Starter Turntable

I am a total newbie to turntable. I never owned a record in my life and I was actually told not to get into it by a local retailer because of the cost. But I have read that analog is the best, so I want to see what the hype is all about.

So I am in the market of a starter turntable. I want one that is low cost since I don't know what I am getting into so I don't want to invest too much money. So cheaper the better for now. I would also like one that is simple, since I have no idea clue to what a good arm and cartridge should be like. Lastly a used one would probably work best since I can get a better value out of it.

Also since I don't own any records, what will be a good one to start with? I enjoy all type of music, but I like rock, jazz, and classical the most. No country please, I hate country music.

Lastly what should I lookout for when buying used records beside the obvious?

Turntables are the best; but only if you've got big bucks & patience to set up correctly. If not, your local retailer is giving you good advice.
Jump in with both feet! You'll love it. Lots of beginner choices. New or Used. On Audiogon or on Ebay or local classifieds.

I like to recommend starting with a Rega P2 or similar, a basic cartridge (under $100) and a simple phono preamp to plug into your existing stereo (which most likely doesn't have a phono pre-amp). At new prices you could buy these three items for under $800.

If that's too much, look at used stuff and you could probably find all three for under $500.

I'd say a first step is to visit and do a lot of searching in the archives. Looking for opinions of the best starter tables, the best low cost phono cartridges and the best low cost phono pre-amplifiers.

Lots of folks will answer this question with a confusing aray of other advise. Some will say to buy a 20 year old used Thorens, or build your own turntable and pre-amp and even that you can't get into vinyl without buying a record cleaning machine.

I say, keep it simple. Do your research. Make your choices and enjoy!

Paul Green
PS. Both new and used vinyl records are available on line and in stores. Thirft stores and yard sales are great places to find really cheap old records.
My experience is that you'll need to spend around $1000 minimum to get an LP playback setup (table, cartridge, phono preamp) that will compare favorably with a CD based playback. As for LPs you either buy used for cents each, but set aside lots of time to search through them, or you pay similar money per record as for CDs to get new LPs. i.e. you spend money or time ... no easy ways in.

If I didn't have a collection of LPs I would not bother to start one. Spend the money on a better CD player and/or more CDs.

If you really must buy a record player then a used Rega planar 2/3 with a Rega Elys is about as simple as it gets, and will sound pretty good. For better sound, but a more difficult setup dump the rega cartridge for a denon dl-160.
You may not need big bucks, but some bucks is necessary. General patience and some luck finding bargains helps too. The sticking point I have with your quest is "what will be a good one (album) to start with". There is no starter album and the key here is: we don't call them record COLLECTIONS for nothin'. Find some other people where you live (if you can) with analog systems, see what they have, how it sounds, and ask questions like how did they get where they are system-wise (how many upgrades). Lastly, ask if you know them well enough about the approx monetary investment. I'll tell you I have a modest system worth about 3.5 grand (I bought it all except the cartridge used and spent about $1800. This is only for the TT-cart-bookshelf speakers-
2-channel amp and preamp-and cabling. This is a maodest system. This is not a pool you're thinking of jumping into, it's an ocean. Good luck.
It's not worth it, unless you plan to have albums that are not available on CD. You'll be better off spending your money on a belt drive transport/player and have it modded. Besides, chances are you'll end up with one of those crappy belt drive TTs which are touted as 'audiophile' decks. Take it from someone who's got 900 LPs vs 200 CDs...and a modified quartz locked, direct drive TT.
garage sales
music hall,whichever model you can afford. also buy a vacuum record cleaning machine.
I guess I will jump in on this one. Not that I have much turntable knowledge, but I enjoy my very modest system.

There are several inexpensive TT's listed here on Agon from time to time that would give you a good idea if analog is the direction you want to go. I would think a Rega 3 with RB250 or 300 arm would give you a good idea and if you decide you don't want to go further, you should be able to get your money back without a problem.

I say go for it. If you like jazz, you can pick up OJC reissues for very little ($5-$10) and they seem to be very good. Most classic rock can be had for $1-$2 and classical even less.

Give it a try and let your ears decide.
I am also considering getting a Turntable, my short list is:

Pro-ject RPM6SB
Clearaudio Champion (just basic model, no Mark I or II).

Which one is better overall?

The Rega P25 is the best jump into it about $1150 with good cartridge. Plus, there are many worthwhile tweaks for it.
I tnink you will love analogue ! For a TT I'd recommend
a used classic Thorens as they are excellent TT's and can be tweaked to provide great sound easily.
I wouldn't buy a new TT particularly an expensive new TT
as there are enough variations that it's a virtual certainty that if you really get into this stuff, you'll end up wishing you had bought a different TT/arm.
The only apect of analogue that I'd recommend spending serious money right away is a good phono stage as that aspect provides serious performance differences for the $
spend some time perusing the vinyl section of the audio asylum just about anything you'll need to know about analogue gear is there.
Regards Fredj
I was one of the anti-turntable people for years. Then I tried it. Since, I have sold my Sony SCD-1 and bought a cheap Rotel. Why? I found that the SCD-1 was never turned on from week to week. The only reason for the Rotel at all is because of my investment in cds.

For a startup setup:
Denon DP series turntable (approx. 150.00 and up)
Cartridge The shure V everyone talks about $199.00 Jacks Music
Phono Pre - Grado pickup used for around $300.00

Alot of headway has been made in digital technology. The available gear is spectacular. The problem is the shotty mastering that is available on 90% of the available software. I for one tired of buying supposedly remastered or new releases to the SACD format, only to be dissapointed by crappy mastering.

Feel free to give me a call 716/821-7828. I would be more than happy to share my journey into vinyl.

F155: The hype is true vinyl is stupendous your dealer is right it costs money but if you have it, do it, but its no picnic.
I had only 1 box of records when I started less than 2 months ago now through friends and family I have 4 boxes and haven't heard all of them. I also spent serious money on the net getting new recently released and heavy pressing remastered albums. Those are expensive with a capitol E.
I a more than pleased with the Music Hall MMF-5 which my dealer set up and comes with a cartridge and arm for about $500 new. Many consider that table the one to start with, there was just a thread about it. You'll probably need a phono stage unless you had bought a pre with a phono board or have an integrated with a phono stage. Any number of mini phono boxes will do- Clear audio sells a cheaper one as does Project, I got an unbelievably good one by Redgum its the little phono box,its great, But I wouldn't have bought it except I got it from a dealer who sold it to me as a demo very inexpensively.
A record cleaner also turned out to be a necessary piece (serious bucks look at VPI or Nitty Gitty in the catalogs) if you go with used. Which is really the only way to get quantity and want but poor quality is a rmians real problem with used you need to get near mint or mint if you don't want any noise.
Thats the bad news if you want audiophile level sound. The good news is that nothing sounds as good as vinyl and its worth it. I saw some inexpensive tables with built in phono stages but forget where. I have no idea what they sound like. As a total newbie I would listen to vinyl at a fellow audiophile's place before making the investment.
I am now totally addicted vinyl but you've got to understand its a real hassle as mentioned. Its not the place to put your precious dollars in your first serious system. That being said, after you get rolling a bit, give it a try it really is uniqely better.
Why do you all have to make this sound so complicated?

I was in this guys exact same position 3 years ago, was asking the exact same questions, and had the exact same concerns. If I was reading all of this advice, I'd be thinking that this is way too complicated, and probably isn't worth the effort. Here's my perspective:

For your first table, you want something that you don't have to mess with that much. Everyone seems to try to point you at something that can be tweaked, modded or upgradable. As a newbie, you just want something that sounds good without a lot of work.

I would recommend a Music Hall MMF-5. No, you can't really tweak, mod, or otherwise upgrade it - and that's the beauty of this table. You should be able to pick one up used on the 'gon for about $350.00. Out of the box, this table is generally good-to-go. This is the table I started with. In a side-by-side comparison with a Rega P-25, Rega RB-900 arm, and a Grado Reference Platinum cartridge, the Music Hall didn't lose by that much. And when you take into consideration that the Rega (or at least the one I compared the MMF-5 to) ran fast, one could make the argument that the Music Hall sounded better.

The MMF-5 hooked me, and after 22 months with this table, I sold it and purchased a Teres 255, Origin Live Silver tonearm, Shelter 501 cartridge, and a Wright WPP-100c phono stage. I learned to set up the table properly, and I love to tweak it to maximum performance. Was I ready for that kind of comittment when I first go into vinyl? Hell no! But I wanted to experience what vinyl had to offer and see if it was right for me. If you get hooked, a starter table is easy to dump, you won't lose much money on it, and you'll probably want to upgrade significantly (as opposed to incremental upgrades to a starter table).

There is one other table that just came out that may be interesting (although I haven't heard it) - it's a Goldring GR-1. The Goldring GR-1 is built by Rega and is the same as the Planar-2 with a modified RB-250 tonearm a different platter and slightly less expensive cosmetics (and comes with a cartridge). Do a search for this table on the 'gon, as they are going for between $350 - $365 new and may be exactly what you are lookging for.

Hit the used book and record stores for vinyl. If the vinyl looks like it's been abused, it's probably going sound abused. Note that a dusty record is not necessarily an abused record. You may want to look at the cleaning products by Disc Doctor. It's a PITA to do, but it does make a big difference.
Wow guys this is great. It seem like everyone who have vinyl are really passionate about it. Well I guess I should tell why I got interested. All the magazine and forum I read, everyone seem to say that the only way to listen to music is with vinyl. Yesterday I was at a used book store (Half Price Book) that also sells used music media (cds, vinyl, and tapes). In the music section a box sitting on the ground said “Mystery Box $10”, it was packed full of records. I almost brought it since I figure there might be something good in it. If not, I ‘m still not losing much and I can even sell it on Ebay. But I didn’t buy it since I got no room for it. However I did buy a box set of the Boston Pops for $1.00, which looks like new.

So that my story so now I am looking a TT. How about a Rega P3 with the RB300 as a starter table? I read many good things about it and it relatively cheap when buying used. Also pardon my ignorance but what does the “phono stage” do? I got an Audio Research LS-2B and I know it doesn’t have the phono. Does the phono amplify the signal from the pickup?

I greatly appreciate all the help here.
i'm going to chime in on the keep it simple side to start with. My analog system consists of a CJ walker table with a linn basic arm..can't even remember which linn cart. i'm using an old B&O reciever for phono pre and a tuner. i have an ACR CD-2 for digital source. Guess what? there are areas where my simple analog (like sence of realism and 3-d nature of the sound) walks all over the ARC and that is a highly rated $3k player. The ARC does better on the freqextensions but sounds pretty wall paper like in comparison with the vinyl. I'm not sure what a good analog rig sounds like but the cheapies are pretty good. not to mention all the like new records you can find for under $2
Not everyone. I have a rega planar 3 with a Linn K-9 cartridge. I have about 200 albums. That's really the only reason I have a turntable. Many date back to when I was a teenager.

My CD playback is a marantz CD67SE driving a Monarchy DIP jitter filter into a Monarchy 22A DAC. Quite expensive in its day the Monarchy DAC can be picked up for about $200 used now.

This plays through a Densen B-100 amp ($1300) into Green Mountain Audio Europa speakers ($900). It's a very revealing amp-speaker combo.

Overall I would say that the sound quality from the turntable and CD is about equal, and more dependant on the quality of the recording, than on the medium. Some CDs sound stunning, others not so good. Same for the turntable. I could not make the statement that the turntable sounds better, because to my ears it doesn't. It looks better, and there's much nostalgia in some of my LPs, but on sound quality alone I would stick with CDs and buy a better CD player. That is, if I didn't have such a large collection of LPs.

That said a used Rega planar 3 could be bought and subsequently sold for little loss, if you find out it's not for you. A phono stage is essential as it not only boosts the signal, but corrects the frequency response. (LPs contain reduced bass and increased treble, following the RIAA curve ... to maximise the signal to noise ratio ... the phono stage cuts treble and boosts bass to restore the frequency response). Project, NAD and creek make phono stages ... the creek is probably the best, but also a little more costly. Budget for $150.

Rega cartridges are a piece of cake to fit to the rega arm, but unfortunately, not very good. Much better would be a denon dl-160 (if you like it exciting) or a benz micro (if you like it smooth), both at about $180.
To answer your question about phono circuits, since records are a physical/mechanical system, then the bass frequencies must be attenuated before cutting the master-discs to prevent too-large excursions (squiggels), making it impossible for a cartridge to track the resulting very large grooves. Similarly, the high frequencies are amplified before cutting. The phono stage must equalize the signal coming off your record player to create a flat frequency response. To achieve the 3-D effect which vinyl does so well and digital loses, one must have a system capable of reproducing this effect. Since you have a tubed preamp (I believe), I would suggest an Antique Sound Lab Mini Phono, which is a cheap ($250) and very good tubed phono stage with excellent imaging (as only natural in a tubed unit), excellent rhythm and very good detail/clarity. Make sure, if you buy this, to immediately install matched and improved tubes. I use Philips and they sond great and are not very expensive. The Rega P3 is an excellent beginner's 'table, as it is good quality and more importantly simple and easy to use. Good Luck.
"Overall I would say that the sound quality from the turntable and CD is about equal, and more dependant on the quality of the recording, than on the medium."

Sean Taylor is right on. Wake up & smell the roses. There's red roses, there's yellow roses. My Dan Wright modded belt drive transport is a killer unit--and so is my KAB modded direct drive TT.

All this hype about 'analog' sound is just that--hype.

Thanks very much for the recommendation and the MusicHall MMF-5 does look good, I read some reviews on the net just now. I think I will let go the Clearaudio and project RMP6SB, instead I will go for any of the following:

1. Rega P3 or P25 (if still available, been replaced by P5)
2. Project 2.9 wood
3. Classic Thoerns (not sure which model)
4. Classic Denon (not sure which model)
5. MusicHall MMF-5 (if available).

btw, I live in Hong Kong so the choices are limited by dealership which is sxxx! I do believe 1,2 is easy to find, 3-4 requies some hunting, 5...not sure.

My budget is around UD640 (w/i tonearm), cartidge..oh well it the TT come with it, I will stick to it for a while, if not, will see what I end up with.

I acutally owned a very old Technical semi-automatic TT in the 80s but it was broken down and I play CD/SCAD for the last 15 years or old. I just recently bought some hard-to-find LPs so my road to TT started it again, I agree with Nrenter, I don't want to get into too complicated TT, I know how LP sound as I used to play but I am out of touch in the TT world for the last 15 years, guess lots have changed since then.

Will go some searching today at the shops here. Clasic Denon /Thoerns, oh I like that!

Thanks again.
Thorens TD160 Super
Denon DP5000 (if you can find one)
Audio Note TT1 (Modified systemdek 900x)
Merrill Heirloom (there was one for sale on Audiogon recently; might still be there...great table)
Whatever you do, watch out for the shipping! Be sure to insure if there's shipping involved. Best to pick-up what you're buying, if you can! My Music Hall MMF 7 (my starter, now I have a VPI Scout) was purchased new, was well packed by Music Hall and then arrived broken! UPS has a way of tossing things around and turntables do not take to this well at all. BTW once you start on LPs, you'll stay with them and upgrade as time passes despite the expense!
I don't believe in the "I am a newbie thus i want the cheapest good tt available" strategy.

I was intimidated by all the cartridge/arm/table dilemnas too. However, after doing research on the net for about a week, I am pretty confident about purchasing and assembling my own high end TT.

Ofcourse, I haven't done so yet. So, I might prove to be all talk after I buy my TT and start sending out a distress signal.
yes....always buy a turntable with its original packaging. You are asking for trouble if a table is shipped in any other box because they are so fragile. I won't buy a table used unless it is in it original box with all of the packaging inserts.
I am not sure that I would venture into vinyl if I didn't already have several hundred LP's, but if you do, I think it can be very rewarding.

How you go about it should be based around what you want to do. If you plan to hunt thrifts for low cost music, I would suggest starting with something like a Thorens TD-160 or similar. It's a good solid table and will be good enough for you to enjoy analog sound. If when you upgrade, or decide to sell, you can sell it for basically the same as you paid and sometimes more.

It can also benefit from some tweaking if you want to go that route. Can be had for around 200 hundred with cartridge.

If, on the other hand, your goal is to start buying audiophile LP's in search of the best sound, the investment is far more significant.
I started analogue about a year ago - from scratch. LP's are waaay cheaper than CD and today I have a collection of over a thousand LP's.

I was so impressed with the sound of LP's that I got rid of my CD player (Cary 303/200) and all my CD's. Fact is, once you compare them back to back you will realize that CD is way inferior. A $750 turntable will smoke any $3000 CD player no problem.

Start with a rega/NAD533/Moth and do some minor upgrades like an acrylic platter and structural mod to the arm. Get a nice starter cart like a Sumiko BPS/Shure and you'll never look back.

To start you LP collection it is best to start off by bidding on a batch of 50 to 100 LP's. Once you have that you will be well on your way.

Good luck
I just (re) started my vinyl journey. You can say I jumped in head first regarding my budget.

It has been both rewarding to me and my dealer thus far not to mention local record shops..
I'd like to raise one point that I didn't see so far. I see buying new vinyl as a much better investment than buying CDs. Vinyl releases are usually very limited. Some examples:
I bought Elliott Smith XO brand new for $12.00, it is now out of print and It regularly sells on ebay for $50-$100.. I'm kicking myself for not buying figure 8.. reissue???

I bought Modest Mouse- Long Drive & Lonsome West for $10-$12. now they sell for $100.00 or more on ebay.

Plus I have a lot of Brit Pop, Indie, Mod stuff that is all worth about twice what I paid for it new. I'm talkin doubling in value in less than a year in some cases. The CD releases are as good as coasters if I want to sell them.. Ok they might sell for $3-$4 each. Tons of new vinyl is out there!!

Also, Vinyl is a great value used, even at expensive places like Amoeba you can buy rare LPs for $4-$8. I know of a place that trucks in used LPs once a week and they are pricing them at $2.00 (it's all 80's and classic Rock though. But you find mint Madness, REM, Beatles etc.)

And don't believe the hype on the $$$ for equipment. Those guys are either rich or living way beyond their means. Look around at all the angry wife posts. Here is my Kitchen system that blows away all my friends:

Technics Linear tracking TT $50.00 ebay
(new)Grado Silver Cart. P Mount $100.00
Sumiko preamp (New) $100.00
Pilot 30 watt integrated tube amp $150.00 on ebay
Cambridge Model Seventeen Bookshelf speakers $75.00(Pair)
Total = $475.00
if you are rich, by all means buy the best. But do not feel that you have to in order to enjoy vinyl playback. The gains beyond a certain price point are for the hoplessly obsessive compulsive. That may not be a fair assessment.. but do not believe anyone who tells you you need 3k or don't bother. They are trying to keep the competition away from the LP market.

You really need a cleaning machine though.. I bought a nitty gritty. But If I had to do it over again I'd build one with a used canister vac & thrift store TT platter. Google DIY record cleaning machine and you will find a simple plan costing $50.00-$100.00

I think you also need a UFO record cleaning deally. A guy sells them on Ebay cheap.. They seal the label of an LP so you can wash them in the sink. I do this before the machine and would have trouble going back to just using the NG.

Hope this helps.
I'm coming in a bit late to this thread but I can't help singing the virtues of vinyl. F155mph, if you like, really like music I can't recommend vinyl enough. After many years of reveling in the joys of spinning LP's, I "joined the 90's" and bought a CD player. For the next 10 years I sold all my albums and replaced them with cd's. What was once a 2000+ LP collection turned into a 1500+ cd collection. I thought I was "there", the ultimate in sound reproduction and convenience...until about a year and a half ago when a good friend of mine had just bought a Rega P3 and had me over for jazz and vino. Man! I was moved, truly moved by the music. Moved in a way I hadn't realized had slipped away over the years. Hey, I still have all those cd's and a damn fine cd player and I listen to them often, but after spinning that evening away, listening and groovin' and enjoying all that sweet, warm music flowin' out of his admittedly stupid-expensive set-up, I am re-united with vinyl in a way that I really don't get and never really did get with cd's. So! I agree with those who have suggested finding a dealer, someone local, with a decent selection, and strike up a beautiful friendship with 'em. Buy a 'table you like, in your price range and have your new dealer-friend take care of all the set-up. A dealer worth his or her salt will do this happily. As for me, after that night o' disc spinning, I went out the next day and lucked into a Music Hall MMf-5. I'm listening to it as I write. Do you live in Austin, TX by any chance (the Half-Price Books reference)? If so and if you haven't bought a turntable yet, I would like to recommend Brian DiFrank at Whetstone Audio. He carries Rega TT's and he will definitely take good care of you.