Help with TT recommendations.

I'm rediscovering my love for analog and wanted to bring it to the forum for some helpful advice. I inherited a Dual CS-505-3 and an outstanding collection of pristine vinyl. In the few months I've owned the Dual, I've upgraded the cart to a Sumiko Blue Point Special (MC) and modded the tonearm cables (same concept as the Incognito harness mod, only with custom cables & RCA). Although I'm pleased with the results, it's not as responsive and lively as I'd like. It's an older table, albeit well maintained, and it's not giving me "ahhhhhh" that vinyl can deliver.

So, I'm thinking it's time to invest in an entry-level table that scratch my itch. I've come up with several combinations based on threads I've read here and various reviews. I'm hoping you all may have some insight for me.

I typically listen to (1) vintage jazz & classical pressings (all pristine thanks to my benefactor); (2) new remastered 180-200g pressings of jazz (99.9% trio/quintet and some vocal), blues and some funk; (3) 70's-90's folk-rock (wilco/csny/rem/etc.) from my old collection; and virtually no true rock albums.

My current analog rig is made up of:
(1) Dual CS 505-3
(2) MS Phonomena Phono Stage
(3) JPS Superconductor FX IC's
(4) C-J PV-12al pre
(5) C-J MV-2250 amp
(5) Straight Wire Rhapsody S Cables
(6) B&W N805's

I've got a budget of $1500-$1700 for new or used gear and I've conjured up a few combinations that I'm considering:
(1) Basis 1400/RB-250 (w/ OL mod)
(2) Basis 1400/Graham 2.0
(3) Rega P25/RB-600
(4) VPI Scout/RB-250 (w/ OL mod)
(5) VPI Scout/JWM-9
(6) VPI Scout/Graham 2.0

Please keep in mind, I'm not up on all the price points, so some may be far out of my budget. Also, if some of these combos seem a little off or mismatched, that's due to my of TT education, or lack thereof.

Having said all this, I'm seeking your opinions/experiences on which would me the best in terms of value, quality & upgradeability.

One last note, I did read that the Basis 1400 is acutely accurate and almost emotionless in terms of delivery - not that accuracy is a negative characteristic, but one of benefits of analog is it's warmth & emotion it can convey. Although to use an analogy, I've seen some movies that I've absolutely loved that got panned by the critics, so.... I guess your mileage my vary.

Thanks very much for entertaining my ramblings and I look forward to your feedback.

Your system would certainly be capable of resolving a vinyl upgrade. I love my Rega 25 600 and glider combo on ARC Ph3. It's got a lot of the magic vinyl is capable of, and blows away some pretty expensive digital I've had in my system, including Krell 28, EAD, Krell 25Kps, etc.
In that price range, I'd have to recommend just a little more saving, and spend around $2k. That would give you the ability to get a Teres 135, and a Rega RB250 and a Denon DL103R.

These are the reasons.
If you get the Teres 135, it will outperform any of the TTs that you listed, right off the bat. Then there is an upgrade path, that can take you right to the top of the line, in reasonable priced increments.

The RB250 is also common on some of the other TTs you are considering. It is real good right out of the box, and also has an upgrade path, using OL mods, to bring it into the high-end arm category.

The Denon DL103R is about the best low-output MC cart, in the lower price ranges. It is really a very good cartridge no matter what the price. Your phono stage should handle it ok. It will need about 70db of gain.

This is basically how I started out earlier this year. I have had many TTs over the years, but this is my latest iteration. I have moved up to the higher models in all the categories, but what I recommended here is a "giant-killer" kind of rig. And it leaves you a pathway to easy upgrades, without having to sell stuff off. When you finally upgrade to the top model Teres 255, you will have very close to as good as analog can be. At a very low price.

I think that this is the most sensible, and cost-effective way to get into high-end analog. It may not be the cheapest way at first, but it will be the cheapest and best way in the long run. And the sound will be as good as you are ever going to get, without spending $30k.(I am talking about after you go through the upgrade path, not at the starter system. The starter system should be competitive with rigs around $6k.)
thanks twl. in looking through the past threads, i came across a few in which you mentioned the teres tables and i had a look on there site. looks like some very nice equip. and i like the concept of a the weighted wood base. seems like it the wood would keep things warm and the weighting would gove it the stability for accuracy misuc translation.

btw, i had a look @ your system yesterday and your rig is VERY attractive! love the base on your table!

one thing to add regarding my teres comment... i was talking about the 150 model as opposed to the 135 which you mentioned.
Yes, In the budget area, if you can spend a little more, it is better to get the weighted wood base of the 150. Noticeably extends the bass response, and improves detail and info retrieval. Definitely worth the money, if you can afford to do it.

I started with the 135, and moved up to the 245 within 6 months. Got the battery power supply, and Sig DC motor. Now I am ordering the shot-loaded platter, and will have the top of the line 255 DC Signature model.

Every upgrade was very positive improvement. I can tell you what to expect to happen to the sound with each added upgrade. The weighted wood base is the biggest improvement. According to Teres, it makes more improvement than the weighted platter. I will say that the wood base was a MAJOR upgrade in sound. The batter power supply was about 5% and the Signature motor was about 5%, in terms of sonic improvement. All I have left to do is the platter, and I have already heard one, so I know what it will do. It makes a smoother presentation, and improves detail even further. Even with the 245, I am pushing the limits of higher end analog. The 255 is very near the top of what you can get, without a huge expenditure that very few can afford. It nips at the heels of Walker and Rockport territory. For the price, that is an incredible level of performance, and makes it about the best value that is possible for regular folks, like myself.
Since you are open to buying used gear, I think you should also consider the VPI HW-19 Mk4. This TT is not only an excellent performer, but a great value at its used price. (FWIW, The Absolute Sound recently included the HW-19 Mk 4 on their recommended components list, citing it as one of the outstanding values in high-end audio.)

Pair the HW-19 Mk4 with a good quality arm and cartridge and you will have a fine analog front-end.
Off topic a bit but.Just a suggestion on your Rhapsody cables.I had these in my system[speaker and IC's] and it sounded choked.I moved up to their Maestros with some improvment and Virtuoso's a bit better.Then I moved to AZ Satori's and Matrix cables and the Sound gates of heaven opened[Alive,Airy and every positive term you can think of.More of everything].My system is all Tube and my nephews is SS and the same results on both.IMHO you are driving a Mercedes with recapped tires like I was.I would start with cables[The foundation] and proceed with TT next.TWL is the man on TT's.AZ Satori's used on Agon for $325 range.I assure you you will be astounded with your systems performance after this change.Of course there are other great cables out there also.AZ best bang for the buck IMHO.Happy Holidays,JD
the nottingham innerspace table/arm combination is a nice piece for a retail item as is the vpi aries scout/arm combo. The Aries scout w/o arm is less than a grand but backordered last time I looked; find it and put an origin live rb250 arm
To all of the above, i would only add that i don't think that the BPS is a good match for your Dual TT / tonearm. I do not know if you picked this cartridge or it was recommended to you. If it was recommended to you as being a good combo, i would avoid consulting that party for further advice. Low mass tonearms and MC cartridges simply do not go well together in the vast majority of installations. Be careful who you listen to when it comes to spending your money. You'll find all kinds of "experts" out there when they are spending someone else's money or trying to get yours. Sean
Totally agree with Sean. And I would go a little further to mention that the BPS is not the greatest value in cartridges out there. You could do alot better than that for less money than the BPS costs.
Thanks for the cart insight, but I guess it's a little late now. As for the choice to go w/ the BPS, it was recommended to me and purchased on "good faith." Live and learn... nothing like an expensive education to make you scrutinize your future purchases ;^)

So, since we're speaking about carts, what are your recommendations/favorites (let's keep it in the $500 or less range)? It would be paired w/ the above-mentioned options.

One last thing... when creating the combinations listed above, I meant to pair the Graham Robin arm... the 2.x is a little out of my price range.

Thanks again!
Okay, here's where the rubber hits the road. The arm cannot be chosen properly, without due consideration as to what types of cartridges you plan to use. They work together as a package.

In my humble opinion, the absolute best cartridge that can be gotten for under $500 is the Denon DL103R. Happily, it is only $230. However, it has the distinction of being the stiffest compliance cartridge in the world, and is not happy at all in a unipivot arm. Yes, I know, some people use it in a unipivot, but I assure you it is not working at its best there. It requires a good quality medium to higher mass gimbal-bearing type tonearm. It tracks at about 2.75 grams, and has a compliance of 5 cu, which is very low(stiff). Also, other very good cartridges that have the type of sound I prefer, also are under 10cu, and require a similar arm type. So this is why I chose a quality gimbal-bearing arm. If you want to use some higher compliance cartridges, you can use a unipivot with good result. The best higher compliance cartridge under $500, I think, is the Dynavector 10x4. Around $350. Or for a moving magnet type, a Goldring 1042. Those would both work well in a unipivot arm or gimbal-bearing type arm.

Personally I see no purpose in limiting my cartridge selection by choosing an arm that does not lend itself to certain types of very good sounding cartridges. Others disagree with me on this, but I hold firm to my opinion, because it stems from some pretty good level of experience on this subject.

There are some very good sounding gimbal-bearing arms out there that don't take a back seat to any unipivot, and are not restricted in cartridge matching, to the point that unipivots are.

I think that the Graham Robin is a good arm, but it is not a Graham 2.2. And for the same money as the Robin, you can get an arm that will very closely compete with a 2.2. That arm is the OL Silver. It will handily outperform the Robin, at the same $800 price point, and it will handle a DL103R quite well, so you can use that very good sounding cartridge that doesn't cost alot.

The combo of OL Silver and Denon DL103R will cost just a hair over $1k all together. To use a Robin or JMW or other quality unipivot, you would have to use a much more expensive cartridge to get similar cartridge performance. The closest sounding cartridge to the DL103R, that could be used in a unipivot, would be a Benz Glider at $700. And even though the package would be well matched, it really would't compete sonically with the OL Silver/DL103R package because the OL Silver is too much better than these low to mid priced unipivots.

If you can find an arm/cart combination for $1k that will beat the OL Silver/DL103R combination, then you need to be the one answering these questions, not me. Because if there is one, I sure as hell don't know about it.

Then when you get ready to move up in cartridges, you can step up to the Shelter 501, which is another super value at the $800 price point. It is also low compliance, and I feel it is the best cartridge made under $1500, and sounds better than some cartridges costing up to $5k. It also needs a gimbal-bearing arm to work at optimum. So there you have another reason for buying a gimbal-bearing arm like the OL Silver. When you move up to a Shelter, you have an arm that can make the most of it also. To get a cartridge that would match the sonics of a Shelter 501, that could work well in a mid-priced unipivot, you would have to spend about double or triple what the 501 costs.

All in my humble opinion, of course.
Twl, i've always agreed with your choice of the Denon 103 being a great cartridge ( regardless of price ) and your statements that it needs ( at least ) a medium to ( preferably ) high mass arm to work best. Between that, the loading requirements and the lower output, it simply is not suitable for a lot of vinyl rigs though. That is what resides in my ET-II.

While i've not heard the Shelter, i know enough people that have heard / own it to believe that it is a very fine cartridge. The Lyra Helikon is also another fine cartridge that comes to mind, but definitely getting up there in price. Some of the ZYX's are supposed to be quite nice sounding also. You can find them for sale on Ebay from the Far East sometimes at VERY reasonable prices. As you mentioned though, matching the cartridge to the arm is very important. Sean

PS... Hatfield, don't feel bad about your cartridge / arm selection. I found out the hard way after taking the advice of a VERY well known dealer that specializes in vinyl. Mating a Benz MC cartridge to an arm with an effective mass of about 4.5 grams is NOT something that i would ever do again. Live and learn....hopefully : )
Yes Sean, I agree that the Denon 103 is a tough cartridge to get the right match for. But I believe it is worth it, because then you can get awesome sound for very little money in your cartridge. This allows more to be spent on the quality arm that is needed, but still gives low replacement cost for cartridges.

As a person who has actually tried and used all of these cartridges personally, the Denon is the best low cost cartridge I know, and the Shelter 501 is the same type of value at the $800 price point. I have the Shelter 501 on my rig right now, and it just replaced a DL103R. The Shelter is a significant step up from the Denon, which is saying quite alot, because the DL103R is a very very good sounding cartridge.

I also agree that the Lyra Helikon is an excellent cartridge, but is about the same level of performance as the Shelter 501, so I think that the Shelter is a far better value, considering the costs of the Shelter($800) and Lyra($2000). And remember that the Lyra Helikon is one of the best cartridges around, and the Shelter competes well with it, at a much lower price. This is outstanding value.

Also totally agree that the ZYX Fuji is one of the best sounding cartridges available. I would definitely get one of those over a Helikon, at the same price of $2k. But my tastes would lean a little more toward the Shelter 901, which is just as good, and only $1500. For an arm that can't easily handle a low-compliance cartridge, I think the ZYX Fuji is the cartridge to beat at this end of the scale. The Shelter 901 has a bigger sound, and is better on the bass, and in larger scale music. The Fuji is perhaps slightly more delicate, and slightly better for smaller scale music. They are both very close, and could be considered as the 2 best cartridges available. If anything is better, it is very little better, and may simply be a personal taste issue. In any case, anything that MIGHT be any better will cost way more than twice as much as either of these.
ok... sooooo much food for thought! but i did come to some conclusions:

based on the majority of the feedback (thank you all for offering your suggestions!), i feel confident that the decision to go w/ the OL Silver is one that i'll be very satisfied with.

additionally, i can't really go wrong matching it with the DL103R - although a new cart will most likely have to wait, as the tt/arm will soak my available funds. it gives me something to look forward to, right ? ;^)

now, the final issue is TT choice. for the most part, all the suggestions (new or used) fit w/in my budget and offer compelling reasons for favoring them, although, i didn't see any mention of the SOTA Star III (if i'm reading correctly, $1295 for a factory refurb). i initially overlooked this option; however, after more combing through threads w/in the forum and on-line reviews... this table seems quite attractive, from both an engineering design standpoint and esthetics. any positive/negative feedback on these tables?

in the home stretch now!


i'm a fan of AZ products, and i'd love to see what they'd do in my system, but for now, i'm satisfied w/ the rhapsody's.

eventually, i'm planning on moving from the C-J MF-2250 to the MV-55 or MV-60... @ that time, i'll most likely move into another speaker cable.

thanks for the cable advice... it's great to hear from someone that has experienced an upgrade path that is similar to my future upgrade (rhapsody's > AZ's).

btw, the above was regarding JD's cable post. i was a little late on the draw getting this one out.
Sota is a very fine table, and I know some people that have them and are happy with them.
I have three Sota tables ( two Star Sapphires and one Sapphire ) with one of them in for inspection / repair. As such, i needed to call Donna to find out what was up with that one. Thanks for the reminder !!! : ) Sean