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Turntable Advice Wanted

 

New member
Username: Luddiciousp

Post Number: 1
Registered: Jun-11
Hi All,

I am new to turntables but am looking to buy one to match with my HK 130 receiver and Fluence SXHTB speaker system. Are quality turntables available for $200-500? If so, what do you recommend? Is it best to buy new or used (/can used turntables be trusted?)? What are the main qualities that I should be looking for in a quality, budget turntable?

Thanks in advance for your help!
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 16313
Registered: May-04
.

http://www.musicdirect.com/c-529-turntables.aspx?sortfield=Price&sortdirection=A SC&perpage=24&BrandFilterID=0

http://www.needledoctor.com/Online-Store/Budget-Turntables


Pick one or two and we can dicuss specifics.


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New member
Username: Luddiciousp

Post Number: 2
Registered: Jun-11
Thanks for the links...they are helpful themselves.

So, I like the look of:

1- The Pro-Ject turntables (are the differences between the Debut 3 and the Essential significant?)

2- The Rega RP1 (is a max tracking force weight of 1.75 grams insufficient?)

3- The Denon DP 300F

4- The Audio-Technica LP120 USB (are USB turntables inherently inferior?)

Sorry that I have listed more than one or two tables (I'd appreciate any advice, so no need to feel like you have to respond to all of these turntables). I guess that I should also mention that the primary use of the turntable will be listening (although I wouldn't mind being able to convert vinyl to my computer)
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 16321
Registered: May-04
.

Using the table to move music to your computer requires you to decide whether you want to have a built in USB connection or to have that connection included in the phono pre ampliifer; http://www.fullcompass.com/product/358446.html There are cheaper and more expensive phono pre amps out there but that is a good unit. Unless you have a sound card in your computer that can accept line level input signals, you will require a USB connection somewhere along the line. If you don't understand what I just said, ask questions.


OK, tell me why you like the "look" of those tables. What appeals to you about each and why would you pick one over the other?


.
 

New member
Username: Luddiciousp

Post Number: 3
Registered: Jun-11
I am very new at this, so excuse me if I seem not to be picking things up very quickly. I am pretty sure that I understand what you wrote; basically, to transfer music to the computer you need a phono pre amplifier somewhere along the line (whether it is built into the table like the A-T LP 120 or through an external pre phono amp like the one you linked to). Do a lot of pre phono amps come with USB connection? (I realize now that I will need (?) a phono pre amp anyway because I don't think my HK 130 receiver has one built in).

Thanks for making me look at these turntables a little harder and not just giving me your preference; I think it will pay off to know a little something about this before buying.

So the reason I would get the LP 120 is for the USB connection (not of major importance to me) and the fact that I wouldn't have to buy a phono pre amp (?), so it would be cheaper.

The other tables seem more comparable to each other. I listed them because they seemed to get pretty good reviews. In terms of specs, I've been looking at weight (I know with other equipment, the heavier the better, so I assumed that is the same here), wow and flutter, and the type of drive the table has (although this has me confused now--I thought that a belt drive was superior, but the line seems fuzzier than I originally thought). The problem is that I don't really know, for example, whether the fact that the Pro Ject Essential is 1.8 kgs lighter than the Debut III is considered an acceptable tradeoff for the reduced price. If I could get one thing out of this thread (other than just the technical considerations in setting the turntable up), it would be to know what the most important specs are for turntables and some idea of how those specs translate to the listening experience.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 16326
Registered: May-04
.

"... basically, to transfer music to the computer you need a phono pre amplifier somewhere along the line (whether it is built into the table like the A-T LP 120 or through an external pre phono amp like the one you linked to)."


Right, the moving magnet type cartridges used on most tables output extremely low voltages which require a step up device to both raise the voltage and provide what is known as "RIAA equalization". Even should a receiver include a built in phono pre amp, dollar for dollar an outboard unit will likely better the quality of all but the most serious components. Not many tables provide USB connections nor do most tables include a built in phono pre amp. Noise pick up, additional complexity and higher cost go against including such items when the owner can, and probably will, choose those items separately to suit their system. Some buyers do prefer to have everything in one package and so there are a few tables with these devices included.


"So the reason I would get the LP 120 is for the USB connection (not of major importance to me) and the fact that I wouldn't have to buy a phono pre amp (?), so it would be cheaper."


Cheaper hardly equates to better. There are some outstanding deals in audio - a "good deal" being distinctly unlike a "bargain" price - but, for the most part, you get what you pay for in audio. If the table suits your needs and you prefer the all inclusive packaging, then the AT table would be adequate but you can probably do better by buying individual pieces. However, as you say, this is likely to not be as cheap as buying everything in one package.


"In terms of specs, I've been looking at weight (I know with other equipment, the heavier the better, so I assumed that is the same here) ... "


Most rules that appply to "other equipment" do not apply to turntables. Weight can be one way to deal with the inherent problems of turntables but in those cases weight becomes extreme weight, not the difference a few ounces will make; http://www.galibierdesign.com/prd_serac.html

Turntables are - as should be obvious - sensitive to external vibration and, therefore, require some care in placement. When weight is combined with poor isolation, it becomes the enemy of good sound in that weight most often translates into "MASS". While mass is somewhat difficult to excite into resonance, once excited it tends to hold onto the vibration for longer periods of time. This can be extremely destructive in most audio gear and is especially so in turntables and equipment racks which are slopilly designed. In general, until you reach the price point where mass can be applied effectively and intelligently, it's better to have low mass which willl pass the vibration/resonance quickly and be done with it. Density is an entirely different matter. Items such as MDF can be far more dense than plastic or aluminum and this can be effectively employed as a damping agent despite adding mass. In most cases in audio, and again most particularly when discussing turntables, stiffness trumps most other qualities.


" ... wow and flutter, and the type of drive the table has (although this has me confused now--I thought that a belt drive was superior, but the line seems fuzzier than I originally thought)."


Conventional specs are pretty much useless when it comes to tables as most high quality designs are well beyond the measuring capacity of the average test gear. Additionally, some specs can be quite misleading for several reasons. First, there are "weighting" systems which can be applied by the measuring equipment/tecnician. These weighting systems take into account certain "known" qualities which are then eliminated from the raw data to arrive at a more attractive number. If a manufacturer doesn't want their equipment looking bad in certain areas, they apply a series of weighting systems and - voila! - the problem is solved on paper but not in real life. Secondly, most measurements are acquired under lab conditions which do not equal or compare to how the end user will actually hear music reproduced through the component. Music is dynamic, complex and constantly in flux, test signals are none of those things.

For example, when you compare drive systems, wow and flutter are typically lower on a direct drive table according to the published "specs". However, the conventional test for wow and flutter only measures the total deviation from a specific rotational speed in percentages and ignores the duration of the inaccuracy or, in other words, how long it takes for the table to correct itself. While dead on speed accuracy is the goal of any good table, no table will ever achieve that goal and some deviation from 33.3333333 RPM will always exist to some extent. In many direct drive tables the motor is locked to a quartz oscillator which in turn is likely to be controlled by a servo mechanism. The issues with any servo correction system is there must be a problem before the servo takes effect to make a correction. In far too many cases, and in lower priced systems particularly, the problem has resolved itself by the time the servo makes any correction which is then an over correction which results in further corrections by the servo network as it continues to read inaccuracies caused by its basic time lag. While this hunting and pecking for the correct speed is lower in the total percentage of deviation, it is unfortunately more prone to be aggravating to the listener as it represents a sound that is distinctly unlike what would be heard in a live performance. In static lab measurements, the direct drive table will measure as having better wow and flutter specs while sounding to most listeners to be far less realisitc in its reproduction of music.

When it comes to drive systems, none are perfect and each repesents a series of trade offs where one does "this" and the other does "that". Most listeners who are using speakers or a subwoofer with reasonable low frequency extension will find the direct drive system to have somewhat higher real world noise levels due to the immediate connection between the motor and the platter. Using weighting systems or simply just ignoring the sort of noise which results from this motor issue, the direct drive table will once again look better on paper whie not being as close to the real thing - which is live music - for most listeners. And, to be fair, there are some very sophisticated direct drive systems on the market. A belt drive system will have the belt acting as a slip-type attachment to the platter which serves to filter out small vibrations and, sometimes, speed deviations before they reach the disc surface. On paper they tend to look much worse while in practice they tend to sound quite good. Of course, if the broader deviations from accurate speed which might occur in lower priced belt drives are something you are sensitive to, then you need to consider your priorities when making a decision. For example, the Rega tables have a tendency to run a small percentage higher in speed (faster) than is absolutely correct. This gives the music a bit more life and dynamic jump but can be annoying to some listeners. Many of the lower priced belt drive tables can be upgraded at a later date with improved power supplies which serve to increase the speed stability and accuracy of the system. The most attractive quality of a direct drive table IMO is its higher torque at start up which satisfies the needs of DJ's and some other users.


"The problem is that I don't really know, for example, whether the fact that the Pro Ject Essential is 1.8 kgs lighter than the Debut III is considered an acceptable tradeoff for the reduced price."


Compared to, say, the Rega tables, the Project line is a bit more confusing. Rega has relied on a fairly straight forward system of upgrades between their models with the higher priced tables building on the obvious strengths, and minimising the certain weaknesses, of the lower priced models. Project has relied on a somewhat complicated mish-mosh of upgrades to each table. Use a search engine to get some idea of the relative pros and cons of each design; http://www.goodsearch.com/search.aspx?source=goodshopbar&keywords=comparison+of+ project+to+rega+turntables+

Less expensive tables will weigh less because shipping costs are based upon weight and distance travelled. Remember, the price of audio gear is not just about the collected parts. The effficacy of lighter vs heavier tables is generally a matter of isolation from outside forces. In this regard most tables in your price range will require the end user to be creative about minimising vibration before it can enter the table. Read a few of the threads in this section for clues about how this might be best achieved on a budget.


"If I could get one thing out of this thread (other than just the technical considerations in setting the turntable up), it would be to know what the most important specs are for turntables and some idea of how those specs translate to the listening experience."


Well, here I have to rely on my ol'standby advice; the only "specs" you need to really concern yourself with are HxWxD plus weight. You want to know whether a component will fit and stay where you plan to put it and whether you need to borrow the neighbor's pick 'em up truck to haul it home. This is generally true of most audio gear as manufacture supplied specs and reviewer provided tests are most often not going to inform you about the link between objective numbers and the subjective listening experience. An entire industry has grown up around the idea of subjective evaluations of how audio gear "sounds". Or, more specifically, how music is reproduced when it is played back through a piece of audio equipment. The grand-daddy of this industry is J. Gordon Holt who started Stereophile magazine as an "underground" publication in the 1960's while he was working for the highly objective measurement oriented High Fidelity magazine. Holt felt the traditional measurements of any component did not tell the story of how that component actually reproduced music and certainly not when that component was placed in a typical audio system and not in a lab. He developed a glossary of terms which he used to describe the totally subjective and absolutely personal experience of responding to reproduced music; http://www.stereophile.com/reference/50/index.html

So while it would be extremely helpful if there was a clear method for translating numbers and specs into sound quality, no such system exists. To make matters worse, for the most part in audio, if you are willing as a designer to put sufficient time, effort and monies into an idea, there is a very good likelyhood you can actually make d*mn near anything sound acceptable. The issue then becomes whether your idea is competitive with other ideas at approximately the same expense to the end user. So direct drive tables can sound good, as can belt drive tables. The most ancient drive system of all, rim drive, was recently revisited by VPI and garnered exceptional reviews by relying on the essential logic of the system; http://www.vpiindustries.com/static.php?page=Rim_Drive

A few decades ago the turntable was heard in a different light and that experience changed many listeners' thinking regarding the value of the source player. Essentially, the changes were; first, turntables do sound unalike from each other and, second, the source player is the most important part of any system. What is left out or what is added to by the source player cannot be compensated for by any component down stream. Garbage in equals garbage out. Therefore, make the source the most important consideration when assembling a system and build from there. "Money wisely invested in the source will be more musically important to your enjoyment than will revenues directed anywhere else in the system" is a pretty good rule to follow.



My best advice at this time is to ignore most all specs and do some research into what interests you. Consider that all reviewers first find what is good about any component and they emphasize those qualities when they write about a component. Secondly, aquiring a decent audio "system" is the art of compromise and priorities. You will need to make compromises at any budget level and most especially at the low end. You should have a few priorities which translate into how good (live) music sounds to you. Knowing your own priorities will make buying audio much simpler with fewer mistakes. Not knowing the priorites of a reviewer and accepting that their priorities are in line with your own would be a mistake; https://www.ecoustics.com/electronics/forum/home-audio/680912.html#POST1958668



Setting up a table is relatively easy, though experience goes a long way towards getting it right. Lacking experience, you can get by with lots of patience and the right tools; http://www.audiophilia.com/features/cartridge_setup.htm

Reading the archives of the forum will provide more ideas and a few tricks to doing a proper set up. Michael Fremer has a DVD which is meant to instruct the first time table technician though it probably will be more than you need for this table. Most often, a few extra dollars will get the table set up by whichever shop you purchase from.




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