How much $ to "match" digital in my system?

I know this is a difficult question, but let me explain how it arose. I'm currently using Apple's Airport Express and iTunes through my Musical Fidelity X-DAC v3, w/ the X-PSU power supply, as source. Sometimes I also listen to SACD, but nevermind that. For amplification, I have a Classe CAP-101, and my Paradigm 20's are soon to be replaced by revel m-22 monitors. I have no sub yet.

Visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, I happened upon a stash of old LP's. Wouldn't you know, there were all of these amazing recordings in beautiful condition: Ormandy, van Cliburn, Gould, Bernstein, and so on. Wow. My parents have a thirty-year-old crappy turntable, with a built-in amp. On that setup, the recordings didn't compare with cd quality, although there *was* something satisfying, despite all of the distortion. Anyway, they don't use or want the collection.

I started wondering what kind of investment it would take, in terms of turntable, tone arm, and cartridge, to enjoy their collection. Would I be better off selling their LP's and investing the money in digital software? Or could I, for a reasonable sum, get something out of that vinyl that cd's couldn't match? It's really all classical music, and especially orchestral. And I am not at all satisfied with my system's reproduction of strings. For whatever reason, it always sounds like strings are metallic. They just don't sound like live string performances. Piano and percussion are close enough for me, but strings, especially larger groups of strings, aren't. Hence, my question.

I know, I know... the sound will have different qualities. It will never reach parity with cd in some respects, regardless of what I spend, and it will better cd in some respects while spending very little. But I'm interested in hearing about your experiences. If you've added vinyl to an otherwise decent digital-based system, how much did you have to spend to feel vinyl was worth your time? And how did you spend it?

Thanks in advance.
My hunch is that since your system ... and I will use your words here ... is "mid fi purgatory" ... that you would be looking to (and it probably makes some sense to) purchase a turntable that is mid-fi, as well. If your integrated amplifier does not have a phono input, you will need to purchase a phono outboard or purchase a turntable that has a phono preamp built in.

I gave my turntable and records to a good buddy about 7 years ago, as I found myself not playing my albums at all. From time to time I do miss having a turntable. If I were to go that route again, I would look at some of the all in one packages offered by Music Hall . The MMF 5 ($630 list) comes with a decent cartridge and sounds really good. I heard a Louis Armstrong/Duke Ellington 1960 recording (The Great Summit) on a system with the MMF 5 (Creek amp; EPOS speakers) and was absolutely transfixed by how good the music sounded.

Alternatively, if you want to just get your feet wet, keep the cost low, and still get a respectable turntable, try some of the $200 Technics models at KAB USA .

Regards, Rich
read this thread at audio circle:

Ah yes ... string reproduction. I feel your pain. This is the most difficult thing for a system to get right ... at any point in the signal chain, and to my ears, it is not possible with the current state of consumer digital at any price.

This weekend, I traveled to Dallas, TX and plugged one of my rigs into a very nice system. It was CD based (nice digital), and the fellow used a Dual 1229 turntable with a fairly pedestrian cartridge. The Dual fed a Hagerman Coronet (Octal tube version) and made great tunes. It was a bit recessed sounding but had great tone.

I'd consider something on the order of a Dual 1229 or a used Thorens TD 125, along with the least expensive Grado cartridge, and one of Jim Hagerman's Bugle phono variants (no financial connection with Jim ... just like his stuff).

What this type of system gets right can't be touched by digital at any price. If you want dynamics and the last bit of nuance, then you'll need something like what I'm doing with my rigs, but for sheer musical bliss, a rig like the above (or a variant) will have you smiling.

Thom @ Galibier
For one, your 101 does not have a phono section. You'll have to buy one. The Music Fidelity X-lps is about $400 big ones. A decent entry level TT will prob cost you $600 (Music Hall MMF5). Cables will cost $ also. I say save yourself the headaches and donate those lp to a library.
Thanks, everyone, for your input. I should say, I gave my gf a Musical Fidelity x-150 integrated with a phono stage. I'd put the tt setup in her system (which will be paired with my Paradigms when I get the Revels) and if I like it enough, I'll put it into my own system, and at that point deal with the phono stage problem.

I'm going to be thinking about this for awhile. Holiday shopping means I won't have the cash to buy even a modest setup for a few months.

Right now, I'm listening to a Glenn Gould cd (Consort of Musicke by William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons) and it is simply breathtaking. Of course, it's two in the morning. There's no ambient noise, either acoustic or electrical. The signal, as they say, is pure. Stunning, even in my "mid-fi" set-up and at low volume. Earlier this evening I listened to some SACDs -- Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Beethoven -- orchestral pieces recorded in the 60's and they weren't quite this good, but still managed to pull me in emotionally. (Seems my best orchestral recordings are from that decade.)

My apartment is always quiet, as there is a layer of shops between me and the street, but at this time of night, for some reason, I can listen at low volumes and still hear full detail. Perhaps it is because my auditory system becomes more sensitive at night, but I find myself jumping at even little transients and I forget completely that my system is midfi purgatory. It's just glorious right now. But I'm dragging myself to work in the mornings.

Enjoy reading your posts. I'm getting a lot of ideas. Keep them coming.
Have a look at the "building high end tt's at home despot" thread. I have a lenco and havent looked back.
I have checked that out, actually. Cool thread. I'm afraid I also don't have that much free time... or creativity. But I did get some good ideas.
First of all, I too "travelled the world over" to find a CD player that could do strings right. I now have a turntable. A turntable to match digital? Try one for $150. I'm *not* kidding!! I think the reason you didn't like the sound of the albums...was because of the albums. Bernstein, Ormandy, etc., these are Columbia pressings, no offense, but sadly among the worst recorded and pressed albums in all of Lp history. I would like to strangle everyone involved. Try a late-analog Philips or a London ffrr, (there are millions of them), on that same system. I ended up with a VPI Scoutmaster, $2500, but turntables will beat digital for far far less than that--it's just that you will have to audition with anything but a Columbia or late RCA. The greatest news of all is that you like Classical. The used issues out there tend to be well taken care of, and most titles are available on inexpensive European pressings that were made to the highest standards. Try a VPI Scout or a Nottingham Horizon, both close to $1K.
thanks jdaniel. that's very good news. after the holidays, i'll start shopping. (we'll see what the budget is *then*.)

what do you mean by late-analog? just before recordings were themselves made in digital, then pressed? when was that, for philllips? any particular recordings you'd recommend? i *do* like the philadelphia sound... ormandy is one of my favorites.

as far as my best string sounds, i'd have to say they're on sacd remasters of various kinds... probably late analog, i think.
Yes, the Philadelphia is one of my favorites too, Angel or EMI got a few recordings of them with Ormandy and then Muti, from around '79 up to '85 and they are a little better than Columbia and/or RCA. You will find that digital albums are not bad at all either. The ultimate DAC! I was just speaking of "late-analog" Philips as an example. I just think you will find London, Philips, EMI, DG and even Angel, not to mention early-pressing Mercuries and Shaded Dog RCA's to be excellent. The dynamics on just about all of the above, combined with almost CD-quiet surfaces will be just what the doctor orders. I know it's a painful purchase, but a VPI record cleaner with the Vacuum really is indespensible, though close to $500.

I've been buying albums for a year now and it's kind of an education process: you learn what performances you like, what recording engineers you like, what pressings, etc. Have fun.
I purchased a Music Hall 5se about a year ago ($650) and I now listen to vinyl 80% compared to CDs. Goodwill has become one of my favorite haunts! Many LPs, some requiring a spin on the Nitty Gritty ($4-$900, sometime less used.) The sound is much more pleasant to my ears, although I don't have many complaints about my Meridian CD and BAT 3i preamp (phono card). I am always surprised by how much I enjoy the texture of sound from an LP and changing the album after one side, looking at and reading the cover. I'd say keep the albums, buy a good turntable for less than $600, but only if you think you will buy more vinyl in the future. Of course, this could lead to another obsession.
If you dont have much free time and have money to blow there are a lot of good modern turntables out there. If not a Thorens TD150 or Td160 especially if with a TP16 arm, or slightly better a TD125 will do good work to get you started. To give you an idea, in England the TD125 was compared by Hi Fi World Magazine to an Origion Live Aura Gold at $2,500 new WITHOUT ARM, and was found to be sonically on a par, and almost certainly better built. I can assure you that the TD160 isnt far behind. The Lenco is up there with the Garrard 301 and 401 and the Thorens TD124, being equivalent to/better than the $4,000 plus league to buy new. Indeed Albert Porter said that his Lenco gave little away to his Walker Protheum (I always spell that P word wrong, but you know the one) at $30,000, and in a few respects may have even been better. I kid you not. Whatever you do, vinal is in my opinion far superior to digital, and a bit of an addiction. be forewarned