Getting started in vinyl for under $100

I know I can't be the only audiophile out here with champagne tastes and a beer budget, so I just wanted to put my two cents in on getting started in vinyl as it's worked for me. Three years ago, knowing I loved music, my neighbor gave me a crate of classic rock LPs. Having nothing to play them on, I picked up a Technics SL-D2 on eBay for $45 and a Stanton 500E mkII (now regrettably discontinued) for another $40 or so. For the same cost as the half-meter interconnect connecting my CDP to my NAD integrated, I was up and running with vinyl. I've since upgraded to a Shure M97xE cartridge and otherwise put my few spare dollars into the music, gradually collecting a few hundred jazz and classical LPs.

I've never loved the music more, and cheap as the TT is--the cheapest thing in my system by a few hundred dollars--I can hardly stand to put a CD on anymore. I've listened to well-assembled high-end systems enough to know what I'm missing in nuance, but as far as making daily music goes--and till I can afford a turntable worth holding onto for the next few decades of my life--this cheap setup brings me a lot of pleasure. Try a Grado black or go for the M97xE, add in a Shure stylus force gauge and an Audioquest carbon fiber record brush, and you're all set for about the cost of an entry-level phono preamp. Buy one of those used, and you're still under $200.

If this lowers the point-of-entry bar for anyone else out there--young and broke like me or not--I'd be happy. Even on the cheap, vinyl is king.
I think you're right. I got back into vinyl in February by getting a Yamaha P-mount belt-drive table at a garage sale for $2. I then put an Ortofon P-mount OM-10 on it, put some Vibrapods under the feet and a felt mat on top of the rubber to control static, and I was good to go.

A few weeks later I went to a high end store with a couple of albums and their reissues on SACD. Even played on a Linn system I would never be able to afford, the LP absolutely smoked the SACD, and I decided that that's where I'd put my money from then on. To me, my $72 rig at home had more in common with their $10K Linn turntable than with any form of CD player. The cheap record player may not have the detail and nuance of the expensive rig, but there's still a shared musicality you don't get any way else.

I continue to listen to a much-repudiated rig. In March I moved up to a Technics SL-1210 M5G to get the upgraded tonearm/interconnect wiring. Since then I've done some tweaking and upgrading to wring more performance out of it. Now I'm extremely happy with it. It's very quiet and non-resonant, and most importantly, it makes lots of music and makes me smile often.

Like you, I can barely stand to listen to CDs now. I can count on one hand the CDs I've listened to since I got the Technics, and that was usually just for comparison to the LP.
I put together a system for my 14 year old son a few years ago based on a Pioneer PL 12D I picked up at a garage sale for him for $5. Added an AT 120E, my old Audiolab 8000A which was sitting around, then bought a pair of used, just refoamed JPW P1s for $175, a used DB Systems phono pre for $55 as the phono pre had died in the Audiolab and some decent reasonably priced speaker cable. I also had an extra Inouye line conditioner kicking around so the phono pre and table get plugged into that.

My wife thought it was a bit of a joke as the $5 table expenditure had ballooned into a $400 black hole system for him, but he uses it and really likes it. Listens mainly to classic rock: Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, ZZ Top, etc.

To make a long story short, I was out with him one day recently and we dropped into a very high end local retailer for a minute and ended up listening to a megabuck CD based system-megabuck as in about $150K. He could not believe what a let down it was. Yes, it did some audiophile things better than his system did, but in terms of really creating a better facsimile of music, being engaging and making you want to listen over a long period of time, there was no question which system was more appealing and it wasn't the expensive one.

I'm still amazed at how good his system sounds for the minimal investment.
I have been in the professional live music space for years. I think it should be said that room influences performance more than gear. You need to match the room dynamics. Most mega-buck systems sound bad because they overpower the room. I have found, as a rule, that low power amps coupled with efficient speakers will rock most homes better. There are a number of entry level choices that will really sound good. It should be noted that every Motown hit was mixed down on car speakers and Joe Strummer of the Clash recorded demos on a Fischer Price toy cassette.

Good student systems:

Turntables ($300):

Rega P1


Trends Audio $139

Powered Speakers: (Both under $400)

Blue Sky EXO

Standalone speakers: ($300)
Era Design D 4
Paradigm Atoms
PSB Alpha B1


Red Wine Audio iMod: $200

CD Player:

Sony Playstation 1 SCPH 1001 $40 used
I would add the Allsop Orbitrac cleaning system as an essential low-budget component. Analog is way way better when your records are clean.

Then, once you're hooked, get a VPI (or equivalent) record cleaning machine. Once you have one of these, you can't imagine life without one.

Thanks for the Allsop rec. I have a lot of records I just haven't listened to much because I wasn't sure how to effectively clean them on the cheap. For others interested, I just found a review on SoundStage:
I believe the Allsop Orbitrac 2 has been discontinued. If you can find one at a vendor, consider it NOS. I believe the pad replacements and cleaning fluid are still in stock, though. I got one of the last ones at Acoustic Sounds back in May.