Why not go get a Rega? Choose your level and see where that takes you. Pro-ject and Funk are also good starting points. Your new to it, get your feet wet before taking the plunge. It is time consuming but very rewarding. If you find you want more, get a record cleaning machine. VPI has one, there's a nitty gritty, or Loricraft to name some. Cleaning solutions abound. Look in the archives.
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Go slow, and as suggested get your fee wet. Your vinyl memories may need a long time to reawaken, and at close to the $3K you are considering it could be an expensive memory. Look for a used Denon 47F, one which you can pick up, and marry it with a Denon 103 or 160. For less then $500 you will be in business. Once you are sure of your commitment to vinyl buy a VPI, and keep the Denon as a back up machine.
Thanks Guys for your feedback. I believe I am committed. I just love my speakers so much. I have been using a the NAD Masters M15 since I have owned the Dynaudio Confidence C1s and the Simaudio will be my first stereo pre/amp.
I have not listened to CDs etc like I would like to. I went in to audition a new HT pre/pro to replace my NAD and during the audition I enjoyed the experience so much (listened to a Classe stereo pre/amp). I didn't but these wonderful speakers (my opinion) just for HT and I am ready for the next level.
I research everything to death before I audition. The salesman at the store is strongly suggesting I listen to a used unit they are selling for someone. I believe he stated it was a Scoutmaster and I do not remember the cartridge. A $4500 rig at $2200 I think he said. 18 months old. We will see but I am just trying to be armed with my own opinions thru suggestions and research before I go.
My taste is classic rock, pop and Jazz and R&B. I really have enjoyed listening to some piano and other intrumentals as the C1s are great for this.
I want to check out the Simaudio stereo pre/amp, cleaner and a cartridge are not part of my listed budget.
A short list from the little bit of research.
Music Hall MMF 9.1
VPI Classic 1 or 2
VPI Scoutmaster (the used unit)
The VPI Classic seems to get some really excellent reviews here. Whats the diff between Classic 1 and 2?
Of the ones you listed, go with VPI, IMO. Personally, I favor a vintage Lenco or Denon for low buck pleasure (<$1000), but if I were to choose the Denon option, I would go for something above the DP47 suggested above. The Denons are still undervalued and so there is not much difference (a few hundred bucks) in the cost of a DP47 and, for example, the top of that line, the DP80, which can hold its own with a Technics SP10 Mk2. (DP80s have become rather rare to find, I admit.) The DP6000 and DP62 and 57 are other lesser but still good ones to look for. For the amount of dough quoted above, you might also find a revamped and ready to use SP10 Mk2.
For vinyl newbies, I generally recommend buying thru a trusted local dealer who can help you out with all the set up issues (Cartridge matching,VTA,VTF etc..).
VPI,Clear Audio,Rega,Nottingham,and Well Tempered are some Mfg's that come to mind that have good (new) product in your price range.
While you would undoubtedly get more for your money buying used, I generally advice against that for newbies. Once you have some experience, no problem.
Boy, there are a lot of good turntables at that price range. For a sampler, go here. Offerings from JA Michell, Thorens, Rega, Roksan, Sota, Origin Live, Clearaudio, Rega P7, Pro-Ject, Music Hall ...
Over at MusicDirect we have the Avid Diva II, VPI Classic I plus various versions of the Scout and Scoutmaster that fit your budget.
The two that have me most intrigued at this price point are the Well-Tempered Amadeus at $2895 list and the Townshend Rock 7 with damper trough at about $3K. Both are available in the US, but I don't know where offhand.
First, let me say I have sold and sell Lenco turntables.
The Lenco is a killer at your price point. For about $2k you can have a refurbished, replinthed piece of art that will certainly meet your needs. Easy to use, hassle free and a very easy synergistic match for almost any phono stage.
Easy match because with most plinthed Lencos, you choose which arm and cart you can afford and what will be a good match. Many Lenco owners find the inexpensive Rega 300 to be an excellent arm and a Denon 103 cart to be a wonderful combination.
Later, if you decide to move up to a better arm/cart combo, the sky is the limit since most Lencos come with 2 armboards which are simple to change/replace.
Lenco idler wheel drive allows for stable, steady speed which translates to deep, defined and tuned bass. Overall tonal balance is superb and constant. Unlike belt drive which tends to stretch and slip, the vintage Lenco continues to amaze after 30+ years.
I've had folks sell their Well Tempered, VPI, Rega, Music Hall and Nottingham tables within weeks of hearing how a Lenco can bring vinyl to life.
Go to Lencoheaven.com and continue to research.
Good luck and happy hunting!
Go to http://www.lencoheaven.com and you'll be disappointed to find a digital transcription service.
Go to http://homepage.ntlworld.com/maddogmcq/myart/lencoheaven/index.htm and I think you'll find what Oregon intended.
at that price range, there are a number of very good tables new, and great tables used. New I would recommend the vpi classic, Avid Sequel, Sota Star, Clearaudio cmg wood. I would stay away from tables that include a Rega tonearm as part of the package, not because the rega is bad, but it is mediocre and I think limits how good the package can sound. Once you get past the 3k range, a lot of the differences become a matter of taste, aesthetics and convenience. At that point, most of the essential requirements for vinyl playback have been met, and now you are tweaking, with each tweak creating a compromise somewhere else in the system. So you might get stronger bass, but muddled midrange, or too bright. One reason the VPI is recommended is because they put together a system that works well together and all you add is a cartridge. Designing a table for a specific tonearm is easier and more likely to be successful than designing for a number of tonearms, or the average of a number.
Finally, any vinyl system you put together for 3k will sound wonderful, and easily surpass a CD based system of the same cost. IMHO of course