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Scott Dolan

Turntable recommendations.

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A buddy of mine just bought a really sweet McIntosh 275 amp, and wants to build a turntable in the $750 to $1000 range. 

Can you cats give me some good recs for a TT and cartridge that would be within that budget, or maybe a little above? 

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Scott, I have an old Rega Planar 3 fitted with Dynavector cartridge. I love it.  I know that the new Planar 3 is not the same table -- but I've read nothing but good things about it. I think it's priced around $950 without a cartridge.  It's one your friend could consider.

One thing: I would not recommend the Rega Elys cartridge. It's not awful, by any means. I just think you'd do better with something else. I've heard good things about Rega's Exact, which I think is the next step up from the Elys.  I'm sure there are plenty of other options too.

Also, if your friend is open to used 'tables, that would open up all sorts of options.

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Technics SL1200 with a good mc cartridge, like a Dynavector, or another big name brand. 

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A total budget of $750-1,000 makes it tough. Most nice cartridges cost >$500. Check out The Needle Doctor's on line store. Looking there, I would look closely at the Pro-Ject Xpression Classic for $999. It comes with an Ortofon 2M Silver cartridge. I have the 2M Black myself and I think it's a great cartridge.

Unfortunately, I would think you'd have to look into the used market to get something really nice for under a grand.

The Marantz TT-15S1 is a very nice mid-level turntable to consider. It's made by Cearaudio for Marantz and comes with a Clearaudio Virtuoso Ebony Wood MM Cartridge, which retails for $900 by itself. Too bad it's $1,500 at most places so he'd have to stretch his budget for it.

BTW, what preamp does he have? Does it have a built-in phono preamp? Does it accept both MM as well as MC cartridges? That may limit his choices as well.

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I don't know, I'll ask him. And just to be clear, he bought his amp on eBay (for only $1100! He just had to solder a few things), so he'd likely be willing to go that route for his TT. 

Edited by Scott Dolan

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After almost 2 decades in "sorta high-end" turntable music, I'm never going back to a belt-driven turntable. Direct drive is where it's at for me. And no more Moving Magnet cartridges. Only Moving Coil for this lp lover. 

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I'd go for a Rega Planar 3 and a Shure M97 XE cartridge. I'm sure there are those who will look down on the Shure, but it has excellent tracking (a very important point if you care about preserving your LPs) and very good dynamics and detail at a very low price. If your friend wants to enjoy listening to music, this might be all he needs.

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2 hours ago, Dmitry said:

After almost 2 decades in "sorta high-end" turntable music, I'm never going back to a belt-driven turntable. Direct drive is where it's at for me. And no more Moving Magnet cartridges. Only Moving Coil for this lp lover. 

I'm with you on direct drive but be aware that direct drive tables are an either or proposition right now. They're either entry level or super high end. There are no "middle of the road" direct drive turntables any more since Denon exited that niche.

I'm not with you on moving coil though. They're much harder to match to the preamp and some MC preamps have too much gain for some amps, causing distortion. I've yet to run into a problem like this with any MM cartridge I've used.

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1 hour ago, paul secor said:

I'd go for a Rega Planar 3 and a Shure M97 XE cartridge. I'm sure there are those who will look down on the Shure, but it has excellent tracking (a very important point if you care about preserving your LPs) and very good dynamics and detail at a very low price. If your friend wants to enjoy listening to music, this might be all he needs.

If they make their cartridges up to the same standard as their earbuds, I'm not sure how anyone could look down on it. 

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1 hour ago, paul secor said:

I'd go for a Rega Planar 3 and a Shure M97 XE cartridge. I'm sure there are those who will look down on the Shure, but it has excellent tracking (a very important point if you care about preserving your LPs) and very good dynamics and detail at a very low price. If your friend wants to enjoy listening to music, this might be all he needs.

The Planar 3 isn't a bad choice but I'd recommend a Ortofon 2M Red or Blue over the Shure.

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1 hour ago, Kevin Bresnahan said:

I'm with you on direct drive but be aware that direct drive tables are an either or proposition right now. They're either entry level or super high end. There are no "middle of the road" direct drive turntables any more since Denon exited that niche.

I'm not with you on moving coil though. They're much harder to match to the preamp and some MC preamps have too much gain for some amps, causing distortion. I've yet to run into a problem like this with any MM cartridge I've used.

Yes, you might run into a little bit of a gain matching conundrum with some LOMC cartridges, but I use a HOMC Dynavector. Essentially the same gain as MM cartridges, but I find the sound to be palpably better. Not pretending to be an expert, just my observations.

Direct Drive tables are awesome. The pinnacle was late 1970s-mid 1980s. I have a late 1980s Pioneer Reference Series PL-90. What a machine! I love the speed stability, the auto-stop, the button for one-touch lowering and raising of the tonearm, the instant 33/45 switching, the removable tonearm/headshell.

As we know the most well-regarded of them all is the aforementioned SL1200. There are so many of them available used, for very reasonable amounts. Just check out your local CL.

As you might know, Technics is starting to mass-market the newly re-engineered latest version of the SL-1200 in the summer of this year. I think MSRP would be around $1700 , complete with a tonearm. Initial reviews are very-very favorable.

On the more affordable front you got Pioneer  PLX-1000 and PLX-500, marketed for DJs, but from what I've read, are excellent for vinyl lovers also... Well under $1,000 incl. a decent cartridge.

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Dmitry - I'm with you on the Dynavector high-output MC cartridge.  I have the 10X5, and I've enjoyed it more than any comparably-priced MM that I've heard -- at least on my Rega rig.

Unfortunately for Scott's friend, the Dynavector 10X5 retails for about $650.  So it would likely gobble up too much of his overall 'table budget -- unless he went for something used.  

That said, there are plenty of used Regas -- Planar 3s, P3s, RP3s -- out there... I'm just sayin'... ;) 

Edited by HutchFan

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On 3/7/2017 at 10:11 AM, HutchFan said:

Dmitry - I'm with you on the Dynavector high-output MC cartridge.  I have the 10X5, and I've enjoyed it more than any comparably-priced MM that I've heard -- at least on my Rega rig.

Unfortunately for Scott's friend, the Dynavector 10X5 retails for about $650.  So it would likely gobble up too much of his overall 'table budget -- unless he went for something used.  

That said, there are plenty of used Regas -- Planar 3s, P3s, RP3s -- out there... I'm just sayin'... ;) 

I've had that cartridge for a long time, it's a legend. Switched to the 20x2, a very nice, revealing cartridge. I got mine at a substantial discount in Hong Kong, from a "well known in small circles" grey market dealer.

All of my turntables have been purchased used, all the cartridges - brand new.

Edited by Dmitry

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Can't go wrong with the Dynavectors - the MC ones require careful impedance matching though with the appropriate board at the pre-amp input or a compatible phono amp stage.

Edited by sidewinder

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I'm quite content with my audio technica AT440mla cartridge.  It's only $175-200 and is a good fit with my Rega planar 3 tonearm and Systemdek IIx(which by the way can be found used usually for not too much money - I paid $250 for mine).

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+1 for Dynavector MC carts. I also prefer Rega to Projects in the same price range primarily for the Rega arms. The RB300 variant that comes with the Planar 3 (and variants) table is a World. Class. Arm. If your buddy decides to upgrade to a better table, that arm can, more than likely be an excellent fit. I started with a Rega P3 variant (wedding gift from my wife!) 20 years ago. I upgraded the table to a Spacedeck and mothballed the Rega. Two years ago I got the itch to have a dedicated mono setup. My Spacedeck can accommodate a second arm and I wanted to keep costs low so I bought a second arm pod, transplanted the RB300 and picked up an Ortofon mono MC cart. Sweet, sweet setup.

Another plus for the Rega arms is that your buddy can go with a Rega cart as well (again, that was my first setup). The Rega arm / cart synergy includes a three mounting screw setup which correctly aligns the cart on the arm whereas a non-Rega cart typically only has two screws and requires proper alignment on the Rega arm.

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FWIW my Rega Planar 3 is still going strong after more than 25 years.   I use a Rega Elys cartridge. The three screw fixing make fitting the cartridge easy but I had my last one installed by the dealer a few months ago.  He gave the Rega a clean bill of health at the same time.  His only comment was that I had a non-standard drive belt.  I couldn't really justify he cost of the Rega belt.

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On 3/7/2017 at 8:58 PM, Scott Dolan said:

A buddy of mine just bought a really sweet McIntosh 275 amp, and wants to build a turntable in the $750 to $1000 range. 

Can you cats give me some good recs for a TT and cartridge that would be within that budget, or maybe a little above? 

Scott,  I recommend the Rega Planar 2 and a Nagaoka 150 cartridge.  He can later upgrade the stylus to a 200, as the bodies are the same.  Or lpgear's new line of cartridges, which are beginning to get rave reviews, especially the Vessel A3SV.

 

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On 08/03/2017 at 8:09 AM, JohnS said:

FWIW my Rega Planar 3 is still going strong after more than 25 years.   I use a Rega Elys cartridge. The three screw fixing make fitting the cartridge easy but I had my last one installed by the dealer a few months ago.  He gave the Rega a clean bill of health at the same time.  His only comment was that I had a non-standard drive belt.  I couldn't really justify he cost of the Rega belt.

All of the deck manufacturers seem to be gouging on the price of belts these days. The last one for the LP12 cost me 50 quid ! :o  Wish I'd stockpiled a load at the old price.

A replacement can make quite a difference to the sound though.

Edited by sidewinder

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1 hour ago, sidewinder said:

All of the deck manufacturers seem to be gouging on the price of belts these days. The last one for the LP12 cost me 50 quid ! :o  Wish I'd stockpiled a load at the old price.

A replacement can make quite a difference to the sound though.

If you'd stockpiled them, they'd probably dry out anyway. 

What's 50 quid get you these days?! 

 

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Well, they used to be about £15 - which is what they are worth. 

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Here are a couple of recommendations within your price rage.  

Option 1 (vintage belt drive): Empire 298 or 398 turntable (these were manufactured from 1961-1969 are are period correct for an MC275).  Denon 103R cartridge.

Option 2 (direct drive): Technics 1200 turntable (used).  Audio Technica AT150MLX cartridge.

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