Which turntable should I buy?

Hi all,

In the next few months I'll be looking to spend up to $2500 on a turntable. I'm currently homed in on the VPI Scoutmaster, Nottingham Spacedeck and Thorens TD 850 and am having a hard time deciding between them based on specs and reviews. I have heard none of them yet. Before I make the rounds to the dealers or just pick a good deal, has anyone compared any of these side by side?

Any others I should be considering? This is my first TT since I was a kid. The rest of my system is a Supratek Chenin, Granite Audio 861 monos and Merlin VSM-M. My music tastes are varied but include jazz, electronica, female vocals, indie pop/rock even classical.

Many thanks!
Dear Nickatkins:*****" This is my first TT since I was a kid. "*******

If you want to start with the LP home reproduction, I think that you have to think in an " analog system " instead of only TT. You have to look for a phono cartridge/tonearm combo, TT and phono stage ( at least ), and try to find and to choose the ones that do the best sinergy between them.
BTW, I really like your Merlins.
Regards and enjoy the music.
My personal recommendation is to eliminate the Thorens from your list and buy either the Scout or the Nottingham. Of the two, I think the Scout represents the better value (price vs. performance), particularly given the excellent JMW 9 tonearm that is part of the package. And, if I remember correctly, the Scout offers an upgrade route to the Scoutmaster, which is an excellent TT.
One more consideration is find a good used LP12 from Linn.
It is a great TT and can be modified forever.
When it comes to turntables there is an embarrasmnet of riches these days.
What bothers you most? Lack of tempo? Feedback? Are you a tinkerer? Are you like Ron Popeil-set it and forget it? Do you have springy floors and lots of foot traffic? Is this budget for turntable only or will you be needing an entire front end as Raul suggested? Do you need upgradeabilty?Suspension or non suspension? Vaccum hold down? Why don't I introduce you to Shaundra? In addition to having a gorgeous set of legs she is our analogue specialist...
Just for fun she'll demo the lovely AVID DIVA at $2500 sans arm. For a picture, See Sterophile Vol 27 No 4 pg 36. Should you be needing an arm and cartrdige, might I suggest the Well Tempered arm with Lyra Helikon.
Disclaimer: I own Vpi Aries. I have not heard this Particular Avid. I auditoned a different model in thier line.
Thanks for your responses, my budget would be for the 'table and arm only. Cartridge comes next...

My preference is for speed and dynamics not bass or lushness -- I get plenty of that from the tubes ;-)
Michell Gyrodec se W/Rega rb300 $2395 or rb 600 for $300 more.
My preference is for speed and dynamics

You should definitely check this one out & talk to Kevin on the phone:


There was an Acoustic Signature Final Tool at The Needle Doctor (www.needledoctor.com - I think...) for $1999. Add a Rega RB 250 or 300 arm and you have a tough combo to beat.

Both the VPI Scout and the Nottingham Spacedeck are viable alternatives - the Scout is getting rave reviews and is very upgradeable, and I heard a Spacedeck/Spacearm combo last week which was very impressive.

Don't know what the Avid DIVA sounds like, but if it has ANY resemblance at all to the VOLVERE SEQUEL it is definitely worth checking out.

Happy hunting - I'd love to hear how this one turns out...
You may want to look into Teres Audio tables. Lots in the discussion forums.
As a Spacedeck/Spacearm/Shelter 501 owner, and having a friend with a Scoutmaster/JMW9/Denon103 & Dyna17d (i.e. Slipknot1), I would heartily recommend either of these tables. Haven't heard any of the new Thorens tables, but most of the raves seem to be from mag reviewers where they advertise.
Tough choice between the 'Nott & the VPI.
In the Spacedeck's favor, you get tremendous airy soundstage(hence the name), plenty of "PRAT", very high speed stability(w/o separate speed controller--although that is an upgrade option), natural timbre, option to add 2nd arm pod. Downside to some is the lack of finger tab on the tonearm, lack of power button(I actually like the feel of manually spinning the table to start it up!), uncommunicative corporate culture(guess you could just call them concise ;-) .
VPI gives you more slam on the bottom end, a slightly drier tonal balance IMHO, a clear and well defined upgrade path, and enough sales quantity to allow companies to design complementary accesories(e.g. Ghinko Cloud platforms) specifically designed to mate w/the VPIs.
Either of these table/arm combos would mate well with a number of different cartridges. Don't take the phono stage for granted, too. You'll want to make sure that your phono stage has appropriate settings for the cartridge you choose. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress! Cheers,
You could buy a Michell Tecnodec w RB 250 AND a GSP Audio Era Gold MK 5 phono preamp for $2500- most often overlooked, and ESSENTIAL to good analog is the phono pre. SPEND SOME $$ HERE, and you'll thank yourself later.
In my opinion, if you want speed and dynamics, then you should seriously consider an unsuspended turntable in your price range, and use a rigid high-mass stand.

Select your arm with the cartridge in mind, that you plan to get. The arm and cartridge work together, and must be matched. If you fail to consider the cartridge when you pick the arm, you may find that the arm you bought and cartridge you want are not a suitable match, and you have to go to a 2nd choice in cartridge. The arm and cartridge always need to be considered together, even if you cannot afford the get the cartridge right now.

If I was going to get a $2500 table/arm right now, I'd seriously look at a DIY Teres 160 and an OL modded RB250, and then get a Denon DL103R cartridge for it.

I was asking similar questions just a little while ago until I finally bought my setup.

I could make other recommendations based on research alone, but I will stick with the three you have listed.

Nottingham. If $2,500 is your limit for a turntable and tonearm, the Nottingham choice is now $3,000. Sorry, it’s over your stated budget. But it would be my recommendation, although I feel the turntable is a bit quirky, as mentioned earlier.

Scoutmaster. The VPI Scoutmaster can be had for $2,300, and there is a wealth of options that can bring the entire deck up to a whopping $5,000. However, according to VPI tech support, you must use the VPI JMW-9 tonearm, which has an effective mass of 7 grams and has really no provision for antiskating. The mass of this arm may exclude cartridges that have low compliance and are lightweight. (The Denon DL103R is one example of a cartridge with low compliance.) You could, however, increase the effective mass of the arm by adding weight to the headshell. (You might want to get Twl’s opinion before do this.) To set antiskating, you must twist the tonearm cable. (Are you a good twister?) You may want to contact Slipknot for more information about carrying out that procedure. To tell you the truth, I am not a big fan of the JMW-9, but a lot of people seem to love it.

Thorns. The Thorns is not a bad table, one I considered very seriously. It can easily be had for $1,800, which is the TD 850BC version, the one without a tonearm. To keep your cost under $2,500, you could add the Graham Robin ($645), which would bring your total to $2,445. Later, you could replace the existing tonearm cable with an Incognito Rega Loom rewire kit for non-Rega tonearms. Galen Carol Audio carries this kit, and can even do the wire replacement for $75. If you want to know how this deck sounds, read Michael Fremer’s review; it was quite favorable.

By the way, you have a very nice system. You might want to reconsider your budget in light of what you currently have so that you strike a good sonic balance with the rest of your components. You also have not mentioned what phono cartridge you intend to use now, and what cartridges you would like to use in the future. Twl is right: you must match the cartridge with the tonearm and with the phono stage in your Supratek.

So you see that putting an analog front end together is not so easy as buying a CD player; there’s a lot to consider. Just keep asking questions and eventually you will get there.

Good luck!
Thanks to all of you for your helpful replies, although Psychicanimal, I'll leave the Technics 'tables to you, thanks all the same ;-)

Artar1 -- thanks for the compliments, my system is only just starting to get really nice! To be honest, I didn't really consider a cartridge until the last few days of research and now I realize how important it is and how damn many of them there are out there! I guess I just assumed I'd get a table and arm and a mid-priced cartridge that seems popular (a) with the the 'table I get and (b) with Supratek owners. I have been chatting to slipknot1 prior to the arrival of his Chenin -- he has a Scoutmaster (with funky motor) of course.

My friend John (outlier) has a nice Teres and a Supratek so I know what they sound (and look) like together. I was hoping to not simply follow him down the Teres path though ;-) What's the wait time on a 245 these days, anyone know?

Anyway, I have some weeks and Christmas in England for more research and then I decide. Thanks so far guys!

Oh, almost forgot, Artar1 -- what did you eventually settle on for a 'table? I searched around but can't find the answer.

Btw, the thread "$800 Cartridge Shootout and Upgrade Path" is brilliant, when I get more time, I'll read it. Cheers!
If your coming over to England, then there are a number of good choices. I have just changed my LP12 for an Origin Live Resolution, beyond your budget , but maybe not 2nd hand. I found mine with a legendary Illustrious tonearm fitted for about $2800. I have'nt stopped listening to vinyl since, detailed, musical, with great stage depth, it seems particularly good with classical. The Avid range have a great reputation here, beautifully engineered, but not cheap. Likewise the Nottingham analogue spacedeck and Michell gyrodeck are fine designs.
The problem for you colonial cousins over the pond, is the Dollar of course, at 2 to the pound, it makes buying UK or European kit prohibitive for you. For me of course it's the opposite. I bought a CJ Premier 17 for $2700 this year, it would have cost $8550 here!. Likewise I received a beautiful almost unused Koetsu Rosewood Signature yesterday for $1500, a new one here is $4300. Both of course bought from the Audiogon site.
Nick, unfortunately, the Creature is not in the $2500 performance range you're looking--it's in the $5,000. Form follows function. I've listened to many belt drives and in your price range they can't compete with a *linear* quartz lock circuitry--period.

If you are willing to pay a little bit extra, go for a Micro Seiki RX3000 or RX5000. These TTs are built like tank with gun metal platter. You won't regret for owning one. BTW, you really need a strong HiFi rack to put the Micro Seiki on. My RX5000 (including the motor, 3 armboards with 3 arms, bronze matt, bronze record weight, and platter stabilizer) weights over 165 lbs, so to speak.
Dear Nick: I totally agree with Ww129: the Micro Seiki RX 5000 is a great TT and beats easily the Teres and other " big names ".
You have to think serious about " the source " for your analog system: the phono cartridge, that's where all begin.
Regards and enjoy the music.
Ww129 and Raul,

Nick is looking to spend about $2,500 or so, not $25,000.
Dear Artar1: Where do you get that number ( 25,000.00 )?
Regards and enjoy the music.
It isn't just a question of turntable. There is a cartridge and a Phono preamp or phono section within your preamp and an arm as well. These will make a bigger difference in performance than the table alone. First of all, make sure the cartridge you buy is well matched to the phono preamp. If you get a MC cartridge with .25mlv of output and try to match it to a modest phono preamp with only 45db of gain, you won't get enough output. What kind of sound do you like? Robust and punchy? Buy a Clear Audio cartridge. Smooth and airy? Buy a Benz-Micro. If you have a modestly priced phono preamp, it will never do justice to a great table set-up. I haven't even mentioned the difficulties of matching an arm to the table. My suggestion is to buy an integrated set-up like a Music Hall MM7 or 9 which will be less than what you want to spend, BUT! The sum total of its superbly matched parts - Table, arm, and cartridge ( which will have fairly good output and will better match modestly priced preamps ) will give you much better sound than a big mismatch.
Elinor, thanks for your reply. I think I may have the preamp section taken care of with my newish Supratek Chenin (see System). I certainly appreciate the sentiment about buying a more modest turntable with zero setup or internal matching worries but I think I'll just compromise between a turnkey approach and a a DIY solution.

I guess you could say I prefer "robust and punchy" but then again, I like "smooth and airy" music to sound like that if that's the way it's supposed to be. Also, it depends on my mood. After work in the evenings I definitely prefer the latter while at the weekends I prefer something harder (and not just the booze ;). My Supratek has broken in nicely and I couldn't be happier with it's line stage so far. Totally out of this world it is, and you could say it is robust, punchy, airy and smooth, all at the same time!

My plan is to listen to the Spacedeck and the Scoutmaster in the New Year and make my choice. I am lucky, I live in the Bay Area where there are dealers of both close by.

I just moved from the Thorens TD-810 to the Nottingham Space Deck. I could not be more happy.