Help with used TT choices: Music Hall vs Thorens

I am getting back into vinyl after 15-20 years and need advice to get the best bang for my buck. I have the opportunity to purchase a Music Hall mmf-7 for a very reasonable price or a Thorens TD-166 for about $250 (MUCH closer to my budget). Is one much better than the other? Should I wait and save to be able to afford a better table or will I be able to live with one of these for a long time? I'll be using a Cambridge 640 P phono-pre. My system: Spica TC-50 speakers which produce great soundstage, imaging and low level/ambient sound. Cayin TA-30 tube amp, CAL Alpha DAC/NAD for transport, Pinnacle subs. At it's best (to use the words of my wife) it sounds like we're in the recording studio. I'm hoping for a TT that gets me more of that.
Don't forget to consider a cartridge and making sure it has a good stylus. An inexpensive cartridge will run you $90 or so and can easily go up from there.
Do these tables include cartridges and arms?
Thanks. I should have included this info: They both are being sold with cartridges mounted. I'm not sure about which cartridge is being sold with the Music Hall but it may be it's original cartridge ("Goldring Eroica H high output MC"), although I'm not sure. The Thorens TT is the TD-166 "MK II" and has an Ortofon OM 10 mounted.
Hi, Dakajoba; is the mmf-7 turntable the original mmf-7 with the aluminum Pro-Ject 9 tone arm or the upgraded version with the Pro-Ject 9c or 9cc tone arm? Depending on which tone arm is included it would make a difference in what the turntable is worth. I've been running mmf-7 turntables for years and even after upgrading to a much more expensive turntable setup I still listen to the mmf-7 occasionally when I want a change of pace. (No pun intended.) As to how it compares to the Thorens TD-166 Mk2 I cannot comment since I've never heard a TD-166 Mk2. But if the mmf-7 and Eroica H are in good shape and (depending on the tone arm that's included) the price is a good deal, I don't think you'd be dissapointed in the mmf-7.

The Goldring Eroica H cartridge now lists for $600 to $750 but it came included with the mmf-7 for much less so don't put too much value in the cartridge as a package. That said, the Eroica H cartridge is a fairly decent moving-coil cartridge. Not the most detailed or the most dynamic but the tonal balance is good and it conveys a lively and robust presentation of both electronic and acoustic instruments and an involving portrayal of (singing) voices. I wouldn't choose the Eroica H for symphonies or to hear the nuances of quiet chamber music but I find it to be an all-around "fun" cartridge for rock, blues, bluegrass, etc.
the thorens td166mk2 is a workhorse and if its in really nice condition is a great value for that price. i still use a td147, and have never wanted to replace it.
Thanks Tketcham. I believe it is the original mmf-7, which from what I've read has the aluminum arm. I believe the 7.1 introduced the carbon arm. When you said you won't be able to hear the nuances in chamber music (not much of what I listen too), would I be able to hear the low level cues of the recording environment on a good acoustic folk/rock recording?
Hi, Dakajoba; in comparison with certain other LOMC cartridges in the Eroica's price range the Eroica H isn't going to have the same level of resolution and detail. For example, I also run an Audio-Technica AT33PTG with a mmf-7 and the differences are noticeable. The 33PTG is more refined and extracts details from a record that the Eroica H does not. But the Eroica H has a more lively presentation and more "jump and jive" in the presentation. It highlights the mid-tones a bit more than the extremes. Another LOMC cartridge I've used with the mmf-7 is the Dynavector 20XL, which has the resolution and detail of the 33PTG (actually more so) but adds more authority in the bass frequencies (more slam) and so has a more robust presentation. It has an airiness similar to the 33PTG with the liveliness and jump factor of the Eroica H. It's all relative so to speak and I'm not talking about huge differences.

The Eroica H is a fine cartridge for a range of mainstream music genres and does well with acoustic folk/rock; The Byrds, Ryan Adams, Bruce Cockburn, Grateful Dead, Emmylou Harris and Joni Mitchell as examples. Voices and stringed instruments will sound quite natural. You just won't hear which brand of guitar strings Mr. Cockburn plucks or the model of microphone that Joni's using at the time. '-) Would I spend $750 to buy an Eroica H nowadays? Maybe, maybe not. Goldring cartridges are not as competitive as they once were here in the U.S.A. but I certainly wouldn't go out and immediately replace an Eroica H if it shows up on a mmf-7 turntable.

You could always try another cartridge after you've listened to the Eroica H for a while and have a better sense of how it sounds and what you like or dislike about it. Then you'll know what characteristics you want in the next cartridge. Also consider that the phono preamp will make a big difference.

To give you some perspective on a "good deal", I would consider $400-$600 USD (depending on age and condition) a reasonable price for a used but well cared for mmf-7/Pro-Ject 9 and an Eroica H with 500-100 hours or so. The mmf-7/Eroica H combo was available for $1000 to $1300 (with the turntable alone selling for $900-$1100) and unless the turntable and cartridge are in excellent condition, I wouldn't pay much more than about $400-$600. I've seen (within the past 6 months) mmf-7/Eroica H combinations for sale in that price range. Music Hall's upgrade to the Pro-Ject 9cc tone arm put a damper on resale values for the mmf-7 with a Pro-Ject 9 aluminum arm; bad for sellers but good for buyers.


PS: If you haven't heard a turntable recently you should. Before spending much money I'd try to listen to a few vinyl setups so you have a comparison to CD playback. I've always enjoyed having turntables and vinyl but they aren't the end all some people claim them to be. A decent digital setup can sound comparably good without the inconveniences (quirks) of vinyl. Just be sure you're ready to retry the "vinyl experience" before commiting the cash. (I'm likely preaching to the choir. '-)
Tketcham - thanks so much for your insight. I still don't know which arm or cartridge is on the table but looks like the seller (an acquaintance) will loan me the table for a while. That should give me a great insight as to whether I am ready/willing to get back into vinyl. This recent interest for me started when I visited my mother-in-law who put a Carole King LP on her trashy old all in one stereo with little JBL speakers and I immediately heard things I don't on CD. My digital front end is by far from the best but I think it is decent. I hope vinyl can top it in so far as musical involvement. Most of my music is along the lines of the artists you mentioned.