New Vinyl Setup


For somebody who is new to vinyl, is there any advantage to buying new vs. buying used? Or is the cost savings of buying used the same advantage with a vinyl setup that it is with most other audio components?

I know there are some setups that come ready to plug and play, cartridge and all. Shy of somebody coming to one's house to install and verify setup, it would seem like the new owner needs to be well versed in setup to really get what they're paying for, new or used, out of vinyl.

Given the mechanical nature of a vinyl setup, it seems like there might be advantages for a newbie getting it right with brand new stuff, but would appreciate any input.
kthomas
My opinion is that buying used affords you the opportunity to try some gear and replace it with other gear without losing your ass in the process.

...because you WILL buy and resell, and buy again.

Also, you might as well learn how to set up an arm and cartridge so you know how to troubleshoot the eventual expensive table/arm/cart combo. Plus, why be limited to hiring someone to set up your table every time you want to experiment with a different cartridge?

Buy used. That's my 2 cents...
My concern here is that turntables are the hardest things to ship without damage, with the possible exception of large, heavy speakers. The best thing to do is use the zip code search engine off of "my page" and buy locally. Barring that, know your seller, and make sure that she has extensive experience in shipping turntables. I cannot emphasize the risks strongly enough.
FWIW, start 'small'. Don't focus on high end stuff and take it one step at a time. If I were starting out I would buy a TT without suspension system for two reasons. You don't have to tune it and it can be shipped with less probability of damage. Get one with a tonearm that is easy to set up and use, keep it simple. Get a cartridge that is easy to set up and is not as sensitive to VTA variables in LP's beyond simple initial set up. Then do a little reading and learn to set it up yourself as Tvad suggested.

I've seen some inexpensive new packages by Rega which would be excellent TT's to start with.

FWIW
Assuming you don't buy some POS, which you can avoid with some meager homework, there is really no advantage to buying new vs. new.

Now, just for food for thought, there are advantages for buying a little higher up the food chain than the normal suggestions for starter tables. (No, I'm not in the audio business.) Obviously, if you go here you should be committed to this undertaking prior to making such a purchase. The advantage is that you'll have equipment with much better adjustment capabilities to allow you to learn and you'll skip that effort of buying and selling as you move up.

That is, if you know you're already afflicted.

;)
there are advantages for buying a little higher up the food chain than the normal suggestions for starter tables. (No, I'm not in the audio business.) Obviously, if you go here you should be committed to this undertaking prior to making such a purchase. The advantage is that you'll have equipment with much better adjustment capabilities to allow you to learn and you'll skip that effort of buying and selling as you move up.

That is, if you know you're already afflicted.

;)
Dan_ed (System | Threads | Answers)
That makes perfect sense to me. It bolsters the adage, "Buy cheap, buy again."

The key is knowing that you're fully committed to the endeavor...and willing to commit the necessary funds to obtain the gear.

Dan_ed, what would be your three suggestions for table/arm combos and their associated used costs?
Now you've gone and put me on the spot, Tvad. :) But I'm game for taking a few risks here.

My experiences with the starter tables was a mixed bag. They are certainly good enough to have shown me what vinyl can be. But in my case I'm a hands-on type and willing to put time into tweaking things. Arms, tables, cartridge, equipment stands, etc. After about a year or so I realized that many of the parameter adjustments I wanted to learn about were just not supported well enough to help me learn these things properly. This is part of the point I was trying to make the other day in that thread about the test LPs.

I realize that not everyone is going to keep moving up and investing more and more in vinyl playback like I've done. However, it sure seems that more people do end up moving up than remain completely satisfied with that starter table (these are the lucky few). I have always gone over the top in my hobbies whether it was race cars or woodworking, so I always new what was going to happen for me.

One combo I have experience with that I can offer is a Basis 1400 with either the Rega or (even better) a Vector tonearm. These can be had for around $1K, maybe a bit more if it includes a Vector. The one adjustment that is not as micro-adjustable with this combination is VTA. However, the business card shim trick works well and there is only one set screw. This makes it pretty easy to do. The Basis motors are rock solid.

I think the Graham 2.2 is another great tonearm value. It has all of the micro adjustment capability and has been mated with many different tables over the years. Such a combination would run closer to $3K, I would expect. While it may be a bit fussy to extract the maximum performance, the 2.2 is an excellent tool for learning.

I know that's only two but these are the ones I'm most familiar with. Hopefully, some else will chime in with some more suggestions. I'd bet Doug, Raul, Thom Mackris, to name a few, would have some great suggestions along these lines.

I should have probably added that buying used is the better value most of the time, but perhaps that is obvious.
Thanks for the feedback so far.

I probably wasn't clear enough in my question. Given the nature of a vinyl setup having so many variables, it would make sense that a newb would potentially have one or more things wrong in an initial setup, and by having this be the case, might not be duly impressed with the vinyl setup. This could cause one to give up on the setup prematurely and incorrectly, whereas if the "introduction" is good, it might inspire further and deeper involvement.

I absolutely agree that somebody who is going to have a vinyl setup needs to understand how to tweak all of these parameters themselves. I guess I'm just wondering how to have the best chance of having a good initial experience without having poor setup get in the way.
Dan_ed, thanks for the suggestions. I have read other good comments about the Basis 1400. It looks very basic...no pun intended. What makes this table better than others at the price point?
Kthomas,

You're absolutely right about the large number of variables involved in a vinyl setup. Unfortunately, these days even if you buy new and pay a dealer for the initial setup there's no guarantee it will be done right. The audio industry mainstream abandoned vinyl twenty years ago. A whole generation that might have learned how to do it right was lost, and the people who used to know are few and getting fewer. There's just not enough business to earn a living at it, but some dealers who no longer understand what they're doing may still take your money. (Of course others will do a good job. The problem is knowing which job you got. For that you need the DIY knowledge you could have begun acquiring from the get-go, for free.)

Having one or more things wrong in a newbie setup is likely enough. I've certainly been there, done that. But learning and hearing what various adjustments do and how to optimize them is a vital part of the experience. It makes you smarter.

From the thoughtful and foresighted nature of your question, I'm guessing you have the interest and intelligence to learn by reading, asking and trying. You already understand that vinyl is not plug and play, no matter what anyone's ad copy claims. That's a critical first step that some people never take. They throw thousands of dollars at very costly rigs, which never play up to their potential for lack of careful adjustment by the owner.

Try viewing the last half of Michael Fremer's vinyl setup DVD. (The first half is a waste of time, unless you'd enjoy a rambling tour of his record collection.) For a few bucks it will teach you how to do a reasonably good setup with no obvious or major errors. Resources like this board and the FAQ's on VA will also help. You'll be free to invest all your audio budget in better equipment and more music.

Doug
I'm sure there are other tables in the same range as the 1400 that are very good. I offer it because that is one, along with a Basis 2100 and 2500, that I've spent some time with. The 2100 used a Vector arm and latter I used that same Vector and a Graham 2.2 on the 2500. I had purchased the 1400 used here in the ads to use until my Gavia was delivered, say about 10 months altogether. (Not that the Gavia took that long, but I sold the 2500 to help the funding issue.) Even though I knew the quality and performance of Basis products I was very pleasantly surprised with the 1400. That table had a modified RB300. The 1400's usually go for $800-$1000 used. If you compare that to the cost of say a new MMF-7 (not picking on Music Hall here, but I owned one of those as well for a while) then there is so much more offered from the Basis. Better bearing, motor, etc. I suspect that VPI, SME, etc would also have models that would do well.

Doug makes a great point. The only real sin is to buy high-end and never take the time to learn how to improve the setup.
Tvad,

I wish I had some good suggestions to add to Dan's, but we followed his "don't buy too cheap" plan several years ago, with a vengeance. ;-)

We went directly from a 25-year-old mid-fi rig that had been collecting dust for years to a Teres 265/OL Silver/Shelter 901 ($5K-ish). No baby steps!

That mad, Kierkegaardian leap of faith was richly inspired by Twl, to whom we will be forever grateful, and of course it worked out well for us. Given the price structure of Teres I could have sold that rig off without losing more than $1K or so if we'd decided the whole vinyl thing wasn't for us.

That didn't happen of course. As you know, we've since gone the other way, from boldness to lunacy and beyond.

Doug

P.S. It is indeed easy to make mistakes when getting into vinyl, but IMO the serious mistakes are more likely to be poor equipment selection or poor equipment matching than poor setup and adjustment. The latter is easily rectified after all. The former can really mess with your head, cause you to chase the wrong "fixes" and cost alot of unnecessary money. IOW, Tvad's question is a very important one and Dan's "don't buy too cheap" is a good start toward success.
Doug, I must give credit to TWL as well. He once gave out this advice about buying higher up the first time. Unfortunately for me it was well into my 'table journey. But looking back I can really appreciate now what he was saying.
Hey guys It's my first post. I myself just purchased a new table - actually a demo P3. It's certainly a step up from the old Technics & Pioneers I've had in the past. My previous table of any worth was a 1200MkII when I used to dj.

anyways, now that I'm grown up - or at least older ;) I'm enjoying a wider variety of music + I love the involvement that vinyl requires and the rewards that it gives. I've never really messed with the setup of my previous tables, but with the P3, I'm really learning alot. Trying different setups (Rega vs. OL) teaches you how everything works togeather. Plus there are tons of mods for the Rega.

Long story short - I'm glad with the deck I bought, I'm glad I didn't go cheaper and right now couldn't afford to go much higher in $$.
KThomas,
I'm not sure what your budget is, but a safe option would be a Rega P3 (new or used)with a Rega cartridge. Rega carts feature a 3 hole mounting system which makes alignment foolproof. Other than setting antiskate, there's no other adjustments to make. It's about a close to plug and play as you're going to get, and this setup will give you a pretty good taste of what quality vinyl playback is like. Could you get better sound for less money? Sure. Could you get better sound for less money and no tweaking, adjusting, modifying, futzing? Probably not.
Dougdeacon, $5k is not an option for me, nor is losing "only" $1k upon resale.

I suspect it's not an option for a few others reading this thread as well.

I appreciate the lower cost options that have been offered thus far.

04-11-07: Greenp3
Hey guys It's my first post. I myself just purchased a new table - actually a demo P3. It's certainly a step up from the old Technics & Pioneers I've had in the past. My previous table of any worth was a 1200MkII when I used to dj.
Welcome to the Nut House!

Comparisons between the SL1200 MKII and Rega P3 are of interest to many here. Did you have an opportunity to compare them in your system, or was your experience with the SL1200 MKII restricted to the clubs?
I was using the 1200s way back about 10-12 years ago, I did a few house parties, but mostly just for my own entertainment. The 1200 is a rock solid table, with very fast startup/stop and a strong motor which I'm sure most people here alredy know. I have read some info recently on TNT discussing the direct drive vs. belt drive war - very interesting. Too bad I got rid of the 1200s - it would be a neat comparison test.
GreenP3--Congrats on your green p3. I'm sure you'll get lots of compliments on it. The next step to consider is cleaning your vinyl (and keeping it clean). This can be done pretty inexpensively, though doing it on the cheap means more elbow grease is required. Have fun and go record shopping.
04-11-07: Greenp3
...I'm enjoying a wider variety of music + I love the involvement that vinyl requires and the rewards that it gives.

That turned out to be a pleasant surprise for me too. It's refreshing to see someone else mention it. I derive a special satisfaction from having to change LP sides every 20 minutes or so. It makes listening a more active experience. With a single-play manual turntable, LPs can't fade into background music for very long.

I'm also discovering a lot more music, especially because I hit the 99-cent bins of every used record store I visit. it's amazing what good condition records I'm finding there. Recently I came away with Alan Parsons' I, Robot, a bunch of early Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck Group, Moody Blues, etc. I'm catching up on a lot of rock/pop from the '60s and '70s that I originally missed because I was listening to jazz instead.