From what I know... I the P2 is good and the P3 better, folks like to hotrod the P2 and there is alot of choices for tweeks and upgrades, but the P1 I don't think so... I would go with either the P2.. and if you even THINK you are going to enjoy more records or expand the vinyl equipment, go with the new P3... the Mira's stage is a good MM, you can always buy an outboard MC stage...
I personally would stay away from the P1, at that price point I think the whole package is a little compromised (?).
I have listened to all three on the Mira and you can definitely tell the difference between the them with that amp and speaker combination. I have three older belt drive turntables at home from the 70's and 80's and I could only justify the outlay of cash for the P3 based on what I heard - the P3 starts to hint at what vinyl can do, and provides a solid foundation for the future. Yes, the P2 is modifiable (as is the P3), but if you are going to go that route, buy a used P2 that has already been modded. If you are concerned about price and your future commitment to vinyl, try something used like a nice direct drive Technics to test the waters instead of the P1. If you feel like jumping in with both feet - get a new P3 - you wont regret it.
P1,2,3.....I've never owned any of those, but I had a P25 that I loved. Last I knew, you could get a nice used P25 for $500-ish. At least consider used TT's.......
The biggest differences here are the arm, platter, and motor (power capability). The P3/24 has a substantially better arm than the P1. I think it's worth the price difference alone. You can also upgrade the power supply to the feedback circuit TTPSU.
My take is that if you are at all tweaky, you're going to be upgrading the platter to the glass one, the mat, and maybe the arm wiring. There now you're at the cost of the P3/24. The P5 gets you a slightly better plinth and the same basic arm & wiring with a machined vs. molded base. The P7 and P9 are where it gets really interesting.
I also don't think any of these will outclass the Mira phono stage.
I had a P3/24 and think it's a great value, and excellent performer.
To add to what Cjnolan said, the P5 does has a better arm than the P3-24, the RB 700 as opposed to the RB 300. It is definitely a step up, IMO. But it is also perhaps out of your price range. If you want to get a starter table, I would go with the P2. Most Rega dealers will give you a deal if you like the sound and want to trade up from there. The Projects and the Technics didn't particularly wow me, either, so I hope you enjoy the Rega. It will give you much better soundstaging and imaging than those other two brands, for sure, and better resolution of instrumental and vocal timbres.
Thanks to all; lots of food for thought. The P5 is out of scope until I have at least its price invested in vinyl. Until then, a couple of you seem to have faith in the P2 and nobody has suggested the P3 is more than this beginner needs.
A thread at vinyl engine makes an interesting comparison between the Elys and a Denon 110. The guy thought they were more or less equals, except in the bass where the 110 triumphed...until he properly isolated his table, then he said no question in favor of the Elys. The point of this is not to start a Denon/Rega cart debate but to say that his post suggests one could do much worse than trying the P3 with Elys, especially if one doesn't care to learn the art of cartridge installation any time soon. The P2/Bias is intriguing for the same reason but I don't know that I've ever heard of anyone really liking the Bias. Carry on!
I now have the Rega P3-24 with the Rega Exact II cartridge, and I recently added the Rega TT-PSU power supply. For many years before this, I was very happy with my NAD 533 table and Goldring Elektra cartridge. The NAD 533 is a re-badged Rega Planar 2, and I really enjoyed it. However, to my ears, in my room, with my system.....the Rega P3-24 sounds better in every way than my old set-up.
Just my two cents, but if you can afford the P3-24 now, you can add the TT-PSU later on, and then you'll have a truly terrific analog front end. Good Luck, and Happy Listening !!
And now, the cartridge!
Through a fortunate turn of events, I now have a P3-24 on the way for what it would've cost me to drive the hundred miles to my nearest Rega dealer, pick up a P1, and buy me and my wife a decent meal.
Now...I need a cart. I have an AT 440mla from a previous experiment, but I don't want to install a spacer and this cart is supposed to be really sensitive to VTA. So I'm looking for something that would do good with my fledgling setup skills and no VTA adjustment. LPGear says great things about the Grado Gold on a P3-24, supposedly Grado hum is a thing of the past with the new Rega motors. I'd like to try a Black or maybe a Blue based on all the good and relatively few negative things I've read about Grado carts.
The Ortofon 2M red is another obvious choice but I see as much printed against this cart as for, plus I'm not sure about VTA, though otherwise mounting would appear a no-brainer.
Last is the AT95e which a nice fellow at Music Direct said he wouldn't steer me away from. Nor would the P3-24 review at Stereotimes where Mr. Paul Szabady concluded that it wouldn't make sense to spend more on a cart until the table was properly isolated with a better mat and powered by a TT-PSU.
What would you guys do for a Ben Franklin or less?
I would suggest one of Rega's, then you don't have to worry about a spacer, etc. Nothing wrong with the table isolation or felt mat either, assuming you have a good surface for the table and it is level. I have no vibration problems at all with my P5 on top of my audio rack (Sanus). The Exact 2 sounds good on my table, but that is quite a bit more than your stated price range. I have also heard the Elys on a P2, which was nice. I would also highly recommend the TT_PSU.
Cartridges below or around $100 for RB301 tonearm.
Denon DL110 high output moving coil
Goldring 1000 series moving magnet, if you can find one in your price range.
Sumiko Pearl moving magnet
Ortofon X1-MC (discontinued - on sale <$100) high output moving coil
FWIW I have a spacer on my Rega P9 with a Shelter 90x. It sounds nice.
Don't be afraid of a spacer. I have used a few different carts on the P9 (Shelter 90x, 901 and Denon DL160) and they were all a good fit with the spacer.
The P3-24 is the best by far.