Lost sheep, Back to LP Turntable: buy guidance

I had an oppourtunity to aquire an old unused LP collection recently and decided to jump on it. They look like they sat unused and uncovered, for at least 30+ years. A bit smelly, and moldy jackets hiding pristine LPs. I bought them, even though I had no ability to play them.
So far I have aquired a wonderful Audio Research PH1 phono, and am using a borrowed Dual 502. I am transfixed and my enjoyment of the music on these LPs is more than I had hoped for.
I am currently using a pair of Maggie MG-IIB and a Forte 4a amp, Kimber silver interconnects, an Adcom 7?? pre and the Audio Research PH1... (until I can retip my AQ midnight speaker cables, I am using ten guage twisted pair automotive wire and super cheap bananas EEEK!)
What TT??
I am leaning to a used Rega Planar 3 with the 300 series tonearm. The newer Music Hall MMF-5 and 7 also look appealing. (however I am a big believer in using stuff where the manufacturer has been around, and will be around) So I wonder if the Music Hall is an overnight balloon?? or not?
With my system, should I wait and go better? Like a VPI Aries Scout?
(I don't need cable advice, I got cables down)
And don't even start in on cartridges! But I would have a preference for a (slight) lower midrange, upper bass bloom in a cartridge, I mean just a tiny hint vs a lean sounding cartridge. And a clear top end, with no exaggeration, all for $200 to $300 (cartridge, new or used) Cartridges are a giant vacuum in my Audiophillia type knowledge...
You suggestions, praise (for coming in out from the 'dark side' ...from ugh, CDs... ),comments, warnings, dark forbodings, appreciated.
Congratulations Elizabeth. Glad to see that you are enjoying your new found "bundles of joy" : )

As a basic suggestion, i would look for a phono system that uses a medium mass arm. This allows you the widest range of cartridges to choose from. As to specific arms, i would look for an arm that allows easy VTA adjustments. Having to "shim" a cartridge is a real "P.I.T.A.", even if you only have to do it once in a great while. Some arms do not have VTA but can have this feature added by purchasing aftermarket parts / services. Personally, i would buy one that was designed "right" from the factory rather than pay for a flawed item and then have to pay again to correct such an oversight later on.

I'll pass on suggesting a new table as i'm not real familiar with a lot of the newer tables in the Rega / Music Hall category. If looking for a used model that is quite affordable, you might consider an AR "The Turntable", ES-1, EB-101 or ETL-1. These are all basically the same table with slight production variations. Once again though, they all had low mass arms on them, so you would have to pay attention to what cartridge you mated with them or change the arm to something a little more versatile ( medium mass ).

Other than that, i would HIGHLY suggest looking into a Denon 103 phono cartridge. It offers phenomenal bang for the buck. Only problem is that it is a low output MC, but your ARC phono pre should handle that no problem. As far as loading goes on this cartridge, you should try to get the resistance down to about 15 - 30 ohms ( no higher than 100 ohms at most ) and experiment with about 300 - 1500 pF's of total capacitance.

When loading in this manner, the cartridge has a slightly "warm" quality. If using a more conventional loading ( higher resistance and lower capacitance ), the cartridge will provide a rising response on the top that would be just the opposite of what you are looking for. Obviously, one can somewhat tailor the sound of such a cartridge to their system or personal liking by fiddling with the loading that the cartridge sees. Bare in mind that this cartridge will NOT work well in a low mass arm such as the Dual that you are using or the AR mentioned above.

If you want a cartridge that will work in just about any arm that you mount it in, there's the old reliable Shure V15 series. While i don't think that it is outstanding in any given category, it "works" with just about anything that you throw at it and does so reliably. I can think of quite a few cartridges that i would rather own, but none that are nearly as versatile or easy to work with. As such, it has remained a reviewers favorite even though it is not a top performer. Personally, i think that the Stanton 881 is a FAR superior high output cartridge in every aspect, but it really only works well in a very low mass arm. Unlike the Denon mentioned above, it would be a great match with something like the Dual or AR arm.

Drop me an email if you like and i'll see what i can do about forwarding some good yet easy to understand info on TT set-up. Good luck and keep us posted : ) Sean
Hi Elizabeth. My first recommendation is to consider all the items in an analog rig as a system that will work together to play music. It is an all-too-often-made mistake that people just buy some TT, some other arm, and some cartridge, and expect it all to perform at optimum. This does require some experience, and unfortunately your experience level is just starting. What I would recommend is to determine approximately what budget you want to work with, and allow about 20% more than that as "stretch room" in case there may be some really good deal you could get unexpectedly. Then ask for recommendations in that budget area. If you would like my personal opinions, you could email me with the approximate budget in mind and I will send you some options and my reasons for those selections. I do this quite regularly for other members who email me, and I would be quite happy to help you also.
Nice find in the record collection.First if I were you I would not fool around with a used table,you don't no what your getting.You mentioned the Music hall 5 it's a great start comes with eveything and Roy Hall is and has been around forever.The seven is also a real nice bargin all set up and ready to go.I am a big fan of these products as are so many others. Read Mark Fremer Stereophiles recommended components and he raves about these tables.Well good luck in what ever direction you decide but for the money you can't beat this product.
Welcome to vinyl...you'll never look back.

You can't go wrong with either tables. I personally like the Rega P3/RB300, especially for newbies like myself. Very easy to setup and sounds great.

As far as cartridges go, I'm sure there'll be many recs. I like the Rega Exact.
Nice rig. I would say that A VPI Junior with Rega RB-300 arm will cost much less new than the Scout, at $1000.00, a bit more than the Rega though. Used, they sell for around $650.00 to $750.00. The table can be upgraded into a VPI HW-19 MK 4 in little bites, as funds allow, and TWL can sell you a cool enhancement for the arm. The VPI is really a kit that easily allows you to change out the bearing, platter and suspension along with the plinth. To add to the mix though I would also suggest that you look at the Technics SL-1200 direct drive. It offers a very different set of virtues than any of the other mentioned tables. The sound and build qualities are beyond reproach. It only lacks that bit of audiophile cachet.
Marty and Tom have made some good recommendations. I would first suggest talking to Tom privately. He is one of the most knowledgable AudiogoNers I have encountered.
After that, you might consider looking into a used Sota TT. If you can find a Sapphire in your price range, that would be a good table for you. If you can find a Star Sapphire, that would be amazing! Rega arms can be had fairly inexpensively. Get the best cartridge you can afford though. Your arm and TT will never improve on the signal taken off the LP. Priority should run in that order.
Have fun!!!
The creature on steroids should be in your short list. If you look objectively at what it offers, you'll see it is really hard to beat for the money. It is by far superior to the glass and particle board TTs and with the tonearm fluid damper its performance is stunning. You can go and read Zaikesman's review in the accessories section. The setup is pretty much plug and play. Like Viridian says, the kids should get out of the room!

KAB is coming this month with an outboard power supply for it--the working prototype has been tested and should be something really wonderful.

Jokes aside, once one listen to a TT with proper speed and rotational stability it's impossible to go back to a flimsy belt!
Psychicanimal: What does one do about the motor vibrations that are directly transmitted to the platter, record, stylus, tonearm and signal with a direct drive unit ? You better have one helluva accurate speed control system that doesn't require ANY correction or the "cogging" of the motor will surely contribute to a higher noise floor with lower resolution. After all, the stylus picks up the vibrations from the grooves while the grooves rest on the platter that is directly connected to the motor. It's not hard to see how isolating the motor from the platter via a "flimsy" belt ( or even string, which reduces the coupling even further ) could be beneficial. It's also not hard to see how mounting the platter and arm on a separate plane or sub-chassis from the motor might be beneficial. As such, making a "good" direct drive is a LOT harder than making a "good" belt drive. It is also more costly since it requires greater design and production effort.

As far as the accuracy of speed goes, do you think that any manufacturer(s) has a strong-hold on motor design or speed controls ? It does not take a rocket scientist to build something like this nowadays. It takes a lot more skill to isolate the platter / tonearm / cartridge from outside influence without creating a completely different set of problems doing so.

I'm NOT knocking the 1200 or other similar tables. I do agree that a lot of the "cheaper" new tables that are raved about are under-designed "hype" and the 1200 "might" actually be a better buy. In terms of isolation, the 1200 is probably better than the "coveted" Linn LP-12.

Having said that, either of the types of tables being discussed are a compromise due to being built to a price point and should be considered as such. No matter what you do though, you can't compare a Chevy to a Porsche / Ferrari. This is true no matter how hard you try to turn that Chevy into a Porsche / Ferrari. Then again, the Chevy is WAY better than the Yugo, which doesn't even deserve comparison to the Chevy to begin with. Sean
Sean makes some great points. An off the shelf motor is much less expensive to design than a properly designed direct drive mechanism. That's one of the reasons that DD has such a bad reputation, the cheap ones really suck. In a belt drive system, if the belt is absorbing motor vibrations it is constantly moving in relation to the platter/bearing in response to those vibrations. This can't be any good. As most DDs have the magnets attached to the platter and the coils attached to the plinth both halves of the motor assembly are mounted to areas with decent mass which, if the bearing is properly designed, should not move in relation to one another except in the intended rotational manner. This hard mounting certainly sinks some of the vibration of the motor assembly. No doubt some will also reach the spindle and platter. Contrast that with the Linn, for instance, where the platter actually is designed to move in relation to the motor. That means that the path of the belt is constantly being disturbed by that relative motion. Additionally, drag from the stylus can slow the platter momentarily, the belt being compliant it does not force the platter to continue true rotation. This will result in momentary changes in pitch and timing. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease and neither design does much to address bearing noise. My only point is that, in spite of what most audiophiles think, it is far from a slam dunk. If you have never heard a really high end direct drive, such as the top of the line Technics, Denon, Micro Seiki or Yamaha you will be in for a grand surprise. The strengths and weaknesses of DD tables are quite different than in belt driven tables and while you may, or may not, prefer the DD sound you will find it fully competive in how it honors the delicate fabric of the music.
Sean, when I have my audio room setup and my 1200 fully modded I will invite ewe to come listen to the creature. Robert of Ridge Street Audio will do the rewiring and the interconnect replacement. Too bad ewe don't like fish--there's plenty of fresh walleye and perch where I live now!

In the meantime, give Kevin Barrett a call http://www.kabusa.com and he'll explain you why the 1200 does not cog. He'll also explain (technically) why he believes the 1200 to be the best deck out there, dollar for dollar and why he's worked on designing the fluid damper, the power supply and the modded Groovemaster II.

The 1200 is extremely resistant to vertical vibrations, but not to lateral. I have a plan of attack for that. I will make a frame made of Moca wood to act as a barrier.

I know--I wish the SP10 was still made...
I think the 1200 is a decent sounding DD deck. However, I don't agree that it is better than a decent belt drive. Yes, I am fully aware of the inherent problems in both systems. I have done comparisons, and I always liked the decent belt drive better, although I admit, that it may have something to do with my personal preferences in sound.

Heavy platters would be a good benefit to either of these systems, because of some deficiencies in both drive designs. Most good belt drive tables go to this in order to smooth out the rotational stability. The inertia of the platter does help in this regard - greatly. Unfortunately, most DD tables resort to quartz-locked speed controls and light platters which "hunt" constantly, and create more flutter which is more easily discerned by the ear. The problems in the belt drive tables result in a much lower frequency "wow" which is less discernable and therefore less objectionable to the listener. Yes, I have read the IAR article which devotes about 5 pages to the ills of various belt drive systems. The specs listed for turntables always combine "wow and flutter" together and show some percentage of them combined, such as W&F- 0.8%. However if the flutter component is 0.7% and wow only 0.1%, that table will have more audible performance objections than a table whose main component is low frequency wow, and only 0.1% flutter. So there is more here than meets the eye on a spec sheet. It is not so much that one is more accurate than the other, but in which ways it is inaccurate. The inaccuracies that are less discernable to the ear, will provide better sounding listening because the ear is not noticing them as much as the other type of inaccuracies.

I'm sure that Kevin is very knowledgable, but all AC motors cog, and all quartz locked speed controls hunt, and light platters make it worse. Motor vibrations in DD systems do enter the platter because the platter is part of the motor.

Belt drives have "wind-up and release" with rubber belts. They have issues with interaction of the suspension with the drive system. If they use AC motors, then they also cog. If they have automatic speed controls, then they also hunt. What I have selected is a heavy platter to keep the rotational inertia as stable as possible. I have selected a DC motor with no cogging. I use a belt made from Spectra, which has absolutely no stretch, and is a pain to keep tensioned. My motor speed control is microprocessor controlled, to make speed corrections over several revolutions of the platter, so as not to be as audible as other types(no fast hunting). It is optically coupled with a strobe pattern on the platter so that drift is immediately recognized(<0.1%) and correction applied slowly and gently, at the minimum amounts possible. I have no suspension to interact with the drive system. I place the motor "kitty corner" to the arm pivot to make all motor vibrations that may reach the platter, are in the plane of motion that the cartridge does not sense. In short, I recognize the possible problems and choose systems that deal with those in an effective way.

In the end, it is up to the listener to decide which he likes the best. If that is the criteria, then the listener has made up his mind for his own use, and that is the important thing. I like belt drives. Francisco likes direct drives. Fine. As long as we are both happy with our sound, then it really doesn't matter which type we use. I found long ago that nothing is perfect. Not speakers, not amps, and not turntables. Our choices are largely based upon what problems we can more easily accept in our listening tastes. Different products have different weaknesses. Assembling a system that has fewer of the problems that you, as a listener, are sensitive to, will yield a better sounding system - to you. I think that this is what it really comes down to.

That being said, I think it is great that users can promote their various likes and dislikes about the equipment designs. It is helpful to others who are trying to make buying decisions to hear various points of view. I am probably one of the most vocal and opinionated people on this forum. I certainly think that it is good that we can express our views on these subjects.

I still think belt drives are better. :^) LOL!
Elizabeth, this is how I look at things: I believe audio has "quantum leaps". One might have a component that is better than another, but how much better? For example, our beloved Forté 4. There are certainly better amps, but how much would we have to spend in order to get something *significantly* better? That's my point.

Regarding TTs, I believe it's the 1200 and then the Teres. I would not consider anything else in between. Now I saw this beast in eBay last night:


This is a rim drive! Bill Parish of GTT Audio does not sell TTs but uses one EMT and a Micro Seiki in his audio salon. You can see the pictures of the EMT used in the Strereophile show. He must have reasons not to use belt drives...

Tom, once someone gets used to proper speed and rotational stability it's easy to pick up the difference. If you had a cheaper belt drive in your rig next to your Teres you'd immediately notice the loss in PRAT. VPI gives us a great example, as their top TT uses a massive stainless steel flywheel in order to keep proper speed and rotational stability. I wouldn't mind to have that beast--not at all. Just remember your cherished vinyl recordings were cut with a DD TT.

In my case, I was accustomed to listen to the big DDs since I started in 1977: Technics SP10, Micro Seiki, the big Yamaha's. In spite of the inherent disadvantages, the DDs had that authority of musical presentation. Now that I'm older and wiser I see that sound is closer to the positive attributes of CDs and makes my system sound more uniform. I simply like it...
Tom, I forgot to add this: the 1200's motor is DC. Kevin has developed an outboard power supply in order to further improve the speed and rotational stability and to eliminate the vibrations caused by the internal transformer, which get worse as it ages. I think it's going to sell for less than $200, so when you add up, you're getting the new TT, tonearm fluid damper and power supply for less than $900. Nice--real nice.

You should get a few 1970's salsa records and check out what a real audio obstacle course sounds like. Salsa is extremely demanding on any audio system. Lak has a reality check anytime I play my music in his 5W system!!!

Sean: the 1200's platter is very heavily damped on the underside and has a very thick rubber mat. In my case, I have found that placing a Bob Regal foot next to the tonearm gimbal helps with vibration and improving clarity. I also have an old Canadian made Music Mat, which is really good, too!
Francisco, c'mon. Are you really trying to say that there is nothing worth considering between a 1200 and a Teres?
Elizabeth, now you know why I recommended both a DD and a belt drive turntable.
Well, Francisco, I guess I learn something every day. It does have a DC motor. I'd say that is in its favor for sure.
Thanks for the "heads-up" on that.
"Regarding TTs, I believe it's the 1200 and then the Teres. I would not consider anything else in between."

That's what I wrote.

Now the Teres doesn't play 45's, that's a limitation.

The modded 1200 sounds extremely good. The tonearm lacks some control and the fluid damper delivers it. Bearing friction specs are really low--I don't know of other tonearms that actually publish them. Once I get the power supply, the tonearm rewired w/ Cardas and the ICs w/ Ridge Street cables it's going to be really hard to beat for the money. The integrated headshell modded Groovemaster is a really good performer. I have had no need to switch back to my Ortofon X5 MC. The only thing I miss is the upper treble response, but the modded Groovemaster has a midrange to die for--like a very expensive MC...

Tom, I'm going to coax Lak into buying a Teres, with some help from you! Then I can take the creature to his place...
""Regarding TTs, I believe it's the 1200 and then the Teres. I would not consider anything else in between."

That's what I wrote."

Then we shall agree to disagree, and excuse me for assuming what "you wrote" was anything expect chiseled on tablets....

Now if what you are saying is that you, personally, would not spend more than the $900 or so that you've said you have invested in your 1200 (which I think IS a decent table) unless you were going to spend the approx. $4500 retail for a rig like Twl has, no problem. But if you're saying that there is no BETTER table out there between the two, that's where we'd differ! Cheers!
Elizabeth- Given your system, I'd recommend shooting at least one full step higher than the P3, Junior, MMF, et al and maybe go with something like the Scout. For a very good cartridge that won't break the bank, Tom (TWL) regularily recommends the Denon 103 cartridge (around $300) and it might work with the Scout and the PH-1, but check with Tom on that.

The Teres plays 33 and 45 rpm records. Press the button twice for 45 rpm. I think Lak would love a Teres. I love mine. It may not be the pinnacle, but it does real well. Price is very reasonable for the performance level.

The DL103 is too stiff for a VPI arm, IMO.
Well, Viridian is back from space travel! Yes, there are Vulcans, Klingons and Viridians...

Anyway, any comments on that EMT rim drive? Bill P. told me is so strong it can be rigged with a cutterhead!

Tom, I will work on Lak--otherwise he'll go for a 1200!

Truth is the lesser belt drives don't have the beef to adequately spin records or handle vibrations. The 1200 can be modded because it starts with an excellent base product: the turn-table. I just hooked mine in my temporary setup. Its resting on an IKEA Lack table on my springy wooden floor. I can walk around and it's immune to vibration. What's killing the sound are the Phoenix Gold IC's it has. The creature will travel to Indiana for modding very soon. Got to get some Midnight Silver Edition IC's...

The sound is clear and detailed, with a very deep bass (using a modded DJ cartridge does help in this regard!).

Oh, I have some good news: yesterday I finally conquered noise in my system--after more than two years of hard work. It's been quite a journey!
Francisco, is your Creature the most modded and advanced of its type, or has anyone else you know gone to a further extent with the 1200? Just how far can you go with the Creature? And is there a "diminishing returns" point that you have experienced? What are the most effective things to do to it, in your opinion?
There is someone here who's an EE and into modding everything he gets a hold of: Nightdoggy. He told me that he's upgraded his 1200's quartz lock circuit board. He says that drift and instability have been reduced to negligible levels...

Tom, I think that's it as far as mods go. Bill Parish told me to replace the stock tonearm for an SME III but I think that's going overboard. Last night I was playing my reference recording with the modded Groovemaster II: The Barbara Streitsand Album. I can play the innermost grooves with no breakup nor mistracking whatsoever--no small feat when Barabra's voice goes so high pitched, loud and sustained.

The modded Groovemaster II has the midrange of a very expensive MC: coherent throughout the entire range, articulate and musically involving. Using an integrated headshell DJ cartidge and surgically replacing the stock stylus for a Stereohedron line contact was a really good move. Kevin Barrett's a brilliant guy--that's for sure...
Salsa and Streisand, it's great to read about someone who listens to real music not the audiophile crap that gets played so much. Please, no more Jazz at the Pawnshop. Way to go P/A. Oh, and it's cold in space, Major Tom told me.