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You will now receive umpty-nine completely different opinions and suggestions. But there's nothing wrong with that. You could put some sort of boundary on the variety within the responses by stating your upper limit as to cost.
I'll start. I'd buy a good restored DD turntable with a low cost MC cartridge, like a Hana SL or a high end MM or MI cartridge (prices are similar in each case). The turntable would have its own tonearm or I'd add a decent modern tonearm that fits your budget, if you have a budget.
Rega P3 or MoFi or Technics 1200GR table
Sky’s the limit on the cart, but a good MM can be had in the $200-$500 range that will keep you happy I’m sure. I myself will likely get a Audio Technica VM540ML very soon to replace my old Shure M97xE
phono pre-amp, I like the Schiit Mani, but I’ve heard good things about the UTurn Pluto. (Would like to get a Manley Chinook if I could - tube phono - joy! But that is out of my price range)
other than the main items get what I think are MANDATORY accessories:
-Onzow Zero Dust (keeps the needle immaculate )
-Record Cleaner (I like the Record Doctor V, since it has vacuum and only $199) - this may be the most important item of all to keep your records dead quiet
-Carbon Fiber Brush
A nice to have, but probably not necessary
- Milty Zero Stat anti-static gun
-White gloves for record handling - jk, lol...
What's "inexpensive"? What's your budget? Are you open to used?
It sounds like the Cayin only does MM cartridges? If so, the suggestion for a Hana SL (and many other MC cartridges) is not a good one. You could get by with the Hana SH (the high output version) but might want to stick to MM. There are some very good ones out there.
I would not buy a thing at this point if you are on the fence -- do you have a dealer who would be willing to loan you a better than entry level set up for a week or so? And where are you going to get records to listen to? Buy them and get rid of them if you decide it isn't for you? I assume you have some friends who'd be willing to provide some records for you to play temporarily....
I'm not trying to be negative about this-- I've been playing LPs all my life (well, since I was a child) and am fairly well 'invested' in the medium. Ultimately, that means money in records. Not just gear. Part of this is meant to be fun- looking for better sounding pressings, finding stuff in bins, not just hitting "BUY" on the latest remaster.
I'd also be concerned that the total cheapy stuff probably isn't going to give you any sense of the potential of the medium. Nor will some records, no matter how how heavy the vinyl weight or fresh off the press remaster. (Nothing against re-do's, some actually do sound better than early pressings).
In other words, I'm not sure you can get a real sense of what the potential is by dipping your toe in tentatively. So, see if you can get a dealer to loan you something decent and set it up for you and get a few good records to try. In the long run, it may be cheaper to pay for a dealer's time to do this than for you to buy something mediocre, declare every one who is into records delusional and then try to sell what you bought.
Bill is right, I think. Also, I don't quite understand your reasons for trying vinyl. If you seek the highest sound quality, I would suggest improving the rest of the system and then add analog source maybe.
No rush, records will still be here. Speaking of records' cost, in my case it varies from $1 to $150 plus shipping. And yeah not playing records at all is better than playing dirty records.
To the OP - Here’s the my view on this...
If I had not already had an investment in albums and a turntable, I would have given up on vinyl long ago.
As it is, I have spent lots on upgrades, cartridges, phono stages and other tweaks to get my vinyl rig to the level of performance where it is now.
I probably buy more vinyl than digital music at present, but that tends to go in cycles.
So I have to ask - why start now?
The learning curve is steep and time consuming and the outlay can be significant and if you do not "evolve" with with the many aspects of a vinyl rig, you may simply lose interest after a very short while.
OR, the alure of vinyl will grab you and you too will spend lots of time/effort/$$$
From a convenience perspective digital is the way to go, but when I want to relax with a glass of my favourite scotch, for some reason - vinyl is generally my choice.
However, I also have some stunning digital tracks that stir up the same emotions.
Just another opinion
freediver....I agree with much of the above regarding all the caveats about the expense and time consuming “costs” in albums IF you are seriously desirous of a quality system. I began with a much more basic system about 6 years ago and am now on my fourth turntable and lots of other peripherals (which equals $$). But with that said I don’t think there is anything wrong with starting out basic. It’s just fun! In fact I just bought my daughter a fully automatic turntable for $100. She just buys used albums for under $5 each and loves the whole “vinyl” experience. So starting out basic is in my opinion just fine. Don’t think, however, that it will be anywhere near the sound what higher quality gear will provide. If you enjoy the ritual and tactile experience then you can always move up the vinyl ladder. Good luck.
You don't mention the investment you are willing to make for this experiment other than "inexpensive" which is subjective. Therefore, assuming a budget based on your other equipment and stated goals, I recommend a Clearaudio Concept new or used. Its pretty much plug and play and I think has enough performance for you to judge if you want to commit to the medium. You will have everything else you need.
All of us old timers are comfy with vinyl so a long journey with turns and tweaks, plus a library handy gives many of us satisfaction. You may not, with an entry level setup achieve an improvement over your digital, but there may be something you hear that gives you some encouragement.
I hope so, it can be really great.
There are many on here that know more about gear so there will be no end to suggestions.
The key is to be as specific as possible with your questions.
I actually read topics on this site for about a year before purchasing anything.
To the OP - Here’s the my view on this...
I mostly agree with all of this. I grew up in the digital age though my first albums were on cassette. I got into vinyl after reading endless claims of its superiority to digital. Is it? Well, I find it can be, but it takes a darn good analog system to get there - not gonna happen for under $3K with new gear. Even then, it’s still highly dependant on the mastering and pressing quality.
The biggest advantage of analog over Redbook CD or hi-res downloads is the lack of digital "glare." I’ve discovered that much of that digital "glare," "glassiness," "hash" (choose your term) can be well mitigated with a Non-oversampling, filterless DAC - and it doesn’t have to be an expensive one either.
Almost forgot... YMMV
Freediver, please go buy a U-Turn or Project or Rega all in one and ignore the people who try to scare you off. I have an 1974 AR-XB with a Grace 707 and Ortofon OM1 and 1983 Linn LP12 with a Basik LVX and LPGear AT95SA that both sound great to this day.(I know, declassé) The guys on forums who don’t encourage experimentation at ALL levels are so beyond enjoying music, it seems, that they forget their first rig and joy it brought them. I still listen to records that I have had since 1970, some of them bought used then. Everybody go turn up your system and Enjoy the Music!
The AR-XB resides with a KnightKit 40W tube amp built by my Dad in 1960, refurbed 7-8 years ago, and Smaller Advent Loudspeakers, from my all USA days. The LP12 lives with a vintage all-Linn system, Akurate Kontrol, AV5125, Aktiv Keilidhs. I enjoy both systems, as well as a Linn Classic + Kans mini-rig.
If you want a basically turn key no muss no fuss vinyl starter system, I suggest U Turn Audio, which is what I did. You can configure the turntable on the web. I suggest having a separate phono preamp and not one built in. So you can order either the U Turn phono pre with your turntable or the Schiit Mani. I recommend the latter. More flexible with MC carts later when you want to upgrade and will resale easier than the Pluto. Order the Orbit turntable with the Ortofon 2M Blue. A nice cartridge. If they have a better one and you want it, go for it. U Turn will mount it and configure it. When the turntable arrives, you can take it out of the box, hook it up and start playing records. You can also order AQ phono cables from U Turn. I can’t imagine anything easier to get into vinyl. I enjoyed my system and have since advanced into other equipment. Good luck.
Seriously do like one other mention buy an entry level Project or Rega and have some fun!
We need more people into vinyl.
Also don’t think you cannot have some good fun with that set up, as you defiantly can. some good points from the rest but I think there is lots of fun to be had at the entry level and you will know if you want more or not.
Another option is to see if you have a vintage audio shop locally, that can be a great way to start as well. There are some very good tables from the 70’s 80’s for well under your budget.
I have a vintage audio shop where I am that even has a good used record section. If you have something similar it could be an easy one stop shopping spree.
With either of the above you wont lose much reselling if you don’t like vinyl. But don’t let the other scare you away too fast ;-). You may have some good fun with it and then you can go from there with better rigs.
There is something about the whole ritual of finding a record cleaning it playing each side through that’s somewhat more satisfying then skipping through tracks with a push button or finger swipe. You put a record side on and tend to listen through the whole side discovering tracks you never knew about. You tend to listen in a more involving way, then with tidal for example. You don’t tend to skip parts of a song or the last 20 second to get to the next like you may do with digital (mostly I find I do that sort of stuff when streaming).
People always talk about the sound but very rarely do they talk about the whole experience. Taken as whole vinyl can be a more involving way to listen.
In my humble experience of course. Ok Ok I’ve been a vinyl user since 1975 so that may influence my opinion.
No offense intended to the diehard vinyl partisans, but this discussion would be incomplete without reference to this classic New Yorker cartoon:
I fell in love with records and started collecting with "Good Night Irene" by Howlin' Wolf around 1950. My parents wanted to disown me because I kept sittin' on the records and breaking the damn things. 78s ya know? Anyway I was in my terrible twos. True story. I have thousands of records and 5 turntables, 4 phono stages, a couple of dozen cartridges, a record cleaning machine and on it goes. This morning I bought 23 more records. As in today alone. This is a serious kind of thing ya know? Well most of your know that. But you know what? Advice to the op who is looking to find out about vinyl without making a big commitment and not wanting any hassles? That is tough. If you were my own son, try and find a friend who has vinyl and hang with him or her a bit to see what you think. It is sort of like sailing. Some times it is better to crew on a boat than to own a boat. Ya know? Try before you buy.
Let me put this another way. My main vinyl play back system: TT #1-$4K; TT#2-$6K; Cartridges: $8K, $6k, $1.6K, $1.2K; Phono Stage $18K, oh and a Sugar Cube $2K. Not to mention the protractors and deionizers and several tracking force gauges and on and on and on. Yes it sounds good, but not necessarily better than my digital rig that costs $2K all in. Vinyl is a lifestyle and a commitment. It is a passion, it is not rational. The records warp, get scratched, are noisier than digital at best, can be inordinately expensive to buy, collectibles can be nearly impossible to find, they take up a lot of space in your home, are heavy to move, difficult to store and maintain, and have been known to (ahem) strain relationships. God help me I love 'em.
No scaring off, I simply don't think the man is motivated enough to get into this, perhaps not enough funds for it either.
I returned to analog ten years ago and had very few records in the closet before that. But I really wanted to return and I did.
I would say, speaking new equipment, it is $1k for table/arm/cartridge, $500 for the phono stage, $750 for a cleaning machine with fluids, brushes, stylus cleaner, record sleeves etc, $200 - $250 tonearm cable. And for the records...
If you go cheap, your robbing yourself of good sounding vinyl. I went cheap with my first TT and record cleaning methods. I hated the sound. Spotify sounded better. Cd's were even bigger change. I saved for rainy day fund, for about a year and bought a better TT and record cleaner and accessories. Spent about 6 or 7k on that. Then spent another 3k on vinyl. This hobby is not cheap. But once your get set-up you do not need to fiddle with anything for awhile. Then the addiction follows......
Since you have an MM phono stage, stick initially to a MM cart. I really like the grados, and the "back" or Green" is a steal at about $75-100. I actually have a Green is a very hgih end (albeit legacy) table/arm combo and I'm surprised at how good it can be.
Several companies make integrated turntables. Rega is a good one. I don't know what you call reasonable. Noticed a rec for a direct drive turntable. The poster did not justify why. belt drives isolate the platter form motor vibrations, but can be more susceptible to slippage and speed variations. Most better 'tables are on fact belt drive and i would have nothing else.
here's the simple fact: setup is as or more important than the hardware. Level. Aligned. really aligned. if you don't like to do such, buy it where they will rally get it right, and make sure the table is perfectly level, and on a solid foundation that wont wobble, vibrate, etc.
oh, one more thing. You want cheap but want to hear the magic of vinyl. While you are at it try being rich on a small, limited income.
Its a tall order. Vinyl is a fragile medium. Its why digital is so popular - vinyl is a PITA and most often sounds awful. But it CAN be magical. Rarely magical and cheap though.
Yeah, that's why I'll never be into vinyl. That's also why I'll never understand it.
Granted, I've never heard the "magic" because I've never had or experienced a really good system. It is perfectly possible if I ever did hear that magic I'd be drawn in. Who knows.
It just seems off putting to me that there is a medium that, according to vinyl-philes you absolutely must without exception spend a bunch of money AND be into the fiddly OCD aspects of it AND enjoy that aspect of it for it to be worth it.
I'm not knocking it. I'm glad people like it. But it almost meets clinical criteria for a mental health issue. ;-)
On a more practical note: I have an old Sony TT with a $100 Grado Black cart and a $50 phono-pre-amp running into my otherwise high end system. This allows me to enjoy the few old records I have and to enjoy an occasional new record when the urge to waste money overcomes me. With this set up there is no "magic" whatsoever but perfectly suitable for occasional enjoyment as long as the expectation of "magic" is not obsessed over.
And for the record, my old Sony TT sits on a slab of marble which sits on sorbothane feet. Seriously.
@n80- I’m not advocating a ’spend money’ approach, but reality intrudes. (I think we are now well beyond the OP’s mandate). Older turntables can be fine. But once you get into changing arms, playing with different cartridges (right now, I’m playing with an old Monster Alpha Genesis that was rebuilt- it tracks like a motha, but doesn’t have the midrange of my long in the tooth Airtight Supreme, nor did I expect it to), cleaning records and buying decent playing copies (bin cheapies can often sound better than new re-masters but condition and pressing are outcome determinative), you are unavoidably deep. I’m sure there are people who can buy one of those USB turntables of the type sold at record stores, some less than stellar copies of used records or new reissues and be perfectly happy, but I don’t think that reveals the potential of the medium.
With some exceptions for people that jumped into LP playing in the last 10 years, I think most of us have been doing this a while-- not that this means much in terms of knowledge- but I did the bulk of my record acquisitions before the prices went nuts and clean copies were hard to find among all the dross now being thrown up online; there is as much luck as there is knowledge in finding those gems on vinyl. (I happened on a sealed promo of Nathan Davis’ 6th Sense in the 11th House purely by luck when it popped up as a new listing during a bout of insomnia-- not an easy find). Some of the golden era hard rock, from UK Island, Vertigo, Decca, Philips, etc. are now stratospherically priced; there the reissue makes sense if only to have a copy, assuming the record has been reissued legitimately and many of those are not particularly great sounding compared to the early pressings. The knowledge of records alone keeps people who do this full time constantly busy. (I’m a dilettante, and retired, so I have the time, but it is a constant learning curve, and an enjoyable one for me-- for someone who doesn’t want to bother it is probably an unnecessary headache). It isn’t about the "experience" or the "lifestyle"- it is a combination of learning about music that has been neglected, not reissued, pressing variations, how to shop vinyl (no magic formula I’ve found- it’s time, effort and knowledge which can be acquired) as well as sonic outcomes.
I only started ’doing’ digital recently and have found a lot of good stuff on the silver disc, musically and sonically, so it also isn’t about the vinyl vs. __ format arguments for me either.
If I were doing this from scratch, I’d probably shop a quality used table with appropriate arm. But there’s still the issue of records--which is the biggest cost long term. And doing this in a way that results in a good sonic outcome does require some money, time and effort. Can you skirt one of the three? Sure. But at what cost, given the results? I think that’s up to the individual.
That’s why I wouldn’t advocate diving into this with plug and play expectations on the cheap. Not an elitist attitude, just reality as I know it.
OCD- sure. You’ve mentioned that you’ve tracked cars. Would you take a stock rental car to a track (forget the old Hertz Shelby) compared to what you did to work the suspension and do whatever you felt was necessary to maximize your results, even if done on a cost-effective basis? Just another hobby with deep crevasses and accumulated knowledge. If done for enjoyment, rather than making money, or getting all myopic on the details to the point where you aren’t using the thing as intended, that’s where I part ways with the collectors, the garage queen owners and the snob factor. I actually play those thousand dollar plus records. But, would I go out today and buy them at those prices? No way.