Looking for help on upgrading my entire vinyl rig.
So I'd like to upgrade my Cart/TT/phono pre, but I'm having a tough time pulling the trigger. Not sure if I will replace all, or part, but I am looking around spending $1500. But whatever I replace, I do hope to step up, not sideways. It makes it tougher to buy new, but I'd rather do it that way.
Currently I have a Technics SL-1800. It's a fairly well built table, with the platter and tonearm on a suspended sub-chassis. I have had a few lower model Technics, Pro-ject 1.2, Debut III and even a few I cant remember that went to the dumpster. My biggest dissapointments were from the Pro-ject tables, with a variety of issues such as wobbly platters that bottomed the stock carts (OM5, oyster) or just generally unpleasant-thin sound & poor tracking. Also, with a variety of the old tables, there were speed issues that really made them sound odd, especially with piano.
After taking a break with audio, having flipped quite a few amps and speakers over the years, (nothing of significant value)I have currently settled on a Jolida 502brc with Tung-Sol 6550's & Snell EII's. I really have enjoyed this combination. Especially with Jazz and vocals, but I find this very listenable for pop/classical etc as well.
For the SL-1800, I grabbed an AT440mla as I was attracted to its ability to track. In many ways I like this cart, and it really does track amazingly well, especially on the inner grooves of used LPs. I also like the dynamics across the whole spectrum. However, it's not long before I find it fatiguing. I decided to try a Bellari VP130 and a few tubes to soften the blow. It helps, but not enough over the long haul. Still fatigues. Tried some passive resistive loading. Helps but Id need to try more values.
I tried a Shure M97xe because it was cheap. It is exactly the opposite of the AT440mla. It does not track as good and has higher inner-groove distortion, even on a few new clean pressings. I've tried stabilizer up, down(more weight) and even hours trying different protractors. It does have a smoother sound that is pleasant at first on some recordings, but overall I find it less dynamic and dull then the AT.
So the Bellari might be ok for now, but if I start going up the food chain, I'm thinking I might want to move beyond this. I've had to replace the power supply with something more robust. I can't remember now what it was doing, but it would act up sometimes, or sound strange. Haven't had an issue with it since, but sometimes I wonder if need to have a tuned phono pre even. After all, my low cost Marantz CD5004 can usually trump the performance of this whole rig, at least in some regards. And I'm not talking about noise/pops/clicks, as it is not a concern of mine really.
But, sometimes, there are a few shining moments on certain jazz/vocal recordings on LP with this set up that really capture my attention in sweetness and detail. There just isn't enough of those moments.
What to do what to do:
I have scoured the Internet of information till my head hurts. But I do have a few ideas. I would love a VPI Scout, and they are close to my price range ( more so If used/B-stock). But that would gobble up all the funds. If I drop that thing into my system with the cart(s) and pre that I have, I feel like it would be buying a new Porsche with no engine. Lol? But honestly, other tables in that range don't seem as interesting to me. Sure, the traveller might allow a cart upgrade, but will I be kicking myself? The clearaudio looks nice, but still, if I'm going to blow it all on a TT alone it might as well be the Scout, but that's my opinion at the moment. I have goo-goo eyes for thier products for some reason.
But even still, realistically I don't see myself dropping this all on a table. So if I must get a table to make any of this worth while, it's seem like the Rega RP3 might be sensible. If anything, the arm on it alone has really good value in it, and could be installed. Won't I be mad as hell if I don't like it as much as the 'ol Technics - and for that reason - I don't even want to mess with anything below an RP3. I have not counted out SOTA yet as an option as I might be able to acquire a Comet from a friend. That might be cool.
In the meantime, would it make sense to buy a cart? I'm looking at a Goldring 1042. It seems as though it would fall between the AT and the Shure with the best of all their qualities all wrapped up in one. It looks to me like it may have a more neutral balance between those two, with tracking on par with the AT. I've also read a bit about the basic HOMC Dynavector, which also looks like a good choice. I have to wonder that being only eleptical, will it track as well ? Either way they look like good choices, might be easier to just replace styli though.
The technics has no VTA adjustment, or azimuth. So that's also a concern of mine...
Say the cart is a go on this table, for now. I'm thinking preamp. After lurking around, I can help but feel kind of excited to try a Sutherland PH3D. It looks like it has the potential to preform extremely well with a variety of different carts. I like the idea of the flexibility, lower noise and quality of this piece.
Buying a phono pre seems kind of unexciting to me, but this looks a winner. I could grab that, and a nice cart and just get a new TT at a later date. Even if I'd rather REALLY spend the money on something that looks a lot more substantial.
Thanks in advance if you made it though all this!