Your choice - TT, Arm, Stage, Cartridge - $5000 budget

So imagine you were just given ~$5000 and told to buy your ideal analog setup within that budget.

What would be your choice for turntable, arm, phono stage, and cartridge be? Any other accessories to consider?

How would you spend it?

Obviously I’m looking to upgrade my analog setup and am focusing on the essential components at this time. Curious how you would spend my money haha.

My current gear:
Amp - Primaluna Dialogue HP integrated w/ KT150 power tubes, Mullard and Cifte preamp tubes.
Loudspeakers - Tekton Design Double Impact

For sound,I like the idea of a balanced overall sound, and a big soundstage. But what I really enjoy most is the idea of exposing the holographic image in a recording.

6444d197 5d8d 46cf a0e8 54c2e72ec6d3whacky
Acoustic Signature WOW XL w/the Acoustic Signature TA-500 tonearm. Hanna MC low cart and a Lehmann Black Cube SE II. Comes in around $5000.
whacky-with the equipment you have, it's clear you want maximum performance and value.

"For sound,I like the idea of a balanced overall sound, and a big soundstage. But what I really enjoy most is the idea of exposing the holographic image in a recording."

Everyone desires those attributes. If I were in your position, and serious about playing a record, consider a proper used phono stage. Something that retailed @3-5K, find for half. Up your budget for table(used) 3-4K will get a killer table. Spend 1k for a LOMC 

You will now hear what the fuss is all about. Been using the PL HP for a few years. 
A used VPI Prime/1K LOMC and used Allnic could be had just over $6-7K?

Good Luck

Definitely consider buying used to maximize your investment.  Only caveat is that without the benefit of a dealer, you need some experience in selection and setup.  A quick gander and I noticed nice Avid Sequel and Immedia turntables listed on Agon, as well as some excellent options on USAM right now.  Finding a tt/arm/cartridge package from an experienced seller is a pretty solid way to go.
I would look for a used SME 10 turntable which comes with a tone arm for about $3,000 - $3,500. Look for a deal on a used phono preamp at about $1,000 - $1,500. Buy a $500 cartridge. The cartridge will wear out and you can upgrade it then. The turntable and phono preamp should be long term items.
Sorry, man, $5k is not enough for what you want to achieve. A little more, shall we?
I am definitely not above buying used on this one. Would almost prefer it to maximize the value. 

Aside from Agon and USAM, where else would you look for reliable used analog equipment? 
Reliable dealers, of course. I could tentatively recommend something but it could take a long time to find it used, something like SME that jperry recommended. You certainly want tube phono stage and very good cable and power cord. At this level I go for British tables, not Rega.
The Asylum is  another option, but much smaller scale.
Audioshark, I believe has a classified section.

Ive had good luck here. Do the legwork, and you'll find deals waiting. 

There is used Nottingham Space Deck with Space arm on ebay from a dealer for $1500. That's what I have. Take a look.
Plenty of good suggestions here.

Think about a vinyl collection.

Guys like me; have been picking the used market for years. Still; as someone posted on another thread; guys like me are coming to the end of our life span. Wives will sell our collection for next to nothing. 

Get in the game; the future is waiting for you.

Fine collection, well cared for, (2) TTs, Five (5) phonostages, VPI and US cleaners and a D'Mag, plus a load of other accessories.

Find lower high end for good prices and keep an eye out for the mother loads of records and equipment that are coming in the near (Gulp !) future.
Here's a very good way to go:  Buy a new dust cover for it if you like, get a good LOMC with a Sutherland 20/20 or similar and you're off an running.  The table is bullet-proof, very high performance and easily serviceable.  You can switch out the arm later on for something that has VTA on-the-fly to really extract maximum performance.

Auditions are always best if you can swing them, but this is one of the few alternatives that will do well in almost all cases.  Good luck, happy hunting & happy listening!
 Agree with inna that you will need to be patient, and decisive. If you see a great deal on an item you have been tracking it will not last you need to be prepared to purchase. is useful and you can set up searches that will generate an e-mail when an item you are looking for comes up for sale. 
@inna what kind of British brands do you look for? 

Lots of good input here. Gotta love the hunt. 

Whats the general consensus about a tube phono stage? 
What I did was:
1. Spend the least possible on things that are controversial, like cables and power cords.
2. Good record cleaner. 
3. Good setup equipment. VTF gauge, protractor, torque screwdriver.
4. Turntable is most important, then tonearm, then cartridge. I did it the other way, against expert advice, and paid the price.

Good luck, and good hunting!
"Whats the general consensus about a tube phono stage?"

whacky-you have a great tube amp, finish it off with a great tube phono.
Heres one 
I would ignore the asking price. Brush up your negotiating skills.
You can find a Manley Chinook for $1500 with patience.

Someone else may chime in with other bargains.

Post removed 
Alright, I'll play....for $5K

***VPI Prime table with 3D arm - used - $2500
(I've seen one sitting on USAM for over a month at $2800, so I figure you can get it shipped to you for $2500.)

*** Art Audio Vinyl Reference phono preamp - used $1600
(listed on USAM for $1895, probably can be yours for $1600)

*** Audio-Technica AT-ART9 phono cartridge - NEW from LP Gear $999.
I don't recommend buying used cartridges.

Yeah, I went over by $100, but maybe you can get another $100 off the VPI or AAVR.

Sit back and enjoy the tunes......


For British brands, consider Nottingham Analogue and TransFi. I use two of the TransFi tonearms, which cost $1000, but punch far, far above their weight. One of them is mated to a Miyajima Zero and the other to a higher end Koetsu.
@tablejockey  Was definitely looking at that listing earlier. I will admit, the idea of a tube phono stage, leading into the PL tube amp definitely appeals to me.

Anyone have experience with the Allnic H-1201?

Trying to sort out how much I want to spend on the balance of components.

Seems like the general idea is spend money on as good a turntable as you can. Work on the upgrades as the time comes. 
Jperry mentioned SME, Terry9 and I mentioned Nottingham. I have not heard Avid - it's British, right? - and Origin Live, only read something about them.
Yes, table/arm/cartridge in order of importance. Phono stage is really important as well. The least expensive MC cartridge I would think of is Dynavector 20H, that's $1k new. Personally, and I know some others will disagree, the least expensive MCs I would consider are top of the line Goldring and Lyra Delos, both are much more expensive. I value drive, pace, coherence, balance, weight and overall musicality more than highest resolution, speed and extreme frequences reproduction. So at this level I myself stay with MM cartridges.
I read about the mentioned Allnic phono stage but not heard it. You could have new for about $2600 or used for $2000 or less. If you want to consider new you could talk to the member albertporter. He sells Allnic and some other good stuff and he is nice to talk to. He is also a true audiophile, I know, I talked to him privately and here on Audiogon. Some say that Allnic is a little soft for some systems.
@$5K Id buy the Denon DP59L listed here on AG (no affiliation with listing seller) Then get a Ortofon Quintet Black and one of my Liberty Audio B2B-1 Phono stages. :-) 

Good Listening

I think you have gotten good advice.

I spent 3700 and still have a very nice sounding setup. VPI Prime (2500)/MS Nova Phomena (500) and Soundsmith Aida (675). All purchased used.

With the Extra money personally I would buy a record cleaner. Some would go for spending more on a Phono Stage... up it to 1500 bucks. I think either way you would have a nice analog system. 100% with turntables that cost 2500-3000 (used) you are going to need a record cleaner now or down the road. 

Soundsmith is a great used (or new) buy because they sound great, can be re-tipped for a very reasonable price multiple times and suspensions never collapse (you can always get a MC later down the road)

there are a lot of ways to get there for 5k used. I would pick 3-4 tables, 3-4 phono stages and research used prices. Aggressively search and when one comes up at a price you know is too good to pass up buy right away or it will be gone quick. That is my advice

If you are going to skimp.... skimp the cart. It's going to wear out and you will probably want to try a few anyway. 

Without a doubt I am saying you should get a JA Michell Gyro SE with a Techno Arm and a Dynavector 20x2 or 10X5. you may still be able to get a Lehmann or Musical Surroundings or Chinook ...but ...Get the table! Best purchase you can make, the music just sounds "right" when played through this deck. Best analogue source, If you love the mechanical side of things like real time pieces or classic sports cars this is the only choice. Did I mention how great it sounds? If you like Rock or Jazz you will be happy as well with Classical music, this table shows you whats on the platter good or bad.

This is the best sub 5K turntable out there period! In my opinion you will never need to buy another one. Fully upgrade able too. 

Previous tables:
Thornes TD 160 /Grado Ref Sonota
Rega P3/24 /Dynavector 10X5
Pro-Ject Xtension 10 /Clear Audio Maestro V2 ebony

Matt M
Rega P6 w/ TTPSU, Herbie way excellent mat, AT-33PTG/II low MC from 2juki on eBay, Jasmine 2 box phono stage and a vacuum or ultrasonic record cleaner. Each item should be around $500 except the turntable which is $1500. Very similar to what I have in my system (see details). Get a Signal Cable magic power for the Jasmine at $75 and try the same on the rest of your components. Also really like my custom made Mogami / KLEI Copper Harmony RCAs for $150 each. Spend the rest on building a vinyl collection. 
Anyone have experience with the Allnic H-1201?

Yes, I own one. Very nice phono stage.
I would have recommended it had your budget been $6-7K.
So..$1.5k for Spacedeck/Spacearm and $2k for the Allnic phono. That leaves $1.5k for cartridge, interconnect from phono to amp and power cord for the phono. Pretty good. You don't need tonearm cable for the Spacearm, the wire goes from the cartridge to RCA connectors. That's just one possibility.
jmcgrogan2, could you describe the sound of the Allnic? Do you still use VAC Sigma amp?
jmcgrogan2, could you describe the sound of the Allnic?

Natural, well balanced. Not overly warm and tubey sounding, but no sense of edginess or harshness. Not overly warm, or transparent, just relaxed, and natural sounding.

Do you still use VAC Sigma amp?

No. I am now running a ARC Ref 5 preamp with Pass Labs XA-100.5 monoblock amps with my Allnic H1201 phono stage.
I see that dealer just lowered his asking price on the VPI Prime from $2800 to $2500. I don't expect that to last long.

Yeah if a Prime is on your list that is about the best I have seen. There was one sold on another board by a guy upgrading and he sold it out of good will for $2400 which is the lowest I have seen to date. 

If its not on your list just skip it because nothing is going to make you want it if you really are not interested in the table/brand even at a good price.

For the record I am listening to Blues Breakers with John Mayall and Eric Clapton. I would say a very nice 3d state, well balanced with nice resolution and smooth sound.

If the VPI is not for you I would consider Well Tempered Amadeus. I think some of the SME or Basis tables are going to be hard to work in your budget with a nice Phono stage unless you go really cheap for your first cart which is a viable strategy. A cheap cart can sound pretty good on a nice analog setup. A expensive cart on a cheap analog system not so much. 

I think buying the Second Tier version of the new Technics would also be an option. It would  be new and high performance. More on the quick tight analytical side but a lot of bang for the buck I am guessing from reading the reviews. 

Avid Tables.


I have the Chinook, ART 9 cartridge, and Primaluna Dialogue HP integrated as a pairing--I have all 3 running off a Technics 1200 GAE and feeding PSB Imagine T2s.

They all sound great together. 

I can tell you you that the ART 9 is superb.  I'd pay $2k for it, but it costs only $1k. 

The Chinook is just great.  It is, as others note, DEAD quiet.  It's also got some serious MC gain.  Someone on here once pushed me really hard to upgrade my phono preamp, saying it would make the most difference.  I have to say that that guy was spot on.   Swapping out different cartridges, integrateds, and cables did not make as big of difference as a solid phono preamp like the Chinook. 

I would do what others have said and buy a used phono pre of high caliber (budgeting $1k-1500), a new cartridge of great quality but not big money ($1k or so), and put the remainder on the table (~$2,500 -3k).  But I'd leave room in my analysis for fuzzy logic--e.g., if I saw the right table come up but it left me shaving a bit on a cartridge I might allocate funds around because a cartridge is easier to swap out/in than a whole new table.  

I'd definitely be open to and curious to hear the iPhono2  Michael Fremer and others think this thing is amazing for $1k.  It could free up some money for you to push towards a table. 

Sorry that I cannot be too much help in just recommending the whole package, which your question asks.  I think you have a great budget and are likely to be getting into the area where you will get intoxicating sound or close to it.  

By the way, the ART9 fit my needs so well because it allowed me to stay under $1k on the cartridge while getting a great table and phono pre.  I love the cartridge and my TT and pre give me room to put on a pricier cartridge in the future, while I don't feel I'm missing much in the present.  

Best of luck and keep us posted on your journey.

Post removed 
That'll leave you around 2000 clams to buy a nice stand and vinyl. 
My post got deleted......I'll try is one.
If you add a Sutherland or Acoutech ph1 you'll be in vinyl heaven with around 2000 to spare.
So I've been taking all the advice here and looking into things pretty heavy. 

I definitely think the right play is to spend a majority of the budget right now on the table and stage. Solid advice. 

The VPI Prime seems like a very attractive option for the price it can be found for right now.  Really on the verge of pulling the trigger on this one. 

I do love the look and the style of the JA Michell GyroDec. Especially in the black. It would look very sharp in my current setup. Plus in its GryoDec version with base and dust cover would be helpful given my curious Bengal kittie. Not that you cant get a dust cover for the VPI, just less integrated appearing. 

But its hard to find the GyroDec used, let alone find a reasonable place to source one in the US for reasonable price.  

Anyone have any direct experience with both decks? 

Couple of the phono stage options that seem to be standing out are the Sutherland 20/20, Chinook, Lehmann Decade, and the Allnic H-1201. 

The cartridge decision has slowly become slightly less important as I feel there are a lot of decent cartridges in the $500-1000 range that will work well for me initially. 

Post removed 
"The VPI Prime seems like a very attractive option for the price it can be found for right now. Really on the verge of pulling the trigger on this one."

whacky-that VPI listing is a good deal. Offer $2200 WITH shipping, 2-300 will buy a cover.

I paid $2500 for a new VPI Classic years ago, and the Prime is a notch better than the Classic. Nicer arm, on the fly VTA. just a better table all around.

Plug that into whatever tubed phono with an ART9 or other LOMC, and you're done. You will have a system equal to a $20K+ new retail rig. IMHO of course.

I use Acoustech PH-1 with MM cartridge. Excellent phono. Designed by Ron Sutherland. Hard to find used and it is no longer made. Sutherland 20/20 should be at least as good, I have not heard it. But that's transistor phono, you can hear it. Go with the tube one. Allnic should be very good. We Nottingham fans pay no attention to VPI. Sorry.

To be honest most people are just going to suggest what they have or heard. Problem is that many people never get to compare tables side by side in the same system. Also even if they do some carts work better with different arms, phono stages, amps and speakers. At the end of the day its very subjective and personnel at this price point you are talking about.

A lot of these "Huge " differences are not really huge but subtle and have to do with personnel taste and system matching. Sadly you are not going to get a lot of real head to head comparisons. Trust me I have looked and done tons of research. This hobby always leaves you wondering about if Product x is better than what you bought. The lack of dealers and true head to head reviews kinda puts us all in the situation. Just go with something sold and keep your ears open. A table in this price point should and most likely will sound amazing.

Yup. Choosing table is hard.
Yeah I am gonna make a bid at the VPI Prime for the time being. Definitely seems like a reasonable option. And its available.

I like some of the other tables. Gyrodec, Nottingham, etc. But if I can get the Prime for $2200-2500, that definitely gives me some wiggle room with getting a great phono stage. 

Honestly you can't go wrong with that table at that price. 100% what I did. Does it mean that there are no other tables that are amazing or even better.... no 

But its a very solid construction, up-gradable, sounds very balanced and smooth, very good soundstage. To boot a lot of people use VPI so a lot of advice and opinions available through these forums and the VPI forum. These tables and parts don't get the import taxes add. There will always be a market for VPI. 30 year old VPI tables still sell on here. 

If you end up getting it please give us your impressions good or bad. 
Hopefully the offer for the VPI goes through. Either way, I'll definitely post my experience no matter what direction I ultimately go.  

My current setup is a Project Debut Carbon with the acrylic platter and a AT 440mlb cart. Ended up being a pretty noisy setup after my upgrade to the Primaluna and Tekton Double Impacts. Didnt really matter whether or not I was running it through my Marrantz AV7702 phono input, or my Mytek Brooklyn DAC phono stage. 

I recently upgraded my DAC to a PS Directstream so I lost the phono stage of the Brooklyn. Which prompted the entire analog upgrade decision.

If the TT offer goes through, the focus will then be on a good, quiet, and revealing phono stage. 

I just wanted to mention the cable from phono to amp. It is very important.

I've definitely tried a few, but plan on upgrading to something on pair with the quality of setup. I'm open to suggestions for that as well. I've budgeted separate money for that. 

I just needed to wait untill I determined which table and arm setup first, as to get the right type of connection between DIN or RCA. 
Right. As most agree, the first cable in the chain is most important. In my case it goes from cartridge to the phono so I didn't have to think about it. Nottingham arm cable is known to be very good, some people do rewire the arm. I probably would too with Purist Audio cable since that's the brand that I use, but it would cost a lot, I would have to find someone whom I could trust, and I might upgrade the arm in a few years. But the table itself will stay with me  for a very long time.
In addition, in some way, in my opinion, one has to match the cartidge with the table and speakers’ character. As an example, Nottingham table is on the warm side of neutral and so are my speakers, only more. I did not want to put either too warm or somewhat cold sounding cartridge, this would’ve been wrong. That’s how, among other considerations, I came up with Goldring 1042 MM.
If you go with VPI, I heard that one of the best combinations with them is Soundsmith MM. I would not go below Carmen model, it’s currently $1k, I think. Those cartridges are said to be quite sensitive to VTA, however. Whether you take it as good, bad or both is another matter.
Carmen cartridge is $800 from
I was hesitating when I was choosing a cartidge for myself and narrowed it down to that Goldring and Carmen, which also works fine in Nottingham arm. It was $600 then. Decided on Goldring but not because of price difference.
I just took a look at in the UK, that's where I bought my cartridge, to see what they've got. It's unbelievable, Lyra Delos is $1250 plus shipping, here in the US it's $1999 unless you somehow get a discount. Oh boy, and it's not even European cartridge.