Need Help with System

This is my first post in the Analog forum so have patience. Looking to get back into Analog sometime this year or early next so I am looking for ideas from you seasoned analog junkies out there. I have a "beginners" rig from AudioAdvisor - HW19 Jr with RB300 and a now defunct Blue Point Special cartridge. The phono pre is/was the “VAC in the Box” with the upgraded power supply. This was going into a Golden Tube SEP preamp. After extensive upgrades the front end is now all dCS gear (digital inputs only). I will be most likely be getting the Grieg (an upgrade to the Purcell with phono and analog inputs) from dCS when it comes out later this year. So for now the analog rig sits idle. I have about 350 albums in storage and would like to listen to them again. My budget for the entire analog rig (up to the Grieg) would be about 2-3 K total – new or used.

PS – No - I am not going to sell the dCS gear so don’t ask…. :-)

Cheers, Dan
While your current vinyl may be considered to be a beginner's rig it is certainly a good respectable start that will last a long time. I am making the assumption that the 2-3k is for the entire vinyl rig (TT, arm, cart and phono). For the 2-3k that you are considering spending I do not think you will will be able to make a substantial improvement. You will find that the "new" rig will have different characteristics, but will not provide a big jump in total sonic performance. If you want to upgrade the entire rig you should probably consider doubling your "budget" to get a big sonic improvement. If you want to go one piece at at time there are many routes to choose. At this point you should probably consider upgrading the table to Mk4 status with the SAMA, after that probably the arm or the cartridge, then the other and somewhere along the line the the phono pre-amp. Good Luck, Doug
Thanks Doug.. One thing I forgot to mention is the I have an original VPI PLC. I was thinking about upgrading to the Mk4 level also. What is SAMA? What about mods to the RB300? Are they worth it? (Cable and mechanical upgrades - for VTA? ) Thanks, Dan
Hi Dan,
As I see it, the weakest link in your vinyl playback is currently the Bluepoint Spl.I'd be looking into a more refined,better balanced and expressive unit like the Dynavector 10x4II first.
Caterham, I have to replace the Blue Point Special anyway as it got damaged in a recent move. Thanks for the suggestion about the Dynavector.
Michael Fremer in Stereophile just recently talked about the Origin mod the your Rega 300 arm. He loved it. You can also add a new counterweight that helps. I'm using a Rega 25, rb600 arm and Lyra Lydian cartridge all about 2k in a top of the line bat system. The records are pretty damn good considering they were recorded 20+ years ago and I'm comparing a 2k analog system to a 5 digital front end...

The Dynavector cartrige is good above, others to consider are my Lyra Lydian (1K), Grado's for a different sound...
If I understand your system, you will be digitizing the analog output from the phono stage. If this is the case, then I'm not sure it makes much sense to substantially upgrade your turntable. I would recommend not spending more than $400-500 on a new cartridge (Grado, Audio-Technica, Shure, etc.) and paying alot of attention to cartridge setup and turntable isolation. Exacting setup and superior isolation can reap big time sonic benefits at a relatively low cost. Long-term I recommend you upgrade te phono preamp (or get a preamp w/ a good phono section). They can be had used for less than $1,500.
Onhwy, Well yes and no... At the risk of offending all the analog lovers here look at The Grieg will convert the phono input directly to a 24/192 digital signal and then feed it to my Delius. Or as you suggest I can use a Phono pre and then go into the analog inputs as the Grieg has both phono and analog. I have not heard this but I am sure it will be of very good quality given dCS’s professional D/A and A/D products. I will of course audition this at home when it comes out later this year. But I do not want to focus on the dCS gear. I would like opinions about obtaining the best possible sound near my budget.
Dan2112, The SAMA that I spoke of is the Stand Alone Motor Assembly that VPI has for the HW-19 series turntables. After reading some of the posts after my first and some of your additional thoughts you should probably go with the cartridge replacement. As previously noted, Lyra is a good choice as well as the Benz-Micro line. Both make a variety of cartridges in varying price ranges that offer very good sound and performance. If you make the decision to stick with the phono pre, I use the Pass Aleph Ono. It is very flexible as far as cartridge loading options and gain adjustments go. It has recently been replaced by the Xono so you will probably be able to get a used one for around $1500 if you watch the used listings. If you choose to continue to "digitize" the analog signal then spend the money on a tonearm. Upgrade the turntable as spare cash allows. Good Luck, Doug
Well I see I offended at least one person with my last post. If I offended anybody please accept my apologies. However my focus of this thread was intended to be the improvement of my existing analog rig and not getting into a debate about the merits of "digitizing" the analog signal. Doug I thank you for clarifying the SAMA acronym – much appreciated. I have heard good things about the Pass Xono. I can always bypass the dCS gear and use a conventional preamp too. – Dan
Dan, don't worry about negative votes. Post your honest opinion and let them learn to deal with it. It's not your problem, it's theirs. You'll get over the "shock" of seeing negatives REAL quick if you continue to post on this forum. Sean
hi dan,

ewe *can* get a killer analog rig for $3k if yure willing to buy used - it *will* make a substantial improvement over your current set-up, imho. i upgrade my rig a while back, & it ran almost exactly $3k. and, the origin-live modded tonearm & dc-motor/power-supply upgrade were purchased brand-gnu.

anyway, my current set-up is an oracle 'table updated to mk-v specs, w/the exception of the motor/powersupply, which is gnu, from origin-live. the tonearm is a brand-gnu fully-modded origin-live rega rb-250 w/vta base. (o-l, btw, sez this tonearm is even better than their fully-modded rb900, which is considered a giant killer, even in its stock form). cartridge is a lyra clavis, brand-gnu re-tip/rebuild from symphonic-line/vandenhul. fono stage is a little-known (in the usa, anyway) german unit, the pentagon ps-3 (retails for ~$1800). this fono-stage was purchased only because i recently upgraded my preamp, & the gnu pre dint have a fono-stage. oh yeah, & i could even get a few bucks back if i ever decide to sell the mint grace 727 tonearm that came w/the oracle when i bought it! ;~)

good luck, doug

Dan, please let me expand on my earlier comment. I believe your existing VPI/Rega setup is capable of very good sound reproduction. To substantially improve upon this setup will require more than your $3k budget, IMO. I still stand by my recommendation that your money is best spent by upgrading your cartridge and paying careful attention to setup. The whole issue of digitizing the phono signal is problematic. The best signal path is nearly always the simplest signal path. If your analog rig was substantially upgraded, I believe the improvements would be negated by the subsequent digital processing. I could be wrong. One area where digital processing could actual help analog playback is in RIAA equalization. I wonder if a digital implementation of the RIAA curves could counter balance the degradation resulting from the A/D process. Good luck!
while i'm not a big fan of the current redbook-cd-standard for digital playback (i tink winyl is *much* better), i'd be surprised if the dcs a/d conwerter, w/its 24/192 sampling-rate isn't as good a a top-line analog fono-stage. foregoing the add-on fono-stage wooda reduced my system's price to $2400. and, to disagree w/onhwy61 & doug28450, while i tink the vpi jr is an excellent 'table, i must humbly submit my opinion that an oracle mk-v w/origin-live dc motor/power supply *is* in fact, a substantial improvement...

regards, doug s.

Thanks to all that have replied so far, and thank you again for keeping an open mind. Doug and Doug S. I agree that a full-blown analog rig would probably sound better than a digitized RIAA. Even dCS says that true analog buffs might want to keep their phono preamp. I don't know how it will sound either, but I am assuming that an analog signal sampled at 24bits at 192 kHz should be a huge improvement over one sampling using 16 bits at 44.1 kHz. dCS is using the same technology in their professional grade A/D player and it can be argued they are the best of the best in that regard.

Doug S I am also not a huge fan of the Redbook CD playback - that is why I purchased the dCS gear. :-) But what is nice about this whole setup is that I can incrementally improve it without giving up anything in the digital rig. I can add a phono stage and "sample" it at 24/192 or I can purchase a killer pre-amp (with a different budget) and feed the analog outs of the dCS D/A into the pre. The preamp would have to be top notch, though...

As far as which is better – updating the table, the stylus, or the arm, well that is what I need you folks for. Keep the suggestions coming. I appreciate all who have commented so far. Cheers - Dan