Trying to get in to vinyl, turntable suggestions?


Hello All,

After hearing some great analog setups I've got the itch. My Integra dtc 9.8 does have a phono input, but I plan to get a phono stage down the road, that I could connect to my Anthem Pre 2l SE.

In the meantime, any suggestions to get me started...I'm looking for a good turntable that could benefit down the road from upgrades as I get more money.

I'm hoping to spend less than 500 for the TT, and then willing to purchase a cartridge seperately if I have to.

I've read good things about thorens and the nad 533. What about the technics sl-1200? I'm looking to buy used for now.

I listen to a lot of Dave Matthews Band, Pink Floyd, some Paul Simon..Jack Johnson..

Any thoughts?
I've linked my system below hopefully did it right..

http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?vevol&1240167743&view
burnsy1
Plenty of info in the forums about the Technics sl-1200 series...which should keep you busy for a little while.
I've tried quite a few tables at various price levels but the one budget table I'm most impressed with (for the money) is the Systemdek IIx that I recently picked up. You'll see them listed for between $250 and $450 including an arm, depending on what arm is included, and whether a cartridge or other accessories are included.

It's easy to set up, well built, and sounds amazing for the $.
Forget about Dave Mathews and vinyl, There are only a couple of 45's available at a premium. Plenty of the other 3 though.

With no experience, the Technics is a home run. Very easy to set up and use and a great resale if you want to get out from under. It also has a great upgrade path if you want to stay aboard. A table and $100- cart for around $500-
Thanks for the info so far. Checking out the technics on ebay, there are a handfull at varying prices. Anything in particular I should watch out for when considering used?

I notice many of these were used by dj's... is that a lot of wear and tear on the unit? One of them says was part of the dj equipment but saw little use before the club shut down.
04-19-09: Burnsy1
Thanks for the info so far. Checking out the technics on ebay, there are a handfull at varying prices. Anything in particular I should watch out for when considering used?

I notice many of these were used by dj's... is that a lot of wear and tear on the unit?
Given your price range, there is no reason to buy the Technics used. You can find the SL1210 M5G (has better tonearm wire and sounds better) new online shipped for under $500. I have a Technics and like it a lot, but would be cautious about buying used because so many are used for DJ-ing, which means they've usually had a rough life before hitting the used market.
If you are considering the Technics, take a look here:

http://www.kabusa.com/frameset.htm?/

Go to the link for the "Master 1200 Page" (at the bottom of the left column on the home page)
With all due respect to the fans of Technics, I personally would argue that there is a reason they are known as "DJ" tables. For the money you are talking about, I would suggest buying a new Rega P1 or P2. You will get much better soundstaging and imaging, if these are important to you, as well as better resolution of instrumental and vocal timbres. It all depends on what your sonic priorities are. Another decent entry-level table would be a Music Hall 2.1. You also might be able to find a used Nottingham Horizon in that price range, and I have seen the SOTA entry level table near that price used as well. All of these would be quite a bit better than the Technics, IMO, unless you really are after that homogenized DJ sound. :D OK, I need to go to bed, I'm gettin' cranky.
amazon has(technics 1200 Mk2) brand new for $354 plus free super shipping.You can't beat that
Many of the entry level audiophile turntables are constructed of... not much. MDF is a popular component and glued on motors are not unheard of. Many are very fussy to adjust properly when adustments are offered at all. Some have issues with speed control and/or speed changes (33>45). Make sure you know what you're getting into when you plunk down your cash.
i would think pretty hard about adding a turntable. if you already have a collection, it would make sense...if you're starting from 'record one', it may not.
Part of what has me interested in going Vinyl is what I think would be "the journey" involved with it.

It looks like there is a lot of tweaking and upgrading that can be done to get changes in the sound here and there. I've also really liked the sound out of my anthem tube pre 2lse. I don't mind struggling to find the vinyl...I'm thinking it would be a fun hobby.

@Learsfool, interesting about the technics...it definitely does seem to be popular with dj's..but part of what has\had me interested in it is that it seems there is so much in terms of changes and upgrades that can be done with it.

I do have to admit...that I prefer the look of the rega versus the technics...does the rega offer the same potential for upgradeability?
You want to have fun with vinyl, build your own turntable. I've been tinkering with my own build for a several months now. This thread should get you started.

http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?eanlg&1157059532

Otherwise Jaybo imparts some good advice. Sometimes having "fun" with vinyl turns into a money pit rather easily. If you're inclined to still move ahead I might recommend one of the Bang & Olufsen linear tracking tables. I have two of them and they sport a combination of solid design, great looks, simplicity of use (especially set-up), and good sound. In comparison to some other more expensive (>$3000) tables I've owned the B&O's I have hold their own.
In my limited experience I have used the Rega P-1 and P-2, the Music Hall 2.1 and currently a VPI HW/Audioquest PT-9 and had the most fun with the Technics. What I have found is that the Technics holds the platter speed better than the others and nothing will make a record sound off more than the rpm's being off. The other belt drive tables sound good with slower jazz and orchestral music, deeper soundstage, more dynamic even, but put on a piece of complicated music and I can hear the stylus drag and the speed warble. Nothing sounds worse to me. If you were in the $1500- range and could get a speed control that handled these problems i would agree with Learsfool, the belt drive are wonderful, but at this price point those tables seem out of pitch and to warble constantly, a problem you will never have with Technics DD. This is just my own experience with these tables and others with far more experience than I will find the entry level belt drive to be superior.
Unless you have a fairly good size vinyl collection it's probably not a good idea.

If you're starting from scratch expect to spend far more than you expect to spend.
I have a VPI -19 MK.2+ that I can let you have within your budget. Email me at mscevw@aol.com.
is it that hard to find vinyl? My goal is not to replace my library of cd's but obtain albums over time.

If it's not worth getting in to without already having a collection...why would anyone ever get in to it at all...unless they received some library or collection via gift\inheritance?
There is plenty of vinyl around and I think you have a good idea about what you are getting into. You will find a few sources for used and new here on agon or on e-bay and you will be upgrading your system regularly, just like we all do.

If it's not addictive, expensive and all consuming, what fun is it?
04-20-09: Burnsy1
is it that hard to find vinyl? My goal is not to replace my library of cd's but obtain albums over time.
You're on the right track and know what you want. It's easy and fun to find vinyl. I had about a dozen LPs two years ago, just prior to buying my first turntable in 30 years. Two years later I have over 700, the majority of which I got for fifty cents to $2 at used record shops and thrift shops. I did this on a shoestring and am having a blast. I get immense pleasure from listening to vinyl now. I liked the higher level of resolution so much that I did a complete overhaul of my 2-channel analog rig (except for keeping the Technics turntable)--platform, headshell, cartridge, cables, amp, and speakers.

This has been an enjoyable road of discovery on so many levels--hunting for used vinyl in good shape, listening to music I might not otherwise because it's so affordable, digging back into the cultural icons of the '50s to the '80s, hunting through used record shops and swap meets, and gradually dialing in improvement after tweak to get a clean, quiet, dynamic, linear, focused sound out of the Technics. It's been an enjoyable process and I very much like where it's ended up for me--a musically satisfying system with lots of high-resolution analog media to play on it.
Beware of sentences that start with the phrase, "with all due
respect", which always follow with a statement that clearly indicates the
author means just the opposite.

Moving on...

You can have a very fulfilling vinyl experience with a Technics SL1200 table, a
Benz Micro Ace or Audio Technica AT150 Mlx cartridge, and a phono preamp
in the range of $1000 new. Invest in a MintLP Best Tractor for $100. Set-up
is critical for good sounding vinyl playback, and you can't cheap out with the
tools necessary to get the job done right. Cleaning supplies will cost in the
range of $50-$100. A Sandbox platform for approx. $300. many will
recommend a record cleaning machine, but I don't subscribe to this. Hand
vacuuming and cleaning work just fine.

Total investment around $2200. I've done it for less, but I didn't hear benefits
until I had spent over $2000 for the entire rig and accessories.

You can probably have an equally fulfilling vinyl experience with an entry
level Rega table. The choice is yours, and no amount of input from users of
either make is going to put a convincing and definitive point on the debate.

If you're used to the quiet aspect of digital recordings, and if you're young
enough to have no prior experience with LP records and their inherent noise,
then you may be frustrated in your attempt to buy quiet used vinyl. There
isn't much available.

IMO. YMMV.
Tvad...You said "LP records and their inherent noise".
Wow! When I said such a thing the vinyl police worked me over.
04-20-09: Learsfool
With all due respect to the fans of Technics, I personally would argue that there is a reason they are known as "DJ" tables.
And that reason is simply that they spin up to speed in 1/4 turn and can take a beating night after night. The SL1200 was designed as a home audiophile turntable. It was adopted by the DJ industry because of its reliability and durability, and because its rotational consistency, bass slam, and leading edge transients get people out on the dance floor.
For the money you are talking about, I would suggest buying a new Rega P1 or P2. You will get much better soundstaging and imaging, if these are important to you, as well as better resolution of instrumental and vocal timbres.
Simply not true. Subjectively a person may prefer the Rega, but it won't be on timbral accuracy, let alone rhythm, pace, drive, or leading transients. I just spent two hours Friday with my favorite LPs at my local British hi-fi dealer. I listened to a P2 with Rega Bias cartridge followed by a Roksan Radius 5 fitted with a Roksan-badged variant of the Goldring 1042. The signal chain from there on was all Naim, at least $10K worth.

Upon firing up the P2, at first the imaging impresses, but after two or three more cuts the shortcomings become very obvious. Once the recording got above 8 instruments or voices, it started to congest. The midrange is recessed *and* grainy. This is a $650 rig.

You can mail order an SL1210 M5G with improved tonearm wire for around $454 delivered. Add an Ortofon 2M Blue and you're at the same price range, and this rig will kick the Rega's ass eight ways to Sunday. For very little more money you can swap out the feet for brass cones, put it on a butcher block cutting board, and put Vibrapods or other vibration absorbing feet under the block. At that point the Technics reveals inner detail you won't hear on the P2.

When I tired of the P2, I started spinning on the Roksan instead. This was a big improvement, and at $2700 it ought to be. It resolved the details, the transients and tonal fadeouts far beyond what the Rega could do. But even at that, it sounded murky and sluggish. The midrange was recessed similarly to the P2, but wasn't grainy. This is a parlor trick to create the illusion of greater soundstage depth and ambient air and detail. This Roksan couldn't touch my Technics rig for linear response, bass drive and clarity, midrange transparency, pitch and rhythmical accuracy, and especially, timbral accuracy.

For those in love with the Rega RB300 and variants, it's still cheaper to get an SL1200 ($350, remember?) and then get the Origin Live Technics armboard and an RB300-compatible tonearm. For about $1500, you could have an SL1200 with an Origin Live Silver tonearm with VTA adjustment.
Any debate about Technics versus Rega is a complete waste of bandwidth.

If anyone has any doubts about which is better, then the debate is best settled by purchasing one of each and comparing them side by side in one's system. Half of users will prefer the Technics, and the other half will prefer the Rega.

With such devotion to both brands, it's clear one can be happy with either, especially if one has little or no prior experience with vinyl.
04-20-09: Tvad
Any debate about Technics versus Rega is a complete waste of bandwidth.
Yeah, but I had fun.
Fair enough.

Party on Garth!
Burnsy1, to answer your question, Rega makes several different tables in their line, so yes, there is plenty of room to upgrade in that line. I personally have the one in the middle of the line, the P5. That is their table in the $1500 range, and with their TT-PSU it is indeed one of the very best options in that price range, as Zenblaster says.

As far as comparisons to the Technics, the Technics are indeed built like a tank. They also can sound like one... :) Seriously, I must agree to disagree with Johnny - most of the audiophiles I know personally are also professional musicians (classical and jazz), and all of us who have heard the two tables (I have owned both) have greatly preferred the Regas for their soundstaging and better instrumental and vocal timbre resolution. You hear more of what the original recording space sounded like, and greater variety of color in the tones of the players. The Technics, in my experience, tends to be preferred by people who listen mainly to rock or other types of mostly electronic music - those tables tend to homogenize different recordings rather than bringing out differences, another reason they are preferred by DJs as well. I am not saying there is anything necessarily wrong with this, by the way, different strokes for different folks - many audiophiles prefer to make all of their recordings sound as much the same as they can in their systems. I am not saying the Technics are bad tables by any means - it all depends on what your priorities are, and those tables do what they are designed to do very well. There is plenty of room in this hobby for people of all tastes and preferences. While I will crack a joke here and there, I do try to honestly describe what I hear when posting on this site, whatever the subject may be. Since I am not a very good writer, sometimes my comments are taken much differently than they were meant, and I certainly take my share of the blame for that. As I have said before, I sure am glad a became a musician instead of a writer!

04-21-09: Learsfool
Since I am not a very good writer, sometimes my comments are taken much differently than they were meant, and I certainly take my share of the blame for that. As I have said before, I sure am glad a became a musician instead of a writer!
How right you are! If you hadn't written this clarification, I wouldn't have realized that your bigotry against direct drive turntables also extends to the people who listen to them.
Thanks again for all the input so far. I have a couple questions maybe you can help me out with.

If the technics has a more homogenized, or quiet sound as some have described, but can also be upgraded in many ways...do the upgrades not impact this type of sound? If so any thoughts on what it is with the technics that is responsible for the perceived sound difference?

Also, any thoughts on the VPI 19 MK2 that Mred mentions?
Also, any thoughts on the VPI 19 MK2 that Mred mentions?

What kind of arm and/or cartridge come with it?

I currently have that table up and running with a Audioquest PT-9 arm and Goldring 1042 cartridge. (about $1k for the arm/cart combp) and I am having a good time with it. I did have a problem with the belt slipping and stylus drag making a mess of things when I first got the table. A new belt and some fooling around with the height of the plinth to base has things pretty well under control. These tables come in 2 parts, the base which houses the motor and the plinth which holds the platter, a plastic/rubber belt goes from the top of the motor around the platter. There is no adjusting the speed of this set-up so your motor better be right on or everything else is for not, this presents the biggest challenge for this table imo. If I decide to keep this I am going to have to invest about $1k in a VPI SDS speed control which dial these motors in perfectly. I sold a tricked out KAB Technics table about 4 months ago to try this belt drive out. I really loved the Technics but thought that I would try something different. What I have found is that the VPI sounds great when everything is working perfectly and the speed is correct but on a complicated piece of music, where the grooves of the record are creating more drag on the stylus, I hear the change in pitch, and it drives me crazy, that;s all I hear instead of the music. I never had that problem with the Technics. Would I trade my VPI for a Technics, I am not sure at this point. The VPI can be great on some albums, some I can't even listen to. The Technics is very good with all of my albums. I am glad that I had the Technics first as it is a much easier table to use, more straight forward, less fiddling around out of the box.
If you decide on the Technics stay away from used tables from ebay, dj tables get beat to shit with ashes, coke (both kinds) and a general rough life for a sensitive piece of equipment. Start with new or from someone established here on Agon

Good luck and have some fun with it but remember it's all about listening to music.
04-21-09: Burnsy1
If the technics has a more homogenized, or quiet sound as some have described, but can also be upgraded in many ways...do the upgrades not impact this type of sound? If so any thoughts on what it is with the technics that is responsible for the perceived sound difference?
Out of the box, the Technics sounds compressed, as do most low cost turntables. The thing about the Technics is that some very simple tweaks open up its dynamic range. The Technics has excellent rotational accuracy, signal-to-noise ratio, and build quality and close tolerances of a much more expensive turntable. The downside is that its design was frozen in 1981 before vibration control and isolation were as well developed as they are now.

The first thing is, the tonearm wire in most of the SL12x0 machines is substandard for an audiophile piece of equipment. It imparts the dark, closed-in sound that's often described. But this can be fixed a couple of ways. The easy one is to get an SL1210 M5G, an upscale model, that comes stock from the factory with OFC wire throughout. The capacitance for the entire run of cable out to the RCA plugs is a fairly low 100pF, which is a good match with most MM cartridges. The other way to do it is to buy a lower level SL12x0 and have Kevin rewire it with high grade Cardas cable for $169. The cable upgrade (or selection of the M5G) opens up the sound, making it light and airy up top and with similar imaging to other turntables.

Second, get a better mat. The mat on a Technics has to do two things--damp the platter and isolate the record and cartridge from the mechanicals spinning it from below. There are several mats out there that will improve things. The cheapest is the Technics Supermat which weighs over a pound and which kabusa.com sells for about $20. Others have been happy with Herbie's Way Excellent Mat or the one from Iron Audio. This improves inner detail, lowers the noise floor, improves dynamic range, and lowers congestion on more complex musical passages.

Third, replace the feet with something that will drain the vibrational energy out of the turntable base and isolate the turntable from in-room vibrations. There are a couple of approaches to this: You can get brass cones that transfer energy out of the turntable to whatever its sitting on, or cushiony feet that absorb the energy, or a combination that does both. The top end replacement feet are the Isonoe Footers available from KABUSA for about $200 the set including screw-in footers, glass coasters, and sorbothane boots to go over the assembly. A second method is brass cones. You can get the Threaded Heavyfeet from Mapleshade Records for about $160/pair, or take the cheap way out (I did) and get the Dayton Speaker threaded cones from www.parts-express.com for $21/set. The threads are a perfect match for the originals. If you go with brass cones, you will for sure want to put the turntable on an isolation platform. I use the Dayton brass cones seated on a thick butcher block cutting board, which is then isolated from the shelf by something absorbent. I've variously used Vibrapods and silicone gel pads from an office supply shop.

The cumulative effect of addressing noise and vibration transforms the turntable, lowering the noise floor at the low end and raising the feedback resistant volume at the other. It also makes the sound cleaner and clearer in the middle.

Two last tweaks are the kabusa.com tonearm fluid damper and a Sumiko or LPGear headshell. The fluid damper is $150 and is easily installed in about 30 minutes. Set up properly, this lowers the resonant peak of the cartridge/arm resonant frequency and enables the tonearm to track hideously warped records without jumping the groove.

The better headshell damps resonances better and raises the effective mass of the tonearm slightly, making it a better match with many medium-compliance cartridges that came along after the Technics was designed.

When I first brought the Technics home my wife could easily hear the dynamic compression, but with the way I have it set up now it easily equals the dynamic range of the same recordings on CD and has all the clarity of a CD, but with the higher resolution and more organic microdynamics that analog brings.

I also use the KAB rubber record grip at $25. I've found it helps thin records sound like thick ones, and lowers the surface noise level a little bit.
Thanks Jonnyb....thats very helpfull...makes it sound like fun to...even though I know I'll continue to spend too much...but thats all in the hobby.
Don't overlook the Music Hall MMF 5/5.1 for an entry level setup. While it was a couple of hundred bucks cheaper not long ago, it's still a top contender within $750 either side of its asking price.....nice arm/cartridge included in the package although I'm told that upgrading the Goldring cart by one model number can give a considerable improvement.
I agree w/ Lgl about the MMF 5/5.1 based upon personal experience not as my first table but one I purchased new and owned for a about 1 1/2 years. Quite decent reproduction and it did not damage any of my vinyl from what I can tell. I upgraded the Goldring to one of the Grado carts and the sound quality was noticable but not necessary at the outset.

MMF 5/5.1s are built decently in China with good quality achievable as a used unit.
Johnnyb53, if my posts offended you in some way, I am truly sorry for that - I thought I made it pretty clear about when I was joking. If you disagree with what I posted about the sonic characteristics of these tables, why don't you try posting your reasons instead of attacking me personally by calling me a bigot? I fail to see how that contributes to either your argument or discussion on this forum in general, and am frankly very surprised your post was allowed. Let's just agree to disagree. If you can't have a civil discussion, then I have nothing more to say to you.
So its been a while...I'd hoped to have a TT by now but my home AC breaking delayed things a bit. I have an oppourtunity to check out a used music hall mmf 5 today.

Anything in particular I should pay close attention to when looking at this model?
Well I ended up getting the music hall mmf5 used. I'm really happy with it so far..anxious to get a phono stage now so I can put it though my Anthem pre 2l. Thanks everyone for your suggestions.
Stay Away from ebay: Depending on where you live, you can get vinyl, in good shape, for a Buck in used record/book stores. In NYC I found a place on W.72 where I have been loading up for 50 Cents per! ( I even found a Shaded Dog of Rubenstein playing Chopin for $1.....)

Good luck.
I have had some very good luck buying LP's on ebay. Checking out the seller is important. Only bad deal was a zappa album and the guy refunded my money.
Look for a Philips GA-212 or 312 on Ebay with a decent cartridge. I would recommend the MA-2002e cartridge. Check out the seller's reliability through feedback and no. of transactions. You should get 90% there for about 350 bucks or less. For decent vinyl, check out TAS, Stereophile R2D4, and Arthur Salvatore's supreme recordings lists.
First, there is no such thing as budget analogue, or beginner analogue; they are both names for "midfi". 2K is where a decent audiophile rig begins. If you don't already have a ton of old LP's that you want to hear, I see no reason for getting into vinyl. However, if you have deep pockets, you can pay the price for the trip to paradise.