Project Debut III vs. Music Hall MMF 5?

Hello All,

I am setting up my first turntable. I’m looking to spend $600 - $1,200 all told between a turntable, phono preamp, cartridge, etc. preamp (My receiver, a NAD 720 bee, does not have a phono preamp).

I am considering the “Project Debut III” ($299) with the “Tube Box SE” ($549) or “Tube Box II” ($349) this was the set-up recommended to me by what seems like an excellent hi-fi shop in Boston with a very knowledgeable staff. However, the Project Debut III was the only table they had in my price range.

A friend of mine has the Music Hall MMF 7, which sounds amazing to me but is out of my price range. I was told that Music Hall and Project are made by the same people or in the same factory, or something like that, so I’m wondering if the Music Hall tables are basically the same family of turntable as the Project but a step up in quality. I would be happy to pay a little more for a table like the music hall mmf 5 ($629) over the Project, but have not had the chance to listen to listen and compare tables.

So, will the extra $300+ for the MMF 5 mean much better sound than the Project Debut III)? If so, I am happy to pay it. If I go with the Project, does it make sense to spend more on a phono pre-amp (the Tube Box SE or Tube Box II) than the actual turntable?

Since purchasing a semi decent sound system a few months ago I can’t stop listening to my collection of recordings. What a difference! I had no idea. I’m looking forward to starting in on the vinyl. Thanks for your advice.

How about a Rega P2 ($500) with Bellari VP129 preamp ($249) or the Vincent phono stage (only $149 from The Regas have an enviable track record for reliability and long-term presence in the market.

Project and Music Hall TTs are both made in the Project factory in the Czech Republic, but by different designers and to different specifications. I believe they both share the Project tonearms, however. The Project Debut is priced about the same as the Music Hall MMF-2 ($300-ish), but you may want to consider another TT rep'd by Music Hall, the Goldring GR1.2. Lists at $450, but can often be found for a bit less.

For the same price range, however, you can get a Technics SL1200 or SL1210 with much better speed and pitch accuracy, build quality, rigidity, materials, and ergonomics. Don't believe the high-end kool-aid about DD being noisy. The Technics DDs are really quiet. The tonearm is old school (S-shaped w/detachable universal headshell), but is rugged, built to microscopically close tolerances, and can be further improved with an after-market fluid damper.
Agree that Direct drive is not noisy In fact the real differences I can hear are vanishingly small between very high end TT's and normal people TTs are the isolation from the enviroment. That means a higher mass dampening plinth and solid support and the cartridge choice. The very extended, detailed highly amplified low out put Moving Coil cartridge sound is not snake oil. It does require a very silent background or noise floor all along the chain. The phono stage, the possible step up transformer and preamp output must be good or else you will hear ever mote of dust. I can tell you it's much easier to get the better MMF-5s more massive platter plinth and it comes all set up with a reasonable but only OK Goldring moving magnet cartridge. Avoid the Bellari I have heard it is plagued by hum issues. A tube phono stage means really silent tubes, most tubes are somewhat noisy with the MM you may not hear it. It is safer to pick a simple SS stage. YMMV. I own an MMF-5 and a VPI and some others tHe only MC I have is on the VPI I have spent a fortune buying good tubes for the phono gain. I might recommend a good vintage table direct drive and all or a more recent Denon DD with the DL 103. BTW Vincent is actually OEM Sheng YA it's not German.

05-22-07: Mechans
Agree that Direct drive is not noisy In fact the real differences I can hear are vanishingly small between very high end TT's and normal people TTs are the isolation from the enviroment. That means a higher mass dampening plinth and solid support and the cartridge choice. ... It is safer to pick a simple SS stage. YMMV. ... I might recommend a good vintage table direct drive and all or a more recent Denon DD with the DL 103.
Sounds like going low output moving coil raises the stakes significantly, making vibration isolation, noise from all sources, and hum-free gain critical. So at the price Bruno's talking about, it's simpler with a higher rate of success to go with high output mc or mm with a good phono stage for that level of gain.

The Denon 500 DD or a Technics SL 12x0 is a great place to start, as they all have very solid and rigid plinths, slick ergonomics, rugged build quality, and close tolerances. A detachable headshell is nice to have too, especially for beginners.

The Technics definitely benefits from some sort of isolation platform, but this can be done very cheaply with an Ikea butcher block cutting board ($25) and some Vibrapods or Mapleshade Iso-Blocks ($24/set of 4 for either).

For a well-regarded SS phono stage, you could go with a Creek OBH-18 ($250), Parasound V-Phono ($150), NAD ($129), Cambridge Audio 640P ($189), or Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 SE ($399). Of these the NAD and Cambridge do LOMC. The next model up Creek (OBH-15) also does MC at $450.

You'd need an MC pre-amp for the Denon 103. OTOH, you could get one of the good MM stages and use a Denon DL110 or DL160. Teaming one of those Denons with the Slee should create an interesting soundstage.
you are not comparing apples to apples you need to look at the pro-jec expression which is 499 vs the music hall 5. both come preloaded with a cartridge. if you do either go with the speed box for $99 also, and the tube box 2 for $349. if you have extra funds you can upgrade the the tube box se but i noticed a huge improvement with the speed box and you can swith speed with the push of a button not to mention better sounding music with better controll.
I got back into vinyl last year with the Pro-ject Debut III. The cartridge was pre-installed and the set up was easy. The only thing I did not like was the mat, it’s a cheap felt material. It made me really miss my old Pioneer PL 15 semi-auto table, I had in the early 70’s. So I got a Technics SL-10 Linear Tracking Turntable on eBay. The darn thing is just too easy to use. Just put in the record and close the lid, then push play. I still have the Debut III but don't use it. I'll sell it one of these days.
I tried several older "vintage" Linear tracking arm tablesmMy friend said they were the best tables around. Forget tis high end lunacy!
There is one major difference though he mods them.Just a cap here- and a resistor there- nothing huge but the sound is much better, especially in view of your cartridge choices.
My initial experiences with them was similiar to yours but they all had mechanical difficultuies. Some only lasted just a couple months but man its nice not buying a motor controller. The strobes and adjustments right there. No worry about the table running over auto lift and return.... Too bad it's like suggesting tone controls on your preamp. Instead you end up spending a fortune on different components cables etc.. I used NOS tubes also a major investment just to change the tone. The supply olf good old tubes is seems pretty much finally exhausted at this point. Finding a true New never used tube is exceedingly rare. What passes for NOS today is used but is still fairly strong and functions OK for the most part
Hello All,

So from what I am hearing, I may be able to get more bang for my buck in terms of construction quality and performance out of a direct drive table like the Technics 1200 series. This table does not come with a cartridge. As a vinyl beginner, it sounds like I should start out with a high output cartridge (either moving coil or moving magnet). Any suggestions on a cartridge that would pair nicely with the Technics 1200? I’ve never installed a cartridge before. From what I’ve read it sounds like a finicky procedure…

Does the type of music one listens to have an impact on what turntable he should buy? I listen all types, but mostly classical - if that makes a difference.

If I decide to go with a belt driven table it sounds like I should give serious thought to the Rega P-2 over the Music Hall. It seems like the general consensus is that the Music Hall MMF 5 is a superior table to the project III. I have been warned away from the Project Expression – the shop I visited once carried it, but upon hearing it, stopped selling it.
So, if the Project III is out of the running, should I go with the Rega P-2 or the Music Hall. Living in rural Vermont, I unfortunately don’t see myself having the opportunity to hear these tables side by side, so let me know what you think.

I’ve got some good recommendations for phono pre-amps. From what I’m hearing, tube pre-amps can sometimes be noisy (especially with low output mc cartridges). All the same, I am inclined towards the Tube Box because it was so fervently recommended to me at the hi-fi shop. With a high-output cartridge, will the Tube Box II (or SE) work as well as any?

Thanks for your help!


I highly recommend getting a better table and as cheap a phono stage and cartridge as you can with the idea of upgrading them when funds allow. The better table/arm will by far make more difference. The recently revised Rega P2 is a good way to go, but I would go for the about-to-be-released upgraded P3. The upgrade path for the P3 is significant and you'll be much less likely to outgrow it. It has the option of the purpose built outboard power supply and many other upgrades. You could even get it with the Rega Elys 2 cartridge package for $1045, realizing a $45 savings, run it into a Bellari VP-29 for $76 and still be within your $1200 budget. If you were willing to stretch, the P3 with the Rega Exact 2 would run you $1295, with a $100 savings; $1370 with the Bellari. If you go with the Rega 'table/cartridge combo, set up couldn't be simpler.

Regardless of which table/arm you get though, prioritize as good a one as you can manage and uprgrade the other things later. Even in the short run you will have better sound.

Disclaimer: I'm a Rega dealer.
I have a Technics SL1210 and listen to a fair amount of classical music. Once the cartridges broke in and I put the TT on an isolation platform, I've been very pleased with this TT for classical. It in fact excels in acoustic music, whether folk, pop, jazz, or classical. Right now I switch back and forth between a Shure M97xE and Ortofon OM 10, with an general preference for the Shure. Their mass & compliances are both good matches for the tonearm.

If you add the KAB fluid damper to the SL12x0 tonearm, word is that it then accommodates a wider range of cartridges. Various Technics owners on this forum have spoken well of the Audio Technica AT440ml, Shure, Ortofon OM series, and Denon DL110, DL160, and 103 cartridges.
Hello All,

Thanks for the great advice. I’m going to go with a Technics table. Can anyone summarize the differences between the differences between the different models in the SL 1200 - 1210 line? I see on that there are four different models spanning a $150 dollar price gap. It seems like the more expensive models have more bells and whistles that would be useful to a DJ though not necessarily to someone like me who would just be listening at home.

Hi Bruno, good to see you're taking a dive into DD tables. The 1200 is an awsome table even for twice the price. If you can pull it off, get the KAB modded version. The tweaked version takes this already excellent table a huge step forward.

Vegasears, how do you like the SL-10? I have also recently picked one up in great shape for close to nothing. If you do a google search, there is a good folloeing on this table and it still fetches very good used prices. Really fun and odd looking table with good sound as a bonus.

Cheers all!

05-29-07: Bruno1
...Can anyone summarize the differences between the differences between the different models in the SL 1200 - 1210 line?
The SL1200 Mk2 and Mk5 are very similar; the differences are that the Mk2 has clicking detents in the pitch control slider whereas the Mk5 does not, but adds a Reset button to bring the speed back to 33-1/3 or 45 rpm. The Mk5 also has an easy-to-access and adjust electronic brake so the platter stops very quickly after you press the Stop button.

I think the fundamental difference between SL 1200's and SL1210's is that the 1210's are set for either 110 or 220 VAC operation.

The SL1210 M5G "Grandmaster" has upgraded tonearm/interconnect wire. KABUSA says: "M5G's and GLD's feature improved tonearm wand and interconnect wiring. The result is better soundstage detail and focus."

The M5G also has a dual-range pitch control--+/- 8% and +/- 16% with a reset button. I'm not sure but I think the dual range also means it has a more sophisticated speed controller.

Finally, the M5G has a slightly different tonearm with an adjustable set screw which is primarily for reducing skipping during scratching. The GLD is identical to the M5G except that the hardware is gold-plated.

Although the tonearm set screw evidently has no value to audiophiles, I bought the M5G for the upgraded tonearm wiring and speed control. If I had been ordering from KABUSA I would probably have opted for an SL 1200 Mk2 with his $169 Cardas tonearm rewire, but I was on a limited budget and managed to score an M5G from a local Guitar Center for $500.


I love my SL-10. Just upgraded the cartridge and it sounds even better. Click on my system and see what i got. These devices may not be for everyone but it works for me.
Hi Vegasears, What cartridge did you use on it? I want to do it on mine too. Are there any adjustments on the tonearm? Please let me know. I really like this mini turntable. It sounds great as it is but I'd like to squeeze everything I can out of it.
I bought the Ortofon OMP-10, used it for a month and then bought the up-grade stylus.

40 Stylus

The change was a major improvement over what came with my SL-10.

I am not a technical person and don’t have clue about adjustments. I will ask around and get back to ya.
I believe I can get a used OMP10 for a good price..but the 40 stylus...WOW! @$299. Was the OMP10 better than what was there?

06-06-07: Genesis168
I believe I can get a used OMP10 for a good price..but the 40 stylus...WOW! @$299. Was the OMP10 better than what was there?
Well, you wouldn't need to upgrade all the way to the 40 to get a noticeable improvement. The OM 20 stylus upgrades from bonded elliptical of the OM 10 to nude elliptical at about $99. The OM 30 stylus is a fine line and the OM 30 is a Fritz-Geiger.

So they're incremental and all about $100 apart in price. Absolute Sound lists both the OM 20 and OM 30 as very nice sounding over-achievers.

Any of them would be a step up (or more) from what's typically associated with a P-mount cartridge.
Thanks Johnnyb53, I will work on the OMP10 first and go from there. This is for a system in my den and I was not ready to spend $299 for the stylus.

ANyways, cheers everyone and sorry for hijacking the thread.
Hello All,

So, I’ve got my Technics turntable which has been modified by KAB with the fluid damping system and the Cardas tonearm rewire. I’m using a Creek OBH 18 pre-amp and the system is sounding fantastic. I’ve got a lot of old LPs that I got for cheap so there are lots of pops and scratches. The few pristine records I have sound really phenomenal. Thanks for your buying advice everyone!

One thing that makes me a little worried is how much my speaker heads jump when I’m playing LPs. Even when I’m playing records at a moderate to low level the speakers jump like I’m playing a CD at top volume. Is this anything to worry about? Thanks for bearing with a vinyl newbie.


I don't know what you mean by "speaker heads" jumping. Do you mean the woofer cones make large excursions?

What cartridge are you using? Maybe you have a bit of a cartridge/tonearm mismatch, or need some vibration isolation for the turntable. What's it sitting on?

If my experience is any indicator, you will get a noticeable improvement by switching from the stock headshell to a Sumiko.

For cartridge I'm using a Denon DL-160 and most of my used LPs are quiet. In fact, it plays records I knew to be noisy much quieter. I believe it has to do with the stylus shape and also setup.

Clean your old records at least with a Discwasher or the Audio Technica system and see what you get. You may also lower record noise experimenting with turntable mats and the tonearm's vertical tracking angle (VTA).

Yes, the bass and midrange speaker cones move in and out much more when I play my records than when I play CDs. I am using a Stanton 681 MK eee cartridge. – This cartridge was recommended by KAB, who I bought the table from. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to try a different cartridge?

So far, I’ve been using an old fashioned RCA discwasher – just a wooden block with fabric on the bottom and a bottle of fluid to go on the fabric.

The turntable is sitting on a wooden sideboard which is full of dishes etc.


You should put the most money into the table and arm, then phonopre, and lastly the cartridge.

If $1200 is your budget, go with the MMF7. You can get them cheap right now because it's been replaced with the MMF7.1.

Add to that a Cambridge 640P and a Denon DL103 or DL160 and you'll have some damn nice sound.