On a budget of $500 or less I do not think you would end up being very impressed compared to say a $500 CD player.
I agree with uberwaltz
"On a budget of $500 or less I do not think you would end up being very impressed compared to say a $500 CD player."
I did not see any significant enjoyment with vinyl until I was about $3-4K into it. Turntable, cartridge and phono preamp are all very important parts of the formula. It's OK to start small and go the upgrade route, though. It's a good way to go as you can hear the differences of upgrades as you go. For me that journey was a lot of fun and a lot of learning happened.
I don't know anything about turntables under $500. I'm sure that is lots of info on this site. I have 100s of LPS, subscribe to QoBuz, and use an SACD/CD player. However:
Sometimes SQ depends on the LP mix and the CD mix. A friend brought over a B’way show album original cutting very early stereo and it sounded a bit strange to me. Pure nostalgia for her. I got a copy of the ’new’ CD that had been remixed from the same tapes decades later. I had her leave the room before playing/selecting the CD but left the record spinning. She was amazed at the sound and asked why it was so good all of a sudden.
I made her a present of the CD.
If you listen to historic performances originally captured from off the air or wire recordings such as Charlie Parker often the digital cleanup on a CD is quite impressive. If you could find the 78s/33s I doubt they would sound as good.
I might add that the quality of the reproduction chain I use is beyond reproach so it does not enter into the conclusion.
IIRC, those are the 500 series Kenwood. With a Grado wooden cart, that would be a steal. Even with shipping.
After just going down this same path, but not having a Linn as my old table, my personal feeling is to find something satisfying at $500 is going to be tough. A used rig as Tomic suggested might be the best way to go vs new.
this $250. direct drive is a darn good start in your budget, I used mine for many years
the provided cartridge is nothing special, I would change it, use it for spare and it's eliptical stylus is better than microline for mono lp's groove size (get a true mono cartridge eventually if into mono lps).
I suggest, to stay in your budget, their lowest cost microline stylus. advanced stylus shapes get further down in the grooves, much more contact surface to the groove sides, and make less wear to the grooves, and less wear to themselves, thus the last a lot longer
body threads makes it's install much easier
I'd rather see you buy this one, primarily because it has better channel separation, 28db (less costly 95ml is 23db).
wide channel separation gives better imaging, iindividual instrument isolation and placement. tight channel balance helps produce a tight center image, as center is a phantom created by equal left and right.
How are your cartridge alignment skills? Or, do you have someone near with those skills? Proper alignment of any cartridge affects the sound, done right lp's beat cds, important for elliptical, and even more important for advanced stylus shapes, to get their advantages and to prevent problems if they are misaligned.
A great TT that fly's under the radar is the JVC QL-7 or QL-A7. Dead nuts speed stable and has a slightly lesser version of the very good UA-7045 tonearm. I was blown away the first time I heard mine. AT makes a very good cart with a microline stylus for a really great price. It's a way better TT than the Technics SL-1200 MKII.
So just to enlighten you, and bore some to tears most likely.
When I first decided to " get back into vinyl" I did exactly the same, budget of $500 for table, cart and Phonostage.
Cheapest Project table and a Bellari Phonostage.
So what did it sound like?
To be fair looking back it had to compete with a 3k Esoteric cd player so I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Sold the lot and said fugg it... For a while.
Joined this site 2012 or do, read a LOT.
Revised the budget to $1500 and better but still no " magic".
To cut the story to the chase.
9 years later I have a magical system through constant upgrades and research.
Cost...... North of 10k on vinyl, well North....lol.
Sure a cheap rig will play and do so at varying levels of acceptable.
But be warned, it’s a deep, dark rabbit hole once you start from which even Alice could not escape!
I never got rid of my old turntable (Micro Seiki MB14), but I added a couple of new ones in the past couple of years (Rega P3 and Pioneer PLX 1000). I'm really happy with the quality of the equipment. What I'm not so enthusiastic about is the quality of new pressings, including heavy-weight pressings. An unacceptably high percentage of them, including from prestigious labels, suffer from problems that cannot be eradicated by a good cleaning. While I generally prefer the sound quality of LPs to either CDs or hi-res digital recordings, I'd rather listen to a flawless hi-res recording than a noisy LP. Fortunately, I have enough old LPs in great condition that I don't consider my investments in analogue technology wasted.
I was in the same boat. Several years ago I sold off my AR-ES1 with a Premier MMT arm and Grado Signature 8 cartridge. Earlier this year picked up an Audio Techica LP-120XUSB and put a VM95SH on it.....it sounds amazing, and it sounds better than my Denon DCM 440 with Topping E30 DAC. It's definitely possible to very respectable sound in your price range.
I had also considered the Fluance RT-85 with the Ortofon 2M Blue cart, but am glad I went in the direction I did.
I picked up a JVC QL-Y66F with a Stanton 981 HZS cartridge for $545 a couple of years ago. I stuffed a few pounds of Plasticlay inside and bought some new feet for it (about $125). I love the way it looks and it sounds great. I had to have some minor repairs (replacement of a couple of capacitors) done a couple of months ago, but it's still going strong. And it's fully automatic. There are deals out there to be had if you are patient and keep your eyes open.
Lots of opinions and advice here. For what you're looking to achieve dancole probably has the best advice as to what you are looking to achieve. Vinyl recordings will sound better than their digital counterparts and digital will best vinyl as well. So many variables depending on the quality of the recording on each media.
As far as budget goes, there is almost no end to dollars to be spent on vinyl equipment. Every component in the chain has an important function. But, you have a budget in mind. The best advice I could offer is to take what you consider a few of your best vinyls to an audio shop that deals in new and used turntables that may fit your budget. That's a pretty tall order because even if you find a table to audition that sounds good to you, it may not sound as well when you get it home on your system. Or maybe it will sound better?
Best of luck in your search. I have extensive collections of vinyl and digital music. Both are satisfying. Vinyl will always be my favorite. Not as convenient as digital but some recordings sound better. Audition equipment as much as possible.
I guess its what is your sound quality you like now ? If its a lower end setup and you are all about listening without caring about having higher end components then go for it with a 2nd hand deck. I will be jealous as for most of us its an addiction of pursing a near impossible dream of perfection.
I brought a 2nd hand Linn LP12 just over a year ago as I still have all my original vinyl, 1500 albums, and I'm quite disappointed in the sound reproduction compared with what I am getting from digital nowadays (Tidal and Flacs). I then brought a 2nd hand Rega RP8 with a decent cartridge on it and its better but still the digital is superior in my setup. I need to do some cartridge and maybe phono amp upgrades to bring it into parity which alone will be $1000's .. so at this point its not a priority.
I say, if you have a decent system stay with digital, listen to your old albums on a streaming service.
The U-turn Orbit Turntable is quite nice. It hits slightly under the $500 stated price limit. Is it the best unit available? Absolutely not. Is it fun reliable and provide great sound quality? Oh yes indeed it does. They also offer, as an option, the built in phono stage. Unbox and setup time is 20 minutes or less. Easy way to re-enter the world of vinyl with minimal financial risk.
Unless you have hundreds of albums you want to revisit or have nostalgia for vinyl, I would spend you money elsewhere. Vinyl isn’t just about the sound. It is about the nostalgia of our childhoods when that was the only way to listen to recorded music. Listening to vinyl is ritualistic. Filing your albums with your personal system. Cleaning the record. Caring for the stylus and your turntable. Then there is the money spent on the associated phono preamp and cabling. Unless you have a strong desire to play the hundreds of albums you already own and or go down the vinyl equipment rabbit hole. I would pass. I am someone with those hundreds of albums and all that equipment. But if I am being honest and if it’s really about the music, I say, with some sadness, that you should spend your money on your digital system, with subscriptions of Qobuz and or Tidal. Finally Roon is a must have. That to me is the biggest bang for the buck in music quality, music discovery and sound in the digital platform. Save your money and get a lifetime subscription.
I’d get the 579 dollar (down from $1000) thorens td 203 with uni-pivot tonearm. All the European reviews seem to love it. What hifi 4 stars, and audiophiliac likes it. Yes it comes with a thorens tas 257 mm cartridge, but seemingly it’s a good match for the tonearm. Of course, you can always upgrade cartridge. Imo it’s a steal at $579 from rutherford audio. The tonearm is better than anything on any other comparable turntable, plus it has electronic speed control and a dust cover. Might grab it myself just because....
Here's a few reviews...
The Thorens TD 203 was tested in the Stereo issue 1/2015 on pages 84 and 85
"... after a few pages of the record we thought the TD 203, which was delivered with a dust cover made of acrylic, was ready for" interrogation ". It immediately appealed to us with its fresh, carefree manner. Whatever we put on - the Thorens kicked off easily and smoothly. There was no handbrake on in the timing and no hollow cheeked pallor in the timbres, but full-bodied guitars and lively plucking dynamics. Moto: Oops, now I'm coming!
It sounded sympathetic and appealing, but also a bit sleek and tough. If you want to find out what the flat turner can do, you have to allow it at least 15 hours of break-in time. Then its spatial spectrum widens, the slight roughness in the high frequency decreases, and the TD 203 moves closer to the TD 209 tested in issue 1/14, which was also used as a comparison device. At 1000 euros, it costs significantly more and the smaller model just kept up with its more harmonious mids and somewhat more serene, nuance-more precise way of playing.
But the law of action lay with the TD 203, who dedicates himself to the various titles of the STEREO hearing test LP with sensitivity, but above all with courageous commitment. Whether the cally dynamics of Antonio Forcione's "Attempo" or the gentle chorus in "Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker", whether the graceful rhythm in Louis Capart's "Marie-Jeanne-Gabrielle" or the driving percussion in Amber Rubarth's dummy head recording "Good Mystery" - the Thorens always found the right approach to music.
Even with Respighi's orchestra, which was pressed into the difficult-to-palpable inner grooves and started brilliantly, which is certainly not one of the novice's favorite pieces, the newcomer did not show any nakedness, but at least managed to keep track of things despite the vehement rush.
In the end we had really enjoyed listening to music with the TD 203. You don't even have to add the 300 euros to the TD 209. The more modestly priced model plays on low-priced systems, which in any case have more of a hit than the audiophile facets, just as sympathetically, sometimes even more appropriate. Anyone looking around in the upscale entry-level area of the analog range can actually consider Thorens' new turner with the big musical heart as a kind of "small reference". ... "
Sound level: 58%
Price / performance: excellentAnd another much abbreviated review..
Three turntables were tested in stereoplay issue 4/2015 on pages 42 to 49
"... with the preassembled MM scanner (a Thorens TAS 257), which requires a tracking force of 23 millinewtons, the tonearm, which is still damped with a ring in the middle of the tube, can be heard well coped : namely sharply outlined, precisely slim and with a lot of depth Apart from that, the small turntable gets to work vehemently, resiliently and expressively.
The Thorens ensemble "smells" very strongly of insider tip status, especially since the astonishingly small tonearm should certainly improve again with very high-quality pickups. ... "
Sensibly designed single-lever offer with an astonishingly grown-up tonearm and the highest tuning potential. Wonderfully relaxed, yet never boring sound with no flaws worth mentioning. Insider tip status!
Sound: top class
Overall rating: good
Price / performance: outstanding
You need Phono Eq to modify the phono signal (boost lows/cut highs)
and the needed signal boost of MM cartridge signal up to line level signal strength.
Some TT's have an option to use it's built in phono preamp, including the AT120 I linked above.
It's good enough to get back into vinyl. I liked it better than my McIntosh SS C28's phono preamp, and like my McIntosh mx110z's Tube Preamp better.
So if you don't have a phono stage now, a TT choice could include that, then try for a better sounding Phono stage later.
I go for direct drive, quartz lock. turn it on, instant accurate speed, stays there warm or cold.
If not quartz lock, you typically need to wait for it to warm up, then refine speed, then check it again later, as I needed to do with my Thorens TD124, currently do with my Mitsubishi LT5V. My JVC quartz TT81, on, play, off.
here's hifishark.com, used quartz direct drive sorted high to low
Good questions and thoughts. My reason for considering a turntable is a decent collection of records. MoFi, DG. and "special" pressings from other companies. Even though I handled and keep my records very well, I cannot say I miss the surface noise or clicks and pops that existed with even new records.
Perhaps I am just getting more senile. Would love the have the Turbo Esprit, 944S2, .....hell, even the mint P-1800 back, and perhaps some companions I shared those with? Odd, cars did not do much for mates I had,...the only one that seemed to have a + response was an early Lexus SC-400.
I also get a few new LP’s, even 180gm ’special’ that have some noise.
Like my old ones with baby food, cat hair, smoke residue, I clean them, batches of 10, bingo, dead quiet
I scrub em aggressively with these
I make a more aggressive mix, some provided cleaner, a few drops of dishwasher rinsing agent, mostly alcohol, protect the paper label with plastic lid, scrub, rinse in distilled water.
A used Axis is now pretty cheap because most people don't know what an Axis can do. But I probably wouldn't get one because of known issues with the Axis having a fragile power supply. Maybe a used Rega Planar 3?
I think a reason to get a turntable might be to get a different type of sound than you're getting from digital.
I have not read every post (sorry), so apology if this has been mentioned.
First thought that came to mind in response to your question was “Ok, presumably, you went to CD playback when you abandoned vinyl? So, what was your reaction to the switch? Did you feel or sense that you were missing something when listening to music after the switch? If not, then as has been pointed out, $500 probably isn’t enough to trump CD playback’s good qualities. As I’m sure has been pointed out, CD playback has gotten much better over the las few years. Still, in my experience, there is a fundament difference between CD playback (digital) and vinyl at any price level. Not because of the art work, larger package, etc. etc.; a fundamental difference in the sound and listener involvement. Not necessarily a bad thing, and not necessarily making one “better” than the other; but some listeners seem more sensitive to this difference than others, and that difference may tip the scale to one or the other. Everything that I’m sure has been pointed out about vinyl’s noise, tweakiness/inconvenience is true, but that fundamental difference can be heard with a well planned $500 expenditure. Whether that difference, at that price/performance level, constitutes “the magic” for you, only you can declde. Good luck.
Why ever leave in first place? I’ve been spinning vinyl since 12 or 13 and do to this day.....I’ve never been without a turntable. To me it is the best format, better than cd, better than streaming. The tactile feel of the record, the cleaning, the placement onto the platter, watching it spin, the art work, the labels, the tweaks and upgrades etc etc...it never gets old to me. It’s a form of escape for me. Plus the search for that elusive record and the fact that no 2 pressings sound the same is alluring. Just the fact that those tiny grooves when traced by a quality cartridge/stylus can produce that magical sometimes "tubey magical" sound is simply amazing. This is coming from someone who still has his 1983 Aiwa f770 3 head cassette deck, mint, and uses it to this day! Analog is where it’s at, you can have your digital. CD and streaming is something I use when I’m lazy or want mostly back ground music. Of course, its just my opinion and my ears.
To me, the Thorens TD 203 should be sought out before it’s no longer available. It has been reduced in price by rutherford audio due to the fact they are no longer the sole distributor. They are letting a $1000 turntable out the door for $579. It has a high end uni-pivot arm seldom if ever seen at this price point. All the European hifi mags have raved about it. Some usa based mags have taken notice as well. In fact they have gone as far to say that buying the td 203 over the higher priced td 206 or 209 is advisable as it is just as good for a much lower price. It is the entry level tier to the high-end. Believe it or not, all the reviews and listening tests were done using the lowly Thorens TAS 257 cartridge! This cartridge is equivalent to the Audio Technica AT 3600 that has been around forever and can be found on many many a turntable disguised under whatever brand the turntable happens to be...regal carbon for instance. Somehow someway it just creates magic when combined with the uni-pivot arm of the td 203. It is a conical stylus. In fact, so is the venerable Denon DL 103. I got one on order in black, can’t wait!
It's so easy to advise spending a lot more than $500 because the real action seems to begin around the $800+ mark with decks like the Rega Planar 3 and the Pro-Ject Classic etc.
Stuff like the entry Rega's, Pro-Ject's, Fluance's etc can only suffice for a short while before the urge to upgrade grows irresistible.
However, that Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK mentioned by @elliottbnewcombjr earlier seems to offer such fantastic value for money that it might well be the best and least painful way to get back into vinyl.
Direct drive for $250? Wow!
In fact looking at the Amazon page you can find some active Edifier R1700BT Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers for $149.
An excellent first system for $400. Surely newcomers to the world of separates can't ever have had it this good.
I got back into vinyl about a year ago, and started with a Project Debut 3 turntable for 200.00 new, to see if I really wanted to get back into it. Although it was an entry level turntable, I immediately heard that magic again and was hooked. Of course, I grew up listening to records. It also didn't hurt that I have a decent system with a Cat preamp. After a few months I upgraded to a Mofi Ultradeck plus M, and now I'm a happy camper. If I decided not to get back into it, I could have sold the Project for what I paid and would have lost nothing. So, that's another way to go. Good Luck.
Yep ebm is right. To these ears, Vinyl rules. I personally prefer belt-drive tables over direct drive. Had a vinyl system many years ago, the magic amplified by MFA MC Reference preamp and ARC Classic 150 monoblocs. I just couldn’t stop buying records because the sound was magic for me. Never been able to equal that sound overall for musical enjoyment, although my system is pretty resolving.
if one can spare the money, and doesn’t mind the extra bit of work involved, I think it’s well worth it. One of these days I will rebuild a vinyl system again, Godwilling.
Save your money. I get the nostalgia part, but other than that vinyl is less accurate, noisy, inconvenient, a space hog, and an incredible waste of money compared to streaming. I'd find a hobby that makes more sense from a cost/benefit ratio. Or invest the savings.
This coming from someone who grew up with vinyl and got rid of hundreds of LPs thirty years ago. Why go backwards? My whole system is now voice-controlled. It's accurate, takes no space and is the epitome of convenience. You wouldn't go back to an avocado refrigerator and pastel bathroom, would you?
At $500 CDs are better.
At .... I don’t know, $2,000 and up, $4,000 and up?, vinyl is better.
Jssmith, I grew up with vinyl. My first LP was The Rolling Stones 12 x 5, age 9. Since then I’ve added 6,000+ LPs, About 200 45s, and 300 78s. I listen to CDs when I have to. The other day I put on a Frank Sinatra LP recorded in 1954. It sounded a little gritty even though it was sealed, just opened, brand new. I figured oh no, I hope I didn’t buy a digitally remastered press. I looked on the notes on the back and sure enough it was.
I can’t imagine streaming.
“Accurate?” I guess that depends on what the meaning of the word accurate is. Imho quality analogue beats quality digital every time.
No offense intended to anyone, but I must say that I have always found it perplexing, and not a little silly, when specific $ amounts are attached to a price point when all of a sudden it is “worth it” to do this or that. There are so many variables: the specific gear in question, synergy with ancillary components, expertise in set up, the particular listener’s sensitivity to and/or preference for the very real fundamental differences in the sound of each playback medium (regardless of cost). Sure, I’ve heard $4K CD players that, on balance, sound better than some $500 turntables. However, I have also heard meticulously chosen and set up $500 tt setups that I would much rather listen to than some $4K CD players in their respective systems and set up.