Which part of my turntable system should I upgrade

Hi! I'm looking to upgrade my system. I have a budget of 400$ including shipping and cables and everything else. I'd prefer new to used and/or vintage. I do have a couple ideas in my mind, but I'm not quite sure and I was wondering if anyone here had suggestions/ideas!

I still haven't figured out what "bright" and "warm" sound like so I can't comment in that respect, but I listen to a lot of pop punk/indie punk (Broadway Calls, The Menzingers, Sundials, Junior Battles, etc. -- I think their stuff's on YouTube) and also a few acoustic bands. All of my music is from the past 10-15 years.

Turntable: Denon DP 300F (built in phono)
Cartridge: Shure M97XE
Integrated Amp: NAD C315BEE
Speakers: Wharfedale Evo 2-8

The Denon has been weird ever since I got it (I bought it used online, and it plays noticeably faster than it's supposed to, I checked with a strobe light but don't know what the problem is --- I even replaced the belt) so I'm thinking about replacing it. On the other hand, I love the automatic feature, and I can't think of another budget turntable on the market that has it. I like to fall asleep to records, and the auto-stop feature is great. I'm also not very adept at placing the needle on the record, and that's where the auto-start comes in.

When I originally bought my system, I had a Denon DL-110 but a friend bought it off me and I put the Shure in instead. I was also thinking of upgrading the cartridge (to a Denon) and then I'd have $260 left over to spend.

I"m not sure how much the built in phono is impacting my system. I live in an apartment with my parents so adding an extra piece to my system will be a hassle, but if it'll make the biggest difference, I'd definitely consider it.

I was also wondering (since I'm not much of an audiophile) if there are any parts of my system that's out of balance quality-wise? i.e. the speakers are too good for the turntable, or the cartridge is subpar compared to the rest of the system, etc.

On a final note, minimal manual installation/effort is a huge priority for me.

Thank you so much! I appreciate any and all feedback :)
adding a nice tube phono stage would make the vinyl sing.

Bottlehead Seduction, Hagerman Comete, Project Tube box
...why would you want a phono stage.....there is room for improvement is all of your components. I would not change a thing until you have sufficient funds to take a giant step. If your NAD has a headphone connection, I would try decent cans which will give you better solo sound.
Your Denon might be running fast if it was intended for a different country. Check to see what voltage and hertz it was made for.

The weakest part is probably the built in phono preamp.
I agree with Stringreen. there is nothing in your system that can be improved for $400 new retail that meets your parameters for an auto table. And if the Denon runs fast,nothing else will matter until you replace it.

I would get a DD turntable from the late 70 like a Sony PS-X60 which is automatic and built like a tank. You should be able to find one on the auction sites for less than $300 and if not, I have one. then get a decent phono preamp like a Cambridge 540p or 640p if you want to use a MC cartridge. Those two changes will make a marked improvement in your sound, and you can then save for better speakers later. Otherwise just wait until you can afford everything better.
I would ditch the Denon...sounds like a headache...there are plenty of auto vintage tables out there for peanuts...even an older Denon would be an upgrade...FWIW...I have a modern Direct Drive manual table...the built in phono EQ was absolutely horrid...so at some point a dedicated phono preamp will be required...many options at various price points...
There's nothing wrong with owning a budget system, but the Denon needs to go. Look for a vintage TT as many have stated and get a proper phono stage.
Check out Audio Advisor for some inexpensive phono stages...
NAD - PP-2i,
Cambridge Audio - 551P,
Parasound - Zphono
Dear Toxicwaterfront: If I was you I put the Denon and Shure on sale and with the money and maybe alittle over those 400.00 budget you willadd I will buy a decent universal digital player latest DAC technology ( 32/192 ) as this one:


IMHO you need over 4K on analog to even that digital player quality performance.

Btw, you save space with this unit instead your analog rig and through digital you can have a lot more recordings on the music you like.

regards and enjoy the music,
Unless you are talking about high rez, IMO, you are sadly mistaken that it takes 4k to beat digital!
Dear Jjrenman: I respect your opinion. Please listen to through that humble Denon a DVDA and you will know what I'm talking about or if you like a SACD and even a good recorded CD.

Even you can compare: try the Soundtrack Film Gladiator on CD and the audiophile LP version, believe me: NO Contest by the LP and like this example many more and this is with a " simple " CD. DVDA or SACD are way better and unbeated by analog counterpart even at 50K.

There are very good reason why that happen.

Regards and enjoy the music,
I consider SACD to be high rez. Problem is that most of the new music that I like is not being released on SACD. Maybe that will change with High Rez download's.
I collect records for fun, which is why I'd like to keep the analog system. At the moment, I think I'm gonna get a new turntable and cartridge, and wait a few months to buy a phono stage.

I've been unable to find the Sony PS-X60 online. However, there's a fully automatic turntable up on NeedleDoctor for 500$. It's the Thorens TD-158 that comes mounted with a Dual DMS 251S cartridge. How significant of a difference in sound would it make? Am I better off just getting a vintage DD table?

Again, thank you so much for your answers. I appreciate the help.
I have an extra Sony PS-x60 that you could have. However, I only ship in the CONUS
Dear Toxicwaterfront: If I was you I put the Denon and Shure on sale and with the money and maybe alittle over those 400.00 budget you willadd I will buy a decent universal digital player latest DAC technology ( 32/192 ) as this one:

Shame on you, you would deny this budding audiophile the joy of analog, putting the needle on the record, all the great artwork and liner notes for subjectively "better sound". And then sell all his records and buy digital?

A ProJect Carbon Debut (with a tube phono, per Stringereen) will keep him close to budget and a real analog front end that would compete with any digital source, IMHO.
Dear Toxicwaterfront,

After reading your post, the Project wouldn't be good as it offers no automatic features (just great music). The PS-x60 from Manitunc would be a great solution if you live in US.
@Manitunc I do live in the continental US! (I live in Southern California). How much would the Sony be? Thank you for offering!
I would buy some power conditioning/isolation for the turntable and the NAD. I like the NAD. Some conditioning will by far give you the best bang for your $$. Try to arrange a dealer demo. Inexpensive. 2 used MIT power outlets would provide significant results. You could just try out 1 and see where it works best & then decide if more. There are some very good older units that would do well for you.
Raul is right. I was into vinyl before there was such a thing as digital. It sucked then and it sucks now, "unless" you got deep pockets and can get into very high end gear.

Although no one knows analog better than Raul, he hasn't been drinking the "Vinyl ade"; that's the stuff that tells you a Dual TT and Shure V15 cartridge sound better than high end digital.

Enjoy the music.

As of today, June 19, 2013; I vow to never again as long as I live, post on the "Analog Forum".

For me, "Audiophile" is all about sound, I get absolutely no pleasure in the tedious, has to be precise, set up of an analog rig. Yes, I enjoy the "exquisite" sound that can be derived from an "expensive" precisely set up rig, and there is some pleasure from seeing the cartridge glide effortlessly across the black shiny vinyl while listening to the exquisite sound brought on by the fruits of my labor, but not enough to repeat this over and over again.

All of my vinyl is archived to digital, while my rig is in mothballs until the next new LP, and since HD Downloads, that could be a long time.

Enjoy the music.
Toxicwaterfront, I have a Sony PS-X7 that I might plan on selling. You can read the reviews of the deck on the Vintage Knob and Vinyl Engine. Speed is rock solid and I have made upgrades to silver/OFC for the interconnects and headshell wires.
Send me an email at manitunc@aol.com. I also have it listed on vinylengine.com under Duficity.