Entry Rega,NAD,Project,MusicHall Catridge question

Thanks to all that have responded to my posts...especially TWL..and since I am somewhat of a turntable newbie...here are a couple more...in regards to factory installed cartridges...which i assume most replace...what are some of the better ones...the MMF 2.1 comes with a Goldring Elan,the Project with a SUmiko Oyster,the NAD 533 with a Goldring Elektra...of these...regardless of table preference...is the best...I plan on upgrading...but to at least get off the ground...would like something decent...also...do all these include VTA adjustment?...what exactly is this...and how important is it at the entry level...thanks again...I have learned more at this site than at any hi-end store!
Well Phasecorrect, you are looking at about a $30 cartridge in the Elan, and about a $45 cartridge in the Elektra. Both very budget MM types. The Sumiko Oyster is about in the middle, price wise, at about $40. They are all what you might call "throw-in" cartridges that don't cost the mfr hardly anything, and they can include them on a table that is ready to go.

If I had to take my choice, I'd go with the Elektra.

Now, VTA adustment. On entry level tables, you are not going to have any. On the NAD, which will have a Rega arm, you can get one for about $40. The idea is to adjust the stylus "rake" in the groove, so that the cartridge will have the proper frequency balance, tracking, and overall sound. You have to do this by ear, although setting the arm level when playing is a good starting point. Then you move slightly up or down to achieve the sound you want. These low priced tables and cartridges may not be very responsive to such adjustments, but it wouldn't hurt.
Twl..what would be the next level of cartridges above the ones mentioned that would be a significant upgrade...would $100 be enough? Also, at this price point...what are the advantages/disadvantages of MC vs MM...thanks...
Well, the best cartridge at a very low price is the Ortofon X5-MC which is being sold on Audiogon classified as a regular thing for about $115 new. Believe it or not, this is a very good MC cartridge that is competitive with some $600 cartridges, and sounds real good. If your phono section can take a 2mv cartridge output, with about 45db gain, you are in like Flynn.

For a MM cart, the Goldring is good, but the lowest serious cartridge by them is the 1012 at around $100.

You really need to spend at least $100 to get into the ball game. These 2 that I mentioned are 2 of the best bets, with the Ortofon being the real "sleeper". You'll have to order from Hong Kong to get that low price. I think 2Juki is handling them for $115.

The MM vs MC thing is really not an issue until you get into the $500 and up category.
I had a mmf-2 at one time and the arm does have a VTA adjustment.
The Elan cartridge is good enough for the table and I doubt the cheap arm would do service to much anything better.I replaced my Elan with a Grado Platinum and though it sounded a bit better I never really got to hear what the Grado could do until I moved up to a Rega P-25/RB-600.
If I had do it over again I would skip the Music Hall and save for a while longer and get something quite a bit better.I wasted money upgrading and I'd hate to see anyone make the same mistakes I made.

I will be adding a phono preamp...havent decided yet...but if I go with the ortofon...is there a affordable option that would mate well(dont laugh..but a few posters have pushed the radio shack "little rack"...is this thing garbage or what...and will this cartridge fit on older tables as well...thanks....
I agree with David, saving for a better TT is well advised.

The Radio Shack "Little Rat" is a low cost, battery powered phono stage that has got some good user reviews considering its low cost. Don't confuse it with a "high-end" unit. It is okay for what it is, and it may be fine for your initial purposes, but I wouldn't consider it a permanent addition. That is, if you plan to get into serious analog playing.

Actually, if you want to "get serious" for a reasonable cost, you might look at David99's system. He has a very nice TT that is easy to operate and sounds real good. It is not cheap, but it is affordable for someone who is serious about their sound quality.
Phasecorrect-Maybe I shouldnt have discouraged you from buying an entry level table/arm/cartridge.
One has to start somewhere and its a good way to get your feet wet without going broke.
My only real concern is I have seen too many times (me included) audiophiles buying entry level tables then turning around and upgrading almost immediately.I think for some reason the upgrade bug hits analog lovers hard.If money is an issue to you as it is to me then save more money and go for a better table/arm.The market has really good used tables popping up all the time.I lost money upgrading over the course of 4 years because I tried to 'cheap out'when I should have been saving instead.
If you dont mind the bother of buying,unpacking,setting up...then selling,disassemble,packing,etc.and you dont mind the chance of losing a few bucks then go for it.As I said,its a good way to get you feet wet and some practice in.
One table I had along the way was a Ariston RD-80 with a Magnapan (sic) arm.It was in mint shape and beautiful.It sounded real close to the Rega P-25 I ended up with.I paid $400 for it and I know it blew away the MMF-2 I paid $200 for.When I traded up to the Rega I lost my shirt.It wasnt worth the money I lost for a small upgrade.
Do your homework and listen to guys like TWI.
As far as the 'shack rat' goes.Being battery operated you have to consider the cost of batteries.Many buy a battery charger.Also some buy 2 'rats' 1 for each channel.See,you could end up paying close to $100 for this before you decide to upgrade.With less bother and maybe even less money and better performance you could buy a Parasound PH-100 for $70-$90 and most likely make your money back if you decided to sell it.The PH-100 is said to compete with many, more expensive stand alone phono-stages.
There are so many variables to consider its mind blowing.
I dont mean to confuse you,I just hate to see someone make the same mistakes I made.
I dont have a vast knowledge in analog.Others can guide you in your buying decisions better than me.
TWI is one you can count on to continue to guide you.He knows his stuff.
Good luck.
I would suggest a different approach (from someone who was once in your position) - don't concern yourself with "tweeks" and "upgrades" until you get some experience with this medium. The myriad options will boggle your mind.

Get a table that will keep you sufficently happy, but don't (IMHO) go overkill until you *know* you're ready to commit the big bucks (a properly equiped Rega P25 will set you back $2K new) and don't tweek until you can appreciate the subtle changes.

I would recommend a Music Hall MMF-5 as a starter table. For just under $500.00 (new), you get a glass platter, spilt plinth, record clamp, AND a Goldring 1012GX cartridge (which alone is $225.00 at www.needledoctor.com). If you buy the table locally, the dealer will probably make sure it is set up properly (which is a good thing).

Also, be sure to budget for accessories. A good carbon-fiber brush is a must. Also, I can't recommend the Disk Doctor cleaning process enough (www.discdoc.com). Also, consider a stylus cleaning kit. Most people don't consider these expenses (about $100 - $120) when budgeting for a table.

Just some things to consider.