From high end digital to beginners analog?

My son, who basically listens to mp3/ipod, bought a cheap turntable recently for his low end bedroom system. This intrigued me and greatly amused his friends! I have been thinking about a trying a relatively cheap turntable and phono stage for a few years now. Have not had one in 20 years.
Will a $2k to $4k turntable plus phono, new or used, be a waste in comparison to modern high end digital?
Has anyone had a recent dabble like this, and what where the results?
A 2 to 4k table plus phono should lay waste to just about any high end digital based on cd. For me, it is a no brainer as to which is better, vinyl by far, but if you were used to digital using a 96khz server based system, you might not appreciate the difference or may think the digital is better. At those rates, the differences become very minor. But for a cd based system, its no contest.IMHO
I listen to analog using a Well Tempered Amadeus and a Lyra Delos, and digital up to 24/192 via FireWire and an Apogee Mini-DAC. My impression is that the very hi-res digital is as interesting as the vinyl, in its own way. Vinyl tends to be preferable to digital as the files get smaller.

So no, a turntable as you specify it would not be a waste IMHO.
I have about 300 records that I just used to stare at, never play because my CDs via a Rega Apollo sounded much better than my bottom feeder analog.
To upgrade my analog I bought: Rega P3, Denon Dl-103r, Musical Surroundings Phonomena Nova, all used at under $1200, retail over $2K. New Apollo cost $1K. Just to give you an idea what level I'm talking about.
The analog now sounds a little better than the Apollo, I play both CDs and LPs and can enjoy either without wishing I was listening to the other format.
So I don't think you'd be wasting your money - Provided you already have records. I would not expect a $2K - $4K analog setup to blow away hi end digital, or even a digital front end that cost $2K - $4K for that matter.
The other thing with records that probably sounds cliche and overstated is the tactile experience.
I am in the same boat as you, except that I am pretty serious about getting into Analogue :). You can read the couple of threads I have started in the analog section in the last one month. I am auditioning lots of TTs these days, yet to buy one.

Before getting serious about TTs I did some homework on this domain by talking to my audio friends who as into analog playback and listening to some of their TTs. What I understood and was also advised is, if you are already into good digital playback and want to try analog playback as well, never get into entry level analog. You will be most probably be dissapointed. Entry level analog playback lets you deal with all the hassles that comes with LPs but doesnt let you hear the superiority of LPs over CDs. So it leads to withdrawal symptoms and you may miss the analog bus forever. So, in essence, get a good TT with a good tonearm, cartridge and phonostage and then collect some well pressed records and then you know what Vinyls can do for you.

Yes, 4k for a table alone is decent but you also need to keep aside about 2k for the phono stage and at least about 1k each for tonearm and cartridge. Then you have a balanced LP playback system.

I can assure you, you will not feel your money is wasted. You will be happy that you did not leave this world as an audiophile who did not do "Analogue" :-)
Great responses above. My system is respectable on both fronts but my investment in the vinyl side is far larger. At retail my universal disc player + interconnects would go for ~$9K. My TT, tonearm/phono cable, cartridge, phono stage and RCM (as critical as any component) would retail for three times that amount. Further, I could easily add another $2-3K to the vinyl side (tonearm upgrade).

As good as the digital player is, the vinyl rig demolishes CD's. As others noted, low rez sources like CD cannot match high end analog, regardless of how much you spend to play the CD. OTOH, hi rez digital sources, particularly DVD-A and blu-ray, give the vinyl rig a run for its money and are better in some ways. They're easier and more convenient too.

Could my digital front end be matched/bettered for similar money? Maybe, but you'd have to be very astute or very lucky. Doing vinyl well provides certain satisfactions that even the best digital doesn't offer, but it's neither easy nor inexpensive.
IMHO, digital provides better value, and the extra money would better be spent elsewhere.
10-14-11: Unsound
"IMHO, digital provides better value, and the extra money would better be spent elsewhere."

I agree, provided you're starting from scratch and don't have a bunch of records. If you have a bunch of records then it depends on things like how many you have, your budget, how much you like cleaning and setting up...
A friend listened to my modest analog front end and started talking about prices and buying a TT. I told him to not even think about it because he doesn't own any records. By the time he bought the hardware and then a decent collection, he could get a much better digital front end plus a lot of CDs Hi Rez downloads. A no-brainer IMO.
Given how individual everyone's experiences are, the only way to find out is to give it a try.

I have a music server with several thousand CDs on it, and it was my main listening source for years. You can't beat it for flexibility and fun, IMO, and the software has gotten so good that it adds back in a lot that LPs used to be able to lay claim to as advantages - for example, while you don't get liner notes, you can get album art up on a hi-res display, with integrated access to all sorts of information including, but not limited to, liner notes (or the equivalent thereof).

I bought a TT about 4 years ago, and I absolutely love it too. I'm convinced, though, that it all comes down to the specific recording - there are albums I have bought for $3 used that sound phenomenal, and others that I've bought new, full retail, that sound no better than a typical CD. The 45 RPM Jazz reissues from Music Matters sound like nothing I've ever heard before on a stereo.

Some of the best luck I've had is older LPs that were recorded back before high levels of compression were used. An old (used) Van Morrison or Jeff Beck album, easily had for $5, sounds far better than any version of the CD, even with remastering, etc.

Finally, the experience is different, too, and I like both. With the music server, I can change what's playing rapidly, or put it on shuffle play with any subset of the collection I want. With LPs, I'm more mindful about what I'm picking, and I listen to at least the whole side, if not the whole album. Both are great.

If you go the TT route, just be sure you are willing to take the time to set up the TT (or have it set up) properly, regardless of how much you spend on it. Great music on a well set up analog system, even a modest one, will be very satisfying.
I was in your position and I took the plunge. I bought a VPI Classic 1 and a Herron VTPH-2 phono stage the cartridge is a Benz Wood SL. I am extremely satisfied with the set-up. My CD player is a highly modded Sony SCD-1 and it can not compare to my analog set-up. I hardly ever turn it on anymore. I buy mostly new vinyl and have good luck doing so. I do pick up some used records from time to time and have had good experience with that as well.Would I ever go to an all analog setup NO. But the reality is digital just isn't there when compared to vinyl. For reference my Sony compared very well (side by side) to the AR cd reference 7 on cd only of course on SACD it bettered it. I say take the plunge.

Mike60, you have received a lot of great advice above. IMO it might take closer to the $4K number if you are looking for a table and phono pre. But who knows, there is a lot of good used stuff hiding out there.

When I jumped back into vinyl 7 years ago I used my old conrad jonson PF1 as the phono pre (using the ouput from the tape outs to the line stage). It may take a little more research finding and using a vintage preamp this way but it is an option to consider IMO.

I probably spent $5+K on my first vinyl system inculding a MC step up transforrmer but it was clear to me that it was better than my $7K CD player. On a few difficult recordings maybe not by much.

But I have gone way beyond that now and I am also much better at the TT/arm/cart set up. At this time vinyl playback just kills CD play back in my system. I suppose I could update my CD player but the red book CD standard is a limited format. There aren't any more bits to be pulled off those shiny disks.
If you have the records to play and the desire to hear them it will not be a waste. You should be able to get sound in the same league as very good digital for that price easily. Just do your homework and be smart or find an expert you trust to steer you in a good direction. The gear has to be matched and set up correctly otherwise it could be a waste. Bottom line is you have to do it right to get the good results (no surprise there) but that is not as easy to achieve with phono rigs as with modern digital.
Thanks to all for some truly excellent feedback so far.

I dont think I am necessarily looking to better my CD set up. I am extremely pleased with my rig as it is, but I am attracted to a turntable and vinyl and dont want something that will be awful to listen to by comparison. I am thinking about it as providing a different listening experience that can be enjoyed as an alternative, and possibly lead me further down the analog path.
Another one who took the plunge this year. Had an EMM Labs cdsa (10K new) that was dream digital and have swapped to small dac computer based digital and a Well Tempered Amadeus / Eastern Electric turntable phono preamp combo. Loving it. My buying habits have changed a bunch - exploring 50's and 60's jazz and blues (that I am mostly still in learning mode) now while digital was mostly new releases. I prefer the turntable sound despite battling humming issues and still not owning a record cleaning machine.
Hi Mike,

I will be getting a TT as well in the near future, having abandoned anolog once the cd came in years ago.I can say my TT back in the day was nothing speacial, a Thornes td 350.

I have heard what a good TT sounds like and think it out rates digital ,imho.I started buying records a few months ago to have a collection when I do get a TT.

I would say even if you have no records , take the leap. I did hear a the new Oracle Paris TT which comes with it's own phono stage, arm and cartridge that already come set up from the factory. I heard this at the recent Taves show in Toronto and had a chace to talk to the owner of the company as well. You can use the Delphi 6 power supply on the Paris as well to upgrade the power supply from the satandard one which comes with the Paris.

There are many great TT's out there. This is just a suggestion.
I would agree 100% with Unsound, IF we were not considering "high end" digital.
Dear Mike60: Mapman posted: ++++ " If you have the records to play and the desire to play them.... " ++++ and I would like to add " if you have enough records... " +++++

then the only way to hear it is through and analog rig but from here to " better than digital, especially HiRes " you will be dissapointed: digital HiRes is better for very good reasons.

I'm in analog/LPs because I own 6K+ LPs where many of them are not on digital HiRes ( DVDA. ) or the digital transfer was very poor.

The LP source IMHO is probably the most imperfect alternative to reproduce music but is the one where I'm accustom to for many many years. Inside the LP alternative the music signal pass for so many stages during recording and playback that is almost incredible we can hear what we hear against a digital signal that is almost untouched.

If I was a person with out enough LPs and with a digital HiRes decent rig I never even think to go analog other than per curiosity.

Other important subject is that digital is a " plug and play " alternative where analog/LPs certainly is not but something that needs deep training, patience, patience and more patience along knowledge/skills and tools. Dougdeacon as many other analog/LP advocates as me knew what I'm talking about because when Dougdeacon said: ++++ " Doing vinyl well provides certain satisfactions that even the best digital doesn't offer... " ++++ he knew that to attain that quality performance level your quality performance skills most be " deep way deep ".

Nothing is at random with analog/LP playback, even the room temperature is important to.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Hello Mike60, I got back into vinyl a few years back after a 20 year hiatus. I had saved my 2000 records from my past. It was the best move I made in my audio experience. For some reason, for me, the connection to the music is much better.

How are you listening to digital? What equipment are you using for comparison?

If you want a good plug and play unit it your price range I would look at the Well Tempered Amadeus mentioned above. Mount the cartridge of your choice and drop the needle. I have never heard anyone criticize its sound. There are many good choices in turntables at that price but you have to have that love of tweaking to get it right. To me its fun, to others a pain.


If I were putting together a system to "try out" analog vs cd I would stsrt with a very basic TT like a technics or similar used with arm. Find a good MM cart that matches the arm and a good pre that matches the cart. Then you will need to set it up properly. That would give you a good taste for whether vinyl is worth the hassle to you. I have a very "high end" system and one as just described. I can listen to the lower cost system for hours and in most cases find the sound preferable to red book cd. The most important part as in all things audio is good mating of the components. Read all the forums there is a lot to learn about analog set up.
You have not specified your system, I.e. What you mean by high end digital. If you already have a high end digital system, why do you want a low end/entry level analog system? With modern cd and especially SACD players, let alone even higher resolution downloads that are available you will likely have to spend 5X to get comparable quality sound.

If you just want to dabble in a hobby, sure do it! If you want to enjoy high quality music reproduction I fail to see the logic.
I did the same thing about ten years ago...although on a much smaller, meager scale, as my digital setup was much better than average...but far from SOTA...long story short...i inheritated mu old mans lps and put together a modest retro based 2nd system...its been alot of fun...and for 2-4 k you could easily get pleasure AND performance...i opted for some nice headphones instead of speakers in this application...which really accenuates the warmth vinyl lovers speak of