Happy with digital, but thinking about vinyl--looking for system specific recommendations

I just upgraded my dac to the Chord Qutest which seems perfect for my system.  And in the months between that order & its arrival, I also found a great deal on a Croft Micro 25R (already had the basic 25 preamp).  Since it has an allegedly excellent tube MM phono stage, it seems a shame to not make use of it at least occasionally.  I don't have much experience here, so I'm hoping for some ideas of what might be a good match to my system (ProAc Studio 148 speakers, First Watt M2 amp, Cardas Neutral Reference IC's & Anticables 3.1 speaker wire), preferably the least expensive turntable/cartridge option that's still good enough to make me want to actually not just click 'play' on Tidal. Thanks.

Since your phono stage apparently has gain enough for an MM or MI cartridge, but not a LOMC (Low Output Moving Coil) type, I would recommend a top notch MM or MI cartridge. Sound Smith make a line of MI cartridges that have a good reputation, but you need to be sure the output voltage is sufficient to drive your MM stage. (MM cartridges generally put out about 3 to 5mV at the standardized stylus velocity of 3.54 or 5.0 cm/sec. Whereas MI cartridges often produce closer to 1-2 mV at the same standard velocity.) Nagaoka, Grado, Clearaudio, Audio Technica, and others I cannot conjure up at this moment make fine MM cartridges. I use any of several "vintage" MMs, including Grace Ruby and Acutex (which is actually an induced magnet type). I am currently comparing my Acutex LPM320 to a newly acquired Audio Technica ART7, which is an LOMC type. The ART7 is very highly regarded, and I like it too, but the Acutex gives away nothing to the ART7. Lately, I am tending to prefer the Acutex, but the ART7 is not fully broken in.
The least expensive option may not give you what you want. You could look out for a used vintage table like a Thorens 160 or up your budget to a Rega 3 etc. 
I have a few Croft amps including a 25R. I would strongly recommend swapping out the stock tubes for Telefunken ECC83 or Shughang 12AX7LPS black. Nagaoka MP110 is a good starter cartridge. 
Thanks for the opinions so far. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned least expensive, and instead said a good value that matches the rest of my system.  From what I've heard, I agree that a Rega 1 is probably not quite there (though it was in a more entry level system than my own).  

I'm currently using some 60s RCA tubes in my pre instead of the stock.
$1500 would be easy to do before the end of the year. But I’d rather save more & wait a little--if necessary--than not be impressed with my purchase. That said, if it’s too much more money, I'd be tempted to just further upgrade my digital chain (which I use daily).
The big mistake many make is to think that vinyl and digital will sound the same. Tied to that, many think that different turntables from low priced to high priced will have different SQ levels similar to the gradations of SQ as you go up in price on digital gear. The truth is that vinyl always sounds different than digital and that less expensive vinyl sounds nothing like top-tier vinyl whereas the difference in sound between less expensive digital and state of the art digital-though significant-is much more "compressed". So first and foremost, before spending your hard-earned money-readjust you expectations. The top three contenders are probably the VPI Scout, the Rega Planar 3 and the Marantz TT-15 and you can't go wrong with any of them but among the three, the Marantz is the sleeper. It is a rebadged Clearaudio that offers a few extras for the price. It has better speed accuracy and a better tonearm than the Rega and it is less finicky to set up (right) than the VPI. With all three, you will need to budget another $600-$1000 for a very good cartridge. But don't forget-you need a good perfectly level stand and there is a formidable learning curve when it comes to proper TT set-up. Your last sentence about clicking "play" on Tidal suggests that convenience is important to you. That does not bode well for your interest in vinyl. 
For around $1600 - you can get a Music Hall MMF-7.3 w/ a premounted Ortofon 2M Bronze MM cart.

That's a fairly easy TT as far as adjustments go, very thorough and easy to read manual, and since the cart is preinstalled, that will save you a lot of time.

It's a Stereophile recommended component too, if such things matter to you.
I'm in the camp of those recommending a vintage, inexpensive table. Full automatic for ease of use. Vinyl is definitely not push a button operation and requires some amount of effort. In my case I run 2 tables. One is a VPI scout mated to a Rogue Pharaoh dedicated to analog and the other (vintage Sony Ps4300 fully automatic) put a disc on platter and push a button is mated to my digital system. If I want convenience I use the digital system. When I am more patient I go analog. Completely different experiences, neither fails to give me joy although I have to say that the analog difference is more pleasure but also more tedious. 

OP, this is an excellent table with great arm and will beat out all those Regas and MDF decks.


You could look at the Pioneer PLX 1000 --gets great reviews.

The Gem Polytable is definitely on my watch list.

Any thoughts about the new Technics 1200gr?
Seems pretty straightforward to use, reputedly good neutral sound. Would that change anybody's cartridge reccomendations?

I have the 1210GR (Black version).  It's a fantastic table.  Dead quiet operation, and yes the sound is neutral.

Like the two tables mentioned above by @noromance , the 1200GR also has a a detachable headshell, which makes cart install much easier, IMO.  The tonearm is pretty decent, and comes with an additional weight that screws in the back, so it will accomodate most carts in current production.  I've been using Ortofon & Clearaudio cartridges and the work great.
I would go with the Music Hall 7.3 recommended above.  It's definitely good enough to let you know if vinyl means anything to you.  I bought a Musical Hall 5.1 back in 2005 when I started my mid-life vinyl journey and I was able to understand what the fuss was about, even compared to my then 10k CD player.  This convinced me to move up to a better TT later on.  But if you try vinyl, I would absolutely buy some new or mint used records so you don't get turned off by dirt and noise.  I suggest buying about 5-10 of your favorite albums from Music Direct or Acoustic Sounds so you'll be off to a good start.  I hope you enjoy yourself. I'm sure the Technics is great too.  

fsonicsmith had good advice, but I’ve got better news on the Marantz TT 15S1. It includes a Clearaudio Virtuoso MM cartridge ($800) for the price of the table ($1500). I had this setup for about 5 years before stepping up to the Technics SL1200G, my retirement table.

The Virtuoso is a very nice cartridge and the table couldn’t be easier to setup and use. 

One thing to keep in mind. You need products to take care of your records. A vacuum record cleaning machine can set you back $5 to 6 hundred dollars. Even brand new records need a thorough cleaning to remove mold release compounds.(your record wouldn't fall out of the stamper without it) Last Record Preservative. Stylus cleaner and Stylast. They make these cool bubbles of an elastic that you just set your stylus on it and raise it up clean. Your record collection will start to grow so ya gotta take care of them. Not trying to discourage you in any way. Analog always has and always will smoke digital. There's just a little more to it.
Good listening! 
Got a Nad C588 with Ortofon  redcart for $600.upperd to blue$ 700.then opened a new credit card got $100 off....$600 tax n shipping Excellent buy....
Here’s some advice you haven't asked for. I’ve been doing this for a long time--in vinyl and in digital.

However vinyl and digital start out at affordable levels, as you go up the chain, and do it right in each case, they do converge in SQ IMO. I have many of the same performances in vinyl and in digital. Not all vinyl pressings are great. Not all digital renderings of original analog recordings are done as well as possible. But when they’re all done well, and with a good enough set up it would be hard to tell the difference. And I mean even in the low level and spacial artifacts that audiophiles crave.

I enjoy my vinyl. My records are like old friends. For the great bulk of them I do not have the same in digital. But vinyl is a pain in the neck, and will always be. New software is very expensive and often inferior to original editions. The search for used vinyl in really good condition can be never-ending. Digital is easy and software is cheap either by used media (which generally plays as good as new) or by subscriptions.

So, if I did not already have an extensive record collection, I personally would not embark anew on the vinyl journey unless the hobbyist in you far outweighs the interest in music. Best IMO to put all of your effort and $$$ into improving your digital. A new DAC is just the beginning.

I know I’m on an analog board so I’m reaching for my shield now. :-)
The OP never posted what the outcome was for his project right?
I am on a similar predicament except that I already have the table and cartridge and I also have a very good digital reference rig. Right now I'm on the learning curve, setting up a cartridge, VTF, SRA, Stevenson alignment for my technics 1210mk5 but just realized that my stock Technics is a toy, it is a good table but could benefit from some mods, instead of modding I decided to sell it and I'm waiting on a 1200G.
This is my problem with my digital rig, and the main reason I am looking into analog.
I like a lot of different genre in music, on my rig jazz, acoustic music, Latin, most modern recorded music, and most of the time classical sounds amazing, but my favorite genre hard rock classic rock don't, I have changed equipment and make adjustments over the last 3 years and I can't get it sound like I remembered and since I have unused vinyl anyway I thought with minimal investment I could implement a decent analog system.
What I couldn't imagine is how wrong I (and so many others) are when it comes to properly implemented analog, so much of a pain in the neck compared to digital, I really hope it pays, the setup, the angles, the cleaning of stylus, the cleaning of the disc, I want good source material (which I guessed it is where it lies my frustration with digital 70s hard classic rock) digital content and current newer pressings won't compare to the ones made before, I could be wrong on this.
Now I got some pressings from discogs and need to test these, also discovered that wrong stylus angles, will damage eventually the records, so this Saturday morning I'm setting up my turntable for this task.
I live in Miami and the audiophile community is not that strong around, all my friends around with TTs don't really know what they are doing lol.We will see where my analog journey ends, I will post my impressions later and reuse the OP thread, hope this can help similar cases of analog itch.