Good luck in your search, but really no one can recommend such a "personal choice". Each TT has a definate character that is suited to each of us in a very emotional sort of way. Only trial and error can be your judge. Best advice, buy used until you get a handle on your tastes.
Ask yourself do you mind getting up at the end of each record. If yes, then Thorens or Dual perhaps a few other brands that offer good sound as well. If not many roads and forums that will guide you. Good hunting.
In your price range I would recommend a used Linn Sondek in mint condition or an AR EB101 with the original arm or an aftermarket arm. These 2 tables along with the Rega tables are the most affordable these days which still sound excellent. In my experience these tables have a better sound than the massive high end tables and they are easier to move around than the massive 100 lb turntables that are billed as high end. I hope this suggestion saves u some money and frustration. I have owned many tables and time after time I come back to these 3 tables as my favorites. Let me know how it works out. Shay
I like the Systemdek IIX 900 with acrylic platter if can find one. Add an Incognito wired RB-250 tonearm w/Michell Technoweight, Dynavector 10x5, and a decent phono stage. This is a great sounding "budget" turntable setup within your price range. Check the audio forums and review sites regarding the Systemdek. Hope this helps.
Lenco, Lenco, Lenco (L75 or GL75, only). You can get one in restored condition in a nice plinth for that kind of dough. They are wonderful tt's and are bullet-proof. Others might suggest vintage Technics, etc. Actually, there are a lot of good choices out there for you, if you are willing to buy used and/or vintage stuff.
For a little bit more money, you can get the Well Tempered Amadeus. SOTA performance for such a measly sum. I own one and I cannot be happier! Bill Firebaugh is a genius! The Amadeus is special because it virtually emilinates the single most significant problem turntable designers have to tackle: friction! Most turntables, no matter how fancy and complex, have bearings and other friction-prone materials in their spindles and tonearms. The Well-Tempered has none! Once you've heard this "frictionless" performance, other TT's sound murky and opaque by comparison and there's no going back! Before you splurge, I urge you to find a dealer and listen to one. Happy holidays!
In my haste and excitement to share my audio bliss, I forgot to mention the other problems that the Amadeus also solves with its unique design. In addition to friction, it also eliminates bearing chatter and other microscopic mechanical vibrations common to conventional spindle and tonearm designs. 4musica, what cartridge are you using? I'm very happy with my Shelter 7000. Transient attacks are explosive and the mids are glorious! I hope other Amadeus owners would chime in. Happy holidays!
Aisip - I am using the Dynavector XX2 MKII unbalanced (Auditorium 23 ICs) into the ARC PH7 and then into an ARC Ref 3. This has proven to be a very special combination. I find it more than a little amusing and very gratifying that the Amadeus/XX2 is the least expensive of my four TT setups, but musically (which is all that matters!) it is clearly the 2nd best setup. I have yet to see a used Amadeus offered for sale; I think that also says a lot for how the Amadeus has been received so far. Happy Holidays!
Dear Aisip, I am glad you like your Amadeus, but this nonsense about no bearings in the Firebaugh products gets me down a bit. I know it's not your fault or your idea. But, a pivoted tonearm cannot not have a bearing. A platter cannot not spin on a bearing. Not in a Newtonian universe, at least.
Turntable for hard-earned dollars? Something really good that you wouldn't want to upgrade soon? Nottingham Spacedeck/Spacearm. That would be about $1500 in excellent condition. But they are not easy to find, few sell them. As for the cartridge for about $500... It could be MM Goldring 1042 or MC Dynavector 10X5 new, or used Shelter 501 or Dynavector 20X. Or, there is a guy from Hong Kong on ebay and here who sells Shelter 301 new for $500. What is your phono stage going to be and what kind of music do you mostly listen to?
Aisip - My reference system (with the best turntable) consists of the following sources: Ayre-DPS with Mr. Bauer's tonearm and the EMT JSD5, ARC CD7 CDP, Mac/Wavelength Cosecant Version I music server, and Kenwood L-01T FM tuner. The pre is a Shindo Masseto and I use an Auditorium 23 SUT for the JSD5. Amps are the Luxman MQ-88 (best amp I have ever heard except the better Shindos) and the Nagra PSA depending on my mood. Speakers are the DeVore Fidelity Reference Silverbacks. ICs are all Auditorium 23. Speaker cable is by Basis, not a common one but very musical. All go through a Shunyata Hydra V-Ray Version 1 via Shunyata power cords except the Masseto which must use its own power cord.
4musica - Again double wow! Thank you for responding and sharing. You have absolutely top-notched gear! I am green with envy, he-he! Hopefully in a few more years, I too would be able to put together my dream system. Best wishes!