Rega is good.Rigid fine arms.I'd get scout for used money.Also look at used or new pro-ject 6.1 or better.Good arms well.
You will have to determine if your set on "new". If so, I cannot help you as I have no experience or chair time with any of the "newer" companies that produce tables. Project, Music Hall, and Rega all seem to produce great quality products for the price and write-ups and most users seem very satisfied.
I am a proponent of the buy it used camp. I think a used VPI or SOTA with a good matching arm/cartridge would give you a wonderful analog front-end.
I say this after purchasing numerous new Garrard, JVC, and Thorens turntables. Although there is something special about having it new, in the box, and fresh, especially turntables, I think used is the way to get a great performance-price ratio.
My used Sapphire was a geninue bargain for the amount of musical satisifaction. I have since gone up the line but for a price/performance ratio a used table is hard to beat.
Conversely if you don't have any available in your area that you can physically inspect/listen to you don't know the history and may have to buy belts, check wear, etc, etc, and so if you are adverse to that idea, then maybe new works.
Put a KAB/Technics table on your list. Fully modded with a nice cartridge it should be close to the others you mentioned. A few bucks left over for isolation and a few new lp's and you might be very happy. KAB service is great and resale is best in class. Although I have only heard the Music Hall 7 and the Rega P3-24 with my system the Technics was right there with both of them and I felt the overall ease of use and sound in general was better. I have been very happy with the MG5 and Goldring 1042 cartridge combo.
One good thing about the Scouts are that everyone agrees that are a great value for the $$ and it has a great upgrade path..Also there is always an abundance of them available on the used market,due to Vinyl guys ( or gals ) going higher in the VPI lineup..I am trying to save for one myself..........
I've recently added a VPI Scout to my system and couldn't be happier. The cost was $2000 which included a Dynavector 10x5 mounted and ready to go. I'm not familiar with other tables so I can't offer a comparison, but my take is that your budget will get you into a very competent rig that will bring you much satisfaction.
I'd look hard at the Marantz at $1595 with Clearaudio ebony tonearm and matching Clearaudio ebony-bodied cartridge. A factory matched and mounted package is a smart way to start when you're getting into it for the first time (or the first time in a long time).
Another nomination would be the Funk turntable from Funk Firm ($859 + tonearm), and have Funk add the tonearm that fits your budget. It would be a Rega-based tonearm to fit your budget. The Funk is highly reviewed for having an unusual amount of drive and pace for its price.
You could definitely get a competitive package based on a Technics SL1200. The way to simplify it would be to have kabusa.com prepare a turntable for you. I would recommend the SL1200 mk2 with KAB fluid damper (+$150) and tonearm rewire ($+169). Consider the tonearm rewire mandatory unless you go upmarket and get the SL1210 M5G, which has audibly better tonearm wire (over the SL1200). You could have Kevin mount a Goldring 1022 or 1042 cartridge.
Then get some Threaded Brass Heavyfeet (thread size M6) from Mapleshade. These are direct screw-in replacements for the Technics feet. This is all well within your budget. The damped tonearm with rewire is surprisingly competitive, and when properly isolated, the Technics DD platform provides a very low noise platform with excellent speed accuracy and stability.
The Rega P5 is also a good candidate with a really excellent tonearm (RB700) at this price point.
I too own a VPI Scout and find that it is excellent. I also own a MMF-5 which was a very inexpensive table with a decent Goldring cart. The price has gone bezerk and I cant say it's worth the money compared to a NEW Scout.
The Scout is in another league and probably twice the price used ---
But There is a well known mail order Audio Equipment internet (Dot Com) based retailer, Music Direct. They are having an authorized VPI "B" stock sale. The prices quoted on todays newsletter will easily fit within your budget. They say there are very, very, small blems on the plinth or arm. If you can live with that, get the package deal. I bought mine set up that way with the JMW-9 arm and a Dynevector 20X H High output MC cartridge.
They discontinued the high output dynevector 20X but may have gone with the newer "medium" output 20X or a different cartridge altogether. At the time it cost $600 alone for that cartridge if you bought it separately.
The pre installed cartridge package wasn't listed but tells you to call. If that brings it over 1,500 a bit I would do it anyway it's so called "satisfaction garanteed". That is for a truly audiophile level turntable albeit entry level. They are selling new TTs, not refurbed, or misused by someone, who bought it from another someone etc.
You should be aware that you will need a good phono stage to match, if you don't have a phono input on your preamp or integrated. It is an extremely important bit of gear.
That is another matter altogether.
I wish I was associated with the retailer named but have no connection to them whatsoever.
Dollar for dollar and with regards to value, the Music Hall MMF-5 smokes the VPI Scout."
I had a MMF-7.1 and I couldn't get rid of it fast enough. Never could get that thing to sound right..... Sounded dead, lazy....
I'd be tempted to go the Sota or the P5 route.
In fact, I know I will be upgrading my tt in the future, again. At this point I'm leaning towards the Sota Sapphire or maybe the Nova. Arm? Well, that's another thread....
I want to thank everyone for their help. There were a lot of great suggestions. After a lot of consideration and research I ended up getting a used Sota Sapphire with Sumiko FT-3 Arm.
Now I am testing the cartridges I have and see which has the best sound. I have a Shure V15VxMR with a Soundsmith Ruby Cantilever and a Nude Contact Line Diamond retip. I also have a Ortofon 20, or I was thinking about getting a Sumiko Blackbird.
Thanks again for your help.