Need advice on what to look for in a turntable - budget $6K to $10K


I am getting into this hobby and am now focused on a proper turntable to support my new amp and speakers (Voxative 211 Integrated and 9.87 speakers).  I also bought a new Parasound JC3+ phono stage.  While at RMAF this year I did listen to the Fern & Roby turntable and was very impressed.  It sounded awesome with the Voxativ equipment.  That being said, it would be $8K+ and I thought I should learn a little more about what to look for in a turntable and ask the community for alternatives.  Thank you in advance.
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Have a look at The Reference Lenco MKII and III by Jean Nantais. 
I concur with noromance. I'm getting a MkII made right now and expect this to be the end game for me.
I think, any turntable in this price range will sound excellent. You just have to figure out what exactly you are looking for and what cartridge you are going to use. I understand, you plan to buy new table/arm/cartridge. Your reference to compare to should be one of the better two track reel to reel tape decks playing at 15 ips speed. Table set-up closest to it would be your choice. Easier said than done, I realize that. But don't rush it. You also want the turntable to be reliable, easy to operate and maintain and supported by the manufacturer.
But first question is belt drive or not or it depends. 
Rega RP10 with alpheta 2 installed from factory.
Garrard 301/401 or the newer 501 set up with two arms one 12" one 9 or 10" with arms lf your choosing and a high end plinth in the flavor that suites you tastes and you will live music all the more.

Very good questions, mm.

What you get in the better tables is a lower noise floor and a higher level of detail retrieval. Just about anything in your price range will sound very good indeed. To optimize requires some experience, which is rather fun on its own.

There are some subjective and some objective criteria. First, how good does the suspension have to be? My house is built on rock and my table is connected in direct line to the foundation, and there are no highways, rail lines, or other sources of vibration within miles. That means that a suspension is worthless to me - so I didn't pay for one.

Are you very keen on the exactly correct speed, for example, if you have perfect pitch? If so, then make sure that the motor controller has a speed adjustment.

Are you offended by a little quirkiness? For example, my turntable requires me to spin it by hand to start it. Doesn't bother me - I concentrate on the low noise and the saved dollars. Offends others.

Subjectively, what you must decide is the weighting of noise and precision. That is a matter of taste and a matter of experience.

That said, there is one major complication - set up. Few retailers seem to know how to set up a turntable, tonearm, and cartridge, and fewer still will bother. That complicates any comparisons you make.

My suggestion is to listen to a bunch of different systems, preferably amongst your friends. When you find a sound you like, you can take the knowledge to a trusted dealer - and if he's in the next state, the trip will be worth it.

As to brand, I like Nottingham Analogue's Dais. For a tonearm, I like the Trans-Fi air bearing, which is probably the best buy in audio for $1000. For cartridge, I like Koetsu.

https://www.fernandroby.com/uploads/products/_1120x1120/Topdown_Shroeder_arm_with_record.jpg
One of the most musical combinations I've heard
featured the phono pre you just bought (JC3+)

That was a J.C. Michell Orbe SE with a modified Rega arm
and an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze
That combo as I recall would be in the 6K-7K range.......

If you favor a mass loaded table, of course VPI could be a musical choice........stay away from dark sounding cartridges with VPI
Aries, Classic and HRX (They don't like Lyra Kleos)  One advantage of VPI is if you find you want to move to something else, you'll have a very wide audience for resale.....

In a suspended table, I just installed an Oracle Delphi MK VI 2nd gen
with Oracle/SME V arm  This combo lists for around 17K, but with 345 arm could probably be purchased in the 11K range......one of the most beautiful tables out there.....

A compelling choice if I was looking now would be the AMG Giro including arm listing @ 9900 retail.......probably 90 percent or more the way to the big AMG table.....I've heard the Giro at a show and it was incredibly musical.  I think with that table, the AMG cartridge would be a great fit....

Down to it, the table shouldn't really impart a signature......which leads to cartridge match/synergy as the final piece for a musical combination.

The Ortofon cartridge lineup, (Cadenza) sound very musical w/ VPI and I assume other mass loaded tables......the most magical presentation I've heard in my home was the veryy low output Transfiguration Proteus coupled with a world class step up transformer....  I also think the Transfiguration Axia sounds amazing......my closest dealer, reference analog had a VPI Avenger with both cartridges and we went back and forth on VPI 3D Ref arms and I think the Axia is an absolute bargain.....gave very little up to it's big brother.........
http://pbnaudio.com/audio-components/audio-turntables/groovemaster/groovemaster-vintage-direct


Another option for your consideration


From its maker and good listening

Peter
Well, you got $40k speakers and $20k amp. I don't understand why you bought $3k Parasound phono. That all metal table looks like a prototype of a new armored vehicle, Schroeder arm is nice simple and elegant, such a contrast.
The parasound JC3+ is a world class phono pre......very musical regardless of it's cost.....
I originally had Constellation amp/preamp and read that John Curl had a hand in their design.  That is why I bought the JC3+ hoping for trickle down engineering.  I haven't had a decent turntable to really listen to the quality and hence my current pursuit.

I have a couple of suggestions that may complement your system origins, aesthetics, and voicing.  One is direct drive, the Brinkman Bardo, and the other idler drive, the PTP audio solid 9.

Both are well reviewed, the Bardo my MF and the PTP by Art Dudley. 

Thank you to all that have responded so far.  Denver is very limited on hi-end dealers of audio gear.   We have VPI, Thorens, Rega, Pro-ject and Transrotor.  I would like to try something in my home and I like the idea of having someone local who can help set it up properly.  Any thoughts on these brands due to them being available locally to try before I buy?
I just found a Brinkman dealer in Ft. Collins, an hour and a half north.....
@mmporsche You're right about the JC3, that's a smart choice especially at its price point. I used to own a Vendetta that paired with my VPI table and it was a great combination. 

VPIs match well with Dynavector, Soundsmith, van den Hul, Benz, ZYX and Cardas carts, amongst others. 

If VPI is on your radar, check out my ad here for TNT6 Hot Rod with Walker Motor Controller. https://www.audiogon.com/listings/turntables-vpi-tnt6-hot-rod-12-7-tonearm-walker-audio-motor-controller-all-accessories-orig-o-2016-10-08-analog-19803-talleyville-de
Sorry to hawk it, but it's exactly in your price range and a great value for a beast of a table from the most reliable & beloved manufacturer in the category. 
 
About the Fern & Roby table, I remember seeing it and really enjoying its sound just over a year ago at CapAudioFest priced at $4500. After good write-ups, a year later I was told by friends who saw it at the following CapAudioFest that the price had been pushed up to ~$8k. If that is accurate, pretty scary and makes me question its value. Cheers,
Spencer
@sbank Your table does look very nice. I wish I new more about this stuff and could just pull the trigger based on a picture or write-up. Unfortunately, I have found that many of the reviews are totally biased due to financial commingling (magazine displays ad while also reviewing product) so total BS. That is why I am trying to hear something before I buy because I don’t want to be disappointed. I want something that is very immersive and natural sounding. That is why I bought the Voxativ setup at the show on show after listening to it for a few hours and comparing it to other setups. I am not saying I would rule you deck out, however, I guess I need more information.

Regarding F&R, the pricing with their base table, arm and Denon cart is only $3750 if memory serves. Just like anything the cost depends. Add a Soundsmith cart for $4K and all the sudden it is nearly $8K. Christopher, the owner of F&R, is a super nice guy and passionate about vinyl. My only concern is long-term reliability since this is a 3 year old venture. Also, he doesn’t have R&D resources like a VPI or other large brand. That being said, I really loved the sound and want to buy his table based on this plus I like buying unique, hand-crafted items.
The current F&R Tredegar ($10500) without arm on their site looks to be the same $4500 a-year-ago table that Herb Reichart wrote about in Stereophile, then called "The Turntable". Now it's shown with Schroeder arm options that take the total to >$15k. Their lower priced tables are newer models I believe and they don't include the heavy iron plinth which was the promising aspect of the original table. I have not heard their cheaper tables and have no opinion other than they are nice looking. 

FWIW, VPI although a leader in current production tables, is still a relatively small family business designing and hand building tables. They have proven over time the ability to adapt to customer's requests and continue to push the envelope. No small feat when you look at an old audio magazine and see all the companies advertising that no longer exist! Mat and Harry Weisfeld even check in here on occasion. Cheers,
Spencer
Mmporsche, Brinkmann will cost more than you are planning to spend. I also suspect that it is in a totally different league. If you are ready for that you are ready to audition it.
Though I didn’t hear the Parasound phono stage, I never heard of anything world class for this kind of money, not even a single cable.
It also depends on the cartridge. Assuming adequate prices, phono stage should be two/three times more expensive than cartridge, in my opinion. It is a very important link, aren’t they all? Besides, you might want to have a tube phono stage or at least compare tube and solid state. That mid-level transistor phono might destroy your sound.
Why not a T-W Acustic GT ? Whose who bought it think it is a very good value by itself and for the price. With a good arm I rhink it drops in your budget.

I think the TW Acustic GT may be north of 10K. The Brinkmann Spyder is a nice table…. I heard it last year, with a Reed arm. But definitely north of 10K. Pear Audio and Kuzma have offerings within OP's stated $ range. The Raven 1 with an Ortofon arm may be within budget….. 
Three I think you should check in that price range are:

Garrard 301/401 with Woodsong Audio plinth and Ortofon or Jelco 12 inch arm

SME 15 (can include a SME tonearm)

AMG Giro (this includes a great tonearm from AMG)
I would not be able to go past the new Technics 1200G.  Torque to die for, iconic looks (if that matters) and not to difficult to put on an aftermarket arm if you sooner or later want to upgrade.
Someone else recommended the Michell Orbe SE. I agree but take it to the next level with the full Pederson mod. A used Orbe with the Pederson mod kit could run as low as $4k, sounding better than tables costing much more. Pick your favorite arm. Many will work well. I use a Graham 2.2.

A lot of great advice here.

I would suggest also to read some reviews (like the one below in the link) just to solidify what to look for - not necessarily to pursue the TTs in the review. I personally had a Kuzma TT which I loved, have a VPI Prime now and a Micro Seiki BL 99V with SAEC arm and Lyra Lydian Beta cartridge (and a ton of other much less expensive tables). The VPI is running with Shindo Aurieges and Auditorium Hommage SUT, with Ortofon Cadenza Black. Really nice sound.
http://www.dagogo.com/category/analog-sources/turn-tables
Rega RP 10 and save a little.
or Nottingham
The Reference Lenco MKI and MKII  by Jean Nantais. will allow for a good arm & cartridge for at or under $10k
See        http://www.idler-wheel-drive.com/

I went from MK1 to MK2 and now MK3.
The MK3 is fit for $100,000 & up systems

CHEERS
ROGER
You mentioned  your getting into the hobby so my question would be first, how much of a record collection do you have now. The size and quality of that will impact your enjoyment as much as a great table will. As far as tables go I like my Orbe SE but, suspended or non and looks, your ears will matter more than others opinion.
Been around this analog game for a long time, owned and cherished many musical pieces throughout the decades.  The SME model 15 and Nottingham's were boring to my ears when I heard them, the J. Nantais Lenco MkII indeed makes warm music but for the same $10kish you may want to seriously consider the Artisan Fidelity Garrard 301 Classic model mated with a suitable arm and cartridge.  Furthermore, the quality and craftsmanship is superior to the Nantais, in my experience.   

http://www.artisanfidelity.com/new-products/garrard-301

Btw, as a Lenco idler fan, I had seriously considered picking up a Mk3 Nantais, until I heard the Artisan Fidelity Achates Lenco....in my view this design is on another level. 

Another table I was eyeing recently was the Kuzma Stabi S and TW Acustic, but the belt drives are perhaps best left to another discussion, so I digress. 

Even with multiple analog front ends, I find quenching my thirst for additional pieces a satisfying, educational journey.

à votre santé - Cheers,
Alexander
I'm going to be hearing a Stabi S with 12" VTA in a couple of weeks. I will chime in with some thoughts afterward. Alexander, may I ask what you have cherished the most from your past setups. I think an SME with something other than the matching arm may have been very interesting. If I don't ride off in to the sunset with the Kuzma, perhaps a Woodsong 301 and Reed arm. Funny, I was on the phone with a big dealer the other day. They carry some of the best gear, no question. With all that elite gear, including the best names in digital, they lacked IMHO, a strong analog line. I said to him no offense, but I'm surprised you don't have a strong analog line. Not my exact words, but I certainly shared that basic thought. Anyway, his answer was, analog is not selling. Perhaps when you step above the entry level, and then take VPI out of the conversation, he's not far off base.
There appears to be a nice VPI HRX on Agon for sale.  No cartridge. What works well with this table?. I also see a classic 4 that is for sale her and is located in Denver. Not sure I need two arms though. 

My vinyl is limited to about 100 albums at the moment. Part of the fun for me is discovering new albums at three local stores. 
VPI has some good options in this price range.
@mmporsche  As I mentioned earlier, VPIs match well with Dynavector, Soundsmith, van den Hul, Benz, ZYX and Cardas carts, amongst others.

The HRX and TNT6HR are same dual motors/flywheel, same tonearm with on-the-fly VTA, same leveling adjustable suspension feet, same motor controller. The only difference is the HRX has the sandwich plinth and the TNT6HR has the 2" black acrylic plinth, which is a tad less clinical in nature. Replacing the SDS motor controller with Walker Audio Precision Motor Controller is a sonic upgrade mentioned in other threads here. 
Feel free to PM me if you would like to discuss by phone. Cheers,
Spencer
Transfi Salvation or PTP Audio.  The latter is an idler drive based on a Lenco drive system.  The former comes with a floating tangential tonearm and is a rim-drive.
Post removed 
The HRX w/ 3D arm on here is a very good deal.  14K list for around 8K
For that arm, an incredible match would be either the Transfiguration Axia or the Ortofon Cadenza Bronze.  I've heard both on that table with that arm....

If that table really has never had a cartridge installed, I'd recommend jumping all over it before someone else does......

I wouldn't bother with the classic 4.  The differences in motor/plinth between the tables are night and day and the money isn't.....
mmporsche....You are obviously a person of discriminating taste (I too own a Porsche).....I also own a 3D VPI arm and have had experience with many of them....the 3D is a definite winner.  I would put a top of the line Lyra (Atlas or Etna...they are both wonderful...the Etna is a bit more musical or less analytical (not putting down either of them).  If you take my suggestion (the HRX is a great table....can be made better by the addition of a rim drive, Classic Platter..all in due time)
mmporsche, you have many good options at this price-point, especially if you consider used decks. I have both a Brinkmann Oasis and Nantais Reference II and can recommend them both. The Oasis has a bit more focus and precision, but you absolutely must place it on a top-flight resonance platform to hear what it can do. I use a Minus-K. The Lenco has a bit more drive and authority at the expense of the nth-degree of the Brinkmann's precision in articulating instruments. (We're talking minor differences here.) And because of its mass (105 lb), the Lenco is less needful of a pricey resonance platform. Speed stability is a toss up, with both holding speed equally well, according to my KAB speedstrobe.

BTW, I see there's an Oasis listed at a good price. (No affiliation with the seller.)

Bill


I have a VPI TNT-2 table paired with a Phoenix Eagle/Roadrunner and had a Parasound JC3+ with it for a while.  I moved to an Audia Flight Phono which was twice the cost, but was a much better phono stage in all respects (twice as good is always subjective).  I am now using an Allnic H-3000 with an HA-3000 head amp and will be staying in my system for the foreseeable future.

For a cart, I just upgraded from a Dynavector XX2 MkII to a Kiseki PurpleHeart and it's an outstanding match in my system.  It's very detailed and musical with a wonderful sound stage.  It's a great buy at the price and will probably be picking up a second as a backup before the secret gets out and the prices go up. 

The thing I like about VPI is that they are built like tanks, the company provides excellent customer service, even on my older model, and parts are easy replace if necessary or upgrade if desired. 
If I may briefly hijack the thread with a couple of tangential questions for theothergreg: so you find the HA-3000 to match well with the Kiseki? I have the Allnic H-3000, too, and I’m on the brink of ordering an HA-3000. I’ve also been considering the Kiseki, but its unusual combination of high DCR (42 ohms) and nearly 0.5mV output would seem a challenging match for the Allnic’s step-ups. The head amp works well with it, though?

Bill
Hi Bill, I had the same concerns as you but figured I would give it a try since, if it didn't work, I could always put it in a secondary system.  I really like it in my system and find it transparent and detailed while still being listenable for extended sessions. 

Your level of satisfaction may depend on the cart you are currently using.  The PurpleHeart is definitely a big step up from the Dynavector I used previously. 
That's good to know. My main analog dealer tells me the Kiseki is his favorite--and he has like 30 cartridges in rotation, several costing twice as much. Might have to take the plunge!
Dear @mmporsche : Price is not a precise reflect of a TT quality performance. Exist several very high price TT that can beats by a humble Rega. Range price is only for you, superior limit on your budget.

Some one posted that you have to listen as many options as you can and it's important but been a " rookie " on analog adventure you need a seller that can support to you locally and not only with the TT set up but with the tonearm and cartridge. In the other side you will learn but this kind of learning it does not takes 1-2 weeks but months/years.

So to me makes no sense to invest a very high price in the analog rig ( TT, tonearm, cartridge, IC cables. ) till you learn how to achieve the best for that expensive analog rig.

In the mean time you can learn and enjoy your 100 LPs and have fun buying hundreds of LPs. 

The @sbank offer is very atractive . You say that live in Denver and things are that  there is a TT manufacturer/designer: Galibier designs, his owner sometimes post here: tom_mackris.

Regards and enjoy the music,
R.
wrm57:

I owned the Kiseki Purple Heart NS for about 6 months.  I used it with a VPI HR-X  video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_cJrj5DwwQ

I liked the cartridge but was underwhelmed compared to others including Harry @ VPI.....

I went to the Transfiguration Proteus after that at about 40 percent more....

video link on same tt:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgmHbORQ5Ew

.it is noticeably better in most areas, especially overall musicality....most interesting was I heard the Transfiguration Axia at around 1000 less than the Kiseki and it got about 95 percent of the way to the Proteus, which was pretty remarkable......

A lot of this is just synergy between the cart and phono stage etc.....so you might have better results with the Allnic etc.  FWIW, I used a Hashimoto HM7 stepup at 30x coupled with the phono section in my all tube CAT SL1 Renaissance w/ Phono preamp.....



Hi Stewart,

Your post prompted me to read Fremer’s glowing review in Stereophile. You’re right, the Proteus looks like a good match for SUTs. Either 30x or 40x would seem ideal, depending on the rest of the chain. The Allnic has 40x built-in and I have a Bob’s 30x already. Very interesting. I wonder how it stacks up against the Benz Ebony TR, which has similar specs and is designed for an SUT. But that’s a conversation for a separate thread. Thanks for the tip!

Bill
Dear @wrm57 : """  You’re right, the Proteus looks like a good match for SUTs. """

For me it's a little weird your statement because today cartridges were not designed " to be a good SUT's match ". The designer " thinks " in other main cartridge design targets other than what you said.

Regards and enjoy the music,
R.
Hi Raul,

Yes, I agree, it seems few cartridges are designed specifically for SUTs these days (with the Benz Ebony TR a notable exception). So if one is bound, like I am with the Allnic phono, to using SUTs, all one can do is look for carts with DCR and output specs that don’t scream incompatibility. The Proteus seems to be one, on paper, that would work. The Purple Heart seems like it would not--but the proof is in the listening. Of course, adding the Allnic head amp, as theothergreg has done with his Purple Heart, eliminates the issue.

Bill
Thanks for the kind words, Raul.

Mike ... can you send me an e-mail through my contact page (http://galibierdesign.com/contact/)? 

I didn't get your e-mail address when we spoke, and I have a couple of questions I'd like to run down with you in order to set up a demo that's  relevant to your current system.

Cheers,
Thom @ Galibier Design
Bill,

I can tell you that in my experience, the 30x has plenty of gain for the Proteus...I had run the Purple Heart at 15x and it was just fine......

I put wrong video link in prior post, here's the one with the Proteus on same table:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgmHbORQ5Ew

As I’ve said, I feel the Proteus to be a significant step up over the Purple Heart, but with another stepup/phono pre the results could be different....

Thanks


Eric