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.



I generally run two turntables in my main setup. The one that has not moved in a decade is a Pro-Ject Extension 10. It’s a fantastic rig that does not get a ton of press. It’s a bit of a beast. I just upgraded to the Pro-Ject RS2 phono stage and have a Hana ML on it. Those all work incredibly well together. The Hana replace a low output Blackbird. I’m about to replace the Hana with one of the nicer Sumiko cartridges. 

My second turntable is (now) a 1200G. I had a heavily modded 1200 mk2 before it that is in my office. The 1200 is nice if you want to easily swap cartridges - which I do. I’m moving the Hana to it, but I also run a Soundsmith Carmen MKI, the Blackbird, and a Grado (can’t remember which one). I’m about to get the Pro-Ject RS2 for it as my other phono pre uses dip switches and I need to make frequent enough adjustments when I change cartridges. 

I had the P8 in the system for a while. My first ‘real’ turntable was a Planar2, and I had always wanted a nicer Rega. In my system and room, I did not love it. Although I find myself looking at the 10 pretty frequently. 

As others have said, you can get a really nice analog setup with that budget. Enjoy! 

@dekay Upgrading the tonearm and cart on my Clearaudio is a compelling option. However, if I don't upgrade my Moon Ace or buy a 390, I am stuck with MM carts. I'm a little afraid of upgrading the tonearm and cart on the Clearaudio and then doing another upgrade later down the line to MC. I might see if I can do a home trial of a cart/tonearm but I'm not sure that's possible.

@tjnindc Thanks for your advice. Out of interest, why do you swap out cartridges often? Do you have particular cartridges for specific genres of music? I'll add the Project to my list.