I would go for a direct drive or idler drive.
Not sure of the cost but if you have woodworking skills you could get a Garrard or Lenco and make the plinth, which would keep your cost down.
Otherwise maybe a classic Denon or Kenwood L-07d
+1 @inna for the Sutherland 20-20. On the table, don't overlook Sota; you can get very nice Sapphire with any one of several arms for your budget range. If you're willing to do a bit of your own work, you can get an older table, buy new springs & belt for it and then mount an arm with VTA adjustment on-the-fly. Tri-Planar is one that comes to mind and would be pretty close to your range. Kind of tricky to set up, though. Sota also offers factory refurbished units for very fair $$$. Cartridges? You like the 20X2L, so consider the 17 D3 or XX2 Mk. II. Note that the 17 D3 is not compatible with all arms so do your homework if you go that route.
Have fun, good luck & happy listening!
+ on the Garrard , Lenco Rim drives
there are many plinths out there from a few $100 to $1000 that sound excellent and look good. matched with a good arm like a new Jelco ( $1000 with quality cable) and you have a great start into rim drive.
I did this quest last year from an Oracle Delphi Mk4 and am very happy. mine was a Garrard 301 late grease bearing $2000, custom plinth total cost $700, Jelco 12" tone arm with the upgraded arm cable $1100 ( Canadian$) and I used my VDH MC 10 Cart with a low mass head shell ( head shell was another $150). All total about $4500 with tax's this is Canadian dollars so adjust down lets say 30% for the new stuff.
I think you could easily find a really nice Garrard or Lenco Rim drive for under $4k( all ready to play or $2000 for the base table) if you spend the time. and frankly the Maney is a killer phono for the money.
Look at my profile I have many pictures of my table there if you want to get an idea of what it looks like. also with the assortment of Plinths available you can tailor the look to your setting. just go to E-bay and see how many plinths are out there. if you decide to go this way let me know I can give you some good plinth makers web sites and contacts.
I know from my experience I've never been happier with the sound i'm getting very alive and moving the Pace is fantastic and with a good mat like the herbies I use ( $120) I get great detail and base. not to mention a whole lot of future upgrades now available to me.
You may want to try the Clearaudio Concept Wood with the Satisfy tonearm and the Hana SL mc cartridge. It’s a great combination and plays all kinds of music well. If your budget of $3-4K is for the table alone, I would look at the Clearaudio Performance DC turntable which is Clearaudio’s next step up.
For the phono stage you might want to look at the Musical Surroundings Nova II. It comes in at $1200 and has the most flexible settings for MC cartridges I have ever seen. It also gives you the choice of running on batteries if you want to.
While the turntable is important it is only part of the front end of the process. It starts with the Record, the disc itself. The stylus and thus cartridge is stimulated by the movement of the disc and are managed by the arm. Mechanical energy is provided by the the turntable through the stylus and converted to electricity to become the audio signal,but you know all this. So consider that this is system where each element effects the other, they are all inter-related to produce output. The final element in the chain is the loading on the cartridge output, change it and you change how the cartridge converts the energy from the stylus, the loading cartridge effects how energy it taken from the cartridge and how energy is both absorbed by the stylus and reflected back it. The process has a 'geschalt' to in, a wholeness. Change the loading on the cartridge and you change the relationship between the stylus and the record grooves.
The loading on the cartridge effects the timbre of the final output of the cartridge. If you can change the loading you can change the timbre of whole system. Timbre is the term used for the relationship of the overtones or harmonics of the signal, both in amplitude and phase.
It would seem a big naive to believe random combinations of turntable, arm, cartridge, and disc mastering/pressing would yield the same loading requirements for optimal sonic performance.
I took this a step further took an exploratory phono-preamp I designed and added fully adjustable front end loading for both MM and MC cartridges and found staggering performance changes of the systems. Last year I did the experiment and wrote a paper about this, I will send you a PDF copy of it if you like, only a couple of pages. I will send you a copy if you send me your email address.
I have a Decware ZP3 (http://www.decware.com/newsite/ZP3.htm) and it is just sublime. While it doesn't support a LOMC out of the box, adding a step-up transformer is the recommended way to go, regardless of your phono pre IMHO. I can't say enough good things about that Phono Pre. Here is a link to a great review, p173. http://www.tonepublications.com/MAGPDF/TA_074.pdf
I would like something completly different....any suggestions?
Well Tempered Labs Amadeus GT
it won't get any different than this! and probably any better sounding table for the price. There most be something going on for this turntable, lots of great comments in forums and great "commercial" reviews:
TAS- Golden ear award 2009 (Amadeus model)
TAS- Editor's Choice award 2013 (GT)
6 Moons- Blue Moon Award
Soundstage Ultra- Select Component award
Seriously considering getting one. Great synergy with Dynavectors!
I had several Thorens turntables on which I did not succeed in setting an accurate pitch. This is important for me as I digitize some of the vinyls of my collection.
Same problem with a Lenco L75 (idler wheel) and an Clearaudio Concept (belt).
I finally opt by an Hitachi HT-800 Direct Drive motor unit with quartz lock pitch control (difficult to find) for which I made a plinth allowing to implement three arms : a Dynavector DV505, an SAEC WE-308, and an STAX UA7. Why three arms ? I have lots or mono recordings for which I love use a mono cartridge (on the STAX); also I wave two MC cartridges one of which is more expensive. So I use the less expensive to test the worth of vinyls before using the gem.
The plinth was made under specification of mine by Ebel Holztechnik in Germany (548€). Fits perfect.