If your looking for a "set and forget" type of table consider the Luxman PD-171. From the info and photos this table appears to be very well built and hassle free. I don't know if this table(Jelco/arm)will meet your standards, but at $6k this leave enough for a separate phono stage and first class cartridge.
Tough choices, so many great tables on your list. Another serious consideration you might want to explore is the Artisan Fidelity Technics Mk3 and Mk2 tables in addition to their recently introduced Garrard 301 Reference model. His (Thornton's) work is easily on par with the best currently available modified turntable classics you are considering. They use several different proprietary constrained layer dampening methods and stock the well regarded Panzerholz material for select project use. The woodwork quality they offer is simply breathtaking, just look at their Garrard 301 or Technics pages the web. The Padauk plank wraps are to die for and fit and finish is superb. From what I gather from the website, the Garrard 301 model is especially promising. (in my opinion) Not sure about price on the 301 model but I think their SP10Mk2 and Mk3 are on par price wise with the others mentioned. The new large bore bearings they designed for the 301 and Lenco are supposed to be tops. I know of a very high end dealer in S. Florida using one of the Artisan modded Lenco's in their reference showroom which uses their reference bearing. Apparently the owner feels its one of the finest analog front ends he has every heard. I am not absolutely certain you could get into the Reference Garrard 301 with arm and cart for your stated 10K budget but I'd think you would be able to get into one of their top of the line Mk2 Technics Panzerholz plinths along with arm and cart for that price. I know they carry a variety of arms and cartridges to choose from but am not sure if they have any of those mfg.'s you mention in your post. I spoke directly with Christopher a month or two ago about their on going work with the Lenco idler drives and he shared a wealth of his time and information with me in regards to their design philosophy, plinth construction techniques and vast array of newly designed main bearings and even idler wheels. He also was able to clearly illustrate the characteristic strengths and weaknesses of the different drive types (idler, direct drive, belt/tape, rim) which proved to be insightful for me anyway. On a slightly different note, if I were going belt drive, I'd likely consider a TW Acustic or maybe the Redpoint Audio table, although the later is actually a tape drive (similar to belt). Another belt drive which looked promising to me last I read about it was the Feickert belt drive, which I believe goes for something like $5k-$6000. One cartridge to consider also might be an upper end Shelter, from what I gather they offer up tremendous dynamics and tonally speaking are quite nice as well. Not sure though how it might stack up with the other contenders on your short list, but with cartridges all are somewhat unique in their own right. Based on your statements, it seems like you know the general type of sound you are after, so now comes the long arduous journey of careful research. The good news is that you have so many wonderful options in which to consider. Good luck! Peace, J
If you want a 'set and forget' TT, best you have a Denon 47F, great sound, great value. Any of the Denon cartridges would sound great with it. I've given a number of these TT's to my children as a way to introduce them to vinyl without all the set up hassles any of the other bring. Since it is fully automatic, with a great repeat feature, it becomes all about the music, not the gear.
Under $10K Clearaudio Ovation/Clarify with the ceramic magnetic bearing CMB at $5500 and a $3800 (less if you have a Benz to trade in) Benz Micro Ruby Z which is exactly the same as the $5000 LP but with a Zebra wood body. I honestly couldn't hear the difference.
Stunning, through a non octal MFA Luminescence preamp.
One of my best turntables is a Sota Cosmos IV, SME309 and Lyra Delos. You can find this within your budget. It is a set and forget system once you have it leveled and the arm and cartridge adjusted. It also has a vacuum platter. Multi speed so you dont have to move the belt on the pulley.
My Oracle Delphi V, SME345 and Ortofon Kontrapunkt B is also pretty much set and forget once it is set up. Set up is a little more involved, but it stays set once done.
My Transrotor Fatbob,Audiomods IV arm and Clearaudio Sigma cartridge, a non suspended table, is simple to put together, requires moving the belt to adjust speed, but needs no other adjustments once level.
Each of these is within your budget, and will provide as good sound as you can get without spending considerably more. At this level, the differences are a matter of preferences rather than actual improvement. Overall, I would pick the Cosmos, which is also built in USA and can be upgraded by the factory at any time.
Thanks for the advice. I do also consider Artisan Fidelity tables, and even had a chance to speak with Chris at the last RMAF.
But here is the thing- I still don't know what would be the sonic differences b/w let's say his Technics SP10 MkII, Garrard 301 and TW Raven One, everything else being equal.
The SP10 can be great. Do you know its history, how many hours on it? I've heard second hand (check for yourself to be sure) that the motor bearing can wear depending on the service they provided, like DJ, radio station work.
If it's a go and your OK with the platter design then you can blow your money on a Graham or the 4 point and a super cartridge.
While there are many designs out now, magnetic bearings usually don't chatter depending on design. Right now most are very pricey. Call Musical Surroundings for accurate information on the Clearaudio as well as their selection of cartridges.
Have fun shopping.
Even though your budget is well above it's retail price, you would do well to consider the Well Tempered Amadeus.
How would you describe SP 10 sound signature?, and how it's different from say TW Raven One?
Check out the SME model 10 with arm.
I sold the Technics/SME many years ago, the Grado cartridge wasn't a great one and the rest of my system was early solid state with Technics SB 600 speakers. The SP10 was like a Kenworth tractor with all three speeds. Even so it is only one part of the system. It replaced a Benjamin Miracord so it was a huge improvement.
The TW certainly looks the part but it seems to have it's basis in the motor which is very important. If I'm not mistaken they gloss over the platter bearing that has a tolerance or runout of 100th of a mm. That spells trouble to me. Zero tolerance or magnetic suspension is whats happening today IMO. Couple that with a good motor and you've got something.
... I don't want to spent my time making 17 adjustments every time I want to listen to a record. "Set and forget" is the way, I'd prefer it....
When you are advanced enough to understand what you hear:
Basis/Graham Phantom Supreme/Lyra Delos
I openly admit to being fairly new to analogue, hence my inquiry.
Following your suggestion, could you elaborate as to why you prefer Basis to other belt-drive TW Raven One?
There is a Technics SP10 MkII in Porter plinth with SME 312 S arm for sale now on A-gon- do you have any input with regards to this particular combo?
Why I prefer Basis to TW?
Because I don't spend my time making 17 adjustments every time I want to listen to a record.
FYI, I believe that the kind fellow in Dallas that is selling the Porter Plinth/SP-10 Mk ll and SME 312S tonearm has moved to a Micro Seiki/ FR tonearm combo.
I recenty picked up a Graham Phantom Supreme tonearm. As Syntax has mentioned, it is a stellar performer that is really easy to setup and get going, especially with the Graham cartridge alignment accessories that are optimized for the 9" armwand...IMO, you will be well-served with this
tonearm along with the Lyra Delos cartridge, super!
Syntax, follows the Johnny Cash model...he has been everywhere. I believe that the "there are differences model" leads to his recommendation of the Basis turntable for you.
Thank you. Reading some Graham reviews, I was left with an impression, that it sounds somewhat "thinner" and "less full in the midrange", than say SME, or Tri- Planar.
I don't know if the same could be said about Graham Phantom Supreme, but that's the sonic charachteristic, I would rather try to avoid. My system is very revealing of the components used in the chain, and can be easily pushed in any direction.
There is also a Micro Seiki for sale on A-gon, but I know nothing about Seikies to make informed decision.