Turntable/Arm/Cart for Classic Rock; $1500 budget

Hi All,

I've had an enjoyable digital system for the last few years (Naim CD5x, Aesthetix Calypso, Simaudio W3, Dynaudio 1.3se) but realized that I'm spending less and less time listening to the classic rock/folk that I really love - Neil Young, Dylan, Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Zeppelin, Hendrix, etc. It generally sounds a little thin and "less present" than I would like. Contemporary rock music sounds great - the latest Black Keys and My Morning Jacket albums have brought tears to my eyes they sound so good.

I think the answer is to get a nice analog setup and buy some LPs (I have none today). My old roommate plugged her very inexpensive Project table and phono stage into my system and I enjoyed listening to her mom's old copies of Blood on the Tracks and Zep IV immensely. It was nearly as good as the CDs on my Naim, and in some ways was better.

So...what do I buy? I need a table, arm, cartridge and want to spend less than $1500, used. Can I get something that will bring me enjoyment that exceeds what I'm getting from digital? I'd like something with a good sense of pace, generally neutral but with a bit of warmth.

I'm considering the following tables/arms (all available for <$1,000):
- Rega P3/RB300
- VPI Scout/JMW 9
- Basis 1400/RB300

Any comments on this list? Anything I should add?

As for cartridges, I plan to wait until I select a table/arm...but expect to look closely at the Dynavector 20xl, at $750.

Oh, and phono stages: I made an impulse Audiogon buy for a Simaudio LP5.3 phono stage (because I like Simaudio and feel like a phono is important), but if anyone thinks that's overkill or inappropriate please say so!

This forum has been really helpful to me in the past...so thanks everyone for all you've done so far and thanks in advance for any guidance here.

Get a Rega, they "rock," literally. Try a Rega with a Denon DL-160 or if budget allows, a Benz Micro Ace. I have a P3 2000 listed for sale here on Audiogon. For $1500 you might be able to get into a P5.
I have a Basis 1400 with Origin Live Silver tonearm/Ortofon Rondo Bronze. Using with a Naim system (Nait XS/CD5x/Stageline). The Basis 1400 is a great TT for less than $1000 used (add a $500 cartridge). Great sound on Rock and Jazz.
I agree with Smholl. I started out with a Basis 1400 TT, with a RB 300 tone arm. Used, that cost me around $1,000.
There are a couple for sale here on Audiogon for less than that, (although they don't come with a Basis clamp, which I recommend highly that you get.)

As far as cartridges, I started out with a Benz Micro Glider 2 cartridge, which while good, I would not necessarily recommend. (But for someone else, this just might be the ticket.) My taste in cartridges changed after awhile, and I found that prefer both a more musical cartridge, (the Glider was kind of analytical for my tastes), and I like deeper, darker backgrounds than the Glider provided.) I eventually went to a Koetsu Black, (great mid-range, but the treble and bass are a bit rolled off), then to a Koetsu Rosewood Signature, (the treble is more extended, but the bass was still a bit loose), and then to a Shelter 90X, (which has incredible bass, a well extended treble, but with only decent black backgrounds.)

I eventually ended up with the Dynavector XV-1S, which is the cartridge I have determined is the best for me - i.e. I have quit looking for any other cartridge! (It has great bass response, a very well extended and refined treble response, and a lovely mid-range. It images and soundstages incredibly well, and it has the deep, dark backgrounds that I demand. So, since you decided to check out a Dynavector cartridge, and while I have not heard their less expensive cartridges, based upon my research, I think that is a good choice.

Good Luck in your search!

PS Don't forget to buy a vacuum Record Cleaning Machine for drying your just cleaned records. (Even a cheap Nitty Gritty or Record Doctor works fine). I still use my old manual NG 1.0, and it does a great job.
As far as cleaning brushes and fluids, the Disk Doctor brushes, (or MoFi brushes) are very good, and I like the MoFi Super Vinyl Record Cleaner.
You should know that the Dynavector DV-20x while widely considered a great sounding cart..( I use one) it's attributes include a rather laid back midrange perspective and thus may not be your best choice for Classic rock. On my VPI Classic it does great with Jazz and classical, but not the best choice for hard hitting classic rock. Id look at a more forward presentation like the Clearaudio Aurum Beta or even the Dyna 10x5 which is a bit more forward in sound. You cant go wrong with the venerable VPI Scout, but a Rega P3 will do well also. The Sim Audio phono is a very good choice.
When that long lost vinyl fever for classic albums from my youth resurfaced, I seriously began to look at TTs. It took me awhile to get over the sticker shock for new rigs. I just coudn't understand forking over $1k for a 'starter' kit! I was patient and scored an used AR ES-1 with an Audioquest PT5 and sorbo mat at a local used record shop for under $300. Very nice condition, vintage 80s table which I hoped would take me back to the days! It had an AQ cart w/ no stylus. So I picked up an Ortonfon OM10 Super with upgrade stylus to tide me over until I found a decent cartridge. I read, then re-read Raul's post many times. Meanwhile, I was living very contently with the OM10.
I was seriuosly leaning to a Nagaoka 500 when an used 2M Black came my way. Very happy now. I may want to get a 'better' table, such as a nice VPI or Clearaudio, some day; but for now I'm quite satisfied spending my spare change buying used records, cleaning them up and then enjoying them.

BTW, very nice phono stage! I have the little brother: Sim audio LP3.

My suggestion, for what it's worth: find a nice condition table from the mid 80s such as a Thorens or AR for starters. Next, a decent MM cartridge (partial to these as they are the 'sound' I recalled from my youth). Save a bundle and then blow it on vinyl. In the end, it's all about the music, not the gear.

Cheeers and good luck
The Basis 1400 would be my choice with the Benz ACE cart. If you can find a used 2000 series TT they are upgradable, but then, with your budget you may have to compromise on the cart a little, but you can always upgrade that in the future. I like Benz carts. My Ace works great with all music (and I listen to a lot of classic rock also) and isn't analytical -it's rather on the warm side with great mids...Maybe my CJ EV-1 phono pre has something to do with that.
I have a clearaudio emotion with Audio Technica AT150mlx, which I spent for about $1500.
I also have a Thorens TD145MKii and Grado Gold cartridge (at under $300) with Klipsch KLF-20, and it works very good with rocks.
Thanks everyone for the thoughtful responses.

I think, based on comments, that my interest in the Basis is well-founded, and I'll keep an eye out for a 1400 on Audiogon. I like that it seems to be one of the better-built tables at this price (not sure of the sonic benefits, but aesthetic things like that matter at this price range!)

I also think I need to learn a bit more about cartridges. I've got the Dynavector 20xl, Benz Ace, Clearuadio Aurum and Ortofon Rondo to learn more about. I'm looking for something with both the quickness/agility and the warmth needed to nail the pace and emotion of Neil's guitar.

Given that I plan to buy the cartridge new, I may actually go into a dealer and give each a listen, though I'm not sure how well I'll be able to separate the cartridge's sonic signature from that of the rest of the system.
I found a used Linn LP12 with arm, cart, and pro set up for about 1200 (CN) and was happy with it for a year. I've since upgraded it an am even happier. Take a listen to one first, though, to make sure you like it but I liked it better than a new Rega in a similar price range.

I like the 5.3 you have, too. I auditioned it the other day and was impressed. Also used Simaudio's I3 integrated for a few years and loved it.
For classic rock I would be thinking along the lines of the Linn LP12, old Thorens TD160 or 124, maybe even the Technics SL1200 with with a moving magnet cartridge. You should be able to purchase for way under 1500.00 and have some money left for vinyl.
Don't mean to hijack the thread, but I've been looking at the same turntables and I've read several reviews that say the Basis is a little weak in the low end. Important for me as I listen to mostly jazz and funk; would seem important for Led Zep as well! Can anyone comment on this aspect of the Basis 1400?
A new Clearaudio Concept turntable was just introduced in CES 2010. It is $1400 at Music Direct. It looks pretty neat. Check it out.
Some may run me out of town for saying it - but - NOTHING I've owned (Rega, SOTA, JA Michell, Roksan, etc) does rock better than a custom KAB mod'd Technics SL-1200MK2SE with outboard power supply, arm rewire, an fluid damper.

Match it up with either a nice Dynavector, Audio-Technica AT-150MLx, or my new favorite "giant killer" - the $240 Jico SAS-MM1 and you'll have a very fine deck indeed right in your budget.
If your into rock, try to look for a direct drive turntable like technics 1200, it's more dynamic that belt drive TT. Pair it with Ortofon 2M carts or their MC Tango/Salsa cart. I've heard this kind of set up and I was really upbeat. This TT-cart combo has a live presentation.
Yep.A Technics SL12x0 series 'table and classic rock are made for each other. The high torque and accurate speed keep the transients sharp, quick, and rhythmic. Bass slam is also excellent. A better mat, Sumiko or LP Gear ZuPreme headshell, better feet or cones, and the KAB fluid damper help a lot. WIth that setup, a number of carts will work well. I'm partial to the Audio Technica AT150MLX.
Either a Technics SL1200 (1210) or a Luxman PD-121 w/ Ortofon 3009 II. Mount a Shure V15 IV or V with a SAS stylus and you my friend are ready to ROCK!
02-04-10: Rjhalla
Either a Technics SL1200 (1210) or a Luxman PD-121 w/ Ortofon 3009 II. Mount a Shure V15 IV or V with a SAS stylus and you my friend are ready to ROCK!
Or if you don't want to mess with cobbling together a vintage Shure, get an Audio Technica AT150MLX. It has same (very effective) stylus profile (ML=MicroLine; MR=MicroRidge--same thing), the rigidity of cast aluminum body, and the advantages of PCOCC copper windings and a particularly nice cantilever.
Thanks for the advice, everyone.

I am definitely interested in direct drive because of its reputed ability to get dynamics right, but am worried about the SL1200/1210's ability to nail some of the other things I care about (low noise floor, microdynamics, detail, a degree of fullness/richness etc.).

I like the price point, though... might be worth trying an SL1200 and flipping on audiogon if I don't like...
I would highly HIGHLY recommend you give Kevin at KAB Electroacoustics a call. He's a no B.S. guy and will try to sell you nothing - he's more than happy to just talk about his product and let you decide.

To give some perspective on some of your concerns, I've owned SOTA, Rega, JA Michell, Roksan, etc. tables to name a few and the one that resides to this day in my main system is a KAB mod'd SL-1200MK2. I would order the mod's I had done by KAB this way in order of importance from greatest to least: Cardas tonearm rewire, Fluid Damper, External Power Supply, Isonoe Feet.

For around your $1,000 budget you can get everything but the Isonoe feet.