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I am just going to ignore the equipment you listed and make the statement that many people, myself included, feel that the preamp is the most important piece of gear that you purchase and that a good decision here will pay great dividends as you build your system. To make a good decision on the preamp you need to make sure it mates well to your final choice of amp which needs to mate well with your final choice of speakers. I myself have found my nirvana with tubes but there are some awesome solids state preamp available and should not be ignored.
Even buying used gear, developing a good analog TT/arm/cartridge/phono preamp setup is very costly vs. just having a very good CD player and maybe a DAC. I have a maxed out Modwright 5400 Signature Truth CD/SACD player with Audio Magic Pulse Gen ZX, Bybee rails, Audio Magic Illusion umbilical, Star Sound trans mod, Mullard GZ34 rectifier tube, Synergistic Research Blue fuses, sitting on Sistrum rack, with RTS couplers clamping them to the rack. I still paid about double for the phono setup that has some music sounding as good as, some better, and some not as good as the CD player. Granted, I don't have a separate DAC, but my setup sounds phenomenal IMO. All the contacts are now painted with Perfect Path Total Contact enhancer, but am only in the first week since application. I got great buys on all used stuff for my analog setup, but double the cost is still the verdict. For comparison, the TT is a heavily modified Lenco with the 10-layered 100 lb. birch plywood/MDF plinth, most all of Jean Nantais' upgrades, including a B stock 7 lb. pure cooper platter mat at 45% off, Mirko SS bearing, Audio Silente idler wheel, JTN's string/weight mod, Furutech IEC, first generation Artisan Fidelity chassis at 40% off, Star Sound Platter Ground, and a hardwood tonearm board. The arm is a Pete Riggle Woody that I got used. The cartridge is a Benz Micro Ruby 3 with myrtle wood body with Soundsmith level 3 rebuild used. The phono preamp is a Whest 3.0 RDT SE that was used. The sound is very good with records. Still working to get the adjustments just right on the arm. Not quite done with the second plinth I'm making to accommodate the AF chassis. Both my CD and analog setup are pretty much maxed out at their costs sound wise after several TT/arm attempts, along with several phono preamps. I'd been through VPI Scout, VPI Classic, Avid Diva II w/ Origin Live Silver II, the Lenco rebuild w/ OL silver II, then Trans-Fi Terminator fully upgraded prior to my current setup. The VPI TT's even had the TTM outer ring, & TT weights. Once had a Maplenoll Ariadne TT/arm straight line tracking air bearing setup that was fabulous sounding. However, it occasionally had a problem with the air supply hoses or pump and would cause the cantilever to snap or severely bend. It has taken until now to be at least its equal. Used to have an Audible Illusion 2D preamp, then 3A with John Curl MC phono. Now I have a very good TRL DUDE with many upgrades to it as the preamp. Sorry for the length of this, but I want to show you the difficulty of getting an analog setup that would be equal of better than the CD setup if it's good.
Now the big truth. You said you DON'T have any records and have many CDs now. I had 1500 records before any of this started and 1/2 as many CDs. Put the cost at about $10-20 per album for normal used records, much higher for new or audiophile records.
Errr - and this is not a slippery slope ?..
I have a maxed out Modwright 5400 Signature Truth CD/SACD player with Audio Magic Pulse Gen ZX, Bybee rails, Audio Magic Illusion umbilical, Star Sound trans mod, Mullard GZ34 rectifier tube, Synergistic Research Blue fuses, sitting on Sistrum rack, with RTS couplers clamping them to the rack.Or conversly...
- $1500 will get you a very good TT from companies like SOTA, VPI and Music Hall
- $650 gets you the Simmaudio Moon phono stage - a very good unit that can be confugured for most all cartridge types
- $120 gets you the Ortofon RED - a pretty good entry level MM cartridge or
- $300 gets you a nice entry level MC cartridge
I too have been on a similar upgrade path to Dorkwad with my analogue rig over the last 30 years and like Dorkwad, have spent considerable money, time and effort getting it to a reasonable level of performance.
However, I have followed the companies listed above and if i had my time over again - I would simply buy one of their products. They are much better products than those that were available 30 years ago.
I am not knocking digital music at all - I do have digital streaming components also, but I tend to listen to them more often as backgound music, but when I want to just sit and listen to music with a glass of wine, I turn to the analogue rig - there is just something about analogue that I prefer.
I think its the flexibility of digital - I can play albums, music from a single artist, playlists etc..all without getting out of my chair, or while I roam about the house and it can be never ending
Whereas with vinyl I have to my butt out of the chair (exercise), select the album and then sit down and listen to a complete side
- or I have to get up repeatedly if I want to hear different artists & tracks,
- but being basically lazy - I tend to listen to a complete side
- which then exposes me to other tracks from that artist
- and the whole process becomes more enjoyable
- especially with a bottle of wine :-)
Hmmm - I guess the same could be said of a CD player :-)
Whichever route you take it will be enjoyable
Hope that helps - Steve
Why not both? With a budget of $3000, you can get a tube preamp with a phono stage, like the Rogue RP1 ($1800) and a Rega table like the Planar 3 with cart for ($1200). The Rega tables are pretty much plug and play without endless adjustments. It's a pretty good place to start without breaking the bank on a turntable. You can see if vinyl is really for you and then upgrade down the line. Or add the Rega speed control, and upgraded platter, mat, better cart, etc.
I realize I'm spending your money here, but that's my recommendation :)
Leaning toward the tube preamp. Have been considering Schiit Freya, the Jolida Fusion, and now seeing a deHavilland UltraVerve circa 2005. Seems to me the deHavilland is very well reviewed and I like external tubes, but it lacks xlr connections. Is this a major consideration? When I used Silnote Morpheus xlrs to connect the DAC to the integrated amp, it made a huge difference, will I being going backwards without xlrs?