Audiophile Turntable Recommendations for a Reasonable Price?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [DB]' started by Keith Rawlings, Jan 7, 2022.

  1. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    During the pandemic I've gotten heavily back into vinyl - of course locating and collecting all of my favorite jazz and fusion double bass performances. Unfortunately I'm running a subpar budget turntable that is not upgradeable and there are literally hundreds of options out there (and I don't really know where to start). Needle shapes? Cartridge options? Stylus options? Separate power amp or built-in? Speakers? Subs? It's mind-boggling how many different setups you can get but I want something that doesn't leave the double bass sounding muddy or distorted. My current speakers just cannot handle the lows of the big bass. Any recommendations?
  2. bass4more

    bass4more Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2007
    Oakland, CA
    "Audiophile" and "reasonable price" are two concepts that don't often align. What's the budget? Assuming you don't need an amp, you'd have a pretty decent setup at a relatively affordable price with a used Technic SL-1200 turntable, an Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge, and a pair of B&W 607 speakers. That's somewhere in the $1500-1900 range. That setup would work for me, but a true audiophile would turn their nose up at that system. You could bump this price up another 600-800 and get a new Rega Planar 3 turntable. $10k for a turntable is mid-range in the audiophile world.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2022
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  3. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2010
    Music Hall makes some nice stuff. And, they offer a range of turntables from 400 bucks to 6K.
    Lo-E, Keith Rawlings and bass4more like this.
  4. neddyrow

    neddyrow @TeddyPlaysBass - Instagram Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2011
    Cortland, NY
    My setup is:
    Audio Technica LP60 (non bluetooth version) -> Yamaha Stereo Reciever -> 2 Bose speakers, 2 Klipsch bookshelf speakers and a Klipsch powered subwoofer. Cost me about $1K with some bargain shopping. But if you walked into my place and played a record, you'd be impressed. Especially when a turntable can go for $2-12K alone.
  5. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    I was trying to keep my budget around $500-$800 for now, but that appears to be impossible.
  6. Jim Dombrowski

    Jim Dombrowski Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Colorado Springs, CO
    Can you be more specific about what gear you are looking for? You start by talking about a turntable upgrade, but then mention other components as well.
    Keith Rawlings likes this.
  7. zootsaxes

    zootsaxes Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 6, 2015
    Memphis TN
    Oh, I got this one! Best bang for your buck is the Bang and Olufsen Beogram series tables. I've got an 8000 and it's a delight. You can get them cheap cheap all day long, but often they need just one or two caps replaced - easy. Technics made a similar linear-drive dealio that I used to have and love, also a delight. Really at a certain point its all about the cartridge. Edit: chrimany, prices on these 8000 decks have gone crazy high -- secrets out, I guess. Keep an ebay search open, they used to pop up on there for around $200 all day long, now it looks like they're 10x that. This guy would do the business, though : Bang & Olufsen Beogram 3000 type 5903 Linear Tracking Turntable w/MMC4 | eBay
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2022
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  8. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    Turntable with separate speakers and maybe a power amp, but I’d prefer one built in for now. I’m using an all-in-one phonograph now with some old Bose speakers hooked up to it
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  9. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Lots of choices. Not even sure where to start typing.

    There are good modest turntable options made by cool new companies like Pro-Ject, Fluance, UTurn, Music hall. I wouldn't rule out a nice, mid-level Audio Technica.

    Cartridges are a key component, but should be matched to the deck and test of the system. I like Grado, but that's skipping ahead.

    You'll need a phone stage (pre-amp). Some receivers/integrated amps have them internally, but many modern ones don't, so you would need an external one. Some modern tables come with one.

    Then you need either powered speakers or an amp.

    Vintage can be amazing or not. Lots of new options. Happy to help if I can.
    equill, bass4more, CryingBass and 2 others like this.
  10. Pro-Ject has always made some good turntables at good prices. Maybe check them out. Well within your budget.
  11. bass4more

    bass4more Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2007
    Oakland, CA
    As for amps, I am a fan of Peachtree.
    With regard to the power amp, what do you mean when you say that you prefer one "built in for now"? Are you referring to a receiver or something else? In any case, I think you can work within in your budget if you look at used equipment. You might want to check out the Audio Technica AT-LP120 turntable, a used Kenwood receiver with phono inputs and pair of used bookshelf speakers (like the Polk Audio RTI A1).
    CryingBass, Keith Rawlings and TroyK like this.
  12. Keith Rawlings

    Keith Rawlings Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 3, 2019
    I don’t really know what I’m referring to as everything has changed since I last was into records. It seems like there are some turntables that have preamps or amps built into them (at least the articles say they do), but they don’t seem to be very specific. When I’ve read product reviews many of them say that powered speakers were necessary even if an amp was built into it.

    The last time I was really into vinyl was when I was a kid and into my early teens when we had a nice Pioneer home stereo setup with a turntable, receiver, and cassette deck. When I got with my wife in the mid-90s we inherited her grandmother’s credenza, which I wish I would have kept cause it was so cool and sounded great. Even the 8 track worked on that machine.
    bass4more likes this.
  13. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Start with the speakers first. You can always upgrade the turntable and amp/receiver later.

    The phono cartridge and speakers account for about 90% of the colorations in a stereo system. No different than how the pickup and speaker have more to do with your DB amp sound than the amplifier itself.

    Speaker suggestions? There's a rathole that will take a few days to hit bottom :thumbsup:
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  14. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    So, I started this thread more than a decade ago, with basically the same question.

    Marantz or Similar

    I got a lot of good help here and build a modest system with vintage components that made me really happy until last year, when I ran into some reliability issues. I've recently replaced my turntable and amp with new/newer models and have spent more $$ of course.

    Someone who is no longer a forum member spent a bunch of time, including some phone calls getting me going in the right direction and I'm happy to repay that helpfulness if it helps.
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  15. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    That's because stereo receivers started dropping the phono inputs , though these are starting to come back. Without a dedicated phono amp, the cartridge needs to go through a preamp. So many turntables on the low end include one on board. Some also have USB and Bluetooth (!!!!) outputs in addition to the preamp, for people not plugging the turntable into a conventional stereo system.

    You may have seen some "all in one" setups of a turntable, amp and speakers like the "record players" of days gone by. Here's one for $1999 (ouch) from Andover Audio.
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  16. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    These are no lonoger made and are highly prized by DJs so used ones go for big bucks these days. There are others in that SL series from the 70s and 80s that would be just as good and go for less money.
  17. nogbert


    Jul 18, 2010
    Denver, CO
    I think part of the issue here is that you just want a "good sounding" turntable and not necessarily an "audiophile" turntable. as others have pointed out nothing in your $500-800 range would classify as "audiophile", but that range will certainly get you a great sounding table/setup from any of the names listed. I personally have a Pro-ject debut carbon EVO (with the sumiko rainier catr/stylus) running through a Yamaha reciever (was $100 used) into some bottom of the barrel Polk bookshelf speakers and ive never had a complaint regarding fidelity. throught headphones it sounds fantastic and the bass is never muddy or distorted. long story short: any table in the $500+ range with a halfway decent preamp and speakers will be better than any budget setup. Hell before the Pro-ject i had a U-turn orbit ($200) with an upgraded platter and that thing also sounded fantastic.
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  18. My Emotiva has a built in phono pre.
    CryingBass likes this.
  19. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    So, here the deal with "phono stages".

    They are necessary. Historically, receivers (integrated amps, with FM/AM tuners) and integrated amps (receivers without tuners) had a channel labeled "phono" that had a phono pre-amp installed. Plug a turntable in and go. True audiophiles may have opted for separate components anyway, not sure, but if you buy a vintage amp, you'll likely have an active phono stage, so you don't "need" the turntable one. However, they don't always sound as good as a simple external stage like the base model (~$80) Pro-ject. I chose my 80s NAD largely because the phono stage sounded so much better than those on other vintage receivers I demoed, but a few months ago I tried the aforementioned Pro-ject stage with it and it sounded much better. Audiophiles will spend >$1,000 on a phono pre-amp anyway. Really good ones can be in the $400-600 range. In my limited experience with external phono stages, $100 is about enough unless your whole system is top-shelf.

    SOME modern Integrated Amps include good stages, if you're looking at things like Rega Brio or the new Marantz stuff, you can probably avoid having an external stage.

    But, because not all new amps come with stages, you're seeing that some turntables (usually lower to mid-range ones) come with a stage included. This might be a good deal if the included stage is a good one, but you should research or demo. Having a stage either external or with the turntable also enables you to skip the IA and go straight to a computer or powered speakers, but you're not going to approach "audiophile" that way. I don't have experience with modern powered speakers, but they might be worth looking into if not having an amp or receiver appeals to you. I'm not sure what you'll find, because I didn't go that way.

    I'm happy to help you shop vintage or even fairly modern used, if it helps. I just bought a used Creek Audio integrated amp, that is pretty fantastic. The phono stage was an option that wasn't chosen by whoever owned it originally, which is why I briefly had 2 different external stages, but Creek had the internal card in inventory and sold it to me for cheap, I installed it myself XMas eve and it sounds great. The external stage that I had is going on eBay, because I like the internal stage at least as much and it's one fewer wall wart and set of RCA cables + one fewer thing to fail in my signal chain (same way I feel on a gig about boxes and pre-amps in fact).

    I replaced my 70s Philips turntable with a new Rega P3, which I managed to get a deal on during relative quarantine when I put a premium on listening to music at home. The Philips turntable with a Grado cart made me really happy for a long time, but eventually the 45 year old plastic parts wore out.

    I think that the Pro-Ject EVO Carbon is a nice turntable for the price ($500-600). I also really like the designs of Fluance, which is a Canadian company that I would check out. I haven't laid hands or ears on one, though, so take that for what it's worth. The thing with reviews on turntables in this pricerange is that they always give way to "but, if you spend $xxx more, then you'll be so much happier". Even with my Rega, which is more than I ever wanted to spend, even with my deal, reviews are the same. I can find people on-line who insist that they need another $1,000 in upgrades to be passable. There are $10,000 Rega turntables and there are some good brands in that range like VPI, but those were insanely out of reach for me. That's what "audiophiles" chase, though.

    For me, I would have been okay, most likely spending a few hundred less on a turntable and though my Creek sounds objectively better than the vintage NAD that it replaced, it's marginal and I loved that thing. It had become unreliable, but I spend ~$250 on it 12 years ago and was blissfully happy with it until last year when it started acting up.

    You're really going to have to think about:

    • What kind of system do you want? Simple and minimalist? Component scalable?
    • What will your sources be? My system approach is/was vinyl first, but I do play CDs, and I use it to play audio/video from my PC for things like Netflix and sound clips that you guys upload comparing strings and more and more, streaming things like Spotify, which is growing on me.
    • Are you a headphone guy? That can be a factor as well. My Creek doesn't have a headphone output, but they do make external ones.
    • If you keep soliciting audiophile advice, sooner or later, someone's going to say "the room is part of the system" and they'll be right. Having an amazing system in a bad space is not effective. You've got to consider the weakest piece of your system, including your environment and then piece together the best components to accomplish your goal without overspending on something that will not perform at a distinguishing level based on the limitation somewhere else in your system. (ever play on a bad stage/in a bad room?)
    What I can tell you is that I LOVE what I'm hearing coming out of my speakers right now and I can hear bass in ways that I have only ever heard when I was playing or listening to someone play live. For another $30-50k I could probably get 90% the rest of the way, but it makes no sense to chase that unless you're stuffing your pillows with money, which most of us or not. I think that putting a good system together for under a grand is possible and for 2x that you'd be in a stage of audio-bliss that you never really knew was possible at home.

    You can certainly find a way to play your old records for far less than that, but you said "audiophile".
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  20. MrSidecar

    MrSidecar Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2008
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    I‘ve been spinning my records on an older Rega Planar 3 I bought used about 9 years ago. You can buy them used without too much of a sweat because there literally is almost nothing that can break on this turntable.

    While this is easily the most simplistic record player imaginable (no speed dial, no automatic arm return, you even switch between 33 1/3 and 45 manually, and a simple power on/off switch for the motor), it sounds absolutely fantastic. The pickup is an Ortofon 2M blue, which is perfectly fine.

    Should be doable in your price range.

    I’m not so sure I’d recommend B&O, while they certainly are stylish and sound good, they use some proprietary pickup thing which I think is a pain, and some models have some weird mechanical trickery going that adds a potential point of failure.

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