Budget Vinyl Rigs

Discussion in 'Vinyl Nutjob World: Turntable and Related Gear' started by Merrick, Feb 26, 2016.

  1. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    It seems like more and more people are getting into vinyl here, some for the first time. Vinyl is an easy hobby to sink several thousand dollars into, which is intimidating for newcomers. What would the vinyl gurus here recommend as a good system that costs no more than $1k? Recommendations on tables, cartidges, tone arms, phono pre-amps, etc for someone building a new system would be welcome. People can use this as a reference, as there is a lot of low and mid-priced gear out there and it's easy to lose track of what's really worth it and what isn't.

    When I first got into vinyl, I researched and was told that a vintage Technics SL-1800 (manual, direct drive) was a good starter table, so I bought one and had it recalibrated. I haven't heard enough good vinyl rigs to say if it's really a deal or not. I'm guessing there are a lot of good new mid-priced tables that may be better.

    What do the vinyl proponents here recommend for vinylphiles on a budget?
     
  2. Chris1967

    Chris1967 Friend

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    My ideal starter system would be Rega Planar 3, Musical Fidelity VLPS (run out of a battery), and Audio Technica AT-95e. (actually my first serious student setup was very similar)

    I understand most of you guys are in the US, so market is different, but this is a small system that will sing along while you build your record collection gain experience etc.

    Vinyl Engine is a great forum, that has many cost conscious members, it is a great place to find out about anything vinyl.

    I am not familiar with th SL-1800, but judging from my own SL-Q2 (at my summer house rig) it must be a good deal, although i feel the Rega must outperform it due to better tonearm.
     
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  3. JoshMorr

    JoshMorr Friend

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    My first table was a Pro-ject Debut Carbon ($400), but I bought the pimped out Espirit SB version with built in speed box and acrylic platter ($600). I started out with a Project phonobox ds for a pre ($300) as it was recommended to me by my local turntable shop as a good starter pre. This is the setup that showed me that I was probably not ever going to like digital as much as analog and I sold you my bimby. I have since bought tweaks and mods to play with sound, but if you are looking to start out you could do worse.

    It was important to me to have variable speed to play 45 rpm as 12" 45 were a must. I almost went with a U-turn but I felt like I would have better support with a local shop who can help me swap out carts or diagnose problems should they occur. I happened to have a great little shop nearby that had the full project and vpi lines who I constantly bug.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2016
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  4. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Yep, if you have a good shop you can access, that's usually going to give you the best results, but I'm guessing a lot of people reading these forums may not be in places where a good hifi shop is readily accessible.
     
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  5. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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  6. Tim Thomas

    Tim Thomas Friend

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    I ended up getting really lucky. Over ten years ago, a friend was moving and cleaning out his house. In doing so, he decided to get rid of all of his vinyl and player. I ended up with a Sondek LP12 and 300 albums all for $500!!! The LP12 was in good shape, but I took it in for service and a new cartridge (Grado Red) and I've been loving it ever since.

    A lot of people believe the LP 12 is over-rated, and perhaps it is, but used I think it's a great starting point. I haven't bothered with any upgrades, as I think they are overpriced. If I decided to upgrade, I'd like get a new table.

    There were lots of LP12's sold in the 70's and 80's. I'm sure there are more still out there that can be found for a steal!
     
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  7. JoshMorr

    JoshMorr Friend

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    I think general consensus on new tables around $500 is musichall, rega, project, or technics. I've read good and bad reviews about all. Most people are happy, as it is the first quality turntable they've heard. All are going to sound slightly different for different reasons. Avoid tables with USB A-D conversation, they all stink.

    Features I considered: I didn't like having to change belts or remove platter to change speed, wanted quality tonearm that wouldn't need upgrade, decent starter cartridge, thickest heaviest plinth in cattegory and ability to upgrade other table features as budget grew.

    Chose Project for these reasons - the carbon arm is highly praised, ortofon red cart is probably one of better $100 starter carts, and built in speed box allowed change of speed with just push of the button.

    Upgrades I've tried and heard make a positive difference - weight / clamp, replace wallwart with linear power supply, leveling table and upgrading phono pre.
     
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  8. Mr.Sneis

    Mr.Sneis Friend

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    Some general tips I wish I knew before I got started.

    IMO if you are serious allocate more budget into a solid cartridge and phono pre. Used carts seem to depreciate like rocks so it is a great idea to look for a low hours one rather than a new one; usually non-cheapo carts are bought by audio geeks so less to worry about abuse/negligence really. If you just want to get your feet wet it is pretty low risk to find a vintage receiver with a phono section but most have limited loading options and can only support Moving Magnet carts.

    Do research into cart + arm matching; this means high compliance carts + low mass arm (light tracker) or low compliance carts + high mass arm (heavy tracker). Understanding what this means and what you are buying beforehand is critical to performance, getting it wrong and I promise you will walk away disappointed. Vinyl Engine can help you in the planning process with their resonance calculator.

    Have an exit plan: if you get in too deep and want to get out try to stick with gear that sells easily or is popular. Shipping a turntable or getting one shipped to you can really suck if the shipper is a noob, factory packaging and materials really helps in this department.

    Last thing, and this occurred to me pretty quickly, is that good vinyl is no longer cheap or in other words the cost for acquiring and finding records for your collection is NOT going to be insignificant in your budget.

    Hope this helps! I love everything vinyl but it is not without ups and downs.

    If I had to throw a recommendation out for a budget Craigslist sourced rig:

    Technics SL-1600, 1700, 1800 in any iteration, Pioneer PL tables; the cheaper the better and this can even include the technics D-2 models that I think can be found around $100. These should fall in the realm of easy to acquire and easy to sell locally, they are also built like tanks in my experience.

    PioneerSX-780 receiver. Seem to age well and commonly available around $150

    Shure m91ed/m95; you may have to hunt ebay but these are dirt cheap and with the original factory stylus sound awesome. I'm not a fan of the $15 replacement styli for these but the now discontinued Jico SAS and maybe the one level below should be nice upgrades should you want to go that path. New the Shure m97xe is a great call for a low price, or maybe even a AT95e depending.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2016
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  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Last edited: Feb 29, 2016
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  10. JoshMorr

    JoshMorr Friend

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    I've poked around without much luck - where do you find gently used carts? I think this may be a good way to find a cart I like the sound of on the cheap. Obvious dangers of cart coming in damaged, completely worn out etc.
     
  11. Skyline

    Skyline Double-blindly done with this hobby

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    I'm happy with my Debut Carbon. I've got the acrylic platter and speed box upgrades.
     
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  12. shaizada

    shaizada Friend

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    Best to kinda buy used carts from people you know or respect or admire. Just a small piece of advice if anything.
    Try to buy a new cartridge whenever possible. It is very easy to damage a cartridge if you don't know what you are doing i.e. heavy handedness etc.

    Vinyl is a robust medium, but a delicate affair that requires a certain level of respect and commitment to the medium. A little TLC goes a long way.
    TOTALLY DIFFERENT from the DJ world ;)
     
  13. Chris1967

    Chris1967 Friend

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    Points to ponder...

    Project turntables have lesser tonearms than the well known Rega RB300/303/330 (the 330 being the newest and best one of them all, at least on what they say, had Rb250/Rb300/Rb900 on various tables with various cartridges and was very pleased with all of them).
    http://www.rega.co.uk/planar-3-2016.html
    https://parttimeaudiophile.com/2016/02/22/rega-unveils-new-planar-3-and-rb330-tonearm/

    So do consider this when buying... (better tonearm=better cartridge utilization=better sound). Project has far more dealerships though and maybe this is the reason i see it recommended (and purchased) more than the Rega ones.

    Electronic speed control is preferable but not essential. The essential part is to get started with vinyl, upgrades can follow after a while.

    Ortofon and Grado cartridges don't really do it for me, i know everyone has one and everyone recommends one. For budget go for Audio Technica models for dynamics and forward presentation or the Shure M97xe if you want a warmer presentation.

    On a strict budget and beginner, i would avoid also secondhand cartridges.

    If you already have an amplifier that has built in phono you may want to go for an MC, the best for the money would be a Denon 103/103r although it likes heavy tonearms, it has been reported to work well on Regas ( i have not personally tried this) so do keep this in mind.

    A Linn Sondek LP12, is not a beginner turntable (i had one, spent quite a bit on the upgrade path, then sold it, never missed it) and it has a specific presentation that i have grown out of, basically it is a very colored turntable, especially in the 70's early 80's configutations. Difficult to set up properly. I would avoid it.

    The points that purrin makes are valid, and the applechap link also has on his blog what i was talking about in my earlier post about the battery powered V-lps. Very good value for money combination for entry level phono pre.
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Having had a few false starts (Rega, Linn, Rega, Pro-Ject, etc.) in the past fifteen to twenty years, I would say to first get something cheap like the U-turn or a used Rega, Technics, Pro-Ject for under $500 to get a taste of what is possible. Also, visit friends who have great turntable setups. Playing records (turntable handling, setup, record care, slowness of operation, etc.) is not for everyone; so it's not bad idea to be more sure before moving on. You have to be willing to live in a slower time.

    The assumption is to start out with an inexpensive rig and then MOVE UP to something significant after saving money for it. While I had my 1Xpresion, I took my time hitting Audiogon for about a year, seeing great tables for about $2K go by: Micro Seiki, Nottingham, Clear Audio, and finally the VPI (Classic which I now have).

    I strongly believe that one should not hang around in "mid-fi" purgatory in turntable land. The reason is that for just a bit more, especially from the used market, you can end up with something significantly BETTER than the sub $1000 Regas, Pro-Jects, Music Halls, etc. The turntable market is nothing at all like the headphone market, where newly released shit at higher and higher prices don't bring significant improvements or at least significant improvements without drawbacks. A $2K used table will give you something utterly fantastic which obliterates all the budget tables.

    Just something to think about.
     
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  15. shaizada

    shaizada Friend

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    ^ That is actually perfect advice. Learn the ropes and the "lifestyle" to see if it even suits how you consume music. Vinyl life is more deliberate, more steady, less in quantity in unit time but more quality.

    I will add though, even a mid fi turntable setup is miles better than any dac you can purchase. This is the place to understand the vinyl format, enjoy its fruits, witness the shortcomings and learn how to adapt to them. Then, when you move to a higher end setup, you can appreciate it a lot more.

    For example, I just re-set up one of my Schroder tonearms (I have 3) with one of my best cartridges, a Jan Allaert Moving Coil cartridge. I've owned this arm and cartridge for about 3 plus years. Last night, I got some peace and quiet, so I went over every setup parameter again (VTF, VTA, Anti Skating forces, Re-alignment, Magnetic Bearing distance...everything). The final result that I have just gotten for the few hours I spent doing this carefully has catapulted the SAME setup I have as if I invested another $50k into the system. It is a major change in system sound akin to changing speakers...

    I've been setting up turntables seriously for the last 8 years or so. The time I spent last night gave me a 50x return on investment for just being CAREFUL and appreciating the art of fine analog setup/playback.

    Now I just need to invest some time revisiting the main tonearm/cartridge combination I am running as the change is so drastic. If you take good care of even a budget vinyl setup in how everything is put together, you can surpass some seriously high end gear. Keep at it...the final result is utter bliss.
     
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  16. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    I have been into vinyl since college having gone through all the usual budget used tables. I don't have a huge budget for audio purchases, so I recently ended up getting a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon. When hooked to a PS Sprout and played through the HE-400S, especially with folk and acoustic jazz, this combo is pretty damn enjoyable AND sounds different than digital. To paraphrase @blackships, I'm going to have to spend quite a bit more money on a vinyl setup to do better than this.
     
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  17. xLn

    xLn Acquaintance

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    Right now I have an el-cheapo 90 dollar sony table on amazon that I pull out at christmas time to play some indie christmas albums and that's about it. I have a whole vinyl collection that's just sitting dormant and would like to get a goodish starter setup. I've been staring at the project debut carbon for a year, but i have an opportunity to purchase audio technica lp120 or lp1240 at slightly over cost, discount applies to the 440mlb cartridge as well.

    It's not my critical listening rig, just for pure enjoyment and background music around the house. I'm shooting for a bassy, warmer sound with some air in the highs.

    I guess what I'm getting at, is for my purposes, is the project or rega worth the premium over the audiotechnica systems? Just on a preference note, I've liked the idea of direct drive and lack of belts just for ease of use.
     
  18. GUTB

    GUTB Reddit rejected: Audiophile; SBAF rejected: Poseur

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    I've been going on and off getting into vinyl. What's been been attracting me to it is that there's a lot of classics and stuff the 80s that don't exist in a high quality digital format (CD is not high quality to me), but high quality vinyl is easy to find. What's been pushing me away is the damn expense, because I value audio quality a great deal I would rather not have it at all if I can't achieve a high degree of quality. I've heard of the Well Tempered turntables. VPI offers all-in-ones, but do they suck? Professional reviewers love everything.
     
  19. JoshMorr

    JoshMorr Friend

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    If you hold out for the upper end equipment, you are going to miss out on a lot of listening. It's been said before, but vinyl isn't for everyone. Dip your toes in, see if you like it and it's easier to get out if it's not right for you.

    Records are also much more than a way to get music that hasn't been digitized. IMO it becomes the better format, even on a relatively modest system.
     
  20. GUTB

    GUTB Reddit rejected: Audiophile; SBAF rejected: Poseur

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    Does anyone recommend an entry level vinyl solution that will at least give me a taste / hint of vinyl upper end?
     

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