Recommendation for analog set for $700

I am interested to try out the analog world and would like a recommendation to jump start my research.

I am using Almarro 318B and Zu Omen Def speakers. I think I need a turn table and a phono preamp. I am looking to spend around $700 on them? I can stretch it a bit, but really like to keep it under $1000.

Good things have been said about the Project Carbon with Ortofon Red and Musical Fidelity MM phono
buy used. You can get much more bang for buck. try Oracle Alexandria, VPI HW19, Sota Star, Basis 1400, or a 70s era high end japanese direct drive and spend your savings on a good cartridge or phono preamp.
Thanks for the input. Can you please recommend the whole set? Including cartridge and phono preamp? Is there a specific cartridge match better with a specific turntable? Also, how about the stylus?

And if I am buying used, what should I looked out for and what question should I ask? It seems the age of the cartridge is important as the rubber damper may get harden. What is the usual life of a cartridge? Like 20 years? And I read some saying it is in perfect adjustment of the speed and tension ... how can I test it if I buy used?

I know there is a lot of questions, and this is one of the reason I try to stay away from analog. It is a totally different animal.
BTW, there is a Rega P3 for sale in local craigslist for $400. It is from the 80's. It has R200 tone arm and XLM MK III cartridge. The hour of the cartridge is unknown, the seller bought it used, and put maybe 200 hours on it. Is it a fair price?
Offer $325 for the rega with the cart or $275 without? Either way, you might want to have an analog shop check out a 25+ year old table.
Sbrownnw, thanks for the advice. I see pretty solid comments on the P3. Is there other better choice out there, or that's a good one? Is it a beginner or intermediate level turntable?
Do you have a HiFi shop nearby? They would be able to put together a package deal; TT, cart, and phono preamp.
If buying used, of course condition is important, but also consider the possible damage during shipping. ie: suspension TTs do not travel well.
Google Needle Doctor. It's a good source to see what TTs are available for any budget.
I have a number of cartridges that are more than 20 years old that still work perfectly. I havent yet had a problem with suspension drying out or collapsing. Maybe thats more of a problem in the desert, but our humidity here in Florida does not cause a problem with suspension decay. So long as the stylus is still in good shape, the cartridge should play as its supposed to. You can always replace the stylus at Soundsmith.

A Sony PSX 60, 65 or 70 is a good vintage table, as well as PS6750 and PS2251. Any of the Technics SL1200 variations that have not been abused by a DJ. For your budget you can probably also pick up a Rega P3-24 with cartridge or AR ES-1.
I've been thinking about the same thing for my brother in law to go with his Almarro 205a and Omega speakers. Does anyone here know how good the old Micro Seiki BL-51 or DD40 tables are? Aesthetics are very important for his WAF. I was thinking about pairing either with a lightly used Ortofon 2M black for about 1k. Then maybe budget another 500 for a used phono. How good would that sound versus a similar 1500 investment in a better DAC (used)?
I would go for the Music Hall MMF5.1 that Questforsound has up for $695. You will get a warranty and dealer support, that you definitely need unless you're really experienced with turntables. It comes ready to go with a cartridge and dustcover and sounds very good. I would not fool around with an Oracle or anything that needs professional setup, unless you are experienced with that sort of thing. For a phono preamp, Questforsound carries the Music Hall for like $175 and I'm sure they have others in the under-$200 range. Enjoy.
Latinsamba1, I personally don't think you will get a lot of improvement by upgrading the DAC.

And the more I research, the more I am worried. It seems that a turntable requires a lot of maintenance. It seems the speed may go wrong, it seems it has to be perfectly horizontal, it seems the suspension need to be adjusted ... am I right?

If the answer is yes, is there anything that need less set up or maintenance?
You dont need to get a suspension table, there are plenty of set it and forget it TTs. The Rega RP1 and RP3 and Music Hall are sold ready to go with cart installed.
Speed is not a problem with these entry level tables. You would need to replace the belt after a few years and the speed is so close to spec that as a novice you would never perceive it as off-speed. You can see them at Needle Doctor, they also have a budget TT section.

*no affiliation
Lowerider57, Thanks for the clarification!

I see there is a Project Perspective. I like its look. Is it a good unit? Is it one of those set and forget unit?
I'm not familiar with it, but from the photo it looks like it might need suspension adjustments...maybe someone else can answer this question. The PROJECT DEBUT CARBON looks like an easy to use TT.
The "plug and play" TTs have a flat base with a motor underneath and nothing to adjust once the tonearm has been set up.
The point I was making to you was TTs dont have to be a hassle. I have a Linn which needs constant care, but for a first table get something will still enjoy the vinyl experience.
The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is a straight forward turntable. All one would have to do is verify all cartridge settings to make sure the settings did not get messed up in shipping. Set the anti-skate weight on the post mount on tonearm, put the belt on the drive platter, mount the full size platter, plug in the cables to a phono section or phono preamp and ta da your up and running.

The Orotophon Red is a good starter cartridge and you can upgrade to the Blue stylus later. If you feel you may want to go with a moving could cart later you may want to get the optional acrylic platter. The meta alloy platter may not allow a MC cartridge to work right.
Lowerider57, Thanks for the clarification!

I see there is a Project Perspective. I like its look. Is it a good unit? Is it one of those set and forget unit?
please ignore the post above, I press refresh and post it twice.

Lohanimal, I am not prepare to do diy. In fact, totally opposite. I don't want to spend too much time to set up and maintain. I am looking for something more plug and play with minimal adjustment.

I think I am looking to spend 400-500 on the turntable including tonearm and cartilage, and 200-300 on the phono preamp.
I think I am increasing my budget, and considering two units - Empire 598 III and Rega P3-24. I think they are very different, one vintage, one modern. Which one is better?
I think you're starting to slide down that slipperly slope of "is this better than that". Right now, you have zero frame of reference for analog. As I said above, as you are just starting out, I would avoid anything that requires a lot of analog knowledge, such as a vintage tt or one that requires professional setup. Out of your two choices, I would chose the Rega and just listen to it for a couple of years. You will then have a fixed reference in your mind from which you can judge the superiority, or lack therof, of any other tables you may choose to audition. With an old tt, you will spend half your time posting questions on how to adjust whatever and wondering if it's right. That's exactly what analog shouldn't be. I know one guy that had to get rid of his very nice tt because he lived in the constant state of anxiety of whether it was set up correctly. Get a nice new tt, set it up and then sit back and enjoy. At least that's what I think.
Chayro, thanks for the advice, I agree with you. The only reason I am interested in the Empire is that there is on currently selling locally a bit less than P3-24, and it seems it has good review. but if it is something that requires set up, then I will pass.

It seems I will wait and target for a Rega P3.

Next question is ... What cartridge and phono preamp to go with the Rega? Any suggestion? Assuming I can get a P3 for 300-400, then I am thinking a cartridge ~$200, preamp ~$200.
It's important to have a good cartridge/tonearm match or you won't get the most each is capable of. Personally, I would buy a Rega MM cart, install it using Rega's 3-point mounting system and forget it for a few years. They're fine carts and require no setup in Rega arms.
Good advice from Chayro regarding not to buy vintage. A Rega P3 is a very good start, but only buy from a trusted source such as an original owner or dealer. Don't buy an Ebay special that has been passed around.
If you want to compare tables against the P3, consider a MUSIC HALL or PROJECT DEBUT CARBON as suggested earlier.
For that price range, you could buy a Rega P1 or P2 used, plus a Bellari phonostage used. The Bellari sounds good with the Rega tables. Music Hall is also a decent choice, better than the Project tables.
Pro-ject Debut Carbon, speed box, acrylic platter. Then save your money and get the Ortofon 2M black cartidge and put that on it. Then get some Dynamat and cut it into pieces that fit under the plinth of the turntable. Then if your budget allows, spend some money on some good phono interconnects. I did Morrow PH4, but there are many out there that are very good. Finally, get some Sorbothane grommets and put them between the turntable feet and plinth.

I did this with mine and ohhhhhh yeahhh!!!
I got an impression that the tone arm and cartridge is more important than the table itself, am I right?

I am considering that Debut Carbon also. It has a Carbon fiber arm, is it good or gimmick?
Debut Carbon. Add the Acrylic platter and speed box. If you have some money left, add a ice set of phono cables. I have had great luck with Morrow cables.