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I had the Marantz TT15S1 which is really a Clear Audio. I purchased it to see if I wanted to get back into vinyl after 15 years of not having a TT. I was surprised at how good it sounded and much preferred listening to it over CDs. It did end up costing me much more, since it made me want to upgrade everything once again.
The tables in this class are all pretty close and the Marantz will serve you well. It really comes down to where you want to put more emphasis up front - table/arm vs cart. mattmiller's recommendation of an RP3/DV 10X5 is a solid solution if you don't want to upgrade a lot in the future.
If you step up to the RP6 with Exact 2 cartridge (you should be able to find one in your budget) you get a quieter table, better tone arm and separate power supply. I have one in a second system and the cartridge is a nice combo with that table and easy to upgrade in the future.
i guess you have a problem with the looks of the Gem Dandy. As for staying in budget, however, the Absolute Sound reviewed it with a Shelter 201 cartridge. These retail in the US for $310, but can be had from Japan-based vendors on eBay for $167 (I have one). That pretty much puts the Dandy and a good cartridge in your budget range. There's also an advantage in cost of ownership: the 201 replacement stylus is a mere $100 where the Marantz/Clearaudio would be a $500-600 retip plus the several weeks without it while it's being done.
The Gem Dandy has a potential advantage, being made of exclusive polymers instead of available materials. Since the designer also invented these polymers, they are likely optimized for their roles in the turntable construction for vibration damping and control. Also, the available tonearms are by Jelco, which have fluid damping and removable headshells. The latter can be really handy if you want to quickly swap, say, mono and stereo cartridges or MM and MC.
Here's a review of the Marantz TT15S1. The thing is, the reviewer reviewed it without the platter mat in place and didn't realize how much it affected the sound until he was largely done with the review. Once he put the mat on and adjusted VTA, he should have reviewed it all over again, because--with what little ink he devoted to the setup with the mat--it may have fixed everything he previously criticized.
I have the Marantz and the VPI Traveler, and I much prefer the Traveler. There were a few issues with the Marantz that I didn't like. 1) Is it all acrylic and seemed to pick up a lot of static. 2) The tonearm cable is captive. I have had great success swapping out phono cables with the Traveler, and you can't do that with the Marantz. You are tied to the quality of their cable, and there's no easy way to burn it in. 3) The outboard motor seems to move around a lot and I had to constantly reposition it to make sure it wasn't touching the plinth.
And most importantly, I think the sonics of the Traveler are superior. More detail, open soundstage, deeper bass.
Just my 2 cents. YMMV.
New things to think about. My guy locally it seems there is always an issue with what you get from him plus he doesn't discount a penny and I would have to pay tax because it is local. Got a great deal on the Marantz if I decide on it. Is there a good Rega dealer, VPI dealer, Gem Dandy dealer (johnnyb53 made some great points about a turntable I know nothing about), ClearAudio dealer or good Sota dealer that will deal some on price. Recommendations on who to contact would be fantastic.