Turntable on a $5k budget?

I'd like to give vinyl a try. I thought about starting with an inexpensive table but I think I may as well just buy once and be happy for a long time instead of upgrading later. I don't see why it wouldn't work out for me, I am willing to learn the proper setup just need a little guidance towards a good quality table and tonearm. I prefer a smooth, fatigue free sound over hyper resolution and detail.

I've listened to an SME 20/2 table with IV.Vi tonearm and I thought that was perfect for my taste but it is out of my budget. Should I be looking at suspended tables for that type of sound or is that not the deciding factor of how the table will sound overall?

The $5k is not the ceiling, I can extend my budget another $1500 for a tonearm on top of the table if the table is really that good.

I've read some reviews of the suspended tables such as Oracle, Sota and a few of non suspended such as Nottingham, Michell, Basis. Will any of the mentioned tables get me close to what I am looking for?

I am planning on using the phono stage of my McIntosh C500 preamp, it has both MM/MC phono stage. The rest of the system is McIntosh 501 monoblocks and Sonus Faber Guarneri Memento speakers.

Thanks in advance.
My standard response in this case is 1) that everything is system-dependent, so no one person's answer is necessarily going to be right, 2) to look around in the archives here, and spend some time digging around in the Vinyl Asylum before spending money, 3) a huge amount can be accomplished with some elbow grease if you have DIY tendencies, and more recently, 4) What method of acquiring would make you happy? (for some, the DIY route is rewarding above and beyond the dollar savings which can be achieved; for others, buying new is the only way it will happen, but in all cases, especially in these newly tough times, personal satisfaction with one's purchase is paramount).

I personally go for non-suspended "massy" tables and for the last couple of years have been having fun with some DD and idler tables (especially those with massy plinths). I have not heard a really good SME set-up so cannot compare.
2-3 offers caught my eye:Verdier/Kuzma ,Basis/Vaector and Verdier/Vector in the $5-6 range,one is offered with a cartridge (Benz).
many 'new' to vinyl, become intoxicated with the idea of owning 'a turntable', then find vinyl's shortcomings sobering regardless of the money spent. good luck.
Within the budget also plan for a record cleaning machine, the VPI 16.5 is great. For turntables, though I prefer the Nottingham VPI makes a great turntable and arm in the scoutmaster and if you don't like vinyl or you plan on upgrading it is easy to resell. For a cartridge I don't know what your preamp has for phono gain, if you need higher gain the sumiko blackbird is a great choice. If you can get by with lower gain a really nice cart that would stay within your budget would be the shelter 501 or dynavector Karat 17D3. There are many other choices of course. This may give you some flexibility to upgrade if you like vinyl. There are many other fine choices. Many 'new' to vinyl become intoxicated with the idea of owning a 'turntable', then find vinyl is more satisfying than they ever expected and end up as it being thier primary musical source.Your other gear would support a fine analog front end. One other critacal piece of information, get a turntable from a knowledable dealer in turntable set up who can help you get it working correctly.
One would think this journey had been taken so many times by so may people that there'd be a well-worn and safe path to satisfaction.

There isn't.

Each person walks his own route through the vinyl jungle, and when the journey is done each traveler either trades in his survival gear for better gear, or he sells the gear and vows never to return to the jungle.

One thing is almost certain; whatever equipment you buy initially will in all likelihood not be what you own a year or two hence.

I wish you the best of luck on your trip though the jungle.

Hello Flyski,

For less than 5K you can get a high-mass Acoustic Signature turntable with a Rega RB300 tonearm.

On the suspended designs, JA Michell Gyro SE Turntable would be a good place to start. It can be upgraded to full Orbe.

If you're thinking on sticking with the table for the long run, look into TW-Acoustic Raven One or Acoustic Signature Mambo, both with a Rega RB300 for now and then upgrade to a better tonearm later.


If you are intent on jumping right into the vinyl foray and have the budget to support it then go for the Galibier Serac package that includes the Artisan tonearm, Discovery tonearm cable, and either Dynavector 20X or 17D3 cartridge. For about $4500 you'll have an excellent table designed by someone devoted to analog and who provides excellent support. Then if you feel you want to upgrade you can take advantage of the Galibier trade in program or upgrade your Serac.

The ancillary accessories like a record cleaning machine, fluids, scale, protractor, etc. should run you about another $800 or so. You can then start pouring money into LPs.

While I'd go with a non-suspended table, SOTA makes excellent suspended tables that offer great value. You should be able to get one of the vacuum platter models with an SME or Graham tonearm and your choice of cartridge within your budget.
Dear Flysky: IMHO all these alternatives are very good with almost no risk and very good price:








Regards and enjoy the music.
I have been using turntables for 46 years and have been a dealer for more of them than I can readily remember. I don't have the faintest idea on how to advise you. Not because I don't know anything about them but because the others are right, there are no simple answers. The sound is important but the way it functions and looks are important too. We have a much more personal interaction with a table than we do with a CD player or amp. I would try to examine as many good ones as you could and see how they FEEL to you. They are more akin to a musical instrument than anything else except a speaker. There is a lot to be said for your original idea of starting with a cheaper table. There are many good ones available on Audiogon that you could buy , use for a while and then sell at little or no loss. This would give you time to sort out what you are really looking for in turntable performance.
Raul has some good choices. It is always a personal choice but from those the Basis 2500 is top, the manufacturer is really good or on the other side, when a "Vintage touch" is preferred, the Verdier. With that one you have the option to go for all Arms (12"). Both are hard to beat from sonic results, but this is my opinion :)
It is the better way to go for a top class TT, an Arm upgrade later is no big problem...
I asked the same question a little over a year ago. I was mesmerized by my friend's vinyl playback system and ventured into this complicated world of vinyl. I was advised not to go too cheap as I would be itching to upgrade all too soon. I started with a used SME20/2 with Graham 2.2, then move onto the Avid Acutus with triplanar. I now have the TW acustic TT and in the process of getting 2-3 arms. This trip has been costly but totally worth it IMHO. Digital just cannot produce the live and dynamic sound of vinyl.

To point out the obvious, you need some hands on guidance with setup tips. This is best done with an experienced friend or an experienced dealer. I was an engineer, read whatever i could found on the net, the manual, Fremer's dvd and still had a lot of suboptimal setting.

Suspended designs and unsuspended sounds very different and one would work better with the type of floors/construction that you have.

If you are into suspended table, consider my Avid Acutus. It is world class design with stunning looks.

If you like nonsuspended, I would suggest TW Raven one.

Self serving promotion aside, the arm is almost as important as the table and the cartridge/arm/TT choice needs to be considered as a whole.

Best of luck.
Prepare to spend more than anticipated.
Raul,I might argue with at least one of your choices:the Goldmund Studio/T-3.This was the way to go,way back when.I consider the t-3 a PITA,due to the problems related to the arms' wanting to cue-up on its' own and some other issues.If I wanted to use a straight line linear tracker/tracer,there are less problematic available (ET,Kuzma and Air Tangent-to name a few).Got tired of the T-3 mantainance issues and its' behavior, and sold mine.I certainly wouldn't advice an "entry" person to go this route.
Looking back "when" I was putting a table together:I bought the Bluenote Bellavista ($1200/Canadianguy),An OL arm ($1.6-2.6) and a good cartridge:Allaerts/Dynavector-there are other options ($2-3K).Then added a first-rate phonostage for about $2K.
Audiofeil might comment on the compatibility of the Dynavector and others with the OL arms and Aqvox 2CI(gain issues via different output levels).It appears as though the Agon member:Canadianguy might be a BN dealer and that table will accomidate any of the Rega based arms-might do a set-up,once the cartridge is selected or the arm/cartridge dealer might also.Would be a plug-n-play option that would keep you happy for a long time,with warranty on the better portion of this "table".
Just a thought,criticism welcomed.
How many records do you have?

I completely second Tvad's response above. There really isn't a well worn path that you can easily follow. A turntable requires time, some technical understanding and dedication.

Yes you could ask a good friend to set up the turntable for you, but for it to sound its best you'll have to learn all the skills and tools for a proper set-up yourself. After 15 years in analog and after setting up 50+ tables I do feel like I am finally getting there (and am technically minded with an experimental physics background and skills). IMO less than 5% of set-up tables extract more than 95% from the combinations and that includes mayny dealer set-ups etc.

An entry level set-up may give you some insight whether you even enjoy the record hunting, the record cleaning procedures, and the hands-on aspects of analog playback. IMO it's better to practice on an affordable set-up that has some flexibility (e.g. VPI Scout) and move up once you feel comfortable and have developed your taste.

Of course an entry level set-up may not be satisfactory and compare all that well to your digital set-up. There are many different flavors at your 5k pricepoint and my suggestions would be: DPS no.2, TW Acustic Raven One, Nottingham Spacedeck, Michell Gyrodec, Galibier Serac, Lenco L75 in heavy plinth, Garrard or Thorens 124. A Serac would probably offer a lot of flexibility as you can start with an entry level arm and move up to a better one as funds and time permit. Thom also offers excellent service and advice and he is always a pleasure to talk to.

Good luck!


P.S.: Where are you located? Maybe it's time to make some audiophile friends, that have nice analog set-ups.
Rene has many good suggestions, and I agree with him 100%.
My advice after hearing many top-flight table/arm/carts is to contact Jean Nantais and have him custom build a re-plinthed Lenco for you. These are truly high-end tables for much less cost.
Good luck!
Look for a used SME 10 w/ tonearm on Audiogon. You should be able to find one well within your budget. It should give you a good slice of what you experienced with the SME 20 Model IV tonearm combination. The table has outstanding build quality, and is fun and easy to set-up.
I agree with Sdrenslow. I'm very biased as I have a SME10 with SME V arm. It's the only component I have not upgraded. You should find one for under $4K here on Audiogon. You can always upgrade the arm, cable, cartridge later. It is very well made, and once it is set up, it stays that way. Excellent value. Good Luck.
I agree w/ Davt about budgeting for a decent record cleaning machine. Makes a very real difference.

I suggest a Sota Saphire with Shelter 501. Saw a little used Shelter 901 on A'Gon just the other day. Talk to the friendly folks at Sota for the best compatible arm for the money. Really can't go wrong with any of the recommendations made above.
I will chime in here with a different response. I would suggest that you go a little more inexpensive than most here have recommended, and that you buy new. You can get a Rega P5 with an Exact 2 cartridge, a Bellari VP 129 phonostage, and a Nitty Gritty Record Doctor 3 cleaning machine all for under $2500 total. This will be a very nice sounding set-up that you can explore the world of vinyl with, and all of it has very good resale value when you want to either upgrade or get out of it. In the meantime, you will save yourself quite a bit of money, which you can use to buy more records with. The music is ultimately more important than the equipment, anyway! Whatever you decide to do, I am sure you will not regret getting into vinyl. I will also second the Vinyl Asylum recommendation as well.
Is Flyski on the wallski?

Many paths through the jungle. How in the world could a newbee choose which one to follow?
So trueski!

Much of this is great advice. I guess it boils down to:

--commitment to learn how to setup properly
--gear that has good synergy between phonostage-cart-arm-table
--commitment to clean LPs
--combo of time & money to find LPs new & used

While I appreciate the caution to "dip your toe in the water", please don't err on the low side unless you can audition it and get goosebumps. All the record ritual in the world isn't worthwhile if the music doesn't make you smile.

My advice is to buy used gear(except cartridge) to limit your downside, and learn setup yourself. Once you "know how to fish", anything is possible. Cheers,
Here is my 2 cents and I will stand by it no mater what some may say.

Honestly you will get all you want and more while staying within your budget. Her is my list.

1: Technics SL-12xxmkII series of table from KAB USA appx. $475 - $625 depending on version you desire.

2: Add the Cardas arm rewire $170

3: Add the outboard power supply mod. $250

4: Add the Kab fluid damper. $150

5: Add the Isono sorbothane feet. $200

6: Add Kab RC-100 record clmap. $150

Total so far : $1395 - $1545.

Select a good moving coil cartridge for table.

Models to try or buy all with appropriate head shells.

Audio Technica AT-OC9ML $340
Denon DL-103R. $370
Denon DL-304. $700
Dynavector 10x5. $395
Dynavector 20x $680

Total range now $1735.00 - $2245.00

Add a record cleaning machine setup. I use a steam cleaner but if you want a record vacuum I suggest.

VPI HW-16.5. $550

Total range is now $2285.00 - $2795.00

Add some decent cables (The Kab, Cardas arm rewire has high quality RCA outs.) But I truly do not recommend the silliness of mega buck cables. Get a decent set of $100-$200 cables or if you are able to make your own for a fraction of the cost.

Get a good audio rack that's stable or buy a turntable wall mount. range of price for a rack or wall mount oh $150-$500, but you can spend more if you want.

Total range is now $2535.00 - $3495.00 depending on choices made.

Buy a carbon fiber brush for between play cleaning, maybe bag a Zerostat anti-static gun. Invest in a whole lot of good record sleeves for your collection... These only add a $100 or so to the total.

Take the rest of your money and shop for some good new vinyl that you like and then go out to thrift shops and look for cheap used vinyl. Money left over, save and take your sig other and/or family out for a nice lil weekend vacation.

Well you got my advice for free and it will give you great sound and some fun too.
there is a used Lenco L-75 jean natais plinith with a vpi 10.5i tonearm in mint condition that someone is selling on the gon' for $3,000. This is a great price. You can then get a used tt cleaner for $1,500 and buy a cartridge for $1,500 (dynavector or shelter to name a few) and you will be in analog heaven. The added $1,500 you are willing to spend above that can be spent on buying lps. Well maybe less than $1,500 because you do need to stabilize the tt on a good platform that mapleshade can hook you up for a few hundred.

I started with the technics direct drive and yes its a great starter tt but since you have already been exposed to your friend's higher quality rigs, I see no reason given your ample budget to not jump in head first. By purchasing a quality name used, you have little to fear by way of losing money if you ever decide to sell. The lenco with natais plinith is great bang for your buck especially used. You have an upgrade path too in that later you can put a graham phantom arm or an even pricer cartridge on it.

yes you can try a lot of turntables but the sooner you pull the trigger on one of the can't go wrong used turntables, the sooner you can start enjoying analog. I still enjoy digital too so don't lose all perpective because some recordings on lp are not better than digital or are so rare or so expensive that the digital version is still a pretty good bet.
Thanks for all the replies guys. Many valid points. I don't have many LPs but my CD collection is over 1200 so far. I don't collect music just for the sake of having a lot of media, I tend to listen to music I like often and I don't get tired of it. The selection of new LPs should keep me busy for some time and of course I will also hunt for some used LPs as well.

I am leaning towards a suspended table as my current listening room has hardwood floors and the sub-floor itself is pretty old. I also use 2 subs in my systems.

I've come across some great deals, a new SME10A, Oracle Delphi V and even a brand new Avid Acutus Reference although over my budget, an amazing deal that is hard to pass on.

If the non-suspended tables are not as big of an issue as I think, the TW Raven One looks very interesting.

I am thinking of going with a nice to great table, a very good arm and a modest cart to start out with. Once I get the hang of setup, I can let it rip with a cart that will do the whole setup justice.

Further input would be appreciated!
I am confused by your statement that your leaning towards a suspended table it appears your saying because of your floors.

My experience has been the reverse. I have had both suspended and non suspended and the suspended was susceptible to foot falls, etc.

My current non suspended is not. In my experience the suspended required greater isolation and is more difficult to dial in.

I don't think that non suspended tables are a big issue at all. Because of sound and setup issues, I would not go back to a suspended table.
if you're gonna spend, the oracle is pretty hard to top at any price. a genuine classic turntable. the more conservative thorens 160 and 350 are spectacular as well.
If I remember my Oracle Delphi,it was good in the mids/highs,but the bass was lean-deep base being non-existant.Has the design/implementation changed that much??
Everything I've read so far leads me to believe that suspended tables are more forgiving of vibrations in the room. Is that not so? Like I said, my floor is not a concrete slab. Now I am confused.
Everything I've read so far leads me to believe that suspended tables are more forgiving of vibrations in the room. Is that not so? Like I said, my floor is not a concrete slab. Now I am confused.

It all depends on the design solution for each approach, the suspended design and the high-mass non-suspended design.

Turntables from Avid, Basis Audio, Michell, etc. have efficient design principle/implementation and floor vibration should not pose a big problem for their designs. That means that you probably don't need to invest on a platform to go under the table, although my experience with suspended turntables is that a well designed platform always helps.

In a high-mass design, vibrations are mostly absorbed by the mass itself. This doesn't mean that all high-mass turntables are good at deadening resonance. The materials and their dampening characteristics have to be carefully chosen.

I personally don't feel confident saying that high-mass non-suspended designs are better with vibrations than suspended ones, or viceversa. It will always depend on the particular design.

I had a suspended turntable a few years ago, which I always felt it was lite in the bass area. I changed my whole analogue rig for a high-mass non-suspended turntable and I'm getting great bass, mid-range and highs, all with great stability. But because I changed the entire setup, including tonearm, cartridge and phono preamp all at once, I cannot say for sure that the suspended turntable alone was responsible for the lite bass.

There are great turntables on either side of gamut, so you should look at all the features that a particular turntable has to offer. IMO, speed stability is extremely important, so I recommend you look at a turntable that has a motor controller with speed adjustments.



Flyski, that is why I responded. Not wanting to get into a discussion of the merits of design but my experience has been that my suspended table was very prone to vibrations. As an aside, as a modification for said table when I removed the springs entirely not only did it sound better but I no longer had to exhort people to walk softly around it. Same setup, same table no springs. 30 Years ago while living in a NYC loft with beautiful but shaky wood floors I had a turntable that was not suspended and it was not an issue despite to wild and crazy times.

You should pick the table on it's sound and aesthetic merits. Either way you will find a way to make it work although you may want to mount the suspended from a shelf attached to the wall to really isolate it.

I hope others will include their experience in this matter.

I have never had any problem with any of the 3, SOTA suspended tables I've owned. I currently own a new NOVA.

I have locked down the springs on a Star Saphire I had owned and really did not notice a drop or improvement in sound quality.

A suspended shelf is a good idea in any case BUT NOTE that a standard 2x4-constructed wall vibrates to a greater or lesser degree depending upon it's location within the home. (Ever notice that some wall-hung pictures are always moving?)

The suspended shelf needs to be one of a higher quality that is designed for minimizing the effect of the table being cantilevered, especially if it is only being anchored to two wall studs and the table is a heavy one such as a SOTA with isolation spikes. Otherwise the weight of the table magnifies the wall vibrations and creates oscillation of the cantilerered shelf carrying the heavy turntable. In some cases this has the potential for creating vibration that will feed through the cart and perhaps annoy a more discerning audiophile.

Personally I don't see the need to introduce a shelf into one's system unless your floor is incredibly bouncy.


I agree w/JBaussie that non-suspended high mass tables should be fine regarding footfall. I've had no troubles ever on my suspended wood floors with VPI and Nottingham non-suspended tables, and I'm confident that all the ones you mention above should perform just as well in that regard. Cheers,

Dear Flyski: Suspended/non suspended TTs.

With all respect IMHO if you want to listening ( seating in a chair7couch ) music why you or any one can/could so worry about that TT subject design?.

If you want to listening your records at the same time that you are " jumping " or something similar then you have to woorry! do you listen in this way?

It is important the suspended/non suspended subject on analog performance?, certainly is but there are many other factors that IMHO are more important than that one and only if you have some very special " stage " that really affects mainly to the suspension TT subject then you have to think seriously about.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Thanks again for clarifying the issue of suspended vs. non-suspended tables. This opens up my choices greatly. I will start a new thread on the tables I have interest in.
Again, thanks for your help.

I'll throw out a call for a trusty Linn LP-12, sweet, dynamic and musical, and very upgradeable.