Need help: turntable market in the $1500-$2000 range is overwhelming

I’m looking for a new turntable. Had a Dual 1229 years ago but it broke and I got out of vinyl and all that. Got a crappy Audio-Technica around the holidays last year because I thought I’d digitize my records but I don’t feel like doing that anymore and it’s a fiddly turntable that doesn’t sound great. I’m giving myself $1500-$2000 to jump in with the expectation of buying something that’ll keep me happy for a few years.

Sorry, but no Technics tables please!!!! Black or silver. They all look like my crappy Audio-Technica and I’m going to be shallow and say looks matter and that I’m agnostic at best about direct drive. Yeah, I’m dumb.

So in the price range I’ve established I’ve looked at and found interesting offerings from:

—Music Hall

And what feels like a zillion others.

So how the hell do I choose in a market flooded with tables in my price range? 

Oh, and sure, tell me how stupid I am for not wanting a Technics like I keep seeing recommended on the forum, but I’m not going to buy one so please help me with another offering if you can!!!

And I’d prefer to buy new so I can work with a dealer or manufacturer if there are any issues.....
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Don't blame you for not liking AT tables. Not a fan. Sota is good and you should look at the Mobile Fidelity tables. Good bang for the buck. Sota does not come into it's own until you get to the Sapphire and the isolating suspension but that is 3500 without a tonearm. I think the Mo Fi UltraDeck may be the best you can do for that money.
"...And I’d prefer to buy new so I can work with a dealer or manufacturer if there are any issues....."

Upscale Audio represents many lines and if it was me I'd give them a call and get their opinion. They also have experts on staff (ex turntable manufacturing people). 
A while back I owned a mid-level Music Hall (7.1?) and a lead clip broke off. I contacted Music Hall and they had no interest in helping me fix it.
The rest of your list looks good. I favor Clearaudio but that's just my first impulse.
What about the CART and phono stage if your going to use one?

Is the cart part of the TT cost? The same with phono stage.


You don't like a serious TT "Technics". Good stuff from a mechanics perspective.

Sony, Pioneer, Thoren good TT for under a 1000.00. They ARE NOT 1500. TT with a 2K cart, 2k phono stage and 2k Tonearm.

What was that budget again? :-)

AND new? OK!!

I have been impressed with Rega for the money. 
I initially bought a RP1 to replace my Dual CS515. I’ve since upgraded to the P8. 
I think the P3 is a good option because of the upgrade path. And I the P6 is an excellent table at the upper range of your budget.  
Lots of options-enjoy the process 
Sota tables appear quite nice and are well regarded. 
VPI also has an offering in that price range. 
If you’d like to save a grand, the U-Turn Orbit is very nice. 
I'd second the MOFI suggestion. Or invite you to my house to listen to my old Technics SL-1200 MK2 that I picked up for about 500 bucks and show you some affordable tweaks. 
I went with the Rega RP6 and their MC (a little above $2K) you can go with their MM or the RP3 to save a little coin. I chose them for several reasons, I didn't need to do any setup, it had to look good (not like a Rube Goldberg setup), their tables get really good reviews, and it had to have a attached dust cover. Oh and yeah, sound good enough to keep me happy for a long time. I liked the Clear Audio or Music Hall, but they all missed something I wanted. Pick what features you want, your list is a good one, any would do you fine. 
I have been very happy with my two ClearAudio turntables.  You can't hardly beat good old German engineering. They take great pride in their work and reputation. 🎶
Luxman PD-441 is nice, amlost any tonearm can be installed and adjusted quickly and easily on that metal armboard. It was smaller and much cheaper version than reference  PD-444 which I use.
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Honestly in that price range, I don't think you can go wrong with any of those particular brands.  The audible differences are going to be minimal, so really the only decision would be personal aesthetics and perhaps upgradability.  Also some of those brands/models come with a solid cartridge attached and others might be an added expense.  

Buying new, I personally like the Clearaudio in that price category.  
Take a look at the Schiit Sol. It gets a sterling review in the last Stereophile mag.
Thanks for the input so far, guys. I guess the fact that I couldn’t really go wrong with any of these turntables is what makes choosing so hard.

I was reading about the Schiit Sol recently and then discovered that it’s currently out of production because of supply chain issues.

The wood plinth for the that’s a nice look!

As for my budget, I forgot who asked but yeah, I’m looking at $1500 to $2000 with a cartridge that I could be happy with for a while.

My phono stage is a Schiit Mani right now. Lots of gain adjustability for different cartridges both MM and MC.
One nice thing about the Sota tables is that if you ever decide to move up down the road, you can trade in or make significant upgrades, depending on which model you start with. You won't lose value like you do you with many alternatives. A phone call with Donna from Sota will be worth your time to understand that. 
If you are open to used, you can have a table shipped directly to Sota and for $100 they'll evaluate it's condition & provide estimates for any required service. A good way to start with a better product and stay in 

While the Sol seems really cool, it's their first table, and who knows how committed they'll be to support a few years down the road if it doesn't sell well? I'd see that as a risk. 

FWIW, I own a Sota, and previously have owned near top of the line models from both VPI and Technics, as well as other types of gear from Schiit. Cheers,
Lots of upgrades available that you can do a step at a time.
It`s fun and it`s interesting to see what each new component 'brings to the table' :)
I`ve enjoyed doing that exact same thing to my Rega P5
As an example, adding a Groovetracer subplatter was an immediate and very noticeable improvement.
So good, that, that`s the very first thing I would suggest to do.

I put a Origin Live Mk3 silver tonearm on it..another nice improvement ! 
The NEO TTPSU was crazy good too.

My P5 table in hot rod terms has been Bored and Stroked, Ported and Polished with a 3 stages added.
I`ve kept all the original parts and at this point the only original thing on it is the cherry plinth.
It sounds great and was very fun to build ! 
 I have a P10 on the way now and that one will most likely stay 'Numbers Matching'.... maybe :)
You explicitly said you are not interested in a direct-drive turntable, and yet at least 3 of us recommended direct drive.  I won't add to the list, but I will say that among the belt-drive turntables you did list as options there is not much difference.  My personal bias is that Clearaudio usually exacts a premium in cost, based on the brand name and its association with much higher priced models.  So maybe eliminate Clearaudio just on that basis. That still leaves a long list.  None of them is going to be "bad".
The OP’s argument against Direct Drive based on his “crappy Audio-Technica” - this is exactly what he said about his AT. In fact it’s AT and Pioneer tried to sell their look alike turntables to kids (wanna be DJs) when Technics temporary stopped making turntables. That was a target audience and hence the low price. OP purchased one of these cheap AT and for some reason decided that Technics looks like his AT, but it’s the other way around. New Technics is another level, but anyway, it’s a matter of taste. I’m tired of the SL1200 mk-whatever look, so my choice was SP-10 mk2.

But Luxman turntables does not look like Technics, AT or whatever turntable. PD-441 is little inexpensive DD with superb design and usability!

The OP wrote, "I’m agnostic at best about direct drive. Yeah, I’m dumb."You might have a point that this statement does not entirely rule out DD. My own point is that if someone wants to buy one of those cookie-cutter belt-drives, I let them.  As you know, I also have my reservations about your regular practice of recommending vintage DD's to a neophyte vinylista. But I know your heart is in the right place.
I do not see Linn in your list. With your price range, it should be, I would think. That gets you the LP-12, a top tone arm and cartridge, if I'm not mistaken. Where vinyl comes in, I always ask myself what am I listening to with it? Led Zeppelin IV or a violin string quartet? For vinyl, that really makes a difference.
It's a mistake to think one drive system is better than others, when the truth is some turntables are better than others. 
Yeah.  Some direct-drive turntables are better than others.  Just kidding, Russ. I really do agree with you. 
Read the OP's opening thread...he has nothing against AT or Technics other than the looks. I'm not going to pretend to have heard all of these, but my thoughts are Well Tempered, Mo-Fi, or SOTA. 
Depends very much on who did the refurbishing.  Can be very expensive.  On a budget, maybe it's best to start with an original unit and upgrade it according to that budget.
I’m no expert, but I’ve heard quite a few tables over my lifetime so Im recommending the Shinola Runwell. Im running a few Thorens currently, and I also have a Shinola Runwell, which is essentially a VPI. Only downfall is the built in Pre amp. Other than that it’s an awesome table. 
OP here.

I have no real argument against DD turntables, just that the most commonly recommended ones are Technics. I get now that AT copied Technics but there’s something about dropping $2k on a turntable that looks an awful lot like my old one that doesn’t jive with me. Maybe I need to get over that.

There’s definitely tons and tons of overlap in the belt-driven range at my price points. I guess that’s kind of why I’m frustrated because it’s hard to choose between, say, a Music Hall 7.3 and a Pro-Ject X2. Though as someone said, none of the ones I’ve mentioned will be bad or all that different from one another.....SOTA and VPI seem to stand out from the crowd, aesthetically at least. 

Used is interesting, but I feel like used turntables carry a significant risk of shipping damage which leaves buyers and sellers in a bad position. 
@OP  Shipping damage is a real risk. 

I appreciate Rega's lifetime guarantee for manufacturing defects for that specific reason.  Other manufacturers may have the same thing but that information and standing behind their product was the reason I bought the RP1.
I purchased the Clearaudio Concept based on recommendations from this forum, and have been very happy with it. 
I was going to purchase a Rega Planar 3, but was able to go to a local audio store that would demo. I listened to different turntables and I ended up purchasing a Nottingham Analog Studio Inter space junior with a Dynavector 20x2 MC stylus. I’m very pleased with it, but it’s closer to $3000 altogether…
Paypal protect everyone from shipping damage or any defects (full refund always guaranteed and buyer is always protected, not seller), but professional sellers pack well and do not sell junk. Tonearm must be purchased separately. I shipped Victor TT-101 from Russia to USA and our member JP Jones received it with no damage in transit.

If you want to limit yourself to turntables available at your local shop (local pickup) then you may never find even a good belt drive.

Most people comments sounds like “I have this BD, never tried anything else, so it must be good for you too”. 

AT copied only basic design elements of Technics, but AT is nowhere near the SL1200 GR engineering. The GR is heavy metal unit, almost bulletproof with Magnesium tonearm and there is a reason why this is number one recommendation (at $1700 retail price). I think you judge by images from the internet, but you’d better try it in real life at your nearest dealer.
"A while back I owned a mid-level Music Hall (7.1?) and a lead clip broke off."
Pretty easy fix...all you need is a steady hand, a soldering iron and solder. I would never think to contact ANY turntable manufacturer in regards to a broken lead could happen to any turntable! Why put a black eye on Music Hall? 
OP, The choice is the Music Hall MMF-7.3. It’s available in both walnut and gloss black, I’d choose the walnut as it will not show fingerprints and dust. It comes with electronic speed control, a dual plinth, a detached motor, a carbon fiber pro-ject arm, and a terrific Ortofon 2m bronze cartridge. Show me another table for $1595 (black), $1795 (walnut) that offers all this....
     Alternatively, I would suggest you take a look at the Pro-Ject The Classic Evo.
I'd go with a Rega P6.  Fuss-free, and excellent sounding.  I compared it to a MoFi Ultradeck and a Clearaudio Concept; preferred the Rega.  At $1995 with Exact2 (MM) or $2195 with Ania (MC) cartridge, I think it's the best sounding combo in the price range.  
@audioguy - YOU try soldering a strand of copper wire thinner than a human hair. I couldn't do it. I will never purchase from this manufacturer again. You will do what you want.
"I'd go with a Rega P6.  Fuss-free, and excellent sounding.  I compared it to a MoFi Ultradeck and a Clearaudio Concept; preferred the Rega.  At $1995 with Exact2 (MM) or $2195 with Ania (MC) cartridge, I think it's the best sounding combo in the price range."

What cartridges did the three turntables referenced above have mounted? 

Lots of turntables look cool but the best sound will come from a precision mechanical design-
The best sounding turntable will do the following-
1) Have excellent built in isolation from vibration.
2) Have excellent speed accuracy.
3) Have excellent speed stability.
4) Have smooth low friction tonearm bearings to minimize noise.
5) Have an easily adjustable tonearm for VTA optimization to get the best out of top range cartridges.
My Technics 1200GR does all of the above.

Similar in appearance to the old 1200 models and yes your AT as well as other low cost tables but that is where the similarity ends.  They sound full, remarkably stable and energetic with big impact, drive and energy.