I would go even cheaper at this point in time. I would go for a VPI HW-19 mark? or a Music hall MF-7 table. The reasoning behind the picks. They are easy tables to set up without pulling out your hair. the pre can be something again simple such as an Adcom GPS 565. There built well and the phone stage is tops. I will leave the cartridge to others since I don't listen to enough of them to give you a strong opinion.This will leave you with plenty of cash in pocket and with an excellent front end and preamp to boot.
You can get the Clearaudio Concept with cartridge for two grand at several places(needle doctor.com comes to mind). What do you mean by "cheapish" phono stage? To me it sounds like you want to scrimp on it which,in my opinion,is a big mistake.You could add the $500.00 alloted for a cartidge to what you are budgeting for a phono stage and get a really good one.Good luck.
Bump it up a bit and get a vpi classic.
I second the VPI classic suggestion. Better sound, better value. It has a clear path of upgrades. Clearaudio stuff has many reliability issues.
If I were you, I would get a Denon DL-103R for about $260 and apply the
savings towards a better phono stage.
The 103R is an excellent cart. IMHO, you will have to go up to $1,000 range to
find something marginally better. I have a number of carts including a Zyx Airy
2, a Lyra Helikon, a Shure V15Vxmr, and the DL-103R. At the end of the day, I
find myself listening to the 103R most often. So save yourself some money on
the cart and get a better phono stage.
BTW, the 103R likes a heavier arm. If you are getting a VPI either with a
10" or a 9" arm, you will need to weight down the head shell a bit to
get the bass right.
It may depend upon how much free time and curiosity you have, but perhaps starting with something trashy and moving up might be fascinating and educational, here's my story:
I started at "mid-fi" with a VPI Scoutmaster and Dyna 20x. Loved it but wasn't satisfied, esp. with vocals, choral sound and piano, which thinned a little too much towards the end of records and often mistracked. Went to the Dyna XX2 and those problems were dramatically reduced, but not completely.
I traded both TT and Cart in for an SACD/CD player capable of downloading. Love it. On a lark, I plugged in a friends dusty old Vintage Pioneer with unknown cart and was absolutely floored by the sound: same old analog "magic:" relaxed, laid-back delivery, great bass, spacious soundstage, using a typical Wilkinson/Ansermet recording. Of course, "problem" records were still problems (the Mercury Janis Prokofiev 3rd, last few minutes) but the sum-total uniquely mesmerizing Lp sound was still there. I wish I had started with vintage.
This is another "bump it up" recommendation but it is the holiday season and you should indulge yourself! TT - Well Tempered Amadeus (~$2800); Cartridge - Ortofon 2M Black (~$670); Phono Stage - Jolida JD 9 (~$500). The "weak link" in these recommendations is the Jolida, but is is only weak in comparison to the others, which are stellar performers, particularly the Amadeus.
I am still enamored of my plain jane VPI Scout/ JMW Mem 9 with a Dyna 20x HO and Graham Amp 2 SE phono stage. The whole set up now must be used unless they are still making the Scout II, will cost well under $2K. It is a fabulous starter rig for an analog re entry and is my final destination. I really can't find the faults in this set up that my more golden eared colleagues can.
I recommend 3 turntables as these are my favorites and I have owned a lot of different turntables. The Linn LP 12 used in mint condition, The rega P1 with rega arm, the AR EB101 with either the original arm or an aftermarket arm. The 500 dollars will buy u a used Koetsu Black one of the best moving coils around. As for phono stage I leave that up to u but I am using a NAD PP2 which I like and it doesnt cost much and is very reliable. Let me know what u decide. I hope this is helpful to u and saves u some money and frustration. Shay
There is wisdom in Sidssps and Jdaniel13's replies.
I would go with a used Clearaudio Performace (great easy to use deck with the CMB bearing, absolutely stellar), and either a Sumiko Blackbird or Soundsmith Aida Cartridge.
For the phono stage I would get the super flexible (and upgradable from both Parts Connextion-thru Underwood HiFi- and Cullen Circuits) PS Audio GCPH phono stage.
Great set up to start. I loved the Performance Blackbird when I had it several years ago. Great combo.
Thanks all. So far from the suggestions above I like sound of:-
The PS audio phono stage (there seem to be a number for sale on AG).
The vpi classic ( a number on AG as well for around 2k ) I like th esyling and I've always wanted to try a VPI.
I a little less certain on the Cartridge. I've allways had good experience's with Ortophon (MC30 supreme) So the 2M black is attractive to me.
Thanks again for your advice. When I've finally made a descision I'll post my final system choices here.
Best wishes to all :-).
If you buy a VPI Classic (which I own), you must make sure the cartridge is 'well shielded' or you will get a noticable hum, due to the location of the motor.
I tried several cartridges and on the suggestion of Michael Fremmer ended up with a Soundsmith cartridge (new stellar new VPI Zephyr), and it's truly a great combo.
I also have a PS Audio GCPH, but mine is modded, and it's truly a great phono stage.
Good luck, merry Xmas.
I have really liked my Rega P5 with their Exact 2 cartridge, and I use the Bellari VP129 phonostage. This could definitely be found for under $1500 total if you buy used.
I have to say I love my current setup; VPI Scout w/ jmw 9 memorial arm, dynavector 20x cart and phonomena phono. Well less then 2500 and sounds super. Use all your extra $$$'s on lp's and a record cleaner (if you don't have one).
To my dear audigon buddy if you have a chance to listen
to the VPI classic with AIDA soundsmith on it you will love it.
I use to have a Scout and trade it for the Classic, my
only regret is why I din,t do it sooner.
I backup the suggestions for a PS Audio GCPH. I use one with a Clearaudio Emotion (old version, no CMB) and a Grado Sonata1 Reference. The combination is extremely enjoyable. You should probably consider what type of sound you like too before getting a cartridge, as the sound character varies greatly between brands/models. My Grado Sonata1 gives you a very lush, beautiful midrange, where tone and timbre are the top priorities.
I use a PS Audio GCPH and an Ortofon Black and both are stellar performers for the price you can buy them for. Pick up a used Sota Star or Sapphire or VPI HW19 mkIV with a Sumiko MMT arm or SME 309 and you will be in vinyl heaven.
The VPI classic is also a great performer, or even an Oracle Delphi, MKIII or newer.
I second the suggestion of Macdadtexas and do the Classic/Zephyr combo. you can get both used for ~$2500.
Wow a revival of a 2010 thread. At this point in time, I'd suggest a Well Tempered Simplex (or Amadeus if you can squeeze it). For phono stage look into a Jasmine. Cart? Well that will be too much dependent on user taste.
second recommendation for well tempered lab simplex. no need to spend extra for amadeus. super easy setup too. could have bought amadeus or gta and failed to justify additional cost. plus i prefer the appearance of simplex. super happy with simplex. i run dynavector xx2 and jeff rowland cadence phono stage - both a bit outside your price range and cost more than simplex. that's high compliment to the capability of the simplex. you gotta spend a several times more to beat well tempered lab turntables.
well, things have moved on since I asked the original question. In the end I ended up with a TT weights Gem, I added a Kuzma 4point tone arm and I'm using the everlasting denon 103r. Phono stage is a Mk1 Tube Herron stage. Its fantastic. Struggling with power and pre amps at the minute.