Help Picking a turntable

Hi Everyone,

Rod at my local store here where I buy my gear (unless I buy here at Audiogon) was at my house doing a master set for my speakers (they sound much better) and he suggested I consider getting a turntable and switching to records from cds to get better sound.  I am considering his suggestion but my biggest problem is that I don't know anything about turntables.  Rod recommended a turntable package from EAT that includes the arm, cartridge etc. for about $6,500, which is more than I want to spend.  He said he would look into turntables that are a bit less that would still sound good but I thought I would also check with everyone here to see if anyone had ideas also that I could discuss with Rod when I meet with him.  I'd like to stay under $3000 for the turntable package (turntable, arm, cartridge etc.). 

My current system is: Thiel 3.7 speakers; ARC REF 75 SE amp; ARC LS-17 SE pre-amp (I will also need a phono stage which I know will be in addition to the $3,000 I am willing to spend on the turntable package); analysis plus solo crystal oval speaker wire and interconnects.  Lastly, all of my music now is played through my Simaudio 280d DSD DAC (my cd player, computer etc are all hooked into the dac directly -- no wi fi). 

I'd appreciate any advice and suggestions to help educate me before I go down to Rod's store again and listen and meet with him.  As I said, I know nothing about turntables so any advice, suggestions etc. are very welcome.  Thank you all again in advance for your responses.     
Ag insider logo xs@2xgasherbaum
There's a VPI Classic 1 on gon now for 1700 or so......
That combined with an Ortofon 2M Black would be absolutely
fantastic and well below your 3K budget.....
I would go with VPI as well. For cartridges, I would go with Ortofon or Soundsmith.   The VPI dealer I work with is fantastic and will work with you on pricing, discounts, etc.  He would be a great resource as well just to get his feedback.  Feel free to message me if you want to connect with him.  Best of luck.  
Like every other topic put on the forum, there are as many opinions as there are people to make them, and the opinion can be based upon bias and any of a number of other reasons besides “your needs”. I would take advice with a grain of salt, but use the suggestions to do my own research . . . unfortunately, even among the experts, you are going to get varying opinions, especially if they have any profit to gain from your decision. Also there are a lot of people, who just like to argue . . . don't waste your breathe on them.

There are some reviewers that may be of assistance, but always remember, even if their opinions are based upon experience and education . . . the way any product sounds is their impression, and again, an opinion. What you can do is check for reviews on thing like build quality and reliability. Some specifications can be generated by the manufacturers to make themselves look good; after all, that this the point of marketing isn’t it . . . to convince you, the consumer, to buy.

Another thing you can do is listen to all the opinions, and when you see a pattern occurring in a goodly number of these opinions, then you can start searching in that arena and narrow down your choices. Ultimately it is you that will choose, not the salesman (unless you are a pushover). What works for one person in their environment and room acoustics, plus all the other influences that can affect a turntable, including tonearm choices (if the turntable does not come with one), and a cartridge. Oh, and I would also do some research on maintenance and installation of those costly items, if you are going to install it yourself. Hopefully the dealer will “expertly” do it for you as part of the service. Check with the retailer on your option to return the turntable, should it not work well in your application, and also you should checkout the warranty on each of the products you buy. Remember, the records need to be keep pristine and free of fingerprints and dust, as well as the stylus of your cartridge; otherwise, they won’t last very long and will also cause premature wear and even damage to your record collection. I have some records that still sound very good and are in excellent shape . . . and many are over 66 years old. One of the successes in this hobby is know what you are getting into . . . and then be prepared to “pay the price” and pay your dues . . . otherwise, you will be setting yourself up for failure.

One other thing to consider are vintage turntables. There are some very good turntables that have been reconditioned and have reputations for accuracy in speed, and isolating vibration and noise away from the tonearm and especially the cartridge. Remember, there is always foot falls, and vibrations that can be transferred and amplified to your speakers via your cartridge, which will pickup feedback of all types, including subsonics from your woofers, which sometimes need a rumble filter to suppress. In any case, a study on isolation feet and platforms will also be of help.

Do your homework and don’t be totally influenced by appearance, personalities (no matter what their credentials), nor gimmicks, cause like has been said, by P.T. Barnum, there is a sucker born every minute . . . don’t you be one of them. An educated buyer is also a shrewd buyer, and one that isn’t so easily taken to the cleaner -- even by good-intentional friends . . . or opinionated forum readers and writers. Remember anyone can be a “expert” coach from the sidelines and have all the answers, until you find out the hard way -- they don’t . . . and you will be the one stuck with a bad purchase and also wasted money. IF the coach gives you bad advice and information . . . smile politely, then walk away. Tomorrow is another day to decide, don’t be pressurized by a great deal that is only for today -- there are always deals and sales out there. Best to you.

I would research what goes into analog front end and ask yourself do you want to make the commitment.  At your price point you will be getting something that will compete with very good digital sources. 

Factor in. 

1. You will need more space (rack space and record shelf space)
2. You will need a phono preamp 
3. You will need a budget for a cartridge 
4. You really will need a record cleaner 
5. You must clean records and cartridge 
6. You will need more time than digital to enjoy analog
7. Unless your going all new and trust your dealer you
will have to learn to setup a TT. It can be done but requires 
reading and trial and error. 

Wow, first let me start of by thanking each and everyone for your thoughtful suggestions.  I really appreciate all the advice and thought that went into your posts.  I love Audiogon and the forums, especially because there are so many with such a wealth of knowledge like all the people who responded to this post.  To answer some of the questions, I am just starting out in vinyl, not getting back into it, so all the suggestions on research are helpful.   I have thought about the issues, such as finding good recordings, cleaning, getting up to flip the record, and also that its not easy to skip a song you don't like.  I'm going to one of the better used stores this afternoon to check out their selection and buy a few records to test out at the store where I buy my gear, which is called Soundings.  The owner of Soundings says the store has a vacuum cleaner for the records that I can use anytime, which was nice.  I do have a top spot on my rack that would be perfect for a turntable, and have plenty of good storage for the records. I don't mind getting up to change the record if the sounds is that much better.  I know whether it sounds better is to some extent a matter of taste, so  I am going to Soundings on Friday to listen to their set up -- Soundings has a good relationship with Boulder Amps and has a lot of high res digital recordings that the guys at Boulder Amps have given to Soundings so I can listen to those and the vinyl and compare and see what I think is better.  
I appreciate that I know virtually nothing right now and appreciate everyone's suggestions that I need to do more research and go out and listen.  Unfortunately, we don't have many good hi-fi stores here in Denver, Colorado, but I'm starting on Friday at Soundings and hope to listen to some more vinyl systems next week at a few of the other shops in town that I know have some higher end systems.  I'll keep you all posted. 
I also greatly appreciate the suggestions you have all made on hardware if I do decide after the research to go this route -- you have given me some great suggestions to research and look into.  I also thought that the suggestions that I start with an inexpensive rig and then if I like it sell the inexpensive rig and only then buy a high-end rig might be a great way to try this. 

I also appreciated the comment about upgrading my digital if I find that vinyl is not the right fit for me.  I am always looking at that and considering ways to upgrade my system.  If I don't end up with vinyl, I will definitely be upgrading my cd player and I appreciate the suggestion of upgrading my dac through the dealer that I bought the 280d from. 

Again, thank you all so much for the advice and some great ideas to start my research and learning process.  From someone who knows nothing about vinyl, I feel like I have a good starting point to begin researching and try and discover if vinyl is right for me and if so how I should go about adding vinyl to my system.  Thank you all very much.