Need help picking budget Turntable

I am replacing an old worn out turntable and have been looking at Music Hall 2.1, Rega P2, and Project 1.2 tables. I want good quality and the best sound per dollar spent. Would consider the Music Hall 5 or Rega P3 if I could get a really good deal on them. Price is certainly an issue (I'm married after all...). Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Rega's been in the game the longest, and you get that Rega arm thrown in, which gives you several avenues for upgrading as time goes on. Personally, I love the Spartan simplicity of the look as well. They also have excellent re-sale value. The 3 is worth the extra dosh, if you can swing it, as it'll stay in your system longer, and be worthy of some serious cartridge upgrades before you get the itch...They pop up for sale on this site all the time. I have to admit, I have a soft spot for this 'table, as it got me into this mess, and so I am not entirely objective.
I owned both a P3 and P25 before graduating to a VPI Aries II. I can heartily recommend the P3 as a starter table. You won't be disappointed with the results. Just be sure to choose the cartridge carefully, such as a Benz Silver or Shure V15.
Hallhill4, Colitas here there's a Planar 2 on E-bay RIGHT NOW!#3071989793 The difference b/w the P2 and the P3 is the tonearm. The 250 arm on the Planar 2 is a better arm
(with the available modifications) Replace the plastic endstub with the Express Machining 2-extreme endstub($40). Then replace the counterweight with the heavyweight $100 (from Express Machining(thru their own site not a dealer TRUST me)or the F2 titanium counterweight from Kerry Audio$130(through this site). The Kerry audio being my favorite, I have owned both. There is no reason to purchase the P3 in my opinion. Don't make the same mistake I did(by spending the extra money), the savings in cost will help you upgrade the 250 arm. The 250 without the VTF spring will be harder to set the VTF(balance with a scale) but will yield better results! The 250 has a better top end than the 300. When you get tired of the Planar sound you can upgrade the table and take the arm along while you upgrade.
I can't resist, I always question what seems to be developing into Dogma and which seems to be unfounded empirically and therefore based in marketing propaganda. I don't wish to question someone's personal experience, but I must wonder if comparisons were carried out on a level playing field with respect to the two Rega arms.

The RB300 is more expensive for a variety of reasons, including superior bearings - both vertical and horizontal - to the '250 (a more rigorous quality control as well as different design). In addition, the spring which is made much of only resonates at certain frequencies, not all, and even this, to my knowledge, has never been tested - so is it really resonating, or is this PR designed to get OL business? And while perhaps it is not a good idea to have a spring in the assembly (I'm willing to grant the point if someone comes up with actual emprirical results), we must not forget the whole point to this spring, which actually acts in reverse: it applies upforce, not downforce, so that adjusting it for correct cartridge weight actually allows the counterweight to be placed closer to the bearing assembly, thus reducing the effective mass by something like 3 grams, which is a Good Thing. Finally, even the wiring is superior in the '300. I have read elsewhere on this site that the '250 has two bearings while the '300 has only one, which is nonsense. They are constructed similarly, but where the '250 is constructed with plastic (armstub) and bronze (bearing housing) the '300 uses stainless steel (both), and comes with a stainless steel counterweight. When comparing a modded RB250 with a RB300, did both arms receive the modded armstub and wiring which made the 250 superior: meaning has anyone ever tried the full OL mod on a 300 and then compared the two? Finally, the Rega P3 is thicker, having a thicker platter as well, which means more mass, which seriously affects the sound of unsuspended 'tables for the better. So in stock version at least, the Rega P3 is definitely superior, and will accomodate moving coils without modification (though, of course, improvements will improve the sound). Either Rega will sound better on a big, heavy platform, preferably a wall-mount.

I have been re-wiring Regas for something like 15 years, and if someone out there ever fairly compares the two arms and comes up with empirical results, I will immediately switch to the '250, assuming the '250 is actually superior. I may carry out the experiment myself, someday, as I actually have access to two re-wired Regas. Actually, this month's Hi Fi + features two articles comparing the Rega '250, '300 and '600, where some of these matters are explained. After all of the above, I am still open-minded, and will believe it when I hear it. So Colitas, do you know of any such experiments, where the OL mod is given to both arms? I wonder how the '300's superior bearings and lower effective mass are overcome sonically. Let's not forget that Rega was/is the upstart which challenges the Establishment (Linn in Rega's earlier days), offering high-end arms at budget prices, and excellent 'tables imitated by a number of companies: these companies, however, cannot match the Rega arms. I'd appreciate it if you pointed me to the relevant websites. Thanks.
Just adding my enthusiastic vote for the Rega RB-300 arm with the truly amazing Kerry Audio F2 Titanium Heavyweight Counterweight. The Kerry "tweak" made my vinyl collection brand new, and at a very modest cost.
Also, don't forget either the "Non-Felt" mat, or the Herbie's Audio Lab turntable mat, later on.
This forum is a treasure. While I plan to get myself a Kerry Audio Counterweight, I haven't heard of Herbie's mat. What's it made of, what is the principle? How does it compare with the Audioquest Sorbothane mat, which is an excellent match for glass platters? And has anybody out there tried the Boston Audio Design graphite mat?
How much effort do you want to put into this?? If you are a "plug and play" sort of person, then stick to the Music Hall or Project models...
A Rega with a Rega cartridge is also for the plug-and-player.
The venerable Regas aside. I cast my vote for the Pro-ject 1.2 or RM4. Very under rated. Fine starter tables with superbly musical sound both with stock Sumikos or upgraded Grados. A bargain at current asking prices. The RM4 is available at less than $450 w/cartridge.
HH4, sorry if this is a highjack.

I have the graphite Boston Audio mat (actually called a Mat 1). It is my belief that different mats will perform much differently depending on the platter compostion. On my Spacedeck, I did not like a felt mat or a sorbothane mat at all (though others with different tables swear by them). OTOH, I very much liked the Mat 1, even over a Mystic Mat which is abour 1/3 more expensive.
But the Projects don't come with Rega arms. Man, this advice site is clear as mud to the prospective buyer: flip a coin, a twelve-sided coin! You're right about the Sorbothane mat, 4Yanx, it only works well on glass platters as far as my experience goes, but here it shines. And jeez, what's a Mystic Mat? I don't even know what Herbie's mat is yet! I'm going back to my matless Maplenoll! Someone's gotta make a list of the different mats and the types of platters they work with. And I thought French was complicated.
Used Rega planar 3 with a new super bias or elys cartridge. The planar 3 will resell for what it costs you if the need ever arises. There really is nothing to go wrong, so used is as good as new.

If you can afford the elys cartridge then the 3 point mounting means you don't need any tools other than the supplied allen key. The super bias is a bit cheaper and a bit trickier to mount since it only has two mounting points.

couldn't be simpler, and sounds pretty good too.
Johnnantais, Just hoping I did not scare you back to playing shellac 78's on an RCA Victrola.
Herbie's turntable mat is made of open-cell silicone foam.
Actually, if you enter Herbie's Audio Lab in the Google search box, you will be transported into the world of damping, away from this present world of strife, and hard knocks. Anything the site fails to make perfectly clear, can be clarified by telephone call to the number provided.
He has specific knowledge about use on your turntable choices, and he will speak to any potential customer, ignorant of technology though we may be.
Listener57, I'm nervous, but I'm getting over it thanks to my mat-less Maplenoll! Thanks for the info, I'll check into the site. Oh, uhhh...and I vote for the P3....again. Of course, I hear those old RCA Victrolas were pretty good, and the needles are the cheapest.
OK johannantais, my opinion on the 250 was researched right here on this site. TWL has supported the two bearing hypothesis. Hypothesis because it has not been proven empirically yet. My test on my P3 was with a modded 250 with 2extreme endstub from Express Machining with their heavyweight. The 300 had the stock endstub but the heavyweight. I did not re-wire them for the listening sessions I did. They were both played on a P3 with the same music. I have since gone to the F2 titanium counterweight by Kerry. Interesting because the counterweight after set-up was much closer to the bearings than the heavyweight. Probably difference in mass? Anyway to my ears the 250 sounded better.
Colitis, thanks for the info. While I reserve the right to search your bags...uh, that is, withhold judgement, I do believe that with all these accolades for the Kerry mod I will buy one of these. As to the two-bearing hypothesis, there is some kind of miscommunication here. More elucidation is needed...anyway, thanks for the heads-up on the titanium weight: probably Twl can explain why it sits so close to the bearing relative to the heavyweight, something to do with the tear-drop shape?
johnnantais, I do not believe the tear-drop shape is the answer because they both have a hole that is off center. I think the difference is in the material used Heavyweight is stainless while the Kerry is titanium. Just a thought, having owned both. Too bad TWL hasn't chimed in to clear the haze on the mechanics of the REGA's. I also owned the Herbie's Turntable mat, while it made an improvement mine picked up every lint and fiber floating around on the air. Anyone else had this problem(static?)? Remember Johnnantais, this is a hobby for some not, a military tribunal with "empirical evidence" Lighten up HUH!?
Colitis, when you compare different tonearm counterweights on your tonearm in controlled conditions - making sure the wiring is the same, the 'table is the same and so on - you are conducting an empirical/scientific experiment. This is what the audio hobby is. When I ask for empirical evidence of the negative contributions of the spring in an RB300, I am asking for someone to take the trouble to find out if it is really resonating, instead of just assuming it is. There's no difference between this request and someone asking which is the best turntable: we are both looking for experience, and this too is what the audio hobby is. I didn't want to offend you, but this hobby is also about questioning, or things like the Kerry counterweight wouldn't exist (in this case hobbyists questioned Rega's design). By buying all these mods, you question Roy Gandy. And so I questioned your statement that the RB250 was categorically superior to the RB300. At the moment my system is in a transitional state, and so all my high-end 'tables sound bright right now, and my mid-fi one sounds just right. Does this mean that the mid-fi one is better? No, just that my preamp is bright, and favours the rolled-off high frequencies of the lesser 'table. And thanks for the heads-up on Herbie's mat, now this'll open up yet another can of worms...
Johnnantais, I bet there is a return policy regarding the mat from Herbie's, if it is not what you want. That would allow for trying in your own environment. I still use the "Non-Felt" mat, even though some like Herbie's better, and no static cling.
We are dealing with different choices, all of which can give pleasure. None of the choices is an irreversible mistake.
After you eventually get your choice of vinyl playback system up and running, please post in this discussion thread know how it all turns out.
Good points Johnnantais, I guess I misperceived the true intention of your comments. I do understand the variables involved of a controled experiment. Do you have a 250 you could test? Just curious, you seem to have been in this longer than I have(I am 30). I did get the Sota to give me the bass I had, it was VTA after all.
Colitas, glad to hear you are getting the bass you've been looking for. As to the Sota, it is a beautiful 'table and extremely well engineered. How does it sound? Is it good at rhythm? I ask as I do collect record-players when funds allow and I may look into this. I believe that a "high-end" 'table which doesn't get the rhythm is no more than a paperweight. I'm a sucker for wood, superficial I know.

And yes, I do have access to both a Rega RB300 and RB250 re-wired in precisely the same way (by me) but I have not yet taken the rather large trouble to transfer them from 'table to 'table and so on (as on my home-mades this means total dismantlement), and was hoping that someone else did. I may do this in the future. But with my Rega RB300 I get sound which is so spectacular on my home-made 'table that I question the need for anything better...though I will eventually cave and buy the Kerry counterweight. Like you, I use a Grado Platinum on this, as again this gives such good sound I question the need for anything better (though I do have cartridges which are better in various respects), and there's that spooky clarity (due to the physical design/materials) as well as hair-raising intensity this cartridge gives in the mid-band which blows my mind. This cartridge is one of the few which shows progress is being made. People have to stop thinking in terms solely of detail and consider other aspects of sound, primarily timing.

I tend to compare new 'tables more with older, less-detailed and now "surpassed" 'tables to see if the old 'tables can teach me anything, and I find that the Connoisseur BD1, for instance (which can be found quite commonly for $30), always gets the music right. It was commonly used by most classical FM stations in the early '70s. It used a peripheral belt (around the platter) before any other, suspended the motor from a single solid plinth by a rubber cradle before Rega did, and used a clever low-torgue system for the motor drive. This thing makes all records sound good, even if it does not scale the heights of detail (it is surprising what it can do in this regard, however, when you look at it). And it makes all cartridges I've mounted on it so far sound very dynamic. Maybe I'll mount the Grado on it to see what happens...hmmmm....I regularly take sabbaticals from the "high end" (which I put in quotes since so much expensive equipment sounds like crap, makes no music), and then just listen to records on something like my Connoisseur for a year, or an Elac, or an old Ariston, all of which are very musical, and all of which actually gave me more musical pleasure than my "high-end" players!....Perhaps it is time for another sabbatical...This is tremendous fun, and cheap, try it!

And Listener57, thanks for your input: two of my "high-end" 'tables require no platter mat, but one does, and then there's my Connoisseur, which I'd love to tweak, fun, fun (and easy with this 'table, like the Regas)...I'm also considering the Boston Mat1, and will probably end up buying one of each, as I continue to buy old classic 'tables when I see them...As to my system, I need a new preamp, and am considering everything from the NAD C160 (for its musicality, switchable MM/MC, and remote-control) to various high-end pieces, tubed and solid state. My Connoisseur, for instance, has taught me that expense does not translate into musicality, and something tells me the NAD might be something special...Then again...
Johnnantais, the Sota is presents a better backdrop for the music. I finally can get Mile's on "Bitches Brew" to come in clear. There are some really long notes on that album that always test the upper range of a table/cartridge. Timing? hmmm Well my Eagle's "Hotel California" does sound good. Especially the part that gcuts off to dead silence. I do not have a stoboscope and timing disc, yet. So I have been going by ear. It does seem to swingg from Coltrane to Pink Floyd to classical guitar(john Mclaughlin). i do find myself tapping my toes, and banging my head (all signs of god swing to me). Yes, I am a sucker for wood too, so that's a plus. Thanks for the budget players list, I always could use more players my self, Kitchen, bedroom, car (just kidding, even though I have seen one on E-bay). I believe the tonearm needs a veil lifted i.e. the re-wire. What would you recommend? Cardas or Discovery? Or other?
Like the song goes, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." If you find your toes tapping, then your 'table's got timing. As to wiring, I do my own using extremely thin solid core, mixed in with a favourite cheapy cable I find better balanced than any other, natural sounding, and detailed. But that's another story. If I were going to buy one, I'd go for the Incognito kit, which uses uninterrupted Cardas wire from cartridge clips to RCAs, a good design, and an aluminum plug to kill resonance all in one.

If I were looking for a good used 'table for cheap fun, I'd get an AR-XA (usually $30-$50). Grados love low-mass tonearms, so keep your eyes open for Grace tonearms, Black Widow tonearms, or Mayware unipivots, quite cheap except for the Black Widow. Except for the unipivot, the Rega's bearings are superior to these but you'd be amazed anyway at how the Grados open up when matched to these. If you pay $30 for the AR, then you shouldn't be too scared to drill out the AR subchassis. Alternatively, the Aristons (either the RD11 or RD80) come with a separate armboard so you can mix and match, but cost more (typically $200). They usually come with either a Mayware or Grace. Stick a Grado on these, and rock the night away, because timing doesn't get better than this. And all these tonearms benefit from rewiring too. But if you just want to plug n'play, then get a Connoisseur, and stick a Pickering or Stanton on it and find out what your grandad got so excited about! Astonishing dynamics and swing for $30, plus cartridge. Tonight I solved my problem temporarily by matching a Black Widow to an Ariston RD80, which gave a good, smooth and detailed sound with no brightness in my system. And it rocks, with the Platinum. Now I can relax and listen to music again, relief. Have fun!
Thanks johnnantais for the advice!
No problem, Colitas, keep groovin with the Coltrane, and let us know how your re-wiring project goes. As to the old classic spinners, I just hate to see these old beauties ignored, they need attention...