Finally Taking The Plunge

Okay, I'm going analogue and I feel like a babe in the woods. Is there a primer somewhere that I could read to get me up to speed? What are the choices in entry level systems or are there too many to mention?

Current system:
Levinson 383 integrated amp
Modwright Sony 9000ES SACD
Tyler Acoustic Linbrook monitors
Nordost Red Dawn interconnects/speaker cable

Thanks in advance for any suggestions
It's a pretty wide market, and alot of selections, when you consider a TT, arm, cartridge, phono section. I'd suggest searching the archives for alot of info on this subject, and trying to make an accurate assessment of what level of performance you are looking for vs amount spend, and new or used.
The available choices are too diverse! First, you have to let us know how much you're willing to spend. Will you consider buying used equipment?

Let me give it a shot!

I am recommending the following analog system based on the components you've chosen for your rig. I can deduce that you have the financial wherewithal to obtain any component you want, yet you are still sensible and practical. You want to get the most out of your hard-earned dollars.

Turntable: Nottingham Space Deck
Tonearm: Origin Live Encounter
Cartridge: Shelter 501 II or 901
Phono Stage: Modified EAR 834P

The Not's contemporary look will compliment the rest of your system. It will give you a real sampling of what the super tables can do and the price is insanely cheap for its world class performance. You can spend a lot more, but I bet you can't improve much on the OL Encounter tonearm. The stock EAR is already a superb phono stage, but modified properly it metamorphoses into a GIANT KILLER that slays megabuck phono preamps of false pretentions mercilessly! We compared the modified EAR to a bunch of supposed-to-be top notch phono stages from divers highly respected brands and the EAR literally massacred them! Yeh, yeh, sure..., some have better high or low frequency extension or resolution, but when it comes to the most critical midrange, there was no contest! If you want more detailed description of the modification and what phone stages were slained, email me! Heh-he-he!

Good luck on your quest!
I think one thing to consider is whether you really like to "tweek" and play around or do you want to just buy something and let is spin records.

Simple non-suspended tables like VPI Jr's and Scouts and Rega's are simple to set up. Set it and forget it. Linn's have a reputation of being harder to set up and harder to keep set up, but people who love them really love them. Some other suspension tables have the same rap. Rega tonearms don't have built in VTA which is another tweek factor. I have heard VTA adjustments in real time and I can attest that yes it does make a difference but do I miss it at home on my Rega P25 - no, not really. I also heard a Linn table vs another table wtih both tables having the same tonearm and cartridge mounted on them and the Linn blew the other table away. So yes, the table itself does make a signifacant difference too.

Cost is obviously also a factor. If you are the kind of person who likes to buy, but inevitably upgrade then buying a used Rega, Linn or VPI for which there are current upgrades and accesories might be good. On the other hand if you fall in love with a used SOTA or Oracle I think you could do a lot worse.

Lastly there is the aesthetic element. I like more traditional designs - wood plinths and the like. No cast bases or air bearings for me.

On the cartridge front there are also many good options - Shure V15 are surprisingly good and more indestructible which is good if you are clumsy, have kids or cats or a spouse who is a compulsive cleaner... Dynavectors, Shelters and a variety of others are all good. You will find supporters of nearly all the top brands on these forums and elsewhere.

Lastly is the issue of cartridge output. If you go low output moving coil you need to make sure your pre amp can handle the input. I don't know the Levinson integrated that you mention and whether it has a phono stage or not but if it doesn't you need to get the whole phono stage and not just a step up. I won't mention all the phono pre's as you will find various discussions here and elsewhere. Try for additional insight.

At this point you've got 5 significant variables (table, arm, cartridge, pre amp and price) so yes the combinations and permuations are endless, but that is part of the fun...

Good Luck,


PS I settled on a Rega P25 with a Shelter 501 Mk II. I don't really want to tweek the thing I just want it to be reliable and make good music.
"Slained!" What the hell is that? The right word is "SLEW". Sorry for my poor English!
How much money to spend? Enough to get good stuff, usually I buy Demo or discontinued or used. I also buy slowly and piecemeal. If I have to wait 6 months for an arm after buying my TT so be it. If getting a good phono stage means waiting for a year and a tax return, cool. I guess my initial invest would be in the 2000 range. If that gets me something special but not the whole shebang great. Is it best to get the TT first and then start comparing arms, etc. Thanks again guys!

If I were starting over (w/$2000 +/-) I get a Nottingham Horizon w/Rega 250 ($1000 new), a EAR 834P ($650 used) and a medium mass cartridge of your choice. You'd have to really get fussy to improve on that.
"You'd have to really get fussy to improve on that." Not really. Do some homework!!!
Psychicanimal, Talks cheap - why don't you give the requester a good $2000 system instead of taking shots at me? I don't need another system just now so I'm not doing any more homework but I'm sure we can all learn from you!
How about a VPI Scout/JMW 9 arm combo, coupled with the Dynavector 10x4? That will get you in right around the $2000.00 mark and provide a very satisfying entry to vinyl. If you wanted to kick it up a notch and avoid spending $ on a phono stage to drive a low output moving coil you could look at the Scout with a Dynavector 20X high output. The 10x4 is HO as well. The above mentioned Shelters are great but are also high compliance and might not mate well with the VPI arms. The Scout offers a great upgrade path, great style, easy setup, very easy to maintain. You may, with the purchase of the Scout/JMW/Dyna 10X4 even have enough money within your range to get yourself a record cleaning machine as well. Properly cleaned LP's, even older ones, take on a whole new life on my Scout/Dynavector 20X setup. I am rediscovering my entire collection again, including old pressings from the early 70's of my college days. This is despite the fact that I have had analogue rigs the whole time. I know the Scout is no where near state-of-the-art, but it is an enormously satisfying entre to vinyl if this is to be your first setup.
Newbie, there's plenty of my threads stored in the archives, but for starters a tube preamp in this price range will simply be too noisy. Definitely out of the question.
Psychicanimal, I did as you suggested and looked thru your archives on analog. You certainly have lots of entries, but only two that I could find related to the EAR pre amp. In one you inquired about the pre amp and in the other you responded to a poster that tubes were always noiser than transistors and that they should stay with solid state. Is this the extent of your experience with the phono pre that I recommended? Or did I miss something?
Please tell us of your personal experience with the EAR phono pre amp. It has 68db of gain - with quiet tubes it should present no problem to any MC cartridge but perhaps ones with the lowest out put. Medium or high level output MC or MM cartridges would create no problem for this pre whatsoever.

And for the sake of further discussion, assuming that there was a very low level of tube rush on a very low output cartridge, how would you rank that noise with all of the other noise and distortion inherrent in vinyl, such as residual groove noise, wow and flutter, pre echo, tic and pops, inner grove distortion, distortion caused by off center spindle hole, vta settings not consistent with thickness of the disc your playing, etc. I for one would find this noise to be the least objectionable. Or are you a SS fan who finds tubes objectionable in general?

By the way, it would be nice if you would post the equipment you use to make your evaluations - I can see that you use a Technics 1200 and, and at least you were, using a SS transformer. What else - tell us about your electronics, speakers, and environment, so we can judge for ourselves whether or not you have any the equipment and the experience needed to really make meaningful evaluations of high end products.

Incidentially, I still don't see any recommendations for the inquirer.
Neubie, you spent a Friday night searching the archives? Hmmm...

Dan Wright has told me over the phone that the EAR 834 is really noisy and that he got rid of his for a Monolithic Sound solid state pre. Then he developed the mod and moved on to his own tube design phono pre. I trust Dan and it is my experience that tubes do suffer from noise and microphony. I'm not against tubes, as I had a Melos SHA-1 pre-amp. But the $249 CIAudio passive pre amp I now own really smoked it! Someone is developing a killer, budget tube linestage and I might get to try it. Maybe I'll buy one!

By the way, it would be nice if you would post the equipment you use to make your evaluations - I can see that you use a Technics 1200 and, and at least you were, using a SS transformer. What else - tell us about your electronics, speakers, and environment, so we can judge for ourselves whether or not you have any the equipment and the experience needed to really make meaningful evaluations of high end products.

Incidentially, I still don't see any recommendations for the inquirer.

I mention my equipment as often as necessary, but given my nomadic lifestyle I'm still in the process of setting up my home office/ audio room. Seems I'm in no hurry. Lak said he would take the pictures and you will be the first to know. The deck is a *modified* 1200, that is. And who is "we"?

If you paid attention you would see that I have a slogan:

"High end is who you are, not what you buy."

(translation: The professional is able to compensate the idiosyncracies of his equipment.)

As for advice, I am very careful as so many opinions are confusing. Going for tubes in a $2K system is not a wise move due to the noise. Dan told me the Decware tube preamp is really god but it would be above budget. If someone prefers tubes in this price range it would be best to place them further downstream.

You did read this:

Newbie, you are a newbie.

Vinyl rules in my system. My belt driven CD transport is a piece of art, but the modded 1200 (aka The Creature) is the one who really brings the emotional involvement. This afternoon I was waiting for the auto shop driver to pick me up and I played a reissue of a Cheo Feliciano album (not José) with some serious love ballads. My Forté is down so I'm using my backup Yamaha A-1 integrated (1980) without my Monolithic phono stage. My left Swans has a blown tweeter. The recording was bad, the pressing was even worse and I was in front of the left speaker. When the driver honked the horn it was like when the alarm clock rings. I was in a trance. I can't say that from CD. I wish...

This should tell you a lot, but it seems you did not pick up anything! Find out what a Yamaha A-1 is. That's my "spare" amp. Evil creature still going strong agter 20+ yrs of use with 100% stock Nichikon caps...

Oh, it's that time of the year--Back to school days!!!
Pschyoanimal, Just as I expected - you have no personal experience with the EAR! I admire vicarious expertise. None of this hands on stuff for the "professionals". Fascinating!
My reference is extremely trustworthy, wouldn't you say? I have a number of people I trust: Sean, Deano, TWL, Albert Porter, Robert Schult, Danny Boy, Jahaira, Dusty Vawter, Greg Schug, Lak, Kevin Barrett and on Europe Dejan Veselinovic, Hans-Martin, Thomas Heisig, Detlof, Roberto Petti. It's quite a network. No one can hear everything and how it interacts in every system, but noise is noise.
Boy, if you two guys , newbie and psychicanimal, have such a need to be the one that is right with someone on the internet that you don't even know, will probably never meet, and who has no impact on your life, I hate to think what you are like in your personel relationships.
1. I'm right 2. I'm in control (and don't want to be controlled) 3. I'm looking good
Agaffer, I'm noted for being kind, calm, peaceful and affable. Hell, even my dog likes me (most of the time).
Newbee- It's just Psych's peculiar way of entertaining himself. Ref: Thread titled "Analog Newbee" initiated by member "Funjindemon"- Psych's post of 1/10/02, "I have finally learned how to stirr (sic)controversy in this site and not get heat...", and, a little further along in the same thread, his second post of 1/11/02, "I just have a reputation since junior high of being able to stir things up, not get involved and watch..."

Where is that fat blob from Empire Strikes Back when you need him... "Your Jedi tricks won't work on me..."