What's a good beginner turntable at $2500+- range?

I want to take the plunge and buy a good used turntable. I don't want anything that requires a lot of tweaking or constant supervision, but I do want the highest resolving and best sound table I can buy. My range is $2500 or so but could go a bit higher if necessary. I'll buy it used so that should give me a bit more buying power.
A great beginning turntable is KAB's SL1200 mk II w/full mods. For about 1k it beats virtually everything else at twice the price. That leaves you plento of funds for a cartridge, and phono stage,RCM, supplies, plus MUSIC!. After all that's what this crazy hobby is all about - MUSIC.
I wouldn't buy something that you'll want to upgrade soon. Do yourself a favor and add another 1k and buy yourself a used VPI Super Scout Master. You'll be happy for a long time to come!
I was in a similar situation to you a couple of weeks ago, figuring to by second hand to maximize $$. After reading as much as I could stuff into my head I came to the realization that there are so many delicate and intricate parts peices and the tolerences so fine that it was wise to buy new.
My search led me to Kevin at KAB and his line of custom Technics SL1200's. The SL1200 is reported to be built tank like with a higher degree of fit and finish than you could expect in this price range. On friday I spent a half hour on the phone with Kevin going over everything that I needed for my system. Outstanding customer service with one of the top guys around when it comes to the 1200 table. I ended up with the 1200 M5- it comes with the upgraded tonearm wire direct from the factory (supposedly similar to the Cardas and I got the fluid damper for the tonearm (these(damper) are currently on backorder and maybe 2-3 weeks out). I think this tonearm damper will bring this table to a much better place. I should have the table by monday or tues- I will let you know how it goes out of the box- although Kevin does go through the whole thing and makes sure the table sits properly on the spindle along with a checklist of items he goes through prior to shipping. Till then, anxiously waiting, Zen
Just buy a modded KAB USA SL-1200mkII. The money saved can get you a sweet cartridge, a nice record cleaning machine and a decent phono preamp. Trust us who own these Technics SL-1200MMII (modded or not) tables you wont be disappointed if you are spending less that $2500 on just a table. Yes there are other good turntables choices but for $2500 you can get a lot for your money by what I noted here. If you turn not to like the SL-1200MKII it will sell on eBay without much depreciation.

2500 is a very healthy budget.
Get a Sota with factory installed arm (less tweaking) and spend a nice buck on a cartridge. My Jewel is now running a Clearaudio Aurum Beta S and is quite happy.
You can do better for $2500.

Need a VPI 19 mkiii?
I vote for the Pro-ject RM10. Also consider the Clearaudio and VPI. IMHO, the Technics is not as resolving as any of these.

I was recently in your position. I opted for a Rega P9 w/ the RB900 arm, which I picked up here for $1200. I've mounted a Denon 103 M/C (which I got from a German seller on eBay for a couple of hundred dollars). I feed this to my LSA Signature though a Minimax phono pre, which I picked up here for $950. So, I spent about your budget, and I have soul ravishing vinyl. The Rega is unfussy to set up. The Denon 103 is a classic, fine cartridge, and the Minimax is wonderful and fun to roll tubes through. I did a *ton* of research before I bought all of this stuff, and I'm very happy with it. I listen primarily to small ensemble classical and jazz. I quoted the prices, which may or may not be good deals, to give some sense of real-world prices.


You should look into Kuzma Stabi S/Stogi S... it's about $300 over the $2500, but it's a special table.
I'd second the Sota recomendation. Used ones are very reasonable, they're built like tanks and you can call the factory and speak with the owner. I've found the vacuum system to be really easy to live with - essentially no problems with it at all. Just turn it on and spin.
Look at the Acoustic Solid line - the entry level units represent a lot of 'table for the $. These units will limit future arm upgrade options (rega mount only) but the Wood model (large platter) is a great value with included RB300 and Ortofon HOMC at app $3,000.

Good Luck

It might be interesting to ask this question another way. What table on the used market should you stay away from? Like for instance I think due to thier cult status used Linns are way over priced as are certain idler drives. Asking for recommendations will just get you the various fan clubs of which Ive belonged to many. You can get a really fine table here on agon for $2500. be patient and be ready to pounce on a killer deal when it comes up. Everything recommended above would be great.
Good recommendations above, BUT, the best for the $ is a properly plinthed Lenco L75. Once set, it's record after record. Glorious music, all night long!
Your Avalons will agree.

Belt drives cannot match the Lenco idler wheel for stability. This translates as perfect bass pitch, rhythmic and balanced midrange, clear highs. Beautiful tonal balance and separation.

Teres and another (yet to be announced) builder is producing a table with the same idler wheel design.
Just listen, properly implemented, belt drive, idler wheel and direct-drive can all do a great job. In this price range don't focus on technology, but focus on the end product, the music.

I say SOTA or VPI.
I had a SOTA Cosmos mk3, even upgraded it (paid $900) to have it upgraded to mk4 status. A brand new Cosmos mk4 cannot play a record at a consistent speed when compared to a vintage $300 direct drive Luxman PD-264.

The Cosmos Mk4 retails for over $6500 and cannot hold a steady speed.

Needless to say, I sold the Cosmos. Will never own another SOTA period. If you can't play a record at a consistent speed, what good are all the other fancy gimmicks?

Start with a Technics SL1210M5G and go with the after market mods available from KAB. That is what I am doing now...
Ever heard the "One bad apple doesnt spoil the whole bunch" saying? I dont think you can mod a Technics table enough to get it close to SOTA, instead of modding a Technics, just get a real table that was built right the first time.........they do exist!
I too ended up with a modded Technics 1200. I have also owned two Regas (a 2 and a 3). I have to say that I think that it is simply one of the best pieces of equipment I have ever owned. Musical, reliable, and just plain fun. The soundstage is off the hook. I agree with everything that has already been said about the value of the KAB mods.
Thanks for the good tips. I'm thinking $2500 before cartridge and accessories so I should have clarified.

Does anyone have experience with Wilson Benesch tables?
follow Les_creative_edge suggestion; buy the 1200 Mk2 from KAB and order all the extras, take the left over money and buy a nice MC cart.

"I had a SOTA Cosmos mk3, even upgraded it (paid $900) to have it upgraded to mk4 status. A brand new Cosmos mk4 cannot play a record at a consistent speed when compared to a vintage $300 direct drive Luxman PD-264."
Ive owned several Sotas and they have all had rock solid speed stability and can go toe to toe with just about anything out there at any price (Ive tried most of them) I wouldnt be without one. I also have a Technics 1200 and 1301 which are fantastic tables but not even close to a Sota vacuum table.
The Technics is a great table for the money and certainly "no fuss no muss" but to say that it across the board beats tables at that budget used is not consistent with my experience to say the least. You've got a lot of choices at that price used, from Basis, Clearaudio, SOTA, VPI, Rega, Kuzma, etc.. Also you can do better for that money than a Rega RB300 arm.
Thank you Rccc........thats exaclty what I was saying, no tricked out Technics is going to beat a SOTA period.
The Technics is a cute table and a high value product.

However, the arm is extraordinarily ordinary and overall the package does not compete with the SOTA, Basis, Acoustic Solid, Nottingham etc. tables priced at the $2500 level.

It is in the Music Hall, Project, Rega, league.

Good luck.

05-07-08: Audiofeil
The Technics is a cute table and a high value product.

However, the arm is extraordinarily ordinary and overall the package does not compete with the SOTA, Basis, Acoustic Solid, Nottingham etc. tables priced at the $2500 level.

It is in the Music Hall, Project, Rega, league.
Where do Clearaudio and VPI sort out?

Oh, BTW, wouldn't a Michell Gyro SE fall right into the price/performance category the original poster is looking for? I'd look really hard at that, or a Funk with fully modded OL-1 or Silver tonearm.
Thanks guys. I think I'm trying to shoot a bit higher here than the modified Technics suggestion while I'm sure it's an excellent product. I just want a table that can keep up with the rest of my system.

Keep 'em coming. Specifically can anyone compare the wilson benesch tables to others named here?
05-07-08: Mmike84
Thanks guys. I think I'm trying to shoot a bit higher here than the modified Technics suggestion while I'm sure it's an excellent product. I just want a table that can keep up with the rest of my system.
Although I'm the owner and a big booster of the KAB-modified Technics DD route (and it makes perfect sense in my modest Amber/Mirage living room system), you have a system with Ayre electronics, Wadia digital source, and Avalon and upper level B&W speakers.

$2500 may even be shooting a bit low for the rest of your system. Maybe you should look at $1K to $1.5K if you just want to dip your toe in the water (VPI Scout, Rega P5), or you should step up a bit to something like A Clearaudio Performance or Solution, Michell Gyro SE or Orbe SE Mk II, or (at quite a bit more money), the VPI Super Scoutmaster Reference w/signature tonearm and beltless rim drive. I think this rig would give you that compelling drive and slam that you get with direct or rim drive, but with up-to-date plinth design, materials, design theory, and vibration control and isolation.

Otherwise, at the price point you mention, I have to admit that I was quite smitten by the very musical, compelling-yet-relaxed presentation of the Rega P7 with Rega Exact cartridge.
remember he's talking buying used at $2500 or a bit more.
Where does the Galibier Serac/Artisan tonearm combo rate at $4k?
The Technics is a cute table and a high value product... It is in the Music Hall, Project, Rega, league.

I disagree with this assertion. I've had Music Halls and Pro-jects, and I've heard Regas. My KAB Technics beats all of them hands-down. Coupled with the Denon DL-103 cartridge, it crushes my previous turntable, a Project RM-6. I've heard a mid-level Nottingham and I would say that the Technics is at least competitive with it.

While I do agree that for the $2500 the original poster is looking to spend you can do better, with a properly mated cartridge and phono preamp, the KAB Technics can hold its own with tables costing significantly more than it does.

The original poster wants to spend more than the Technics, though, so it's a non-issue.

Exactly. Raise the budget to $4000, get the Galibier, and be done with it. On the other hand although its an overseas purchase the Scheu table for sale here right now is downright amazing as well. I purchased a MkII version used with 50mm platter and battery power supply and have been very pleased.
05-08-08: Sufentanil
I've had Music Halls and Pro-jects, and I've heard Regas. My KAB Technics beats all of them hands-down. Coupled with the Denon DL-103 cartridge, it crushes my previous turntable, a Project RM-6. I've heard a mid-level Nottingham and I would say that the Technics is at least competitive with it.
Which KAB mods does your Technics have? And what headshell are you using with the DL-103? Would you say the fluid damper is essential for getting the best out of the DL-103?
I just got my KAB Technics 1210 M5G (with upgradeded tonearm wire from factory) this week. I bought it sight unseen and although I am still dialing it in I must say this is one tight table. The fit and finish is extraordinary and the sound is pretty expansive. I mated it with the Goldring 1000 series 1042 and it seems to be a great match with my CJ tubed phono pre. My system never sounded as good. I am getting the fluid arm damper (back ordered) I should really see the difference after using it without the damper for a few weeks. It is supposed to be a great mod for an average arm, really brings it in scale with the rest of the table. So far, very impressive. You can spend more money but why??
Zenblaster..enjoy your turntable. Caution..do not read any audiophile magazines, websites, or listen to anything different than your own setup. The punishment for listening to more expensive...or even different setups is to create a hunger for better (or just different) sound. Result...an empty bank account and appeasement..for just awhile.
Johnnyb, I have the KAB fluid damper and record clamp. I'm using the stock headshell for the DL-103, but I noticed that when I put the provided headshell weight on it that the result was a much richer, fuller sound. I've heard some people say the Sumiko headshell is a big upgrade, but the simple addition of the weight made it good enough that I don't have much desire to experiment further.

When I put the fluid in the fluid damper, I did notice less background noise. I haven't played yet with different fluid levels (I think mine is about 1/3 full).


Thanks for the info. I still recommend the Sumiko headshell--it's about 4-5 g heavier than the stock Technics headshell, but it's also more rigid and the headshell wires and clips are of much better quality ($20 by themselves as near as I can tell). The Sumiko also has adjustable azimuth, though that's probably less critical with a conical stylus.

I too have my damper fluid at 1/3. 60% full (with the Denon DL-160) was definitely overdamped, but at 1/3 I feel I got the best of everything.
Just remember that $$$ is no indicator of sound. Go with what your ear tells you, not the price they want you to pay...
I have the fluid damper coming- I'm curious about the difference with my Goldring 1042 -on stock headshell. I am stilling dialing in the table, and I must say it is fun playing with- unbeleivably solid feel to all the moving parts/peices and a gorgeous metal flake finish deck. Overall very impressive so far. It's going to be some time to get the sound where it should be.
Based on your system, I would search out a used Michell table. I've heard the Gyro SE Mk II both on Avalon speakers and through Ayre electronics, although not at the same time. It sounded excellent both times though. It provides a pacy, musically involving combination with that equipment and won't stand out as lacking in any particular area.

With respect to the Technics, I don't think that its strengths mate particularly well to those of the equipment that you have. Given that you enjoy CD's through a Wadia, you likely prefer an open sound, that tends to be more the hallmark of sprung/hung turntables in my experience (eg, Michell, Oracle, Linn, but not current VPI, Basis, Technics). Of the sprung tables, the ease of setup and price range of Michell should be right in your crosshairs. If you can swing it though, that Oracle turntable is great too.
Mmike84, you say that you want to spend roughly $2500 for the turntable, without considering the cartridge and such.

My suggestion is that you create an "analog system" budget, and let us provide input on all components involved: The turntable, cartridge, and phono preamp. None of these can be considered in isolation, and you may be very disappointed if you improperly mate a cartridge to a particular tonearm, or get a phono preamp with insufficient gain for the given cartridge. Just as with the rest of audio, synergy is important. And don't forget the record cleaning machine.

Is this your first attempt at an analog system? If so, maybe you want to try borrowing a turntable from a trusted dealer and give it a shot. In either case, having an expert able to teach you how to set up the turntable will be important, as a properly set up "less expensive" turntable can outperform an improperly set up "expensive turntable". On that note, you want to consider with each of these turntables how difficult it is to adjust the VTA or the tracking force, for instance. (That's something I love about my Technics compared to my prior turntable.) And you'll need to know how your personality will mate with the turntable, ie, do you have the patience to spend hours at a time trying to adjust the turntable with a very difficult mechanism?

You've asked for suggestions for a turntable only for a particular price; I'm just suggesting that it might be more accurate to consider asking for an entire analog system at a particular price.

"...you likely prefer an open sound, that tends to be more the hallmark of sprung/hung turntables in my experience..."

not my experience.
My KAB Technics SL1200 is just as open sounding as my APL Denon 3910, which is as open a digital source as I have owned.
Original poster here.

OK Sufentanil. Yes I'll be totally new to this other than the table I had as a kid until I was about 16.

My Ayre Preamp has phono so I am assuming that is all I need, but maybe I need something else too?

I am not looking for anything complicated or that requires much tweaking, at least not yet. Simple and bullet proof will do. I can swing a higher price point but most of my other components are in the $4500 range used so I'd be hesitant to spend more than that. Let's make $3500-$4500 the final budget + or -.

My thoughts on the suggestions from the thread so far:

VPI Scoutmaster Aries TNT or Superscoutmaster- I was leaning in this direction when I started the thread. I like the looks.
Technics- Seems like a great product with quite a following. I wonder if there is better at this price point?
Sota- Seems like a solid choice.
Nottingham- Don't know anything about this one but it's mentioned a few times so is worthy of consideration.
Linn- Seems like it may fall in the same category as the Technics and that it takes a series of tweaks and modifications to compete.
Clearaudio- Seems like a solid choice.
Mitchel- This one is mentioned a few times and should make the potential list.
Rega- ?
Kuzma, Oracle, Nottingham, Pro-Ject, Lenco, Galibier, Acoustic Solid all are suggested but I don't know anything about any of them.

Thanks again fro everyone's help!

OK, so since your Ayre preamp has a phono stage, I assume that the $3500-$4500 represents the table, cartridge, and record cleaning machine.

First question: What kind of music do you expect to be listening to on LP? Classical, jazz, pop, metal, etc?

Second question: What are the gain options on your preamp? That will help determine which cartridges will work well without a step-up transformer.

To some extent, the choice in the turntable can affect the choice in the cartridge, as different tonearms mate differently with cartridges. Check out some of the threads here on Audiogon about cartrdige/tonearm matching and resonance frequencies. I believe the KAB website has a calculator for it, too.

Do you have local dealers with some of these turntables? All of the ones you've listed are strong options. If you can visually see the turntable, listen to them, see what cartridges they've mated with it, and see how easy (or difficult) setting it up is, then you'll have a lot more information to go on. Also, search Audiogon's virtual systems to see who has a turntable that you might be interested in, and see which cartridge they put with it.

And don't forget the record cleaning machine. VPI and Nitty Gritty both make some. Expect to spend somewhere between $200 and $500 for it.

I know, you wanted options and I raised more questions. But I just feel that if you're planning on spending this much money, that you should be satisfied with the results.

Good luck.


My record collection is mostly comprised of Pop and Jazz.

Ayre manual says gain is set at the factory to 50dB. It's also adjustable from 40dB to 60dB. Guidelines are 1.0 mV= 60dB, 1.0-3.0mV=50dB and >3mV=40dB. The directions to switch it follows and I think I'd prefer to find something that will mate with the factory setting of 50dB.

I've looked around a bit and I don't know of any dealers off hand that deal in analog in Denver. While I am sure I can find some I hate to waste their time when I'm just going to buy used anyway. My temptation is to make an educated purchase and try it. When I bought my Wadia CD player I bought 3 players used and auditioned them all, and then sold the ones I did not want. I could do that again.

I think I should figure out the most likely couple of options and cartridges and start trying them.

I was planning on a record cleaning machine, probably a VPI and I was not considering that in the given price range.

Again your help is appreciated.

www.audiounlimiteddenver.com is a very good dealer that certainly does analogue. Sometimes dealers sell used demos or trade ins at prices comparable to buying used elsewhere. In any case a good dealer will appreciate your position as long as you appreciate theirs which you seem to. Good luck and enjoy!
Denver?!?!? Give Thom a call at Galibier Design or Chris at Teres Audio and see what they could do for you within your budget. You may even be able to have them set it up for you (as, for a first table, this is the most important aspect). They are both in your neighborhood.
Definitely contact John Barnes at Audio Unlimited in Denver. He is a very good source of knowledge on analog gear. I've dealt with him numerous times in the past.

You also owe it to yourself to visit with Thom and Chris as Nrenter suggests. You're quite fortunate to live in Denver and have these great analog resources at your disposal. When you get a table and are ready to spin make sure to visit For the Records in Boulder (Doug Gaddy also does the Ballpark Flea Market at Coors Field) and Twist & Shout on Colfax. I miss living in Denver.
ditto Nrenter. You may get convinced to go new.
I am a loyal Sota owner having owned most of their models. That said there are a few things to consider if buying a used Sota. Make sure the vacuum lip is current and the bearing is in good shape. If the deck is prepared properly for shipping it will travel with no problems (I have shipped several) however if the transit screws are not properly snugged the bearing will be damaged. The last 2 I purchased here on a-gon had damaged bearings even though the seller said they new how to pack them. Your best bet is to find a nice clean nova or star and figure to send the platter (easy to remove) and vacuum pump back to Sota for inspection and rebuild. The total cost is about $800. but if you factor that into your purchase price you will have an as new Sota which will give years of service and floor you with its resolution. Kirk and Donna at Sota are freindly and helpfull and support all their models very well.

I recommended the Acoustic Solid as it really does represent unusual mechanical integrity (key for a mass loaded 'table) at it's price point. I'll stand by that statement, but the Tere/Galibier suggestion is worth taking. The Colorado cottage industry in 'tables is awfully highly regarded, and since you're in Colorado, you can do this pretty painlessly. I'm in LA and seriously thought about it until logistical issues made a trip impractical. IMHO, before buying anything it would make real sense to visit these guys.

Good Luck