How can I get back into vinyl very cheaply?

Hi and thanks for taking the time to read my thread. I grew up in the 70's and amassed a relatively large record collection. Moreover my buddies from high school are willing to give me their old Lp's. However I don't have much in disposable income so I am wondering if there is a good TT,arm, cartridge, combo to be had for ~350$ I had a denon direct drive turntable when I was a kid, but reading this site makes my think that a belt drive table would generally be superior. I particularly am wondering what old units I should look for on ebay. There are almost 1000 units for sal on ebay and most of them are in my price range, but I really don't know for which units I should be looking. Finally as I don't even know what VTA is, ease of set up is important. I appreciate all opinions.

PS. My Musical Fidelity pre has a phono stage that is purportedly good but not great for MM and adequate for MC
Of all the items to be shipped I suspect turntables are the most easily damaged so do emphasize double boxing, etc IF you buy a used TT from out of town. I personally would not buy a TT that had to be shipped.
If you are looking for ease of use and less headache than a vintage rig, buy something current - like a Music Hall, Rega or Sumiko. Lurk on Audiogon for a few weeks, and see what you find. Music Hall MMF 2.1, Rega 3, various Sumiko models (overlap with Music Hall in plinth manufacturer and tonearm)... all all well within your pricerange, and usually with a respectable entry-level cartridge.

Personally, I'm using a MMF 2.1 (~$250) and a Shure M97xE (MM) cartridge (~$95 with user-replaceable tip ~$50), and a Parasound P/PH100 phono stage (~$90). The phono stage in particular used to cost much more, but the retail price went to $120 at some point, so the used price makes it a superb bargain. Overall, this is a very nice entry-level setup.

I'd love to fly with angels, but my priorities lie in other places. This setup gives a great vinyl experience, and a taste of what lies beyond.

PS - the Michell record clamp that I just added made a palpable difference in this setup, I would put it in the "keep your eyes peeled for a good deal" category (< $40 shipped) and jump all over it when you see one - it really tightens up the sound and articulates the bass to a very noticeable degree.
Quote: "I had a denon direct drive turntable when I was a kid, but reading this site makes my think that a belt drive table would generally be superior."

The Psychic says: "Don't believe everything you read..." To get good speed and rotational stability out of a belt drive you need to spend *quite* a bit of money!

If you want cheap and fast, Technics has a FG Servo belt drive w/ plug-in cartridge hookup that will outperform the other 'glass and particle board' entry level belt drives by a far margin. Quick and easy. If you can get some more cash get a Technics 1200 and you'll be far ahead of the game--that's what I have (on steroids, though!).
Psychicanimal knows, you have to hear it to believe it!
i recently got my kid a music hall 2.1 and put a grado gold
cart on it, and it sounds very musical. it did not until i removed the cart it came with and put on the grado. she is using a decent phono stage though (good ole fisher 500c w/ original tele's on it).
spent $175 delivered for the 2.1 (barely used from a reputable dealer ). I think the grado was $150, but I have also used grado's $80 cart (blue?) wtih nice results on some older tt's.
I have a Bang & Olufsen RX2 with a MMC3 cartridge that I am no longer using. The whole system is in nice shape. If you are interested, email me. It is good for starting out with and well below your price range ($200 below). You really can't tweak it as it is "plug and play" in it simplist form. You can get better sound by moving up to a Music Hall MMF5 or Rega 3 but you will also pay more. The B&O is not an audiophile turntable, but it is better than the other mid-fi turntables it competed against.

I've got a (nearly new) grado black laying around I'd throw in for free for a soul wanting to get a cheap start into the vinyl sickness.
Being mostly mechanical, I would tend to steer clear of inexpensive used TTs. That does not mean you can't find a good one but.....

For some of us, buying a more exotic (expensive) used TT is the only way to afford something better. However, there are a number of inexpensive new TTs out there. Check out Audio Advisor.

I would personally stay away from fully automatic and go with a manual.

My own TT is a VPI Jr that has performed flawlessly
for more than 12 years. I've only had to replace the belt.

This is a bit of a tangent, but when it comes to expanding a record collection, I recently put an ad in the paper saying I'd buy peoples used records. The local used store around these parts gives about 50 cents a record, and I exceed their offering by just a bit. You can really come into some esoteric collections that way, as well as the usual junk! And it's CHEAP!
The cheapest way to get into vinyl is to visit a nearby friend who has a turntable.
Rgcards: I was in your position a few years ago, and picked up a new NAD (which is basically a low-grade version of the Rega P2), because that's what my local dealer had. It needed an adjustment, so I'm glad I had the dealer to take care of that (at no charge, of course). The NAD is certainly competent, which is as good as you're going to do in your price range. It's probably roughly on a par with the cheapest Music Hall or Pro-ject.

I'm intrigued by Psychicanimal's rave for Technics, as I'm occasionally asked for recommendations about "what to do with all my old records." The better Technics belt drive and a P-mount cartridge isn't going to set you back more than about $200. If it's as good as he says, it might be the way for you to go. For nonaudiophiles who just want to play their old records, it sounds like the ideal solution.
The MMF 2.1 can probably be had for around $225 Perhaps a little less) new. It's easy to set up and the Goldring cartridge is perfectly acceptable. If you can stretch a bit from the $350 figure, however, I'd go for the MMF 5 (List $500) which is more than twice as good and can be bought for around $400.
Thanks for all the responses, both public and private. I certainly will look into the Music hall MMF turnatables, as well as the technics turntable. I've always beeb leery of B&O equipment, it looks fragile and difficult to repair. Also thanks for the advice on shipping, I'm sure your right that most people selling old turntables have no idea how to pack them
Bomarc, I've had two Audiogoners with very expensive digital rigs come listen to my 1200 on steroids: Deano and Lak. I wouldn't have invited them over if the *creature* wasn't really good sounding!

My music collection is 70% vinyl, BTW.

I just got a TD110 for $50, and with a new cartridge it
should sound OK. The classics are the TD124 and 125, and
a lot of people like the 126, 150, 160, 166 models too. I'll
probably pick up a TD125 next.
Psychicanimal, I wasn't referring to your own rig, (which is a $450 direct drive unit, not counting the steroids), but to your suggestion about Technics' $170 belt drive., which you said would "outperform the other 'glass and particle board' entry level belt drives by a far margin." I haven't heard it, and I was wondering if you had any direct experience with it.
if you do get a tt i would urge you to accept Breeno's offer of newbee help vis a vis his extra grado black cart. way to go Breeno, i know many of us help people get up and running, and it's nice to see it reflected here on audiogon.
Suretyguy: i dunno what else you used on a 2.1 (for comparison) but the free goldring they include does the tt no justice at all. i had read postings by a number of mmf 2.1 owners saying as much, but i figured they were just being fussy. then i got one. all their criticism was accurate. the goldring may be better than nothing, but a grado black will sound much less thin and strident in the upper mids and highs, much more musical overall. and an $80 grado blue will reveal worlds more sweet sound.
also, where can you get a new 2.1 for $225?
Bomarc, I've answered your question via private e-mail.

Technics has a mass manufacure advantage and experience that is hard to beat by other companies. Their entry level belt drive with FG servo speed control has a good arm, good bearings, good suspension. My Ortofon X-5 MC can be purchased in P-mount (also the cheaper X-1 & X3 MC's--same body, different stylus shape). So go figure...anyone with a halfway decent integrated amp or receiver (NAD, Yamaha, Proton, Marantz, HK, Creek, Cambridge), a dedicated line and a cryo outlet can have decent music on the cheap.

Speed and rotational stability is sooo important to extract music it cannot be overemphasized. A frequency generator servo drive is a big step ahead of a little motor which just relies on external AC for speed control...
Hey, one man's meat is another man's poison, right? Actually, I don't own a 2.1, but I bought one for my son (For $225 from a local dealer) and it sounds "perfectly acceptable" as I indicated. I don't doubt that it can be bettered, but I was responding to a query about an inexpensive setup and I don't think you can do better for that kind of money. Please note that I also urged the initial poster to stretch for the MMF 5 if at all possible, because the cartridge is much better-as is the entire system.
just as important as the turntable is the amp and pre-amp for great LP listening. Mcintosh has the circuitry that really makes records a thrill to hear.

just bought a M M MF-5 for $390 new and it sounds great

I say by turntables new so the dust cover and cartridge are new

happy listenening---steve
Audiohaven, where did you find an Mmf 5 for 390? That I think would be a good solution for me to get up and running fast. Breeno, I didn't thank you properly for your offer, your generosity is the most stiriking among the many gernerous replies on this forum. I noticed a project 6.1 for sale today, any thoughts on this unit? Finally audiohaven, the amp will be an Aragon 8002(sold my better amp) and the pre will be a MF 308 (which I scammed my Dad into buying for me as a gift for my latest"graduation").
I have a Denon Dp-47F. I love it I use it for its ease of use. Yes it is direct drive, I do not care, I threw a Grado Blue on it. The whole package brand new was $535! Enjoy.
If your interested I have a Luxman pd121 & shure sme 3
tonearm. No cartridge. It is in excellant condition. Asking
$375 & shipping for both. Buy a shure m97ed for $90 and
you will have a very good combination for reasonable cost.
Reason for selling I prefer compact disc.
Norm Cuny
630 840-8126 day
815 786-1672 evening