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Seeking recommendation for TT purchase

 

New member
Username: Klismith

Denver, CO

Post Number: 2
Registered: Mar-09
I read through a few older threads asking for turntable recommendations. I thought I would ask again to be sure I'm getting feedback about current models available on the market plus my situation may be different than the others.

I'll start with a little background about myself, my audio system and why I am considering a turntable upgrade. I have 1,500+ lp's and frequently visit the local vinyl record stores, definitely a hobby for me. I don't have the exact model #'s available as I write this, but I have a 5 year old Yamaha receiver (approx $1,500) and a pair of Boston Acoustic tower speakers (approx $1,250 each). I realize these components are far from the best but they are definitely of decent quality and more importantly, I like the way they sound. I have an old Panasonic belt drive turntable (1980's model, guessing $150 or so new). I put a new Shure M97xE on the Panasonic and think it sounds pretty good.

A general idea of what I'm thinking comes from an article I read that suggests a person can find the sound quality of listening to vinyl to be more enjoyable than CD's. This came with the qualification that the quality of the components used when listening to vinyl were at least of comparable quality to the CD player. I can't say that I'm disappointed in the sound quality of my low end Panasonic TT but wonder if I'm missing out on something more amazing by not having a better quality TT. It also seems like I might be a bit crazy to have so many vinyl LP's if I can't fully appreciate the way they should or could sound by investing in a better TT.

I was thinking about a price range of $1,000 to $2,000 (less if you think there's no need to spend that much). I picked that range because I want something that will give me appreciable improvement over the old Panasonic and $300-1,000 may not do that. I was thinking that paying more than $2,000 might get me a quality of TT that the rest of my system can't keep up with. I looked at new turntables in a local store and saw some options from Pro-ject (may not give enough improvement), Rega P3 & P5 (seemed a good fit), Marantz (awesome TT but didn't have a cover), VPI ($2,500 model out of my price range).

I was once told that a stereo system is only as good as the weakest component. So as far as vinyl goes, my old Panasonic is probably the weakest link. I'd appreciate any recommendations/thoughts from the TT enthusiasts here and sorry for the long post.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 3230
Registered: May-05
No need to appologize for a long post. It got to the point IMO...

I owned an old belt drive Technics, which were very similar to the Panasonic TTs of its time. I think its probably from the same era as your's. The reason why I mention this is that when I upgraded to a Pro-Ject Xpression, it was a huge step forward. At the time I had an NAD 320BEE and PSB speakers.

I almost always suggest getting the best you can afford. It may or may not be the most expensive though. Furthermore, a better deck now will remain so if/when you upgrade the rest of the system. With that much vinyl in your posession, I'm pretty certain that you're going to use it a lot.

I own a Pro-Ject, but if I had to do it over again, I'd have gone with a Rega. I really like my TT, but the comparable Regas sound better and have more upgrade potential. They're iconic tables for a good reason.

I'd look into the Rega P3-24, Rega TT PSU (power supply - makes a HUGE difference) and Dynavector 10x5. With the rest of the money, look into an outboard phono stage. The phono stage in your receiver is most likely an afterthough and nothing special. In my experience, the phono stage is just as important as the rest of the stuff. Rega makes a good one. The Simaudio LP3 and Dynavector P-75 are better and easily worth the extra cash, but they cost more and more.

The Marantz is a very well made and good sounding turntable. Its made (and most likely fully designed) by Clearaudio. I think their are some after market covers for it. Look into Ginko.

A B-Stock VPI Scout will run you about $1400 from Music Direct ( http://www.musicdirect.com/product/83516 ). Pair that up with the 10x5 and you'll get a set up that's about as good as it gets. Add a phono stage like the ones I mentioned before. I'd look at the Simaudio as a minimum.

These tables may sound like overkill for your current set up. People may say they're too good. They may have a point. On the other hand, these tables will last forever. You have no shortage of vinyl to play on them. They'll sound a bit different from each other. I think the best built and sounding one is the VPI, but the others are no slouch by any means. They all have their fans.

A person on another forum posted this -
"I can't imagine anyone who loves music regreting buying a first class recordplayer."

That sums it up far better than I can.
 

New member
Username: Klismith

Denver, CO

Post Number: 3
Registered: Mar-09
Stu,
Thank you very much for the detailed recommendations. I'm clearly not an audio expert so I appreciate your thoughts. You presented a couple factors to be taken into consideration that I wasn't aware of. I will have to do some research regarding the idea of adding a power supply and outboard phone stage. I don't understand enough about their importance and the positive influence they can have on sound quality. I will look through my Yamaha receiver manual (RX-V3300) to see if it mentions anything about the built-in phone stage to see if it is of poor quality and an afterthought as you suggested. Although, even if I find reference to the phone stage, it probably won't tell me that it is junk as that wouldn't be a good marketing scheme. Maybe that is just something you have to know regarding the general quality of Yamaha products?

The store I visited recommended the Rega P3 as you did. They told me the more expensive P3, where you can pick your enameled colors, includes the power supply. This sounds like a good option. They sell it with a Rega Elys 2 cartridge installed. You suggested the Dynavector 10x5. Considering the Elys 2 is already included in the price, do you think the Dynavector is far superior and worth buying as an upgrade?

This store also had the VPI Scout and a similarly priced Marantz on display. I think I'll go back to the store with a couple LP's and listen to these three options and see what I like the best.
 

Gold Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 9309
Registered: Feb-05
"You suggested the Dynavector 10x5. Considering the Elys 2 is already included in the price, do you think the Dynavector is far superior and worth buying as an upgrade?"

The Dyn is a far better cartridge however you may just want to run it with the Elys for awhile since it is included in the price. I've owned them both and have some frame of reference. The VPI is a good machine but I would scratch the Marantz as the dealer I know who sold it discontinued it due to build quality problems. The comparable Clearaudio (badged as itself) may be an option.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Dudywoxer

ScunthorpeUK

Post Number: 82
Registered: Mar-06
I would suggest that if you can, go for the Rega p3-24, power supply, try and talk the dealer into not selling you the elys, (or at least listen to it and alternatives) and take something off the price of a Rega Phono instead. Cartridge choice is a very personal thing, and demo's can be hard to come buy. The 10x5 is a good choice, as the Denon DL110, or the current Ortofon 2m blue.
I am a real fan of Rega, but use a DL110 on my P25, into a Rega MC phono stage, and much prefer it to any Rega cart, and marginaly prefer it to the 10x5.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 3234
Registered: May-05
If you get a plain (no color) P3-24 and TT-PSU, it doesn't include the cart and is a bit cheaper. I'd go that route with a 10x5 rather than the Elys. If you can't afford all that and a good phono stage, I add the TT-PSU later. But that's just me.

Every part of the analog chain is equally important IMO. It all works together as on system (as does the rest of the system).

Yamaha isn't going to advertise their phono section as an afterthough. But, how many people with your receiver will actually use it? Of those that do, how many will have anything good connected to it? I'd guess that a good number of them are probably using a sub par turntable.

External power supplies take turntables to the next level IMO. No turntable runs at exactly 33.3 or 45 RPM. Power supplies (sometimes refered to as speed controllers) bring the speed significantly closer. All aspects of the music are improved.

It seems like you have a good dealer locally. I'd listen to what they have and take it from there. You'll learn far more about what this stuff sounds like than we can ever describe.
 

Gold Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 3611
Registered: Sep-04
External power supplies always seem to provide the same benefits - lower noise floor (!), improved speed stability, better pitch and rhythm, and better resolution.

With a collection of 1500 records and fairly decent components, the minimum you should start with is a record deck around the same price as the components you have. So my recommendation is to start at the £1500 bracket. It's true that if you went crazy and bought something unbelievably expensive then you wouldn't be making the most of it because the other components won't let it do its thing. However, all the music has to come from the source. If the source isn't up to it, then the electronics can't do anything bar amplify and expose its limitations. I know you that you're quite taken with your Panasonic but it's sad to say that even if it were the most amazing record deck in its day, it's probably a little bit past it by now (well, I hope you occasionally changed the stylus, coz if not it's well past it). The reason it sounds good to you is that you're used to it, like a pair of old slippers which may be falling apart but are still the comfiest you've ever worn.

So the P3-24 is the minimum I'd recommend, preferably with a quality cartridge such as the 10x5 mentioned elsewhere. The maximum depends on the approach you take. As you go up in the turntable stakes, the quality of the phono stage counts for an awful lot.

Cartridges have very low outputs. Where a CD player produces a signal output of around 2 volts, cartridges produce something around 2mV (Moving Magnet or Moving Iron) or 0.2 - 0.6mV (Moving Coil). There is one other type called a High Ouput Moving Coil which has an output of around 1.5mV or similar to that of Moving Magnet cartridges. So basically, theoutput of a cartridge is between 1000 and 10000 times lower than that of a CD player or tuner. The phono stage has to boost this signal to a similar level as the CD player and that can be difficult to do without introducing noise from the circuit itself. You can spend thousands on phono stages which is why it's being mentioned by the others here. The phono stage in the RX-V3300 is another feature which Yamaha had to add to try and make more sales, but the primary role of the Yamaha is as a (good) surround receiver first. If you go to the Yamaha web site, the main page doesn't even talk about the phono stage. The features page says the phono stage is built for 2.5mV 47kohm load so it's designed for MM and high output MCs only. I suggest it's there to tick all the boxes. You have a serious collection and are considering a serious record deck - it's worth considering the extra phono stage.

Generally speaking, most people will agree that Moving Coil (or MC) cartridges produce a better sound quality than Moving Magnet (MM). High Output MCs try to take the best of both worlds - the higher output with the better fidelity. In direct comparisons between cartridges of the same model but different type (e.g Dynavector's 20XL and 20XH), the low output model is usually declared the better, but the high output one will not be disgraced. The Dynavector 10x5 is a high output moving coil.

You mentioned that the VPI Scout is over budget, but it doesn't seem that much over budget, especially considering that it'll probably last you quite some time (going by the Panasonic! :-) ) so the extra cost over a few years is a small price to pay when considering the potential gains which I hope you'll hear soon.

I suggest going along with up to a dozen records of different bands, different labels and different genres so you get a good idea of how the deck reacts to different music. You'll only play a few tracks from 3 or 4 records, but giving yourself some choice is never a bad thing, especially trying different labels since the mastering quality of music (modern or not, CD or not) is so variable that it can make or break a demo.

Good luck, and let us know what happens!

Frank.
 

New member
Username: Klismith

Denver, CO

Post Number: 4
Registered: Mar-09
Frank,
Thank you very much for your input. I will definitely let you know what I end up purchasing and what the results are. I'm amazed at how helpful and knowledgeable the Ecoustics users are. I must have been thinking Panasonic and Technics were somehow related and listed the wrong brand. My old TT is actually a Technics SL-230, not Panasonic. That probably doesn't matter much as I'm sure it's still low end and very outdated. It does at least have a new Shure cartridge.

I'm going to seriously research all the recommendations I've been given here. At the moment, a new job search has become a priority. Shopping for vinyl and turntables is far more enjoyable than looking for work. Unfortunately, there seems to be an undeniable link between TT purchases and paychecks, go figure.

Thanks again,
Mark
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 3255
Registered: May-05
Panasonic bought Technics a while back. According to a dealer who used to be a Technics rep, Technics built all the TTs. All were sold with the Technics name, and some were sold as both. Every Panasonic was a re-badged Technics.

A lot of people love Technics TTs. IMO they're great DJ TTs, but that's about it. I haven't heard one that holds a candle to a good Hifi brand TT (if that's the proper term).
 

New member
Username: Klismith

Denver, CO

Post Number: 5
Registered: Mar-09
Hello Stu or anyone else that cares to comment. A year and a half later I finally made a turntable purchase, the VPI Scout. It included a Dyanavector moving coil cartridge 20XH. I'm very happy with the turntable. I made no other improvements to my system other than this purchase. In reading back through these recommendations, I'm considering getting an external phone stage preamp. I'm sure other components of my system (Yamaha amp and Boston Acoustic speakers) could also use upgrading, but the phone stage preamp was recommended right from the start by Stu and others. I'm assuming this may be the best place to spend dollars now to improve the turntable's performance. Your exlanations seemed logical in saying that the Yamaha A/V receiver would not be focused on including a quality phono state. Do you still recommend the Simaudio LP3? Are there any other recommendations that cost under $500 that would be worth considering?

Another thought I have is in regards to overall system improvement. I could focus on the amp or the speakers. If I would upgrade the amp, then I would focus on a better audio amp/pre-amp or integrated amp. If I go this route in the not too distant future, would it be foolish to buy an external phone stage now since the pre-amp or integrated amp may include a quality phone preamp? I asked this question to a sales associate in a local high end store and he suggested the new amp probably still wouldn't have a quality phone stage so buying the external phone stage was the way to go. Would you agree with that?

Thanks, Mark
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4130
Registered: May-05
Glad to see you bought something good, Mark. The Scout and 20xh is a great combo!

As to the phono stage, I guess it comes down to what integrated amp you're looking at. If you're buying an intergated amp from a company like McIntosh, Bryston, etc., then there's no point in buying something like the LP3 at this point IMO. My Bryston B60 integrated amp's phono stage is as good, if not better than the LP3 IMO. It's a $500 option in my integrated, and about that much in higher quality integrateds that don't come with them as standard.

If you're buying a lower level integrated and/or it's not an option in one you're looking at, then I strongly suggest the LP3. Music Direct has the LP3 for $350 now. I think it's being phased out for a new model, as I see the LP3.5 has been replaced.

For $350, it's pretty much a no-brainer IMO. Dynavector P-75s go for your budget and under on Audiogon if you're open to buying used. The Dynacector would be a natural choice with your cartridge. It would most likely better some built in phono stages too, as well as being more flexible with loading, MM and MC, etc.

I guess the biggest question you should consider is what integrated amp are you looking into buying?
 

New member
Username: Klismith

Denver, CO

Post Number: 6
Registered: Mar-09
Thanks Stu, good advice as usual. I don't have an integrated amp in mind at this point. I was thinking to the future knowing at some point I will upgrade my amp and speakers. I'm comfortable buying used so a used Dynavector P-75 or a new LP3 are good options. I just wasn't sure it would make sense to spend $400-$500 on an external phono stage now, even though that seems pretty inexpensive, if I were to upgrade my amp in a year or so. I could hold on to those dollars and apply it towards an amp that includes the phono stage. But you are pointing out that there are plenty of good options for integrated amps that won't include the built in phono stage or I can choose to not pay additional for this feature. In that case I would be able to make good use of the external phono stage with the new amp and not feel as though it was wasted. I will look into purchasing the P-75 (if any available) or the LP3 now.
I can't afford to upgrade both my amp and speakers right now. What is your gut feeling on the order in which I should make these upgrades, amp or speakers first? Which one would provide the most improvement in sound quality? For the one you think I should upgrade first, could you give 2 or 3 recommendations that I should check out? I have no problem buying used. I want to make sure it is better than my Yamaha A/V receiver or my Boston Acoustic tower speakers. I'm not sure what the price range would be because I'm not sure what would be required in order to substantially improve what I have. Would it be possible for around $2K for the amp or pair of speakers, especially if buying used? Or will it take a lot more $$$?
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4131
Registered: May-05
There are a lot of good integrated amps out there for $2k. Same thing regarding speakers. What's best is really a matter of preference. If you have some dealers in the area, it would be a good thing to see and hear what they have. I'd stay away from the higher end of the lower end stuff, if that makes sense. Instead of getting s top of the line NAD, Rotel, etc., I'd look into the entry level stuff of more upscale brands. Bryston, Naim, etc. The lowest end Naim (the Nait 5i) will blow the doors off the NAD seperates.

I don't know which Boston Acoustics speakers you have, but I'm pretty sure the Yamaha receiver is the weakest link here. Changing speakers will bring out the most change, but I think you'd be very surprised how good your speakers will sound with better amplification.

I like Boston Acoustics speakers. Not the best there is, nor my absolute favorite, but there are far worse for equal money. They're usually an easy speaker to live with for a while.

If you want to buy used, your money can go further, but you're also taking some chances. No warranty, not knowing what it'll sound like, etc.

And again with integrated amp, how good the internal phono section sounds depends on the specific one. My B60's phono stage is the same board they use in their around $2k + external power supply outboard phono preamp. The external one sounds a good bit better, but that doesn't mean my internal one sounds bad. I think it sounds a bit better than the LP3, but the LP3 is far more flexible. If I were to buy an external phono preamp, the Dynavector P-75 is where I'd start. Not trying to push that one on you, so please don't take it as such.

I mentioned Naim for integrateds; they don't have internal phono stages available. They have outboard phono preamps, but it gets a bit complicated as to which integrateds have a powered socket for them, which ones don't, and what power supply to use. Naim's a great company, but there stuff gets tricky if you don't know what does what.

What brands do you have locally? What are you looking for sonically? How big is the room? These ate questions that need to addressed before recommending anything. Add to that what speakers are you most interested in using.
 

New member
Username: Klismith

Denver, CO

Post Number: 7
Registered: Mar-09
Stu, thanks again. I decided I'll keep an eye out for a used Dynavector P-75. It sounds like it would be a better amp plus a used P-75 might be similar in price to a new Simaudio LP3. I'll look around for Byrson and Naim amps. I'm not familiar with them at all. Had you not pointed it out, I would have considered NAD and Rotel to be higher end equipment. But that is probably because I've never had anything better than a Yamaha and don't know what all is out there. I do understand your point about not buying a top of the line from a low end manufacturer. Probably not going to do anything real quick on a purchase until sometime after the holidays. I'll let you know what I end up choosing or possibly will have another question down the road. Thanks for your help. Mark
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4197
Registered: May-05
The best advice anyone can give you is to go out and listen to what's locally available. A good dealer will help you understand what different pieces are doing differently other than the obvious 'better bass, better highs' stuff. You don't have to buy anything until you're ready, and if you go out to hear stuff before hand, you should let them know your intentions.

If you don't have much of anything available in your neck of the woods, then that changes things a bit.
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