What would be a good turntable/tonearm/cartridge

What would be a good turntable/tonearm/cartridge combination for someone new to the world of analog, having been a long-time CD spinner? I have a nice high-end CJ tube based stereo CD system, and I am looking for something that is easy to set up and maintain. Thanks. -Steve
Ag insider logo xs@2xwarmglowingtubesart
There's really no such thing as a turntable that's easy to set up and maintain. A turntable requires very careful setup, and maintenance with LPs is never-ending.
You will want to post your budget range and speakers to get useful responses. That said, I'm personally a fan of Sota tables, Dynavector cartridges, SME, Graham and DV arms. DV has worked especially well with the CJ gear I've auditioned, but everyone has to judge for themselves. VPI, Music Hall and Pro-Ject also have nice rigs. Scope them out online to see what they offer.
"11-27-15: Cleeds
There's really no such thing as a turntable that's easy to set up and maintain. A turntable requires very careful setup, and maintenance with LPs is never-ending."

For some people maybe.

You can buy an all Rega TT and cart that's pretty much plug and play. They use a 3 screw system on their carts that doesn't need to be adjusted or aligned.

There's plenty of really nice entry level gear out there to choose from. If you think you may need some guidance, call Larry at Hollywood Sound in FL. He's known all over the country as one of the best analog people you can deal with. I recommend him because he's the best at setting up affordable systems. Whatever your budget is, he'll make sure you get the best sound for what you spend.
We need to know your budget and if your CJ has a phonostage. If not, you'll need to add a phono preamp.

Some vinyl newbies want a plug and play TT/arm/cart setup. Some want vintage (but you may need to spend money on upgrading parts, plus having it shipped by a private seller is risky).

Lastly, if your budget allows, you can buy something above entry-level that is upgradable; you can change the tonearm, platter, add a separate power supply.
The Rega RP3 TT is an example where you can start with the basics and upgrade later.


Check out a variety of TTs at Needle Doctor.
If you have a high-end system steer clear of entry level turntables, you will get nothing but disappointment. But you don't have to buy expensive cartridge right away.
Yes, every turntable requires careful set-up, but maintaining it doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, it's minimal work.
Larry likes Nottingham turntables and MC cartridges.
WG - as indicated was possible in the post by zd542...

I have "pimped out" my 30+ year old $200 Rega Planar II to the point where the only original Rega parts left is the on/off switch and the plexiglass cover

The following are the mod's in approximate chronological order

1. I preferred the Michell Techno weight to the standard rega weight - it lowers the centre of gravity of the weight which improved dynamic and bass performance.

2. I preferred an acrylic platter over the Glass Platter - it does not ring so much and you can avoid using a mat, which I found improved dynamic performance and clarity.

3. lower end Rega's use a plastic sub-platter (i.e. the part the glass platter sits on). I prefer an alloy sub-platter, especially for the acrylic platter, since I found it enhanced the overall clarity

3. I found having the arm wiring replaced with a one piece silver litz cable enhanced details considerably over the stock rega wiring - which improved details, clarity, imaging and bass perofrmance - this was my first arm modification.

4. I replaced the plinth - there are several options available, but being "handy" I made my own and found it improved the overall performance considerably.

5. I ended up replacing the entire arm with an Audiomods Series 3 arm, which is a far superior adaption of the rega arm - and comes with the litz wiring mentioned above standard and micrometer VTA adjustment (if desired). The only thing this arm has in common with the Rega arms is - the arm tube and even that has been re-engineered. Superb value!

6. I replaced the steel ball in the bearing with a ceramic ball - reduced rumble to "near-zero"

7. Rega Motor Upgrade - it reduced speed variations

The approximate cost of all of that > $2k

I would recommend getting a TT that has...
- a removable cover, otherwise it can resonate
- comes with spiked feet - or
- exceptional isolation feet - the rega feet are quite poor

The nice thing about this approach - I got to implement enhancements over time as the budget became available and as my knowledge evolved.

Knowing what I know now - I would probably opt for something that would take a little less "effort" - Like something from
- Music Hall
- Michell

But then hindsight is 20/20 :-)

- for the rega style arm, the stock Denon DL103 is a great performing moving coil "starter cartridge", reasonably priced at $229 and a breeze to setup - but you can get upgrades for this as well, like...
- one of the ZU 103's which perform significantly better than the stock 103 - or
- the Soundsmith 103's - almost the "ultimate" in 103 mods, but they do require a MINT protractor for the best setup/sound.
- There is a guy in Italy that does a complete 103 rebuild, which involves rewinding the coils - $$$$$$ + TIME

I've tried Rega, Nogoka and a few other cartridges, but found I preferred the sound of the Denon's in my system

I guess it all depends on your own personal "approach" and more importantly - your budget.

I also agree with another member - if your system is highly resolving - get a TT with comparable abilities

I also use a Simaudio MOON LP5.3RS phono stage - which performs extremely well - especially if you use a great power cable - or the available seperate power supply.

And those are just some of the mods out there :-)

Hope this helps
VPI Prime/Ortofon Winfield ...hardly get much better without piles of more money.
I agree with Stringreen:

"VPI Prime/Ortofon Winfield ...hardly get much better without piles of more money."

Except: there are many other great cartridges to chose from.

You can start with much cheaper ones, and move up, per your own budget, and, taste.

Beware: you must understand the "anal" in "analog"!

You have to listen critically, to many records, for long hours, and make very fine adjustments, for best results.
The reason I suggested the Winfield because it can be had for much less than asking price, and the performance is much more than asking price. Its really a steal.
Music Hall MMF5 or MMF7. Comes all set up with dustcover and cartridge. Plug and play. You will need a phono preamp, of course. The other thing I would add is a Herbies mat. But that's about it. Prices are about 800 and 1600 respectively. I don't think you can go wrong with either. When I got back into analog, I bought a MMF5 and it was very good for the money. Definitely reminded me of what analog was about.
Hi, guys. FYI, I have Sonus Faber Cremona speakers, and about a $2,ooo budget for this. Yes, I know that I will need a phono preamp. Thanks! -Steve
Steve - if your budget is $2k I would second Chayro's recommendation of the MMF5 or MMF 7, mainly because I really like their dual-plinth design.

The MMF5 is good, but may require the old "Rega Nudge" for assistance in getting the platter up to speed quickly on power up - but it's not really a big deal - I've lived with it for over 30 years :-)

You can then afford a pretty nice phono stage.

However, I would prefer the drive band going around the outside of the platter, like the MMF 7 offers. It gets the platter up to speed faster and it may offer a more stable rotational speed.

The other MMF7 features I really like are
- non resonant acrylic platter
- motor sits on its own resonance damping puck
- counterweight’s center of gravity level with stylus tip

But then selecting the MMF5 would allow more to be spent on the phono stage

Tough choice, but I'd go with the MMF7. There are still some very adept phono stages out there for around $500

MMF-7 is an excellent table for the money. I used one for years before switching to a Scoutmaster. MMF-7 sounds great with a modest cartridge; I imagine it would be quite satisfying with a really good one. I still have the MMF-7; saving it for my second system.
open question....What's the relationship between Music Hall and Pro-Ject TTs? Are the companies related or is MH only using their carbon fiber tonearm?

LR57 - Apparantly from a post on another forum - Music Hall uses Project Tonearms.

Music Hall has diverse range of products - seems they have chosen not to get involved in the specialized world of tonearm construction

Whereas Project specializes in all things related to turntable design - they build their own

It’s not unlike those TT brands that choose Rega Tone-arms for their turntables

This does not make the Music hall any less of a turntable - their plinth design is based on some solid design concepts - it would appear they just wanted an arm that performed up to their plinth design and Project had an arm that fit the bill