Turntable recommendations around $2500


Hi everyone,

Yes, another "what do you recommend" thread.  I'll provide a few specifics to help narrow down the field.  First of all, I don't live near any audio dealers, so listening to products isn't an option.  I want to purchase through one of the various online audio dealers who offers a 30-day (or more) return policy - Audio Advisor, Music Direct, Needle Doctor, etc.  

My general parameters are:
  • approx. $2000-2500 for table only (less is better, of course, but not at the expense of sound quality) 
  • RCA or DIN output connection (no integral phono cables, which rules out Rega and Clearaudio)  experiment with aftermarket cables).
  • No unipivot tonearm (sorry, VPI)

So, with all that in mind, I'm looking at the following that meet my criteria:

  • Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon
  • Musical Hall MMF 9.3
  • Mobile Fidelity Ultradeck
  • EAT C-Major
  • ELAC Miracord 90
  • SOTA Satellite II (w/202 arm)

For what it's worth, I prefer a table that leans slightly toward the warmer side of neutral.  Would love to hear opinions from those who are using one of these tables or who have heard them and decided not to purchase. And, of course, other recommendations are welcome.

Thanks!
Scott


    
smrex13
Michell Gyro SE. Nothing will even come close anywhere that price. 
A friend just bought a EAT C-Major replacing an aging Oracle. Very well made, sounds excellent, looks great and represents excellent value.
Btw, VPI makes gimbal tonearms in addition to their uni-pivots
In the same boat looking to replace my aging table. Narrowed down to the Rega P6, VPI Scout, and EAT.  And of course only the Rega is available locally.  Following!
My friend has the Satellite with a SME arm and it is real nice. The Rega arm has no VTA adjustment. If that is important to you then you should pass on the SOTA with the Rega arm!
I just bought the MoFi Ultradeck, with the MasterTracker cartridge. Pretty amazing. Nothing flashy about it, but just sounds superb. Lots of detail I'd missed out on before, and dead quiet.
Get the SOTA in your choice of custom wood finish; really beautiful, musical, and long-lived tables that can work well even without stellar isolation racks/stands. I own two arms with an on-the-fly VTA adjustment that I never use, once setup correctly.

The EAT, Music Hall, and RPM are all made by ProJect, which is an OK brand but I’ve never been terribly impressed by them yet.
I have the Ultradeck with Ultratracker cartridge. It replaced a Clearaudio table more than twice it's cost. The MoFi sounds richer and more enjoyable to listen too. It's super easy to set up, super quiet, and it's made in the U.S.A.
Michell GyroDec SE. I use the full plinth version of the GyroDec (not SE) with an SME IV plus Clearaudio Maestro V2 Ebony cartridge, and could not be happier with it. Incredible design and build quality. Also, looks beautiful IMHO. See my previous post on this system. I am back into analog after a 34 year absence and having fun with HiFi all over again.
Thanks for all the info!  Hadn't thought about the GyroDec - certainly looks beautiful.  The MoFi looks like a user friendly, solidly designed option.  I like the idea of the suspension in the SOTA tables.  Another table that was just recommended to me by a dealer I trust is the Acoustic Signature Wow XL.  It certainly looks like a very nicely made table for the cost.

Too many choices!   Turnable reviews are very difficult to decipher.  Of course, the reviewers all use different cartridges, tonearms, phono stages and cables.  Hard to tell what the table is contributing to the conclusions drawn by the reviewer.

At some point I'll just pull the trigger and see how it goes (which is why I want to order from a place with a return policy).

Thanks again!
Scott
Deciphering reviews? The trick is to hone in on adjectives. If a reviewer says something, you need to translate it by enhancing what they play down.
E.g.
Beguiling = warm and lacking detail.
Slightly rolled off highs = dull and dark.
Bass was a little exaggerated = booming.
A little bright = tissue on tweeters.
Lacking a little air = warm and lacking detail.
Not as transparent as... = warm and lacking detail.
Soundstage could be better = 2 dimensional.
Etc.
Another vote for SOTA here; reliable, upgradeable and will accept many different arms if you want to move on from a Rega 202.  The suspension eliminates any issues from footfalls and spurious low frequency vibrations.  Important if your floors aren't ideal or you are near any high traffic or railway areas.  Worked for me in all of those situations and will last a lifetime if you take care of it.

Good luck & happy listening!
@spenceroo thank you for sharing your experience.

I remember you mentioning this a couple of months ago.  I recently sold my VPI Classic rig, and have considered what comes next.  Though the VPI line has proven successful beyond anyone's belief, and I have spent time with a lot of their products over the past 20 years, the sound doesn't line up with my tastes.  Based on your impressions, I've given substantial thought to the Mobile Fidelity
Well Tempered Labs Simplex. Approx. $2k. Look for some of the glowing reviews on the Internet.;-)
If you value speed accuracy,  a neutral, open, resolving energetic sound and ease of setup consider the Technics SL 1200GR as previously mentioned.  
You can easily add warmth with your choice of cartridge.  

Trelja- I’ve never heard a VPI yet.  Can you say more about what their house sound is?


Scott-  Thanks for starting this thread as I’m also looking into buying my first turntable soon.  
@erndog Hey Ernie!  You're testing the analog waters?  Awesome!   Tim's turntable is a VPI, so you've heard at least one.  I had a VPI Prime for a little while, but I found the adjustments with the uni-piviot arm to be really difficult.  Once I got one parameter set, it would throw off something else.  I've had much better luck with standard tonearms as far as getting a good sound dialed in.  

Vinyl is going to sound great in your rig!      
Technics 1200GR period. donvito101 has supplied the link to a dealer who has a return policy.
 You will have a reliable well made TT with an easy to setup tonearm and money left over for a good cartridge. Technics does not make mistakes and this TT is a bargain, 

Belt drive killer. Most vinyl friendly !
+1 for Technics sl 1200GR!
@erndog thank you for weighing in.

The VPI (HW19, HRX, Scout et all, Classic, Prime, a couple of those budget tables the company has wisely introduced over the past several years, and the Shinola) rigs that I and friends have had sound quite voluptuous and rich. The bass is full and generous, and transients are a bit blunted. In the shortest description possible, it’s soft rather than hard, warm rather than neutral and certainly not cold. It’s difficult to find oneself put off because the sound comes across as a bit too immediate or sharp, or even bright or shrill. Portraying the woody tone of an upright bass can sound especially good, caputuring the blat of brass played in a raucous fashion, not so much.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and it’s the antithesis of the thin CD sound I also have a hard time living with. Many run to analog for that very reason, and a large group obviously finds happiness in the VPI products. But it’s just not the right sound for me. Of course, a cartridge and setup, cabling, and the rest of the system have a big say in the matter
Not out to flame, but my experience is the opposite to trelja’s. I owned a VPI Classic 1/JMW 10.5 with Soundsmith Zephyr. I guess you could describe the sound as “clean” and “dynamic”. For  contrast, in that price bracket, I’d point to the Well Tempered range. 
@smrex13 Thanks buddy! Let me know where you land with this as I’d love to hear it. It will help me with gaining more experience with TT’s. Cheers!

@trelja Thanks for the info.  I suppose the best way to know would be to try a few different ones out in my rig.  I have an all tube system  and love a little warmth and excellent bass.  I suppose my inclination is toward a natural and realistic sound that's not overly warm or overly detailed.
@erndog thank you, as well.

Like you, I also run an all tube system, and love a little richness, warmth, and excellent bass. Yes, you should listen to a few different turntables and cartridges to find where your sweet spot lies. VPI makes excellent tables, and you should give them a try. They might meet your preferences. Typically, people tend to like them with more forward cartridges like Dynavectors, Lyras, Transfigurations, and a few of the Ortofons. I ran a Dynavector 20XL with my Classic. Other turntables to give a listen to are the Rega line, maybe the P6 or even P8 and of course, the Technics SL1200GR. Again, based on the comments I’ve heard from folks like speceroo, I’m giving a lot of thought to the new Mobile Fidelity table lineup
I had a VPI table for a few years and really loved it.  But ultimately with an all tube system and British monitors the richness was too much as well as some occasional speed instability.  
Fast forward to the Technics GR and the sound is all I could ever want from a vinyl setup.  
For those interested, this week TAS put out a commendable review of the Mobile Fidelity UltraDeck+

http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/mofi-electronics-ultradeck-turntable-and-studiophono-phonos...
I recently purchased the Technics SL 1200 GR. It's fantastic and you'll save about $800. Love it!
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You can pick up a used VPI HW-19 and have lots left over from your budget.  I would not get one that is not a MK III or MK IV.  It is very flexible to the point that with choice of suspension you can pretty much tailor the sound to your liking.  Perhaps the best part is that it is a match made in heaven for the ET II tonearm which is equally tunable to your liking.  I've seen MK IV's with ET II arms go here on A'gon for less than 2k.

The Linn Sondek LP12 majik is just over budget at $2750. Why buy a disposable turntable when you can have the turntable that has been in constant production since the 1970s and has been constantly refined in that period of time?

Even the oldest LP12s can be upgraded with modern parts some of which are usuriously expensive, and some that are ridiculously cheap. The word “classic” gets bandied about quite a bit in this hobby. But, for once, this is a place where it applies. And though not to everyone’s taste the LP12 in an unerringly warm and dynamic turntable.
I sincerely appreciate all the suggestions, and I wanted to let you all know where I landed.  After some more research and talking with a dealer who has always provided good recommendations, I went with an Acoustic Signature Wow XL with the TA-700 tonearm.  

I'm very impressed by the quality of the construction - everything from the packaging to the exceptional cartridge alignment tool is absolutely first class.  It seems like a much more expensive table - Acoustic Signature clearly takes pride in their products.  It was very easy to set up, and the operation is as simple as can be - push button for on/off and for switching between 33/45.  It runs dead silent and sounds great.  It's also easy to upgrade to a better platter and better tonearm down the road.  

As you can tell, I'm very happy with the purchase.  I like it much more than the VPI Prime I used to have.  Thanks again for the suggestions, even though I didn't take any of them :)

Best, Scott
The new technics 1200 GR should be listened to as it is ridiculously good for the money however the Michell Gyro SE is really very, very good.
you actually may a hard time finding a table that does what the 1200gr does, even over 3 grand. very neutral and precise.  the tonearm is great, its just incredible that you can get it for under 2 grand.