Need Advice: Setting up a basic analog system

Hello, newbie here, I just inherited a Technics SL1200mk2 w an Orsonic headshell w an AT31E cartridge; and a Mark Levinson LNP-2 Preamp. I am now planning on setting up a basic system to listen to my old vinyl. I've been going thru the forums and websites and I'm planning on getting an Adcom 535 power amp, Polk Audio RTi 1A speakers and maybe a TCC TC-760LC phono preamp. Was also toying with the idea of getting a new phono cart like the Audio Technica AT95e or the Shure M97, or maybe even a budget tube amp.

I am after a decent analog setup, something like a basic audiophile system (budget). My listening room is probably 10' x 12'. I would appreciate your inputs, comments, suggestions. Cheers!
Do not even think of replacing that cartridge with an AT 95e or Shure M97!!!

Buy a replacement stylus for the AT31E from LP gear or another retailer and don't skimp on the phono preamp! Remember that the AT is a low output MC so you will need a phono stage with a MC input and appropriate gain (you can use the gain computer at

That table/headshell/cartridge combo is worthy of a decent phono preamp. I'd think Cambridge 640P as a bare minimum but try to up the budget even from there a bit.
Hi, thanks for your inputs, I have some questions though:

1. Re the gain computer; I got a figure for the AT31E of 58db w a gain factor of 11220 @ 25hz. The 640P has gain @ 1khz spec of 39db/55db. How do you interpret this? Sorry I'm really new at this.

2. What other phono stage comparable to the 640P, price and performance wise?

3. When you said up the budget, is this for the phono stage or for my proposed setup?

Thanks again for your suggestions.
Yes, ideally you should have around 58 db of gain with that cartridge. Depending on the rest of your equipment that may or may not be a big deal. With a low output MC cartridge it is more critical to have enough gain without having too much than with higher output MM cartridges.

So I would probably try to find a phono stage with the 58 db of gain and a 100 ohm load setting (or adjustable load settings if at all possible). I used a DB Systems MC phono pre for a few years that can be purchased (and customized by David Hadaway at no extra charge) directly from DB Systems for about $200 with a Denon 103R and was very happy with it. Some of the Project phono stages with 60 db of gain on the MC input would probably work quite well also.

You'll probably get lots of suggestions if you posted over at the vinyl asylum at

You could also contact Kevin at KAB for some phono preamp suggestions. He is very knowledgeable on that table, and an excellent person to deal with.

I'm assuming your table and preamp were inherited from the same owner. The Levinson gear is not exactly chopped liver and anyone who put that headshell and cartridge on that table was very likely to have taken great care of it (just guessing there but I think it would be so) and you are not likely to hear what it is really capable of with a budget phono preamp.

You could send that table off to KAB for complete or specific mods in light of the fact that you have nothing into it and look at phono preamps in the $500-$1000 range and have a pretty impressive vinyl set up that might rival much more expensive combinations!
Thank you again for the info, much appreciated. Would you know the website of DB Systems, or contact info?

Available at KAB is the Music Hall PA 1.2 Phono Preamp with the specs that I need, any experience with this one?

As for the condition of the equiptment, not sure really what kind of use (or abuse) they sustained. What should I look out for? I know the TT works, not sure about the cartridge/stylus.
The Levinson LNP-2 preamp should have a KILLER phono stage already installed? I'm pretty sure that this preamp was a Mark Levinson/John Curl designed piece. If working properly, you won't find a much better phono stage.

The LNP-2 preamp was one of the first, true super high end products. Retail was around $2000...back in 1973!
Mofimadness - I really have no idea about this ML pre-amp, not sure if the phono stage is sufficient for an MC cartridge. Also not sure if it is in good working order, last time it was switched on was like 15yrs ago!

Hdm - Re LNP-2, beside one of the input level knobs, is a knob labeled "db Gain" and has increments of 0, 10, 20. Any connection to the phono stage of the preamp?

Good pick up on that Mofimadness. Never thought to check on a phono stage on that preamp. In looking at it, though, it appears to be MM only (although it is probably an outstanding phono stage). This changes things considerably.

So in this case, just to complicate manners, presuming everything is working ok with the preamp and phono, Monako would just need to find a step up or head amp for the AT.

Alernatively, he could switch cartridges to a MM which might be a better proposition.

I'd probably go that route under the circumstances and put a few hundred into a MM cartridge to start off with and then upgrade perhaps if you feel vinyl is for you. No step-up or head amp to buy and no extra set of interconnects to worry about. I would definitely try to have the ML tested, especially the phono stage by hooking up to any phono with a MM cartridge to see if it is in good working order before doing anything if it's been in storage that long.

But that is a pretty impressive preamp if it is in good condition!!
Guys, if I go the MM route, what would be an acceptable cartridge to try?
For around $200 Ortofon 2M Blue and Nagaoka MP150 are two that come to mind. Kind of a loaded question and you'll get lots of opinions.

The Nagaoka might be a very good match, though, with that arm and what is probably a heavier headshell than the original stock Technics shell.
I really like the Audio Technica AT150MLX. I have one on my Oracle and it's wonderful. The Denon DL-160, (high output MC) is really nice for the price.
Thank you guys for all your inputs. With all the possible choices, the wallet will have to dictate my choice at this time =)

Any suggestions regarding my choices for the power amp and speakers? Again I'm sure that there will be a mountain of opinions, but all will be appreciated.
Dear Monako: Here you can read almost everything about your ML full fuction preamp:

Regards and enjoy the music,
Hi Raul, thanks for the link, appreciate it.

+1 on both the DL-160 and AT150MLX. Although the DL-160 is nice for the price, the extra spent on the AT150MLX will reward you handsomely--similar tonal balance, but faster, deeper, tighter, better tracker, more detail, but not in a hyper-detailed way. Just more music and better connection with the artists.
thanks johnnyb53, was just wondering, if i'll be spending roughly $300+ dollars on the AT150, wouldn't it be better if i get the new stylus for my AT31E and then get a phono preamp (from KAB; Music Hall MM/MC preamp) for almost the same amount of money? just exploring what would be the better move...
08-28-09: Monako
thanks johnnyb53, was just wondering, if i'll be spending roughly $300+ dollars on the AT150, wouldn't it be better if i get the new stylus for my AT31E and then get a phono preamp (from KAB; Music Hall MM/MC preamp) for almost the same amount of money? just exploring what would be the better move...
Yes, now that you ask. Hdm's advice was very good. For a little over $300, I'd go for the new stylus for the AT31E and a good entry level phono preamp that has the gain for a low output moving coil pickup.

My first choice for a phono stage in your price range is the Cambridge 640P. The stylus and 640p add up to about $340.

For a review, download issue 21 of Tone Audio magazine here and read the review on page 45.
thanks for the link to the review...
johnnyb53, just wondering about the cmabridge, it gives 55-56db gain for MC cartridges, after using the KAB computer, i got a figure of 58db for the at31e, is the 2-3db gain shortage ok?
I was going thru my old audio stuff and found 2 old AT125LC's on AT headshells, are they any good?
08-28-09: Monako
johnnyb53, just wondering about the cambridge, it gives 55-56db gain for MC cartridges, after using the KAB computer, i got a figure of 58db for the at31e, is the 2-3db gain shortage ok?
According to the specs at LPGear, the AT31E has an output of 0.4mV. The Tone Audio review in Issue 21 mates the Zu 103 MC with the Cambridge 640P with no complaints about gain. The Zu 103 has a lower output at 0.3mV than the AT31E, so I would say it wouldn't be a problem. The 640P has a very low noise floor, so you can turn it up without it getting noisy.

Audio Advisor also sells the Music Hall, which has 60dB gain in the MC setting. You could call Audio Advisor to see which they'd recommend. I don't think the .4mV is going to be a problem with the Cambridge. If it is, Audio Advisor has a 30-day return period and return shipping on such a small unit wouldn't cost very much.