Used is the best path, I recently bought a used Basis 2001 with a Graham arm that had been updated to 2.2 and a new AT 33 EV from J&R and paid less than $3K including a new belt and record weight. Most good tables have a long life, it is hard to make specific recommendations on buying used but as long as you stay with well known equipment you should be fine. I an a VPI dealer and think they are a good buy new or used but there are others.Rigid tables like the VPI require less maintenance in general than suspended ones but are more susceptible to acoustic feedback from floors. Email me if you see a table that interests you and I'll give you any info I have on it. If you have bouncy floors go with a suspended one or a wall shelf. A good $3K table and cartridge will be a revelation to you, the better table and arm will make even cheaper cartridges sound much better.
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