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Turntable upgrades worthwhile?


Headcoat
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I'm looking at various new turntables/cartridges/phono stages, window shopping for now.

Simple question for discussion, all other things being equal how much of a difference are these things likely to make:

- A turntable costing £1.5k compared to £500

- A moving coil cartridge at £550 compared to moving magnet at £150

- A phono stage at £650 compared to one at £200

Perhaps that's too precise as this is a broad question, another way to ask might be:

- How much difference can spending more on a turntable make, or once an acceptable standard is achieved are differences worthwhile chasing?

- How does moving coil compare to moving magnet?

- Is it worth spending more on a phono stage, or are differences so small as to be almost inaudible?

............

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Posted (edited)

For tt, then yes more outlay = higher SQ. This is the same for a turnkey solution as much as separate motor unit and arm, though at the <£1500 I would say 2/3 - 3/4 of funds, on the motor unit and the balance on the arm. This in turn means there is sufficient potential left in the motor unit to warrant and arm upgrade in the future. 

The more expensive tt by virtue of its capabilities will satisfy for longer as it can support and take benefit of better carts (<£2k) as time goes on. 

For cart I would say that barring 1 or 2 ( some OC9 models or Goldring Eroica) you'd get better sound from a £500ish MM than an equivalent priced MC. 

Again spending more than £200 on a phono is definitely a sensible move. You get a better build, with quieter background and better components = better SQ, + more flexibility in loading as you move up the phono tree. 

Edited by Lurch
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Posted (edited)

Having said the above with a circa £2.5k budget I would give this package from Vickers hifi serious consideration, and maybe find another couple of hundred quid for a secondhand Pro-Ject phonostage. 

Screenshot_20210529-205509.png

Edited by Lurch
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Agree that spending more than 500 on a TT will pay dividends.  For example, a technics sl1200gr or rega p8 will give you a reliable hassle free TT that will support future cart or arm upgrades.

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Posted (edited)

I agree with @Lurch  Even if you are not planning an upgrade in the future gettting a decent t/t makes sense. I would be very tempted to buy T/T and arm secondhand or ex-demo but not the cartridge as I have had some bad experiences.

T/Ts do sound different and I am not personally keen on the Rega sound but it’s a deck that you literally just need to think about the cartridge. The same is true of the Technics. A better deck with cheap cartridge will sound better than a cheap deck with expensive cartridge.

I would prefer a cheaper MM over an MC at this budget point or even a high output MC. This is largely because you don’t need to worry about getting the loading right. And also that MCs normally sound better with an SUT.

And lastly some amps have a good enough MM stage built in to get you going more often than an MC one. There are some great sounding MM stages that are widely available secondhand for a few hundred pounds. I personally really like the Dunavector P75,

Edited by DomT
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18 hours ago, Headcoat said:

I'm looking at various new turntables/cartridges/phono stages, window shopping for now.

Simple question for discussion, all other things being equal how much of a difference are these things likely to make:

- A turntable costing £1.5k compared to £500

- A moving coil cartridge at £550 compared to moving magnet at £150

- A phono stage at £650 compared to one at £200

Perhaps that's too precise as this is a broad question, another way to ask might be:

- How much difference can spending more on a turntable make, or once an acceptable standard is achieved are differences worthwhile chasing?

- How does moving coil compare to moving magnet?

- Is it worth spending more on a phono stage, or are differences so small as to be almost inaudible?

............

My view is the price breaks you are mentioning are probably the ones that give the biggest bang for buck assuming you are careful with selection with perhaps one exception the moving coil, a high quality MM cart with a great tip profile in the £3-400 mark would outperform the £550 MC and gives more options with the phono stage

Jessica xx

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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, Jessica_k said:

My view is the price breaks you are mentioning are probably the ones that give the biggest bang for buck assuming you are careful with selection with perhaps one exception the moving coil, a high quality MM cart with a great tip profile in the £3-400 mark would outperform the £550 MC and gives more options with the phono stage

Jessica xx

I'm using a £150 MM AT VM95ML (you can get in cheaper) and prefer it to my £500 MC Ania. A lot comes down to personal taste and trial and error, of course. It has taken me a lifetime to find a cartridge that all but eliminates IGD like the VM95ML does.

Edited by Phil Bishop
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Posted (edited)

Thanks all. I was considering a Pro-ject 2Xperience XB with S-shape arm + Project Pick It DS2 MC cartridge ex-demo for £1,299.

As a phono stage the Pro-ject Tube Box DS2 @ £625.

Why Pro-ject, I currently have an X1 and a Debut 3 Audiophile with OM30 and OM20 styluses and really enjoy them both. The Pro-ject sound seems to suit me over Rega. Not heard much else mind you,

Anyways, decided to park for now/take stock as awaiting delivery of a demo Feliks Elise headphone amp and the room the new turntable would go in is still mostly our office. 

To be honest with myself whilst the £1,299 deal above is an excellent price I'm not crazy on the looks of the 2Xperience in black gloss.

Going to run with what I have for a while and revisit once the music room is no longer an office and I've had a good listen to the existing decks n there.

Cheers.

Edited by Headcoat
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Have you considered a turntable from E.A.T? The C Major is a great package. I’ve seen some demos for sale but I’m convinced if you ask, you will get a deal on a new one. Made in the same factory as Pro-ject 

https://www.hificorner.co.uk/eat-c-major-turntable.html

29C4764E-2F2E-4394-97D2-9742F4284558.png

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It depends on critieria - how you perceive differences.  Turntables and cartridges are probably one of the biggest items for the law of diminishing returns as you move up the scale.   I used to sell the stuff and in the shop we had Oracle, Technics SP10 (hifi enthusiasts did not buy 1200s back then - seen as budget DJ turntable) Linn Systemdek, STD, Rega, Thorens, Lux 310 (I think my favourite turntable) the monster Micro Seiki with the three arm capability (we used that to dem different cartridges). other Lux and Technics turntables etc etc.  

All I know is to my ears the differences between them were not instantly massive and some surprised you (the Sansui SR222 was cheaper and better sounding than a Rega Planar 2 or 3).  I took home a Linn to compare against my Thorens TD160 of the time .. same arm and cartridge but not a night and day difference - bass more solid and somehow a tad clearer through the frequency range compared to the Thorens (but was it worth twice the price as it was then) ..  I can honestly say I could live with most of them and unless you put the two up next to each other you would be hard pushed to fault many.  

Added to that you have to look at the kit you have and determine will it allow those "small" differences to be clearly heard and provide greater satisfaction.   A second hand Linn, STD, Ariston, Systemdek, Heybrook TT2, Thorens TD150/160, Townsend Rock,  and a host of others can be had for not a lot of money and if bought at the right price will never loose you any money if you decide to pass them on.  Similarly a second hand arm (determine the cartridge you love the best and match the arm to it) where second hand you can get the original Rega RB250 or 300 (which are capable of adding a VTA adjuster and other upgrades). a Mission 774, various Helius models, Alphason, Mayware Formula 4, Hadcock etc etc for not a great deal of money which perform as well if not better than a lot of arms costing well over a grand new. 

If like me you decide a Decca is your ideal cartridge then that narrows the arm choice considerably, it loves damped unipivots, it also works great in arms with damping trough paddle arrangement (and of course works great in the Rock with its paddle at the business end).

Personal view is you have to decide the value to you and the path you wish to take in upgrading your turntable - from what I have seen people usually end up recommending what they have and on top of that when it comes to turntables I think that many are also governed by the looks and let their eyes take over their ears.

With the relaxing of social distancing and us all getting vaccinated I would seek out local wammers and to and listen to theirs and find out from them why they made their choices and what they compared them to.  Enjoy the journey, take your time and good luck

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The turntable package is only part of a chain of components and each should be selected for musical compatibility.. But it’s all in the hands of the Gods if you don’t start at the beginning , and have a rock solid stable platform put put your deck on ..Any slight feedback into the dynamics of your turntable and no matter what you’ve spent it will not be at its optimum ..

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@uzzy but some want a deck they can fit and forget, it’s easy for us to recommend years of experience but for others it’s a minefield. I don’t believe you can buy a bad deck in the £1000-£2000 sector today but you can influence the sound more by the cartridge and phonostage you use. Personally I’ve never owned an EAT I recommended but I’ve heard a few and it’s built extremely well. 
in addition, suspended decks are not for everyone and will play havoc on a suspended floor if you can’t isolate it properly. 

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1 minute ago, radiant red said:

@uzzy but some want a deck they can fit and forget, it’s easy for us to recommend years of experience but for others it’s a minefield. I don’t believe you can buy a bad deck in the £1000-£2000 sector today but you can influence the sound more by the cartridge and phonostage you use. Personally I’ve never owned an EAT I recommended but I’ve heard a few and it’s built extremely well. 
in addition, suspended decks are not for everyone and will play havoc on a suspended floor if you can’t isolate it properly. 

Do not disagree and you make good points  - it is just for £500 second hand you can do so much better. 

As to suspended subchassis on a wooden floor they do not play any more havoc than a solid shelf jobby like a Rega .. and anyone with a wooden floor who does not isolate their turntable should do that before considering any upgrade at all, 

I am sorry I did not mention the direct drives in my list but the SP10 and the top end audio decks from Technics and others from the day are very good.  

As to tne minefield, we were all faced with that when we started out .. hence we learned from dem rooms and friends and reading lots.  I think the most valuable lesson in the journey is listening to other peoples' systems and finding out from them why they made their choices and what they compared what they bought against.

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I'm looking at various new turntables/cartridges/phono stages, window shopping for now.
Simple question for discussion, all other things being equal how much of a difference are these things likely to make:
- A turntable costing £1.5k compared to £500
- A moving coil cartridge at £550 compared to moving magnet at £150
- A phono stage at £650 compared to one at £200



Regarding the three points in the order above, I would say:

- A pretty noticeable difference
- A huge difference
- A modest difference.
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