First used turntable +- $20,000. Any suggestions?

Hi all,

I've been into audio for several years but never ready looked into turntables. Since a few of my friends telling me they like the sound of turntables much much more than CD I might make the switch as well.

Since new is too expensive I will be looking on the second hand market. Could anyone advise me on a superb table that will be max. $20,000 (incl. cartridge, arm etc etc) on the used market? What are the brands to look for and are there particular things I need to watch out for when buying second hand turn tables?

Appreciate your thoughts.
Dear Maxx1973: Welcome a board!.

This TT/tonearm is very good option:

and you can match with these cartridges:

Other than that you need a first rate Phonolinepreamp.

Regards and enjoy the music.
If you have 20K to spend you can pretty much buy whatever you want, your budget will allow you to package a table, arm, cartridge and phono stage that is sure to satisfy. You have definately entered into the territory of dimishing returns where you may be throwing money at a table that is marginally better or just sounds different than other tables. Go out and listen and select a deck that matches your existing system and your priorities. Me, I would find a beautiful rebuilt Idler deck, add a great arm, buy a bunch of records and pocket the savings. More money doesn't always buy better sound.
$20,000, at this price the analog world is your oyster....
I second the micro seiki but admit my bias is toward vacuum tables. Johan at highend broker (right here on a-gon) also has a great selection of cartridges at great prices. As Raul points out dont forget a good match with step up (if needed) and preamp is critical to maximizing your investment. Take your time there are a lot of great deals here on a-gon and even more opinions.
Spend at least $1000 to get Mikey to come visit and do the set up.

DO NOT BUY A TURNTABLE USED. There are many good turntables new for under $20,000. Turntables have many parts that can be damaged in shipping. You are really taking a big risk. People are going to post on here how they didn't have any problems buying used online. Trust me for every turntable that comes okay there are ten other ones that come damamged. Then either it can't be repaired or it costs almost as much as buying a new one to fix it.

Second you don't need to spend that much on the turntable. My turntable costs $5,000 and it is more musical than a lot of other more expensive rigs. Why? The turntable itself affects the sound the least. First you need a great phonostage(I recommend the Messenger). Second the cartridge and tonearm have a greater effect on the sound than the table. Now don't get me wrong the table is important it's just the least important componenet in the chain.

Another good thing about buying the table new is that the dealer can set it up for you. I don't care how much you spend on a turntable if it is not setup correctly it will sound like crap. In fact your CD player will probably sound better. I believe that is why a lot of people on audiogon think there CD's sound better. It's because they don't know how to setup their turntables correctly.

Lastly, a properly setup table will blow away any CD player on the market-I don't care how expensive. For those of you who disagree with me you are more than welcome to bring your best CD player over to my house to compare.

Please email me directly if you need any advice.

Justin has made a good point. I would only buy used or a demonstration model if the seller guarantees it, brings it and sets it up for you. Where I don't agree with him is his remark that TTs affect the sound at least. Not so to my ears, especially as far as bass rendition and dynamics, as well as the rendition of transients are concerned. I went from a Thorens to an Oracle to a Goldmund to a Micro Seiki to a Goldmund Reference, old model and then modded that with a new bearing and a few other things and every step made a tremendous difference in the entire tonal presentation. So I would advise you to be careful in choosing, best try to listen to a few brands and setups before you decide. Accept any help you can get and don't rush things. Digital is easier to set up to sound good, though also not without its pitfalls. With analog, to get it to sound right you have to learn a lot and learn it fast, otherwise you might be opening a can of worms.
However, it is worth the effort, believe me and the rituals about playing an LP are much more satisfying than just plunking a CD into a tray an pushing a button, because if you want to get your LP to sound really right, after you have perfected your setup, you'll have to buy a record cleaning machine with all the necessary unctions, which to concoct properly is an arcane science by itself.
Buy the used Walker from audio federation and you have the finest table on the planet,and if you push you can probably get them to throw in the magic diamond cartridge.Then get Lloyd and Fred to hook it up and you will have pretty much a fine-tuned pristine Walker.Can't go wrong.

Actually I agree with what you said. Let me clarify my opinion. I do believe that the turntable matters especially in the areas you mentioned. I just think that of all the things you can spend your money on in the analog chain you hit the law of diminishing returns the quickest with the table. Case in point. My dealer has a Brinkman with the Brinkman tonearm. I believe the price new is $18,000. My Michelle Orbe with the Graham Phantom and Koetsu Jade sounded better then the Brinkman. The cost of my Orbe is about $5,000. So my point is that you can get more for your $20,000 by buying the right components that will sound good together rather then dropping alot of money on a turntable and then not having enough left over for a good cartridge,tonearm, and phonostage.
Maxx. you can buy a very excellent TT such as a used yes used Welltempered reference or Goldmund studio, with an excellent cartridge for around less than 4grand.You will have excellent results while you pocket or spend the rest on all the reissue vinyl on Amazon you can fetch.I would personally go with the Welltempered reference less moving parts and no electronic control box that might screw up along with a dead motor that cannot be replaced.
Buy new if you cannot trust your local dealer what makes you think you can trust buying used from just anyone? $20,000 is an awfull lot of money for a table,you would want to have a professional come to your house set it up properly and let you audition it for 3-4 days,unless you know all about it but I feel you don't hence the thread.Plus I think you should take it a step further and audition 2 tables at one time,if you are undecided between a vette,porches,and a Bmw,you for sure would test drive them all! Nick
Find a Townshend Rock III or Reference and end your search. I hear they may be producing tables again soon if you cannot find used. The trough is a little fussy but no need for a kilobuck arm with that kind of damping. In fact, a highly damped expensive arm sounds "dead" on a Townshend.

Hint: Townshend tables do not come up for sale very often. Invest your money in the cartridge and phono amp.

If you do your homework you can minimize the risk of buying used. I have purchased over 20 used tables among them some of the very high end with a minimum of problems and due to the lower cost easily covered the few problems I ran into (isnt buying used why were on agon?) Part of the joy of analog is dialing in your own gear, It isnt that complicated and its the only way to maximize your investment. Play with your setup (when you get it) and listen your ears will tell you whats up. There are many good guides and of course the forums. Fremers dvd is a good general guide that you should look at now before you buy to familiarize yourself with the process. If I didnt do my own set ups I wouldnt own a TT in the first place. Its not magic as many would have you believe. If you can get a seller to give you an evaluation period that would be great but dont pass up a great deal because you dont think you can do the setup. The learning process is integral to the experience of owning and enjoying a fine turntable. If you can find George Merrills guide (I think you can still get it from him) that has a lot of good info in it. Enjoy the whole hobby!
second the Walker. Of course you can spend less, and get less.
Uhh...the Forsell turntable is the finest turntable on the planet. Also, The Walker is a tweakers turntable(of course the Forsell is to but requires far less and sounds much better). You need to make adjustments to it regularly. Not a good choice for someone just getting into vinyl.
Also, if your going to try to setup a turntable yourself buy a cheap one to learn on.

Setting up a turntable correctly is an art. It takes years of doing it to develop an ear for making the right adjustments.
Justin has made a good point. I would only buy used or a demonstration model if the seller guarantees it, brings it and sets it up for you.
I second (or is it "third") Detlof's advice.
I also second the assertion, the order of importance (decreasing) in analogue is, TT -> arm -> cartridge. This would hold assuming you have the mechanical parts well-matched, a service offered by manufacturers & dealers: you don;t really have to worry about it, just listen & you'll know.
Just start with s/thing that's easy to use & reasonably priced & I believe you'll be happily surprised!
make sure you keep a dollar or two for a record, just in case you want to start buying them.

Thanks for the feedback. Nice to see such a lively thread. I agree with some of the people it might be better to start off with a cheaper table to get into vinyl.

I do need to do a lot of research about turntable and yes I also believe that currently I should go for a turntable that doesn't require that much tweaking.

What do you think about the following turntables (yes some of them are quite expensive I think)

- Brinkman Balance
- SME 20/2


Although not the simplest choice, I don't know what you mean about needing "to make adjustments to it regularly."


There are certainly many good choices and no one answer; a very personal thing with many factors, not all of which have to do with sound.

You may want to add Kuzma, Basis, Galibier and TW Acoustic, among others, to your list.
Yes, you do need to make adjustments, Piedpiper, if you have the discerning ear and clever enough hands for it. Depending on the thickness of the LP, you may even want to change the VTA everytime to make the music sound just right and to get a full soundstage. I have modified my tonearm just for that and that I can do it from my listening position without having to lift the needle from the record.

the benefits of fine VTA adjustment don't vary with the table except to say that they will show up more on higher resolution systems. My former point was that whereas there are a number of adjustments that can be made, once the Walker is set up properly, it will hold its adjustment and needn't be constantly maintained, unless the floor it is situated on is unstable, in which case the horizontal balance can should be checked and adjusted for with the simple turn of a dial.

Have you implemented a motorized VTA adjuster? I bet that is gratifying.
Dear Maxx: All opinions are valid and reflect different point of view.

Looking to that Micro Seiki Agon add: this TT is not only a air vacuum bearing but with a air vaccum platter too ( both a very high desired TT design targets. ) that looks in very good shape and the seller is 100% trusty.
The turntable comes ( add price )with a very good tonearm ( MAX 237 ) that IMHO maybe one of the very best ever build, these Micro Seiki combination ( that by any standard is up to today any top other combination. ) is " only " 8K maybe less. Both items are very easy to set-up and when you do it stay in that way.

After that you have to choose for the best Phonolinepreamp that you can find, this analog link is perhaps the more critical and one that could make a paramount difference in the quality sound performance.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Yes you are right of course, you were speaking of TTs and I of a tonearm. I agree with what you say about the Walker, I thought of buying one once but instead threw out most of Reverchon's stuff, the quality of which, considering the price and all the hype, I would rather not speak of and modified the Goldmund Reference from ground up. In the course of this process I did add a motorised VTA adjuster, which though used rarely, can be put to excellent effect.
Cheers and happy listening,

It's a matter of personal preference but I find the Walker to be analytical and the Forsell very musical. However, I understand that a lot of people like that analytical sound. It's very in vogue with the reviewers right now. That's why you see MBL's equipment getting such good reviews. Personally I think it's because all the reviewers are so old that the're deaf so they need to have that thin, bright sound so that they can hear the music.

As far as issues with it I am friends with someone who had many of them(read between the lines). He constantly had problems with the suspension, the crazy air pump, and that ridiculously heavy arm that pushed against the side walls of his records. The records were actually noisier after he played them.

Go for the Brinkman Balance. It's the only turntable I would upgrade to from my Michelle Orbe. Even though I love the Forsell I am not a tweaker and I don't want to have to make adjustments to the arm every month.

If you do get the Brinkman don't get their tonearm. Read my previous post about the comparison between my turntable and theirs. The Brinkman can be a little analytical if you don't get the right tonearm and cartridge. However, you haven't stated what kind of sound you like. Do you like things more musical or more analytical? If you want a very musical, lush sound then I would go with the Koetsu Jade cartridge and the Graham Phantom B-44 tonearm. Seriously you will be in heaven.
I would say first and foremost that the original poster should actually start not by spending money but by spending time - listening to a variety of combinations of tables/carts/arms/etc. So far we have no information on his tastes, system, and any 'philosophy' he has. Depending on his physical environment, there may be a substantial difference between a Brinkman Balance and an SME 20/2 and there is also the matter of taste. Some people have gotten extremely good results out of idlers on stonkingly large plinths with great arms attached. Some people are philosophically oriented towards designs with a suspension. Go figure... Until we have more information, this exercise simply becomes "pick-my-personal-favorite/dream-table/arm/cart-combo-for-20-grand."

While I agree with Detlof, Gregm, and others about the importance of set-up, I would also argue that learning to do so oneself is also critical. One cannot depend on the dealer (from whom one bought new) coming over every time one changes something (tonearm, cart, record mat, flimsy vinyl vs 200g vinyl).

I personally would recommend used because the cost of selling out that one and upgrading later is limited. There is a substantial learning curve to go up in any case, and if one is unwilling to throw oneself into the deep end (especially given "instant lifeguard" support provided by the Audiogon community in the form of neighborly support, listening groups, and expertise on the forum - evidence this thread (not to mention the archives)), spending a lot of money to get into really great analog sound is perhaps unwise in itself. Really great analog sound is always going to be more of a DIY affair than really great digital sound.

Personally, I like the Micro's air bearing (suggested by Raul). I also like the simplicity of a Verdier or a Galibier with two arm pods. My personal taste would tend to reducing the number of tweakable instruments (I don't want to tweak suspensions, air tanks, hose length/diameter/material, etc; just arm/cart and base).
Basis Audio. Doesn't matter which one, they are all good.
Harry sells more turntables than anyone set it up and play music through it. The VPI doesn't have to be's stable as can be. The 10.5i arm has extremely easy VTA repeatability. The top dual motors with rim drive are in the same league as all of those snob-appeal tables. The tables have terrific resale value, should a marriage breakup, or mortgage default come along..seems like an easy decision...
Judging from my readings of posts on this forum, my view is distinctly a minority one. But if pitch stability is high on your list of priorities (musicians only?), then I believe there is only one turntable to consider - Nakamichi. Either the Dragon CT or the TX1000. Not easy to find, but they come up on Audiogon now and then. Otherwise, there are plenty of other good suggetions here.
Dear Nrostov: +++++ " Do you like things more musical or more analytical? " +++++

looking to the Maxx system ( of course that he is the only one that has the right answer for sure. ) IMHO I think that maybe he likes what is on the recording and this could be different from what you like looking to your great audio system that is different from the Maxx one.

Btw, what do you mean with " musical "? something that is not analytical?

Regards and enjoy the music.
Music per se is not "analytical". It has bloom, a natural aura of sound emanating from the instrument, the sound of which you can hear clearly with and around the original tone being played. The sound of live music is very complex, add do that the natural reverberations coming from the location of the surroundings where the music is being played, this all adds to something which even the best rig will not be able to produce, whatever is being said.
"Analytical" is something to my ears, which people think has to do with real music, but mostly seems artificial to my ears. so I am in the same camp as Nostrov. Mind you there is a thin line between "musical" and "analytical". Of course live music can be perceived as "analytical", but to my ears it is without that additional touch of artificiality, which those highly touted analytical setups seem to emanate.It is all subjective of course, I speak only of what my ears tell me, and they are -alas- also beginning to show signs of old age.
Dear Detlof,
Someone described analytical as "the sounds without the music".
Obscure, but poetic non the same!

In rationalising this, we would note that many sonic details are reproduced (analytical) -- but in a disjointed manner (unmusical), i.e. with phase & timing problems & other irregularities.
IMO, musical by definition, cannot be analytical.

I totally agree with your definition of Musical vs Analytical. This def could also be extended to harmonics and other detail 'tones'

Gregm also said plenty with this remark " ...(unmusical), i.e. with phase & timing problems & other irregularities."

Both definition of course assumes that you have basic fundamental tonal balance is comparable to start with but it is the 'other' qualities and irregularities differs/absent.
IMO, the phrase "God is in the details" is relevant to remember here.

...and one of those "details" is the naturalness with which they are presented.

The idea that one must give up detail for musicality is reactionary.

As usual, balance.

...and then there is the small matter of the recording.
the phrase is actually "the devil is in the details", meaning an effort can go terribly wrong if one of its details is not right. Vide: A rig will only sound as good as its weakest part. That's were the adversary sits.

By the way, another thought, just for the fun of it: Real music, besides being "musical" per definition is only "analytical" if we want it to be, if we specially listen for it, concentrating on different aspects of the live musical message....and if we do, we won't be able to stand our rigs for quite a while, especially if it is too analytical. As you rightly say, balance.....
Haven't read all the threads but looks like no one has suggested an SME. Is that cos it is brit rather than yank? Just wondered.
SME is certainly a beautifully built contender but, IME, a bit mechanical sounding for my taste, compared to the best of its competition.
I suppose any tonearm with the wrong table/cartridge could sound "mechanical".

However, across the board I find SME tonearms to be extremely well built (far better than Origin/Rega), neutral, highly reliable, and compatible with a wide variety of cartridges.

I have no association with SME.
Follow up to my previous post.

I sell Thorens turntables and a couple of the most expensive models are available with SME tonearms.

However, I am not an SME dealer and do not sell the tonearms separately.

In fact, I do have an "association" albeit indirect with SME, so please accept my apology for the error.

Dealer disclosure.
My comment was based on my surprise at the sound that was coming out of top of the line SME arm/table combos with stone bodied Koetsu cartridges through Airtight electronics and Sonus Faber speakers; not my own system, but not what I would have expected. Also, I did say "compared to the best of its competitors," which wouldn't include Rega.
A "top of the line" combination of components is no guarantee and/or predictor of any listener's expectations or results for that matter.

You will learn this through more listening experience.
"A "top of the line" combination of components is no guarantee and/or predictor of any listener's expectations or results for that matter."

Of course. It was my expectations for these particular components that precipitated my surprised. All bets are off though when it's not your own system and you can't take responsibility for set up.

Here's a brand new killer setup for far less then $20,000

1. VPI Aries III Turntable $2900.00
2. VPI SDS system $1000.00
3. VPI Periphery Ring Clamp $600.00
4. VPI Center Weight $150.00
5. VPI Mini Super Feet $300.00
6. Dynavector DV-507 MKII tonearm $4750.00
7. Dynavector DV DRT XV-1s Cartridge $4500.00
8. Synergistic Research Magnetic Tricon Phono Cable $800.00
9. Synergistic Research (2) Tesla T2 Power Cords $1100.00

MSRP $16,100.00 That's a winning combo all across the board.

I would describe analytical as a very bright, lean sound, lacking in the mid-bass, it can also be very detailed. It can be very impressive at first but fatiguing after some extended listening. Some examples of analytical equipment are anything by Krell or MBL.

I also agree with Detlof's description. To me something musical just sounds more like the real thing. It's less artificial sounding, has more air and bloom to it. It's full and lush sounding. Instruments in systems that are musical sound like they do in real life, yet you are drawn into the music as a whole. You find your toes tapping and you are connected and moved emotionally.

I don't like analytical sounding gear. It sounds wrong to me, but lots of people like it, and it makes them happy, so whatever.

I forgot to mention this is a must have with a turntable, wet dry cleaner record cleaner. Adding that to the purchase you will still have change left over from the $20k to purchase plenty of vinyl for your musical pleasure... :O)

1. VPI Typhoon Record Cleaner $2000.00

I wouldn't lump the recording into the definition of analytical vs musical debate. Yes there are bad recordings that one could say fall under my definition of analytical;however, when they all sound that way, well that is when you have a bad system. I think that is the point.

I do agree with your comment about not having to give up details for naturalness. My system is very detailed;it's just that those details don't jump in my face and yell "look at me".

the relevance of the recording is that most recordings are hyped, and one could make a case for owning a system that makes "normal" recordings sound ok. One could also make a case for owning a system that sounds good only with premium non-hyped recordings. Personally, my system doesn't add insult to injury but within that context I aspire to as much natural detail as I can get. Sounds like we're on the same page.
You could do quite well picking up a Goldmund Studio and then then trying a few cartridges to find your best match with the rest of your equipment.