Originally Posted by gevorg
I understand the value of a vintage turntable, but is there a difference between vintage and new (under $500) in terms of how careful they are with records? Or its all about the cartridge/stylus being used?
Taking something like the Pro-Ject Debut / Music Hall as the baseline for Hi-Fi like levels of performance today, the idea was to make a list of entry level hi-fi decks which would be available for next to nothing and be better than decks you can buy new today upto this price point (and beyond in many cases).
Some of the decks like the Lenco are capable of much greater things with a bit of uprading, as jamesb mentions, but even in stock form I have found the L75 to be a very satisfying performer.
For the most part the list is made up of the decks recommended as "Best Buys" by the UK magazine Hi-Fi Choice between 1977-1980. Their criteria for this would be exceptional performance at a reasonable price at the time. The average cost then was 50-150UKP, when the Pioneer PL12D cost around 50UKP, The Rega Planar 2 80UKP and the Linn Sondek LP12 250UKP.
I also included decks they recommended generally regardless of price and others which they found to be good performers, but omitted on a value for money basis. I saw no point in putting in the very basic decks like BSR / Garrard autochangers (although they recomended some of these as being good value but not strictly Hi-Fi at the time) when these days often a top Pioneer from a given range like the PL550 will not cost any more than the bottom PL510. The difference was usually in terms of automatic features so I only included these kinds of decks where they said performace wasn't affected. Some of these may be collectable like the Sony PS-5520 if it was their first direct drive.
In performance terms the Pioneer PL12D would be much better built than a Project Debut but might sound a little old fashioned to somebody who has grown up with CD, whereas a more modern sounding deck like the Rega's (although essentially unchanged since 1984) with RB250 type single casting tonearms would sound much more contemporary.
I suspect if you rewired the tonearm on the PL12D it would improve it greatly as the quality of wiring has improved hugely as a byproduct of the computer industry.
To protect your records buying a new stylus, if you pick up an old deck like this, is more or less mandatory (if you can find an original or good quality aftermarket one). Otherwise a modern cartridge will usually be much better quality.
Some of the tonearms on these decks take a bit of care matching but something like a Shure M97 or Audio Technica 440 would be much better than most of the carts available in the 1970's for reasonable money.