Getting into analog is tough....

I have been thinking hard about getting into analog, but the more I research, the more it puts me off. First, I need a phono stage. Then, of course, I need the turntable. Then, I need a tonearm. Then a cartridge. Then a needle. Ok, now will it be MC or MM? How about the arm? Will I get a turntable without an arm? No, get a turntable with an arm because setting up an arm for a newbie can be a disaster, right?. How about the cartridge? Ok, my budget is $1500 for a phono stage and a turntable. But, a tone arm by itself might be more than the turntable and the stage. Oh, the cartridge might be more than everything, but which one? Who has a turntable I can listen to? What, almost no one I know has a turntable these days? What about the thing and the other thing and then there is this thing and that thing and cables and..........AAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHH!!!

You know, my CD player doesn't sound that bad. In fact, CD players are easy. You just plug and plug and listen.

So, what was the reason I wanted to get into analog?
You don't have to get into analog. I read posts every day here from people who don't want to get into analog.

It takes some commitment, and some study, and some work, and maintenance, and is less convenient.

Some newer music is not available on analog.

It's cheaper to not get into analog.

There can be clicks and pops.

There's no remote.

You have to turn the record over.

You have to clean them.

However, some people, and in increasing numbers, are finding a satisfaction from analog sound that they regularly report they cannot achieve from digital. I have felt this way since digital came out, and still do. The analog users seem to be convinced that all this extra work is worth the effort. I certainly do.
Very well put TWL...

I realize it seems like a daunting task but all the stuff you are concerned about is the easy part. Building a suitable software collection is most likely your biggest challenge UNLESS you have a mountain of money. Boatloads of money can buy anything your heart desires in the analog domain. If you have enough extra time to master all the issues you have listed then you will likely have enough time to find all kinds of vinyl at very affordable prices.

Please provide your general location so that one of us can invite you over to check analog out. That may settle the issue for you quickly. It might not be your cup of tea. Then again you may agree with the claimed benefits and become more motivated.

Depending on your existing system and how influenced you are by negative comments about certain turntable manufacturers it may be much easier than you believe.

Everyone has an opinion and here is mine. Your total budget needs to be in the $2500 range so that you can have a record cleaning system and all the associated gear that you will be happy with for a very long time.

I've had my current turntable and arm since 1984 and still have no compelling reason to replace it especially when comparing the cost of a digital front end to better it. Top dollar on the used market for what I have including the cartridge is about $1500. The extra money that I have allocated for you will buy everything else you need for the care of vinyl and the other bits and pieces all we vinyl junkies have plus some software. And, this is considering you don't have any inclination for DIY.

On the other hand, $2500 will buy a lot of CD's.
If you don't already have an LP collection then I would not bother with analog. Like Patrick said $1500 buys a lot of music. If I were you I'd put the $1500 into CDs and /or upgrades to your digital front end, or get an SACD player. I listen to vinyl/CDs about 50/50, but I think in my case this is only historical, because I already had a turntable and an LP collection. I can't say that I categorically prefer the sound of one to the other. To my ears the quality of the engineering of the album makes more difference than the format. A good CD sounds much better than a bad LP.
I'll disagree with Pat on the cleaning system ... my cleaner cost $40 (Allsop orbitrak) and it gets very good results.

Lastly how do you plan to purchase vinyl ? If you're prepared to spend $15 per LP then you can get new albums. These days I only buy used LPs, which I have to thoroughly clean. It's very time consuming, so I only do it because to me it's fun, but many of my friends think I'm mad spending hours at the local record store going through hundreds of albums looking for the 5-10 albums that I want, that are not thrashed. Financial cost is nil (50cents per album) but time cost is very high.
I was overwelmed as well

then I did my homework with a lot of help here

ended up with a Nottingham Spacedeck/Spacearm and am back into the world of vinyl.

most records are much cheaper, only a few new things are more expensive unless you crave japanese imports

"So what was the reason I wanted to get into analog".

To expand your hobby and your music collection. You expand your hobby by learning about how to assemble and maintain a turntable system. You take on a new hobby of chasing down good LP's of music not available on CD's (which can be well worth the effort). Its not a rocking chair hobby. If you are up to the effort involved, I would do a dry run of the used music stores in your area, view the for sale ad's here and on EBay and see if there is enuf stuff available which interests you to make the effort worth while. If you're caught up in all of the posts proclaiming that vinyl systems sound better its best to be a bit cynical. While there is a lot of potential with vinyl there is a lot of potential for CD's as well. Much can depend on set up, maintenance, and system matching. You can make either sound pretty good with careful planning. I'd let the software issue guide my decision.

I guess I wasn't clear. My budget would be $1500 for the table/arm and maybe cartridge. The other grand would be for a phono stage, cleaning system, alignment tools, brushes, poly sleeves, etc. We don't disagree at all. Yes, I agree also that it has been easy for me since I grew up with vinyl and never really adopted CD's to any extent. Between the early 80's and today it was a very difficult time watching my software of choice dry up and disappear in the stores. It's slowly coming back which is refreshing.
"Getting into analog" isn't about equipment. It's about software. If you already own a stack of LPs, well, then that's why you get a TT. If there's music you love that simply isn't available on CD, then that's why you get a TT. And if you dig the idea of rummaging through bins at second-hand dealers and yard sales in search of cheap thrills, then that's a reason to get a TT. And if you've listened to vinyl and digital and decided you can't live without that vinyl sound and you're willing to go to the effort and expense of tracking down music you like on vinyl, then that's a reason to get a TT. Those are the only reasons I can think of, though maybe somebody can add to this list.

Otherwise, if the preceding paragraph does not describe you, then you have no good reason to get a TT. So don't get one. Gee, that was easy.
I just got into analog about a month ago. I bought a VPI Scout/JMW9 tonearm and an Ortofon OM20 MM cartridge. Here are my thoughts. In my mind, it was worth the plunge (which will probably cost about $3000+ once all is said and done). The sound is noticeably better than my digital rig, which is pretty decent (Muse Model 8 transport and Model 296 DAC). More importantly, it is a "different" sound (more lifelike, better space, more musical) which I've enjoyed greatly. I feel like vinyl has taken my system to a different level. I've also enjoyed visiting all of the excellent used vinyl stores in the SF Bay Area. On the down side, the store forgot to mount my cartridge, so I had to fuss with setting up the cartridge and arm. It took a good deal of time and wasn't fun, but a good learning experience. I also have to clean records and will probably have to buy a record cleaning maching somewhere down the line.

I think you need to consider a number of things:
1) What is the rest of your system? I didn't feel that the rest of my system could be upgraded without spending significantly more than the vinyl rig, so I bought into vinyl for the most economical upgrade that would be significant to my ears. If you have a modest system, you might want to consider sticking with digital and upgrading other components in your system first.

2) Are there stores in your area that have a good selection of vinyl? I don't think I would have bought a turntable if I had to mail order for most of my records. There are enough good stores in my area (San Francisco) so that I can find most things I want on vinyl.

3) Do you want to invest the time vinyl requires? Finding records aside, you'll have to spend time adjusting the turntable, arm, cartridge, etc. and also cleaning records.

For me, I've been very happy with my foray into vinyl.

Interesting stuff. Ok, here are some details about my listening habits. At one time I had about 3000 CDs and one day I decided to clean house and only keep the CDs that I truly loved and gave/sold the rest. I rarely buy a new CD these days unless it is a better recording or a recording I have that comes with extra tracks that I want, so I don't buy that much anymore. I personally felt that all those CDs that I would never play were just taking up space and were of no use to me. A CD has to work for its keep. That is just me. For me, less is more.

However, my older brother has an LP collection from way back when that amounts to about 1000 LPs and maybe 400 45s and he rarely plays them. I myself have about 200 LPs and about 100 45s that have been collecting dust for decades that, I am hoping, are waiting to release their magic. I don't plan on acquiring alot more LPs, but it would be nice to find better copies and better versions of the ones that I already have, plus I have seen some LPs of CDs that I already own that might be nice to have.

So, this year I am hoping to finish up the digital side of my system and it is coming along to my satisfaction. It has been hard from falling to obsession and into the poor house.

Next year will be the year of analog and I thought I would start studying and this is where my frustrations have come in. You might call me a weekend analog warrior. I won't be doing it as much as some of you, but I would like to do it. There are those special nights where you just want to put on something and get comfortably numb. That is what I picture to be an analog night. Can you dig it?

All this frustration started when I was checking out Teres turntables and the price seemed reasonable, but then I read that the turntable did not come with an arm or a cartridge. I thought, geez, that's like buying a car that doesn't come with tires or a steering wheel. What is up with that? Do I have to shop 3 times?

I guess I may end up not shooting so high and buying something that is plug and play like the MMF or Rega stuff that you just plug in and go. That should work, right?

I guess it is like starting into this hobby again as I did months ago into steps, right?
You started a important thread.

I can't say that I agree with the you-have-to's in analog or audio in general. Its only as hard as you make it. Noting how you are confused and anxious enough to start a thread about it, Match, I'd just get a Rega P25, a Rega cart and Orbitrac record cleaning kit. Its not the best sound for the money, but its certainly quality sound and in my experience, it will net you more enjoyment. No reason for a bad time; you can buy more complicated gear later.
Keep your CD and forget about vinyl. I just brought Ray Brown "Soular Energy" and could not find it in the blue vinyl. Too many people are into vinyl, stay with your CD collection.
I too just got back into vinyl. I purchased a used Basis 1400, with RB300 arm. I also bought a ARC PH3 phono preamp and added a new Benz Micro Glider II cartridge and was off and running. Total cost about $2500.

Was it worth it? You bet. I have not listened to this much music in 10 years. It sounds better than my SACD/CD player (Sony 9000ES), by a large margin.

You have quite a lot of what amounts to free music (between you and your brothers collections you have several hundred albums!).

Two bits of advice I can give you is to buy a used TT and tonearm from somebody who is upgrading here on Audiogon. In that way you will be reasonably assured of getting a quality TT that has been taken care of fairly well.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can buy a used cartridge as well, but beware that some of them are very well used (worn out?) and installing them is not always easy. (Learning how to properly install/adjust a cartridge is daunting, as there are a number of variables: Tracking Force, Vertical Tracking Angle, Anti-skate forces, etc..) Given that and the possibility of bending the cantilever while installing it, and thus ruining the cartridge, is the reason I purchased my cartridge new from the local analog guru (Brian @ the Analog Room, in San Jose, CA).

As far as record cleaning is concerned, I recommend you purchase "Last" products, both the power cleaner and the preservative. Those and a carbon fiber brush and a stylus cleaning brush are all you really need.
Total cost about $100.

I recommend you make the plunge, as the sound just seems more musical than SACD and CD's. If you decide you don't like it, you can sell the rig and not be much, if anything, out of pocket.

Good Luck in your decision!

If I thought about music reproduction the way you describe it in your original post I would probably sell all of my software and equipment and buy one of those iPods and just download 1s and 0s off some website. What the hell, it all sounds the same on those little ear buttons, you can carry it in your shirt pocket and even get one free if you buy a new Beetle.

But I don't think that way about music reproduction. I want the best sound reproduction I can get to MY ears and analog sounds better to me than anything I have ever heard to date. I'm also that way about video. I'm the guy who will spend over $5k and countless hours in the attic and on the roof to get 9 channels of HDTV, because it looks better. But I'm not going to try to talk you into doing anything. If your happy with CDs, great! Enjoy.

Now, if you decide to make the commitment to analog, I'm sure you will find, as I have, that TWL and many others will go above and beyond to help you.
Dan ed, I am happy with CDs, but I want to be happy with analog, too. Don't get me wrong, I see people here have the passion for audio and it is great; however, I am not sure I am one of them. Yes, I like great sound, but I want to get great sound without having to spend countless hours to get it. I just want to buy it, connect it, turn it on and then enjoy it. And in between, I want to go out and hike, or see a movie, or party with some girls.

Dan ed, I appreciate what you are saying. Once upon a time I was a guitar player in a band. I had a Gibson Les Paul and a Marshall stack(tubes baby). I spent countless hours getting everything to sound just right and I enjoyed every minute of it, but I am different now. Then, the trip for me was as much fun as the destination. Today, the destination is all I care about.

By the way, I truly appreciate everyone here that helps me and others with their fabulous insight. You guys have greatly helped me reduce the time I spend installing and searching for equipment and increased the time I spend listening. Thanks.

Could I be an audiophile in denial?
You just want it easy--are the girls you party with "professionals"? They're real easy...some can be *outstanding*!

I just got a bunch of LPs from Argentina, mostly early 70's recordings not available on CD. Ten albums for $126. A couple of old tango recordings were also in the group, one was a 1927 Carlos Gardel rereleased in LP. Awesome. Simply awesome. I have a really decent digital rig, including a belt driven transport, but it's the analog the one that can bring the magic and the nostalgia.

If you want close to plug and play and have plain fun I suggest what I have: the "Creature on Steroids".
For plug and play it's hard to be simpler than a rega p3 with an elys cartrige. The cartridge has 3 bolt points so that on a rega arm there is no alignment to consider. There's almost nothing to adjust on the rega other than tracking weight and anti-skate, which takes about 10 minutes. If you stick with the 3 point rega cartridges there's no VTA and no alignment

It may not be the absolute best for the money, but it's not bad, and later if you get the urge to upgrade the rega arms have many mods. That said, if you like to listen to music, and not to the hifi I think the rega will fit the bill. People like to bash rega, but they have sold an awful lot of tables.

As for phono stage, I'm not sure, but the creek obh seems to be quite well regarded. I personally use an audiolab 8000C for my phono pre and headphone amp, and I picked it up used for under $200. Great little class A (aka hot) preamp.

I think rega 3 + cartridge (Elys) + Creek pre should be under $1000, leaving plenty of money to buy more CDs and or LPs. Budget cleaning tools (which you will really need if you have old LPs) include allsop's orbitrac ($40) and discdoctor (similar price). Both will get you started without hundreds of dollars in expense.

Add in the shure stylus force guage ($25) and a hunt or similar carbon dry brush ($20) and you're up and running.
Here are some reasons to get into analog:
1. You have a large record collection.
2. You want the best sound possible.
3. Your system has extremely high resolution/ transparency that it make cds unlistenable.
4. Cds make your ears hurt.
Geez Sean, I swear I've read your post somewhere else. Its eerie ;)
If you already have an extensive Cd collection, don't bother. What you might do is buy one of those fancy Cd layers that can mimic analog so well. Yes, I do know that one can be a bit crazy to buy a mimic when the real thing is available, but I point to two of us who went in opposite directions at a mutual benefit.

I own an Audio Aero Mark II CD player which runs on tubes and sounds fantastic. I had already owned a really big collection of CDs and I did not want to change. I bought the audio Aero from a Gentleman who had already owned a huge collection of LPs and he realized the change-over wasn't worth it. This was a match made in heaven. His sale was my gain.
Was your your first car a Lexus?
I think you should stick with digital discs, which are improving lately. However if you want to mess around with vinyl, do yourself a a used turntable/arm for about $150 (on E-Bay) a Shure V15X-MR pickup for about $250 (Arguably as good as any) a used preamp (Adcom or the like) for about $300.
Start playing records. Only "upgrade" if and when you can hear an improvement.
i think there's another aspect of vinyl that seldom gets mentioned here. i find it great fun to tweak my turntable (adjust vta, realign thhe cartridge, etc.) & hear the difference almost immeasureable changes make in sonics. i do not find playing w/ my turntable all consuming but rather an additional aspect of the hobby that enhances listening. in short, i think the best argument for vinyl is that it's fun.
I agree with Eldartford. Why have an all or nothing attitude about it? After 12 years without vinyl, I got curious. I had sold all my lps back then to finance getting lots of cds. So a few months ago I gave in to the curiousity, chose a $35 turntable on ebay and went to the local used cd store, where they have a small stock of used vinyl. Paid $1 for Bonnie Raitt's Nick of Time, which seemed to be in pristine condition. The turntable came, I took it to a local audio guy who "tuned it up" for about $25, went home and put my $1 lp on my $35 table. It sounded great (to me). I bought some more used vinyl ($1 - $6 a pop, although some good Pablo and Verve jazz lps were a bit more) and continued listening. Got some real duds (scratched, hissy, etc.), but 3 or 4 of every 5 lps sounded satisfyingly engagingly musical. Asked the audio guy what to do next. He recommended I keep an eye out for certain Thorens models used on ebay. I watched and waited for 4 months, found a unit that I could see locally, and bought it. It cost $199, plus about $100 for some "tune up" work. It sings! Now, for some of us $1,500 is a lot of money. Me, for instance. We all have our price points (and spousal tolerances). Bottom line: spend a small fraction now, get something used, and see what you think. You can always blow the whole wad later. good luck.
Getting in is hard? Getting out is tougher......., where do you go?
What's so tough about it? I "got into analog" (though of course we didn't refer to that way then) 35 years ago when I was in kindergarten, and don't remember it as being such an overwhelming challenge at the time...I think a more accurate thread title would read something like "Being an audiophile can be a real pain in the ass", 'cause that's where all the complication (and expense) lies, and in that sense vinyl is no different than any other part of this sick, sick hobby... ;^)
An old newbie (again) getting into analog.
This is my fourth trip into the analog domain in my life.
No interest, then suddenly a pile of LPs (about 900 classical) became available. Decided to buy them even though I didn't have a TT nor a pre pre.
Found an Audio Research PH1, borrowed a TT and was on my way.
Two months later, Now have about 2,500 Lps average price $0.40 or so. A LOT of music to listen to. And it does sound "better" than CD, even via my Sony SACD ES777 job.
I love going into record stores and having the option of buying $4 albums or $15 cds. My record store owner isn't happy but I am.
David, if we "got out of analog" there'd be only one place left to go: the concert hall. I've heard it's not so bad. It might even be more convenient!

As he has for so many others, TWL helped me make excellent TT, tonearm and cartridge decisions. Now he writes, albeit rhetorically, "You don't have to get into analog"! Why didn't he tell me that $6K and 6MM hours ago?

More seriously, Tom also wrote that analog, "...takes some commitment, and some study, and some work, and maintenance, and is less convenient." To me, this sounds alot like what it takes to play a musical instrument or sing really well. I try to remind myself of that every time I have to fiddle with VTA or clean a noisy record to help Jascha sound just right. I just pretend I'm tuning my Strad.
Doug, point taken. I was assuming the exclusion of live events when posing my rhetorical question of "where would we go?". However, I am shocked that it did not provoke a rather profane pun from the crowd, as it were. :-)
Yeah analog sounds better and live music sounds better than recorded. I would consider spending the time and effort going to hear live music over fretting over the "analog is better than digital" debate. Is it about the music or the sound? Digital has come a hell of a long way from the time it really had an etchy, irritating fragmented presentation of the music, prior to the early 90's at which time things started improving. The 80's were a complete bust for digital and I honestly hated the way it sounded and couldn't listen to it, it was vinyl all the time.

If you come into a batch of LP's cheap, if there is music on LP's you would love to own, if you have a lot of time to clean, fuss over and flip records and don't mind doing so, it may be the ticket for you. IT IS DEFINITELY BETTER, more continuous, more resolving yet some will be more sensitive to the differences than others and some will tell you the ticks, pops and attention to the details is not worth it. No one can give you a definitive answer, only you can find out first hand if it is or isn't worth it to you. I personally dont' have the time for analog that I once did and if I did I would probably spend more time with it. I would just rather listen and enjoy the music and not worry about the debate. You can do it with today's digital IMO, another perspective.

The BIG differences in the mediums truly separate at the upper level ($$$$) of the spectrum. I have heard some truly extraordinary vinyl playback systems that no digital I have heard can touch. It is less apparent at the lower end. You seem curious enough to investigate it further and if you find the idea appealing, I would highly recommend that you go for it. If you can't get off the fence, you need to hear some analog playback systems before making the jump.
I recently took the plunge back into analog and I agree it is very difficult to do. It took me about 6 months to purchase all the components of my analog front end which now consists of:

Michell Gyro SE MkII Turntable
Origin Live Silver arm
Shelter 501 Cartridge
Sonic Frontiers SFP1 Signature Phono stage

At the time I only had about 50 albums of 50's - 60's Jazz (which is what I really like to listen to) compared to hundreds of CD's. I now have about 200 LP's.
So far I have had the system for a month and I'm begining to form some impressions of CD vs LP based on specific A/B comparisons of albums rather than broad generalizations (since I can't say, based on experience to date, that LP's categorically "blow away" CD's in every case.) I will report on specifics in the near future.
Tubegroover, good post. You and TWL summarized the issues nicely.
Get a Pro-Ject Debut cant believe the sound of this baby at that sure beats my cd player, and strangely enough i think that i can even compare it to my rega3, if i install a good cartridge...just bought it 2 months ago for 100 british pounds and it still amazes me every time i put a record...
Hey matchstikman, I know what you mean. Me too am considering going into analogue but find it exciting to find out new things everyday instead of feeling weary. I just got a Rega Mira 2000 integrated amp which has a pretty good MM built-in phono. Now I'm looking out for TT and learning as much as I can how to set up a TT. I'm thinking about Thorens 125MK2 to start with but later putting priority on the Rega P2/P3 or Music Hall MMF5 because of the ease to set up and availability of parts. I will appreciate if anyone here can give me some suggestion of the TTs that I'd shortlisted and tell me the pros and cons of these TT and I welcome options in this price range. Keep the faith, I think analogue is a worthwhile path to go into although at this moment we may feel a little lost. Don't rush, enjoy the search. It's more fun than pressing open/close, play and stop.

Lastly, can someone tells me what's the sonic diff between the Thorens TD 125mk2 and 126 and 160BC mk2?
Take a deep clean breath. Do it once for each decision point you mentioned. You have enough money for everything. You have enough time for them. And you don't need a needle, unless you mean for something to calm you. Needles went out with Prohibition. Your cartridge has a stylus. There is always a better cartridge, always a better phono stage and usually a better arm. So those decisions are not permanent. So get a table that gives you options. That way you have something satisfying now and you can have a leisurely series of aaahhhh upgrades over the next several years. My Linn is a 1978 and my Clear Audio is a 2003. And play those CDs while you draw out some possibilities.
I was just thumbing, as it were, through the sage advice from my betters, and I noticed you had another grand. Now you'se really in Fat City. You can start at lush and luxuriate from there. Now you should have a glass of Champagne while listening to your CD while sketching out your options. The only other change is that you do not need to consider a non-changeable arm. How many of my colleagues above with mature rigs would love to re-live it from scratch, considering what we have to choose from now. In fact, if you had much more dough, it would be hard to ever get that upgrade thrill.