Vinyl NOOB questions

Before I start down the path on vinyl gear,I have a few questions of the knowledgeable people that have experience in this area.

1. Is the same value MC cartridge better performance than MM?

2. To get into vinyl would be an upgrade path for me, starting out lower end to begin with. Is the Firestone Audio phono stage any good? My other initial current choice would be Mus.Fidelity-XLP. Please suggest a few others around the $500 range. *I would want something MM and MC capable unless the MC being clearly better then I'll just go that direction.

3. Is an MC stepup transformer better than a regular phono stage of the same value?

Thanks for your input, much appreciated!
If you want tube sound look at the Pro-ject Tube Box SE/SE II
used around $300-$400, changing the tubes can alter the sound.
Does both MM and MC. I have only used MM carts and they sound great to me though I would like to try MC someday.

Wright phono stages have quite a few fans on here. They are tubed stages.

I started low and have started to move up first with a better phono stage, then i plan on a better TT when the recession is over LOL
vinyl is a lawless land, where the only thing that determines your ultimate enjoyment is your ability to feed your library. my advice is to keep the hardware simple...don't dig too deep a hole(mm is fine)...and don't expect any concrete sonic revelations other than you'll enjoy it.
There is a thread about mm vs mc if you search the archives. Simple answer to #1 is that there are very good MM and MC carts at various price points. To answer #3, an SUT is an alternative to an active gain stage to bring the output of a low output MC cart to the level necessary to feed a conventional phono stage, which itself has both an equalization function (nowadays RIAA standard) and a gain stage.
Jaybo is refreshing voice of reason.
1. Both types are good, and when you find a TT you like, it may come with a cartridge at a good combo price.
2. The phono stages mentioned will work fine, also look at the Jolida tube stage... very adjustable and will work with most cartridges... reasonable price and sounds good.
3. Keep it simple, get a phono stage that does what you need.
Happy Spinning!
Speaking as someone who is firmly convinced of the superiority of vinyl and who has over 3000 LPs and recently returned to being an audio dealer just so he could sell vinyl playback equipment I would say to anyone beginning down the analogue path to give it careful consideration. If I did not have the collection I have amassed over 45 + years I am not at all sure I would begin one. It was so easy then and so hard now, record stores were everywhere, it was the golden age of recorded music, classical and popular. But if you do begin good luck to you, there are still second hand shops where you can find most things and although prices have gone up and variety down there are still new LPs coming out. Best Wishes, Stan
I'd second the Project Tube Box. I'm very happy with mine. I've still got the stock tubes in it too. Very smooth and natural sounding.

As for the MM vs. MC thing: I've had both in my system and my current MC is definately better, but my old MM was very inexpensive Shure M97. Even so, in some ways it had some qualities I really liked (timbres and warmth in particular). I've heard other MM's that sound great. Listen to a few, find one you like and it doesn't matter whether its MM or MC.
Thanks all. I should have been a little more clear on my post. I still have about 500 albums, mostly in good condition. These have been sitting for years, back when I had a Dual 1229/mm and a Rotel integrated with AR3 speakers, so now you can guess my age d.!.b
I never had any experience with MC nor outboard phono preamps so I was trying to get an idea which direction to go. I am not going to spend a lot to dip my toe back in the vinyl water to begin with to see if I still have the desire after a month or 2. If I do, then perhaps a better cartridge and phono amp.
I guess my next step is to try to find places where I can hear some of these phono stages, preferably at the same store so I can compare.
Thanks for all your help and suggestions.
It can be difficult to find an audio store with a good selection of tables, cartridges and accessories. You didn't mention where you are located. Also does your current preamp/integrated have a phono input? If so, then a MM cartridge should work direct.

You might want to consider something like the Rega P1 turntable with ortofon cartridge, or go up the line a bit if you want to. They just work and sound good.

If you need a phono stage, I still like the Jolida in its price range. I'm using it with a higher end Rega and Lyra cartridge and it does a great job.

BTW, I had the AR3's and Dynaco electronics as well. At least you could find a good Stereo dealer in the 60's.

Good Luck...