Budget splitting in analog systems is not linear - it will depend on the total expenditure.
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i agree with Microstrip....it depends.
it might be easier to offer helpful assistance if you shared a little about what particular gear you have in mind and an overall budget. as this is your first post and there is no posting history to look at to get an idea of where you are at, your question is very open ended for more specific answers.
OK, let's change the question. Where should most of the money go...cartridge, phonostage, or table? BTW I have a Rega P3, Grado gold and Bellari VP129. All budget gear. What is the right first step for an upgrade so I can get a bump in performance and not have to wait for an upgrade to everything...which will happen but it might take me a year for the overhaul. The rest of the system is Thiel 3.5 and a Cary sli80.
I would start with the best table you can afford. Usually you can get the arm in a package deal. Putting on an arm of your choice is something you might do once you have more experience with the gear.
Cartridges are small, fragile things, and unfortunately they do not get more robust as the prices go up. They also need to be retipped or replaced every few years, and even replaceable styli on moving magnets can cost half the initial cartridge outlay. So don't forget to figure in these replacement costs and your pain level for breakage.
A good phono preamp can make a huge difference, but doesn't have to be expensive. It's also the easiest analog component to change when you're looking for a different sound.
Figure out what cartridge you want, then find a table/tonearm that can handle it. Get the table first. When you have the money, get the cartridge. And when you really want to hear it sing, get the phonostage. Spend as much as you can on the table, it's the foundation of your system, everything else can be built around it.
I moved the RB300 arm from my Planar 3 to a Gyro SE, which was a huge upgrade in quietness (both less mechanical noise and less surface noise retrieval) and soundstage stability. The Rega arms are good enough to keep if you can get a good deal on an armless table (figuring in the loss of resale value of the whole table + arm).
I disagree with suggestions so far. With the TT you have and the cart, I would DEFINITELY get a better phono section.
The P3 is not a 'entry' table. Plenty of serious vinyl enthusiasts use it. The cart you have is OK
The table is a damn fine basic table, and if you like the sound of Grado, then you have a good combination there.
(you could easily go to a $500 to $700 cartridge later on your Rega P3 and be very happy all over again (if you get a good phono prepre.) Your current phono section is a really basic entry level one, and any used $500. preamp is going to bring your system to a whole new level.
To go for a top TT and cart with that cheap Bellari is foolish IMO.
Anyway, that is my suggestion.
Rega P5 with Benz Glider, to a Bryston 1.5/BBP-26
Kuzma Stogi S with Dynavector 17D3 to Audio Research SP-15 I use just for the tube phono section at this time, to the Bryston BP-26 also.
This is a little complicated especially not knowing your budget and how far in your upgrading you are prepared to go in the near future. But I agree with those who suggest you get the best table you can. Good $200 cartridge will sound OK with $2000 table, $1000 arm and $400/$500 phono stage. With decent cables of course. You could also consider voltage stabilizer/conditioner or/and motor controller. Turntable can last for a very long time.
I personally would probably wait and upgrade everything at once and would spend at least 50% on the table alone.
If you're a Grado fan, with your current system I would first audition the Grado PH-1 phono stage. I've never heard anything better with their own cartridges. Next, I'd look at upgrading the turntable. The Well Tempered Record Player is a great, modestly-priced platform for Grado cartridges, and the Grado tracks like a champ in the Record Player arm. In terms of PRaT, the WTRP offers a somewhat different balance of strengths, with pacing its particular virtue but with still very good rhythm; like the Rega, timing is a relative weakness. After that, I could recommend the budget-end Statement Platinum1--the low-output Grado really does offer some refinements worth hearing.
Again. Think about the cartridge you want, then find the arm/table that can handle it BEST. Go to:
for a nice explanation about cartridge/arm matching with examples. Maybe your table/arm will work well after all and you can upgrade that piece last.
What you have isn't bad, but why make a lateral upgrade? Maybe a better table/arm does less damage to your vinyl collection? Maybe it's quieter? Ideally, it should work well with your dream cartridge.
Regarding the phono stage, I think that should be determined by the cartridge you choose. For example, I read that the Grado cartridges sounded better with SS preamps than with tubed preamps. The same article/opinion also felt that MC cartridges sounded better with tubed preamps than SS units. And if you go with MC, you'll need to match the cartridge's output with an appropriate amplifier gain and step up transformer. If you stay with Grado cartridges, they make 2 versions, high and low output. I can tell you personally that with the low output models, your choice in preamps is not that vast. They need a preamp with at least 56db gain, and there aren't too many of those around. I have both versions of the Sonata1 and a Grado PH1, and I prefer the low output Sonata1.
With a MC cartridge, I think you have more choices out there between step up transformers and phono stages. But you should really make sure the MC cartridge mates well with your tonearm. Therefore...get an idea of your dream cartridge, choose your table/arm accordingly. Hopefully, the cartridge you have will work with your new table. Maybe your dream cartridge will work with your old table. It would be a shame to get the new preamp first, then have to toss it because it didn't match well with your cartridge. Preamp should be last. Cartridge vs table/arm depends on whether your dream cartridge will work with your present table.
I haven't had a grado myself but I have read in forums several times that they tend not to match well with Rega's due to motor interference, resulting in hum. That said the pickup's life's finite and you are going to replace it eventually anyway. Otherwise I tend to mostly agree with Elizabeth. The table is capapble of acommodating better gear at both ends. So I would say upgrade the phono stage first and get something able to work with both MM and MC carts unless you want to buy an SUT later as well (that in itself is not at all a bad thing, but it adds another element). For $400-500 used you can pick up a Lehman SE and they sound terrific, belt suspenders and a bag o chips.
Proportions are arcane to me, but I would guess 25, 25,25, 25 to be fair. Generally, and I may get spanked for this by some, I would stay away from used pickups only. Tables are also very tricky to ship.
Myself I went with a good pre with built in MM/MC phono and couldn't be happier.
Since this precise question has been in the forefront of the minds of lazy audio thinkers everywhere, the exact subjective AND objective optimal percentages were calculated by a cadre of respected physicists and mathematicians working for a special United Nations panel convened for this purpose.
The figures are:
Are you for real..???
"The best bang for the buck" is an analog front end in which the separate components are well matched to each other within a certain budget. If they are not well matched, adding money won't help much. Cartridge, arm, table, cable (unless integral to the arm) and phono stage. They must work well as a system. Don't forget precise cartridge set up including loading. My personal goal is maximum information retrieval and neutrality.
A good dealer can help a lot.