turntable recommendations


I'm currently running a rega rp6 with a groovetracer subplatter and a dynavector 20x2 cartridge.  I quite like it, but Upgradeitis has set in.    My goal is to get a  noticeable improvement without breaking the bank, say $5 K absolute tops.  I prefer new.    Based on my search to date, my current finalists are a rega p8 with apheta 3, or a dr. feikert volare with Origin silver mk3a tonearm and a hana ml.   Others I seriously considered are a clearaudio performance DC wood or a VPI prime, but with those I would have to put the Dynavector on it to stay under budget and it already has high hours on it.  None of these choices are available to demo in my area (Seattle) so I'm reaching out to my audiophile brethren for your experience, to better inform my decision.  
stantheman2
First I would work on what you have. As good as the Volare/OL/ML combo would be you would be surprised how close to that you could get with four Nobsound springs and a sheet of fO.q tape.

Then also at that particular price point I would be looking at a high value Herron VTPH2A phono stage that would be a totally game-changing upgrade. 

Then for the table I would focus on going bigger, with something like a $5k table and then later a $5k arm. 
The music hall mmf-9.3 in walnut with the Goldring Eroica lx cartridge is a beautiful table. About $2500-2700. 
MC, I'm not sure the springs would work on the super-light Rega.
OP, When you say you quite like it, what do you not like?
Check out the AVM Rotation R2.3. Without cartridge (but with tonearm) it lists at $4500. This will be a clear step up from your RP6. I would look at the Ortofon Cadenza Red on it which would be a brilliant combo. I know it lists a bit above your max budget at list price but might be worth looking at. Especially if you have something to trade in, I am sure you could get this around your budget.

I personally am bringing in this table as a retail demo and will be what I use in my home system with a Cadenza Blue. This is a middle ground for me between a Rega RP3 and my Art Audio Composer Solo which is like $12K at retail but takes up to much space in my current home with external power supply.
it's not that don't like my current setup.  It's more that I'm drawn to the potential for a very noticeable improvement in overall quality of the sound and musical experience.  For example, reviews of rega TTs say the current P3 is better than my RP6, and the P8 is major step up in transparency, detail, etc. from the current P6.  From what i have read, the volare offers a similar potential step up, but with like with different characteristics.  So, I am looking for some informed opinions/experiences from readers to this forum to help guide me.  
do you listen to mono lps, i.e. early jazz?

I’m like a broken record, but one of the best things I ever did was go for 2 arms, mono arm, stereo arm, instantly mix mono/stereo lps in a listening session.

perhaps pick a TT that offers a second arm option for the future.

https://www.ortofon.com/hifi/cartridges-ranges/true-mono/

Since you have complete an upgrade to your Rega, take a look at the various upgrades I have completed on my 1982 Rega Planar 2

http://image99.net/blog/files/04fdba8476cfd21bdd7a5fdf38c8cdf5-28.html

But if you are not into DIY then consider these features.

  • multi plinth construction
  • Acrylic platter
  • one-piece harness in the tonearm
  • fully adjustable VTA,
  • counterweight’s center of gravity is level with the stylus tip
  • completely isolated/decoupled DC motor with 33 1⁄3 and 45 rpm speed controls located in the front
  • motor sits on its own resonance damping puck
  • ceramic main bearing for super quiet, fluid operation
My pick?
- the Music Hall 9.1 or 11.1 turntable
- has many of the features above

Hope that gives you something to ponder :-)

Regards - Steve


I had a Rega Planar 3 in the mid to late 90’s and found the sound to be quite lightweight and uninvolving.   I also had a serious hum problem with table and my Sumiko Blue Point ( the nude cartridge).  I moved on to VPI and was happy for about a decade before I moved on from that.  
Stantheman2, I just had this problem with a friend. Same limit. Here is what I would do and why. You have to play chess several moves in advance.

Turntable          Sota Escape                           $1250.00
Tonearm           Origin Live Illustrious              $2100.00
Cartridge          Ortofon Cadenza Blue            $1900.00
                         Grado Ref 3                            $1500.00
                         Soundsmith Zephyr Mk 3 ES  $1500.00
                         Lyra Delos                               $2000.00 ( a tiny stretch :)

You are already noticing that I cut short on the Turntable. The Escape is a brilliant little table. It comes from a company that is a joy to deal with and they will always take their turntables back in trade so when you get that itch again you can move right up into a Sapphire which could easily be a final destination table. The Illustrious IMHO is the best value in the Origin Live line and could easily be seen as a last destination arm. It will run all of the very best cartridges without flinching and without compromising their performance. I do believe Sota will get and mount the arm for you as well as the cartridge if you like. Call 608 538 3500 and speak to Donna. As for the Cartridges, The Lyra is the one to go for but it might push you a little over. If you are heavily into rock and other high energy music I would definitely go for the Clearaudio Charisma V2 but it is also $2000 and a stretch. The Ortofon pushes it right to the limit and is an excellent all rounder. If you do this with the Lyra in a few years just swap out for the Sapphire and you have reached nirvana.

Mike 
Actually I would go to Hawthorne Audio in your area to hear the Rega P8 and see if it is an upgrade for you. Also, though not well represented in the US the Kuzma tables are really super.....but then you will have a hard time to try one.
Another option is the Vertere DG-1 which is in your budget and the distributor might allow you to audition in your system.
Look into Gold Note turntables they make many different models most come with their own arms. 
Agree with  stereo54, Same cart, plus tried a Benz and a Dyna 5x. Some tweaks. Nothing could make it pop. 
Look into the Acoustic Solid 111 Metal with the optional riser stand.
well tempered labs

oracle delphi w origin live arm ( call josh at hyendaudio in nj)
https://www.usaudiomart.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=888
if you can bear professionally refurbished...

i promise you will be as happy as i am with these

3 grand or so without cart

vastly superior in musicality than tt’s twice the cost i used previously

(no affiliation other than being an owner/customer and so happy with them)
I would suggest getting the Rega P8 and keeping your Dynavector, which is a very nice cartridge and preferable (IMO) to an Apheta. The P8 is superb turntable and a big step up on the RP6.
Planar 8 w/Ania Pro is around $4000.00 and darn good. Pro-ject Xtension 10 w/Starling is around $5000.00 if you want to go heavyweight. But I most support the Well Tempered Amadeus GTA suggestion. Under $4K. A Benz Ace and you’re under budget and hearing what’s on the record without chatter. 
I had a modified planar 2 with all the groovetracer goodies and an upgraded rb330 tonearm. After a few cocktails I submitted an online trade in form to Hi'Fi Heaven in Wisconsin for a new model Planar 8 and they made me a very generous offer.  I have since traded in items twice with them and my dad upgraded Rega Phono stages via trade in with great results. 

If I were in your shoes with a $5k budget I would send in a trade in quote request detailing your current deck and all the upgrades and see what they can do on a planar 8 AND what they would do on a planar 10. Go for the Apheta 3 combo on both decks as it is totally worth it. I upgraded from the Ania to the Apheta 3 later and in retrospect, I should have took advantage of the combo discount. 

Can't say enough good things about my experience with Hi-Fi Heaven. I came out very good on my trades even with all the upgrades. I expected they would quote me a price that was laughable and I could put upgrading out of my mind.  Thats not what happened but I am the proud owner of a planar 8 and apheta 3 now.
drive to Gig Harbor and see Eric at GHA, listen to well Tempered Labs w WTL cart or the superb for the $ Hana ML

on your way home bring your N-95 and you can listen to a SOTA sapphire w Hana ML 

seriously, Eric gets great sound... go see him.
also, Advanced Audio in Tacoma and has a nice selection of Rega tables...fine sound also...

I was in there today, at GHA on Saturday, get halibut for lunch at tides tavern....
and the above referral to Hawthorne is spot on also :-)
You have a fine turntable & cartridge so you need to be carful about selecting equipment that would be significantly better than what you have and not just sound different.
My recommendation based on actual experience would be Clearaudio Performance with Lyra Delos.  
The level of detail and presentation of music that you will gain by this combination would be on an entirely different level and once heard it you could never go back to what you have now.
Unfortunately though I just pushed you to $6k total......I did not recommend this because I am unaware of your budget....I did it because you could spend $5k and get just a different sound or you could just wait a while and get a superb sound improvement.
You may also try and see if any of the dealers who carry both brands would offer a discount for the package.
  
Surprised no one has mentioned any of the VPI TT's. Used $3k for VPI classic 3 plus good cartridge (ART9, HANA MC,). That said I agree with comments on looking for solid phono pre amp...makes HUGE difference to sound out, Herron, Audio Mirror Trubadour ll SE,  etc. Good luck with the search and watch out for Alice's rabbit hole  :-)
@phil55

i actually did in my post below (but without naming them... out of respect for harry)

also, audio mirror tubador is a dac... not a phono stage... so we don't confuse things, you might mean something else?


@stantheman2   About 6 months ago I bought a Raga Planar 10 with Lyra Delos.  I also bought a better phono stage than what I had and chose the Manley Chinook.  This combination is fantastic!  I am amazed with the sound quality and mesmerizing effect every time I listen to it.  Should you end up going with either the Planar 8 or Planar 10 I can tell you that what you place them on will make a profound difference.  A flimsy foundation will not do well.  A solid foundation is critical.  I also highly recommend adding a Symposium Acoustics Segue platform.  I did, and also added the Rollerblock Jr+ and it made a significant improvement in bass definition.  It is a journey, no doubt, but these things can be added over time and as budget permits.  By all means, begin with a great turntable and cartridge.  You can upgrade to a superior phono stage and other items over time.  The phono stage, however, being the greatest upgrade so pay attention to that one first.  I hope this helps you.  In any event, do enjoy the journey and the music.
My vote is for a VPI Classic 3 with a ART 9. I was using this cartridge on my Classic 3 while waiting for my Koetsu to come back from  a Soundsmith  retipping. I still have it mounted on my second arm wand and listen to it often.
This is a great combo and used will come well within your budget. Please note that this is the old ART 9 and not the new model, but I’m sure the new one is even better. As a added bonus Harry and his son Matt at VPI are some of the best people in this industry.They will bend over backwards for you if you ever require their assistance. This I know first hand and the main reason I will would never consider any other brand table!
I think the Feikert Volare/OL Silver is a great combo. I have heard it (albeit in an unfamiliar system) and it checked a bunch of boxes. Simple, elegant, well built with a really good arm for the money. I would suggest mounting a Charisma Audio MC-2 at $1500 and you will be good to go. The ART 9 is another nice choice for slightly less money. Or, for a bit more money but an end of time option check out the new Sempersonus TE-2, which can be purchased with the same OL Silver arm. Mount your Dyna until it falls down dead and save your money for a nice Charisma, ART 9 or Benz and be off the merry go round.
To OP, stantheman2:
I have been using a setup of Dr. Feickert Volare table with Jelco TK-850 9-inch arm and Hana ML cartridge since this spring. I highly recommend the Volare as it's a very solid and silent table. Music just flows and the table just completely disappears. I also like the ML cartridge a lot, very open sound stages with clear and clean high notes. As the time of my consideration, I also looked into the Clearaudio performance DC wood and a VPI prime, but went with Volare. Chris Feickert is also very accessible and answers technical questions, which I always view as a plus. 
The Thales Slim ii is $6750. If you can find someone who during these times would be willing to knock 10% off that gets you to $6,000. It's $1k above your budget, but this table could really be the last you would ever want to own at any budget. 

Hi stantheman2

Auditioning one analog rig against another is almost impossible, very frustrating. Sure, you can go to your local dealer and They might have turntables in the store that are setup properly, you might be able to listen to one or two or if you’re really lucky, maybe three setups in the same general price point. But the problem is, there are a hundred analog rigs out there that you can’t audition. So you go to another store and hear the one or two rigs they have set up on different electronics and in a different room, with a different cartridge etc. 

Analog has made such a big comeback in the last five years and there are so many good rigs available today that running around from store to store is almost a waste of time. In my opinion, there’s two ways to buy a good analog front end. If you have a good local brick and mortar dealer in your area that you can trust, tell them what you want and let them know your budget and buy the setup that they feel will give you the best bang for your buck. The most important thing to remember is can the preferably willing to deliver it to your home and do the setup. If you let them set it up in their shop, by the time you get it home, it will need the setup dialed in again. When it comes to analog, proper set is crucial. Also, buying a table from one company and a tonearm from another and a cartridge from yet another increases the likelihood of those products not being properly matched to work well with one another. 

The other way to buy an analog rig is to look at the company, we’re is it made, how long have they been in business, do they specialize in turntables and if EVERY reviewer says the same thing about their product and they all like the product, you are more likely to choose a good setup. Rega for example. They’ve been making tables, arms & cartridges for over 40 years. They are built in the Uk and most importantly are designed to work together. They are always going to be around and they extremely reliable. You could always pay someone to set it up properly. That would be one of my first choices. Good luck with whatever you decide.

Scot
I was recently in the exact same position. I had a project xpression with upgrades and wanted a significant improvement on a budget of $3000. I tried a Rega P6 with Exact which was only slightly better than what I had. The owner of the audio store I deal with got me to stretch to $3200 for a VPI Prime Scout. Needless to say from the time I dropped the needle, I could hear a drastic improvement. I am extremely happy. Everything I listen to now is like a brand new sound. I have not one second of regret. Plus it looks amazing.
Classic 3 and Manley Labs Chinook SE MK 2 preamp.  Keep the Dyna 20x2.  Upscale Audio will discount the Chinook. It is a VERY good preamp. Just my 2 cents  :)

Get yourself a real turntable son.

 

Check out the 1st link. Here's an Oracle DELPHI III for $1500 bucks, no arm.


Next link is for an SME Carbon arm for $1300 Canadian. That's $950 U.S.

 

Get your Dynavector 20X2 rebuilt by Soundsmith with a gem stone, or boron cantilever, mated to an Optimized Contact Line stylus for $400 dollars and now you've got something.

 

So for a pittance of $2850.00 I can promise you one thing .... you'll never look back on a Rega. 

https://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649639325-oracle-delphi-iii-with-sme-iv-tonearm/


https://www.canuckaudiomart.com/details/649581927-oracle-audio-carbon-tonearm-with-oil-dampening-lik...
I have owned a VPI HW with a Sumiko MMT arm since 1985. Bought as an HW MK II, with a Benz Micro.

About ten years ago, I considered an upgrade to the VPI Classic. I noticed a change in the design philosophy so I called Harry to ask wassup?

We had a moderately long discussion. The upshot of it was that Harry persuaded me to forgo the Classic, to patiently look for and buy the parts to upgrade from the HW MK II to the HW MK IV, bring it into him and he’d put it together. He said it would be at least as good as the Classic, and that I would save myself $4,000.

So who am I to argue with Harry? Kudos for him: breathtakingly honest! And that’s what I did.

So much for the “new is better” mantra. If it ain’t broke...

The cartridge is now a Koetsu Onyx.

I went through a very similar situation last year. I had a P5 and got to talking with someone who took over the store of the guy who sold me the P5. Starting from a conversation of rewiring the arm from the P5 (RB 700) to upgrading the arm (which I did to the RB880) to finally giving in to the P8 which includes the RB 880. I can tell you this: The arm made WAY more of a difference than the table, even though the P8 looks cool and has a better platter, etc. I don't necessarily regret paying much more for a much lesser improvement, but I think if you want to be as value conscious as possible, spend that extra $1500 on a good phono stage - you didn't mention what you are using. I did that after the turntable upgrade and was once again blown away with the improvement. I think if the table is spinning at the right speed (you have a PSU)  and is properly isolated, the table is less important than the arm or the cartridge/phono stage, and is typically much more expensive.

That's what we're all after - NOTICEABLE improvement. Beware of the law of diminishing returns, and have an end goal in mind, or at least an intermediary goal in mind.
Technics 1200G
I love mine and have various headshells/cartridge combos to play with.

A removable headshell makes sampling carts easy and fun. Superlight wood headshells with high compliance carts...middleweight magnesium headshells with medium or low compliance carts...endless possibilities.

The 1200G is very stable, quiet/transparent and heavy. It looks better/more impressive in person.
The gimbal/tonearm is supremely light and airy to handle.
It is all business...no joke.

Pair it with an outstanding phono stage and you will be set for a long time. 


I recommend: VPI Prime Signature. 
If you get the chance to audition it, its worth the effort.

Mando..
@samzx12 I also vote for VPI Classic 3 with Manley Chinook SE MK II. that is my set up and couldn't be happier. @jss49 I stand corrected. You are correct the Audio Mirror Troubadour is my DAC :-) But hey I am down in the Caribbean trying to forget Covid-19 this week, so might have had a little too much of the rum!
I’d add another vote for Sota. I have a vacuum model Star Sapphire with an SME V arm and it is pretty incredible. One thing I didn’t realize when I bought it, I can put it anywhere without worrying about skipping from footfalls. I can literally hit the top of the deck with my fist without it causing the needle jump.
ryskie, would you ever buy a turntable that was not suspended as well as the Sota? It is not just freedom from footfall headaches. There are a host of other noises occurring in your house and even around your house. People think that just because their turntable is on a rack on concrete they are isolated from low frequency rumble. This is not true and the link I posted above demonstrates this beautifully. It covers various aspects of turntable and tonearm design as applied to the AR-XA turntable. People just think about it as a cheap little table from the 60's but when you realize what it was competing with at the time, big Rec-O-Cuts and Empires. TD 124's and Garrards. It was truly a landmark table. It handily out performed all of them. People were using them even in the most expensive systems. It was quieter, footfalls did not bother it, and it did not feed back. It's only serious weakness was lack of anti skating but many of the high end tonearms of the day did not have antiskating. The SME 3009 changed all that. People would remove the base of the SME and mount them on the AR-XA. 
There is a very well regarded new Pear Audio Kid Thomas/Cornet 2 & Ortofon Cadenza Black on USAudioMart priced below wholesale. The turntable/tonearm is just about in your price range.

https://positive-feedback.com/audio-discourse/impressions-the-pear-audio-blue-kid-thomas-turntable-cornet-2-tonearm-system/