How much would I have to spend on a new TT to better my Pioneer PL-550?
I feel as though my amp,speakers, CDP, phono stage and cables are all on par with each other (list in signature). Now I'd love to bring my TT (and cart?) up to spec. I wish I could spend $1200+ on a VPI, Pro-Ject, or something like that, but I just won't be able to for the foreseeable future---maybe next winter.
I'm interested in new not only as a general upgrade, but I'd like to know that everything is working to spec. (my current TT is 30 years old and I'm sure not performing as it did when new) Also, I'd like a TT that is going to be quieter.
Short of spending $1k+, What price point would I have to hit for a new TT to better my Pioneer PL-550? Do you think a $300 Rega, Cambridge Audio, or Music Hall would be a worthwhile upgrade? Would I put the 440MLa on one of these? Or should I just enjoy the PL 550/AT440MLA 'til I'm ready to spend $1k+?
Your subjective opinion is most welcome.
Amp Shanling A3000-> speakers Vienna Acoustic Mozart Grand CD Rotel RCD 991 AE TT: Well Tempered Record Player-> AT OC9MLII -> Jolida JD9. cables from AQ, Siltech, Bogdan, Signal DH Labs, etc...
Some pictures of it all
I think that turntables from each of the three manufacturers you've listed will provide you with a very noticeable improvement in sound quality with your existing cartridge. The PL-550 was a snazzy looking, but not especially fine turntable from Pioneer. It's a direct-drive model, which some (though, certainly not all) enthusiasts don't care for. While there are admittedly many other far better direct drive turntables out there than the 550, the three companies you mentioned make only belt-drive turntables which most (though not all) purists prefer. I am a "believer" of the superiorty of the belt-drive system, but I can assure you that at least one other AR member will argue with me to the death that I'm wrong.
All three manufacturers also include straight, and not "S"-shaped tonearms, which should help your cartridge perform a good deal better than the arm on your 550 currently does.
I suspect you'll notice an immediate reduction in background noise and feel as if the music is coming forth after having a veil removed from your speakers if you purchase any of these turntables. Keep in mind too, that several of them already come equipped with a cartridge that may also be better than your AT, though I can't be certain of that.
Not all AR members will agree with my suggestions, but they're posted here for your consideration. Good luck!