Turntable Recommendation

I'd appreciate turntable recommendations. After waffling for some time about getting into analog, I ultimately decided to go the inexpensive route initially, and purchased a Pro-Ject Debut III to add to a Cambridge 640P that I already had. Even though I thoroughly enjoy my current digital setup (ARC 300.2 amp, ARC LS17 pre, ARC CD5, and Maggie 3.6's), I could not believe the analog difference in sound. It was wonderful! I’ll spare you all the additional adjectives, but to quote another Goner here, it just sounded “right”. Not perfect mind you, but “right” (to my ears). So though it’s only two weeks old, I’d like to consider a better tt. I am very fond of the ARC products, so depending on finances, I will either buy the PH5 or PH7 phono stage. I’m fortunate enough that I can audition both, but cannot do the same for turntables. I would like to spend $3k or less for both the tt and cartridge. I am not a tinkerer, so it needs to be something that I can set up and leave alone. The Pro-Ject/640P sounds too thin, a bit veiled, a tad slow, and could use a little more (only a little, since I enjoy the blend of ss & tube components I'm using now) soundstage – though the PH5/PH7 may take care of that. Thoughts?
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.
VPI 30th Anniversary Classic with Sumiko Blackbird, which is what I have, or one of the other cartridges VPI pre-mounts for you. I've seen them on sale for your budget, but I do highly recommend the periphery ring and Stainless Steel weight, if you can swing it later. It is the most complete TT I've ever owned, and the most enjoyable to listen to; so far, that is. Still, I don't see myself upgrading for a very long time.
"the better table and arm will make even cheaper cartridges sound much better." Here, here.

Some of my suggestions for new. You can do better used, but options vary.

VPI Classic and Sumiko would be a nice combination - a little over $3,000.

VPI Scout II with new JWM-9T arm would be a nice deck, same cartridge as above.

Clearaudio Performance CMB Turntable with Clearaudio Maestro Wood cartridge - or Clearaudio Emotion SE Turntable w/Satisfy Carbon Fiber Tonearm and same cartridge - or Clearaudio Performance CMB Turntable with w/Satisfy Carbon Fiber Tonearm and Grado Prestige Gold or equivalent cartridge (see Stanwal's quote above)
Nottingham Interspace Jr w/Lyra Dorian = $3100 (pay cash get the 5-10% discount) ..
I will second Nottingham. IMO, they make one of the very best bases, platters, and motors for the money. Motor is rock solid (I've tested numerous times with KAB strobe and no adjustment was ever needed) with no audible noise. I am not as wild about the Nott's tonearm. Not bad, but there are better out there. Nott's are not flashy, but if you can handle the way they look I think they are a very well engineered product worth a look.
I intially took a similar path. For right now, if you have the stock cartridge on your table you could upgrade the stylus and would benefit from that.
There are lots of great tables thatyou can buy in that price range. I don't want to be a nay-sayer, but I have NEVER heard a VPI table that I liked and I have heard everything from the bottom to the-of-the-line.

I have recently been convinced that older direct drive TT are capable of better sound than I ever considered possible. There are probably thousands of threads here regarding similar questions to what you ask, but the best advice I might offer is to find someone you trust, or who has similar tastes and get advice from just a couple of people rather than throwing it open for everyone to recommend their flavor-of-the-month/week/day...
I have a Clearaudio Ambiant and Satine for sale, but, exceeds your budget!!! If you are still interested???
email at ralphlomaxmansfield@yahoo.com

As always, all the best.

Ralph Lomax
TW ACUSTIC AC1 or RAVEN 1 both great sounding well built tables!!