree on the STD Amadeus using MDF for a Plinth. That's where someone has the option of the Aluminum sandwich Plinth on the GTA. I have a GTA on the way to replace my STD Amadeus, which will move to a 2nd setup.
Roscoe, agreed.
My friend Lewm. you're absolutly correct. Thank you. Going forward I may use the word filament or fish wire.
I just completed a Lenco rebuild. It outperforms my Rega P3, and VPI TNT (it had a Teres Verus rim-drive). With a little searching you can find a used Artisan Fidelity rebuild or a Jean Nantais in your price range. It is remarkable how good a properly rebuilt Lenco can reproduce music.
Vicdamone, you've gotta be cool if you admired Vic Damone, the poor man's Sinatra.
Vinylmad, As I see it the biggest weakness of the Classic is the motor and belt. The motor is nothing special and the belt is very elastic. The more elastic the belt the more it will cover up cogging from the motor. This comes at a cost though. The cost is smeared sound. This is not readily apparent unless compared to something that does not have this problem. I did not discover it was a problem until I bought a Teres outboard motor and used tape drive on the Classic instead. After switching back and forth it was obvious the tape drive was clearer sounding. With the tape drive I could hear speed inconsistencies (cogging) more clearly though. With my current direct drive TT the Technics SP10 mk2a I have neither problem. The other problems of the Classic are minor and can be solved by tweaking such as using different footers etc.

Really good drive systems are expensive and I don't expect to see really good ones on new $3k TT's. If your budget is $3k I would not worry about it too much unless you are comfortable with DIY and can build a plinth yourself. If so you can experiment with a Lenco, Technics SP10 or other vintage DD TT's. I have not heard Lewm's Kenwood L-07d but it looks like a winner and does not need a plinth.

I have heard some very good belt drives and the best was the TechDas Air Force One. It uses a non elastic fiber belt with a rubber coating to grip the platter. I believe the motor is servo controlled as well. It may have some give due to the rubber coating but it's not much. Most of the really good belt drives are very spendy though.

Some people don't like the sound of DD tables and prefer the sound of belt drive. If they are both done well they both sound good to me. The only way to find out what you prefer is to get out and hear as many different setups as you can.

Without a cartridge, a good working Thorens TD124 or Garrard 301 with birch wood plinth and a 12" Ortofon or SME arm may cost around $3,000~3,500. Not many TTs at under $4K would beat that, if any.
I hate to even consider characterizing anything in such absolute terms as "best," so given the ambiguity of how broad "among the best" can be, I would agree with Ihcho that a good working Thorens TD 124 or a Garrard 301 or 401 could be "among the best." I know a few fans with systems well above $100k in price who use these tables as their preferred vinyl source. The music just seems to have a lot of punch, rhythmic drive and dynamics -- if those qualities are high priorities to a listener, these are great tables.
Robert Greene, who reviewed both the WT Amadeus and the Rock for TAS, tends to review products with innovative, unusual engineering. I may be wrong, but I think those two turntables are the first analog source components he'd reviewed in a very long time. His reference table used to be the Nakamichi, also an engineering outlier. My point is, it's not clear what the frame of reference is for his enthusiasm for those tables.

I own an Amadeus, btw.

You'll notice that Michael Fremer has not reviewed either of them.
after i started this post I was determined to buy an Amadeus. Then I had the idea of calling a friend of mine who in Europe is considered a legend in analogue circles––a genius of an engineer who has no business ambitions but apparently manufactures what many consider the "best" tonearm on the planet and one of the best turntables. anyhow i asked him what he thinks about the amadeus, and he replied that he thinks it's not very good. then when i told him that i was also considering a thorens td-124 he replied that if i am into vintage i am much better off with an empire 598 troubadour. i was lucky to find one in immaculate conditions (with original box, tonearm, cart, etc)...and i am listening to it right now. boy is that good!
Ggavetti-Thanks for sharing the info. This guy designs TT's and arms. I am sure someone in his position, have opinions on how a TT should be designed. It doesn't sound like he agrees with the design philosophy of WT. That said, has he heard one. Perhaps exploring vintage, like your Empire, does have advantages over anything new in the same price range. I don't doubt this, as there is certainly a very strong following. The thing is, many including myself, don't choose to go that route. So then it all comes back to your post of $3K to spend on a TT/arm setup. I wonder which new $3K setups this guy has heard. If not, I can't see where his opinions hold any water. Congrats on your purchase, I'm sure it is a wonderful table. Cheers-Don
Fjn04, well, you know, when you are regarded as having gotten close to perfection (and dedicated your entire life to it), you get somewhat reluctant to accept other philosophies or ideas, especially if you care about measurable parameters like, for instance, the distorsion caused by a tonearm, how much damaging a needle is to the record etc. I have seen that with many other audio artisans who decided to work for themselves and not for the public (that is, who sell a few pieces to make a decent life but certainly don't aspire to get rich). Based on the way he talked about it, he knows WT first-hand and very well. I can say that one of the tables he always raved about of is Teres Audio...but that is certainly not in the $3K range. BTW, I see you like Shindo...I also got the bug (own a Masseto right now).
Ggavetti- This guy liking Teres is kind of my point. Maybe the guy thinks every table/arm between $3-$5K is nothing special. As we know, the Teres is not in the Amadeus price range. That said, if he hears an Amadeus, a VPI Classic, a Rega RP8, Clearaudio performance..., then it becomes meaningful. My only personal experience is with Basis tables, up to the 2500. No knock on Basis, but I am not looking back. The Amadeus gets an awful lot right, for a table in it's price range. It seems like all components built at a certain price point, don't do it all. Glad to see you are liking the Massetto! What cartridge will you be using on the Empire, and what is your amp/speaker setup. Cheers -Don
Fjn04, actually in our conversation he mentioned the VPI classic and WT as two TT's he'd never get. This is a guy who has spent his entire professional life on turntables and tonearms...he knows pretty much everything under the sun. And by the way, he doesn't look at gear based on price ranges. I paid my Empire $700 and he thinks this an awfully good setup. If I don't get a Teres, I might get a Townshend TT.
Using an ortophon mc-30 with the masseto. Perhaps we chat offline on shindo gear. please email me at
thank you.
Understood your friend knows his stuff, but the question that seems to not have been answered is if he's actually heard a WT turntable. Has he?
Just curious- why even start this thread if you have a friend who "knows pretty much everything under the sun?"
because I value fellow travelers' opinions and because i always though that the most knowledgeable people (that is designers who know stuff 99% of us does not even dream of) might look at things in an overly technical (e.g. from the engineer's standpoint) way. even if I overall trust my friend's judgment, for instance he might put too much weight on how much damage the cart does to the record than i care about. so, others' opinions are quite valuable datapoints to me. and by the way, i had this conversation with him only AFTER this thread had validated what I had read in reviews about the amadeus and townshend turntables. so, i am learning quite a bit.
And should we suppose from your last comment on the Townshend that this is a table your friend is also a fan of?
no, he never mentioned that. i just agree with someone who said in this thread that the townshend is such a game changer that it can really beat the heck out of more expensive gear. by the way, in terms of pricing it is not hugely more expensive than a teres. if you're patient you can find a used teres in the $6K neighborhood inclusive of the tonearm. I believe the townshend is $3K without the tonearm. add a good tonearm and you're easily in the $4.5K range. so, at that point one might even think of a teres. in any events, in the near term i just plan to enjoy the empire and maximize its performance...
Yes, Townshend is a game changer. But the Trans Fi Salvation direct rim drive tt (a little out of this price range c$4000, BUT INCLUDING Terminator T3Pro air bearing linear tracking arm), is not so much a game changer, but it redefines the rules (of speed stability and tracking accuracy).
Not in this life time!!
The Townsend Rock 7 is excellent as well.

I must say, I have enjoyed all the pompous, self aggrandizing discussion here.

No way a $3000 table can compare.....

You get what you paid for.....

There are a lot of great tables in that price range. I have heard better tables, but it's like anything in this hobby, after a certain level, and this is probably about right there, the next 10% improvement doubles the price. Then the next 5% improvement doubles the price again.

The Empire is a great table, just as is the Thorens line-up, and of course the Technics DD's if you get the right plinth and a nice arm. I actually bought a Yamaha PX-2 last year because I remember as a kid seeing one and thinking it had to be the greatest turntable ever. I thought it would suck by modern standards, but it sounded great, and was so easy to use and set up. I wish I had not sold it, and kept it as a secondary table.

So I will say that a table for $3k is probably within 10-15% of the best that exists. I love to see a blind test on some of these tables with some of the "experts" on this string. That would be priceless.