It's all important. As you say different folks, different chains. Mine goes turntable, tonearm, and a tie between phonostage and cartridge. I've heard cheap carts sound amazing on great platforms, but I've never heard a high-priced cart sound good on a cheap platform.
As a 20 year professional in the high end audio industry, Dopogue is correct.
A turntable must isolate the phono cart from internal and external vibrations which will distort the output of the phono cartridge. Once a cart is isolated can you hear what the cartridge is capable of doing. So the most important step is the table.
Once you have a good table then come the arm which must drain away any extranous vibration. The arm must be frictionless so the cart can track. So the arm is next.
Then and only then can you hear the cartridge.
The better the cartridges resolution the better the phono stage so they phono stage and cartridge really are equal in their importance.
Most important unit is the Phono Stage.
Usually I do not like the term "chain of importance" but it is tempting nevertheless......
Based on my 3 decades in high-end analog audio:
1) the phonostage - all the more if a LOMC is used
2) a rather close 2nd: the TT
3) much more important than the individual class of each component inidvidually seen: the match of cartridge and tonearm
I see lots of folks with inexpensive arms using expensive moving coils and living with noise and hum which overwhelm my poor ears. I am running a $250 moving magnet cart with a $ 2000 turntable, a $1000 arm, $400 silver interconnects fed into a $2000 phono stage. On a quiet recording, the groove rush is inaudible and I hear no mistracking. I agree 100% with Dopogue.
What you guys think of:
$1500-$2000 cart, $1900-$3000 (arm+table), $3000-$5000 phono stage
yes, this is quite good. Personally I would save some more money and would go for a used quality cartridge. Expensive Cartridges are in general overrated. In a top System you would be amazed how good a "cheap" Lyra Dorian, Zyx 100FS (or others) can sound.
Room acoustics and speakers, regardless of whether the source is analog or digital.
Dear Nolitan: IMHO the whole subject is to understand the individual role of each analog link and its relationship between them more that the $$$$ for each one ( of course that money always is important. ) like your last post.
I agree with Syntax and Dertonarm that the most critical link is the phono stage for MM and MC cartridges. Is here in this phono stage where the cartridge signal must pass for a complex and " heavy " process to be amplified ( gain up. ) to a level that can be handle for the line stage and then to the amplifier, this is one of the important jobs of the phono stage. The other important one is that in that phono stage the cartridge signal has to be re-equalized through a inverse RIAA eq. stage to attain that the cartridge signal that goes to the line stage be with a flat frequency response.
In both of these phono stage process the cartridge signal ( always ) " suffer " a degradation ( different degradation forms: noise, distortions, colorations,etc, etc ) during the signal phono stage " manipulation " .
The main target on a phono stage is that the cartridge signal comes out with minimum lose/add whole distortions trying to preserve the cartridge signal original integrity.
But this is more easy to say that to attain that's why always is desirable to own the best quality performance phono stage we can.
In second place IMHO the tonearm/cartridge match is a crucial audio link ( together not separate or tonearm+TT like you post. ) because the same cartidge perform different in different tonearms ( everything the same. ) and we have to match the cartridge and find the tonearm that can make that the cartridge show its best quality performance.
Then the TT and tonearm internal wiring/headshell wires and tonearm IC cables as the TT/tonearm/cartridge set-up.
It is obvious that all analog links are important ( any ) and we can assess this through our each audio system experiences that when we " touch ", making tiny changes, in one analog link the whole analog quality performance change too.
As Dopogue post: +++++ " different folks, different chains. " +++++
IMHO there are and exist opinions just opinions but no absolute rules or only one " road ".
Regards and enjoy the music,
Raul's experience mirrors my own, with one minor exception.
(I put the tone arm cabling with the importance of the tone arm, rather than with the turntable. I've heard some mediocre cabling on an otherwise decent tone arm, and after upgrading it, the performance was elevated tremendously.)
But of course, as it always is with assembling an audio system, the weakest link in your audio chain will always be the limiting factor. All of these items are very important, and upgrading one well beyond the others will yield limited benefits. So my chain of importance would be as follows:
1a. Phono Stage (and especially so with LOMC cartridges)
1b. Tone arm, (including cabling) and Cartridge
(Notice that they are all number 1 in importance, with just subtle subcategories! :-)
My two cents worth anyway.
There is no single chain of importance that you can follow alone to assure good results.
IF the gear is decent and you set it up correctly and each part integrates well, it will sound good. Otherwise it will not.
Once you set up any decent gear correctly, changing cartridge and/or phono stage will make the biggest difference in the resulting sound.
I think the turntable is the most important componet in an 'analoge chain' and this is where one should start. The success of a record playback system depends more on its mechanical interfaces/synergy than on its electrical componet. If I had to make an order of effect it would go like this:
Cartridge/arm matching is important as is cart mounting, alignment and tracking angle.
That being said I would pick my table first,then cart,and pick an arm based on the cart. Once you've got that together a dedicated phono could be something to extract that last ounce of performance out of your rig. Top notch electronics can't make up for poor sources, but a good source can make a pedestrian rig sing.(Isn't that why CDs took over in the mainstream?)
I do think the cart is responsible for the sound and resolution of your system and the turntable/arm responsible for extracting the most out of the cart. That's why I started with the TT.
I agree with the above suggestions regarding the phono stage, your budget could get you a good one new or used.
As Syntax points out next inline is the record player.
One that comes to mind thats well within your budget and looks to be interesting is the Well Tempered Amadeus which comes with arm.
I understand the more expensive GT Amadeus is identical to the Amadeus in everyway except for looks and finish.
My niece is replacing her current table at some point soon, Rega P3 and the Amadeus is on a very short list.
Since I have more money in my phonostage (Aesthetix Rhea, $4K MSRP) than anywhere else in the vinyl setup, I really should be in the phonostage-first camp, I guess :-)
But after going from a VPI TNT Mk. II with SDS to a replinthed idler-drive Lenco TT that made a truly profound improvement, I'll stick with my original chain.
And I really don't think the Rhea sounds much if any better than my old much-modded NYAL Moscode "SuperIt" (on MM carts) though it sure is a lot more flexible and user-friendly. Dave
Deep Pockets is first!!!!!!!
I learned first hand how important the TT is in the analog chain. When the VPI Aries first came out I went to the dealer to check it out. He didn't have the Aries but he had an Aries Jr. on display. The Aries Jr. was an Aries with the HW 19 Jr's platter and bearing. Everything else was the same. The Aries Jr. must have been a very short lived model because I never saw one before or after that one. The dealer said that if I wanted that one he would give me great deal and would then order the TNT 4 or 5 (I forget which one it was) bearing and platter and that would bring it up to a full blown Aries. When I got the Aries Jr. home I was very disappointed. The sound was very thin and I had almost no bass. I called the dealer and he assured me that everything would be okay with the new platter and bearing. Quite frankly I didn't believe him. I thought I had made a very big mistake. The following week the platter and bearing came in, the dealer installed them and I took the TT home. Everything else in my system was the same. The only difference was the platter and bearing. What do you know. The dealer was right. Everything filled out. I had a nice full bodied sound and the missing bass was there. It was then that I realized how important the TT is to the analog system. I don't have golden ears. There would have to be a pretty big difference for me to notice and believe me there was. A chain is no stronger than it's weakest link and the TT is the first link in the analog chain.
realistic expectations....after that everything is a circlejerk.
I think this analog analysis is a tad microscopic. The most important piece of matter is the record itself. If it is terribly worn out, scratched up by a cat in heat, cracked or have moguls for warps it really can't sound good. It relys on - no good great indiffferent or terribly bad cartridge, or arm, or cable, or phono stage, plinth bearing spindle shelf footers and dampers will be able to fix that.
Trust me I do not edorse or not endorse blue white hot stompers or whatever. The record firstly must be in good shape.
If the music content extracted from the vinyl or polymer, or wax etc. is something you really dislike, nothing in any part of the chain that you change will matter. In all probability you will not even trouble yourself, to play your rig if the music sucked.
No matter if a system happens to have utterly perfect synergy, is an assault on the; cost is no object, the top of world, state of the art, all time best equipment. Hearing a dreadful bit of cacophany that someone accidently decided was music, and do actually enjoy.
May send you howling the blood curdling screams of a severely tortured soul, at mach speed out of the room.It can never be compensated for ( watch it-that sounds like phono stage stuff) by any gear known to man or alien, whatsoever, period, end of story, good bye.
If I were to start over again. The entire chain would go like this. For analog only playback.
1a. Consider 2 arm table.
2a. Additional arm to be mounted later. Stereo/mono play back.
3a. With 2 inputs.
8. Cables interconnects & speaker.
9. Power Conditioner.
10. Power cords.
Records between everything.
thanks for the input guys. So, if we are to put this in reality, maybe you guys can suggest some good combos to start with based on the theories and experiences you guys have.
maybe a tt system w/ cart, table, arm, phono stage and tonearm cabling for $5000-$8,000.
Ex: Lyra Dorian-> VPI Classic with original tonearm-> modwright phono stage-> nordost tonearm cabling
this is getting interesting.
"maybe you guys can suggest some good combos"
That's the way to do it!
As has been stated above, everything is important.
It then, IMO, becomes a question of value for money. As a result of that, it becomes a question of where you focus your money.
Once again, IMO of course, it then goes this way.
Good turntables are not cheap (even used). Good phono stages are not cheap, particularly for LOMC (even used).
Good tonearms can be had at a more reasonable cost (new or used).
Good cartridges can be had at a more reasonable cost (new-I wouldn't consider buying a used cartridge personally, but to each his own, although I do think a "tweaked" cartridge is the way to go).
Therefore, IMO once again, strictly on a cost basis, the following formula should apply:
Tied for first (within reason): Turntable and Phono Stage
I find that vinyl is the most important part of the analog chain....without it, the other parts are meaningless, IMHO.
I think the phono stage is the most important because without it you can't play a record(sarcasim).This is like saying the record is the most important. Yes, the vinyl is the reason for the playback system but isn't that stating the obvious? And puting a playback system together is alot like puting a ball team together like, let's say the Yankees. Just because you have the highest payroll or the best player at a position doesn't mean you'll have the best performing team (maybe this analogy isn't quite right considering NY's success this year). Jaybo is right, your expectations should be realistic. The turntable is responsible for bass extension, the rhythm and pace, and what makes analog sound better than digital. It affects the ultimate S/N ratio either adding noise or getting out of the way and letting the arm/cart do its thing. Belt drive is the way to go. Try reading some of the old Linn Lit. It makes sense.
I personally don't feel any part of the chain is more important than the other. Imagine our audio chain being a bunch of filters all lined up in a row. Depending on the filter positioning will determine what will get through. The LP is the liquid. If you have a filter different than the others at any point of the chain then you will be hearing the filter. This of course includes speakers. IMO speakers can be more important than anything. If you source (in this case analogue front end) is better than your speakers can resolve, it truly won't matter. And getting to Kr4s point of room, I would add room/speaker as a single unit. I would match a system that has complimentary equipment based on what you have heard. That is unless you plan on upgrading in the future, then match a system at a higher level, and buy th part you can afford and then upgrade other areas as it permits. But getting a great phono stage without a well matched cartridge only gives you a great phono stage. The cartridge will still only be as good as the arm / turntable etc. So make a decision to be close to equal. Now in terms of money, a lot will depend on the type of cartridge or sound you prefer that will determine appropriate matching equipment.
I think one also needs to look at the upgrade path as well as sonic order of merit. Having an great table or arm to be the foundation for even a modest cartridge will yield excellent results. While I was waiting for my Strain Gauge cart to be delivered (I'm a dealer) , I used one of Soundsmith's $300 MM carts on my Raven One/Phantom.
I was shocked at how good the cart sounded. So perhaps the cart should be modest at first, since it can be upgraded later as more money allows, and you always have the modest cart as a backup.
...some analog guru said, that the most important is the phono stage, then the table, arm, cart
I the grand scheme of things I would agree with the guru.
BUT, few of us really have a good phono (we may think we do, but try a Boulder or a FM Acoustics on yr system...) which are invariably (ridiculously) expensive.
Furthermore few of us achieve the right loading.
SO, I join our friend above in putting "deep pockets" at top position.
Then comes phono, TT, arm, etc. Don;t forget the X?@! wire!
Well, the answers will be always different, because everyone has made his own experiences. Let's say, everyone of us started with a budget System, quite nice and the "upgrade" started. Upgrade means, more money--> better result.
After a while everyone thinks (not everyone, but most), "hey, I invested money, I got better results, so the good units have to be expensive...."
(or some think about ---> what's the background...why? What's the ability from the unit and what it can/should do (better..)
or others rely on the "opinion" of the "Competent" (writers, Designers, friends etc.)
But when these are all so clever, why there still are so huge differences in Playback?
Let's think about:
This very small signal has to be amplified, high gain, no distortion, Soundstage, depth, Body etc., the Illusion of being there has to be created..
Can everyone do that?
No, this is really difficult, only a few have superior knowledge, the main reason why there are so many average Phonostages are out there. Price is no guarantee for top quality. I use a Vendetta, made 1990 and this one is better than everything I listened to( true tone, depth, soundstage, speed, focus, Image...) in the past 10 years.
Difficult to make? No. There are endless units available...
Everyone does it, parts are Standard, most invest everything they have in the Look and weight. "This is the sign for a real serious machine" :-)
Some Marketing, some Hype, good profit for Dealers and it is done.
How about suspension? Internal, External? Bearing quality? Different materials in the Platter? Damped Armboards?
Simple answer: Too complicated, too expensive, no Knowledge. the main reason why most TT's are more or less at the same level , 3000$ or 30000S
any Designs out there which outperform AT ONCE a Fr-64s/FR-66s or a Phantom (the only obe which is clever continued in its design)?
Piece of wood on strings for 7k? or a piece made from Kevlar?....
Easy choice, good Arms are available for 2k used
What is the difference between 2000$ and 8000$
ok, no war, but here you can really burn money.
The Designer has the same time to make it, he can waste his time with cheap ones or with better ones (which are normally only better in selection)
you buy a stone body, here there works needs a little bit longer...
has to be shielded and should be able to carry low level signals without damping or distortion.
Available for 400$ and for 4000$
for those who think that the only way to High End is High Income :-)
Expensive, but inferior Phonostage with a expensive but average Design multi Motor Turntable and a 8k cartridge which will be thrown away when the owner sends it back for "rebuild"
expensive, but really clever made Phonostage with a regular priced clever made Turntable (4k) and a regular, but good designed Tonearm (1.5k) and a second hand cartridge for 1.5k)
I vote for the last
Given that some arms do not work on some tables due to mechanical incompatibility, you can make an argument that you have to look at a complete "record player" as a system. And the same argument is true on the electronics side; some phono stages do not work well with some carts due to electrical incompatibility and some phono stages will not work well w some line stages due to inadequate gain or other issues. So I think you have to assume that all elements has been chosen for compatibility, both electrical and mechanical, and that all items are of more or less equal "quality" (whatever that means). In other words, an upgrade path or resource allocation type model. Then I would say that phono stage is most important, and then the cart. The phono stage for all the reasons noted above. The cart because in my experience, transducers, whether we are talking mechanical to electrical (cart), electrical to mechanical (speaker) and even electrical to visual (video display), have a very significant impact on overall character of a system. As Dopogue said:
"I've heard cheap carts sound amazing on great platforms, but I've never heard a high-priced cart sound good on a cheap platform." . I would just replace cheap with inexpensive.
An argument can also be made that given a good transducer that has no major sins of "commission" (not colored, well balanced throughout its operating range), then good electronics is key. This is akin to the average speakers with very high resolution/excellent electronics will sound better than average electronics with very high resolution/excellent speakers.
Put this all together, and I would opt for an excellent, high resolution phono stage, a good, well balanced/neutral cartridge, a good speed stable turntable and a very good tone arm. In order of expenditure (in relative $, relative to what a middle of road unit of that particular type would cost) I would prioritize as follows:
1. Phono stage
2. Tone arm
Of course if you are VERY susceptible to pitch variation, and/or consider pitch accuracy critical to your enjoyment, then the table and more specifically the motor and speed controller may be elevated in the hierarchy.
An aside to Dopogue/Dave- Not surprised at your comment about the Rhea vs the NYAL Super-IT. At that price ($4k), my experience in head to head comparisons (with several other listeners all agreeing) is that you can do much better than the Rhea, either in standard or SE/NOS dress. For example, the ZYX Artisan, which is a great value right now if Sorasound still has any close-out units, or a used Manley Steelhead would be two very good choices. Also the phono stage in the VAC Ren Mk 2 beat the Rhea, if you would consider changing to a full function pre. I really wanted to like the Rhea due to its flexibility and ergonomics, but unfortunately I was not impressed. Table/cart/arm for all comparisons was Teres 3XX, Tri-p MK VII, ZYX Uni.
Those that say every item in the chain is important are right. There's no possible discussion beyond that correct answer. Now, if I were trying to put together that system I'd listen for musical balance with items inserted into the system and get the best items to match to musical presentation I want.
Now if starting from an entry or mid-level point and if I knew I was going to upgrade further later I'd base the chain with best phone stage I can afford. What follows IMHO is balanced on performance available/costs:
Your great Phono Stage
4. Arm cable
enjoy the music first - every thing beyond that is ego
Dear friens: I would like to add something on the subject.
What is what we have on the market/commercialy in each analog audio link? which is its overall quality performance? how that real quality performance affect the cartridge signal reproduction?
These are my experiences on the whole subject through the last 3-4 years and what I think about:
if we take the TT analog audio link and if we separate by at least one characteristic like the suspension type and two-three price ranges we can assess that the quality performance differences of each TT in its price range/characteristic are minimal and makes ( everything the same ) small differences on the cartridge signal quality sound reproduction.
if we take tonearms and separate for at least one characteristic like pivoted and linear tracking and two-three price ranges we can assess that each tonearm in its price range place has almost the same quality but when we mount the cartridge then the quality cartridge signal sound reproduction change not in tiny proportion but with big differences that many times does not have any relationship with the price each tonearm range place/position.
Almost everyone one of us can assess this when we change the cartridge to other tonearm and souns better and many times we say: " Hey this tonearm is better ", when what is better is not the tonearm by it self but a better cartridge/tonearm match, that's all.
if we take phono stages we have to take at least one characteristic: stand alone and integrated ( phono stage + line stage. ) with 2-3 price ranges too.
Here is where IMHO we have more or in high grade quality performance differences ( as always everything the same. ) in each price range due to an average/mediocre designs and differences between those designs.
Gregm posted: +++++ " BUT, few of us really have a good phono..... " +++++
and I agree because there are only a few first rate designs that along our not in deep know how about makes that the Phono Stage is the weak link in almost any of the analog audio chain in our audio systems.
I hope that in a near future the phono stage link can lower ( by a wide margin ) its differences for the better.
if we take cartridges the " stage " is similar to the tonearm one and only when we match in perfect way the cartridge with the right tonearm we can really heard the cartridge real quality performance ( everything the same. ) and its real differences.
As almost everyone posted: each link is important and no doubt about but for me and due to its today real contribution I have to stay with: Phono stage, tonearm/cartridge and TT in that order. Things can change over the time or system by system due to our overall knowledge on music/sound reproduction and our own priorities.
Regards and enjoy the music,
Swampwalker, I clearly shortchanged my former phonostage. Yes, there was a "SuperIt" (itself modded) at the center of a large box -- as large as the Rhea --fed by a tubed power supply the size of a power amp. So beating it is not a casual feat, and the Rhea is not going anywhere soon. Especially after the last rounds of tube- and cable-rolling (balanced HMS Gran Finale between Rhea and Calypso).
Cheap= inexpensive in my book. Sorry about that :-)
Such a tiny fragile signal that can be so easily corrupt in so many ways, though more so going through the phono stage.
I said good by to a two year old ASR Exclusive phono stage recently.
My focus to replace it certainly will not be anything the audio media slobber over and that includes just about everything else they rave about in this hobby...I couldn't help myself, I had to throw that in.
Yes, the music you listen to and how YOU like it served up ,room, speakers , set up and all the way to wire.
Analogue play back is not easy at the best of times however when everything is 100% all the head aches are quickly forgotten.
Yes, this tiny fragile signal needs to get to your ears unmolested as possible.
Great discussion. I agree that one cannot really approach this without thinking holistically... the entire analog playback chain should be considered a single, musical biosystem.
That said, I do believe that one should start from the foundation of the analog chain, which is the turntable. Cartridges and tonearms should really be considered inseparable, but they are variables more easily accommodated and changed physically. The turntable, less so. Once you have a solid foundation (a TT that you are satisfied with), it becomes a bit easier to discern among many tonearms and cartridges to match with the TT via a natural process of elimination.
Yes, a great phono stage is crucial, but again, selecting the right phono stage to the turntable/tonearm/cart seems a more natural process to me than the other way around. More often than not, people would look for a great phono stage which would bring their TT to greater heights... I've never personally met someone who told me, "I have a killer phono stage and now I must find a suitable turntable to match it"; it's often the other way around.
So for me, this isn't a chain of importance, but of PRACTICAL consideration, which was my personal course:
3. Phono stage/SUT
Everyones opinion here deserves consideration.For once a thread with over 20 posts and not one argument.There is hope for us yet.Now to the question:
I feel that in order to hear what is possible with a great analog front end (turntable,tonearm,cartridge)it must be played though a top flight Phono Stage.
Therefore for me its
Of course along with your preamp,amp,speakers and wires,
your room and ears must be up to the task.
In other words everything is as important as the component it is connected to.
Remember many phono stages require matching to the cartridge in use. This can include gain, load (if fixed or not), SUT gain & impedance matching, and in some cases tube or SS in design. I just don't think we can separate everything. If you upgrade one component then you must make sure whatever you replace it with is synergistic with the remainder of your system.
Excellent thread. Clearly, all the components of an analogue system are important. But, I think it is an inescapable truth that speed stability is essential for good analogue playback. It is with good speed stability that the most basic elements of music can be reproduced correctly. Without it, no amount of any other kind of resolution will let you hear things like groove, feel, and expression in a performance, the way that the performers intended. Rhythm is THE most important element in music.
So, in absolute terms, the turntable has to be the most important.
The most musical system that I have heard so far was an SME/MIT/Magico dealer demo. The front end was an SME 10 tt with the stock 309 arm, stock tonearm cable, a $600 Dynavector cartridge and no special isolation. The phono stage was the top Nagra VPS? Electronics were mid-level Spectral and the speakers were Magico's least expensive V2. I concluded from this listening session that system synergy is of primary importance and that the tonearm cable, an expensive cartridge and exotic isolation were not critical to a truly musical experience. One month later, I went to hear the system again and to confirm my impressions of the speakers which I am considering buying. However, this time the dealer had replaced the $600 cartridge with one costing $3,500. To my surprise, the magic was completely gone.
I am also struck by how different (and less musical) my system sounds, given that it has a similar vinyl front end, SS electronics and dynamic speakers.
It can be tempting to think of a chain of importance for a vinyl front end or for the system as a whole, but I am coming around to thinking that it really comes down to how carefully components are selected to work with each other and within the context of a given system and room. Everything seems important except the cost of components.
so around the middle of the thread, Nolitan (the OP) decided to take his conceptual question of how to prioritize where to spend in the analog chain, to seeking out specific recommendations of a well-matched, synergistic analog playback system for $5k-$8K:
"thanks for the input guys. So, if we are to put this in reality, maybe you guys can suggest some good combos to start with based on the theories and experiences you guys have. maybe a tt system w/ cart, table, arm, phono stage and tonearm cabling for $5000-$8,000.
Ex: Lyra Dorian-> VPI Classic with original tonearm-> modwright phono stage-> nordost tonearm cabling.
this is getting interesting."
For folks shopping for an analog rig who have not had the experience of trial and error with prior systems, getting recommendations on what tt/tonearm/cart/phono combos work well together is super useful. it sounds like Nolitan is considering the VPI Classic and is looking for synergistic cart and phono suggestions but is also open to other combos in the $5k-$8K range. Any suggestions?
Would be good to know what synergistics tables, cart, arm, phono stage would be for suggestions ?
It could be anything from Michell, VPI, Rega, others on that price range.
Look on the used market.
A suggestion of a great combo in that price range ?
Well - put (buy...) together the following on Audiogon (will take you 1-2 months only):
- Phonostage: Sonic Frontiers SFP-1 signature or Phono One - $700-1k
- tonearm: Graham Phantom - approx: $2k - 2.5k
- TT: used VPI TNT w/suspension - approx: $2k - 3.5k
or used Platine Verdier 3.5k to 4.5k
- cartridge: Dynavector 17D3 - approx: $500
- tonearm cable: AQ Leopard $500
Cartridge and cable can easily bought new. This is a combination which will work great and with almost ANY cartridge. Room for upgrade in the future, but already CLASS A if carefully set-up.
You can not get wrong with the above combo. It will outperform each and everything available new for double the price.
Nolitan...i quoted your comment...that's what I understood you were after...if I misunderstood, I apologize.
No apologies not needed. Yes, that's what i meant.
Here's another suggestion, all used and fairly easily found on Audiogon for a total under $8000:
Table: SME 10/A includes 309 arm, $4500
Cartridge: Sumiko Celebation $700 or lower model Dynavector $500-$700
Hovland Music Groove 2 cable: $500
Pass Xono phono: $2200
Back to the topic.
I personally think it is the pick up, pick up and pick up. (analogy to digital would be the Transport)Turntable is where the information is 'measured dynamically. The closest it comes to when and how it was 'written' makes the magic happen. This includes the type of tone arm. Tangential arm does the best job on what the well designed TT offers.
With that said, up stream components in the chain does matter, the phono being the key second component.
A Record Cleaning Machine.
A good Record Cleaning Machine :-)
Pretty high in the Rating then....
It is refreshing that a string could bring so much diversity of ideas and concepts and still maintain civility.
All of the above discussion brings credence to what I refer to as;"The charm of vinyl".
Indeed the chain of components and the symbiotic relationship of all the parts of the process of listening to analog music reproduction is a great metaphor to nature and life.It shows the human love of touching,gathering,and listening,often to artists that are no longer with us.We bid on Agon and Ebay for those discs that were made decades ago from all parts of the world.We listen to wide and diverse cultural collections of offerings. From Renaissance european madrigals to Tibetan monks. How cool is that?
Then there is the very human expression of cover art and the actual touching and preparation of the discs.We wash,steam,anti-static zap,clean again then listen.Than analyze what we are hearing both sonically and for artistic content.This is so much more tactile and human than a computer (digital) and IMHO more enjoyable.
Now to answer the topic:
It seems to me that "good" reproduction of "good" vinyl can be done without huge outlays of funds.The notion of "good" is of course,subjective and relative and this is where the disclaimer "in my humble opinion(IMHO)"comes into play.
I have found through my years of listening to many systems that symmetry is all important.I also feel that there is a diminishing returns threshold that is reached very quickly.A "good" table with a "good" cartridge can achieve magic but can also be limited.The same can be said for very expensive and renowned rigs.Needless to say subjectivity is everything here.
It seems that there is so much good stuff out there now that it is hard to lose.
Personally I have a VPI HWM19 jr. This is considered a good but limited table.It has the Audioquest PT6 arm and a Benz Gold pickup going to a NAD PP2 phono section.None of these is state of the art and are quite outdated compared to the newer VPI line not to mention a host of other super rigs. But it has symmetry and illicit general praise from those that hear it.I also have a crappy old Realistic-Radio Shack direct drive with a AudioTechnica AT62E.It too makes magic on my man cave system. It has symmetry.
In conclusion (very long winded)I am not sure what I would classify as the most important component of the chain,but I would say to balance the components together with the concept of symmetry tempered by wallet and musical taste.
"Then there is the very human expression of cover art and the actual touching and preparation of the discs."
That is the thing I miss most with CDs specifically.
With digital music servers however, the various controller programs available these days are getting more functional and affordable in terms of providing access to internet-based content relevant to what is playing.
I use the VisualMR program on both Windows Laptop and PDA (see my system description) to access my music servers via Roku Soundbridge. It displays inforamtion on screen like composer, album art, and other information on a song while playing and has some capability to access album art from amazon and Itunes (though the Amazon access has had some issues of late). Each new version of Visual MR released gets better in regards to providing more relevant inforamtion. Holding a PDA or otehr hand held device to get to recording related information makes me miss 33 1/3 album packaging a little less than before with CDs.
If it were me, I would start marketing good digital source material (CDs or whatever comes next) in fun, readable packages similar to old 33/1/3 albums. That would provide both good sound and a functional package, unlike most CD packages today.
BTW my theory is the older and more sight challenged you get, the more you will tend to despise CDs because the packaging remains largely on of the most user unfriendly mass market creations ever conceived.
I think I would look for a VPI Aries 1 with the old heavy platter.Get a outer ring and update the arm to a JMW 12.6.Then find a used ZYX Airy or Fuji. I can't give a good recommendation for a transformer/preamp since I have not really heard any in that price point. Same goes for cables.We don't really have any good Audio boutiques here that have vinyl rigs to compare.Not the mention that the one we have is very uncomfortable for listening at all (IMHO). Oh for the good ol days of enthusiastic shops where we listened for hours sometimes.
We do however have a group in town that have get togethers at each other's homes with some very good systems.
I would think that with the budget you have allotted that you could and should have a great time deciding and should have high expectations.