VPI MK III + Alphason Xenon or Thorens 160 + Opal?

Good day,

I am about to take my first leap into vinyl and have been offered a nice deal on a Thorens TD160, fully rebuilt, with an Alphason Opal and a Grado Prestige Silver for $350 CAD. Also available is a VPI MK III with an Alphason Xenon and a ClearAudio Auram Beta S. The price difference I believe is between 400-600 CAD (I can't recall exactly).

My intent is to eventually get something along the lines of a Gyrodec, Spacedeck or a VPI Scoutmaster. I am wondering what I should expect as differences between these two tables and how each would likely compare to the ones I hope to purchase?

At the moment I have the option of buying a Clearaudio Basic or sticking with the Little Rat and saving for the Ear 834P. I don't mind subpar sound now when I'm on my way to purchasing bigger and better in the near future. Opting for the LittleRat over the extra 600 bones for the Basic leaves me with money to grab the Ear. But...I am really wondering if I should just go with the Thorens setup, enjoy my intro to vinyl and save for the better table.

Money is an issue, but if the sound would be night and day better with the VPI kit then I would consider it.

Thank you for your input and time.
My first decent turntable (25 years ago) was a TD160 with a Hadcock and Dynavector moving coil cartridge. It sounded great then and in its day the Thorens didn't receive the praise and recognition that it merited, largely due to the over-hyped Linn LP12.

Do a Google search on "thorens tweaks" and you will find that the TD160 has massive upside potential. It's also worthy of a better arm and moving coil cartridge.

The best investment you can make in analog replay is the time you put in to learning how to set up the cart/arm/deck yourself. (There are very few dealers who really know how to set up a deck to sound good - too often they just set them up with manufacturers' mid-range settings - i.e overhang, VTA, VTF.

It's a cheap entry point, you can play with the set up without much risk of trashing expensive components and you can have a lot of fun buying and trying different (used) cartridges whether on ebay or here.

Just because the VPI is new and promoted by the manufacturer and dealers, it doesn't necessarily follow that you will enjoy your vinyl on it anymore than on the TD160.
Thanks for the insight Flyingred. The price is actually 1500 not 950ish as I had mentioned originally. Even so, your points are well taken and considering this is my entry into the realm, perhaps it would be more prudent to go lower end first. Gain some experience, and then afterwards look to higher end equipment. I hate the upgrade path and always want to avoid it as much as possible, that said, vinyl is tricky and I would rather break cheap gear than expensive gear.
Zanth -- the price differential is very high and I second the cheaper, Thorens, choice. Apart from the fun of tweaking the Thorens, you have money left over to buy a good alignment protractor with which you can set up the cartridge precicely and quickly -- including the overhang setting (Clearaudio makes one, there are others).

And, of course, you have money left over to buy music.