Turntable upgrade recommendations, please.


Hello,

I am a bit of a newbie, but have have been chasing the "magic" every since I got started on this journey about 2 years ago. My system currently consists of:

Denon dp-47f w/ a Denon 301 mkII cartridge
McIntosh MAC6700
Magnepan 1.6qr

I am interested in upgrading my turntable, assuming that there are real sonic benefits to be had from a new rig at approx. $2500. I have been looking at the usual suspects from VPI, Rega, Pro-ject, etc. 

I am curious to hear if those of you with more experience can tell me how my Denon stacks up against these and if the view will be worth the climb. To my ears, the Denon sounds good, but I am anxious to upgrade if there are significant gains to be heard.

I am also very interested in a McIntosh MT2, but haven't seen any new info or announcements on the release.

Please share your opinions and experiences. 

Thanks in advance!


sdmbdad71
Technics SP-10mkII is hard to beat! With your budget you can have it with tonearm like EPA-100. Custom made plinth is an option. For less you can have Technics SP-20 to spend more on the tonearm and plinth. 
You can move up in the vintage Denon model range.  The DP60, 75, and 80 should all outperform your DP47f, with the DP75 and DP80 being in the same league with the SP10 Mk2.  To my ears, in my system, my DP80 outperformed my SP10 Mk2, in fact.  But there are a myriad of choices besides Denon vs Technics, if you like vintage Japanese DD.  And I do agree with Chakster on the Technics EPA-100 or EPA-500 tonearms. Both of those outperform any tonearm Denon ever made, IMO.
The groovemaster certainly looks very nice for around $2500. I enjoy the Well Tempered Amadeus very much. An Amadeus used should be around $1400, new with a little discount, within your stated price range.
Look at the Anvil with a Jelco 750 arm (or their 850)

to be honest, I'd upgrade to 1.7i Maggies - big improvements for the x.7's (I upgraded to 3.7i) - free testing so call them

otherwise... VPI is a no-brainer at that price level
I recommend a Linn Sondek - secondhand about $1500. I own one and yes indeed it has that "MAGIC" sound (which has kept it in the top rank of TT's for decades!). And from my experience NOT at all difficult to set up!  Mine is the second one that I bought after selling the first one and missing that "SOUND"!           I use a Grace 707 arm and a Denon 304 with excellent results.
JA Michell TecnoDec Turntable
Thanks for all of the responses so far... I've looked at each of the tables you've suggested. Some of them are quite interesting.


Peter @ pbn, are any of your groovemaster turntables under $2500?
Kalali, good question. The groovemasters are definitely good looking tables. I spent a while checking out all of their models.

Please go to an experienced Retailer and take his advice. Stick to a New unit. He will service you and guide you correctly. No Joke. A well setup turntable will be a blessing in disguise.
Smer319, thanks for your reply. There are a couple of retailers that are about 65mi from me, and I am certainly more inclined to purchase a new unit than a used one. However, if a nice table comes up that would otherwise be outside of my self-imposed budget, a used one could be a consideration.

Specifically, I am asking if anyone has experience with the Denon and also any of the newer units that can hopefully tell me if a new unit is really going to be a significant upgrade. My table/cartridge is fairly well dialed in and the cart I am using is generally well regarded. I am game to upgrade, I just don't want to drop $2.5k and later find out that my Denon is in the same league sonically.

Again, thanks to all who have replied





IMO, I would continue saving until you can get a vpi prime or something similar. The tt’s you mention are not that much better and in a couple of years you are going to be doing another upgrade. The tt base is important, but I think the tonearm is much more important so you can start upgrading cartridges. If you get a similar tt/arm that is equivalent to what you have, the tonearm will be a limiting factor
Thanks rbstehno, I am interested in the VPI's for sure. I.m not looking at anything similar to what I have.

My Denon is a full automatic direct drive and has a low mass electronically damped tonearm with a Denon DL-301 mkII  MC cart installed. All of the tables on my list are fully manual belt drives.

I am curious to hear if tables such as the Scout, Prime, or etc. will best the Denon I already have?
SOTA. 

Another great American brand like your McIntosh and Magnepan equipment. 

Have the star w/vacuum. Purchased on Audiogon about three years ago for $1300, leaving $'s for arm and cartridge. Love it! 

Good luck and have fun shopping!
FWIW, there is an Agon member who reviewed your Denon. He replaced it with a Rega P2 and is happy with the upgrade. 

VPI is you best bet here In my opinion nothing else comes close in this price range.  But after you have a good turntable the cartridge is everything. You need a good MC cartridge with medium/high output.
My choice would be to pick up a Goldring Eroica or higher or a Dynavector 20X2 on this site as used. 
Turntable upgrade is always a good idea. You get less noise and more music.

I suggest that you listen until you hear the magic, and buy that item, not one 'just like it', but that exact item.

The reason is that, not only are there manufacturing differences from device to device, but that set up is absolutely critical. Few people, including dealers, set up to anything close to the optimum; the result is, for both reasons, LUCK is one of the biggest factors in a turntable. Especially at your price point.

IMHO
I also suggest Sota.  Here's an ad that popped up today:  https://www.audiogon.com/listings/turntables-sota-satellite-series-ii-turntable-with-rega-s202-tonea...

That's a new rig.  If you're patient, you should be able to find a Series 3 Sapphire with a better arm for the same or less money.  Both could take advantage of a much better cartridge.

Good luck & happy hunting!
For those who may be interested, I spent some time at my McIntosh Dealers shop today and inquired about the soon-to-be-released McIntosh MT2. He called Mc for me to see if he could get a release date and pricing. I was stoked to hear that Mc will likely begin shipping next month, but disappointed to find out that the pricing given at the Munich High End show last May has changed considerably.

It was reported at the show and subsequent publications that the pricing was expected to come in at $2500, which is right in my budget. They were willing to take my order, but the price is now $4k. The price includes a Sumiko Blue Point #2 cart.

So... the search continues!

I did listen to the MT10 today just for grins. Really, really nice!  Just 4x my current budget. But really nice.


Effischer,  I did see that one. Thanks for the suggestion. I think I'm looking for something that will better match visually with my gear.

Has anyone here seen or heard the EAT C sharp?
If you would get any VPI tt with the 3d arm, you will far ahead of the other tt mentioned. Any Denon, old SOTA, rega, etc.. tt will be limited by the tonearm, meaining you will be limited on moving up the cartridge line, that’s where you will see SQ gains overtime. If you like a specific tt like a Denon/SOTA/basis/rega/other brands, upgrade the arm to a VPi 3d 10” or 12”, Graham, Tri-planar the you will be able to upgrade your cartridge at anytime. But the cost of any of these tonearms will be more than the cost of a VPi prime tt new
I would budget a grand for your cartridge, even if you lower your tt budget. I have a Dynavector 20x2, and it changed my analog life. It’s on a $1000 turntable feeding a $1500 phono preamp. I agree about buying new, or at least pay your dealer to check and set up your gear before the return period ends. Online I like Jerry Raskin’s Needle Doctor. Have fun!
I would budget everything on the turntable/tonearm......use your 301-2 for a while and once familiar with your new TT or when your Denon 301 is shot then look for a new cart....

IMOP the Denon 301 is an excellent cart.....it is very musical,a good tracker very well made ....quality control is superb,,,and can hold it’s own in a top of the line tonearm...I had one in an Ittok and had to look very hard to find a suitable replacement......tried a AT33ev. AT33PTG2, Dynavector 20x2, and finally a Benz Glider.....which I’m presently using....I still have the Denon as a spare and have used in between cart try outs and this cart has something very, very, very, special.....it is musical and sings like BillyHoliday....so choose the TT first and latter on; the cart....
One more vote for VPI - check out AG or Sound Stage direct (no affiliation). I have the Ortofon Cadenza Black on my Prime, but would suggest getting thge Cadenza Bronze as recommended by Harry and Matt Weisfeld of VPI.
Or if you want to stick with vintage the above mentioed Technics may be a good choice
I would also consider (just a few examples for tables and carts)

Kenwood KD-750 (650 is also nice but different plinth)
Pioneer PL-C590 (or other higher end Pioneer tables)
Yamaha PX-3, PX-2 (PX-1 is likely out of budget)
Yamaha GT2000 or 1000 (latter more likely to fit the budget)
Thorens TD 124, 125 MK II
Lenco 75 (modded)
Garrard 301 or 401 (likely higher than your budget)

Vintage MC carts
Supex 900, Fidelity Research FR-1 MK III
Dynavector Karat D23 or 17

MM
Grace F-9L or F-8L

garylb, thanks for responding. I think the same about the DL301-II. I was considering a DV20x2 as an upgrade. Since you've had both, can you tell me your impressions? What were the differences?

Thanks, sancho22.

I have been looking at the VPI models. A lot of suggestions have been for the 3D Tonearm, but so far I haven't a rig with the 3D arm that's in budget.

I have found some with the JMW 10.5 though. It is used on the Classic 2, so it must be pretty good. What's the consensus on the JMW 10.5?

There are a lot of Thoren TD160 Super owners out here, who still value their sound . . . in fact, I am the original owner of mine with a grand Signet XK50 tonearm -- bought back in the 80’s. The turntable, along with upgrades as well as cartridges, has changed (I now have a Soundsmith Aida cartridge) . . . but the Thorens still maintains quite a following of loyal owners, who appreciate good sound when they hear it . . . and are not willing to give it up for just another “pretty face” that whispers promises that somehow are just not kept. What sounded good then . . . still sounds the same now!
Check out the Mobile Fidelity Ultradeck. Made in the good ole USA and sounds great. It comes in $500 under your budget with a really nice cartridge.
Another vote for Well-Tempered Labs Amadeus.

Thank you everyone for your input.

I was in Jacksonville, FL this morning and stopped by a dealer to look at their tables. While there, I happened across a good deal (I think) on Pro-Ject RPM10.1 Evolution that was in on consignment. It is in mint condition and comes with Sumiko Blackbird, and a custom dustcover for $2200. I didn't have time to properly audition it, but I put a deposit on it to hold it until I can go back up there this weekend.

Does that sound like a fair price? The dealer has been great to work with in the past.

Thoughts?