Looking for a table in th 10k range with arm and cart. Could stretch the budget to 15k if worth the extra $’s. I’ve considered, Clearaudio innovation or ovation with Koetsu Black Cart and universal 12 arm/ Brinkmann Bardo with Pi cart or AMG Giro.
All insight and options welcomed. It’s fun to evaluate, but not sure if the juice is worth the squeeze. I’m also interested in recomendations for table platform form vibration.
I carry a few tables that make sense.1. Direct Drive
a. Technics SP-10R If you like customizing. b. Technics SL-1000R -- A bit of a stretch. c. Brinkmann Bardo -- $12000 including Cartridge with 10.0 Tonearm. Belt Drive. d. Store Demo Spyder. e. Dr Feickert Woodpecker with Acoustical systems Tonearm We also have HRS Turntable platforms, Record weights, Cleaners and such.
I’m a big fan of Kuzma and have had several of his tables. I had the original Reference, which is a very nice table especially for its combination of mass and built-in suspension. I gather that table has been updated. I’ve also owned and still use the XL, which is way more table than necessary and requires a lot of work to isolate given its weight, making the Reference seem even more sensible and not only for price. His 4 Point arms are very well regarded. I’ve had his Airline lateral tracker for years--and will soon have the newest 4Point here- the small, 9 inch version without the VTA/offset pillar. It will be interesting to compare its performance with the linear tracker. I would think a Reference plus that smaller 4 Point arm would be a sensible, well made, long term table. I can say that his products are exceptionally well made, robust and they are well supported-- Franc is very hands-on and with Scot Markwell as distributor here in the States (if you are here), you’ve got superb people behind the product. (Not that any of it ever had any issues- the only issue I ever had was with the air compressor for the Airline and that’s a whole other thing!). Lot’s of good tables out there and arms too. This truly is the golden age of analog for buyers. PS: with the Reference you won’t have to spend on fancy isolation. For the XL, I use both an HRS platform and a big Minus K (to support 250 lbs). The Reference is pretty much plug and play compared to the set up for the XL. I just installed a Koetsu yesterday and am pretty blow away by it, after many years of Airtights and before that, Lyras. You should have fun with this! You’ve got a more than adequate budget to get top tier sound out of LPs.....
Nope. Not even with the XL. The fiddly part is in the initial set up if you aren’t used to it simply because there are so many different parts. Now that I’m familiar with it, I can break it down and reassemble it. It took me almost no time to install the Koetsu yesterday, move the arm tower and then rebalance the whole thing on the Minus K. The Reference involves none of this - built in suspension, no need to get spendy on a separate isolation table. I am waiting for the 4Point 9 to arrive so I can’t comment on that yet, but my experience with the linear tracker, which is a far more complex piece of engineering and machinery is that once you’ve got it set up, it doesn’t really require any further adjustments. (You do have to keep the bearing rail clean, but this is part of the mystique and insanity of running a linear tracker). The 4 Point won’t require any of that. With any of these tables, the difference between good and great is all in the initial set up.
Without knowing the rest of your system, your music and sound preferences, it is impossible to recommend anything. The only thing that can be recommended at this point is to audition them all. However, you would need to know which in the chain contributes to what. This requires great experience and hearing. Choosing turntable/arm is even more difficult than speakers. As you can see, Bill, being a long time serious audiophile, has been listening to the wrong cartridges for years. His new Koetsu might also be the wrong one, just less so.
I run a Koetsu Coralstone (plus others) on my Master Innovation and absolutely love it. It is pure, musical joy. Worth the ludicrous expense (and make no mistake - for me this is a LOT of money). But it has been a long-ish road. I started with an Innovation Wood, and it’s an awesome table - but I didn’t have the right isolation. You need a great rack, or a good rack plus some help (e.g. Stillpoints feet, HRS or CMS platform). Your floor will also be a factor. I had a poor rack with no help (filling legs with lead shot did NOTHING) and an "OK" floor, and now I’m hearing what I was missing then. I currently use a Critical Mass Maxxum rack and Stillpoints Ultra SS under the table. Not a cheap solution, but results have been worth it. If I had to do it over on a budget, I’d still try to eek in at least $2K for CMS or HRS platform, maybe a few bills for stillpoints, and plop that on a 4-post rack with as much rigidity as possible for the money (AVOID the modular/stackable stuff, especially those cheap VTI racks).
I came to the Innovation Wood from a SOTA Star, and now I see how much that SOTA’s suspension protected me from the ill affects of poor isolation. The move was a downgrade in some (but not all) ways. But now that I’ve addressed isolation issues, there’s no way that the SOTA could reach the level of performance wrought by an Innovation. I also really appreciate fine-tuning cartridge alignment while it’s NOT sitting on springs!
Koetsu can be a great match for these tables - BUT not with a ClearAudio arm. Koetsus require something different from what they provide (I’ve tried on a 12" Universal - no go). In general the lighter arms are a no-go for Koetsu. Carbon fiber is REALLY a no-no. You can switch to a Shelter Harmony, which will give some (but not all) of the Koetsu midrange magic while also matching beautifully with the ClearAudio arms. Or you can pick an alternate arm. My Graham Phantom Supreme was a pretty good match to Koetsu - it extracted a lot (but not all) of its magic. But finding a used Fidelity Research FR64fx or 64S will allow you to extract all of the Koetsu magic. I use Ikeda headshells on mine.
Your phono stage will be inadequate for the level you are aiming at. I'll just mention some other brands: SME, TW Akustic, Nottingham, Pear Audio, VPI. Not everyone's, of course, not mine either, but SME is always an excellent choice, and they have been around forever.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. I did find that the Steelhead, despite its enormous flexibility and some serious tube rolling, was holding my system back. But by that time, i had the good-better turntable(s) in place. You’ll get there. @mulveling ’s comments re arm for Koetsu are well taken. I’ve just entered Koetsu land and am delighted! I also kept talking about adding a second arm but deferred it, since i thought- well, I’ll spend the money on the best cartridge I can find for my taste and system and why have more money tied up in a second arm, cartridge, etc. (I don’t really do much with mono, certainly not enough to justify a separate arm and with the XL, a separate tower, which itself isn’t so cheap). But, I finally bit the bullet -again, nothing ’instant’ about any of this- and will have the flexibility to experiment with different cartridges (and possibly arms- a vintage arm would be nice too). Look at it this way- take your time, don’t buy into the hype, see if you can get some ’face time’ with some of these turntables- it really is impossible to assess different turntables, arms and cartridges in a dealer or show context-- a subject that was addressed in another thread--and then jump. I guess my only point of emphasis is that a turntable that has good isolation as part of the package, not just some rubber feet or whatever, may allow you to avoid the not inconsiderable cost of things like HRS, Minus K or some other flavor of fancy isolation. (I like Stillpoints and use em, but those add up too, all money that could be spent on the best table, arm and cartridge combination you can put together, and not necessarily the most expensive or bling-y-est). Remember, this is supposed to be FUN! :)
Because that Manley is entry level and $12k - $15K table/arm/cartridge are not. Very generally speaking, especially because higher end MC cartridges are so overpriced, phono stage should cost at least 1.5-2 times more than cartridge. Phono stage is more important than cartridge, though, so you might not want to put that $7k Koetsu right away. Another point, the one that Bill didn't mention, is that he has completely different system and consequentially the sound. His system is all tube with horn hybrid speakers. I does matter, what sounds great there might not sound great here, though at this level there are no bad turntables, yet none of them sound quite or at all alike.
so so you are placing your judgement based on cost ratio v actual performance? I really want to know how one phono pre compares to another. What would you suggest an upgrade from the Manley would be? Thanks
Steelhead if you stay with Manley, Allnic that Bill uses if you want to go higher. Good things do cost money, Rome wasn't built for free either. There are other phono stages, though, including Pass. I think, you need a table with a strong drive. Bill's system is a little jumpy and hectic and yours a little lazy.
I would look into the Herron? that gets raves here from a bunch of folks who own it. I haven’t heard it so can’t comment on it. I would not put the money into a Steelhead unless you are after a lot of flexibility and are prepared to roll tubes- and I found that using straight in was a little too lean for my taste. I added a Lamm L2 line stage and that fleshed it out. But even with that, my overall sound definitely improved with the Allnic 3000 but I think part of this is system dependent. (Some people find the Allnic a little burnished- not 'clear' enough). I don’t know that my system is jumpy and hectic, @Inna- it isn’t dynamic speakers and big power, but it often has the vibe of a well worn baseball glove. :) To me, the quest for a phono stage is separate from your quest for a good table that you can live with for a long time, though Inna correctly points out that the end result of your vinyl playback will be dependent on the quality of the phono stage. One table that always fascinated me though I never owned it was the Verdier Platine. It’s sort of the opposite of what I was recommending in terms of built in isolation, like the Kuzma Reference. But, at a certain level, there are many extremely good tables, so I don’t want to sound like have an agenda to tell you what I think is "best." There ain’t no such animal.
Take your time with the vinyl route. Costs rise exponentially. An Oops moment with a !0K - 15 K cartridge will hurt. I agree with whart, we are in the golden age the Golden Age of Analog.
Take your time, your budget will get you a Great analog rig to start. You can go as far as your wallet will take you. You do not need to spend it all right away.
I became a DD convert in April 2018. Modded Technics SL1200 G w/Triplanar Classic SE arm. Bought a Kuzma TT in 2016. Unless I win a large lottery, these will be my last TTs.
Isolation; A separate room for the TT and gear or TTs and gear. Only cost me 800K. You will still want some extra isolation. Don't forget about all of those boxes for this stuff. You need a room just for them.
I'd go with the VPI's Direct Drive. If you have any further questions on it, feel free to PM me anytime. Cartridge choice is always variable based on your preferences, and would need more info on your tastes to give some options.
I can’t get on the DD Technics wagon.... maybe I need to learn more about there stuff.
Being an educated consumer is essential. Sure, you can achieve great satisfaction with esoteric gear. The problem is that you may never experience the peak potential satisfaction unless you look analytically at the challenge. It’s all in the details. And then there is the matter of articulating yourself to the product specialists. So much can be lost in communication. (their? .... there? .... they’re? ....) If you are serious about your pursuit, invest the time to learn the rationale behind why Technics direct drive turntables are so widely accepted. (It isn’t because of all the rappers that destroy them!). Take some time and investigate what a moving coil can do, compared to a moving magnet. Don’t let other people make up your mind for you. And lastly, decide if you could fill your needs at a lower price point - many less expensive turntable / cartridge / phono stage solutions can perform every bit as well as (or better than) much of the stratospherically priced gear. That money you could save might buy you more financial security in retirement if you put it into your investment portfolio. Just a few thoughts.
Not a fan of VPI. To me, the quality and engineering isn’t comparable to a lot of the tables I’m looking at. Granted I only had the VPI Prime. But much of their stuff is recycled in many of their tables. Also not a fan of their tone arms.
My TT's live on a concrete floor sited on rock. Miles from the nearest highway. I don't need suspension, so I don't pay for it.
Like a Nottingham Analogue Dais TT. I have the previous model with the Dais bearing, and I upgraded to the latest motor/power supply combination (Wave Mechanic). For a tonearm I went to the air bearing TransFi Terminator (yeah, yeah, I didn't name it). Buy it in spite of its name. Both of these punch far above their weight, and within your budget.
I run this TT with either a Mayajima Zero mono or a good MM for casual listening. The combination will support a higher end Koetsu, but this normally sits on my DIY air bearing.
Don't be afraid to check out the smaller manufacturers, who sometimes give you a whole lot more for the money. Like NA. I suggest that you spend most on the TT (to eliminate bearing noise), then the tonearm (to get precise registration of cartridge to vinyl), and last on the cartridge, which is a depreciating asset.
Jade Platinum. What's surprising is that after several records, it sounded very good, even though it has no hours on it, and I really haven't fiddled much with VTA. What's also surprising (to me at least) is that i expected that midrange, but the bass? Tuneful, taut, punchy. Whoa! I want to get some hours on it. Right now, it's installed in the Airline. When the 4Point9" gets here, I may try it in that as well. It is also quite beautiful- not that I am about the bling of this stuff but it is a piece of art in the way that I think the Japanese excel at-- the miniature perfection of beauty. And sonically, on a scale writ large, the cartridge performs as it looks. I've joined the cult, such as it is---though most people who love these cartridges don't seem to proselytize --and I'm down with that too. Let's call it a not very well kept secret that, for some reason, I just didn't savvy to; now I'm glad I did.
whart, Nice one on the Jade! It is indeed one of the most eye-catching of all Koetsus. And any of the stone bodies sound absolutely phenomenal. I got bit by the bug when I heard an Onyx 9 years ago, and the fever hasn't relented since then. Yes,the midrange - but as you've noted, the modern stone bodies complete the sonic picture very well.
What's funny is one dealer's description, which reads like "the world's most interesting man'- Koetsu owners buy real Picassos, not prints, smoke Cohibas from Cuba, not some cheap **** smoke from the drug store, and ...". It's a "lifestyle." Yeah, I'm loving it. But not because I drink Dos Equis. :)
I'm playing a Clearaudio Ovation with Universal arm and Dynavector DRT XV-1s into a Herron VTPH-2a. I couldn't be happier. I play classical and jazz and it all sounds excellent with this setup. It's a bit over $15K though.
Many cartridges and TT/arms have been mentioned here. Please get a TT/arm and cartridge that work together for Resonance. Combine a stiff arm with a compliant cartridge. Combine a compliant arm with a non-compliant cartridge.... guessing that’s why @Mulveling’s carbon arm and Koetsu cart combination was poor. The carbon arm is very stiff, the Koetsu is not very compliant. Look to vinylengine.com in your research. They speak to compliance’s of both arms and carts. Take the time to run the numbers through the formula to get to your arm/cart Resonance. You’re talking serious $$$...research so you don’t lose any. Used cartridges at this cost are are a hard sell from what I’ve heard here on A’gon.
Does it have to be new and current gear? If not, there are other options to consider. I found my analog peace of mind with a vintage Micro RX-1500G table + CU-180 copper mat with Fidelity Research FR-64s tonearm and FR-7fz MC cartridge, total market value around €8000.
This set up has ended my search for a 'final' turntable, after going through a whole sequence of 'modern' tables, none of which truly convinced me. These included Clearaudio Master Solution with magnetic bearing and Synchro power unit, SME 10 and TW Acustic Raven GT SE with Black Night feet & motor controller.
It took a leap of faith as well as some courage (for me at least) going down the vintage road, but I haven't regretted it for one moment. It's hard to believe that 35+ year gear can compete with similar or higher priced 'high end' current designs. But every time I sit down and listen there's just no denying.
You said all insights and options are welcome, so perhaps this is something to consider?
@edgewear-Right on! There are some vintage tables that I would take in a heartbeat, including some of the Micro-Seiki. @sleepwalker65- the DD (a good one) will be a revelation. I bought an SP-10 new back in the day, back burned it for years, and only recently had Bill Thalmann restore it, do the Krebs mods, etc. Awaiting an arm. I’m looking forward to hearing it again. (Sadly not a Mkii or iii, I was an early adopter, but even so, a great table). Love the later ones, those big Denon, etc.
I chose vintage Technics direct drive with my SL-1700mk2. I restored it and upgraded the interconnects and feet. For a turntable of any age, let alone 40 years old, its performance is top-drawer. Cost to me was about $1500 all in, with a Audio-Technica VM540ML in the headshell with NOS platter mat and KAB litz tonearm wire and damper.