Hi Mailman; yes, it can be done on a budget. A Music Hall MMF-5 TT from Audio Advisor is $500, comes with a $175. Goldring cartridge, and sounds great. Audio Advisor gives you a 30 day audition also. If you need a phono pre-amp, the Musical Fidelity XLP-S is about $275. and is very good. I auditioned this combination against my all Levinson digital front end and it compared very well-- except for the background noise of the LPs. In the end, I definitely preferred my Levinson gear (which should be quite a bit better than either the Rega or Rotel you mention) because of its much lower background noise level, ie as compared to the white noise, static of varoius kinds, and crackling of LPs. The louder "pops and ticks" did not bother me. On brand new virgin vinyl, this TT very nearly equaled my 10K+ digital front end-- I was impressed. In a recent issue of Stereophile, M. Fremer said (paraphrasing) "this TT will make a vinyl lover out of the most hardcore digiphile", and Listener Magazine recently gave this TT a rave review. IMHO, MF was wrong as I returned my MMF-5, but if you like the sound of records, this TT WILL compete with pretty high end digital-- assuming you can listen past the inherent vinyl background noise. I borrowed a good vacuum cleaner from a vinyl junkie friend and cleaned all LPs I played. I also purchased about $300. worth of HQ new vinyl to test this TT aqainst my digital system, and in many cases I had the same CDs and LPs for direct comparisons. One track of Creedence Clearwater Chronicle, "Green River" (a favorite) actually sounded better on vinyl than digital. The viny version had it all-- pace, rhythm, timing, timbre etc.-- Bass was not as deep, but it was more natural and convincing. If you don't mind all the fiddling around you have to do with vinyl, this combo can very nearly compete sonically with very HQ digital, and that's the beauty of it-- true high-end music on a budget. With this combo, a decent integrated, speakers, and wire, you can get into high end audio on a budget. I was playing the MMF-5 and my digital gear through about $15K worth of electronics, wire, and speakers. Good Luck. Craig.
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