If you had $12k / £10k to upgrade your analogue front-end...

Hi all,

I am upgrading my system in my listening room bit-by-bit. This room is for focused listening of music only. No movies. In the future I will be looking looking to upgrade my analogue front-end and am thinking of a budget of around $12k / £10k for a turntable, tonearm, cart and phono stage/pre-amp. I listen to all sorts of music from electronic, bass-heavy vinyl, jazz, hip-hop, rock (new and old), ambient (Cinematic Orchestra, Nils Frahm etc...) and lots of soul/funk type tracks. So quite varied.

If you had $12k/£10k to spend, what combination of turntable, tonearm, cart and phone stage/pre-amp would you go for? I'm looking for suggestions to help with my research. I'm unsure what the balance should be between them. For example, should I go for a Rega Planar 10 with Aphelion 2 cart (£6,840) and give myself just over £3k to spend on a phono stage. Or spend less on the cart (Rega Planar 10 with Apheta 3 is £4,950) and get a more expensive phono stage.

Turntable brands I've been thinking of are Rega, Clearaudio, Technics, VPI, AVID, Thorens, Michell Engineering, VPI, SME etc... but don't really know where to start.

Any help would be much appreciated.



So many amazing suggestions in here. Thank you all. I've got lots of new turntables, carts and phono stages to research and lots of potential directions I can go in. I think I will likely go down the new rather than used route. But apart from that, all is currently open.

@dekay I'm currently running a Clearaudio Concept with Performance V2 MM cart into the MM phono stage of the Moon Ace All-in-one. It sounds a bit flat. I'm keen to move to MC. The current Moon I have doesn't support this. So I either upgrade my analogue front-end first and buy a separate phono stage or I upgrade my Moon to the 330a + 390 next and then upgrade my TT etc... afterwards and can trial the 390 MC phono stage.

@whart Thanks for your detailed response. Would you recommend I update the tonearm and cart on my current Clearaudio table then? 

@rossb Have you tried the upgraded Planar 8 and Planar 10. I think the P8 and P10 are discontinued now?

@petg60 Will check out the Bauer Audio DPS 3. I am in the UK yes. Thanks!

@k600r Fantastic. Thanks. I am in the UK though so I think SOTA might difficult for me to get.

@overthemoon Do you rate the 390 phono stage? No desire to upgrade to a separate phono stage?

@bigkidz Have you listened to the Rega Aura MC? Would you rate that as a phono stage?

@liamowen Pass Labs XP17 added to the list. I'm reading an article in The Absolute Sound as we speak. I'll find somewhere to go and listen to it.

@tablejockey Would yo say the Aphelion is worth the extra cash over the Apheta 3?

 Would yo say the Aphelion is worth the extra cash over the Apheta 3?

cainullah-in this hobby-wrong question to ask!

I say if you're getting the P10, why not get the "best' of Rega's offerings? 

The Aphelion is purportedly made with extra care/tolerances which justifies the extra ca$h.

Rega Aphelion 2 | The Ear (the-ear.net)

The Apheta 1 was an awful cartridge.  I find the Apheta 2 fully satisfactory.

Stands to reason that the Apheta 3 would be even better.  I don't have any experience with the Aphelion.  So, you're "safe" as long as you go Apheta 2 or beyond, in my view.  And, the Pass Labs is a sleeper phono stage.  I don't know why, either.


@cainullah btw I have an AVID pricelist which can be helpful as the web site is not the easiest to figure out

With what you have maybe start by simply trying another cartridge with enough output to mate with your current Moon?

Based upon reviews the Performance V2 can easily be bettered (the Ace/Concept have stellar reviews).

If this does it then good (you could alway add a step-up/MC later or go with the Moon separates) and there is no downside if you choose the higher output cartridge wisely.

See what your current deck is capable of before moving on.

Take a look (reviews) at the Nagaoka MP-500.