How does one go about auditioning a new turntable?


I've got an average midfi system consisting of a MMF-5/Grado Platinum into a Pro-Ject Tube Box, B&W Monitor Speakers, and an old Marantz integrated. I'm looking to eventually upgrade everything, and thought I'd start out with a new turntable. I am relatively young (22)and since I'm not likely to be staying in one place very long for the foreseeable future I'd like to steer clear of speakers, which are room dependet (as well as the amps that mate with the speakers). I guess I could be talked into getting a new pre-amp if thats the direction that I should head in.

Anyways, my budget is up too at most $3,000. I'd rather spend much less than that. But my real question is what do I look/listen for while auditioning. I'll have nothing to use as a benchmark, other than the music I'm listening to.
britishbane
Huh, in your position, I'd think I'd start with a replacement for the amp. Besides that, I'm not sure I understand your question...I mean, listen to a $3kturntable (if you can find anyone to demo it, if you can find a dealer who'll give you a home demo), and see if it sounds better! Also, what about a cd player?
You are between a rock and a hard spot if you don't have equipment presently which is capable of resolving the differences between your present and any prospective playback system.

You really have to make it a move of faith based on reasearch and opinions, both of which I would avoid. If I were in you place I'd just buy a lot more music and wait to settle into a more permanent place.

In the mean time I would do a lot of research on the construction of TT's, arms, cartridges, how they interface and under what circumstances they work best. Sonically speaking the cartridge and phono stage synergy is a big item but that will interface with your speakers/amp combo so its hard to determine in advance what will float your boat.

If you feel rushed to move, personally, I would focus on an unsuspended TT and a high quality medium mass arm as that would have more universal potential in the long run.

Good luck............
What results are you looking for? When upgrading, if you don't start with your weakest link, you won't be able to fully appreciate (or even hear) the other changes you make. Right now your weakest link is probably the old integrated amp. In addition, lack of vibration control and solid racks and platforms (if that's the case), would obscure many changes and upgrades, or render them ambiguous.

Make sure your turntable is well platformed and isolated, followed by the components. Make sure your cabling is well-suited to your setup. Make sure your speakers are put on good stands (if applicable) and well-placed in your room.

Then I would go for a better integrated amp or line stage plus power amp. For a lot less than your budget, you could get a 200 wpc Vincent integrated amp from Audio Advisor on sale right now for $999 here: http://www.audioadvisor.com/prodinfo.asp?number=1VISV233. If it doesn't work out for you, they have a 30-day full (minus return shipping) refund policy.

Vibration control, good cabling, and a higher-rez amp should help you evaluate if your turntable, cartridge, and phono stage present significant shortcomings. I personally think your TT, cart, and phono stage are the best parts of your current rig.
your turntable and system are fine. in all honesty, you could blow through thousands of dollars and be no futher ahead....don't fall prey to equipment esoterica until you are settled into your career, living location, etc.
You're miles ahead of anything I had when I was 22. If you want to make the jump to a reliable tube integrated, you might consider one of the Primaluna Prolog series. As for TTs, I'd like to suggest that you pick up the current, June-July, issue of absolute sound. The entire issue is devoted to analog playback. While it can't tell you what setup you will like best, it has a lot of great information on different TT design philosophies, cartridges, etc. EVen though I've been doing LPs in one form or another since the early '70s, I am learning a lot of cool stuff from the issue.
your TT is fine for your system I would start to look at upgrading your old Marantz integrated.
Get a Galibier Sarac and matched arm from Thom Mackris and forget about the rest. I would however, start with a new amp.
Dear Britishbane: Your analog source is not bad at all. How good are your speakers?

Maybe you need to change it along the Marantz before you make any analog rig change.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul.
Britishbane, What do I look/listen for while auditioning… Wow. That’s a good question. Do you listen to live acoustic music? If so, that would give you a great reference, because don’t we all want our music at home to sound like it is the real thing? I would go for the gestalt, the whole experience of if the music involves and moves you, not audiophile little details of this or that. You need experience, lots and lots of listening to different systems to determine what you like and what you don’t favor about reproduced sound. It is a matter of no one else's but your interpretation, and whether you prefer it. I can’t tell you what that might be (and neither can anyone else). That’s the good and difficult part of all this and it will change with experience.

As many have said before me, at this point you have a pretty solid source. Rarely would I suggest it yet, in this case it sounds like upgrading the preamp/amp to get the most out of your source might be the best bang for the buck.

Remember system synergy is very important and highly overlooked.

Inevitably, the speaker/power amp synergy is a very particular thing. The marriage, if you will, must be harmonious and I wouldn't purchase speakers and/or power amps without a great deal of thought for the future and auditioning them together to make sure you get the magic.

That said, your system is only as good as the weakest link and although I would normally advise toward a greater (analogue) source because, it is just that, the beginning of the chain and could be vastly superior to the rest of your system and yet enable you to have a reference and grow with all other down stream components for years and through many iterations.

Quite frankly I think you're correct and smarter than your years about the speaker/room scenario at this time.

With a reasonable investment in a used preamp, say a Modwright SWL 9.0 Se or Audible illusions Modulus 3A, you would resolve huge amounts of detail, dynamics and finesse and still have some cash to bank toward a power amp for your B&W’s or for a different pairing of speaker/ power amp to take you to the next level, which ever you prefer. I would guess the question here is how much do you like the speakers you have? But again, without a higher resolution preamp and a proper match in power amps, how would you know?

Anyway, both the source you have and a finer preamp will help you figure out were to go next. This pursuit for high fidelity is not easy, as you may have gathered, but I for one can assure you it will be very satisfying with a little hard work.

Happy Listening!
Two parameters of turntable design are wow and flutter and rumble.
IMO speed stabilty is the most inportant. It is very anoying. You want a table that can find the right speed and hold it there. If there is a speed variation you want a table that can detect and correct it.
Everything is a trade off. Most tt use belt drives and a massive platter. This uses inertia or what is called the flywheel effect. Inertia helps the platter maintin constant speed. However if it goes off speed it takes longer to get back. Then there is the Denon approach. Lightweght platter with direct drive and quartz locked speed sensor.This allows lightening fast speed corrections. However because the plater is so light thre is less inertia.

Rumble is ususlally the sound of the platter riding on the bearing. It can be really anoying in the bass frquencies. Most tt take the Linn approach by machining the bearing to the nth degree or having it rest on a substance like teflon. Air and magnetic bearings a re very effective.

Most tt makers choose high mass platter wit
Two parameters of turntable design are wow and flutter and rumble.
IMO speed stabilty is the most inportant. It is very anoying. You want a table that can find the right speed and hold it there. If there is a speed variation you want a table that can detect and correct it.
Everything is a trade off. Most tt use belt drives and a massive platter. This uses inertia or what is called the flywheel effect. Inertia helps the platter maintin constant speed. However if it goes off speed it takes longer to get back. Then there is the Denon approach. Lightweght platter with direct drive and quartz locked speed sensor.This allows lightening fast speed corrections. However because the plater is so light thre is less inertia.

Rumble is ususlally the sound of the platter riding on the bearing. It can be really anoying in the bass frquencies. Most tt take the Linn approach by machining the bearing to the nth degree or having it rest on a substance like teflon. Air and magnetic bearings a re very effective.

Most tt makers choose high mass platter with belt drive. Why because it is just easier.

To me at least speed variations are the must annoying. Play a well recorded piano. If the tt has speed problems you well know it right away. Also you need a record with a lot of bass. Again if there is a rumble problem you will know it.
The next problem is vibraion control-airborne and structual. Examine tt for any way they can reach tt platter. What has manufacturer done to deal with this? Most try to dissipate the energy with either mass, fluid damping or springs. All can be effective. That is to say the vibration is absorbed by the fluid or spring. In the case of mass the thery is there is insufficient energy to make the strucure move.

This is why tt can get very expensive very fast. Dealing with these problems can drive you crazy. Fortunately after almost a hundred years they have gotten pretty good at it.

There are countless articles and books written on these subjects
The best way to audition a new turntable is the same as it's always been... twist up a big fatty (using the album cover to separate the seeds), turn on the black light, and put on Pink Floyd's "Meddle".

;)
Hi Britishbane,

Much as I'd love to sell you a Serac turntable, I agree with Raul.

You can learn quite a bit about setting up your current rig, while shifting your focus to your electronics.

I'd seriously look at an amplifier and line stage upgrade (perhaps a high quality integrated?).

In stating this, I'm assuming that your Pro-ject tube box is reasonably competent, and is the strongest link in your electronics chain.

You know how all of this goes however ... soon your Pro-ject will be your weakest link. Welcome to the club (grin).

Amplifiers and speakers are so related, that it's best to think of them as a single component.

I don't have recent experience with amplifiers that mate up well (musically) with mid-efficiency monitors.

Yesterday, I heard that of Nick Doshi's tube amplifiers is for sale here on the 'gon. Search on "Nick Doshi".

I have no commercial interest in this, but know that these amplifiers began their life as classic European made units. Nick sources them for the high quality of the output transformers and implements his own design around these chassis.

They're good for an honest 50 TUBE watts, and unless listening to metal is your prime source of entertainment, they ought to do just fine.

The hip thing about this strategy is that this amplifier could become the cornerstone of your system for quite a few years to come.

The only problem I see with this is that you'd also need to find a competent line stage.

I'd seriously look into this approach (even if the Doshi unit has sold), but that's just me.

Cheers,
Thom
Tvad -that also keeps the replacement stlyus industry in business.
i believe tonight's the night to try tvad's audition method...works with digital too.
Britishbane, ...So what do you think?!