Yes noise is a reality, varies greatly depending on the quality of the vinyl. Be prepared to invest time and effort to clean the vinyl to get the best sound. Even at that in my experience you must learn to live with a least a minimal amount of noise.
With that said, let me say do it! You will not believe how much better vinyl sounds. I've got a couple of 10K CD players and my used 700.00 turntable/arm/cartridge smokes em. I have a hard time getting excited about digital sound at all at this point. I was bothered at first by the clicks/pops/noise, but it's slowly not bothering me as much and I'm improving it greatly by learning how to clean the vinyl right. I have yet to find out if a better setup will improve on that or not. How CD sound ever passed for perfect I'll never know. I can only imagine what vinyl loving audiophiles must have thought when CDs were introduced and subsequently cut into the stock of available vinyl. CDs are still neccesary and great of course since most new music is only available there, but there are also a lot of older recordings only on vinyl too.
I'm no expert on what to buy, but if I were spending 2500.00 I would try for a used Nottingham Spacedeck (real unfussy to use for a vinyl newbee) and spend the rest on a cartridge of your choice. I bought a Nottingham Horizon and it's fantastic.
I have a friend who vists and hears my system a lot. He is amazed by the improvment vinyl brings over CD. His comment on it was.... Listening to digital is like looking at a very high quality photo print. Listening to vinyl is like looking at the real thing through a slighty dirty window.
Even with anal retentive care & cleaning, pops & ticks come with the territory. No free lunch.
A couple of points as far as your budget is concerned:
One, unless you have a full function preamp, which has a phono stage built into it, (doubtful, as it is not necessary to have that to run digital sources), you will need to get a phono preamp. (If you are running the CD directly into your amps, you may need a line stage preamp as well, unless you decide to go to a full function preamp or a phono preamp with a volume control.)
I highly recommend that you get something decent like used EAR or ARC phono preamp. A cheap phono preamp will really keep you from getting really good sound. Try to spend a few hundred to close to a thousand dollars on a decent to a good phono preamp.
Two, you will need to invest in some record cleaning supplies. I recommend a used RCM, like a Nitty Gritty or a Record Doctor to get you started. These really help in keeping your records sounding their best, and they help in cleaning quite a bit. Expect to spend a couple of hundred dollars on cleaning supplies. (I bought a used NG 1.0 RCM, and it works just fine.)
As far as specific turntables, entry level tables by: Nottingahm, Basis, VPI are all good choices.
(I bought a used Basis 1400, w/Rega RB300 arm, and it was a very easy table and arm to setup and not a tweaky type of table.)
I recommend buying the table and arm used (from a good source) and preferrably a local source as well, as shipping turntables can be problematic. This will enable you to get twice the table for your money.
I also recommend buying your cartridge new and having your local dealer install it on your table and arm. This will save you a potential headache, as they know how to adjust the VTA, VTF, azimuth, etc.. (Things that are tough for a newbie to figure out.)
PS Feel free to ask lots of questions!
Unless you have a collection of vinyl, I would seriously question getting into vinyl. The $2,500 could get you a nice turntable/arm/cartridge and a handful of records, but you'd probably be better off spending that money entirely on new music. In other words, you could spend the next few months enjoying listening to 200+ new CDs or spend that time figuring out the intricacies of turntable vibration isolation and cartridge alignment while listening to a small number of vinyl records. The upside is that those few records could sound wonderful. I'm not saying either choice is wrong, but it is something for you to consider. If you read the archives you'll see that not every convert to vinyl was entirely happy with their attempts. If you still want to go with vinyl my recommendation is a used Well Tempered turntable and tonearm. Can be had for less than $1,500 and there are numerous upgrades and tweaks available.
If you are saying that you want no background noise at all then I would recommend that you pass on vinyl. Yes, background noise is a vinyl reality. However, except for some occasional ticks most of this noise is only heard between tracks and sometimes during very quiet passages. It depends on the condition of the LP and/or how well it is cleaned. It depends on the quality of the bearing and how well the table sinks vibrations. It depends on the stylus shape and tracking parameters. It depends on many things. Vinyl is a commitment of time, effort and money. When one get's it right, nothing comes close to vinyl playback short of reel-2-reel. Not HDCD, SACD, DVDA, etc. I suggest finding someone close to you with a decent vinyl setup and try to arrainge a few listening sessions. Decide from experience as it were. If you do choose to give it a try you will find many good people here that will be happy to help you along.
I really like the sound of my turntable and now use it about 50% since upgrading to an Arcam FMJ33 CD player. The soundstage with my vinyl has a bit more depth, and is a little more expansive. The individual notes also seem to have more depth and with my vinyl system it is a little easier to get lost in the music. I do however love my digital system I now have, Arcam plus Hydra 4. For me the biggest reason to have both is that there is a great deal of music that is not, nor will it ever be on CD. It greatly expands my music library. I do admit however that on certain recordings, Neil Young, "Greatest Hit", Starker Bach Cello Suites, I have both CD and LP and when I sit down to a dedicated listening session I will usually play an LP. With a good digital system I am very happy, but when I play vinyl I am in awe. I also don't really have any problems with a lot of noise. Many people who come to visit I surprised how quiet my albums are. I do use a RCM.
As for turntables, I bought a used VPI HW19Jr with AQ PT6 and put on a new Dynavector 10X5. Nice easy system with not a whole lot of cash outlay. If I was going new I might look at the VPI scout. I may be upgrading in a year or two and am looking at the Nottingham Spacedeck, I heard one recently and fell in love. But most importantly would be to get the assistance of a good shop that know turntables well.
As you noted, immediacy is a big one. Detail is another. The good folks above are right; they are experienced, well informed and intelligent. From your point of view, I can lighten up a little. I guess you do not want distracting or diminishing levels of noise, rather than no noise. The committment stuff, time, money etc is such a Calvinist approach to joyful noises unto the lord. I appreciate what Dan says and what it infers about his meticulous habits. But we are talking music, not penitential flogging.
I started my 78 turntable collection from nothing and it is a happy addition to my Linn LP12 and my cd, dvd, sacd. You know your budget and you have plenty to work with.
I myself recommend that along with your turntable,etc purchase, you focus on good set-up tools and keeping things clean. You will be a happy guy and progress nicely at a comfortable pace.
Again, these fellows are very good and honest truly. Just too heavy from their levels of expectation and struggle. Its vinyl, not the Marine Corps or Ballet Russe. You go there in your own sweet time.
There is a good VPI in the 1500 range, and rega and music hall. I like my Linn. Plenty of fine cartridges to match. But you need cleaners for the records and the stylus. And a brush for clean records for future plays. Clean once and brush after (before) every meal.
The clicks and such are minimized with proper set-up and cleaning. Geo-disc is a great and simple tool.
Absence of ticks and pops is what sold the majority of folks on CD in the first place, I was there watching the whole world jump on the great Perfect Sound Forever bandwagon. "Damn the music, give me blessed silence!" the crowd cried, and the music was damned. If you love music and music reproduction, then you owe it to yourself to try good'ol analogue to see what all the fuss is about. A rock being physically dragged through a groove will never be as quiet as a laser-beam recording dots and dashes, but it will be a helluva lot more satisfying. I have a record-cleaning machine and rarely use it (also rarely use my CD player), I get by just fine with my walnut-handled Discwasher brush, used dry, no pain or rituals. I use the following procedure when buying used LPs: I pull them out of their sleeve and look at them in the light. If they look cruddy and scratched, or either of these, then I don't buy them. If they look pristine, into my shopping cart they go. I also don't buy on ebay. And there's lots of new vinyl these days, something of a renaissance in fact: safe to buy this on the 'Net. Loose tonearm bearings emphasize surface noise, but in your budget range this shouldn't be a problem. Bright electronics also emphasize surface noise, so avoid tinny phono stages. If you aren't actually looking for problems - i.e. actually listening for the noise rather than the music - then the noise, what there is of it, won't bother you. And if you decide you love the sound of vinyl, then it will bother you less and less. Finally, there are some rigs/systems in which noise is all but inaudible, and with a record in good condition I often wonder if I forgot to lower the tonearm, before the music starts. It'll probably take a while of hit and miss before you assemble such a rig/system, and by that time you may no longer care. Give it a go, life is about experience!
Thank you all for accurate and insightful info. It sounds like background noise is MOSTLY between tracks, while clicks and pops could occur any time! I think the common theme is proper minimum vibration or vibration free set-up and cleaning routine is the protocol for minimizing this unwanted noises. Aceto, thanks for lightening it up a little. But go on- you guys can tell me like it is. I can take it :~).
I find that the surface noise and occasional static pops are far easier to listen to than a lifeless CD. I'm glad that SACD has caught on fairly well in the classical genre. I like to listen to classical on SACD, where there won't be any static pops or other spurious noise during extremely quiet passages. Rock music, however, is always better on vinyl. The generally higher and consistently louder levels mean you won't really notice the surface noise, unless the record is really dirty or scratched. Just the other day I listened to the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper" for the first time in years on my vinyl rig, and couldn't believe all the fantastic bass playing by Sir Paul that I had totally forgotten about because I've never heard it on the CD.
I would agree with Onhwy61 that you really need to think about the cost of acquiring a good LP collection if you don't already have one. This is you're biggest issue. Good hardware is easily available. In fact, there are better turntables and cartridges available today than there have ever been. Research music direct, acoustic sounds, red trumpet, Ebay and Gemm to see if the stuff you want is available at a price you will pay. New issue LP's are worthless if not completely analog mastered (many are not). You might as well buy a CD.
Finally, don't pay attention to Porizob above who doesn't know what he's talking about. I have hundreds of used LP's from the 50's and 60's with no pop's and clicks. You might hear a little surface noise between the tracks but on the tracks, any slight surface noise is completely overwhelmed by the lucious sound of the music. If complete silence is your criteria for quality, just turn off your system and it will sound perfect!
I'm more into vinyl now than ever, and I'm just starting over. My first record was Sonny- hey, I was a kid! Then I bought The Doors. I was the proud owner of a Clarion turntable, worked all summer and bought some more albums. It wasn't until I had numerous debates with friends at Garfield H.S. in East LA that I finally saw the light and started buying Buffalo Springfield, Cream, Zappa, Ry Cooder and others. My friends were, and still are David Hidalgo, Conrad, Louie, Frank Gonzales, Skunk...
Then after many years, early 80s, I went to the dark side, or I should say the harsh side. I liked the convenience of the CD and I thought (as I still do) that the sound was pretty good. But one thing I missed was the ritual of playing an album. First, look at the cover with great anticipation. Most of the time the covers are a real piece of art. (I'd be glad to send a photo of some albums on display in my listening room- my poker playing friends love it). Second, pick a side. Place it on the platter, take your brush and let the recored rotate underneath it, careful not to place so much pressure you slow the platter. Be gentle. Drop the arm and hurry to your chair, couch, next to your buddies, sweet thang, or maybe your dog (before he takes up the whole sofa). Take a sip and/or a puff. Then listen and hopefully groove by tapping your foot, bobbing and weaving at the texture of Jimi's sound, or Aretha's pained pleads, or Janis' ripped heart. After that first side, the excitement usually leads me to another LP, another artist, a different genre, just something else, because like a drug, you don't want it to end. Perhaps Clapton and the Dominos are just so good, that nothing else will match their intensity, so you choose something mellow- maybe Coltrane to send you off to a different world, way deep into the galaxy. But, your back in your room as the record ends to seek out a different one.
I like albums because you don't listen to an hour+ of one artist, you listen to maybe 40 minutes and change the record to stay engaged! I like the way my mind is going through the motions of selecting another LP as the stylus approaches the leadoff. Sometimes as I grab the next cover and I place the record on the nitty gritty, I change my mind and I must hear Ella (wish I had Diana Krall on vinyl). Maybe the only thing that will end this listening session is the baddest of them all- Django. Or perhaps, the Budapest Quartet doing Eine Kleine Nacht Music. I can imagine Rhassan digging that!
There is a smoothness to vinyl, the sound is not pins and needles, but waves of peaks to the heavens, and, dips into darkness. I would love to replace my Music Hall 5 SE, only because I can hear the potential for more involvement. I replaced an old Pioneer turntable which i purchased in the mid 70s. I replaced the stylus 3 times. I gave it to a friend after I got the M Hall 6 months ago. I'm at a loss of where to go, what turntable to get- any suggestions are welcome- $2500 is my max.
I now have over 200 Lps, most purchased within a year. I buy at estate sales, Goodwill, etc. Look for Lps that are in good condition. Kurt_tank (above)makes some realistic points to consider.
I use a BAT 3i (tubes, phono, remote), Aragon amp, Avalon Speakers, Music Hall table. It sends me, it moves me. Find a friend like mine who has over 2000 albums, most in VG+ condition, and lets me take 50 at a time. My favorites at the moment are Little Richard- King Richard, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Pure Ella, Duke Ellington, Love, Professor Long Hair, Flying Buttito Brothers.
Don't let the pops and clicks bother you, a few ain't bad. Of course you don't want too many. Hope this isn't too long and fragmented, but I'm not listening to any records at the moment.
An interesting question, starting LP collecting from scratch. Most of us at least had something of an initial collection. In my case about 300, now up to 1500 over 4 years. To start with the easy bit(no not that easy), The turntable/tonearm. As others have pointed out, the irony is, as new record issues have dropped, record replay has blossomed. There are almost too many good, reasonably cheap, turntables around. VPI, Nottingham and Rega, spring to mind; I also agree, go 2nd hand, if its a mistake, you should be able to sell without too much loss. The cartridge ideally new, but 2nd hand if from someone you know and trust.
The phono stage is important too, but need'nt be ruinously expensive, again 2nd hand is a good start. The EAR 834, Trichord Dino, Dynavector P75 are all good and a good starting point.
The difficulty to me is the software. Others may disagree, but I don't think there is enough new vinyl to justify buying into a new replay medium( the reason I have not invested in DVD a or SACD, good though they sound) I may be wrong, but I don't see there being a great explosion in new vinyl releases. Therefore you have to look to 2nd hand and I also agree, that means investing in a solid record cleaning system. The contoversial bit is that I don't think there is a great supply of 2nd hand rock and Jazz records of good quality. The ones I have found are often in poor condition. There undoubtedly is of Classical. Certainly in the UK, there is a constant supply of near mint vinyl reappearing on the market. This largely seems to be from large collections of music lovers who have passed away, unfortunately. Thats where my collection will end up sometime I am sure.
To sum up, I would recommend anyone getting into vinyl from scratch, if you are a classical music lover and are prepared to hunt around for the software. Choose 2nd hand hardware, from the plethora of good reliable makes, so if you change your mind, you can sell without too much loss. My collection has expanded from 300 to 1500, but nearly all Classical, because that is what I can find at a reasonable price.
In fact, in my area, there is truly an explosion of new vinyl - two large shops dedicated to new vinyl with small used sections, three CD stores with vinyl sections that double in size every few months now (a shop which dedicated itself to CD years ago now has gone from one lonely row one year ago to eight at last count), all offering classic re-issues of Hendrix etc. to new pop/rock, techno/DJ, garage and re-issue jazz, and all at reasonable prices overall too. I'm not sure how you would track these down David, but I'd say it's time to start some Googling. As to used, there are many shops which specialize in used vinyl in excellent condition, at an average price of $6 a pop, including jazz and blues! Then there are the Neighbourhood Services/Salvation Army type places where LPs are usually not in good condition, but even here classical is usually in good shape, classical music lovers taking better care of their LPs overall; and since rock/pop albums are extremely common, good examples do exist in these shops, though harder to find among all the trash. My own collection is still in boxes in storage waiting for a better home, but in the meantime in close to two years I have amassed close to 400 records from good to excellent shape, of very good music, including rock/pop, classical, old classics/movie soundtracks, jazz and blues. And probably at an average price of $2 a pop. Only a very few of these required cleaning by a machine, my trusty Discwasher brush doing most of the duties used dry, a couple of seconds at most before I drop the needle in the groove. Now I am working on compiling a collection of new rock/pop and classics, having discovered a few very worthwhile new bands on vinyl, including two of my recent favourites/discoveries, Big Boss Man and The Notwist! There IS life after vinyl, and it's on the way up! The Notwist in particular (Neon Golden) is a superb recording and a superb pressing on superbly incredible vinyl, I'm off to buy the entire collection on vinyl tomorrow!
Finaly, I've had a bug up my *ss lately. It kills me to see people who are starting with no knowledge smack-dab in the middle of the High End with a VPI Scout (for instance), who have no idea what to listen for, no idea whether their rig sounds good or not or is properly matched/set-up, and so often announce their disillusionment due to their lack of development/skills/discrimination. It also kills me to see people being advised to start at this level, very common in this forum. Sound reproduction is too complex to simply throw money at it and decide "I want something really good and by-pass the lower rungs," or to be advised to do so. How many out there can properly set-up a cartridge, the least and most fundamental of jobs, don't even talk about suspensions and outboard motors? What happened to starting with a reasonably-priced simple turntable at a few hundred? Here's a lesson for newbies who grew up in sterile and disatisfying digital environments (even if they didn't know it, they NEED hands-on involvement, the reason for hobbies and gardening): Even in the heyday of vinyl when we ALL had record players and CD did not exist, everyone I ever knew started with something like a Rega or Revolver turntable at a few hundred when we first graduated from a mass-produced pieces of crap and discovered there was such a thing as sound quality, and we had all spent our entire lives spinning vinyl! And we STILL made several mistakes! Better to start with the "first" serious turntable, have to start the learning curve somewhere, and here the Regas (and Technics SL1200) are excellent, as they are simple, reliable, and musical with long histories to support them, and of high quality. So, for the novice, Rega turntables are extremely easy to set up, no tricksy outboard motors and VTA matters to worry about, no complicated suspensions and set-up, hit the button and they spin (no need to shove the platter), and are very good and very elegant, the P3, due to its tonearm, good enough for some quite good MCs to boot. As you go up the ladder of cost, so too do complexities, better to start in Simpleville. The Gram Slee Amp2SE is an excellent phono preamp despite its low cost (I was very impressed, and its most obvious attribute is musicality!), and match a HO Benz ACE phono cartridge or Denon DL-160, high-output MCs which should sound fabulous on the Rega RB300 tonearm and via the Gram. After falling in love with the sound of vinyl and getting used to the mechanics and the various issues of sound quality, and learning where our tastes lie before spending several thousand rather than after, THEN we are in a good position to start considering more complex/expensive turntables and tonearms to suit our now-formed tastes and knowledge, and so in the long run save money and enjoy ourselves while learning, rather than lose money and experience frustrations by simply taking an expensive shot in the dark. And the Regas have very high re-sale value to boot, so the cost of an education is very low for the knowledge gained, both in terms of cash and in terms of effort. Now I'm off to the record store, which is exactly next to the other new-vinyl shop, which is exactly next to one of the good used vinyl shop (one-two-three!), to pick up those The Notwist albums, yippee!
Do you like to go to garage sales sometimes in the summer? Do you like to poke around on ebay every once in a while? Do you like hanging out at record stores with all the hipsters and their complicated shoes? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then you're a prime candidate for vinyl. Finding, collecting, and playing vinyl is not a pain in the ass--it's fun, lots of fun. Enjoy.
Lots of digital vinyl is pulled from 24/96 masters. So it digital, but it must then be downsampled to 16/44.1. No such limitation is inherent with vinyl - the 24/96 can be converted straight to analog. How well the company does this varies, but unless you have access to some great digital gear (dCS, Meitner, Linn CD12, etc) i think you may be better off with the digital vinyl!
Buy yourself a modest turntable rig to start. A Pro-ject or Music Hall with a decent cartridge. Get it setup by someone who knows what they are doing. Get two record cleaning brushes, a carbon fiber brush, a zerostat gun, a good stylus cleaner and a starter kit of fluid from Audio Intelligent. Don't get into vinyl without at least a record doctor record cleaning machine. By now you have spent around 800 to $900. Buy some good LPs new, at least half high quality 180g pressings or better. Mix in a few yard sale LPs. Clean all of them well using the AA cleaning ritual. Also, if you don't have phono stage on your pre you will need to spend a couple of hundred on one. IF all this hasn't scared you off, live with this rig a year or so and then decide if you want to plunge deeper. If you start having feelings like Oregon then your hooked on vinyl. Background noise can never be eliminated completely but cleaning records well can take a lot of noise out. Damaged records will always have pops and clicks. As far as the difference between Analogue and Digital-even good digital, well analogue sounds smoother (best term I can come up with). When you are there you will know...