Given the quality of the rest of your system, it makes sense to invest in a good quality TT / tonearm / cartridge combo. For the money, I don't think you can beat the VPI Scoutmaster, which comes equipped with the JMW-9 unipivot tonearm. The TT, with tonearm, costs $2400 (retail), but if you are comfortable spending a bit more, then you should seriously consider adding the clamping ring (another $600, but well worth the money).
Some good moderately-priced cartridge choices include the Shelter 501, Grado Sonata, Sumiko Blackbird, and DynaVector Diamond 17D (although this is a very low output MC model, so you might need a step-up transformer).
Agree with Sdcampbell on this recommendation. You'll still need to add a phonostage, so this leaves room to make a serious investment in that critical part of the analog chain. Assuming you make a good choice in the phonostage, you will have a very good analog front-end that will be very complementary to the quality of your digital.
Gentlemen, thank you both for your comments. But I think I should rephrase the question a little bit: given my current digital setup, what would be the minimum investment in analog (phono stage, analog front end) that would provide a significant improvement over my digital. I am willing to experiment with analog if that number is not too high, yet if I need 6-7K to improve upon the sound, then I may need to wait longer to make the analog investment.
For $1000 to $1200 you should be able to get a nice used VPI HW-19jr table with a good arm (JMW, SME) and a decent cartridge. Don't worry so much about which ones for now. There's a lot of personal preference involved ultimately, and you'll have to experiment later if you decide vinyl is for you.
You may be shocked at how well any reasonable analog setup competes with digital.
If the sound from something like this isn't at least in the ballpark, then analog may not be for you. And you can resell for what you paid very easily.
Spend your money on *proper* power delivery/noise control for your present system. You'll be stumped.
With psychic power and primal intensity,
How about the BIX w/RB250 for around $700 to start with? Reportedly a pretty nice table at a very nice price. Multiple cartridge choices for this setup also.
I think the main question here is "how many records do you already own?"
If not many, I would seriously consider NOT getting into analog at all. It's wonderfull that there is so much used vinyl available at this time but a lot of it is worn and new lp's can be more expensive than CD.
A properly set up turntable can yield better sonics than CD, but at what cost? I personally found with my VPI HW19jr that my Jolida performed better over A WIDER VARIETY OF CD'S. This is not to say it didn't sound good, but in general the CD was easier and more listenable ie. less ticks, pops, and NO END OF RECORD MISTRACKING!!!!. I now own a TNT 6 and it IS better than my cd's but cost WAAAYYY more than my cd player.
I say this knowing full well that there will be some angry people, but I'm not bashing LP, I love it BUT if I didn't own any records or at least 200-300 I wouldn't be buying a tt.
(this is gonna hurt....)
But you can make the search for records a mission. Used record stores, record conventions, online catalogs. I don't know how many records I rescued from garage sales and used record stores. Problem is you need a record cleaning machine to do it right... But analog sounds so much better than digital I think it's worth it!
Dear Bezenchuck: +++++ " I think the main question here is "how many records do you already own?"
If not many, I would seriously consider NOT getting into analog at all. It's wonderfull that there is so much used vinyl available at this time but a lot of it is worn and new lp's can be more expensive than CD. " +++++
I agree with Alun.
+++++ " A properly set up turntable can yield better sonics than CD, but at what cost? I personally found with my VPI HW19jr that my Jolida performed better over A WIDER VARIETY OF CD'S. " +++++
Here I agree too. The actual digital technology is really good on CD reproduction especially the upsampling one. For you really can beat your CD rig you need to do a " good " invest on your analog rig and I mean: TT, Tonearm, cartridge, phono preamp and cables ( at least ).
For the kind of audio system you own ( ¡ congratulations !, very nice. ) I think that you have to invest whatever is need it about if you really want it to " live " the analog heaven.
TT: Acoustic Signature Final Tool ( www.acoustic-signature.com )
Tonearm: SME IV/V or Moerch DP-6
Cartridges: Sumiko Celebration, Dynavector XV-1 or Shelther 90X.
Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul, you really like that Celebration a lot! How would you compare it to the Dynavector in terms of tracking ability!
Sorry to sidetrack this thread for just a bit. It's also nice to hear from an audiophile who has my same opinion on getting into new vinyl...
Hi Alun: My experience with both cartridges told me that both are good trackers: I never had any tracking problem with either. But remember that in the tracking problems not only the cartridge can be the " guilty ": tonearm, VTF, anti-skating, VTA/SRA, etc... intervene on that issue.
Regards and enjoy the music.