Purchasing my first TT, suggestions welcomed

Good morning. Within the next week or so I will be considering several turntables that a close friend of mine has in his collection. While Ive always been a digital guy, theres a part of vinyl that has always intruiged me. I sold of my old setup a few months ago but Ive started putting a new one back together. So far I have the Marantz SC22 linestage with matching PH22 phono stage. Next step is to get a pair of the MA24 monoblocks and use them with a pair of B&W Silver Sig 25s. Also adding a Sony SCD-1, Wadia i170, and Tandberg 3001. Here are the tables that he has in his collection, most of which he has acquired from the original owner who he sold them to while running his hifi store. They are as follows:

SOTA Star Sapphire with Graham 1.5 arm (gold accents on arm etc). This table was reveneered with some sort of rare veneer (cant remember the species) and the vac was placed in its own enclosure thats in the same veneer. Also had the controls mounted onto an isolation platform that was also custom made. Pics:



I dont have pics of the other tables but they are:
Thorens TD 126 Mark III
Rek o Kut Rondine with Shure SME arm'
Rek o Kut (dont remember the model) has the 16" tone arm though
Empire 598
Or he has a BNIB Rega P3 in bright green...

So in regards to suggestions, I guess Im asking what table would be best suited for a new user, what could continue to be used as I grow into vinyl, and what would retain its value over time?

welcome to the world of vinyl. why not listen to them all at your friend's house? you can get all the input in teh world from agon members, but none of them have your ears.

my $.02:

I am a big fan of the Rek o Kut Rondine. I had never heard of them until about a year ago when I had the chance to hear one and thought it was a very neutral, yet somehow involving table. I think that table has the best chance of "growing with you" and supporting higher end cartridges down the road.

Rega is the easy answer for now...it will hold its value well and is no doubt a good table. In my mind it has a warmer tone than the rondine.

The sota looks interesting, I'm not a huge fan of their sound, but that one has had some mods done so depending on how successful the mods were it may be the best of the bunch.
Do you need to buy one of these? And, what is your budget?

I like the arm on the SOTA, but all that zebrawood is a little....imposing. Aesthetics are a personal thing, but I've seen nicer looking plinths.

You could have a lot of fun with any of the list of classics, but they'd all need some diy stuff to bring them up to the sonic possibilities of a more modern design-again, depending on the cost.

At any rate, a budget number would be helpful to maybe point you to some other possibilities.
The Technics SL-1200 Mk2. It can be bought brand new for around $400. I've had Linns, Heybrooks, Denons, VPIs, Projects and Regas but the Technics is my favorite.
Consider the SOTA with Graham arm depending upon the age of the table. Do you know what series the SOTA is?

My recommendation is based upon experience with SOTA
(3 tables incl the Star Sapphire), Micro Seiki, B & O, Music Hall, classic Pioneer, Dual, and Yamaha. Currently own the SOTA Nova and love the performance.
if you've made it this far without collecting vinyl, spend as little as possible. this sounds like boredom. it will pass.