Advice on restarting vinyl playback after 30 years

I started spinning vinyl in 1960 on my dads rig. In 1965 he bought me a really cool Sony Bi-directional reel to reel then I was forever hooked in the performance audio world - a sad expensive day ;)

My first and only record player was and is still, a Technics SL-1700 purchased in 1977 (think I got that right?). I've tried to employ that back into my system but quite honestly, it sounds like crap so back in the garage it sits along with some old Thorens.

I still have my vinyl collection and dads too who is still around at 93. We both wish to spin these albums again. How cool would that be? And I still Long for those shiny black vinyl disc's when I see them in a store.

I have cutting edge playback in my system now. Hi rez music in FLAC, my CD collection burned in EAC, server fed to a PS Audio Perfectwave DAC through Bridge, the matching DC transport, Humongous Pass Labs amp and some MBL's to play through. Sounds great!

There's 2 shelves on my rack that are empty. The top center and one to the right ;)

Trying to be realistic about this and being so discerning about my playback, I figured that I would need 6 components to play my current and future vinyl collection.

Additional damping platform
Phono preamp
Something to clean vinyl thats between 30 and 70 years old.

First question.
I sold my preamp. My music flows from DAC to amp. Would I simply replace my cables in back of amp from phono preamp? I know that's a dumb question for most but I always had a pre something until lately.

I'm hopeful to budget 3K to 5K and used is fine.

I've scouted the VPI scout and scoutmaster with it's accompanying arm, seems like a good place to start. I'm sure there are many opinions here on where to start.

We've (as a family) have spent countless hours tuning our 2 channel system, cables, room, speaker placement, AC, the list goes on. So we're not shy on the work ahead. We just want something that we can appreciate and use from time to time that's comparable to our pure digital rig. It would be an interesting contrast no?

Just read about a supposedly great phono stage in one of my audio magazines, but it's 2.2K Ouch. What matches with what so on... Here's where forum folks can really help me out.

Oh, and I don't mind getting up, and going through the rituals. I'm not dead yet. I do appreciate the medium, and the headache, I grew up on it.

Just canceled my cable TV. Now maybe I can afford vinyl!
Been there, done that, (about 10 years ago now), and haven't regretted it for one minute.

As far as the turntable, get something fairly easily setup, like a Rega P3, or a Basis 1400 with a RB300 tone arm, or a VPI Scout, or something similar. (As far as the cartridge, that really depends on the phono preamp's gain. Make sure that you match that up.) You'd probably be better off with a nice MM cartridge to start with, as that would allow you to scrimp a bit on the phono preamp, (as it will not need as much gain). A Dynavector 10x5 or a Grado Gold would probably work fine. (Note: Beware of which table you put the Grado cartridges on, as sometimes they have hum issues.)

And, here are some more tips:

1. You are going to need a phono preamp with a fair amount of gain, especially if you don't have a preamp already, (as the preamp normally adds another 10-15 db of gain to what the phono preamp gives you).
To be honest, I would probably just get a decent full function preamp, one that has the phono stage built-in.
(Then you can just run your DAC into the preamp, and you'll have a nice switch to go from digital to analog).
A vintage tubed ARC preamp would work nicely and would be fairly cheap. However, you might get some low level tube rushing noise, so either live with it, or get a solid state preamp, which might sacrifice a bit of musicality for a deeper, darker background. (I'll leave it up to you as to what you prefer. At your price point, you'll need to make compromises.)

2. Next you'll need some supplies, which include:

A. A vacuum Record Cleaning Machine, (highly recommended)
(Even a cheap Nitty Gritty or Record Doctor will do just fine, as long as you don't mind using a little elbow grease. I have one of these, and find it works just fine even after all these years.)

B. Cleaning supplies such as cleaning fluids and brushes.
(The MoFi cleaning fluid and brushes are a good start and not too expensive).

C. New inner record sleeves, (so you can chuck all those crappy paper ones that your old records are in). Outer sleeves are nice too, but not necessary.

D. A Micro Fiber brush, (as you'll only need to wet clean your records once before you first play them, (yes, even the new ones!), but you'll want to brush the dust off before each play afterwards).

3. Record Racks will be necessary as soon as you figure out that you prefer analog to digital. Ikea has some fairly cheap bookshelves, which can be used as shelves, or, Music Direct has some nice dedicated ones, (which is what I went with).

Well, good luck in your quest!
As to whether you need a pre-amp or not, I *suppose* you could just swap interconnects if you don't switch very often. But you still need a volume control for the analog signal. So the options are:

* Phono pre with volume control
* Phono pre + line stage
* Pre-amp with a good phono section

My advice: haunt the 'gon classifieds for a pre-amp with a good phono section. Ask around here for recommendations.

Sleeve City is great for Lp supplies:

You'll need a carbon-fiber brush and a stylus cleaner to use before each play.

I hate the noise of vacuum cleaning machines. I might try a Spin Clean first. They *say* it doesn't leave residue.

I have a Gem Dandy, which uses pressurized water to clean the record. I find this more effective than my Nitty Gritty machine, but it's way overpriced for something made of standard PVC tubing.

For support, installing a wall shelf, if possible, would probably be ideal, particularly if you have footfall problems, and is actually more cost effective. I use a Pro-ject Ground It, which is an overpriced sand filled platform with cone feet. It does allow for leveling, but it also adds mass to the *top* of my rack, which is probably the *wrong* place to add mass for stability.

Thanks for the great suggestions. Funny hing is that I had sold not long ago, my Cary SLP-05 tube pre. That will be a very hard act to follow.

The Pass X350.5 has RCA and balanced inputs. I'm currently using balanced from the DAC. I could perform cable swapping when switching to analog as you cannot have both sources plugged in at the same time. Nuts. It's just an additional step and I'm on the fence on whether it's worth going for a pre with a built-in phono stage. Any suggestions on phono stage vs pre with phono stage would be greatly appreciated.

I once owned a AR LS15. Audio Horizons seems to produce some highly customizable pre XX for whatever one wants to pay for good quality parts. But I'm so new to the "analog done right" world, that may not be the correct solution.

You got me thinking about foot-falls and platform isolation Daverz.
If you like the sound of your Cary SLP-05 and you do not wanht to break the bank, I would suggest the Cary SLP-98P MC F1 DC which has the Lundadl MC step up transformers, F1 upgrades, and directly coupled output.
I applaud your 'getting back to vinyl' reasons. You are an excellent candidate. If you read similar threads, and more respond to this one, you will get a LOT of advice on what the best way to spend your money is.

My most important advice is: don't worry about getting it perfect, because you won't. Vinyl can be a very slippery slope and I don't think that's where you want to go. Instead, think about how to get good bang for your buck and how to enjoy yourself because that is what your quest is about. If enjoying yourself means getting a refurbed turntable from the 50s because that's what your Dad had, so be it. If it means being able to play all your records (monos, 78s, stereos, etc) on the same turntable and arm with just a flick of a switch or a changeout of headshell to make the jump from mono to stereo, then make sure you can do that. If it means having autolift at the end of the record because you want it, go for it. If you want a transcriptor because they look oh so cool, well, that's what it has to be.

To start, I think a used VPI 16.5 record cleaning machine is the way to spend some of it. Or you could go for a nitty gritty which is less. Add a carbon fiber brush and a stylus brush and you'll be fine (for anyone with good hands, I also think a $2 block of Mr Clean Magic Eraser is an almost indispensable tool for cart-cleaning (thanks Doug! we all owe you one for that!)).

I agree with Daverz on the 'used preamp with phono stage' as you can get some great deals. If you have lots of OLD records (pre-1950), then you might consider an old pre which had the ability to change curve a bit. There was recently listed an Accuphase C-240 preamp which is quite decent in its own right, has an excellent phono stage (with two phono inputs) with MC headamp, has controls allowing one to change rolloff/turnover points on the equalization curve (i.e. allows you to set equalization appropriate for the record label because different labels used different curves when they made their records). It was in the lower half of the $1k-1.5k range. Stonking bargain if you ask me. There are others out there like that.

A lot of people think putting a $1500 cart on a $1000 table into a $500 stage is appropriate. I don't. I have consistently found that cheap carts on better tables into better stages will beat great carts on cheap tables into cheap stages. You can get great MM carts, vintage or new, for a few to several hundred dollars.

I would personally suggest you post a separate thread asking if someone in your area (put your area in the title) has a good belt drive or direct drive or idler system to allow you to show up with a few records for a listening session. Get a grip on which you like (belt vs DD/idler). Go from there. In your price range, they are different.

If you like belt, VPI and their arms should be good choices in your zone. If you like DD/idler, then I would go for someone's refurbished DD/idler in a heavy plinth with armboard which allows you to mount arm of your choice. This could be a Lenco idler, a Technics SP10Mk2, a Denon/Pioneer/Sony/Yamaha/etc table. If you buy a table without an arm built-in, an arm like the Micro Seiki MA-505 would be an excellent choice - great-sounding, quite flexible with carts, and not a lot of dough.

Isolation vs coupling is a great debate. In MY system and MY environment, isolation is appropriate. If you have non-concrete slab floors, or you live in an urban area not too far from the street, or you live in an area where the ground has tremors, it probably is for you too. I personally would suggest buying little magnetic floating platforms (look at Clearaudio's for an idea, then buy cheaper ones) or something like a used lab equipment isolation platform off ebay - passive is fine (sometimes they go for dirt cheap). If you can control the levelling, you could try an inner tube under your platform (i.e. table on wood block on inner tube on your rack. Use a larger diameter inner tube than a bike racing wheel and don't fill it too full. You want the whole thing to be soft, not hard.

And by all means, continue asking questions if you have them. If you keep the thread alive, it will show up on the list and people will respond.

Good Luck!
Just wanted to through this out. If you don't mind switching cables the PS Audio's GCPH could work as a phono pre for you. It has a gain knob that sort of works like a volume control as well as having balanced outputs.
Wilson667, I saw that. Wonder how good that is?

I'm not worried about having the older vinyl matching with newer technology or even looking at old school tables. I have 2 in the garage. I tried to spin vinyl on them but it was so far from being good compared to my digi setup, I wouldn't use it.

When I'm at CES, I note how great may of the rooms sound while spinning vinyl. Of course most of the turntables there cost as much or more than my house in Las Vegas (which unfortunately isn't very much anymore).

Somewhere in between is where I'm hopeful to start. I don't want to get something just to wish I'd I got something more suitable to my level of system so I'm willing to shell out a few extra bucks to make it enjoyable, listenable, fun to own, and let me just say as best I can, a vinyl system that is on equal footing with my digital system. Poor explanation... It would be interesting for us to actually compare differences in sound on an intellectual level as well as to enjoy the vinyl medium and the nuances it brings over the pure digital realm. So I'm wide open in so far as equipment is concerned. I think in my case, the phono stage would be the MOST important purchase. Why? Because I don't have a preamp in my system. I'm not convinced I need one. To do both would be a huge sacrifice in money and I'm not sure that's best spent in my case. Some may pose a valid argument that it is and I'm all ears. Even though I've been doing this for 45 years I don't pretend to know anything. In this hobby, in my experience, as soon as I thought I knew something, it turned out to be wrong.

T-bone, Really appreciate all the information you've shared. I really would like to keep the turntable on the rack for aesthetic reasons. But footfalls, as I recall, will make that arm jump like my 8 month old ;)

Let's see, in my garage is a Technics SL1800, a Gerard Zero 100 and a Bang & Olefson Beogram 2400.

What do I do with those?

Keeping up in the audio world as I do, I just read about a Townsend Rock 7 turntable that looked really interesting. Any comments?
I haven't had one all that long but I like it very much it was a huge step up from my Cambridge Audio 640p which was also very nice for the money about $180 new. I do very much like the idea of going directly from the phono pre to the amp if you can. Less things to influence the signal and if not for my HT set up it would defiantly be the route I would go.I have had the chance to use it with a couple of older Technics belt drives with AT cartridges and it made them sound a lot better than I would have expected. So that being said I defiantly agree with T_bone about spending a little more on a phono stage. Also if any of those tables are working I say give em a spin and let your ears decide if you should keep them.
The phono pre is very important. I have no experience with phono stages with volume control which aren't megabucks, which is why I suggested an older pre with a phono stage. Others could help you better than I on that point. As much as I think phono stages should have their own attenuators (and balance controls), that's basically not the way it is done, so I have been stuck with phono stages into the pre as well.

I have no experience with the three tables you have in your garage, but knowing some of the slightly higher-range but still lower-end Technics tables, I would say the SL1800 is no great shakes. If you are not going to use those three tables, I'd sell them (they're not worth much to anyone sitting in your garage) and that would help finance the purchase of the new analog set.

As to the potential footfall problem, you might consider a table with a built-in suspension.
When I look at the various VPI tables for sale, it's rather confsuing for a newbie like me. VPI classics sell between 1600 and 6000 dollars. I'm guessing the "classic" model is in very different forms. How does one know what is what?

I've read some reviews on the Townshend Rock 7, which looks intriguing to me. But again, very little information and pricing is all over the map.

I think I'll start with a record cleaning machine like the VPI 16.5. Gives me time to ponder while I clean all that scum from my LP's.

Here's a really stupid question. Go easy on me now.

Do albums wear out? I know that can be scratched of course but it seems that often, in the past, I would comment to myself, "my Journey album is worn out". I remember too at one point, I added some weight to the tonearm cause it sounded better. Yikes. and, I never cleaned my albums - ever.
I had the VPI Scoutmaster and Dyna 20X cart, it really revealed the magic right off, but it took that rather painful purchase of the Dyna XX2 to get the last 1/3 of records sounding moderately fleshed-out.

Just looked up the cost of that XX2. I feel your pain and hope it's not mine too.

01-31-11: Desalvo55

Just looked up the cost of that XX2. I feel your pain and hope it's not mine too.
You can get very close to the $2K sound by tapping into Audio Technica's and Denon's abilities to combine high precision with economy of scale. There's the Denon 103 or 103R, though those may be better served by the nuded/repotted versions from Zu Audio. Then there are the Denon 301 II, the 304, and their <$1K DL-S1 here. Audio Technica has the overachieving MM AT150MLX capable of excellent detail, speed, and linearity, plus LOMCs OC9, AT33EV, and OC9ML/III.

Shop around; you'll notice some attractive prices here. Anything with ML in its name has a MicroLine stylus, which is a great shape that gets at the music and avoids the noise. Other than Audio Technica, most microline stylus cartridges are very expensive small quantity moving coil carts.




I run a PS Audio GCPH straight into my amplifier using the gain control on the GCPH and have no problem reaching any volume I desire. I use the balanced output to balanced input on my Classe CA100. Very nice, clean sound and cuts out any middleman preamp and cables. The GCPH has a lot of loading options too.
Thanks for the breakdown Vernneal.

Seems like the VPI Classic XX should be a good starting point. What model and what features should I look for?

I owned a pair of Classe CA100's for many years. Is the PS Audio GCPH a well regarded phono stage? I keep reading about the Whest phono stages, especially the WhestTWO and the .30 series. No gain control would make the Whest an expensive alternative no doubt.

Just unboxed my album collection. Have to admit we're pretty excited about the prospect of playing LP's again. I was surprised at just how many albums I had that were not released on CD.
02-01-11: Desalvo55
... Is the PS Audio GCPH a well regarded phono stage?
From reviews and owner comments I get the impression that the GCPH is *the* premier $1K phono pre overachiever. PS Audio's GainCell technology also gives it the advantage for plugging directly into a power amp.

Other reviews:
Abso!ute Sound
What Hi-Fi?
How about this setup.

The PS Audio GCPH modded by UnderwoodHiFi and on sale for $1295 new and with warranty. Very highly regarded with mods. No additional preamp needed.



That gets me all the way there - I guess?
02-01-11: Desalvo55
How about this setup.

The PS Audio GCPH modded by UnderwoodHiFi and on sale for $1295 new and with warranty. Very highly regarded with mods. No additional preamp needed....
Here's a review of the GCPH with the Underwood mod.