My final table , hopefully !


Back in the 80's I was seduced to the digital side ! At first it was lovely . But then , I became hooked , it got cold and ugly .  After a lot of work and many years , I was able to get onto the recovery road to analogdom .

I returned with a MMF 5.1 turntable and stock cartridge . Oh that warm cozy feeling , I missed you so ! 

 But now , as luck would have it , I want MORE !  More dynamics , more detail , more extension , more rich tone and above all else more of that sensuous musicality . I've grown old , fat and out of shape since I quit tapping my toes , bobbing my head , playing air guitar & and dancing around the room ! I'm greedy and I want it all !

Unfortunately , my addictions have forced me to the land of the small budget . I need to stay in the 2K + 3K range . If I can trade in my MMF 5.1 table and cartridge , that would help .


I would like to spend a majority of my money on the table and arm . I need a faithful dog , a table that will stick with me through thick & thin and never leave my side . To grow older with me without the need for attention . I am a set it & forget it / plug n play kind of guy . I want to listen to music , not futz with stuff . I am not able to go out and hear a lot of stuff so my ideas come from the net ...and my help comes from you !

I have read that different manufacturers tables have different sound characteristics . How much of this can be attributed to the arm and cartridge used ? How much can it be altered ? I prefer classic rock , singers & songwriters , contemporary blues , Detroit soul and classical . Not much for Disco ,  Rap , Techno or Hip Hop .

While most tables have an upgrade path , I would like to refrain from taking it . Again the plug n play / set it & forget it attitude .


Here is what I have come up with , in no special order :

VPI Prime - the most expensive , comes with the 3D arm .

Well Tempered Amadeus MKII - comes with the golf ball arm .

Avid Diva II

Sota Saphire V - no real need for a suspension system as I am on a slab .

Sota Saphire III - refurbished , again no real need for the suspension system . 

Origin Live Calypso MkIII

Looking at the Jelco 750D arm for some of these tables .


Thank You .

Saki70


saki70
If you've quit... as you say, "tapping you toes, bobbing your head"... this is a serious problem that requires more instructive opinions as to why this has come about?
You need to evaluate your own issues, then come back after a serious local dealership trip and back & forth.

If I were to put my "hopes and dreams" for a major audio purchase in the hands of people I do not know, I think, no, I hope I would re-evalute my reason for thinking about this issue!? Seriously!!!

I'm sorry , I guess that I was not quite clear .

What I meant was that I had stopped doing all that of while lost in the digital world ! Now that I have found my way back , I've had a taste and I want More ! 

At this point in my discussion  , I am seeking information concerning stability in a table that will go the distance without futzing .

 Another one of my questions was if I would be able to alter the tables' characteristic sound via arms and cartridges if need be . I was hoping that these parameters could be addressed without regard to ones ear .

Can anyone else offer an opinion ? 

You can get a Prime close to 3K and you really won't do much better......A dark horse in that range, actually well under it would be the brand new Oracle Origine, which comes with arm and cartridge under 2K......

Although I currently use a TW Acustic Table with Phantom MkII arm I can’t blame anyone for looking at the Prime. It’s a real VFM table that would justify a price tag twice that of what is charged. (Based on personal demos).

The others, such as the SOTA, already have an enviable reputation in the marketplace.

BTW, the Jelco 750 is a very good starter arm but it is very much that - a basic arm. The 3D will undoubtedly be a step up from this but be careful with the room temperature! ;^)

Hope this helps.

I have an Amadeus GTA mk 1, with the full golf ball. It’s a keeper. I am also looking for an additional turntable, but not to replace the WTL. The table I’m considering may be slightly above your price range, but certainly would be close if you got a good discount, or bought used. That’s the Kuzma Stabi, also known as The Pipe Bomb. Best of luck with your search.

I like Sota a lot; the only one I've had experience with is the Saphire. I noticed all the high end salons, when there were such places, had Sota Saphires on display, ready for evaluation. Of course they sold other brands as well.

I just checked that refurbished Sota for 2k; that's a lot of TT for that price, and it's pretty too. I recently spent almost 2K upgrading another table that's in the same league. That price is certainly right.

Of course you would not get entry level cartridge or tone arm with that table.

Good luck with your decision.



I just looked at your choices of music, and Sota is kind of mellow in my opinion; a Rega might be better for Rock, and be very selective about cartridges because the type of music you like makes all the difference in the world.

Since there are few high end salons, you have to rely on reviews; they are reliable if you know how to read them, and that's very important in analog. Focus on the music the reviewer is using, when he is using the same music you like, that means you got a winner, because the reason he likes that particular cartridge TT, or tone arm, is because it's emphasizing his favorite music.
Hello Saki70,
I'm very familiar with the Well Tempered (owned one for about 12 years) and the SOTA turntables (in the systems of two friends). I believe that you can not go wrong with either,  both have stood the test of time admirably. The cartridges chosen do matter as Orpheus 10 pointed out. If nitpicking I'd say that the Well Tempered is a bit more dynamic and vibrant in its presentation. Again both are superb choices in my experience. I preferred either to my former LINN LP 12. Unlike  your digital experience I've found genuine musical bliss with my digital source. 
Good luck, 
Charles, 
Hi fjn04,
Very nice system! WTT,Shindo and Devore Orangutan O/96. I'm certain that you are enjoying musical bliss 😊. 
Charles, 

Ok , now we're cookin' ! Very good responses !

I have 2 votes for the Prime .

Moonglum ;

Yes the 750D would be a starter arm . I want to be sure that my next table would not be embarrassed by upgraded arms as well as cartridges . If you have a suggestion that would better it within that same price range , I would love to hear (lol) it .

 2 for Sota .

Orpheus ;

I too thought that the refurbished Sota looked like a sweet deal . The mellowness that you speak of was the reason I queried about the ability to change this characteristic with arms and cartridges .

I looked at the Rega's but was put off by all the talk of needing to upgrade the platter , sub-platter and counter weight to bring it up to its piers . I would rather start out with a solid unit that can stand on its own out-of-the-box .

Insightful take on the reviews by the way !

And 2 for WT .

Charles1dad ;

I was thinking that the WT would make a nice all -a- rounder . My only caveat was about upgrading the arm . Is it even possible ?


Have I failed to recognize any manufacturers ?

Please keep'em comin' people .

And a hardy Thank You One & All !

Love WTA II  w EMT TSD-15. 
Saki70,
This is just my opinion but the WTT arm is so intricate to the overall design that changing the arm may be counter productive. Only an educated hunch and nothing more.
Charles, 
I believe that William Firebaugh combined simplicity and genuine brilliance to such an extent with the WTT  that trying to deviate from the total package is likely to prove unfruitful .
We have a VPI Prime which is outstanding. Even in its most humble trim w/o SDS or other outboard speed control, performance still holds its own against tables 2-3 times its price. If your budget is not quite that much, consider the Scout Jr. It will still get your feet tapping at well under 2k with a Soundsmith Otello, or Ortofon 2M Blue.... This one is crazy value too. We heard a 2nd gen Traveler with Soundsmith Carmen.... Outstanding sound too.... At 1/2 what it should sell do IMHO. Good luck in your search. Solid choices to start with there. The Scout Jr is also upgradable too.
I have a classic , i vote prime.The prime is the best bang for the buck 
Look at the Kuzma Stabi S and stogo S tonearm. It begins to acquaire a legend status in japan. 

the prime is a great choice and very good bang for the $. you may be able to find a vpi calssic 3 on the used market for about 3 and clearaudio makes very nice table, particularly with the ceramic magnetic bearing, some great used choices at your price point and probably a new emotion with arm and cart.

More great responses !

The VPI Prime seems to be garnering more votes as we go .

Charles1dad ;

You are probably very right in your assessment of the WT arm . I did not mean to infer that the arm needed to be replaced . Just that it probably could not , which may or may not be a limiting factor down the road .

Thanks People .

Hello Saki70,

I agree with you that the Jelco is superbly engineered and a first choice on many top tables as the starter "package". It is certainly no disgrace and at its price I can’t think of many alternatives.

This is an interesting budget alternative which might still be available for less than $1K (£750 UK)...and it is a dual-point unipivot if that doesn't sound too paradoxical. ;^)

The Hadcock GH228 Export :

http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/hadcock2/export.html

Best regards,


Saki70, you're progressing very nicely;  you're right about the Rega, if you're not a "handy man" with upgrades, leave it be.

I will be most curious about the cartridge; sorry I can't make any suggestions, I like different music, and that's the key to selecting the cartridge.  What you have to do first is select the "family" of cartridges, and the way to do this is buy the cheapest cartridge in the "family" you think you might like.  You're better off going like that, than  buying an expensive cartridge, and later on discovering you're in the wrong family.

I'm against used cartridges, and here's why; the people who bought them say they sounded good, but do they sound as good as their supposed to sound?  They don't know.  When the tiniest bit of difference on setup, can make a huge difference in sound, how can you know how good the used cartridge is supposed to sound.

Here we are talking the best audio quality, not economics.

Good luck, and take your time.

Saki,

Reading that review mentioning the RB1000 reminded me of this item which perhaps should also be on everyone’s list :

http://www.audiomods.co.uk/


More information :

http://www.audiomods.co.uk/completearms.html

...and for an extra £100 you get "micrometer" VTA adjustment (now there's something you don't see every day on your standard Rega...  ;^)

All the best,

Orpheus ;

I'm with you on the used cartridges ! Not something  that I have ever considered .


Moonglum ;

Wow , custom designed tone arm kits ! That is a new one on me . Looks to be a decent project .


I have received a lot of really good information here . Some different avenues to consider and apply to my situation .

You all have been extremely helpful .

Thank You

Saki70

SoundStageDirect.com carries VPI (among other brands, too) and do allow trade-ins. That is how I got my Aries 3; traded my Rega P9. 
I've grown old , fat and out of shape...I'm greedy and I want it all !




I installed a vpi jmw arm on an expensive Hanns TT with the SoundSmith Zephyr mkII cartridge and the cartridge and arm are a very good match. 

I use the Trans-Fi tonearm, the Terminator (don't blame me, I didn't name it). It's an air bearing tonearm for $1000, and punches far above its weight. I have two of them, for expensive turntables.

You might also consider the Trans-Fi turntable, which I have not heard, but gets good reviews. Both arm and TT are sold factory direct, so you have a high-risk/low-cost tradeoff. But just see if you can get one used - good luck.

i am hot for that table terry,but i fear it may be finiky for op he says plug and play yannow.. i am seriously considering selling my classic for the trans fi set up 

Saki, I'm going to give you one of the strangest reasons for upgrading a cartridge. The man who was responsible for the quality of my favorite cartridge, died not too long ago. That's why I'm upgrading my cartridge.

It wont be long, and all the cartridges he inspected will be gone. His heirs wont think about anything but the bottom line, money. Right now their probably thinking about where to vacation, and how they can increase profits.

Since these cartridges have a highly reputable name, quality control can slip for a long time before anyone notices, or mentions it.

What I just said goes for everything; I know, I had the misfortune of buying a CD player from a highly rated company, and it just fell apart, and this name product was known for quality. Fortunately I was able to send it back and get my money back. This was quite awhile ago so it's probably not any "High end" company that's currently well known.

Beside all the other things you have to be careful of in the "High end", you even have to take notice of who died.
In the price range I would look at the used market. For that much you can really get something nice. I bet most of the tables on your list would not let you down.

I have a VPI Prime with SS Aida cart. Very good combo. Soundsmith is a good cart to buy used as they never wear out like moving coils do and can be fixed for very reasonable prices by SS. Very happy and I literally saved almost 3k buying used table and cart.

I would also looking at the Well Tempered Labs Tables. Never heard one but they get great reviews if you can get over the design and build quality. I have seen some pretty attractive deals on the web for the Amadeus used.

Many years ago I had a VPI HW16 (IV) with a Graham arm on it.  That was a very good table that is completely trouble free (it is still at work in a friend's system.  Before that, I had the older, non-golf ball version of the WTT (it had a plastic disc that sat in the damping fluid).  I called the WTT the La Brea Tar Pit because some bugs were attracted to the damping fluid and ended up being drowned and preserved in the fluid (too much trouble to fish them out).  I cannot comment on the difference in sound because the setup and cartridges, etc. differed.  For ease of use, the VPI with the Graham arm held an advantage.

I currently own a Basis Debut with a Vector arm and it is much better than the others, albeit, MUCH more expensive.  Basis makes tables that are machined to absolute perfection--there is no run-out slop so there is absolutely no wobble in the platter when spinning (if you look closely at most tables, you will see wobble or the eccentricity of the platter).

As for your candidates, they all seem like good choices.  While I had nothing but good experience with my old VPI, I know a dealer who sells their tables but doesn't like them that much because he has a very high rate of problems with their tables compared to that of other manufacturers; he thinks they make too many models and make too frequent changes to be really on top of the actual manufacturing of the tables and arms.  He likes the Clearaudio tables.  I have heard several models of their tables and I like them too.  They are, like the Basis tables, on the "darker" side (very low noise, good at damping ticks and pops on records, very composed sounding, but, not as lively sounding as some other table/arm combinations).

I have heard a lot of really nice sounding setups using Garrrard 301 and 401 tables and Thorens 124 tables.  These ancient tables, once they are properly reconditioned, will give MANY more years of trouble-free service.  I have heard them coupled mostly with Moerch arms and the current top of the line Ortofon arm.  These arm/table combinations are very lively and punchy sounding.  Most modern systems need this kind of pick-me-up because they tend to be somewhat thin and lifeless ("bloodless") compared to the old school sound I prefer.

Dear Larry,

If you glance at Clearaudio’s home page they display 9 (yes 9) different T/T models.

 

http://clearaudio.de/en/products/turntables.php

 

I’m not sure if VPI did 9 models at any point but Clearaudio’s output remains impressive.

 

The only VPI T/T I’ve heard to date is the Prime but I’ve heard many Clearaudio T/Ts.

I’ve never liked the concept of Clearaudio’s ACB (Air-Ceramic Bearing) which effectively suspended the platter independently of the turntable i.e. if you pressed down on the platter it would “bounce” while the rest of the assembly remained stationary.

The sound of those Clearaudio T/Ts was still fairly neutral and honest.

Despite this, none of them really shouted “buy me!”

 

The Prime on the other hand I found intriguing. Subjectively it sounded more “fleshed out” than the Clearaudios and contrarily somewhat “darker” than those turntables.

It sounded good enough to me to actually buy (!) which is a fair compliment because I’m seldom satisfied with the sound of turntables in-store.

Unfortunately, I’m already happy with what I’ve got so the Prime isn’t an option but it remains for me the top buy in this category.

At risk of repeating myself not only does it sound like a million dollars but it looks like it too.

Traditionally turntables have always been an individual choice so auditioning is always recommended wherever possible.

 

IMO young Matt seems to have aced this one. He’s taken the market by the scruff of the neck… ;^)

It’s great to see designs like this emerging which, relatively speaking, don’t cost the Earth. :)

Be patient and wait for a used Basis.
Better than anything on your list. 

I'm going to add a vote for the Oracle Origine...with qualifications.
It looks like the closest thing to an Alexandria that you can buy today, and while I haven't heard the Origine, I love my Alexandria. Also the tone arm looks very intriguing. It would leave you with a pile of cash to spend on cartridges, so for the overall sound quality that's a plus. I really believe that a cartridge has more impact on sound quality than a turntable after a certain point. That said, no cartridge will sound its best if not paired with a tone arm and headshell with which it harmonizes. Oracle has paired the Origine with an Ortofon 2M Blue, a cartridge that is known for 'punching above its weight' as reviewers love to say. I imagine it would be a safe bet to say that the Bronze and Black would also synergize well, although I'd probably go in a different direction. 

Moonglum,

Good to hear that your table is working so well for you.  As I said, I never had problems with my HW19 and it is still going strong in someone else's hands.  My mild concern with VPI is not with the number of models, but, rather, with how often they adopt and then discard various basic approaches to design--frequent changes in the composition/construction of platters, changes in bearing design (regular bearings and inverted bearings), short-term adoption of idler/rim drive combined with belt drive, standalone flywheel, direct drive motor, etc.  They may be good at adopting new innovations, but, one has to wonder if they have taken the full measure of such things before they adopt them and then when they discard them.  Still, it is the result that matters and the tables I heard sound pretty good.

As to the floating magnetic bearing of the Clearaudio tables, that approach has been used before by some VERY good table manufacturers, such as Verdier and Gabriel.  Other high end tables float the platter using air instead of magnetic levitation, but, it is for the same purpose--to reduce noise generation/transmission cause by the weight of the platter grinding away on the thrust-plate of the bearing.  I suppose there could be an issue of the platter moving up and down, however slight that might be, but that would be a tradeoff made to reduce bearing noise.  I know of a few tables that actually use partial magnetic levitation to reduce, but not eliminate, the contact pressure on the thrust-plate which appears to be a compromise approach.

For my first serious TT I bought a used Linn LP12  with Walhalla PSU ar a very very good price. I paid attention having the good second generation Elos tonearm.
Over time, when funds were there I upgraded it and in a few years I had a very good TT that gave me very good music pleasure.
 This is a way you could  opt for,knowing Linn will always be here for very good servce and you can find every pieces of old models for repair or upgrade and make your own way at your own rythm.
Believe me at his best, and when well aligned, this is a serious music machine, whatever anti Linn can tell.

How does the TT affect the sound? A bit like digital.

To my ears, digital sounds dry and harsh compared to analogue. Turntables extend the spectrum towards the natural. Inexpensive and poorly designed TT tend to sound a bit harsh, accentuating each pop and tick, and lots of surface noise. The better the TT, the more refined the sound, the easier to listen to, the more defined the different parts of the melodic line.

I just did this exact exact experiment. I have an expensive, highly regarded, modified, belt drive turntable mounting a Trans-Fi arm and a Koetsu. I mounted a second Trans-Fi arm on a quality 1980's DD, transferred the Koetsu, and played. The DD seemed relatively coarse and noisy, with no redeeming features. That is, seemed to me.

When I finished building my air bearing turntable, I repeated the experiment by mounting the second Trans-Fi on that, and playing the Koetsu.

While I was expecting to hear a difference, I was unprepared for the magnitude of that difference. Not only was noise lower, but highs were purer and bass was tighter. Resolution improved significantly: on one record, there is an interlude of whistling, which had seemed like one performer in some parts, and two performers in others. With the air bearing table, I hear three distinct performers at all times. My wife concurs.

Hope that helps, Saki.

Further to the above, I should have noted that the Trans-Fi is made to order for this kind of test, in that the arm wand carries the cartridge and the azimuth adjustment. VTA and tangentiality settings are obvious. Thus when you change wands, your settings are preserved.


Terry9, while I'm familiar with the different sounds of cartridges in the same price range, I'm not familiar with the different sounds of turntables in the same price range. Since you seem to have had a number of tables, could you comment on the different ones that were rated Class A or B by Stereophile.

Although those ratings are not etched in stone, I consider them valid, and that's from experience.

Most people compare apples to oranges by comparing a more expensive table to a less expensive table, but I'm talking about different tables in the same price range, as well as in the same Stereophile rating range.

If you have that much experience, I'll be looking forward to your answer.
Used RP 8-done
Forgot- Koetsu Black cartridge 
Purrfect for your style of music.
Throw in a little Jazz while your at it.
Consider a Lenco.It is a beast of a table. Built like a tank and super stable. 
 As an idler wheel drive, built in the 70s, the Lenco is a table that is still used by audiophiles around the world. Check out Lenco Heaven on the web.
 The Rega arm is an excellent choice and it's affordable. 
Your vinyl and your ears will appreciate it.
     I own a Sota Nova with a Pete Riggle "The Woody " tonearm and Grado Statement 1 cartridge. All I can say is musical bliss! I listen to rock like you and this is an amazing setup! If you can afford one of the Sota turntables I highly recommend this tonearm. Find it at vtaf.com. I was also looking at a VPI table inically because of all the great reviews. I spoke with a gentlemen who sold both brands and he said that most people come in wanting a VPI, but once they hear a Sota the VPI tables are totally forgotten. I highly recommend that you get a Sota even with a Rega arm they're amazing. Also go for the vacuum hold down tables if you can. This will be your last table! You'll never want another table! I can gaurantee it! Peace!
Just curious, I've owned Thorens, Sonographe, Sota and recently a Nottngham TT and feel the Nott bests the others, why no mention of Nottingham decks?   Black background, musical as can be, detailed, spacious, quiet, dynamic.  Oh, simple to set up and affordable.   
Mark, what do you have and what catridge do you use? I didn't mention Nottingham because they are talking VPI and the OP seems to have set his mind. Though there are not too many Nottinghams in the US, still you very rarely see them for sale. But I do mention Nottingham in other threads all the time. Take a look at Pear Audio turntables, they are the evolution of Tom Fletcher's ideas.

First and foremost , I want to thank everyone immensely !

The responses have been terrific and far more than I could've hoped for .

There is a lot of good information here that should help many others .

I decided to rule out anything used from a private party due to many horror stories about shipping damages . Also anything that came with a recommendation of an immediate upgrade or part change .


Sota - Obviously an excellent product with a great reputation  . But it was stated that it works best with different types of music than what I desire and I have no need for a suspension system . tdybare1 speaks of his Nova with the vacuum hold down but that is above my price point . So I ruled out Sota .

WT Amadeus MKII - Very well respected . I thought long and hard on this one . But considering my waning dexterity and the operation of the tone arm without the aid of lifting devices , I had to decide against it .

Avid Diva II - Nobody spoke to this one .

That leaves the Origin Live Calypso MKIII and the VPI Prime .

The Prime has garnered quite a few accolades , gets spoken of frequently , does not have any recommended upgrades and is 'Made in America' . So I ordered one today .

 Again , thank you to everyone . 

saki70

If I were you I would look into the ProJect RPM-10 Carbon.  I recently bought one after comparing against a bunch of others including the VPI Prime and I thought the Carbon 10 sounded better and had the better design.  It's just my opinion, check it out.
Thank god somebody mentioned Nottingham!! 
Besides Rega RP8+
Your opinions are marginal at best!!
VPI= Honda Accord 
Orpheus, my experience is too limited. I’ve tried to move up a lot with each change, so that I have lived with only a half dozen TT in the last 20 years. Of course, I've auditioned quite a few, but that's not the same at all. 

Simplifying a bit, I went from a Rega to a Linn Basik, because the LP12 seemed to be not that much better than the Basik. To get that jump, I had to wait for Nottingham Analogue, then heavily modified it (another big jump - NA plinths are their weak point, IMO). Then my own air bearing design. At each stage, I got increased definition and decreased noise, without compromising sweetness and euphony. 

Berhrt, Inna, as you can see, I agree that the NAS Dais is also a good buy, but have no experience of NAS in the $2K-3K range.

I have quite a few, a dealer for several. Last with VPI for second time, no trouble the first but I got out for a little while. They are very good and easy to set up but dammed heavy and I say this as someone who could carry a B&W 801 by himself when younger. I have a Basis 200 series [I had brain damage and numbers sometime escape me] With a Graham arm and now have a modified LP12 with Rega 1000 arm. My best advice to you is BUY USED! Both of mine were bought that way. Turntables do not hold their value very well and their owners are very erratic. A friend is selling his top SOTA with SME V to get a Technics 1200 because it sounds as good and they all sound the same anyway. He is not some newby but profoundly mistaken in my mind. They all sound different but many are very good. And tastes differ. If you get one from someone with good feedback you are likely to be all right. Almost everything I have was bought used and I have a hell of a lot of stuff [check it ] Most tables are quite rugged and requires a new belt once in a while. I find belts better but others can argue the point. Good luck. Yes the do sound better than CD and I have a good CD system.