Ohio Vinylohiles, and other who love analog fronts

I have been reading everything I can get my hands or mouse on about analog front ends. At this point I have a feel for they types of tables that I am looking for, but have limited time to listen as Cleveland is a bit thin in analog HiFi options.

I am pushing my budget to the limit with a $1000 to spend, but I do have some extra stuff to work with as far as trades or sales go.

I have my amp and speakers set and have a modest digital front end that will work till I decide between cd, pc, or tt.

Based on the limited time I have spent with vinyl spinning, I feel pretty strong that this is the road I will continue down into the future.

That said, Everything except my speakers and amplifiers are up for reconsideration. I have been looking at several options (based on reading), but would love to hear your comparisons or better yet, stop buy for some listening.

So far I am leaning toward a VPI JR. or Scout, A Nottingham Horizon, A SOTA Sapphire, J.A. Mitchel, Clear Audio Concept (I think), A oracle Alexandria or Delphi. These are what seem to be the safe investment for trial and error and decks that seem to hold their value.

On the other hand I there is a local Pro-Ject Debut III that has everything needed to get spinning. Just not sure I can live with this for long enough to make the effort worth while.

Also have been looking for a Empire 208 (298) as well.

If I did not say it before, I am now lost. Anyone have suggestions based on their personal journey or are their owners of any of these tables within driving distance of Cleveland that might let me stop by for a listen?
Hi Brownsanandy,

Actually, for analog, you are not in such a bad place. I'm from the Detroit area and a few months ago I traveled to Cleveland to visit Don Better Audio. Don's actually located nearby in Shaker Heights. He had more turntable options than you'd typically see in 10 stores combined. His products ranged from entry level to the exotic. He even had some used turntables that had been traded-in. At the time of my visit, I was thinking that there may not be another dealer in the U.S. that had more analog products to chose from.

Good luck with your search.

I will make the drive, 20 minutes is a great investment though his site does not have much that fits my budget. Thanks for the heads up.
Yes, he has very high end products, but he also has the entry level Rega tables too, so there's something for all budgets. I thought he was very knowledgeable and could guide those of us with less analog experience. I also think he offered a flexible upgrade option if you bought something and wanted to upgrade later. I'm not 100% sure of that, but I think that was the case. I only made one visit and have not made a purchase yet. But I was very impressed with the options that were available.

By the way, I have no affiliation with this store. It's just that I was very impressed... and he's in your backyard.
I am in the Cleveland area. I have been to Don Better Audio once and did buy my Tetra speakers there. Don is a good guy. He is heavy into analog, but in my budget, I do not really care for Rega, and if he has anything else in the budget mentioned above, that is something I did not know, as it is not on his web site, or from what I remember being there. But certainly worth a look. This was 2 years ago.

Recently though, I decided to fire my Vinyl back up again, after selling my VPI a few years ago. I sort of lost interest in working on a few vintage tables I have, so decided to spend some money on a new table. I was going to most likely buy a refurbished Sota of some kind from Sota, possibly a vacuum table. Another possibility was some kind of VPI new. Then I also found a few others I was interested in, and realized how many other things I wanted to do with my audio. So I decided not to spend as much now for a table, and delay the more expensive table for a few years.

What I finally did after much research was to buy a new Music Hall MMF 9.1 It had a lot of what I was looking for, a stand alone motor, decent platter and inverted bearing, speed control, some level of isolation, and adjustability on the tone arm. I found some good reviews and comments and went for it. It also comes with a nice MC catridge. Now this is a bit more then you wanted to spend at $2100.00. But it does come with the cartridge, that is now selling for $750.00 outright. Also with some research you can find a good discounts from list price. I was at first somewhat skeptical, but in the end very impressed with the overall package, quality and performance. Since I was able to find such a good price on the MMF 9.1, I don't think future resale return is much of a concern.

I am not suggesting you go this way, just offering what I did , after usually buying used turntables. Many of the tables you mentioned buying used at around $1,000 are good tables, but some can be expensive to fix if there is an issue. Sota and Oracle come to mind if they are older. There is also some of the popular used direct drive from Denon, Kenwood and some others.

I would think in the end you would be happier passing on the lower end Pro-ject and Music Hall tables, like the one you mentioned.

New, closer to your budget there is of course Rega(not for me but a lot of people love them), there are a few models from Pro-Ject and Music hall that are well liked, and there is the Sota Comet that gets great reviews.

Of course as anything on any forum there will be alternate takes of the info I provided, so you can maybe sum it all up to some conclusion. If you have anyother questions please post them.


Check out what Don Better has to offer. I have bought two tables an three cartridges from him. A straight shooter and not a snob.
It's nice to find some Clevelanders on here. Hi John. Like John said, give Don Better a try, he is a good guy. I love my Tetra speakers I bought from him. If nothing there that appeals to you, there is a lot out there to choose from. I would not discount the Music Hall, but would suggest you move up from the model you mentioned originally. Like I said I was skeptical of Music hall / Pro-ject tables at first. But some of the lastest improved models are pretty sweet.
I have made the call and will be headed over later in the week for a visit. Will keep you posted.
Off topic:
Good to read a thread from folks nearby. I moved to NE Ohio about 2 years back from CA. Did not find many audio dealers except Xtend Technologies in Parma. Clint was very accommodating and absolutely helpful during my amp purchase. But I was not much impressed by the Vinyl demo. I will surely make it to Don Better Audio and check out his Vinyl demo.
He made a strong case for the new Rega rp-1.
That is the hot turntable right now, and they make an upgrade kit for it !
I have both Oracles and Sotas and havent had any problem with either. I do have an Alexandria up for sale now. They are both well built tables that have had plenty of time to work out the bugs. I also have an Empire 298. They are built like a tank, and with a different arm mounted, are excellent sounding tables.
What table do you like best? Seeing that you seem to have all of the tables on the list of targets? Too bad you are not local.
If I had to own and use only one it would probably be the Oracle Delphi just because it sounds good and I like the looks. The Transrotor Fat Boy and Sota Star w/vacuum are probably better on an absolute scale but I am now playing a Townshend Rock III and am very impressed by what the front damping trough does for the sound. The Townshend can be bought pretty cheaply if you can find one, and they are truly a high end table. Some reviewers have suggested that they are the best, but I havent listened to enough tables to make that claim
Manitunc, both great tables. I see you all ready have removed the Prelude arm I am assuming was on the Alex. at one time, as I know those do have issues at times. the arm on there now is a great arm I am told. Also the Sotas that are bought, that are older versions, many of which you find for sale under $1,000, can have suspension or bearing problems, etc.., that can be expensive to fix. They are both built well and great tables, and been around a long time. My point was you need to be cautious on what you are buying used on certain tables.
Might want to try play it again sam in lakewood ohio.
His prices are not the best but theres lots of vintage to new stuff to look at,like a walk down memory lane.
I tried there, but they did not have anything that represented a great table or good value. Seemed like slim pickins. Did have a empire 209, but it was gone on layaway. Did not seem to have a willingness to negotiate, had a nice thorens, but it was way overpriced.
Just be prepared that you will end up spending 5X of your budget by the time you settle in so get the best you can find for each component as you go.
I find something I like and enjoy the music. I play a little, but can't justify the gear at 5x the price.

Will be happy once i settle.
Bernie at Play it Again Sam seems to think used gear should always sell for 70% of retail forever....so his store is pretty much where gear goes to die, I swear his customers must not know of internet or google.
So I can already see Andy buying all the Goodwill stock of used wax but soon you will tire of crap albums by Lionelle Richie and Chicago lol.
Start saving a few hudred for at minimum a used VPI 16.5 RCM....that is if you plan on being serious about quality playback. And sorry washing in sink isnt as good and takes way too long but you will figure that out for yourself. Welcome to analog.....the slippery slope.
It took me a investment of $3500 MSRP (less used ofcourse) to get my vinyl to compete head on with my just so happens $3500 cd player. It simply costs more to do right.....I could do pretty good cd for much less I bet.......but not vinyl sad but true.
But its a fun ride........enjoy!
Chad, i wish he held that same formula for his trades. I got a Townshend Rock Table, and will be buying the PIA sams washing package 100 albums on his machine for $40.

I will keep the LP collection small for now and grow it slowly. I have a friend that is a vinyl machine, can find almost anything. He is going to take me on his next hunting venture.
Which version of the Rock did you get. They are very underrated tables, as I am just now learing since I got one a few weeks ago. Mine is the Elite Rock III. Let us know what you think after you have played it a bit.
Jerrys records in Pittsburgh is all you need to know....google it as he has been filmed a number of times.....couple million albums. We go there alot.