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Thread: Turntable Noob looking for enlightenment

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    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Turntable Noob looking for enlightenment

    A month or so ago, I was at my friend's house auditioning his new Wilson Sophia's and brought along some vinyl to listen to. One of the records was an original pressing of SRV, "Couldn't Stand the Weather." Now, as rightfully revered as this album is by both music lovers and audiophiles, my copy was not great, meaning that despite multiple cleanings with the Record Dr., it was still a bit noisy and flat.

    Or so I thought.

    When the needle dropped on his 'table and Tin Pan Alley started, I was absolutely floored. I even asked if he had put on his copy instead of mine? No, this was the one I brought and the difference between what I hear on my system and his was not subtle. Literally, it was night and day. Far deeper blacks, much faster transients, far more detail, etc. There was literally no comparison.

    So, here's my question: Why? What link(s) in the chain allowed the same source to improve so dramatically? His system was a VPI Classic with a Soundsmith Zephyr cart. Now, I realize his CART is twice the price of my entire table (Carbon Esprit w/ Ortofon 2M Red), but I wasn't really expecting the advantage to be that dramatic. It wasn't twice as good, it was 10x as good. So what caused this? The cart? The tonearm? The 'table as a whole? Preamp? In my experience, the differences between electronics, while noticeable, are usually subtle. This wasn't...and it's driving me mad!

    Is it possible to upgrade my current 'table with a new cart that might come closer to what I heard on his VPI or is the synergy of his system so far ahead of mine that I'd need to revamp my entire front end? Not only do I not want to spend $8k on a 'table like his, I can't, lol!

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    It's the analog package. Upgrading cart will take you up but be limited by the table and phono stage capability. Many people under estimate the importance of a good phono preamp. You could get away with a nice $500.00 or so cart and have a great sounding set up, like the 2 carts mentioned below.

    I think you could get closer to what you want to hear by upgrading, just not to that level. A Clearaudio table will lower the noise floor and matched with a decent phono stage like a Musical Surroundings Phenominon, possibly a Dynavector 10x5 or upgrade into a better Ortfon 2m Black or something in the Quintet MC. Now some don't care for the Clearaudio, the lack of distortion does give it a bit different presentation from the likes of VPI. The Concept package is a good bang for the buck, you'd have to spend a good bit more to best it.

    You could also get like a Rega P6, with nice cart and phono stage and get closer.

    The thing is when asking turntable advice it will vary wildly in my experience. Most lines though have what is called the "sweet spot" where that model represents the best bang for the price. Of course, VPI has lesser priced tables and Music Hall just came out with revamped line, I'm just not familiar enough to recommend. I'm sure our veteran analog guys will be along soon.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    When it comes to turntable it all counts. One of the first things I would suggest is to upgrade your stylus from the Red to the Blue or Bronze. The finer lower mass stylus will retrieve more information from the groove and you do not have to remount the cart. The Speed Box is an option to give you more exacting rotational speed of the turntable. Those are two easy upgrades that will improve the sound of a turntable.

    You mentioned phono preamp and which one are you using? There are some good budget models out there and they can make a difference. Most moving magnets are easier to match with a phono preamp than moving coils.

    I have improved my Rega and it was worth the tweaks through the years. I am using the Rega TTPSU which helps with speed stability and that is why I suggested the Speed Box. Speed stability, low friction in the main bearing and tonearm along with a cartridge that is properly mounted to the arm are all important.

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    Forum Regular Jack in Wilmington's Avatar
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    Both Mr. P and JM have talked about the difference in turntables, carts. and phono preamps and with good cause. Don't forget the difference between your speakers and your friends. The Sophia's are a well respected speaker that is sure to help with the difference you are hearing on the SRV LP.
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    I am not a big Wilson fan personally, and keep in mind Topper has the JBL 1400's now, if his amp has the juice the 1400's should sing. With that being said there is certainly merit to the fact the Sophia may have provided a desirable presentation. They obviously have fans.

    A darker background and lower noise, will come from a better front end though I'd say.

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    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    I am still a bit of a Linnie in that if you do not get full information from the source no speaker can make up for lost information.
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    JohnMichael
    Vinyl Rega Planar 2, Incognito rewire, Deepgroove subplatter, ceramic bearing, Michell Technoweight, Rega 24V motor, TTPSU, FunkFirm Achroplat platter, Michael Lim top and bottom braces, 2 Rega feet and one RDC cone, Benz MC Gold, Fanfare 3/PSU 1.
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    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    I tried an Ortofon Red with my vintage Thoren's TT. I hated it. Upgraded to a Nagaoka MP-200 and it sounds 10x's better. Blacker background, much more dynamic, great bass, much improved detail, smoother more liquid sound.

    I found the Red bright, noisy and unrefined. I think it is way over hyped.

    I also upgraded the tube in my Bellari phono preamp to a semi rare 1950's raytheon black plate which took the preamp to another level. I did not like the Bellari and went through a lot of tubes till I did some reading and found this tube. It totally transformed the sound.

    My audiophile buddies are amazed at how good my vinyl sounds.

    I think you cant underestimate at what a good cartridge and phono preamp can sound like.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
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  8. #8
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Thanks for the feedback guys, I can always count on you!

    I'm running a Parasound zPhono usb which replaced a Cambridge Audio 551p. Not a huge difference to my ears, maybe a bit fuller sound, primarily I enjoy the option of ripping my vinyl to my iPod so I listen to the albums at my office. I tried the Bellari VP130 but found it to be too warm and fuzzy for my tastes.

    I didn't even know you could replace the stylus? The 2M Bronze stylus is only $50 less than a 2M Bronze cartridge. Shouldn't I just buy the whole cartridge or will the Red cart I have suffice? I like BR's description of the Nagaoka's sound as that is exactly what I'm looking for (who isn't?). I simply want to be sure that if I spend essentially the same amount for a cart that I paid for the entire table, I'm not upgrading beyond the ability of the Carbon Elite. Put another way, I don't want to drop a stroker 427 into a MGA chassis just to watch the motor torque the frame into a pretzel.

  9. #9
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    I have read that the internal cartridge is a little different on the Bronze, as compared to the Red and Blue, even though the stylus fits. If I were upgrading to the Blue, I'd go with the stylus only. If upgrading to the Bronze, I'd look into a little more before deciding whether to go for the whole cartridge or stylus only.

    I am listening to Couldn't Stand The Weather right now, to see if I can get a sense of what you mean. My wife has a Debut III with a Dynavector 10x4 cartridge. Maybe I'll go play it on that setup, too.

  10. #10
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 02audionoob View Post
    I have read that the internal cartridge is a little different on the Bronze, as compared to the Red and Blue, even though the stylus fits. If I were upgrading to the Blue, I'd go with the stylus only. If upgrading to the Bronze, I'd look into a little more before deciding whether to go for the whole cartridge or stylus only.

    I am listening to Couldn't Stand The Weather right now, to see if I can get a sense of what you mean. My wife has a Debut III with a Dynavector 10x4 cartridge. Maybe I'll go play it on that setup, too.
    I've heard this LP through two VPI Classics, one with the Wilson speakers I mentioned and the other through Legacy Whispers. On both, the cross stick on Tin Pan Alley comes out of the blackness like a crack of lightning.

  11. #11
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    I have a friend that I helped put together a modest budget system with a Marantz integrated and CD player along with the Pro-ject Carbon TT and BA speakers. He has the 2M Red and upgraded to the 2M blue stylus. He said it made a mild but noticeable improvement in sound with less background noise but it still sounds similar to the Red.

    Here is a nice review on 9 cartridges-

    Nine Cartridges Reviewed, Compared and File Identities Revealed! | Analog Planet

    TS, you can pick up a Nagaoka MP-150 for about $250 from Japan and $280 from Amazon. I paid $230 for the MP-200 from Japan. Got it in 3 days. I saved about $175 (I also got my Luxman DAC direct from Japan, saved $1.5K and got it in 4 days) . The price of the MP-200 higher series have skyrocketed in the past year and a half. The 150 uses an aluminum Cantilever while the 200 uses a Boron.

    There is an MP-200 for sale on Ebay from Japan for $359 which is a steal at this price as they are selling for $400 and up.

    Nagaoka MP 200 Audio Phono Stereo MP Type Cartridge Only MP200 Japan Import | eBay

    You will have to check compatibility with your tone arm. The Nagaoka's are medium to low compliance. You could probably get by with one from discussions that I have read on the Vinyl Engine in the past.

    Here is a discussion that might help-

    Cart choice help for Pro-ject Debut Carbon - Vinyl Engine
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    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
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  12. #12
    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    How do you ensure that the gear you purchase direct from Japan is wired for 115/120VAC? I've considered ordering from Price Japan but all the gear is wired for 100VAC.
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  13. #13
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Great link, BR! A lot of that was over my head (pF?), but I got the gist of it. I was talking to my dealer and he recommended either the Denon DL-110 or Sumiko Bluepoint #2. I get the the former for $200 or the latter for $375. We both agreed that going any higher in price will be beyond the ability of the table. I'm checking into the Nagaoka as well, just trying to find out if it's compatible with the Project.

    Thanks for all of the great information, I'm finding the learning curve pretty steep though. Capacitance? Gain Value? Moving Iron (I thought there was only mm and mc?)? It's a bit overwhelming.

  14. #14
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeE SP9 View Post
    How do you ensure that the gear you purchase direct from Japan is wired for 115/120VAC? I've considered ordering from Price Japan but all the gear is wired for 100VAC.

    Joe, that was the trade off. The Luxman came with a voltage converter from the seller, but I bought a better one for about $25. It was worth the trade off to save over $2K. ( i just realized that I paid $2800 for the Luxman and it sells for $5K here) I have 2 good friends that are electrical engineers and one fixes audio gear on the side. Both said that the converter would not affect performance in the least.

    Amazon.com: VCT VT-500J - Japanese Step Up/Down Voltage Transformer Converts Japan 100 Volts To 110V OR Vice Versa - 500 Watt: Home Improvement

    I bought it on Ebay and went with Pay Pay so I was covered if I did not receive it or it was damaged

    The Cartridge from Japan is the same one sold here.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
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  15. #15
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Has anyone heard the Shelter 210 cart? NeedleDoctor was really high on this for my table, but I'm not familiar with them.

    BTW, Joe and BR's conversation about VAC's is pushing more towards a cart that I can just plug and play without buying a transformer or any other mods. Especially as I don't understand a lick of what you're talking about, lol!

  16. #16
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by topspeed View Post
    Has anyone heard the Shelter 210 cart? NeedleDoctor was really high on this for my table, but I'm not familiar with them.

    BTW, Joe and BR's conversation about VAC's is pushing more towards a cart that I can just plug and play without buying a transformer or any other mods. Especially as I don't understand a lick of what you're talking about, lol!
    TS, any cartridge from Japan does not need a voltage converter and is plug and play. It is only for Japanese Electronic's that are sold for the Japanese market like my Luxman DAC that runs off of 100v in Japan as opposed to 110-120v here in the U.S.. I bought a Japanese version so I need to step down the U.S. 110-120v to 100v. The Luxman that they sell here in the U.S. runs on 110v-120v.

    BTW TS, I don't think that a $500 Cartridge would outclass your TT. It may outclass your phono preamp though without knowing what you are using. I would not put a $700 cartridge on that table though.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  17. #17
    Retro Modernist 02audionoob's Avatar
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    I think the Nagaoka cartridges should be fine for the Pro-Ject tonearm. They're not as low on compliance as it might seem at first glance, since they are using a different test frequency than Ortofon. I also think the Denon DL-110 is perhaps on the right track because the output voltage is a little low and the Zphono's gain is a little high. Without looking it up, I think the DL-110 might also lean a little toward the lower end on compliance. Like the Nagaoka cartridge, the numbers might favor a slightly heavier tonearm than the Pro-Ject. It's just a guide, though, and within commonly accepted range.

    I wouldn't let the Carbon Esprit turntable hold me back from a cartridge at or even above the Sumiko's price, but I'd look somewhere besides the Blue Point No. 2. Comments from users seem mixed. Probably not worth the risk.

    I listened to that SRV album all the way through. I'd say it's a nice-sounding record. A little noisy, but otherwise good.

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    It's been rumored Mr. P still has his Dynavector 10x5 he'd be willing to let go for a price.

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    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody View Post
    It's been rumored Mr. P still has his Dynavector 10x5 he'd be willing to let go for a price.
    LOL, I'll bet! I'll stick with the Parasound for now, one upgrade at a time. Let's remember, I just dropped a fair chunk on speakers a few months ago and the well is pretty dry right now. A $400 cartridge I can handle, a $400 cartridge plus a $1,000+phono amp? No thanks.

    BTW, thanks BR for clarifying why you needed the transformer. That makes perfect sense now. I thought the Japanese cart had some weird output that didn't play well with north american equipment. Are there any challenges with getting a product from Japan into the state via Ebay? Tariffs or duty's that I'll need to take care of?

  20. #20
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by topspeed View Post
    LOL, I'll bet! I'll stick with the Parasound for now, one upgrade at a time. Let's remember, I just dropped a fair chunk on speakers a few months ago and the well is pretty dry right now. A $400 cartridge I can handle, a $400 cartridge plus a $1,000+phono amp? No thanks.

    BTW, thanks BR for clarifying why you needed the transformer. That makes perfect sense now. I thought the Japanese cart had some weird output that didn't play well with north american equipment. Are there any challenges with getting a product from Japan into the state via Ebay? Tariffs or duty's that I'll need to take care of?
    None at all. It was just like buying here in the states. I just bought from the seller with the highest rating.

    If you decide to go with a Nagaoka, they need 20-30hrs of break in. I was astounded at how the sound changed after the first 20-30 hours. The company also claims the same.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp,
    Thorens TD-145 TT, Bellari phono preamp, Nagaoka MP-200 Cartridge
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Luxman DA-06 DAC
    Van Alstine Ultra Plus Hybrid Tube DAC
    Dual Martin Logan Original Dynamo Subs
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  21. #21
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    The 10x5 is a phono cart, it's their high output MC. I think the actual model# DV10x5.

  22. #22
    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    First...you have to understand, the two tables are in two different categories. That model of VPI is miles ahead of that Model of Pro-Ject. To even get closer to that VPI model before you even start adding better carts..and if you like the Pro-Ject tables, you'd have to consider moving up to where Pro-Ject start using the 9" cc EVO arm. They start with the 2Xperience DC Acryl in the Classic line and the Pro-Ject RPM 5 Carbon in the RPM line. Those are the less costly models with that arm, If you want to match the VPI classic with a Pro-Ject, reviews report the Pro-Ject RPM 9 Carbon, RPM 10 Carbon, Xtension 9 Evolution and Xtension 10 Evolution will all get you there with the VPI Classic 1 and perhaps 2 models. The only thing different is in each brands house sound.

    Now Pro-Ject also has a brand of tables out that many dont know about....the owner of Pro-Ject developed this brand for his wife and is her company...its called E.A.T http://www.europeanaudioteam.com/ and these are very nice tables as well....all in the VPI classic 1, 2 and 3 performance.

    But if you want to tweak your table to get more out of her, you have to make sure she is setup correctly. I suggest if you havent one, get a test record like "
    Ultimate Analog Test LP " or "HiFi News - Test LP Producer's Cut . And if at all possible a Fozgometer Azimuth Range Meter or make sure your Azimuth and the VTA is correct.

    Now I've a 2M Red, and 2M Black and a Denon DL0 301 MKII. I was suppose to get Peabody's DV cart, but things didn't work out the way I'd hope. If he still has it when I can free up the cash I will purchase if he still has it, but for now, if you want it, you'd better jump on it.

    The 2M Red isnt a bad cart, but if you jumped to a Bronze, it will be better, but keep in mind...with your arm/phono amp...the better upgraded carts are going to be limited with that level of carbon arm you have on your table. right now, if you havent done so...you might want to try some different plater mats to see of they offer any reward. Keep in mind...the Ortofon cartridges are going to be much more revieling and transparent than the Denon cartridges....depending on your system, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. So you should consider your system and its weaknesses as well.
    Last edited by frenchmon; 05-14-2016 at 03:43 AM.
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  23. #23
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Mr. P, I sent you an email.

  24. #24
    Forum Regular hifitommy's Avatar
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    the quality of sound on the red is good at its best but the shelter mm for #310 at needledoctor is a good step up. a friend has the same tt and went to the shelter with great results.

    you can't expect JBLs to compete with Sashias but a pair of the ELAC B5 speakers might just up the quality to a previously unknown level. stay with the zphono for now.
    ...regards...tr

  25. #25
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    hifiT, TS has the JBL 1400 Arrays, lightyears beyond the Elac and quite a different sound than Wilson. I say the Wilson is different but not necessarily better.

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