Turntable help Please

I am seriously considering getting back into analog. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated...would it be worth the time to try out my old turntable from college (26 years). It is a Philips Electronic 777 Direct Control. It is on a suspended table and is belt controlled. Interconnects are non-detachable - is it possible to change out the tonearm? Is it worth investing in a decent cartridge? Does anyone do mods on old turntables? I don't presently have a phone stage only a line stage (CJ premier 14). Thanks for any suggestions...This table sounded good back them but that was when I was into music and not an audiophile!!!
It won't hurt to try it, you may be pleasently surprised. You may want to try it with a fairly inexpensive cartridge like a Shure or Grado. Then you could get a good inexpensive phono stage like a Rotel or Nad. Then if you decide you like analog, you can trade up when you can afford to. You could change arms but it would probably be better to sell it and get something else.
I don't remember the Philips 777, although this choice in the era of Duals, Thorens, and Denons suggests a certain frame of mind. In my opinion, bang for the buck in vinyl goes cartridge, arm, table, preamp, and cables, in that order. Ultimately, you may want to buy them all. Since your question suggests you want to go incrementally, I recommend replacing the cartridge with a decent moving coil like the Sumiko Blue Point or, for more money, the Micro-Benz Glider. You'll need a phono preamp; try the Lehman Black Cube for not a lot of money -- it's gotten good reviews. If you go this way and get to thinking about replacing the arm, I would consider replacing the table at the same time, saving the trouble of ripping out the old arm and trying to get a new one to fit. I would recommend brands like Rega, VPI, and Basis. If you replace the cables, try to get ones with decent shielding to avoid RF interference. Good luck.
The Phillips tables have more issues with the electronic switches etc than just sounding good. If it spins fine, use it! Get a phono stage, nothing too fancy(radio shack's aren't bad) and run it into the ground. Have to be careful of matching tone arms etc. Some great tables can sound really bad when mismatched. Takes a long time to know what works best with what unless you have DEEP pockets. Keep it simple & enjoy your LP collection with that 777.
I'm not familiar with that table, but recently cleaned up/refurbished a few old Pioneers for friends (PL-12D, PL-15DII), and they're damn decent entry-level stuff. If you're easing back into the hobby, you might want to just clean it up and use if for a while. Oil the motor if necessary, check the belt, check the arm bearings, speed etc. If it's working OK, pop a lil' Grado on there, check the setup, and have at it, or replace the stylus on whatever MM cartridge is there (if available). I seriously doubt if that table is worth the trouble to change the arm or mod seriously, but it may be worth $50 and a little elbow grease and time to get it spinning again. Good luck.
As a first step I would recommend getting an inexpensive phono preamp. I bought a ProJect phono box running into my ARC LS-8-II and am satisfied. Then I would connect the old tt and give this a good listen. Only if it convices you of some sound quality you like and that you find is subjectively missing from CD would I continue along the analog trail. If you convince yourself that analog is for you, a new turntable/arm/cartridge combo should be considered. With the renewed interest in analog there is more to chose from now than a few years back. I would look at REGA first, with a Sumiko or Audio Technica cartridge. There are other tts, arms and cartridges at the lower price levels of analog I would look at way before spending for higher end used. With used analog, the stylus is always a worry. I still wonder what this renaissance is all about, since you will have to work mighty hard to feed this contraption. If you kept your vinyl and it is still in good shape, your effort in reviving analog in your system may be better justified.

As for a phono stage, NAD, Parasound,and Creek all make MM phono stages for less than $200. I'm using the NAD which I bought here for less than $100.
Not knowing the overall sytem you
have or your budget makes any
recommendation questionable. One
good combination that would last
you for a long time would be a used
Well Tempered Labs unit going for
$ 450 to 650 which includes a good tonearm.
High output Grado cart. is a good starting
point and is more flexible than most MC
carts. recommended previously. Grado's
are a bit warmer and lush sounding to my
ears than the lower priced MC units.
As price and associated gear increases,
so does many of the better/higher priced
items on the market. What I like about Well
Labs and Grado is they are US made and they
respond to e-mails and telephone calls. I
can't say the same for many of the table/cart.
manufactures & vendors.
I started with a Nad pp1 and a simple Linn LP-12 with my Premier 14 . Vinyl sounded so musical that I upgraded to a Linn Lp-12 with Lingo and a Sonic Frontiers Sig One Phono section which is a steel at the going price of $750-1000.
Try the audiophile vinyl issues They sound great . Your CD will get a little dusty for a while !
I'm not familiar with the model of TT that you have, but many mass-market designs typical of the era will display problems like wiggly tonearm bearings, motor rumble, platter resonances, bouncy suspensions, and susceptability to coloration, mistracking, noisiness and feedback in general (especially if they're changers). You may want to take it to a TT specialist for an assessment of its condition and potential before starting down a road with it. It would be a shame if your foray back into analog were disappointed by the wrong tool for the job - peoples' audio expectations have been raised a lot since the time some of these "oldies (maybe not goldies)" were made. Who knows, yours may be worth working with, but there were reasons Linn came out with the LP12!
Pops I had one of those Philips TT's way back in the day & had a lot of fun with it. However I agree that it's not really worth investing a great deal into it, as there's better product available now even at the economy level. Careful cartridge selection is necessary in order to successfully mate with that low mass arm; a high-compliance moving magnet or moving iron (the Grado deisgn) economy cartridge would certainly make sense here.
Thanks everyone - great advice. Right now I'm searching for 90% of my old albums - they might have been lost in a move 4 years ago - I'm gonna be pissed!
Pops, Do yourself a favor and toss the old table. One of the more recent AR's is a big improvement over that one.....
I would suggest a Rega planar 2 used. Should be able to get it for around 200.00 with arm and there is very little to set up on it.
Going with the Rega cart....(are they still available??) is a good thing.
Under 500.00 and you are 90% of the way to an analog set costing 6,000.00 :>)
Good eye Gumbydammit - plus I can't find my freakin Albums, besides I've been at this long enough that I would dive in full body if I go analog - why would I cheat myself with mid-fi analog when I've had excellent playback with digital. probably hold off since I'm missing about 200 albums and found only 30...i guess there are bigger problems in the world. Thanks everyone for the advice.
I know nussing, NUSSING uff der whereabouts uff dose albums!
- S. Schultz
Hey Pops, before you sign off records, realize that they are the cheapest way of trying out "kind of recent" music. Plus, there are all kinds of sources for records ranging from eBay to thrift shops.

Without wanting to start a big fight, I would also suggest that mid-fi phono and records will rival and surpass many good CD players and typical CDs.
Rrick: I would agree, depending on what you call mid-fi.
I have certainly heard tunes coming out of a Planar2/3 and a bias/elise cart that blew away CD players of the era (Early 90's)

Anyone with 20 records or more, that does not have a table owes themselves a used Rega2 or 3. (In my not so humble opinion.)
Zaikesman - dude, you got my albums?