Post A Photograph Of Your Turntable
Jan 28, 2024 at 2:10 PM Post #5,341 of 5,376
Hi all, quietly building my rare vinyl collection but no turntable yet! What would be your recommendation for a great sounding affordable TT for less than $400 (new/used)? I was eyeing the Pro-ject T1 but not sure yet. I would prefer one that has an IEC AC socket for using aftermarket AC cables. Thank you
I like the Fluance tables at price points $500 and below. You don't need an after-market PC for a turntable, and you DEFINITELY don't want a fat stiff microphonic power cable anywhere near it. That only becomes OK when you have very substantial separate motor pods (e.g. VPI), which does not apply at this price level. Even then, I have AQ Hurricane cords around here and they will never touch my tables or motor pods. Stock cords are honestly fine, and MUCH easier to work with.

Your best 1st upgrade is going to be phono stage, then cartridge. I'm a big fan of the Hagerman phono stages at their various price points.
 
Jan 28, 2024 at 2:45 PM Post #5,342 of 5,376
Hi all, quietly building my rare vinyl collection but no turntable yet! What would be your recommendation for a great sounding affordable TT for less than $400 (new/used)? I was eyeing the Pro-ject T1 but not sure yet. I would prefer one that has an IEC AC socket for using aftermarket AC cables. Thank you
Intro
It is a real challenge to begin with vinyl on a limited budget and steer clear of the potholes in the road. Or start with a discouraging learning curve that comes with a vintage player that needs maintenance or adjusting, or fullout repair (I have a beautiful Dual 1209 here that has a seemingly simple defect, the speed lever, but is broken underneath with hard to find parts, costly and a challenge even for me).
That's why it's hard to recommend a second hand TT, as it's always on a piece by piece basis. Yes, you can point to good models or brands but you never know the mileage or what's hidden under the bonnet (why always the used car metaphors?).

Vintage or new
I have around 10 turntables here, 1 new, 1 used and the rest vintage. I have not gotten one vintage player that was ready to play. So, buying a new one will save you many headaches. The smart choice is therefore on new; plug, play and simply enjoy.
Value proposition
As I'm in Europe, prices are different because of transport. I can buy the Pro-ject T1 on your list for €325 (that is including 21% VAT). That changes perspective on value for money, doesn't it? Towards the U-turn. As much as I love Pro-ject and appreciate their giant investment in making vinyl affordable, U-turn started much later and is doing the same locally. They look good and focus on what matters. The Orbit plus is a solid choice for $399.

The U-turn
If I had to choose I would chose the U-turn custom. https://uturnaudio.com/products/orbit-custom Because I can chose instantly what is most important and not waste money on things in the package that don't bring better sound. Or real value from other viewpoints (aesthetic).
So what matters to sound quality
Beyond the basic parts like the body, the motor, the arm and the spindle that are well thought out and made, you can improve the sound the most with a good cartridge. But a good cartridge can't work well even on a good magnesium (Al-Mg alloy I suppose) arm. Also their cheapest cartridge is the best choice by far. If the cartridge doesn't have a stable vibration free platform, it won't sound good.
+ Keep the AT91
I know because I have several of them and I love them for their highly engaging character. I find the Ortofon 2M and even more the OM range bland and lifeless. A true waste of money. The Audio Technica AT91 costs $10 and is technically superior, only the spherical bonded stylus keeps cost down. More on that later upgrades.
+ Choose the acrylic platter which will give it more and better contact with the vinyl lp than with a felt matt. This means better transients, better dynamics, better bass, less sibilance because it leads vibrations from the stylus away to mass instead of keeping it in the thin lp.
+ Upgraded feet are adjustable and the sorbothane is simply magical when it comes to absorbing vibrations.
? Electronic speed control. 80 extra is a lot of money and it brings a bit speed stability improvement and some convenience. I'd save the money.
? Solid walnut or oak body. It does not improve sound but it does give it more (resale) value. It's 120 extra. Ask your significant other if it's worth it. 😉
? Preamp. You need one somewhere. 80 looks very decent looking at the board.
- cue armlift. 50 for easy needle dropping. Save money here. No sonic benefit.
So if I skip the extra ? I can't answer for you I come to a total of $414. I think you'll get the best sound for that money.


Easy upgrade part.
The AT91 (or 3600, same thing) is vastly under apreciated. And like any MM cartridge it is easily upgraded with better space, air and definition with a better stylus. I bought some upgrade styli at LP-Gear (expensive for me because of customs and p&p) but easy in the US.
https://www.lpgear.com/category/AT3600.html
the carbon fidelity CFN3600LE at $40 is a better choice than any of the choices offered by U-turn. Very stiff and light carbon cantilever and elliptical stylus gives more bass and much more refined highs while retaining the basic engaging character.
I also have the $129 dlx vivid line, even more refined and airy. And a 2 second upgrade.
The LENSS at $62.40 has a nude elliptical stylus (lighter thus faster transients). You won't find ANY nude elliptical stylus or cartridge anywhere under $125. The 2M blue also has a EN stylus and comes in at $225.

Edit: I agree with above. The phono amp is very important and often overlooked. I haven't seen any reviews on the U-turn internal board but it looks ok (good parts!) and 'you gotta start somewhere'. But upgrading the phono amp is more important than getting a better cartridge. By that I mean: I enjoy the AT91 (or 3600) on a 1k phono-amp. $40 on a stylus for the AT91 is a no brainer, but a $100+ 'upgrade' cartridge is a waste of money on a cheap phono-amp.

I watched a video yesterday i think from Lehmann Audio (of the Black Cube), who said that as a rule you should spend twice as much on the phono stage than on the cartridge.
Graham Slee also makes very good ones. Though the Schiit Mani would be fine for a start.

Somehow youtube seems to be showering me with Fluance reviews? Yet if I compare the U-turn to the Fluance RT85N I prefer the U-turn (and its $100 cheaper). I think the straight arm with fixed headshell is far preferable for sonic reasons. Better rigidity and control and less contacts give a better stereo image and more resolution. (I know from experience). I also like the inverted spindle.
What intrigues me (but doesn't surprise me) is that the 2M blue is double the price of the Nagaoka 110 yet they sell them at the same price (which means the 2M is vastly overpriced and over valued).
 
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Jan 29, 2024 at 3:12 AM Post #5,343 of 5,376
Hi ]eep thanks so much for your insight above. I was considering the Fluance but you 'U-turned' me :wink:. That custom looks interesting!

- For the Cartridge I've actually had awful experiences with Ortofon's BA IEMs before but was considering if their cartridges may be better so thanks for pointing me towards the AT91.
- Feet, $70 is a lot extra and I've already got sorbothane sheets of 2 different 'duro' firmness levels to compare, but if I go DIY I suppose I would have to attach sorbothane underneath the rubber, which may not be as ideal
- Phonostage. My current setup is an integrated amp which has a dedicated phono input. I was Thinking to skip the preamp and connect it directly, and if I change my main amp later I would then get an external phonostage... but there lies the conundrum of whether a built-in SS (solid-stage) preamp or an external tube phonostage would yield more audiophile friendly sound? Considering the external box would require 2 sets of RCA cables with a longer signal path and extra connections, so advice would be welcome. I mention external "tube" phonostage because I'm a tube fan with a growing collection and would love to give it a whirl with vinyl.
- Do the U-turn TTs have auto-stop? The Fluance does, and I don't want a needle wearing out at the end if I stepped away

But then there's the Fluance highest model RT85N for $499 which differs having a Japanese Nagaoka MP-110 Cartridge and 36 AWG Litz Cable / 7 Strand tonearm wire. I'm personally a believer of silver & copper litz conductors due to first hand experience in other applications showing a favorable improvement for audio over almost any other conductors.

Opinions please?
PS - sorry to derail things a bit.
 
Jan 29, 2024 at 2:54 PM Post #5,344 of 5,376
Hi ]eep thanks so much for your insight above. I was considering the Fluance but you 'U-turned' me :wink:. That custom looks interesting!

- For the Cartridge I've actually had awful experiences with Ortofon's BA IEMs before but was considering if their cartridges may be better so thanks for pointing me towards the AT91.
- Feet, $70 is a lot extra and I've already got sorbothane sheets of 2 different 'duro' firmness levels to compare, but if I go DIY I suppose I would have to attach sorbothane underneath the rubber, which may not be as ideal
- Phonostage. My current setup is an integrated amp which has a dedicated phono input. I was Thinking to skip the preamp and connect it directly, and if I change my main amp later I would then get an external phonostage... but there lies the conundrum of whether a built-in SS (solid-stage) preamp or an external tube phonostage would yield more audiophile friendly sound? Considering the external box would require 2 sets of RCA cables with a longer signal path and extra connections, so advice would be welcome. I mention external "tube" phonostage because I'm a tube fan with a growing collection and would love to give it a whirl with vinyl.
- Do the U-turn TTs have auto-stop? The Fluance does, and I don't want a needle wearing out at the end if I stepped away

But then there's the Fluance highest model RT85N for $499 which differs having a Japanese Nagaoka MP-110 Cartridge and 36 AWG Litz Cable / 7 Strand tonearm wire. I'm personally a believer of silver & copper litz conductors due to first hand experience in other applications showing a favorable improvement for audio over almost any other conductors.

Opinions please?
PS - sorry to derail things a bit.
- cartridge: The standard At91 can be replaced by any cartridge you like, even the MP110. Or a Sumiko. Still cheaper than the $500 Fluance where its a package 'deal' (always be weary of package deals). But you'd have to mount it yourself. It's not that hard but you need a steady hand and nimble fingers. And some tools. Upgrading the stylus of the AT91 is much cheaper and easier. And they are technically superior (stylus shapes).

- feet; I was thinking of price performance, hight adjustment (to set it level) and vibration control are essential. Sheet is thin, good for resonation control of cases or housings. Sorbothane in feet needs to be thick.
You can also make a platform from a thick cutting board and make thick sorbothane feet under that. But it's a bit sticky and could get stuck to your shelf over time. The upgrade feet are a lot more refined and less visually obtrusive.
I see these thick Ikea bamboo cuttingboards everywhere and I can tell you, without a clever suspension (spikes, rubber, foam, springs) that doesn't help. (I made furniture out of the same bamboo panels so I know it's properties very well).

-phonostage: external are almost always better. Phono amplification is a specialist area and the very low level signals are very delicate. Inside an amplifier is not the best environment. Shielding and seperated power is important. Even distance from the PS is important. Vibrations and RFI disturb the signals. Also, if you get a seperate you can choose the quality, features and price you want.
Tube phono-amps (real ones, not the hybrid opamp+tubebuffer type) are expensive and sensitive. I tried for decades to find an affordable replacement for the internal one in my damaged Audio Innovations 500 (one exception with a great mm phono). I have 3 now, Chinese (let's call them) 'reimaginings' of proven models that needed some modifications. Either put in the work or pay >1k. So tubes are definitely for later. I don't recommend a hybrid (been there, sounds vastly better w/o the tubestage).

- autostop? Get off your lazy bum. 😁 Audiophile means you actively listen and are still awake and present at the end of a record. Jokes aside, I heard the one thing that doesn't work or breaks on the Fluance is the autostop. You can turn it off.

- I love silver cables too. Silver litz wire is about the same price as your stated budget. So don't get fooled. It is more important to keep things simple and uninterrupted. The tiny signals are better off with one lead from cartridge to phono stage. Uninterrupted. Detachable headshells are bad news. Especially on budget gear. If you want audiophile on a budget: stay away from loose headshells and crappy leads and connections.

I think the U-turn arm could even handle a proper MC cartridge. I don't see that for the Fluance. But MC opens up a whole new experience. (My first upgrade on my Dual 505 was from OM10 to a Yamaha MC21, a high output MC, I never went back).

That's my 2¢ so far.
 
Jan 30, 2024 at 10:51 PM Post #5,346 of 5,376
Feb 1, 2024 at 10:21 PM Post #5,347 of 5,376
Hi all, quietly building my rare vinyl collection but no turntable yet! What would be your recommendation for a great sounding affordable TT for less than $400 (new/used)? I was eyeing the Pro-ject T1 but not sure yet. I would prefer one that has an IEC AC socket for using aftermarket AC cables. Thank you
Have you found a vintage stereo shop up in Seattle? If so..........see if they have a classic unit in good shape. That's what I did to get my old Pioneer TT.

What are you going to drive it with?
 
Feb 3, 2024 at 2:04 AM Post #5,348 of 5,376
I've already ordered and waiting for the custom U-turn turntable with recommended upgrades, and connecting it directly to the phono input of my integrated stereo amp for now. Someday I'll upgrade to a tube amp, at that point I will also be in need of a phono stage. I'm looking forward to it because the connection will utilize my nice handmade custom Neotech NEI-2001 pure silver authentic RCA cable with Furutech aftermarket connectors.
 
Feb 5, 2024 at 2:52 PM Post #5,349 of 5,376
I've already ordered and waiting for the custom U-turn turntable with recommended upgrades, and connecting it directly to the phono input of my integrated stereo amp for now. Someday I'll upgrade to a tube amp, at that point I will also be in need of a phono stage. I'm looking forward to it because the connection will utilize my nice handmade custom Neotech NEI-2001 pure silver authentic RCA cable with Furutech aftermarket connectors.
I looked up some more info and reviews on the new U-turn Orbit and I'm impressed by the engineering and materials for such a very moderately priced turntable. Especially the arm but also the inverted spindle bearing, motor, belt and platter. This arm is good enough for cartridges double the price of the entire turntable (to be specific, a very good MC cartridge like a Hana or my old darling the AT-OC9). Not that a very nice MC needs to be that price (see my previous posts). You can get a great MC cartridge for $200, only you need a really good phono preamp to make it shine.
 
Feb 8, 2024 at 8:35 PM Post #5,350 of 5,376
Hey guys. I just wanted to share these pictures. This popped up in my AliExpress app and I just bought it. I didn't really need it, bit it really appealed to me. Not just the design, which is beautiful, but because it uses the ubiquitous Cr2032 instead of 2 expensive hearing aid type button cells (cost more than the scales). It also comes in a sleek black tin box that holds the calibration weight. It has that vintage 80-oes Yamaha or JVC look with those amber digits. And look at the "x marks the spot" dot... It's a mini lp! 😘 Love that detail. Fit and finish is also much nicer. Three rubber feet give it a solid footing.


You know the other one I mean, the one that is sold by Tonar, Pro-ject, van den Hul, Audio Additives etc at prices from 35-100 (not to mention ridiculous models sold by Rega, Clearaudio etc in the hundreds of $). This cost me just €7,50 incl VAT and postage. And as I just found out: they are all made by Neoteck (China). You can find both for 7.50 but this new one is much better finished and nicer to work with. No sharp edges. Less plasticky.
IMG_20240209_005300.jpg

IMG_20240209_004807.jpg


I also picked up a USB microscope. Finally. It's a bit clumsy to work with on a oilrig type TT like mine. Simple app on my Android phone, plug in the USB-c and go. Just focussing is not so easy. Like with binoculars. But it works. Still can't see very well it's a Shibata stylus, but I can't find a good footing on my rig as I said.

IMG_20240209_004350.jpg
 
Feb 10, 2024 at 10:21 PM Post #5,351 of 5,376
Some more close-up pictures of some cartridges. Just having fun with my new €15 microscope.

IMG_20240210_023318.jpg


This is a nice one. Just like a white swan. Ceramic cantilever with an ultra elliptical stylus. This is a €350 Zhige MC

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This is the cover plate of my original Kiseki blue. I finally see the second date. I thought it was really old (1987) but that's the original manufacturing date. There's another date of 2002. That's just a few years before I got it (for free with a 2ndH Pro-ject Perspective I bought). That means the stylus is probably not nearly used as much as I thought. I didn't notice anything except for a bit loose suspension.
Image_2024-02-10 02_13_01_981.png

Pretty solidly embedded in the glue. Hard to see what stylus shape it is. Just a straight line means not just elliptical.

And finally the other end of the price scale.
IMG_20240210_193851.jpg

Pretty rough eh? Industrial diamond going by the black color. Stylus is solidly embedded pierced through the thick aluminum pipe. Looks like a metal tree log. Clearly elliptical stylus.
IMG_20240211_195421.jpg

Given the price, it must be a bonded diamond, but it's hard to see. But clearly elliptical. This is a cheap Chinese OEM I bought for €24. However, I found out it looks exactly like the MM line of LP-Audio (Eagle). It is dirt cheap but it performs really well. I have to mount it again but I consider it on par with an AT-95E.

Look at this stylus for the AT3600, a 'Vivid line' from LP-Gear. A sort of super elliptical. It cost me $129. It sounds really good btw.
IMG_20240211_195659.jpg


Maybe I should look at the other side but it doesn't look impressive.
 
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Feb 29, 2024 at 8:53 PM Post #5,352 of 5,376
The glory of orange
Not really what you'd call audiophile. But it sounds surprisingly good. As long as you know some of the crackly is intentional.


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Mar 14, 2024 at 1:47 AM Post #5,353 of 5,376
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I just bought this little phono amp. Douk Audio T4 PLUS . It was on sale for only €80 including shipping and VAT. Very usable and versatile. It can handle MM and MC with adjustable input impedance from 10 to 470Ω. Tested with a Ruby II 0.3mV 8Ω MC first on MM with transformer and on MC (47Ω) without. It sounded quite ok. MC was a bit noisier and a lot less loud. But the sound quality was ok. HP sounded Standard, aux in sounded just fine. Pretty impressive for a starter phono-amp.
The tubes are just a buffer. Tubes are great: real 1987 NOS. GE JAN 5654. Just like the real VU-meter is awesome. Neither does much for the sound IMHO. But it looks great.
Nothing really to complain about. It just needs a few rubber feet.
 
Mar 14, 2024 at 11:58 PM Post #5,354 of 5,376



As far as source components go these are both old fashion and new. The turntable is made of many materials and is configured in many ways. They would have to be the oldest way of producing music in the home along with musical instruments. They end up being very fascinating for some and can be frustrating for many. Post your table photographs if you own one.
Here’s mine, a dual-platter Bogen/Lenco B62 with birch ply plinth, Origin Live OL1 tonearm, and Zu Audio DL-103 cartridge.
 

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Apr 13, 2024 at 12:26 AM Post #5,355 of 5,376
New cartridge mounted. Nude ebony body, hyper elliptical stylus. Sounds really good.

IMG_20240413_061121.jpg



€200. Prices already going up. That's why I bought it with a discount. It's now €290 with headshell (ie EU € including 21% taxes).
I bought this one just before I had seen the ebony. Almost similar only it has a healthy medium output of 0.84V. That's why it's a bit pricier. Works better on a cheapish MC phono.
IMG_20240406_173552.jpg


What I didn't realize before is how easy it is to align a protruding cantilever on a nude body. Not to mention: snag it with a cloth when dusting the TT off 😤. Fortunately there is a plastic guard with this model. Yes, it's very exactly adjusted, this is the right eye view as it were. Not exactly from zenith. It's hard to hold steady and focus with the phone in hand.

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