Moving from CD to analog


Hello

I have always used CD as my front end and I am now looking to change to an analog front end. My system is a Gryphon Mirage preamp, Gryphon Colosseum power amp and Rockport Ankka speakers. My budget is 16K and would welcome any advise on TT, tone arms, phono stages and cartridges. I have no experience in this field so any help would be very much welcomed.
Kind Regards
Matt Hoult.
matthewhoult
Given the fact that you have no experience with vinyl, I think you're making a big mistake. The sound between analog components can vary greatly. Before you spend that kind of money, you need to really know what you're doing. I would recommend getting some equipment that is not so expensive first. Listen to that for a while so you can figure out what you like and don't like. Once you gain some experience, then upgrade to more expensive equipment if you feel the need.
Absolutely agree. Audition as many systems as you can find. Then buy a table that would be upgradeable so that later you can add a better phonostage, and upgrade the tonearm and cart.
The guys with $16K systems have been listening to vinyl for years and have worked their way up to a dream system.
Why "change"? Just add a decent analog rig. These things are not mutually exclusive.
Generally, I would agree not to get started but with your budget and the quality of the system you already have I'd suggest two things.

Get ride of the CD player, rip your CDs and go computer based. You don't have to spend a great deal to get much better digital performance these days.

On the analog side a Clearaudio Performance turntable and a Benz Micro Ruby Z into an appropriate phono preamp.
You obviously agree with Rockport's take on sound. Why not ask him? He's been in high end a long time, he built turntables, and he certainly would want you to get the best sound possible from his speakers.
Get a Basis 2200 signature with a Basis Vector arm, Shelter cartridge. The Basis line is upgradable and their midrange table/arm combination is great. Select a phono preamp, get a record cleaner, buy some records and you are good to go.
If possible, find a good dealer who sells several brands and have him set the table up in your home for you, together with a matching cartridge and phono pre-amp. IMO, you will save a lot of grief and you will have a resource to go back to for questions. A well-designed table, properly set up, should not require any maintenance for a couple of years. If you have absolutely no local dealer, I would purchase one of the better plug and play units from Music Hall or Rega. These are relatively easy to set up and will do a good job until you get more at ease with the process. If you buy from an online dealer like Music Direct, they can deliver the table all set up and walk you through any difficulties. I would still opt for the local dealer, but that's up to you. There are a lot of good tables out there and I would prefer one that is delivered and set up by an expert over another brand that I might like a little better for some reasons, but having to go it on my own.
A couple of ways you can do this. Buy a lesser, but upgradeable table or buy a great table to start with. For the first option, you could go with a Sota Star, which is built in America and can be upgraded or traded in to a Cosmos IV, a great table. Same can be said for a VPI Classic to Classic 3 or Basis 2001 to 2500. For an arm, I would get the best I could afford, amongst SME 5, Triplanar, Graham Phantom or Basis Vector 4. There are plenty of great cartridges in the $2000 range, Dynavector, Lyra, Ortofon. Read a few reviews to see what meets your preferences.
As for a phono preamp, you will need to decide between tube or SS. The Manley Steelhead is well known, is excellent, tubed, and is very versatile, having remote control, 3 phono and one line input, variable output and many loading and gain options. It would be suitable with whatever table you end up with and can be used as a stand alone analog system without separate preamp.

If you decide to go with a top table to start with, the recommendations above will work, along with numerous others in the under $10K range. After that level, I think the differences are just that, not necessarily better, but different, and more to your preference than any real improvement.
It's nice to be able to put that kind of investment into an analog system
Personally I would not be too hasty getting rid of the CD setup. I recently added a TT and it is fun but also quite a bit of work. Putting aside the whole nontrivial issue of getting things dialed in, you have to jump up every 20 minutes to flip/change the record, which entails cleaning record and stylus, putting the old back in jacket, pulling the new one out, etc...in other words it is quite labor intensive for long listening sessions. Many people do not mind this (I don't either usually) but I have found that I enjoy both depending on the mood and have been listening almost exclusively to CDs lately. I also listen to internet radio, FM, and digital downloads, to me all formats have their virtues.
Been into analog since that was all we had. Do yourself a favor. If you really want to come to this dark side, don't waste your time on any of those entry level tables unless you buy used. Don't waste your money on any of those stratospherically priced things either. That time may come after you find yourself truly dedicated to getting the most possible from Analog. Look at the overachievers in the mid priced arena. I would be looking at Well Tempered, Nottingham, Merrill Replica, Kuzma, Wilson Benesche, Acoustic Signature, etc. Everyone else here would add VPI to that list, but I have no experience with them.
Getting rid of your CDs seems silly unless you're really "storage space challenged." Ever have a computer crash? Do you absolutely trust a NAS device? My NAS developed issues, I still have my CDs. Your CDs are their own best backup. also, I bought a lightly used Linn/Akito rig for peanuts, upgraded the cable, got a well regarded but inexpensive phono pre...and it sounds truly GREAT. 16K allows hundreds of options though, and you could wind up with your last rig.
Zd542
Thank you for your reply. I have taken your advise and borrowed a Rega Planner turntable with original arm and a Ortofon cartridge I will give this some listening and see how I get on.
Here's a shot from the hip: Buy the very best turntable that leaves room in your budget for the other things you will need (tonearm and cartridge, I guess). This means you can spend around $8000 on a turntable. If you are willing to buy a used turntable, you have a huge choice of great turntables within that price limit. Consider Verdier, Basis, Galibier, hi-end Nottingham, Kuzma Reference, Merrill, AMG, DPS. They are all excellent belt drive turntables that will need some sort of isolation, but you can't go wrong with any. (I personally would not choose Well Tempered or SOTA at this high-ish price point, but that's just me.) You could also consider a highly tweaked idler-drive turntable, such as a Lenco or Garrard 301/401, where the hard work of re-plinthing has been done for you. My "pet" choice would be a vintage Japanese direct-drive that has been serviced, including a Kenwood L07D (very hard to find but a steal at current price of about $3500 with tonearm), Pioneer Exclusive P3 (if you can find one). I think those two transcend the Technics SP10 Mk2, but that is another candidate. Another that does compete with anything is the SP10 Mk3, but you won't find one for under $8K. For tonearms, you could then pick up a used Reed, Triplanar, Dynavector, Schroeder, Basis, and many other fine ones, to go with the turntable of your choice. Then you'd still have thousands left over for a wide choice of fine cartridges.

Philosophically, I kind of disagree with some who recommended a mid- or lower end starter turntable, because of the high quality of the rest of your system. You would just be wasting time and probably wasting money, if you were to lose on eventual re-sale.
Lowrider57
A table that is upgradable is good advise and makes good sense. Some TT have the ability to mount different arms and also multiple arms on the same TT I will consider these, thank you.
Vicdamone

I have just completed the ripping process of all my CD's this was a massive task but one I am now happy with, I am still trying to find a user friendly good sounding music player this was one of the reasons I wanted to try vinyl as I was fed up of chasing the numbers (44.1, 88.2, etc).
I will view the Clearaudio products when I visit the Munich high end show on May, thanks.
Kiddman

Good advise! I will contact Andy Payor and ask for his guidance.
Chayro
A good dealer sounds like sound advise but most of them only want to sell you what they want to sell you? I will try a new dealer and see how I get on. I have borrowed a Rega Planner and will listen to this to try and get a better understanding of the medium.
Dear Matthewholt; How many LPs do you own? which is your digital front end? why do you want " looking to change to an analog front end "? is there a problem with the digital alternative. What you dislike it? which your music preferences?

Thank's.

Regards and enjoy the music,
R.
Matthewhoult...
"Zd542
Thank you for your reply. I have taken your advise and borrowed a Rega Planner turntable with original arm and a Ortofon cartridge I will give this some listening and see how I get on."

That's a very wise decision to take it slow. Here's a thought nobody has mentioned; with your size budget, if you spend $5 to $10K on hardware, think of all the vinyl you'll be able to buy with the remaining funds.
I'm glad you found my post helpful. When I just read through it again, it sounded a little negative. Didn't mean for it to come out that way. Just to clarify a bit, compare your situation to someone who says they want to get into high end audio and they have 50k to spend. You can send them out and get them something like a Krell/Wilson combo that is popular among audiophiles. It may turn out that they end up not liking that setup and would much prefer SE triodes and super efficient speakers.

That's the point I was trying to make. You could spend a lot of money and just get the wrong equipment for your taste. I wouldn't worry too much about it, though. There's an old saying: Its pretty hard to screw up vinyl.
If you could not deal with the frustrations of a music server, then you should seriously reconsider whether you want to go vinyl. It is not very user friendly and requires a great deal of attention to optimize.
Matthew - a BMW dealer wants to sell you a BMW, a Rolex dealer wants to sell you a Rolex. That doesn't mean they're not good products. You can go it on your own if you like, but a dealer can make it easier. Your choice. There are a lot of anti-dealer people here and maybe they had bad experiences. I've had them myself with some dealers, but I wouldn't apply that to everyone. If you post the area where you live, I'm sure people can turn you on to some reputable and knowledgeable people.
No matter with how much you may come to enjoy and love vinyl playback there is no reason to get rid of your CD's. I prefer vinyl and play vinyl over 80% of the time with tapes and CD's filing out the other 20%. I will keep my CD library and enjoy it for what it brings. Your set up should allow you to run a digital and analogue front end.

Have fun on your turntable and analogue gear journey.It generally is the most interesting and fun part of this hobby.
"If you could not deal with the frustrations of a music server, then you should seriously reconsider whether you want to go vinyl. It is not very user friendly and requires a great deal of attention to optimize."

Its a good point but I think there's more to it than just that. Even though there is a great deal of attention to optimize, the process you go through for each is very different. Also, just because there's some work involved, doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed. A lot of people like doing the extra work. Its really a personal decision.
With that budget and taking into account your experience with analog if it were me I'd put $8000 into an analog rig and $8000 into a computer-based source. Something like Well Tempered Amadeus, VPI, or Townshend Rock turntable on the analog side and a Mac Mini into something like a Bel Canto, Berkeley, or Empirical Audio DAC on the digital side would get you to near state-of-the-art sources in two different realms that can both be superior to a traditional CD player. Then you can go from there if you decide you even need or want to. I think pumping $16,000 into an analog front end would be jumping the gun a bit until you've had the opportunity to live with what really good examples of better analog and computer-based front ends have to offer. Either way, I'm envious of your situation and best of luck.
Dear bMatthew: My questions were to figure in better way what could help you.

R.
I have set up my first TT it is a Rega Planer 3 borrowed from my older brother, it has the original tone arm and a new Rega cartridge, the TT was fitted with a new drive belt and a new set of Phono leads the TT then was set up by Rega themselves. I have borrowed a Trichord Dino phono stage from my local dealer, this is feeding my Gryphon Mirage pre amp and this feeds my Gryphon Colloseum power amp and then to my speakers Rockport Ankaa. I have played my first vinyl record tonight it was Jennifer Warnes The Well limited edition by Analogue Productions on a 45 pressing.
It sounded wonderfull very open and very rich sounding probably a little too rich and heavy this maybe down to the tonearm and cartridge settings?
Hifiharv

Thank you for the advise this will be my plan to stay clear from the low end of the market as my electronics and speakers are very good but likewise stay away from those ridiculously priced turntables this would only be a waste of money as I am new to vinyl and my experience is zero.
I guess I will book an appointment with my dealer and see what he recommends although I am having great results from the Regalaner 3, thanks again.
04-15-13: Wolf_garcia

Thank you for your kind response.
I will of course plan to keep all my CD's I have collected so many over the years and they mean a great deal to me. I have made a digital copy and they are stored on a hard drive, a painful but necessary process and you are correct the physical media is the best back up. The Linn have a great name in the world of vinyl they have been producing turntables for a long time and are highly regarded.
04-15-13: Jperry
Thank you for your reply.
I have not heard of Basis turntables I will check the website out and read some reviews, thank you.
04-15-13: Jrb25
Hello and thank you for your comments.

This is something I have not considered until you mentioned it.
I do most of my listening at the end of the day mostly at night from about 9pm onwards and sometimes fall asleep listening to music via CD, this would be impossible using vinyl especially when listening to a 45RPM pressing with only 3 tracks a side.

I plan to keep my digital front end as well as creating an analogue system as you say all formats have their virtues. I guess the picking of the record removing it from the sleeve putting it on the turntable and flipping the record every 20 mins is the part of the enjoyment of using vinyl, after all you could always put a CD on when you just can't be bothered with the fuss?
04-15-13: Lewm
Thanks for your great response.
My budget of 16k must include a turntable, tonearm, cartridge and phono stage so although it seams allot of money to invest it does not go far in the world of high end audio components. I will search the used market as the new list prices are just way too high and audio equipment is always very well looked after, you can buy high quality used equipment for a fraction of the new list price.

I will consider the tables you have recommended and search the market accordingly, and you are right I will steer clear of the low-middle market as those company's may limit my current systems capabilities.

Thanks again for the advise.
It may be difficult today to find a dealership where you can demo and compare several turntables. There is only one guy that I know of in Cleveland. He has no storefront and works on an appointment only basis. As a vinyl novice, I might be inclined to get a good turntable, arm and matched cartridge combo, such as a Clearaudio Ovation or Performance, or a VPI Classic or Scout package. Hopefully you will be able to audition your tentative choices, but reviews are a good start. Regarding the above referenced tables, your choice would likely be determined more by the matching cartridge and arm, the latter being gimbal, magnetic or unipivot. In addition to great sound, compatibility and relative ease of setup and maintenance are potential hallmarks of these systems. It has been my experience that these manufacturers are quite helpful with information regarding their products. I wish you the best with your vinyl experience. GK
It may be difficult today to find a dealership where you can demo and compare several turntables. There is only one guy that I know of in Cleveland. He has no storefront and works on an appointment only basis. As a vinyl novice, I might be inclined to get a good turntable, arm and matched cartridge combo, such as a Clearaudio Ovation or Performance, or a VPI Classic or Scout package. You need to read the reviews to appreciate the quality of these turntables, and your choice would likely be determined more by the matching cartridge and arm, the latter being gimbal, magnetic or unipivot. In addition to great sound, compatibility and relative ease of setup and maintenance are potential hallmarks of these systems. It has been my experience that these manufacturers are quite helpful with information regarding their products. I wish you the best with your vinyl experience. GK
Dear matthewhoult: Even that you don't give me any answer I'm wondering why any one wants to start and put 16K on analog when the digital alternative is the one that puts us nearer to the recording nearer to a live event. IMHO makes not to much sense. Of course that the answer can be: just for curiosity but this could be the only answer that could make sense.

regards and enjoy the music,
R.
04-15-13: Lowrider57
The budget has got buy me a turn table, tonearm, cartridge, phono stage and cables it will soon be eaten up, I will try and buy from the used market except the cartridge this way I can access higher priced equipment for half the price.

What funds are left will indeed be spent on my favourite vinyl music.
04-15-13: Zd542
Yes I fully understand what you mean and don't worry I was not offended in any way it's great to get some honest opinions.

I'm currently listening to my brothers Rega Planar 3 and it sounds very nice so your theory is correct!
04-15-13: Onhwy61
Thank you for our kind reply.
I will eventually settle with some kind of music server as I have recently copied all my CD's to hard drive using the FLAC codec.

You are correct in that listening to vinyl requires much more messing about, I have been listening to a Rega Planar 3 during the past 2 nights and playing some 45's I have recently brought most of these only have 3 tracks on each side so you are constantly up and changing the record so I could understand how this will become tiring, but to compensate for all this up and down is the music does sound better than CD ;-)
04-15-13: Chayro
Thank you for our kind reply.
I live in the UK so it may be difficult for people on Audiogon to recommend a good dealer?

I fully understand what you are saying about dealers selling you what they have in their shop and that these products will usually be very good but I feel that the end users who listen to Hi-Fi equipment, the people on this very forum will hold a wealth of knowledge/information about a wide verity of components and this will be very useful information and can be shared free of charge with no pressure to buy the next new piece of equipment. Another issue I have about engaging with a dealer is you will eventually be expected to buy new products at list price and let's face it all high end audio equipment is over priced? It's very difficult to walk into a dealer and tell them I would like to listen to that new power amplifier then at the end of the listening session tell them sorry I don't want to buy it because its too expensive.
04-18-13: Gregkraus
Thank you for your kind reply.
I live in the UK and yes it is very difficult to walk into a dealer in the UK and listen to several turntables.
Matching a tonearm and cartridge is sound advise I will investigate this further, thank you.
The ease of set up and maintenance is also something I will be looking for I guess as time goes on and if my interest increases I can always upgrade to a set up that has the ability for endless settings and features?
Thank you.
04-15-13: Rauliruegas
Thank you for your reply.
I currently own a small collection of LP's these I have recently brought to experiment with vinyl.
My digital front end is currently a Gryphon Mikado Signature this is an excellent CD player which I am very satisfied with, I am curious about vinyl and would like to explore the medium in more detail.
I have recently copied all my music to a hard drive using the FLAC codec and I was looking for music server that sounded better than my CD this has driven me mad and I have given up and so would like to try vinyl.
My music preferences are female vocal, jazz and blues.
I have been a vinyl diehard for years. I keep a CD player in my system just for my visitors. CD and LP are two different formats and they sound different. Welcome to the vinyl club.

It is a good idea to start with entry-level vinyl gears. Like other hobbies, you would appreciate the improvements when you move up the chain. The so many different combos of turntable, arm, cartridges, and phonostages will definitely keep you busy. It will be a long journey to get to the high fidelity of analog. However, it will be a very rewarding experience.

Over the years, I tried many turntables. The one brand I like to stay with is Clearaudio. Most of their tables have good upgrade path and their sound quality meets my needs. But don't limit yourself. You should check out dealer's demo and friends' systems. Enjoy the journey.
I added analog to my system about 4 years ago and have never looked back. Music through vinyl was just so much more involving that CD, so much so that after about a year I sold my Meridian G08 CD player that I used in my dedicated room. As other have said good analog takes much more involvement and time but is well worth it. About a year ago I bought the Transfi Salvation TT and Terminator arm which was a revelation. If you are interested google transfi audio and check out the website.
If you want a baller table on a budget get a vpi hw 19 with a jpw arm or a scout or the new classic with a good but not ridicules priced cart and you will be more than happy. Have professionally set up though .
Actually on your budget the vpi classic 2 would just be killer and absolutely up to par with the rest of your system , check it out.
Also fwi I work at a dealer that Carries clear audio and not vpi I love the look of the new clear audio tables but the arm is a bitch to set up properly which has turned me off from these tables