What about a phono preamp?
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Rega Planar 2 or Planar 3, maybe used for $500. What gets pricy is a good moving coil pick up. After using moving coils I would never go back to moving magnet design, with the exception of the better grados. I like Benz Micro, but there are countless others. Yes, above post correct, you will need a really good preamp with phono equalization, like a Klyne, or separate outboard phono unit like benz pp1 or countless others. To stay under $500, gee that's tough.. maybe used Rega 2 with grado (watch out for hum) and used threshold/forte 2 (for 200-300$) pre.??
You might be able to find an older Rega P3 and couple it with a new Denon 103 cartridge for a total of about $500. Although I don't have experience with this particular combination, perhaps someone out there does and can comment. I used to have a P3 and liked it and alot of folks here feel that the 103 is an extremely good value. If the P3 and 103 are compatible, you might have great rig for little $$) Also, there are a ton of threads within Audiogon on choices in various price ranges, so you may want to search these for additional ideas.
For a good phono pre-amp on the cheap, there have been a number of positive comments about modifying two battery powered Rat Shack pre's, one for each channel. I don't know much about it but, again, search for the threads here on Audiogon.
Oh, BTW, I recall that there are a number of variations of the Denon 103, so be sure you know which one you need.
The RB300 arm on the Rega Planar 3 is a very good one and can handle the DL103. The main contention with the RB300 is the spring operated tracking force mechanism, which can impart a coloration to the sound of the arm. The best route is to defeat the spring by setting it to 3grams(a factory provided defeat setting) and use the counterweight to set the VTF. Getting one of the aftermarket VTA adjusters is a good idea. Getting a Grado on a Rega is always an iffy proposition due to motor hum near the inner grooves picked up by the Grado. If you want to use Grado on Rega, then get the Origin Live DC motor kit for the P3. No hum, and better sound quality too. This table/cart(DL103) will require a phono section with at least 65db of gain and loadable to 40-100ohms.
Good to hear that 103 is compatible with the P3, TWL. It might be a killer combination for the dough. To clarify, are you saying that the RB 300 has a bearing that can handle the 103 AND that the 103's compliance is a match for that arm??
BTW, TWL, saw your post on technical reasons that analog sounds better than digital- excellent.
Thanks, Jimbo3. Yes I am saying that the DL103 will be a match for the RB300 in both compliance and mass factors. the bearings on the RB300 are upgraded from the ones used on the RB250. I have read that they are the same bearings used on the Linn EKOS. They should be able to handle the DL103 quite nicely. The Rega arms are legendary and for good reason. I use a DL103 with my Origin Live Silver 250 arm, which has even higher quality bearings, and mounts them at wider points in the yoke for even better stablility.