Considering analog...but nervous

Well, I've been here before. Once again, I'm thinking of venturing into the Analog world, but before doing so, I wanted to pose a few questions to fellow agoners to make sure my head (ears?) are in the right place.

Some Background: My current setup consists of a Modwright Transporter, Musical Fidelity KW 500 (hybrid tube pre/SS Amp), and Focal/JM 1027be speakers. My entire current collection is digital and I have NEVER owned Vinyl before NOR have I ever heard a high-end Analog setup.

My Tastes/musical likes: I am all about soundstage and imaging. Vocal accuracy is hugely important and instrument placing (hence, imaging) are part of what I look for when listening. Genre wise, mostly rock, folk, acoustic and blues. Some jazz as well. I generally try to stick to labels that produce good-sounding material...not over-compressed garbage.

On with the questions:

1. One of the biggest things that has kept me from trying Vinyl thus far is the concern of excessive hiss and crackle/pop that vinyl is known for. Is it safe to assume that purchasing new Vinyl and played on a higher quality setup will reduce (eliminate?) the pops and crackle sounds? I have no problem purchasing exclusively new vinyl, knowing full well that the process of shopping used is what draws so many to this market...

2. If I purchase new vinyl, only play it on a decent player, and store it properly, will I still have to clean it? How expensive is a cleaning machine? Are there (reasonable), less expensive alternatives to a cleaning machine?

3. Based on my integrated (tube-pre,SS amp) and speakers, are these a good match for Vinyl? Does anyone know if the KW 500 Phono input is adequate for a good turntable? My digital system has a tendency to be on the bright side for a lot of material, but not everything. Strangly, even at 31 years old, I can still hear up to around 19Khz so I'm a bit picky about the highs...

4. How complicated is the setup of the TT? Being that I've never worked wtih it before, I'm somewhat intimidated by the "setup" requirements of the equipment. What are the core requirements/knowledge to properly setup a TT.

5. And finally, the most subjective question of all. If I had a budget of about $1,000-$1,500 for a TT, Tonearm and Cartridge, what would be a good starting place? I'd obviously be looking for used here from Agon.

I know this was a long post so thanks for hanging in and reading it all :-). Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

You've been thinking about this for a while. Do you have any friends who have a TT, where you can get an idea of living with one? If you don't already own any records, you will be in for a long time search, maybe develop a habit!! Not trying to dissuade you, as I am beginning to get back to it in a big way. I already have a bit of a collection going back 30++ years. There is nothing like it, but does require some commitment. Records can be cleaned with a modest manual set-up. There's plenty of information in the forums here.
I would strongly suggest NOT getting onto vinyl for you.
The reasons are:
1) you are sort of on the fence; bad, not really enough desire. without some 'black licorice' lust, it would be a mistake. (to think it would develope)
2) you have NO records. The PRIMARY (and ONLY real reason to play vinyl) is because one HAS vinyl, and loves to collect vinyl. The real question you SHOULD ask yourself is: "How many GOOD local used LP sources are around my area" (if you plan on going ahead with the desire to buy into LP playback)
3) the playing of LPs is just different than CD. The results are different, with different tradeoffs. I vacuum my LPs and usually never wash them (used) and have NO problem with surface noise (but i grew up on LP)
4) the rituals are complicated. You DO have to clean off the LP, whether by vac, or wash, or carbon fiber brush. Then you only get to sit for 20 to 30 mintes, AND MUST get up halfway through the music to turn over the LP. If you listen to opera, this is from 4 to 10 times.. getting up to change sides!!!
So as a lazy 6,000 LP and three turntable owner, I tell you it is a fad, and is NOT worth getting into for a neophyte.
IF you must, because you feel driven to do so, then BY ALL MEANS do it, if you ARE on the fence, asking real advice. My BEST advice is DO NOT DO IT.
If you want to explore something new.. look into hi rez downloads and hi rez on memory sticks. That would be more rewarding in the long run (IF) if you do not have a real 'need' to get into vinyl.
IMO totally IMO.
and hope this helps.
Vinyl absolutely requires more of a commitment than digital, but many feel it's worth it. Yes, there will always be some noise somewhere on the records, but if you're buying new vinyl, it should be minimal and outweighed by the better sound - assuming YOU think it's better.

I would not buy a used tt, as there are too many things to go wrong. My advice it buy a Music Hall MMF5 or MMF7. They come all set up and ready to go. When I got back to vinyl, I purchased an MMF5, which was not as nice as the one they have now, and I felt that it gave me a decent taste of what vinyl was about.

As to cleaning - at first I bought only new vinyl and used Gruv-Glide to clean them. It was OK for starters, but I think you will need to eventually buy a machine. They go for between $350-$600 for a decent one. One other idea. I buy a lot of vinyl from Better Records. They have some very expensive records, but plenty of reasonably priced stuff as well. And, for $5, they will machine-clean your records, so you really don't have to worry about it. Unless you mess it up, one cleaning will last a long time. Oh, you'll probably need a phono preamp. Ask underwood about it. Probably $150-$250, depending...

I would check out Underwood HiFi here on A'gon for the Music Hall. He usually has perfect trade-ins at fair prices and you'll have some support when you have questions. Well, that's my opinion anyway.
All very good points! Plus, probably 98%+ of my records were found used.
In response to your question:

On with the questions:

1. One of the biggest things that has kept me from trying Vinyl thus far is the concern of excessive hiss and crackle/pop that vinyl is known for. Is it safe to assume that purchasing new Vinyl and played on a higher quality setup will reduce (eliminate?) the pops and crackle sounds? I have no problem purchasing exclusively new vinyl, knowing full well that the process of shopping used is what draws so many to this market...

I have my vinyl playback pretty much 100% free of all noise. It's possible to do but requires a lot of work.

I had a couple of Audiogon members here yesterday and they were literally laughing out loud at how quiet my LP playback was. That being said, analog playback is very important to me and I have a lot of years invested at making it right.

If you want simple, this is not it. CD is simple and why it has succeeded so well. Download is simpler still and will likely displace CD. Most people don't care enough about playback quality to invest the time, effort and money.

Second part of my response to your question concerns the music.

Mostly you can get anything that's on LP as digital but not the other way around.

Sure, there are rare records and some great out of print music but that's pretty much what Elizabeth suggested with shopping used.
Quick answer is "no". Anyone who buys music for soundstage, imaging and sticks to labels that produce good sounding stuff does not like music. And vinyl is all about music.
100% free of all noise?I doubt this very much and I'm a vinyl buff.
Thanks to all for their brutal honesty. I may shelve the idea again until the "urge" returns (which it inevitably will). At least I have more opinion to move forward with.

But I cannot leave without just saying to little minded your statement was. Clearly, someone has p!ssed you off one too many times (perhaps me?) and it shows. Just becuase I enjoy soundstage and imaging and generally enjoy music from audiophile labels does not mean I don't enjoy music as a whole. As a matter of fact, I have found copious amounts of amazing MUSIC through audiophile and independent labels, that I would have otherwise never found by sticking to mainstream labels.

I listen to plenty of other music under non-critical listening situations (and will also play mainstream labels on my main rig if they are recorded well). I am a music fan at heart, but am hindered by the sheer fact that most modern, mainstream music is not cared for properly at the engineering/mastering stage and thus sounds mediocre (at best, sometimes unbareable) on a highly-resolving system. These types of recording tend to sound MUCH better on a standard playback system that wasn't specifically tailored around resolving EVERY little detail.

At the end of the day, if I could block out the imperfections in the recordings and suppress the desire to enjoy soundstage and imaging, I wouldn't even be here on this site. I'd be happy with a $300 hose wave radio (sorry, had to throw a jab at Bose) and a stack of CDs. Unfortunately, neither of the above are possible for my ears and listening. Still yet, it means nothing toward my joy of music and the art.

So please, keep your condescending comments to yourself and if you have nothing of value to contribute, just pass the thread by.

To everyone else who contributed with genuine substance, thanks again!


I'm not going to blow you any smoke rings...

Shopping for, storing, care taking and playing vinyl is not a casual, so what sort of thing if you consider yourself a fan of quality audio playback. It requires developing a desire to make the effort learn some skills in setup and handling and the ritual of playing vinyl.

If you are one who has grown up with only the experience of plopping in a shiny disc into a player or even newer turn on an MP3 player etc. to listen to stored music, well unless you are willing to make the effort, vinyl may not be for you. BUT! if you care to get into it, learn the ritual and take the time and effort vinyl playback can be a rewarding experience and on a decent system with proper setup and care give you fantastic audio quality.

One does not have to take out a second mortgage to buy into quality vinyl payback. Today there are good choices of new and used turntables that can get you maybe 8.5-9/10ths the sound of the best vinyl setups and can do so for easily $1000-$2000. This would include:

A new or quality used even vintage turtable.
A good quality cartridge
A good quality phono preamp
A daily cleaning section from a brush to sylus cleaner
A good setup to get you into either vacuuming, steaming, or quality non-vacuuming cleaning setup.

I myself since returning back to vinyl in 2003 have a gone through entry level new table, to a mid range new table to building a couple of DIY tables and to now a fine working vintage turntable, which is a then TOL JVC QL-Y5F which IMO can go toe to toe with most any <$1500 table sold new today. I have a modest but respected Denon DL-110 cartridge on it and it works great. I'm running a decent Cambridge Audio 640P phono preamp and have invested now after trying things from DIY vacuuming to steam cleaning etc. I have a Spin Clean system and for $80 is a steal IMO.

My phono setup is not the best nor even close to being expensive but since I take on the ritual of vinyl payback highly and do the best I can to care and maintain my albums and phono setup I get great audio performnace.

99% of my vinyl bought after 2003 (I had about 50 LP's in storage bough brand new in early to mid 80's) is used and mostly from thrift shops. I have bought over 600 used LP's since 2003. You can often land very good condition vinyl from used shops. But it will be hit and miss. That said not all new vinyl is perfect either. Many vinyl buyers flame on at how bad some new pressings can be.

So pros:

It can be fun.
You can do a lot of swapping out, experimenting and upgrading as time passes.
You have lots of low priced used vinyl out there.
You can get nice quality new vinyl too.
You have beautiful album covers and inner sleeves.
You can if you take the time to setup get a fine sounding setup that will match or even better most anything in the digital world.

Finaly NO! if you want absolute quiet, no noticeable background noise, you will not get it quite as good with vinyl. Yes, good and well cared for vinyl can sound almost as quiet. Vinyl being a mechanical medium will have a bit of a higher noise floor but it's not as obtrusive as the unwashed anti-vinyl yappers try to claim. Used vinyl can be noisy, mostly due to lack of proper care from previous owners. But clean vinyl is not all "crackly and clicky" but is smooth and can be quit velvety in sound.

Good luck if you choose to play down this audio path. It can be fun, rewarding and a pleasure in listening but it will be more work and have higher rituals required to get that analogue sound out of your system.
lps are fun but take work
cds are fun and easy
downloads are dangerous because you can spend money 24/7
being an audio enthusiast is fun
go for it
To confess: I got back into Analog about ten years ago when a pile of classica LPs appeared to be a good deal. I though about it for a week, then bought the Lps with no TT, no Phono pre.
So I bought, and bought.. I had about 12,000 LPs and BOOM had to move, so i dumped 6,000 back into to stream.
Now i have a Rega P5 with power supply and a Benz Glider, via a Bryston phono 1.5
Then a Kuzma Stogi S with a Dynvector 17D3 through an Audio Research Sp-15,
Then i still have a Dual Golden one with a Shure V15Vmr and an Audio Research PH-2. Plus a Dynavector Ruby23, and some other carts laying around..
So i am set on Lp stuff.
Even so I often stick five CDs into a changer and let it play....
Vinyl is a fad, like breeding Labradoodles. Your chance of success is about the same, commitment, patience and persistance may get you there. Then again, most likely, your puppies will just be mutts.

And if you think that watching a video by Mike Fremer will teach you to set-up a turntable.......well you have as much chance as watching a porno movie and becoming a porn star.

Leave the analog to the old dogs, like myself, that never abandoned the medium. If you do decide to get into analog you'll find us in the used record store, reading the lead out grooves, and scooping up the records that you don't know that you want.
01-23-11: Schipo
100% free of all noise?I doubt this very much and I'm a vinyl buff.
Schipo (Threads | Answers | This Thread)

Assuming you are addressing my comment:

I have my vinyl playback pretty much 100% free of all noise. It's possible to do but requires a lot of work.

Note the wording "pretty much."

Yes, in an hour of listening I might experience a total of one second of combined noise (if all added up). You are welcome to visit, or perhaps I'll ping a couple of members who have already visited.
If you are that adverse to a little surface noise I would not recommend this medium. While the majority of new vinyl is fine, you inevitably will come across a poor pressing. It's part of the deal. I've also found that shopping for used vinyl is hit and miss - especially over places like ebay.

That being said, I love analog playback and always choose vinyl if I have a choice. I've grown to enjoy the rituals (cleaning, flipping) and greatly prefer the sound over digital.

I should also warn you to be careful. I know a lot of people (myself included) who have fallen hard after tipping their toes back into vinyl. It can be a money pit (for both equipment and records)if you let it become one.
I say GO FOR IT!
Everyone seems to think you are deciding whether to impregnate yourself. "should I have a boy or a girl?"
It's audio! Remember?
Audio is a FUN hobby...
The dude is talking about $1000- $1500.
I believe you will get your pleasure's worth with a table/arm cart combo.
If it's not for you, sell it and save my email- I'd like to get first dibs on the LPs.
Of course, it's a slippery slope which will very likely lead to upgrades.
Sort of like deciding on a boy, then wanting twin girls.
Go for it. You'll like it.
Before you or any one goes for it, treat yourself to a day trip and fine some audio store or audiophile friend somewhere within two hour drive and listen to a good analog set up. If it really impresses you great. You may want to buy new and not have hidden hassles of used. And the dealer will set the table up for you if need be. If you don't like it so much spend the money on another new toy like the ipad, or just more music.
if you lived near me you could borrow mine for a couple of weeks and a dozen good records and hear what your system would do with a turntable. i wish there was anyone out here in the ozarks that was into music and audio gear beyond a stringed washtub and a fiddle. ha i think i hear banjo music.....
Don't do it dude! Stay with digital, you will listen to a lot more music that way. Digital will continue to get better, analog now is as good as it's ever gonna get.

You never own a turntable and LP's, they own you.
One other positive as a music listener especially when one wants to sit down and really listen, vinyl by its design forces you (though without much complaint by the listener) to sit and listen to a whole side of an album. This will help you really get into listening to the artist's music. CD's and downloads can be too easy to skip to another track or even to another artist's music. Vinyl and even that other analogue medium the analogue cassette teaches you to be more disciplined in listening by design and I enjoy that when I want to actually listen.

CD's can if you hold off skipping tracks do that too but it's not the same.
I can't believe some of these responses. If this was a wine appreciation site you would basically have people telling you to stick with safe easy wine made by the big brands - don't try that Grand cru burgundy sir you may have a bad bottle lets play it safe and have this grape juice from XYZ brand.

yes vinyl may take a little bit of effort but anything worth having takes effort. you love music vinyl will bring you closer to music it is not difficult to get into just take the plunge.
fatgh0st, is there anyone close to you that can help you? What would you do if you had a turntable sitting in front of you right now? If you are going to risk your money on something you know very little about, please find help beyond just posting in forums. Otherwise, you'll just swell the ranks of those who don't get it and never will. And, you'll have less money in your pocket. ;-)
Get a used Denon 47F/Denon 160. This will put your 'toe in the water' before a massive purchased would be warranted. New Vinyl is expensive, so also plan on going used. Don't invest in cleaning equipment yet, especially if it is new you are initially using.
I think that Mitch4t response is the very best I have ever read EVER!

Mitch4t :-
'Don't do it dude! Stay with digital, you will listen to a lot more music that way. Digital will continue to get better, analog now is as good as it's ever gonna get.'

I gave up on digital years ago. I had a Wadia 840 or was it a 850 and got a new laser upgrade for it etc etc....
Played it against my friends Rega P3/ Goldring 1042 turntable and honestly the Rega destroyed the Wadia in EVERY respect. No, I lie, the Wadia was easier to handle.

Really Mitch4t, if you think that analog now is as good as it's going to get, you TOTALLY under estimate audio designers and advancements in electronic signal processing.
How on earth do you think CD managed to go from SH*T in the 80's to a better version of that in the 2000s.

As for CD sales - ha ha ha. Last I heard, the majors are struggling with CD sales. I'd be surprised if the format lasts another 10 years. Vinyl on the other hand is going stronger and stronger with more and more record companies pressing new material on vinyl now than in the past 5 years.

Vinyl playback will get a lot better.

Discovery in music and sound is an interesting thing. Music has the power to move us in unsuspected ways. Many on this forum (myself included) feel that a decent analog setup can bring certain qualities of musical expressiveness that elude even the best digital sources.

So, what is it that makes you (OP) curious about vinyl? Could it be that you feel that you are missing something with the sound of your current digital setup? Something is not quite satisfying? Only your own experience with the analog medium will let you determine wether the musical rewards of playing vinyl are worth the "hassles". I believe that you will find that as you live with a well setup DECENT analag setup, you will find that the rewards found in good recordings on vinyl will let you forget and ignore the imperfections. Albert is correct, ticks and pops can be elimined almost entirely; but that will probably take more money than $1500, as the quality of the gear is key. But for $1500 you can definitely put together a rig that will CLEARLY let you know what all the buzz is about. If you choose well, there is no reason that if you decide that vinyl is not for you, you would not be able to get all or most of your money back. There are so many quality vinyl reissues available that getting good pressings will not be a problem. And I would be surprised if you don't find that recordings in your cd collection that you thought you knew well, when played on vinyl all of a sudden sound a little more exciting; the grooves (no pun intended) a little deeper, and the soundstaging which you love so much more dimensional and organic, instead of airless and synthesized. You will probably find yourself listening more.

You are obviously very curious about it, go for it! Don't go nuts at first. Keep remembering that if you are smart about it you will lose very little financial investment. And even if you lose a little bit of money in the process, think about the education that you will gain. Remember, only you can decide wether it's worth it. Is it possible that so many vinyl fans are deluding themselves about it's merits? Some here would say yes, but I think it's unlikely. Good luck, and remember what a great source of info and advise this forum is.
education generally costs time and money. get a turntable and some records.
All these naysayers to vinyl. The fad guy it is like breeding labordoodles do not even have a clue. When I put on a vinyl record my system has a sound that is purely awesome. My digital front end sound very very good but not even close to the awesome sound of my turntable. I was surprised the other day when I went over to friend's house who has a $25k digital front end, how good it sounded. Then we put on a record on his newly downsized turntable rig the Clearaudio Concept and matching cartridge and at $2000.00, it blew the $25K digital rig in the dirt. He had alot of regret selling his original higher end turntable and putting the money into upgrading his digital part of his system. Granted Vinyl is more work but is also more fun. I think digital will get better and it might get close to Analog but that is a way off.
I wrote a post last night in response to your thread, but accidentally closed the tab with the response - I'll try again, because you pose good questions that many new audiophiles have:

"1. One of the biggest things that has kept me from trying Vinyl thus far is the concern of excessive hiss and crackle/pop that vinyl is known for. Is it safe to assume that purchasing new Vinyl and played on a higher quality setup will reduce (eliminate?) the pops and crackle sounds? I have no problem purchasing exclusively new vinyl, knowing full well that the process of shopping used is what draws so many to this market..."

Ticks, pops and hiss are not an issue if certain precautions are taken. First, and to directly respond to your question, new vinyl is unfortunately not always free from ticks and pops, and if you search the threads, you'll find many people complaining of noise with brand-new, $50 LP's from all of the major reissue labels. That said, most new vinyl is fine and many are completely noise-free. As for used LP’s, it is pretty easy to determine which used vendors accurately rate the condition of LP’s they sell, and that will eliminate most regretful purchases – I tend to prefer older LP’s, as many are fantastic and really cheap.

When you receive a new or used LP (and this will address another question you asked), it has to be cleaned with a vacuum record cleaner, in the case of new LP’s, in order to remove the mold release agent used to prevent the LP from sticking to the matrix when it is minted (mold release functions like Pam), and in the case of used LP’s, to remove whatever dirt the LP accumulated up until the time you received it. Next, careful, professional set-up is crucial to minimizing noise, particularly with some of the more modern styli types (e.g., line-contact). If you clean the record and your rig is set up properly (and in the case of used LP’s, you have purchased from a reliable vendor), noise will not be an issue with most LP's. There will always be dud LP's that are simply inherently noisy, either because of a lousy pressing or because of improper care by prior owners, but the percentage of duds is about like the percentage of dud CD's that feature compressed dynamics, and glassy, unlistenable highs, among other problems. Another point about LP’s and noise - it is somewhat music genre-specific. Noise is almost never an issue with rock, pop and blues albums because of the quantity of musical information in the grooves - you can't hear it once the band starts, even with dirty records. On the other hand, noise can be a real issue with solo acoustic instruments like solo piano and accapella voice. Finally, modern belt-drive turntables (and the small handful of today’s very high-end direct-drive tables) have much lower noise levels than the tables most people used during the analog era. In summary, if you have a modern table that has been carefully set up and you have properly cleaned the LP, noise is not the issue – just as with CD’s, the quality of the recording, not the medium (whether LP or CD), becomes the issue.

“2. If I purchase new vinyl, only play it on a decent player, and store it properly, will I still have to clean it? How expensive is a cleaning machine? Are there (reasonable), less expensive alternatives to a cleaning machine?”

New and used vinyl must be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner as described above. The entry-level VPI vacuum cleaner, which is a good unit, now lists for $650 and you should be able to get a new one for at least 10% off the list price – they occasionally appear on the used market. You should buy new record sleeves for any used LP’s that you buy. Once you vacuum clean a record, it will generally not need to be vacuum-cleaned again for many playings (I might clean mine once every 25 plays), assuming you only grasp it by its edges and immediately return it to its sleeve and jacket when you’re done playing it. However, before I play any side, I place a Hunt EDA carbon-fiber brush ($30) at a 45-degree angle to the side for two or three revolutions to pick up any large dust particles. I do the same after I have played the side. This is all the cleaning that is necessary. To summarize, new and used records just acquired must be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner – there are no alternatives if you are running a good analog rig in a high-resolution system – and thereafter can be maintained as described above.

“3. Based on my integrated (tube-pre, SS amp) and speakers, are these a good match for Vinyl? Does anyone know if the KW 500 Phono input is adequate for a good turntable? My digital system has a tendency to be on the bright side for a lot of material, but not everything. Strangly, even at 31 years old, I can still hear up to around 19Khz so I'm a bit picky about the highs...”

Your system is not a “good match” for vinyl – based upon what you have written about your hearing, the brightness in your system, and your statement that “I am all about soundstage and imaging”, vinyl is a NECESSITY for you. First, regarding the quality of the on-board phono stage in your integrated amp, I do not have first-hand knowledge, but I do know that the more expensive Musical Fidelity gear is high-end gear – the phono stage should be fine (a good stand-alone unit with proper interconnect to your integrated would be better, but you’re probably fine). A properly set-up vinyl rig will generally layer space and image much better than a digital rig – it is one of vinyl’s strong suits. That said, if you primarily listen to multitrack-recorded pop / rock / blues recordings, you will be largely wasting what vinyl can do because the staging and instrument placement is destroyed by the miking techniques and multitracking. On the other hand, well recorded classical music or acoustic jazz on a decent pressing, and again assuming proper set-up, will have you jumping from your seat and screaming “Wow!” One of the two big problems with typical digital is what it does to the highs – it is glassy and unnatural – and this will be exacerbated by your Focal speakers, which use high-quality Beryllium tweeters. I listen to mostly orchestral music, and digital is seriously flawed with orchestral because of the high-frequency harmonics coming from string sections – listen to a violin through an analog rig, even a really cheap one, and then listen on a $10k digital rig – vinyl sounds like a violin and digital sounds wrong and unpleasant. One caveat, however – the resonances occurring in many expensive moving-coil cartridges cause a rising (i.e., excessive) response in the high frequencies that can make a system somewhat bright if not addressed (... there are ways). At your price range, however, you will likely end up with a moving-magnet cartridge that will generally not have such a problem. In summary, an audiophile who cares about high-frequency performance, unless he/she has the money to purchase a top, top digital rig, needs analog.

“4. How complicated is the setup of the TT? Being that I've never worked with it before, I'm somewhat intimidated by the "setup" requirements of the equipment. What are the core requirements/knowledge to properly setup a TT.”

Quite complicated - getting the most out of an analog rig requires precise, professional set-up, and most people who think they know how to properly install a table, arm and cartridge do not know what they’re doing. The best course of action is to investigate in an attempt to find the very best set-up person in your geographic area. That said, given your budget and the types of music you listen to, you are a good candidate for a Rega table with Rega cartridge. The cartridge is pre-installed and all set-up parameters automatically addressed due to the fact the cartridge is made for that particular table and arm – you just need to place the table on a proper stand and make very certain that the table is precisely leveled. Rega’s quality is good, especially the arm, and they are particularly good for rock and pop because the cartridge is high output and a very good tracker, but it will not perform like a better table and arm, with a good moving-coil cartridge, assuming proper set up. In summary, a decent analog rig will smoke your digital rig with respect to staging and naturalness, particularly in the highs. I also prefer analog dynamics - good digital rigs have greater dynamic range than analog, but so many digital recordings are compressed that you can't use it - older LP's and properly mastered new LP's can have more satisfying dynamics. (NB: I should have noted from the outset that my comments about digital here are limited to PCM - full DSD playback has thunderous dynamics.)

“5. And finally, the most subjective question of all. If I had a budget of about $1,000-$1,500 for a TT, Tonearm and Cartridge, what would be a good starting place? I'd obviously be looking for used here from Agon.”

A Rega P-5 plus Rega Elys cartridge is probably $1,200 (the cheaper P-3 24 is also a good high-entry-level table), plus you need a vacuum cleaner, carbon-fiber brush, and appropriate stand for the table. If you could go up to $3k, you can get a high-end used table, excellent arm, and good moving-coil cartridge that would play in a much higher league.

Hope this helps.
You don't NEED a vacuum cleaner. I've lived without one for 40 years and my record collection (5000 LPs) still sound great and crackle free.
raquel,,, you scared everybody!!!! ha. nice letter and i agree. very nice to read an expert opinion. what do you think of the sub 100 dollar record cleaner all the magazines are recommending? i don,t remember the name but it is bright yellow.
Go spend some time with someone with a good vinyl set-up and really observe what it is all about from both a logistical and enjoyment perspective. If it floats your boat and you can make the commitment then strap-in and get ready. I don't believe your initial budget is high enough to realize a better and high level of performance when you include cleaning systems, good TT, cart, phono (not sure how decent the MF is). I think $5K would get you a pretty good vinyl playback system if you were careful. Then you would be in heaven.

I LOVE having a vinyl set-up and it now is probably 95% of all the listening I do. If I couldn't have vinyl, I probably wouldn't bother with a system at all. It does not seem like a pain to me, it is just part of the routine of listening to music at this point. I recently had my phono out for upgrade and never listened to my system until I got it back.

The record cleaner you note is the SPINCLEAN Record Cleaner. I bought one recently and it works quite nicely. For $79.95 US it's a good value.

I have tried my own DIY vacuum system which though bulky , noisy and clunky worked good. I have tried a steam cleaner and it too worked well but again is a little noisy (when steaming) and can be messy with steam vapour settling on tables etc. I have tried DIY kitchen sink washing and that worked ok even with its mess and IMO waste of water. The Spin Clean is easy to use, quiet and not messy. It is the best setup I found short of investing into a good commercially made record vacuum machine.

For anyone who wants to take up their record care a notch above just using a brush without spending much money the Spin Clean is a good unit. For those of you here who have consumer concerns with where products are made, this cleaner is made in the USA. They could probably off shore it to China or Malaysia etc and drop the price. For me if I can't get it made in Canada it's a nice change to get a product I can easily afford made in the USA. I have nothing against any products per se made in Asia, I have many but it's just nice to get a product I like that is made in North America.
It is worth it, trust the majority here. Those who think that it is too much work or that if you have no LP collection it would be unwise are saying nonsense. If you mostly listen to rock, blues and acoustic music recorded quite some time ago, there is no comparison - vinyl is so much better even played on a very modest rig with the cartridge less than perfectly aligned. Problem may be the cost and effort to find records in excellent condition.
If I were you I would get Rega P3 or Pro-ject Xpression new with Goldring 1042 cartridge from Needledoctor, have them align the cartridge and be done with it for a while. They would also guide you through setting up VTA, VTF etc.
You don't need a vacuum machine to begin with. Good manual cleaning or that yellow spin-it thing for $79 would do.
Then get a few records and see what your rig does.
BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID! Don't get into anything you have reservations about. If you don't feel deep down that analogue is the superior medium and you can't do without it stay with digital.
You should know by now or at least have a notion that, after filtering all the bullshitters reply to your post, the post above by hotmailjbc sums it all:

education generally costs time and money. get a turntable and some records

Consider your $1500 a tuition fee. After the end of the course, you will not ask the same questions anymore and rely on people telling you what you can and what you cannot have.

Vinyl playback is simple, if you use your brain. You will see, it is not that difficult. Start with a decent system as the biggest mistake of some hobbyist like us who jumped into vinyl uninitiated was to buy a cheap table/arm and convinced themselves that it will perform magic.

01-24-11: Stanwal
BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID! Don't get into anything you have reservations about. If you don't feel deep down that analogue is the superior medium and you can't do without it stay with digital.
My personal experience is the opposite. After growing up on analog, I listened to digital exclusively for 20 years--from 1987 to 2007. Then I bought a turntable from a yard sale for $2 and even with that, I heard a continuity and musicality I wasn't getting with digital through my multi-thousand-dollar rig. I took an SACD and LP of the same recording to a high end shop to give each format a fair shake. The LP sounded lush and full; the SACD threadbare. The next day I bought a decent turntable and didn't even listen to another digital source for 8 months.

What I'm saying is you never know until you try. Some people hear and feel the difference from the beginning. Some don't. If it speaks to you, the "bother" of analog--damping, aligning, cleaning, balancing, isolating, etc.--is simply part of forming a good relationship between you and the music. If it doesn't speak to you, it won't be worth the trouble. Nobody can answer whether analog will speak to you.

For many years I ignored analog because I didn't want to get sucked back into the fussy details. Once you invest some time and attention, for a good setup, it's not really a big deal. Now I can't imagine life without analog. Playing records is one of the things that gets me out of bed and makes me look forward to the day.
"Good things come to those who wait".... You obviously want one! Research your many options. Be patient, buy used, get the best you can afford, one that you even enjoy just looking at... let alone listening to. You'll have it for awhile! Don't spend much on any one record. Years ago I would spend 25-50 cents ea. Classical records would be given away. Just last week @ my local CD store, Among others, I got a few living stereo's & living presence's in excellent++ cond. 99 cents ea. My local good will type store, similar..but since I bought 15 records....75 cents ea. Now go get busy!!! Enjoy
If your gear and musical tastes aren't a recipe for analog, I don't know what is. Classic rock and especially acoustic or semi-acoustic music like jazz, folk, and blues just sing in the analog domain. For phono stages I'd start with the Musical Fidelity; it'll probably do, and may excel for your purposes. For $1500 I'd look at a Rega P5 with Rega Exact cartridge, the Marantz TT51 with supplied Clearaudio wood-bodied MM cart, or the Clearaudio Concept.

Cleaning isn't that big of a deal unless you're getting all your LPs from thrift shops or garages. I use a carbon fiber brush for a quick dust-off before each play, or a rolled up microfiber terry towel. Really, it's no big deal when you get used to it as part of your playing routine.
Go to your nearest dealer or a friend who spins vinyl and listen to Muddy Water's "Folk Singer" on LP. Then listen to it on CD. If you appreciate the difference, dip in your toes slowly and get educated as others have suggested. If you get hooked there will be no limit to how involved you decide to become.

And vinyl has only gotten better in the eight years since I returned to the format.
Dear Portly Ghost-The truth hurts. When I listen to "Satisfaction" on a cheap TT or transistor radio, I still know the song kills. I don't need imaging, soundstaging or other hocus-pocus to tell me the Stones got it right. I own ZERO audiophile-approved records and I'm proud of the fact. I have my pants around my ankles because the Sex Pistols rock. I reject the swill played at most hifi shows because it is so banal.
god save the queen isn,t audiophile approved? since when?
I havent purchased a CD in this century and the only CD equipment I own is a CD recorder where I record my vinyl to CD for playback in my car or to transfer to I-tunes in full apple lossless format. Everyone I have played my recorded CDs or Ipod to has commented on its superior sound to what they are used to. So, if CDs recorded from vinyl sound better than store bought CDs, how much better do you think the vinyl played directly is.

My girlfriend, who is from New Orleans area and loves music was astounded when I first set up a vinyl playback system at her house. Now her 30 year old son has been bitten by the bug after I gave him a decent turntable setup.

If you are going to actually listen to your music, and listen hard, then vinyl is the obvious choice. If you just want to play background music while you do something else, then you can get by with CD. It is clearly more convenient.

You say your system now seems too bright. That may be a function of digital distortion, which seems worst in the high frequencies. That may be especially true if you can hear up to 19khz. I know it would drive me to turn it off.
Is there a way you can try a decent turntable system in your setup to see if it is your system or just digital that make your setup seem shrill.
Wow...wonderful responses. Despite my initial reaction to the first wave of posts, and in the words of Michael Corleone himself "Just when I thought I was out....they pull me back in" :-)

So I think the final decision is that I'm going to give it a shot and if it doesn't work, so be it. I don't know anyone with a good analog setup in the area and even if I did, the odds that they have a high-end digital setup in the same room on the same path of equipment (pre and amp) is probably slim-to-none. Most of (make that ALL of) my peers are digital people (my generation...I know...) and while many of them love music, none of them appreciate the sound quality.

Going to a HiFi store to hear it is always misleading. The only high-end place around here that sells Turntables (that I'm aware of, anyway) is a store called Overture and if I go there to listen, it's going to be on $30k Wilson speakers and $50k worth of amps and cables...a far cry from my system here at home.

For $1,500, I'll take the plunge and if it doesn't suit my fancy, I'll just put it back up and resell it again.

I used to LOVE going to CD stores to buy used CDs cheap but sadly, they've all closed down. The only decent joint nearby is the Princeton Record Exchange ( which is about 1 hour from where I live. It just so happens that they have a MASSIVE Vinyl selection as well (about 60,000 LPs). I used to go there once or twice a year to stock up on CDs, but now I'll have another reason to keep going.

As far as the cleaning/preparation rituals, that part doesn't bother me at all. When I go downstairs to's all about sitting down with the music and listening...Picking out the LP and wiping it down, then flipping sides when it's over sounds kinda fun actually.

So, now that the decision to move is out of the way, I need to focus on my specific purchase :-). a few people have thrown around the Rega P-3 and P-5 models as suggestions. I'm really keen on going used because I really feel I can just get that much more for my money by going that route. Having said that, I don't want to lose out because of an improper setup. I also don't see any Rega P-5 for sale currently on Agon so perhaps I'll just keep my eye out.

Any opinions on the VPI Scout as a good starting point? There's one for sale at that looks intriguing...

And another question, the whole MM vs MC...I know this is a topic of huge debate, but does it matter that I match to my phono input on my preamp (which happens to be an MM)?

Thanks again everyone, you're responses have been very insightful (and have started getting me really excited about moving in this direction). With smoe more research, a little luck and a few months time, I should hopefully be spinning black discs alongside my silver ones :-)

Raquel: Firstly, thanks for the lengthy and incredibly detailed response :-).

You mentioned that you didn't think my current equipment was a "very good" match to Vinyl. However, you continue to describe my setup in a positive light so I was just a bit confused and wondered if you could elaborate a bit more on your thoughts. Do you have concerns about my speakers being too bright or were you simply suggesting that my equipment is probably more tailored toward a good Vinyl front-end rather than the digital that I have now?

Just curious really...


This thread of yours sure generated a mixed bag of reactions: C'mon in, the water's fine! Don't do it! Join us! Keep away!

I probably would have logged on to by now.

I agree and disagree with much of the advise you have been given, and after all that you probably don't need any more. So here it is anyway (and it's worth exactly what you're paying for it) - Vinyl can be wonderful. Vinyl can be frustrating. Vinyl is almost always a PITA. But... vinyl can be wonderful.

I DO agree with the posters who urged you to start out carefully and get an "entry" deck. Find a dealer or a friend that will help you and is willing to transfer knowledge. Don't be afraid to experiment and yes, you are probably going to break something. Probably a cartridge stylus. And it's going to be expensive to repair or replace.

But most importantly, spinning vinyl has to be more than just about the music; you have to like (or at least be willing to tolerate) the process. I firmly believe that I enjoy better sound with vinyl, and I get to hear a lot of music that I can't get in other media. But is is worth the extra work? To me, yes. To some of my audio friends, no. It has to be fun or it's not worth it.

Enjoyed reading your detailed response to the OP. But holy molee (sic) when I noted your comment that the entry level VPI HW-16.5 retailed for $650, I thought it was a typo. So I went to VPI's web site and you were right. The current retail price is $650. That's a big price jump from the prior retail price of $540. I'm glad that I already have one.

If your current phono section allows only for a MM cartridge, you will need to stick to MM or look for a HIGH OUTPUT MC cartridge. Low Output MC cartridges will need a suitable MC phono amp.

In the budget range for a vinyl system you are looking at you will find numerous MM and even a few H.O. MC carts to consider buying. Lots of feedback and reviews on both types here and elsewhere such as Vinyl Asylum.

As for listening as you note, yes vinyl will allow you to just sit back and listen to a full side at a time, that is one of the best parts of vinyl playback.
If you consider buying used.. There is a Nottingham Interspace deck/arm with cartridge here on Audiogon. I suggest you get it. It is better than Rega P5 let alone P3 or Pro-Ject Xpression. The man wants $1500 for almost new table, offer him $1400 plus shipping and it is yours. If you decide to buy it, ask him if he still has some Nottingham oil. If he doesn't, the bottle of that oil costs $100 though many people use good synthetic oil with Nottinghams. I myself just bought Spacedeck/Spacearm and paid for that bottle from
Sumiko cartridge that he has should be OK to start with. Later you might want to upgrade.
Nottingham tables are not too often for sale.
I was trying to use contrast to make my point, which was that your system, and your listening preferences and priorities as you describe them, REQUIRE you to have an analog rig. Or as you correctly put it, you and your system are better tailored toward vinyl. I'm sorry that my comment was confusing in this regard. And there is nothing wrong with your speakers - they are excellent and the Beryllium tweeter in particular is superb (I might choose something else if rock were what I usually listen to, but your speakers do rock well and are very well balanced performers, balance being generally the best way to go).

Addressing your immediately prior post, the VPI Scout is a good table, if expensive for what it is. The Scout is more table than the Regas, but requires expert set-up. I myself run a VPI Aries, VPI 10.5 arm, and van den Hul Frog cartridge (all set up and dialed in by Peter Ledermann, a/k/a the Soundsmith). I also have a sixteen year-old Rega Planar 3 with a Grado Sonata cartridge on it. My main analog rig does not constitute elite equipment, but it's set up properly and sits on a custom shelf.

Generally speaking, moving-magnet phono stages require a moving-magnet cartridge or high output moving-coil cartridge, both of which put out a relatively high amount of voltage. You can't run a regular (low-output) moving-coil cartridge with them, as the signal off the cartridge is not strong enough. Conversely, you generally can't run a moving-magnet cartridge or high-output moving coil cartridge with a moving-coil phono stage, as MC phono stages are made to amplify the tiny voltages put out by low-output cartridges and will overload if hooked up to a high-output cartridge.

There is one additional item that I would like to correct from my initial post. In response to the first of your five questions, I concluded by writing, "In summary, if you have a modern table that has been carefully set up and you have properly cleaned the LP, noise is not the issue – just as with CD’s, the quality of the recording, not the medium (whether LP or CD), becomes the issue." I did not mean to give digital, or more accurately, PCM digital, that much credit - I meant to write that, under those circumstances, noise is no more of an issue with analog than it is with CD, i.e., just as with CD, noise is not an issue. I did not intend to write that PCM digital, as a medium, is fine and that the only issue is the recording. I do not want to reignite the old digital-versus-analog debate, but perhaps, given the thread's subject, it is appropriate for me to share my experience, which was summarized quite well by a prominent audio writer recently. Analog to my ears is a medium that is fundamentally pure and accurate to the source, but that has the occasional pimple (ticks and pops) on its otherwise perfect face. On the other hand, digital is fundamentally and thoroughly flawed to my ears - it's like a milkshake that was made with bad milk or a sausage made from bad meat inasmuch as the problem is thoroughly mixed in and indivisible from the whole - no matter that you take a tiny taste or consume three-quarters of it, the bad taste is everywhere. In my experience, only a small handful of top digital rigs (Playback Designs, AMR, Meitner) make it sound truly good. I've gone from Levinson separates to an Audio Research single-box and now to a $1,500 Chinese player - it's hard for me to justify spending a lot of money on the medium (and yes, I have a lot of CD's).
Luke.. you have turned to the dark side...
I am your father luke... Join me.. We can play a record together ...
Darth Vader on luring in a new convert to the LP...
I WARNED him... too late...
Anybody want to do a side bet on the total money he has into vinyl playback (not software) in 18 months? I say the over/under is $5K and I would take the over.