Return to Vinyl - and a decent turntable

I have been seriously considering getting back to vinyl. The reasons for this sudden change in listening tastes are documented in my other threads, which I will partially quote here for convenience. There seem to be no other threads on getting back to vinyl, so some may find my experiences here useful, hence these posts.

I assure everyone following this thread that I have everything in place to purchase a decent turntable, I hope to be traveling out of the country to place where they sell records and record players, and purchase one and bring it back: not shipping costs. Yes, a turntable that will not destroy vinyl or even have an such accusations leveled against them.

The steps, then:

  • Experimenting with a cheap record player and learning all I can
  • Selecting a real turntable to purchase
  • Purchasing the thing
  • Buying records and enjoying imperfect sound for a while (I haven't got forever)

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With a halfway decent sound system, I started looking for new music to listen to. "New" meaning music I have no heard before, and that would mean a trip to the 1970s over again, where the music I like originated. As part of my journey, I came across, or to be more accurate, searched for and found Bostons song and "More Than A Feeling" and their also album "Third Stage" on my streaming provider. Interest in the band led me to watching an interview with Tom Sholz, who basically founded the band, and created that guitar sound that we all know and love. He said something intriguing: that he could never get the CD recordings to sound as he wanted them to sound.

He said he found it difficult to mix for the CD format, and he was able to come up with a final recording that 'did not annoy him too much' as I recall he said.

If there really a problem with the CD format, then I should think of buying some other format. Maybe vinyl. Vinyl had that clarity, but it never impressed me with its bass output. The cassette tapes I have are now beyond restoration, at least to the level of quality I can now hear on the mp3s and CD recordings.Playing a CD or two, I could hear a somewhat metallic ring to the sound (I am able to detect the difference between some Digital amplifiers and Analog amplifiers over You Tube, so the effect is real) .

I had a listen to several vinyl- to - digital conversions in my possession, and including those online and at the Internet Archive. As I listened to some of my vinyl conversions, and it occurred to me that I have been listening to vinyl all these years, through a digital conversion. Some of these conversions are excellent, faultless, and from records that have been played may be 10 times before conversion. (I used to convert these directly to casette tape to listen, with the proper equalization to taste). I also listened to digital files converted from a damaged record, a record played maybe over 100 times, and without much care for the records, cleaning of records, stylus, and with a stylus that re-glued using crazy glue after being broken off. So much for alignment, tracking and anti-skating was not in the picture. If a record with such rough use can produce a listenable sound file, then it is not too fragile, although I will be much more careful now.

I listened to many records on a turntable similar to this one: It was a Sony, connecting to a Sony 'mini Hi-Fi ' and I used to listen loud. Sony PS-LX-2?


Albums I listened to (I never appreciated the vinyl, did not have a choice)

  • Steve Smith and Vital Information - Fiafaga
  • Gary Moore - Run for Cover
  • Cry Before the Dawn
  • John Martyn - Piece by Piece
  • John Martyn - Live at the Palladium
  • Gardner Cole - Triangles
  • PM (Their second album)
  • Acoustic Alchemy
  • Wishful Thinking - Way Down West

What is it about vinyl? More to the point, what is it about CDs? Each recording is different, I listened the other day to an album downloaded as mp3s from a subscription site, and I was hard pressed to find the difference between the vinyl copy I had converted to CD. The album is "Triangles" by Gardner Cole, a very much underrated album, one of my favorite. Some CDs sound harsh. Some mp3s sound loud and somewhat distorted, voices are distorted at the high end, this is my impression, by the way. Some records may be available for less at used records stores, and may be out of print.

Vinyl has a dynamic range of 70 dB. Vinyl has only a cross channel separation of 35 dB. Noise floor? The lowest background noise I measured was 45 dB in my car with the windows closed and engine off. It took a little time to realize that all artists recorded for vinyl, CD's were not even thought of. Are we willing to make the claim that the Rolling Stones and Beatles were never fully experienced (not to mention Hendrix "Are You Experienced") in full Hi -Fi sound until they were re-mastered after 1995? If not done correctly, CDs do have a harsh upper end, one that I could only cure for my listening by turning down the highest frequencies on my phone music player app. Playing the CD through my computer and headphones (A pair with Sony printed on it, lets leave it at that) , the sibilance on Diana Kralls "Live in Paris" is astounding. A better system may produce better results, but the same track on YouTube does not have this pronounced effect. Is it take from vinyl? I have read that engineers have to be more careful when mixing for vinyl. They should be.

I guess we used to play records in the 1970s. I do not remember the older turntables, but I was able to locate some pictures of the equipment I had access to - Early 1980s : Our home 'system'. Technics full rack system (pictured below, the left image is exactly what we had, the right side one is similar)

One track that I remember to this day is the track '"Forget Me Not" by Patrice Rushen, and I remember how great it sounded back then. I had very few records. The turntable I used back then now sells for over $200 used it has to be more than 40 years old! The tape deck was quite good as well, I have a cassette tape converted to CD, and it sounds very very good. Tom Costers "From Me to You" which contains many many piano notes, obviously, which is a great test for wow and flutter, which I had converted in 1997 or so, is an excellent sounding cassette conversion - I still have the original tape.

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As part of the learning process, and as a result of impatience, I have on my table a fine USB record player called the EZCap .I have learned about tracking force and measuring wow and flutter, these tools were not available back when. I have recorded a wow and flutter figure of 0.2 % and tracking force of 6g or more, much to the surprise of everyone . Print out a strobe mat next.

You can follow my destructive testing project here:

I am waiting impatiently for the record I ordered to arrive. I never intended to go for vinyl, so all my records are either back home or yet to be purchased.

Next turntable: I am looking at this one. $ 215. Free shipping in my luggage. Upgrade options - Stylus? Cartridge?

Audio-Technica AT-LP60XUSB

Here is another list:
There are some pretty open-ended questions in OP. It might help if you could narrow down exactly what it is you want to ask, or what you want to discuss. Vinyl versus CD is potentially a rather involved subject all the way from mastering, through everything that comes after that. There are better and worse CD players, better and worse vinyl players, etc. Some of it is not easily explained in only a few words.
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Well, as I said in my post (#2, First come first served) the components of a turntable are few. Each can be done at the state of art, and form the 'turntable system'.
The EZcap that you own has the thing that you want: stability in motion. The record spins correctly. Now you've got to extract what lies in the grooves.
Maybe we could get down to brass tacks. Is this thread more about practical questions, or big theoretical and philosophical questions?
If practical it sort of comes down to what kind of SQ do you want and or how much is within your budget? CDs at their very best versus vinyl at its very best, either way, as a practical matter its expensive. In a technical sense its much more complicated, all the more so since it came out that Mofi has been reproducing hi-end vinyl using professional level DSD256 technology (not exactly the same as CD, but still digital).
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We've seen that plastic Is fantastic but...Will It hold leisure?
The so-called hi-end thingies don't use plastic, there must be a reason.
I see much use of aluminum, which has some characteristics. It's used in speakers voice coil's windings !
Titanium, and other metals, might be seen in arms for TTs.
1m aluminum tube 1 cm diameter costs 2.10€. 1 mm thick. Till 10" lenght it holds well traction torsion etc but you can experiment longer arms...friction Is an event
I started with vinyl 20 years ago. Within 5-6 years I collected some 750 albums, more than 80% of them in mint condition. Then I stopped due lack of space.
In those days, used vinyls were easy to find in excellent condition and affordable, the average price I paid was 2-3 Euro a piece. At same time, price for new CD was 12-16 Euro. So, you can easy calculate the savings. My Technics SL-1210Mk2 paid off several times, and still works flawlessly.

These days its totaly different story. Few monts ago, after many years, I went to my old used-vinyl shop. It almost get me a heartattack. Prices went up 3-4 times, even more for popular albums, and condition went down. Everything is VG+ at best, it looks like mint records dont even get to shelfs, they are reserved for special buyers which dont ask for price.
I saw popular albums in (arguably) VG condition that costs more than new vinyl reissues!?
Occasionaly, they have vinyl sales for 1 Euro, but condition of those are plain garbage.
Prices for cartridges and styluses also went up some 2 times.
If I start from zero today, I wouldnt go with vinyl at all. These days, CDs can be find at very nice prices beacuse many people transfer them to HDDs. And music download/streaming is high quality and simple.
In general I prefer vinyl over digital. But if you aim above CD quality, you need records in really excellent condition and high quality (1000+ Euro) TT.
Good luck and make sure your pockets are deep enough.
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Hi, There is an interesting article of Audio Karma about how to put together a top flight T/T arm, phono am & cart for around $1200, I don't think it possible to do for less. I cannot find the link, but saved a copy.

Hi, The thread link seems to be broken, which is a pity. Luckily I took a copy & saved it, so I have dug it out & done a little updating from my own experiences.
So to sum up for anyone wanting to make a very, very good vinyl system for a $1,200 – say $1,500 or there abouts here is a summery of the recommendations.
Turntable – $350 to $500
Only 1 contender really that being a Lenco 75 (or better 78, balanced platter). Anyone seriously considering buying one of these should visit the Lenco Heaven site for more details & lot's of advice. (Note later on when funds become available there are many mods like new plinth, bearing or even the addition of an electronic speed control)
By the way I have just started a rebuild of a second Lenco using a Corian plinth design (sink bench bowl offcuts) & buying the required parts individually has a total cost of $240.
The Technics SP20 or 25 may be worth a consideration as it is just the T/T section of the SL1200, which has a good reputation. Though it will not perform to the level of the fully upgraded Lenco.
However if you are very lucky & can find a SP15 at a good price, mine cost $300 without plinth then grab it.
Another worth consideration is the Thorens 150, however to get top performance, you would need to dump the motor & arm & switch to a DC supplied motor on the lines of the Origin Live DC motor & controller upgrade. However the O/L kit is a rip off for it's price, but can perform well if you can find one 2nd hand (I did) do a few simple mods

Cartridge – $250 to $450

- I shall consider these before the tone-arm because your cartridge selection will determine whether you need a low mass, medium or high mass arm. Remember we are suggesting to meet the target, that we must buy a decapitated cartridge & have a new Ally cantilever fitted with a Nude Elliptical or maybe Hyper Elliptical diamond this will set you back $125-$155. The following cartridges I have previously bought and had repaired, all originally costing between $60 to $85 from various auction sites. Have I ever bought a dud, yes once for a cost of $55.
Denon 103D this is considered the best of the 103 range and is different to the remaining 103 cart's as it originally had an elliptical stylus not conical and has a lower compliance, so it will suit a medium mass arm nicely. However VAS are often selling re-tipped 103’s on F/Bay with additional head-shell weight, which are a very good buy.
Denon 107 or 109D this is a MM cart, it flies very much under the radar but can be counted (along with it's earlier sibling, the 107) as one of the top MM cartridges ever made. Comes in Conical & Elliptical replacement stylus & these are still available.
Goldring Eroica LX, this is a very good cart it it's own right & much overlooked, a step up from the 103d (but not by much) again medium mass arm.
Dynavector 20X L, Very nice cartridge & again a step up from the previous 2, typical Dyna sound, again medium mass arm required
Currently I have a Dyn XX1-L in for repair, this originally had a Baron cantilever, I picked it up for $80 $ had it re-tipped for $130. This cart was originally developed by Dyna to go head to head with the Koetsu Black so it should be very, very good.
So there is a selection of carts and there are many many more that can be considered, you just need a little patience to pick one up.

Arms - $500 to $700
There are several arms that are worth considering, all of them will need to be found S/H, which is the only way to get a good arm into the system. Picking up a couple from contributions from other members. (listed in no particular order) Remember the recommendation is to rewire with VDH MCS 150M wire which will set you back about another $100, however if funds are tight then choose a cheaper wire & upgrade later.
Hadcock 242, a superb uni-pivot I picked one up about a year ago for $300 & rewired it with VDH wire, however this arm is only suited to low mass arms so cartridge choice is limited. Reported by many to be more musical than a SME V, so it's no slouch.
Audiomods kit arm. Based around the Rega RB250, I have never heard this arm but know the 250 very well, my main concern is that it could be a challenge for some people to build. However it is reported to be comparable to the latest SME 3009 so well worth consideration. Two additional concerns I have with these arms is the user has to use the Stevenson's alignment & it does not easily allow for VTA height adjustment, unless you can find an older Rega 250 as the donor arm
Roksan Nima was put forward by one member, I do not know anything about this arm & never seen one for sale on the auction sites. Could be a contender but mixed reviews on V/Engine, again a low mass arm so suitable cartridges may be hard to find.
Temaad Warlock arm kit. This is my main current arm for listening & it a medium mass arm. It can also be easily made up to be a high mass arm suitable for the 103 with optional heavy cartridge head-shell. This & the Hadcock are very close performance wise, so that should tell you it is very good indeed. However for me it has several advantages over the Hadcock. Firstly it is 12” so it does not need anti-bias and can sit on an Arm Pod (which cost me $5 to build a my local hobby club) This has the advantage of allowing the arm to be completely separated from the T/T bearing & motor noise. Head-shell arrangement allows easy alignment to any on the 3 recognised alignment standards (personally I use Lofgren B) whereas the Hadcock has a fixed alignment. Again like the Hadcock easily height adjustment for VTA alignment.

Phono stage - $250 to $350
I actually was a little disappointed we had no discussion around this item. However with a AD797 MC phono from this very site designed & developed by HypnoToad, the cost of build can be as low as $100, it you running off of 2x12VDC SLA batteries, already had these) it would be difficult to put up a better contender for MC.
Over the years I have had many very good phono stages including the Pass Pearl 1 & 2 & an EAR834 upgraded clone, all cost considerably more than the AD797 Phono.
For me using MC the AD797 MC phono from on the A/K site is currently my keeper,
For MM the I would recommend the EAR kit, as long as you are competent to work with 300V.
However there was a unit from fully build by Dourk (China) based on the EAR which is reportedly quite good.
So there we are a round up off how the build a Bespoke T/T Front End for $1,000/$1,300 depending on how skilled/patient you are.

Happy building to you all.

Next turntable: I am looking at this one. $ 215. Free shipping in my luggage. Upgrade options - Stylus? Cartridge?

Audio-Technica AT-LP60XUSB

The stylus and/or cartridge is not upgradeable on this turntable.

The tracking force is set at 3.5 g for the robust (but good sounding) AT3600L cartridge with ATN3600L stylus, and is not adjustable.

It's also a proprietary 'one piece' cartridge/headshell combination that does not allow you to change the cartridge - it is only possible to fit a new ATN3600L stylus assembly.
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We use an old Technics SL?? direct drive turntable with an Ortofon high output moving coil cartridge (pre-amp not required) , sounds great and has plenty of adjustments, including pitch. Cartridge and stylus are NLA but we tend to play CDs now anyway.

Before that we had a British 'Connoisseur" belt drive with a Supex MM cartridge and ellipitical stylus, sold when the belt drive suspension broke and we couldn't get a replacement. Some time after that, repair kits became availale and that TT is now a collector's item. It was excellent.

LPs can be great, especially the nice big covers and posters etc but prices are now just silly; also, it's been alleged that some new LPs are analogue transfers of digital masters, so if that's true you'd be better off saving the money and buying the CD.

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Joined 2011
To be clear, today most inexpensive new turntables sold with arm and cartridge are poor, and will damage LPs quickly.
A basic CD player, new or used, will be much better than such a poor turntable.

It appears some of the few acceptable inexpensive turntables supplied with arm and cartridge (either about $600) are:
Rega Planar 1 with Carbon cartridge
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO with tonearm and Sumiko Rainier Cartridge (in USA) or Ortofon 2M Red (outside of USA)

Don't buy a turntable with a built-in phono preamp that cannot be bypassed later on.
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There are some pretty open-ended questions in OP. It might help if you could narrow down exactly what it is you want to ask, or what you want to discuss. Vinyl versus CD is potentially a rather involved subject all the way from mastering, through everything that comes after that. There are better and worse CD players, better and worse vinyl players, etc. Some of it is not easily explained in only a few words.

The final recorded product does vary in quality. That said, I simply want to buy my first good turntable, I will be traveling overseas and will save the shipping cost. Budget is between $ 100 to $250 maybe. Upgrades can come later. First good turntable - I already bought a bad one!

There is much detail posted above, and I will take a little time to understand it all.

Given the limitations of YouTube, with turntable reviews, does quality of its sound come across to you on YouTube?

Looking at Airforcezero and the Laser turntables as well as Victrola etc.
Your budget is simply too low for a "good" turntable.

The AT-LP3 I mentioned above is available for around £225 and at least it will not completely ruin your records.

I would not use YouTube as a guide to the sound quality of a turntable/cartridge combination as the sound reproduction in the videos won't be to a common standard.
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If the converters and the one doing video is knowledgeable about how to transcribe pcm to mp format then it can be trustable.

It makes too much if to be sure... but for some example i've heard ( and can compare to the real ones ( deck and cart)) it is/was close to what could be expected.
...what is it about CDs? Each recording is different, I listened the other day to an album downloaded as mp3s from a subscription site, and I was hard pressed to find the difference between the vinyl copy I had converted to CD. The album is "Triangles" by Gardner Cole, a very much underrated album, one of my favorite. Some CDs sound harsh.
IMHO if your maximum budget is $250, you don't have enough to buy any good new turntable. You don't even have enough for a good CD player, or a good DAC.

Please let me explain why I would say that. Its that in the consumer mass markets, the retail selling price of a product is somewhere in the range of 3 to 5 times the incremental cost of making one such product. For example, if the device is a turntable the manufacturing cost would include the shipping box, the user manual, etc. IOW, it would include everything. Now, since not everyone buys a turntable, probably not a huge number of turntables are sold. That suggests the retail markup is less likely to be 3 times. Probably 4 or 5 times. Let's say its a 4 times markup for a $250 turntable with an arm and a cartridge.

Okay, so $250 / 4 = $62.50
That's the amount the manufacturer can spend to make everything including the shipping box. The cartridge is likely to be ceramic rather than magnetic. Pretty much everything has to be junk except for maybe the shipping box, which at least has to be good enough to hold together during shipping.

So, given your budget maybe the best you could hope for might be if you could find a used one in good condition. Even then it would probably not be a 'good' turntable, it would be more of an 'entry' level turntable. For example, the turntable rayma suggested in post #15 above might be the type of thing to look for.
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Why not buy 2nd hand ?
Don't know about the States but here in the UK you can get quality 2nd hand Turntables and CD players for very reasonable prices Ok they may have or have the usual marks but...
Stuff I bought in the last 10 years or so:
Dual 701 for 100 quid ( needed a good clear and grease) and still going strong.
Dual 604 for 70 quid in working condition (no cartridge)
On the Digital side I got
Teac VRDS 10 for peanuts (recycling centre got there right on time before he got thrown in the skip) and only needed a resistor to fix)
Marantz CD 80 ( needed a hell of a clean (chain smoker) but was working and still is.
My last purchase was a Denon DCD 1000 II for no less then 40 quid (plus £10 postage) brand new in the box (no remote) with the original delivery sticker still attached to the box.
You can get very good stuff of *bay, 2nd hand shops, car boot sales and so on I know it's a risk but it wouldn't be fun otherwise.
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