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  1. #1
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    Question Advise: Buying My First Vinyl Player

    Hi guys,

    I am new to this forum, but have been on the site many times.

    I really need some advice regarding vinyl players. I have a reasonable collection of vinyl and have been on the hunt for a really good vinyl player... the only thing is, when I do my research, I end up completely lost, as the world of audiophiles is, respectfully, is a very fussy one and really based on personal opinion. I definitely have audiophile leanings

    What I am looking for is the best vinyl player, sound quality wise) for my 200 ($285) budget.
    What's the general consensus, model wise, for a player in that price range?

    Cheers

  2. #2
    Forum Regular pixelthis's Avatar
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by pixelthis
    Thanks for the reply.

    I've heard of them alright. What's the price range like?

    I'm in Ireland... could you recommend me a site that ship to here?

  4. #4
    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    I don't know where you can get a "good" TT for your budget amount anywhere other than used.
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  5. #5
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Problem with your budget is that while there are decent turntables in that price range, you're still short on (IMO) the most important yet overlooked part of the vinyl playback chain -- the cartridge. Each cartridge imparts its own sonic signature on the playback, and they interact differently with different turntable/tonearm combinations.

    The two most frequently cited budget turntable brands in audiophile circles are Pro-Ject and Music Hall. They get high marks for their playback quality, but Music Hall uses a proprietary cartridge with its entry level MMF 2.2 model. Supposedly, this is the same thing as the Goldring Electra, which is their entry level model.

    Pro-Ject's entry level Essential turntable uses the Ortofon OM 3E. Now, Ortofon's OM series is a solid and versatile choice, but the 3E stylus is their bottom-of-the-line and while I'm not familiar with that model, I used to own the higher line OM 10. If you're concerned with quality playback, I'm not sure if I'd go too much further below the OM 10, which sounds decent but not nearly as good as the higher end 20, 30, and 40 models.

    Fortunately, the OM series allows you to upgrade by simply changing the stylus, but each step up will cost you. The best bang-for-the-buck is the stylus 20, which costs about $140. The stylus 10 costs about $50.

    I don't think that Goldring offers a similar upgrade path for their Electra model, which means upgrading will require buying an entire cartridge. So, if you need to stick with your budget, and can't add more for a cartridge, I would opt for the Pro-Ject by virtue of its including the more easily upgradable Ortofon OM cartridge.

    Keep in mind that with a lot of playing time, you'll need to replace the stylus about once a year or every other year.
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  6. #6
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    I was going to recommend Ebay...there you can find good deals on used vinyl players. You can also check this site:
    http://www.vinylengine.com/

  7. #7
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    There actually are some good turntables in that price range.

    Wooch and Pix are right on with the Project and Music Hall recommendations. But they are right that it is mostly the cartridge that will dictate performance. Both allow future upgrade to virtually any cartridge.

    Another option is the Audio Technica LP-120 USB turntable. This is a table that has a long history and is a clone of the venerable Technics 1200 DJ tables. The new model has USB output that is gimmicky and may have audiophiles turn up their noses at it. But I've actually spent a fair amount of time with an earlier non-USB version of the table and it is very nice.

    Here is a link to one: http://www.needledoctor.com/Audio-Te...=2&category=46

    Most of us will only be able to give you a model name and number. It will be up to you to find an Irish retailer or seller.
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  8. #8
    Forum Regular pixelthis's Avatar
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by SlumpBuster
    There actually are some good turntables in that price range.

    Wooch and Pix are right on with the Project and Music Hall recommendations. But they are right that it is mostly the cartridge that will dictate performance. Both allow future upgrade to virtually any cartridge.

    Another option is the Audio Technica LP-120 USB turntable. This is a table that has a long history and is a clone of the venerable Technics 1200 DJ tables. The new model has USB output that is gimmicky and may have audiophiles turn up their noses at it. But I've actually spent a fair amount of time with an earlier non-USB version of the table and it is very nice.

    Here is a link to one: http://www.needledoctor.com/Audio-Te...=2&category=46

    Most of us will only be able to give you a model name and number. It will be up to you to find an Irish retailer or seller.
    YOU DON'T need to buy too much cartridge, however.
    My Audio Technica 3003 came on a blister pack from CIRCUIT City, and for my purposes suits me fine. NEVER have been concerned with cartridges much,
    most are pretty decent after a certain price point.
    AND i believe MUSIC HALL is English, or UK. Your neighborhood, basically.
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  9. #9
    Forum Regular pixelthis's Avatar
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    Cool

    Hmmmm...wetted my whistle, think I will put LEARNING TO CRAWL on the
    platter.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by pixelthis
    YOU DON'T need to buy too much cartridge, however.
    My Audio Technica 3003 came on a blister pack from CIRCUIT City, and for my purposes suits me fine. NEVER have been concerned with cartridges much,
    most are pretty decent after a certain price point.

    I agree to an extent. Most do sound decent after a certain price point, IMHO that is about $60 for a Grado Black or Sumiko Oyster. But I currently have $30, $80, $150 and $350 carts that I like for different reasons and purposes. They all sound good, otherwise I wouldn't use them, but they don't sound the same. But that is the nice thing about the turntables in this price range. I would have no objection to putting a $30 cart on it or a $500 cart on it. They play well with a wide range.

    Also, this all pertains to moving magnet carts, which max out at about $500. After that you are looking at moving coil which is a whole other beast.
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  11. #11
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pixelthis
    YOU DON'T need to buy too much cartridge, however.
    My Audio Technica 3003 came on a blister pack from CIRCUIT City, and for my purposes suits me fine. NEVER have been concerned with cartridges much,
    most are pretty decent after a certain price point.
    AND i believe MUSIC HALL is English, or UK. Your neighborhood, basically.
    Actually, the cartridge is every bit as important, if not more so, as the turntable/tonearm itself. Upgrading from a Sumiko Black Pearl ($70 piece of crap cartridge that I don't recommend to anyone) to the Ortofon OM30 (lists for $300, but I got it for $160) was like listening to an entirely different component.

    And even within the Ortofon lineup, moving up from the entry level OM10 ($80) to the OM20 ($150) is a big step up in sound quality, even though the only difference between the two models is the shape cut on the stylus.

    Much like the speakers dictate the personality of your audio system, cartridges do the same thing with the vinyl playback. Skimping on the cartridge has the same effect as skimping on the speakers.

    Quote Originally Posted by SlumpBuster
    I agree to an extent. Most do sound decent after a certain price point, IMHO that is about $60 for a Grado Black or Sumiko Oyster. But I currently have $30, $80, $150 and $350 carts that I like for different reasons and purposes. They all sound good, otherwise I wouldn't use them, but they don't sound the same. But that is the nice thing about the turntables in this price range. I would have no objection to putting a $30 cart on it or a $500 cart on it. They play well with a wide range.

    Also, this all pertains to moving magnet carts, which max out at about $500. After that you are looking at moving coil which is a whole other beast.
    I used to have a Sumiko Black Pearl -- biggest mistake of my audio experience. I learned at that point that a manufacturer's reputation in the higher end carries no weight whatsoever in the lower price points. Aside from the Grados, I've not heard anything in the $60 range remotely worth keeping. The issue with the Grados is that they're very susceptible to picking up interference, and that's exactly what they do with my turntable model.

    As much as I love the Ortofon OM series and think the OM10 is a very good entry level cartridge at $80, things don't get truly interesting until you arrive at the $150 OM20.
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  12. #12
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    I would not bother with any cartridge with a conical or sperical stylus. Some of the included cartridges on Pro-ject tables have a conical stylus. I think that is why many listeners are not impressed. Audio Technica offers many cartridges with elliptical or better styli. The AT tables has an S shaped arm and the Denon 160 cartridge might be a good match. Of course once you enter into analog it may just whet your appetite for better stuff down the road. The Denon is a high output moving coil cartridge and the AT MC cartridges are low output and require a high gain phono preamp.
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  13. #13
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    The Music Hall Tracker and the entry-level Goldring are both re-badges of the same cheap cartridge. It can be bought from edsaunders.com with no name at all for $14 for the conical and something like $28 for the elliptical.

    Although the cartridge is certainly important...perhaps even of equal importance as the tonearm...perhaps not...I think it's actually overrated in importance in the forums I've seen. I tried a wide array of cartridges on a Technics SL-1200MK2, for example, and was amazed at how the Technics made them all sound so similar. They really had a chance to show their own characteristics on my Music Hall MMF-5. But that turntable too imposed its own laid-back, almost soft and lazy quality on those same cartridges that sounded mechanical and sometimes bloated on the Technics. The same cartridges have had their turn on my Rega P5 and it too imposes its own signature. But in the P5's case it's a sound I like.

    As for a first turntable, depending on budget, I think the direct-drive Audio Technica AT-PL120 is a decent option for the money. The Music Hall MMF-2.2, Pro-Ject Debut III and Rega RP1 are all nice, and not too different in their respective levels of performance. They're all a little beyond the OP's budget in the US, but perhaps more cost-effective in Europe.

    On the used market, there's a wide array of Japanese direct drive turntables floating around. They're reliable, for the most part, other than occasional problems with automatic arm functions. The solution to that is to just get a manual turntable. These all sound decent enough and are really quite a bargain despite the rising prices in recent years.

    Edit: Also...in true opinionated audiophile fashion, I disagree with the idea of showing preference to a turntable with the Ortofon OM series because of its upgrade line of styli. The entire cartridge can be replaced for not much more than the stylus. In fact, with the Audio Technica AT440MLa it often sells for less than its replacement stylus. The stylus upgrade option just doesn't have enough impact to be worth affecting the choice of turntable. Ortofon's published info on the OM indicates the Super OM body that comes with the 10 and up is improved as compared to the OM that comes with the 5, so a complete new cartridge should allow for more of an upgrade than only the stylus. Cartridges come and go. Turntables stick around a while.
    Last edited by 02audionoob; 04-23-2011 at 06:22 AM.

  14. #14
    I took a headstart... basite's Avatar
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    Hi, Welcome to AR

    It's not that easy to find music hall gear over here, and slightly more expensive than they are in the USA...

    as another possibility, look at the Pro-Ject RPM1. It's around your budget, and performing pretty good for it's price (and also looking pretty fancy for it's price). I believe it comes with a (budget) ortofon cart too.



    or the Debut III, also from Pro-ject...

    I don't know where you are in Europe, but you could also go second hand, although the used market isn't really great around my parts (Belgium), but who knows

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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by 02audionoob
    The Music Hall Tracker and the entry-level Goldring are both re-badges of the same cheap cartridge. It can be bought from edsaunders.com with no name at all for $14 for the conical and something like $28 for the elliptical.
    Good God D@mmit! That bends me out of shape! I've never seen that before. Not that I ever bought the Elan, but now that the replacement styli for 1012GX is going for like $275 it pisses me off. How much are they building/buying the proper carts/needles for?!? This is the kind of crap that makes the AT440 one of the best moving magnet bargains out there. If I wasn't drunk right now I'd pop off my Goldring and slap my AT440 on just to spite those SOBs! Fookin' Brits!
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    I used to have a Sumiko Black Pearl -- biggest mistake of my audio experience.
    Too bad. I've got an Oyster awaiting install in my main system (need longer bolts - LP gear says they are in the mail). I've heard it on another system an liked it, but I haven't heard it in the main system. We'll see if it passes muster.
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  17. #17
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SlumpBuster
    Good God D@mmit! That bends me out of shape! I've never seen that before. Not that I ever bought the Elan, but now that the replacement styli for 1012GX is going for like $275 it pisses me off. How much are they building/buying the proper carts/needles for?!? This is the kind of crap that makes the AT440 one of the best moving magnet bargains out there. If I wasn't drunk right now I'd pop off my Goldring and slap my AT440 on just to spite those SOBs! Fookin' Brits!
    You can get that stylus for much less by ordering from a UK seller. I don't know what the deal is with US prices. This site has it for $161, based on the current exchange rate.

    https://shop.mantra-audio.co.uk/acat...ng_stylus.html

    The 1000 series is made in UK, so it's apparently in-house. The 2000 series is made in Japan, presumably to their specifications. I've seen rumor that it's outsourced to Nagaoka...one could do worse when looking for someone to manufacture cartridges.

    That red stylus on the Tracker and Elan looks exactly like this Sanyo at radioshack.com, so I would guess that makes Sanyo the most-likely original source in my mind...

    http://www.radioshack.com/product/in...ductId=2117865

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by SlumpBuster
    Good God D@mmit! That bends me out of shape! I've never seen that before. Not that I ever bought the Elan, but now that the replacement styli for 1012GX is going for like $275 it pisses me off. How much are they building/buying the proper carts/needles for?!? This is the kind of crap that makes the AT440 one of the best moving magnet bargains out there. If I wasn't drunk right now I'd pop off my Goldring and slap my AT440 on just to spite those SOBs! Fookin' Brits!

    hahahaha! That was to funny.
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  19. #19
    You play. I listen. Enochrome's Avatar
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    Yeah I checked out the ed saunders site after reading noob's posting many month's ago. Whenever I get my Lab 80 working I am buying one from that guy. Music Hall you no take my money!!! The Music Hall Tracker has received good reviews for being a great budget all arounder. But if it can be a budget budget all arounder = mo better.

    I second the Project lll. Some british sites (What Hifi?) gave it "best entry level"
    Maybe you can even make a cool exotic wood plynth/box for it to sit on to impress the ladies who don't care for the industrial look

  20. #20
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    My lady actually loves the look of her green Debut III.


  21. #21
    You play. I listen. Enochrome's Avatar
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    I don't who scored better: your lady with the cool green Debut lll or you who has a lady with a cool green Debut lll

  22. #22
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    Hi rock! You say that you're from Ireland? Why don't you consider the Rega TTs. In fact there are lotsa good condition used Planar 2, 3 and P2 &P3 around where you live. With the savings, you can get yourself a good cartridge. My 2 cents/pence

  23. #23
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    I recently bought a (used) rega 2 TT...it's such a nice player! i'm very impressed with it and i strongly recommend getting it!
    fabs

  24. #24
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 02audionoob
    The Music Hall Tracker and the entry-level Goldring are both re-badges of the same cheap cartridge. It can be bought from edsaunders.com with no name at all for $14 for the conical and something like $28 for the elliptical.

    Although the cartridge is certainly important...perhaps even of equal importance as the tonearm...perhaps not...I think it's actually overrated in importance in the forums I've seen. I tried a wide array of cartridges on a Technics SL-1200MK2, for example, and was amazed at how the Technics made them all sound so similar. They really had a chance to show their own characteristics on my Music Hall MMF-5. But that turntable too imposed its own laid-back, almost soft and lazy quality on those same cartridges that sounded mechanical and sometimes bloated on the Technics. The same cartridges have had their turn on my Rega P5 and it too imposes its own signature. But in the P5's case it's a sound I like.
    Oh, I don't know about overrated, given that I don't read a lot of posts on various forums that rate the importance of the cartridge. Just look at this thread, or most other threads dealing with vinyl. What are they primarily asking about? The turntable itself. If not for my bringing up the subject, I doubt it would have been discussed at all. And for a vinyl newbie, the importance of the cartridge cannot be stated enough, because that's rarely mentioned at all in discussions about these entry level turntables (and with good reason, because most of the factory installed carts on those decks are crap).

    Indeed, the turntable is an important starting point, but it's not where things end. And in my experience, an inferior cartridge will absolutely handicap the turntable, no matter how good it is.

    Quote Originally Posted by 02audionoob
    Edit: Also...in true opinionated audiophile fashion, I disagree with the idea of showing preference to a turntable with the Ortofon OM series because of its upgrade line of styli. The entire cartridge can be replaced for not much more than the stylus. In fact, with the Audio Technica AT440MLa it often sells for less than its replacement stylus. The stylus upgrade option just doesn't have enough impact to be worth affecting the choice of turntable. Ortofon's published info on the OM indicates the Super OM body that comes with the 10 and up is improved as compared to the OM that comes with the 5, so a complete new cartridge should allow for more of an upgrade than only the stylus. Cartridges come and go. Turntables stick around a while.
    Well, my experience with the OM series is that it's one of the better budget choices out there. Regardless of whether it's upgradable, I think it's an advantage over many of the other choices out there.

    For someone just getting into the vinyl game, ease of upgrading is definitely a consideration. With the Ortofon OM series, it's as simple as swapping out the stylus. No need to unmount and remount the cartridge body, no need to redo the overhang or azimuth, no need to redo the counterweights, etc. These tasks are not inconsequential to a beginner.

    The cartridge body between the OM and OM Super isn't the main determinant of any differences in the specs. It's nearly all in the cut of the stylus. I've used the 10 and 20 stylus with both the OM and OM Super bodies, and the performance difference between the cartridge bodies is minimal.
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  25. #25
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    Oh, I don't know about overrated, given that I don't read a lot of posts on various forums that rate the importance of the cartridge. Just look at this thread, or most other threads dealing with vinyl. What are they primarily asking about? The turntable itself. If not for my bringing up the subject, I doubt it would have been discussed at all. And for a vinyl newbie, the importance of the cartridge cannot be stated enough, because that's rarely mentioned at all in discussions about these entry level turntables (and with good reason, because most of the factory installed carts on those decks are crap).

    Indeed, the turntable is an important starting point, but it's not where things end. And in my experience, an inferior cartridge will absolutely handicap the turntable, no matter how good it is.



    Well, my experience with the OM series is that it's one of the better budget choices out there. Regardless of whether it's upgradable, I think it's an advantage over many of the other choices out there.

    For someone just getting into the vinyl game, ease of upgrading is definitely a consideration. With the Ortofon OM series, it's as simple as swapping out the stylus. No need to unmount and remount the cartridge body, no need to redo the overhang or azimuth, no need to redo the counterweights, etc. These tasks are not inconsequential to a beginner.

    The cartridge body between the OM and OM Super isn't the main determinant of any differences in the specs. It's nearly all in the cut of the stylus. I've used the 10 and 20 stylus with both the OM and OM Super bodies, and the performance difference between the cartridge bodies is minimal.
    The turntable and tonearm can handicap a cartridge every bit as much as the other way around. Members of another forum with far more talk of turntables than this one tend to overrate the importance of the cartridge. The OM series isn't so good that it warrants basing a turntable decision on it. It's all that simple.

    I only posted previously because I didn't want to just leave your points there uncontested giving the impression that there's no disagreement on the topic. I'll leave it at that.
    Last edited by 02audionoob; 04-29-2011 at 06:52 PM.

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