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.



@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.

@cainullah ​if I don't upgrade my Moon Ace or buy a 390, I am stuck with MM carts.

As was mentioned you may choose to use an external step up transformer and MC carts with your MM stage. ​​( although input capacitance of your MM input may be a touch high , not sure ).

I am just a tinkerer. I have two amps (one solid state, one tube), a few sets of speakers, and two turntables (and three cartridges for the 1200). I have some pretty different cartridges now - the Sumiko, Soundsmith, and Grado do not sound alike at all. My brain clearly needs things to work on and do. :) I'll live with one set up for a while and then swap a few or a bunch of things out. Thank god I don't have a bigger room! 

RE: NA Dais

I think so too. It does have a quirk, which is really a feature which contributes to its excellent sound. The motor is very, very, weak, about 1.8 W. You have to spin the table with your hand to start the platter moving - the motor is just strong enough to maintain rotation against bearing friction and stylus friction.

That's good news, for many reasons. It's cheaper to build a low power, high precision AC motor. It's easier to build a high precision motor controller for a weak AC motor. So you don't have to pay a big bill for R&D as well as manufacturing. And there's little power left over to vibrate the platter.

Also, the sub-platter is metal (for mass - actually moment of inertia) and the top platter is a thick slice of of  graphite, which NA calls a mat. Graphite is one of the best mates to vinyl, because its speed of sound is virtually the same as speed of sound for vinyl. So vibration in the record is transmitted optimally into the thick graphite and thence sunk into the massive metal subplatter, with little reflection or resonance.

These are empirical facts. Some here may dispute them on the grounds that their physics intuition says otherwise. Well, physics is a science, and science is based on experiment. This was an experiment, an experiment that worked.

Also, if you ever decide to DIY, the base is the weakest point of the turntable. An obvious way to improve the sound is to replace the base with one made of Panzerholz, preferably B25. The nice thing about that is that it's easily reversible if you don't like it. Also, it's best to place the Dais on a board of Panzerholz.

Good luck with it!

Rega, Thorens and Michell are great places to start. I am not sold on the Apheta cartridge. You certainly do not want to go cheaper. All three companies use very acceptable tonearms which will support any level of cartridge you care to think of accept perhaps Koetsu which requires a heavier arm. Something like the Ortofon Windfeld Ti,  the Lyra Kleos or the Soundsmith Sussurro would be nice. Go with a Sutherland phono stage. I would hope they would be less expensive across the pond.