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I bought a new VPI Scout with an installed Dynevector 20X H cartridge. I used a modest MM phono stage by Graham Slee . I can't tell you how much I enjoyed that set up. If you can afford it I would do that all over again. I don't know how the Technics compares, but I would be surprised if it has significantly better sonics or be easier to use and maintain.
With the priorities you mentioned the Technics looks to be a very good choice and one you should be happy with. I am a very big VPI advocate, love the unipivot arms and the over all build of their tables plus the fact they have a solid upgrade path once you purchase one of their tables but I do realise they are not for everyone and let's face it the technology behind the Technics is solid and well proven, plus the fact I have heard nothing negative about either of their models you are interested in. Enjoy the music.
I believe I will get the Technics SL1200GR but I know the VPI and many other TT's are outstanding. Going with the GR gives me a little flexibility in getting the correct cartridge/cables etc.). Just want something that's not too temperamental (it always comes back at me when the wife can't get it to work!). I am in the dark about all the options which seem to have a significant effect on the quality of sound produced, including the tonearms (I have seen very positive responses from Unipivot arms and a few negative-perhaps it is related to understanding how to use this tonearm?), cartridge, cables and it gets a bit out of control when I spend too much time researching and trying to make the best choice. What would be the best, reasonably priced cartridge? I think Soundsmith (not inexpensive) would be a good one and it is made here (USA). What about Audio-Technica AT-ML180, Sumiko blue point EVO3? Would the VPI scout or Dynevector cartridge be ok for the Technics? My wife and I like rock, Stones, U2, Charles Bradley, classical, jazz, blues, Hawaiian (any GOOD music). Any guidance would help. Thanks again!
I've have two 1200s (mk2 and mk3), a AR-XA and a Music Hall 9.3 (with factory installed.
Honestly if you are just diving in, why don't you just grab a used 1200mk3 for around $500, or look for an old Thorens or Linn in the same ballpark. All will have great sound quality and will be easy to sell if you decide you want to go bigger.
Not knowing which "Marantz AV" you have, it's hard to say for sure, but that is probably going to be a bottleneck in your system in terms of getting the best sound quality from a turntable.
I would suggest spending less on the turntable and cartridge itself and make sure to get a decent phono stage and consider a separate preamp with a home theater bypass (if you watch movies also with your Marantz).
Something like a Music hall 5.x or 7.x or a comparably priced Rega, Clearaudio, or other table, a Hana SL cartridge, and a Parks Puffin phono stage or better, and a used preamp in the $1500 - $2000 range.
I'd start with the turntable, cartridge, and phono stage first and make sure you like spinning records and use it regularly and then add the preamp later if you want to improve the sound quality further.
You can always upgrade the turntable, cartridge, and phono stage later if you get into vinyl and wouldn't be out much if you flipped the other pieces, especially if you buy used. I'd get the Hana new, but look at used for the turntable and possibly the phono stage.
Unless you get a fully automatic turntable, which isn't necessarily a bad option, most turntables are fairly simple. Click a power button to start the platter rotating, use the arm lift to move the stylus over the record, lower the tonearm, and enjoy. You may have to power up the phono stage separately.
I have located a 1 year old SL1200GR for about $500-600.00 and in excellent condition. I have looked at the used Linn, Thorens, Rega, VPI, Clearaudio but am gun shy about getting a used high end TT then possibly dropping a fair amount of funds to cure any problems I may encounter. I am thinking to get started, a "reliable," "relatively" new Technics is a good place for me to jump in. I am still very tempted to get the SL1200G but it makes more sense for me to spend less, get a good cartridge (Hana SL or what about the Soundsmith or Otofon Black?) and see how my wife and I like the vinyl experience. My front speakers are the FOCAL Electra Be, rears are ceiling mounted (unknown name), amp is Parasound Halo A51, Sub is a Velodyne 10", Marantz AV8802, has XLR inputs for the TT and my IT guy said I don't need the pre amp? Wish I knew more about this audio world.
Thanks to all of you for your responses. Extremely helpful! I will post a note when I have everything on line.
That sounds like a good deal for the SL1200GR. You don't "need" a preamp, but a decent preamp will provide a noticeable improvement over the Marantz. I've owned the Marantz AV8801 and AV7704. They sound better than a lot of AVPs, but a good dedicated preamp will sound a lot better. You don't need it now, just keep it in mind for a future upgrade.