How Much To Rival Good Digital Playback

I would like some opinions as to how much one would have to spend to buy a turntable/cart system that would rival good digital playback. Any ideas as to what that price point is and the equipment that would do it?
While you can rival good digital playback for a very reasonable sum with analog, the lower priced analog systems may be a little higher in background noise than you may be used to hearing. Quieter analog systems may cost a bit more, and generally require a good moving coil cartridge, heavy platter of appropriate material, and a good phono stage with high overload margins.

I think you can get nice results for about $1k, especially with used turntables(assuming you have a phono preamp). But to get into the really quiet performance levels, you may need to go to $3k-$5k. And of course the records should be kept nice and clean for wear and quietness purposes.

I'm not going to make any equipment recommendations, since that can be very dependent on taste. But it can be done at those prices, and you can get even better if you want to spend more.

I would look at the expenditure in the same way as you look at purchasing a digital player. Get the best you can for the money, and if you spend the same amount as you did on your digital player, you should get better overall results, musically.

However, there are some people who have become so accustomed to dead quiet backgrounds from digital, that they have a hard time adjusting to the clicks and pops in analog systems. You'll have to determine whether this is acceptable to you, since there always will be some kinds of noise associated with it, even if small.
I respectfully submit that the road to analog heaven must first be paved with money. Again, the two schools of thought hold views that are diametrically opposed: the analog-or-bust camp will indicate that a $500.00 vinyl front end will surpass even the best digital. From very recent experience I can tell you that it does not work that way. Analog is way more expensive than digital to implement correctly. Does not mean you can't get great enjoyment out of vinyl records played on moderately priced equipment, this simply means that if you start out with the showdown view of the audio world, you may be unhappy with the general results. Although they share the same general purpose, one does not necessarily eclipse the other in all aspects. Keep an open mind, but to answer your question: look to spend five times the amount on analog hardware than on digital. If you have no vinyl collection or are not in line to inherit one or to find someone to sell you theirs or that of a recently departed loved one (heuh...mortician speak, I guess...), I would not start out on that quest which may turn out to be a tangent. If you have the soul of a collector and are wanting for a hobby that takes you out of the house, maybe buying used in flea markets and the like is for you.
I will agree with you on one thing, Pbb. If you do not currently have LP's, or only a few, it will cost you quite a bit to build a record collection. If one already has a ton-o-CD's this is another concern. OTOH, the cost of MOST vinyl will run you less per recording than CD.

Properly implemented, I cannot agree with your 5-1 theory with respect to cost (if one can even equate quality to cost in the first place). If you assemble a set of equipment that does not mesh well together (Analog or digital) the outcome will be crap no matter how much you spend.

Back to the 5-1 theory. I did this awhile back. I had a preamp that contained an MC phono stage. I bought a demo Nottingham Spacedeck with Spacearm and then added a Shelter 501MkII cartridge. Cost? About $2700 all told, shipping included (about $3,600 retail). I also formerly owned a Sony SCD-1 deck. Cost? $2700 used all told (about $5K retail). In my experience, the vinyl front end bested the digital front, and not by a small margin. More dynamic, more involving, much more enjoyable. I compared recordings of the same material and not one person felt the digital sounded better.

Granted, this is but one example and there may be others out there with dissimilar experiences one way or the other. I am only saying that, having spent the exact same amount of money, the analog front end sounded wholly superior. As such, my experience would summarily dismiss the 5-1 cost notion.

I have gone on to establish a much stronger analog front end recently and would gladly compare it to any digital system of equal or reasonably greater value.
What is good digital playback and how much does it cost? TWL gave about as good a response as possible (as usual). Digital and analog sound different to me reguardless of price range so I guess it is a matter of taste (what sounds better to you) and how far you are willing to take either one. One thing I believe they do have in common is the importance of source material. A really good pressing will sound better on a $1k system than a crappy one on a $5k system. While I reccommend vinyl be warned that quailty software is probably going to cost more than digital. If you don't live in large metropolitan area good used vinyl is not that easy to find.
Bld63, I guess from living in the Bay Area, Ca (used vinyl mecca) and from being able to find what I can't find in my usual local haunts from about 50 on-line providers, I've become spoiled. I've seldom had trouble finding the vinyl I've sought at a relatively reasonable price, usually cheaper, and often much cheaper, than on CD (50's jazz and imports excepted!).
My personal experience is in-line with what 4yanx has written.
I used to own a Music Hall MMF-5. I had the orig. tonearm wires cut off & female RCA jacks installed so that I could use my own cables. Other than this the TT was stock. Incl. tax & this mod. it cost me $480. My trusty-rusty H/K HD7625 CDP was bought for $400 (retail $560 but I got a good deal). I can confidently inform you that the MMF-5 bested the CDP by a long shot. The vinyl was simply more emotionally involving. I ran the MMF-5 into my CAT phono stage, which is dead quiet. So, other than the expected groove noise, the system was just as quiet as the CDP when the music played. Of course, the better I scrubbed my LPs, the lower the this noise got (upto a certain pt).
The performance of the MMF-5 could be improved & I checked the AudioAsylum for MMF-5 tweaks. I found a # of them such as employing blu-tak on the motor, using the Ringmat instead of the felt mat, using a silk string or audio cassette tape instead of the rubber belt, upgrading to the G1042 MM cart. Most of these tweaks cost very little. Also, when I was shopping for the MMF-5 I found that HCM Audio offered the MMF-5 with G1042 MM for $75 more than the stock. So, it was possible to get higher grade perf. at a marginal extra cost right from the get-go.
In conclusion: I'm saying here is that it cost marginally more than my CDP to get far better sound.
AFAIK, the present owner of this TT is still enjoying it!

I started with a piddly little collection of less than 20 LPs! However, I knew that vinyl was the way *I* wanted to go. So, like other members who have posted this:
* Make sure that you want to go the vinyl route. I.E. ensure that you can endure some "pain" as vinyl play-back is seldom plug-and-play.
* Make sure that you enjoy seeking LPs at Salvation Army, Goodwill or your local store.
* Make sure that you can clean these LPs so that you can maintain a high quality sound.
* Make sure that you will be able to endure the pops & clicks on many used LPs as their prev. owners probably took minimal care of the vinyl. If you like music (rather than being analytical of the sound each & every time you sit to listen) then you might be able to endure the pops & clicks. I know a bunch of friends who just cannot stand the thought of vinyl!
* Make sure that you can endure this high maintenance hobby 'cuz (make NO mistake) it IS one!
* Most of all, make sure that you have the vinyl mind-set. How many CD-ONLY guys will walk up to the rack & flip the side of the LP??

It's a lot of fun to spin vinyl both from the music & memories pt. of view BUT the opinion is HIGHLY personal.
I envy your access to used vinyl 4yanx. I am in east TN. A great place to live but not a vinyl mecca. Most the stuff I have found either on line or locally used that I have been happy with costs as much as a CD or more, but they sure sound better and I don't regret buying them.
Not very much. $400-$500 if you know how to select a decent used and/or vintage deck/arm combo and you learn how to set it up yourself.

Without this effort (developing these skills) then figure 2X-4X the above.

Never experienced much of a surface noise problem, but I use a different cleaning method than most that involves thoroughly irrigating the grooves prior to a brush/pad ever touching the LP. Currently use a Water-Pik, but used a simple faucet with the addition of a pressure nozzle before (both work fine).


-decent cartridge
-decent phono preamp that it synergistic to the cartridge
-decent shelf/rack on which to place the TT
-cleaning system

A good sound reason to get into vinyl is to listen to the music that never made it to CD. We have approx. 1500 CD's and 2000 LP's (not many duplicates between the two formats).

I have listened to but one CD player that reminded me of decent vinyl playback (an Oracle player a few years ago).
In the same audition we listened to BAT and AR players (both were nice, but neither reminded me of vinyl).

In a way the original Bel Canto DAC 1.0, other than lacking detail, sounded a bit like vinyl. This quality was lost with the 1.1 version which nonetheless sounded better overall.

Just to say that the two formats need not sound alike to be good. I grew up with vinyl/tape and this is the type of sound I am used to.
I do not want my vinyl rig to rival my digital. My goal is to make them sound as close to each other as possible. In order to do that w/in my budget, I have a KAB modded Technics SL1200 MK2 and a Parasound CBD-2000 belt driven transport (being modded in Dan Wright's shop at this time). The mods in the 1200 make it closer to digital's positive attributes and vice versa for the belt driven transport. I understand my mental framework is radical but it *does* make a lot of sense! The people that push for analog, even with cheap rigs, ALWAYS omit the fact that digital has PERFECT pitch. I can infer that they can't hear differences in pitch...
I recently bought a Nottingham Spacedeck and Spacearm, Audio Research PH2, and Acoustic Zen Matrix ref balanced cables - this $3500 investment totally recaptured musical reproduction in my system. Love it, rarely play the digital front end any more. Invest more than the minimum, you will be rewarded

I tend to agree with Pbb in the sense that to get good digital playback is cheaper than to get good analogue playback. The 4-1 ratio is bit much, I tend to think its more like 2-1.

In order to have a fair comparison of costs, you have to start with a line stage, no phono built in. The phono stage is to analogue what a DAC is to digital.

Sure in terms of enjoyment, PRaT, musicality, cheaper analogue systems can get you that for less than digital, but digital advances in technology have made it far less expensive to get a fairly decent playback system. Where digital has an advantage, is in the quiet background and the detail retrieval.

For analogue to have both quiet and detail, requires : (a) stable, quiet TT/arm, (b) good cart AND (c) matching low-noise phono. While (a) and (b) are not a problem for most systems, (c) can be quite costly.

For digital, I've always held the belief that separates will inevitably trounce integrated CDPs, and good separates (those that get the PRaT right) are not cheap. The two areas that digital playback fails miserably are in (a) dynamics, and (b) noise - RFI/EMI(!). If you think digital is quiet, think again. The "quiet background" of digital actually has hidden noise which mask detail and hinders dynamics. The solution is in clean power. I've found that by using a particular powercord, you can get back the dynamics and natural, fluid presentation of analogue.

On the analogue front, I've recently acquired a new arm, which again makes analogue far superior to digital. Details to follow...
psychicanimal: What mods are you having them do? I have a Parasound CDP-2000 Ultra and I find it awesome...wondering if your mods apply to my unit?
Dan Wright promised to make the Parasound sound with the tighness, impact and slam of my McCormack SST-1 direct drive, top loading transport. It seems CEC uses very cheap parts in some of the critical paths of the unit--even in their top models. Power regulation/delivery is also critical to keep the belt drive transport and CD weight running dead on. I also bought a Furutech rhodium plated IEC from Chris VenHaus and had him ship it to Dan. I also told Dan I want a Bybee installed after the IEC. A new belt and a door sensor switch were also ordered and sent to Dan. You should get both and have them replaced. As to how much this is going to cost, I don't know yet. I let Dan do whatever he wants. We have mutual understanding--he knows how I like my music...

I would definitely contact Dan and ask him about this project. He did tell me over the phone that he has modded several CECs, including their top of the line. I think it will be worth it for you, as also getting a DD turnable :)
Since the requirement of "good" is so subjective, as is each persons individual tastes...
For me I am happier with my $250 TT + $115 cart. + $450 phono pre-pre analogue starter setup than my $2,500 Sony SACD.
And LPs... from zero to almost 4,000 since June of 2003. Where I live over 25 places sell used vinyl within a 15 minute freeway drive.
My total average cost has been about $0.40 each.
Hundreds at $0.18 each... 350 nice classic chamber music last month for free.
And I am talking about good VG++ originals.
So partly the switch back to vinyl has been economic.
I have enough music to keep me happy for a very long time.
Well, I think that Elizabeth is a little too optimistic. I'd say $1000.00 for the analog front end plus,say,$350 for the phono stage,plus $150-$250 for the cable.I meant new. In many ways it will sound better than almost any digital. But it will be noisier and won't get you bass just as deep though bass will sound more natural. To get very quiet playback with great bass you would have to spend more,perhaps much more. Don't expect to pay $1.00 for each record. If you wish the first pressings and Japanese or German or British LPs in NM condition,prepare to pay $10-$100 for each. Original American jazz releases from 50s and sometimes 60s are usually very expensive as well. Classical music records vary wildly in cost: from $.50 to hundreds.Also,if you cannot see the records before buying, be ready to waist a few hundred dollars. So, the picture is not that bright, but not that bad either.
Inna, your comments apply to belt drive only. Spending 1K on a KAB modded 1200 will get you awesome bass. Got to hear it to believe it...
Psychicanimal, the 1200 will only get you awesome mid-bass, lots of it, will little refinement.
Not my modded creature.
So thats whats going on...duh. Every time I hear a turntable now, doing a sole piano, it sounds out of tune to varying degrees depending on the quality of the table. With a full band playing it of course is not really noticable. At least not with a few drinks.

My ears must have become accustomed to the pitch accuracy of digital such that now I can hear pitch errors that I never noticed in my youth. Same with surface noise, I never paid it much mind way back then but now if the record is not really clean it ruins the enjoyment. Thank goodness for the record-cleaning machines.
RPL, I said that about pitch in an earlier post in this thread:

The people that push for analog, even with cheap rigs, ALWAYS omit the fact that digital has PERFECT pitch. I can infer that they can't hear differences in pitch...
I don't think this is question is presented correctly. Sound quality has nothing, or almost nothing to do with money. One can spend 5 thousand on very good components that just would not work together, while smartly spending 6-8 hundred would make a world of a difference.
But getting back to the original question, I would say that between table, arm, cartridge and RIAA corrector one has to spend between 15 and 20 hundred to beat almost any off-the-shelf CD player.
I have to agree with you about piano on vinyl. Some of the worst recorded sound I've heard is solo piano, and especially harpsichord and pipe organ. Makes me seasick.