Rega P5 or Music Hall MM7 (comes with cartridge).
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If you purchase used, make sure you know the questions to ask the seller to try to decipher if the unit was operated properly. As a possible "newbie" owner (and we have all been there at one time or another), the table might have experienced more abuse/misuse than a new one. Personally, if it were me and I was starting at entry level ($1000 new range), I would NEVER purchase used. YMMV.
My precious dad was a German POW in WWII, liberated by General Patton at Stalag Luft III or VIIa (can't remember off the top of my head) on April 29, 1945. I love music from that era. If any song quiets me from that era it is "Sentimental Journey" by The Les Brown Orchestra with Doris Day. My Dad tells about being a newly liberated American, having his 21st birthday as he traveled home from Europe on a troop ship called "The Round Robin" by sea, and hearing that song for the first time. Every time I hear it I am reduced to tears. To see that blonde haired, blue eyed wonderful man go through that in my mind is almost too much for this daughter to handle.
God Bless Our Greatest Generation, All Those Who Currently Serve (The New Greatest Generation), and most of all, Those Who Have Paid the Ultimate Sacrifice (and their families) --
Proud Marine Mom of Corporal Ryan
USMC Veteran of Two Tours to Iraq/The Middle East
(Just rejoined for 4 more years on 10/02/06)
A Hero In My Eyes
I don't agree with your limitation to buy new. At $<$1000.00 new I think Rega is your best choice. For the same money, I would look at a used Linn, a better used Rega, or if you can find a used VPI Scout. Also, a Sota would be a good choice.
The Music Hall is nice, but there is a substantial difference when you move to the Rega or better turntable.
Also, I would suggest that you reserve $400-$800 for a good cartridge (i.e. Sumiko Blackbird, Shelter 501, etc.) The right used table may include this.
Good luck with your choices!
The music you refer to is wonderful music but you must think about the software question as well as the hardware. If you are interested in this music on vinyl because you want original issue type sound, we are talking late 1940's and there were of course no 12 inch vinyl LP's so you must be prepared to deal with laquer 78's. In the early 50's music moved to vinyl so you can find reissues of the mid - late 40's stuff. If you are OK with reissues, I would suggest you also look at audiophile CD reissues which, if well done can be very satisfying for someone more interested in the music than nuances of sound. I would suggest there is not a huge inventory of mint recordings of music from 60 years ago awaiting you out there. That being said, there is good stuff you can find if you are willing to put in the time to search (and ALOT of time into cleaning issues). Good luck!