Smoothest and best sounding turntable/cartridge combo up to $1600??


As the title of the thread reads, I am looking for recommendation for the best and smoothest sounding turntable/cartridge combo up to $1600.  I am replacing a restored and recently upgraded Thorens TD-145 turntable with a Audio Technica brand new 440MLb cartridge. I am finding that floating suspension turntables require more isolation against floor vibration.  Other than that, the table is very good. 

I also would prefer a more contemporary design.

Note: I will probably put the the Thorens on sale after reading the comments and recommendations to this thread.  Thank you for your feedback  

sunnyjim
Thorens 145 and 160 variants are generally a pretty smooth sounding table.  Depending on what you mean by restored will vary its performance level. If it is essentially stock then modding it would elevate it tremendously. A better plinth and tonearm will get you a table that performs amazing. However, that can add 500 to your investment and require some level of skill and time committed.

Also, the 440 is not, imo, a smooth sounding cartridge. A Denon 301 mkii, if you can run it, is. A Denon 110 is also a bit more on the smooth side, too.

The Shure m97xe is also smooth sounding and a great value. It doesn't have the same level of resolution as the other two recomendation.

A Rega arm works really well on your table and beats the pants out of anything in its price range.

BTW, a Linn lp12 or We'll Tempered Record Player are also good choices if you must go with a new table.

Some folks don't like the Linn basic plus arm, or its variants, but find them ok.

I probably should have stated that your phono section and cartridge are two ways to better calibrate your listening preferences.

To Ray, Thank you for the reply and information. I have a strong suspicion the TP 60 tonearm is a liability in finding the best match  of cartridges. Plus, the headshell presents serious adjustment problems for azimuth and overhang.   therefore, to say it another way, the tonearm is not good and possibly a turkey. The Denon 301 MkII is (I think) a low output cartridge. The Denon 110 is bit higher output, but my Rogue Sphinx v1 needs at least a 3-4 mV  to accommodate the Denon.   But, I will check it out. 
What is "smooth sounding"? What would be another adjective for another sound, but also desirable?  I have a Lyra Delos, is it smooth?  Please bear with me, just trying to better understand the lingo!
The VPI Traveler has been on sale recently for $999 as it has been replaced by another model. I would add a Grado Sonata 2 for $600. It's a fantastic combo.

To marktomaras:  "Smooth sounding" may be too nonspecific a term. I was trying to say less high end congestion where the sound get bunched up, (that is not separated to hear nuances), or tinselly crashing highs, or a general  lack coherence across the board resulting in a sour sound quality..  I would not mount a Lyre Delos  on my Thorens 145 ( You must have a fairly expensive table to use that cartridge).

 I am no expert at tonearm/cartridges interfacing, but at this time the Thorens TP60 tonearm on the 145 table does not sound right, and exhibits many of the negatives I briefly listed above. I did read somewhere that the AT440Mlb  cartridge can take a while to break in and sound smoother on the top end.


To Smrex13.... I saw the add for the VPI Traveler, but I want to sell the Thorens first. Catching good sale is not a top priority at this point.

 Member, Raymonda suggested trying one of the Denons he listed. And of course, there is the option of replacing the tonearm with something much better.  However, in both cases I am reluctant to dump any more money into this project at this point.  Thanks to all.

You can find a Rega RP6 with Exact 2 cartridge in that price range. 

Cartridges, like speakers, are transducers and highly subjective.  And the two most difficult components to recommend.  Just as you have probably been advised to auditions speakers, the same goes for cartridges.  We all perceive them differently.

If you cannot audition TT/Cartridges packages and must rely on a general consensus from users on the internet, I agree with the above that Grados, Denons and Shures are probably the opposite of the AT-440MLB. 

Noticed that no one mentioned Ortofon yet - most of their better cartridges go right down the middle. 

Finally there is a question of compliance in properly matching a cartridge to a tonearm.   Premounted TT/Cartridge packages are good because the manufacturers have looked at selecting cartridges for their tonearms that result in the proper resonant frequency of the combination. 

Linn and WTL are good suggestions. I will also throw Funk Firm LSD in the mix.

Thanks again to those who responded. 

To Paraneer:  I am sure tables prepacked with cartridges represent an expert matching to tonearm. Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of Ortofon 2MRed which came with my previous Project DC Carbon TT. It was good, quiet, but the highs were a bit restricted. I was told the 2MBlue was better and would work with the 2M Red body. but I decided not to go there. 

Here is an a curious point, why does VPI package the Ortofon 2MRed with Scout Jr  TT, and also their discontinued  Traveler V.2 TT.  Both VPT table have to, or should outperform the Project DC Carbon TT. So, Paraneer, I am NOT sure the matching of cartridge to tonearm''s RESONANT FREQUENCY  is the only consideration. I think keeping the cost of the package down. If I had bought either of the VPI tables mentioned, I would replaced the Ortofon  2M Red.      

SonnyJ....when you speak of nuances, ...that means money.   If you like the Ortofon Red, you'll REALLY like the Ortofon Black...more nuances.  If you're getting rid of the Thorens because of footfalls, etc.   put it on a very light shelf...or even make your own table/shelf...4 dowels and a light piece of thin wood or even masonite.
Here is an a curious point, why does VPI package the Ortofon 2MRed with Scout Jr TT, and also their discontinued Traveler V.2 TT.

Good question about the Scout Jr. and the 2m Red. I have no idea why this entry level cartridge is matched to this TT. My local VPI dealer said he would give a $100 credit if one wanted a Scout Jr,. without the 2M Red. Also, I am not aware of VPI packaging their Traveler V2 with a 2M Red. I have seen them with Grados.  I bought mine brand new sans cartridge and mounted an Ortofon Rondo Blue on it. Incredible combination.

Finally, when I suggested Ortofon, I said their "better" cartridges. And when I spoke about compliance and resonant frequency, I was referring to all TT/Cartridge packages such as the Clearaudio Concept, upper level Pro-ject packages mated with the fine Sumiko cartridges, and Rega combinations. Just not those with the 2M Red that I agree, is entry level. All pay attention to compliance ratings for proper tonearm/cartridge pairing. Good luck in your search.

Here is the question with zillion right answers. My own experience:when  I switched from Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood to Lyra MC cartridge (the only reason for the switch was that my Sondek got 10k upgrade) I was not hearing what I paid for. Now that Virtuoso Wood got an upgrade you can probably get the original off eBay for next to nothing...  Smooth, detailed, no MC loading headaches, at least on Naim ARO/Sondek it sounds Heavenly! Just my 5 cents to an unanswerable question... 

TO  STRINGREEN: Yes I am sure I could build such a isolation base, but I decided to buy an Aurelex vibration base from Music Direct ($79.00 which offers marginal improvement in sound. but footfalls still occur but less so ) Despite these minimal gains,  I am still not hearing  the benefits of this "upgraded Thorens TD145. It could be the limited headshell overhang adjustment, or that the Geo-Disc is not adequately calibrated for this type of headshell and tonearm  I am going to check those parameters again, especially since I  snapped in the AT 440MLb  stylus onto the body of the AT120E.  Unfortunately, the sound is still not as full as I expected in the midrange.

However,  a few reviews cautioned about this negative quality, and also that 50-75 hours will be needed for burn-in .  At this point, I am putting that particular problem on the back burner, and beginning to look for a new table. - A few members recommended either the Grado  Sonata,cartridge or the Denon 302MKII, ( low output of .035  requiring an out boarded phono box) but I am reluctant to put any more money into the project, and more or less have decided to lick my wounds and sell the table.with or without AT cartridge. I am just not hearing what I want, and I am done with this upgrade vintage BS..