Vpi Aries Scout bar none!
Scheu Analog Cello with one of the Scheu arms will come in under your budget. Add a Dynavector 10x and you'll even have some left over for other accessories or vinyl.
Vpi with a Benz cart in your budget...nice sound! My dad and I both have the Musical Surroundings Phonomena phono stage and it can be had for $600 new, half used. His Benz cart on his VPI was at your budget and sounds pretty darn good.
How about a used Linn LP-12 with an Ittok tonearm, very musical with potential for upgrades.
Stereophile's 2005 Analogue Product of the Year - Rega P5 with the optional TT PSU and a mounted Exact cartridge. New can be had for $1600.
Clearaudio Virtuoso cartridge
At that price (and most others) I doubt you'll find any kind of consensus. Apples and oranges abound. Do you have any preferences in sound or aesthetics such as fast and clean, warm and rich, simple vs. tweaky?
Music Hall MMF 9.1 Brand new model... Has everything you need, its so new not much info on it, but if I ever heard perfect analog recordings, this seems to do it all, killer all carbon fiber arm as well with perfect ergonomics, not so finicky like many hi end tables... Highly recommend any of the Top ortofon carts. with it as well.. Many others would work just fine too.
Do you know a Scheu dealer? They are nice machines, but I dont know where to get one.
Also, JA Mitchell and Roksan always pops up with a well reviewed machine in this price range...does anyone have opinions about the Roksan Radius or the Michell Technodec?
Rsasso - if you are in the US call Tom Hills at Hudson Audio in NJ. They are the importer and there is a tiny dealer network in the US. Go to Tom first and he can guide you on the Scheu TTs, arms, etc. and how to obtain them.
These tables are under priced IMO. They play and sound like tables costing much more.
i tend to agree with piedpiper on this one.going to get a lot of opinions on which direction to go.don't forget the used market once you do decide.good luck.
Rega. No, Music Hall. No, Project. No, Scout. No, Technics. No, Basis. No, Piccolo. No, Clearaudio. No, used Thorens. No, Used Lenco. No, Rek-o-kut. No, used Empire. No, Oracle.
Yes, I am always looking for those sonic characteristics that many attribute to vacuum tubes (I set up an all tube system). You know the adjectives: warm, rich, fullness of sound, depth to soundstage, subtle...as opposed to the solid state adjectives of accurate and clean and fast, etc. My friends are often amused at this craziness of searching for "sonic characteristics"
Sasso, live music is harsh.
Psychicanimal, my life is harsh; so I like to keep my music rich and warm and full.... until I get my drink on, then music is harsh :)
Doesn't have to be either/or. True transparancy doesn't add insult to injury and true warmth is only natural.
i don't know anything about the scheu tt's but i see one on another site's classified's,probably not allowed to mention them specifically.
To Piedpiper: Yeah, I know that. Just messing with Psychicanimal. We are all seeking (I think), musical fidelity, but we end up designing systems that color the music to what we "like" to hear", which may not be exactly what things sounded like, live.
But now that you have heard my "sonic preferences", does it help you make a turntable recommendation??
If it is still available at $1995 that Scheu Premier MkII is a very good deal. I have the Premier MkII with a Micro Seiki MA-505 tone arm and Dynavector 20XL cartridge. I also added the battery power supply option available from Hudson Audio. Made a big difference for the very modest price.
I prefer to start as clean and neutral as possible and accumulate any unavoidable but nonetheless chosen colorations downstream. A used Rega P7 would be a great simple clean machine but there are many other flavors of ice cream, logistically and sound wise, especially used, at that price. If you could score a used Maplenoll you'd be doing well if you don't mind complexity of air pumps etc.